Rum and Holly

This year, I’m spending the holidays with my family in the Caribbean.

Thus far, we’ve gotten lost on the island maybe three times, we’ve gone grocery shopping twice, we’ve cooked three meals, we had some amazing seafood, and we’ve gotten settled into our rental house. We’ve got a good amount of space, everyone can go to their respective areas when we need to get away from others, and the weather has been pretty perfect: just a little humid, breezy, and mostly sunny.

We’ve got small gifts for each other, with most of the goodies designated for my teenage niece. At least 5 alpha personalities are present, with one trying to lead the charge in determining what our daily plans will be. I find that highly annoying. I am on vacation; I don’t want anyone telling me how to relax.

I just want to sleep, and tan, and write, and laugh, and drink, and unplug. I don’t want to answer to anyone, and I don’t want to have a schedule. My first rule of vacation: no obligations. I skirt obligations so often already, why not try to curb them during my vacation time?

That being said, my ice is melting. Where’s the rum gone?

Sunday Rest

There is something about a truly restorative weekend – one where you get everything done that you need to accomplish, you enjoy quality time with good people, you have something decadent, you rest, and you feel prepared for the week ahead. Your living space feels de-cluttered and free of chaos. You expressed yourself in some creative way.

I don’t typically have this experience, but this is always the goal. More often than not, the only way I could accomplish all of this would be with an extended weekend. Even a three-day weekend feels short. Definitely works if we institute a four-day weekend.

A three-day workweek may not be very long, but I can tell you this: if I was looking forward to a four-day weekend, I’d be incredibly productive.

Though much of my time this weekend was eaten up by travel, I got to spend quality time with some good friends, have a good cigar and some cocktails, enjoy the sunshine on a beautiful Sunday, run some errands, and relax while watching my team in the playoffs. Maybe I didn’t get as much accomplished as I would have liked, and I didn’t necessarily prep for the week the way I’d like to, but I got in many of the good things. I didn’t check my work email too often, I laughed and had some really thought-provoking conversation, and I got to see some friendly faces.

One particular conversation touched on important aspects of life that matter most: finances, personal health, and friends/family. Though these things may seem narrow, they’re really umbrellas for career, personal goals, happiness, autonomy, etc. The other stuff is just ancillary. It was nice to feel like someone else related to that. Those three are enough to juggle, without worrying about outside factors that can certainly be complementary but aren’t necessities.

There are a lot of things you can’t control, but within these three categories, there is more than enough to focus on. Let the other stuff fall into place.

Revisiting Storms

As I get to know my new colleagues — my counterparts– I find that we connect well, we team together often, and we agree on management styles, productivity, and creating policy. We fight the drama together, and we keep each other supported. I like this team.

Due to past experiences, I’ve taken my time getting to know them, having heard various accounts of their personalities and supposed tactics from my predecessor. I chose to form my own opinions under the belief that one person’s experiences don’t dictate the experiences of another. This decision certainly opened opportunities for us to bond and form new understandings based on our interactions.

Over lunch this week, the team began to share about family and grief, blogging and forms of therapy and detox. Another colleague mentioned journaling using the 750 Words app, so I shared that I’ve been blogging for 13 years now. That what started off as a purely organic mind dump each day, to lighten the burden on my shoulders, became my refuge for taking down the weight in exchange for a couple hundred words.

I shared my grief gingerly, unsure how it would be received by my colleagues, but they’ve been incredibly supportive and kind; they have been open and generous. The story has so many levels, intricately woven together to recount what happened when my sister died, how my parents were affected, and what I kept to myself.

After sharing, I was proud of myself,  mostly because I didn’t cry as I recounted what happened in the accident and during trial. I didn’t cry as I explained the effect of such a loss on my family. My colleagues were the epitome of support. Asking questions where they felt comfortable, offering short-term resolutions that could prove helpful.

I’m just grateful that we could connect, that they were respectful and kind, and honestly, that they have a greater understanding of how I operate and why I do what I do for my students. This was accomplished without a breakdown, or even a tear, in a solemn conversation that felt safe and delicately handled.

I can’t complain. Missing her is always heavy, but being able to tell others about her lovely personality and all her goals brings me a great deal of comfort.

Good talk.

Be Still

I’ve been going back and forth with myself over how I’ve let so much time go by; how I’ve allowed everything to get in the way of something I really love: writing.

I’ve been doubting myself a lot. Work, love, family, friends. Writing is in that pile too. I let people get into my head and make me think their opinion mattered more than my own. I fell back from church, and I felt completely isolated, guilty, and stressed to my breaking point.

Slowly, I’ve been building back up. I could have come back faster, but I think it would have been premature. I needed to be still for a little while and pray. To get back to where I need to be with God. To remind myself of who I am in Him. To remind myself that self love is as important, if not more, than loving others.

I am rededicating myself to my craft. To blogging, to the novels. To “me time.” I allowed myself to be robbed long enough.

Building a Sisterhood

The end of June is always a tough month for me and for my family. June 26th this year marked the 11th anniversary of my younger sister’s passing.

Some years are harder than others, and this year has been especially rough because she would have turned 30 years old this fall. I think my family has been hit especially hard this year. I can hear it in my mother’s voice.

I miss her. It’s like the air I breathe is thinner without her. My quality of life is different. My longing for her and the relationship we built grows stronger each year. My wondering what she would be or how she would be now rack my thoughts all the time.

A dear friend of mine pointed out to me last week that I make great efforts to build a strong network of sisters around me, not necessarily just for my own benefit, but to support and encourage each other. I’d never thought of it that way before, but it’s true.

When I feel my lowest, I look to these sisters I’ve found over the years. A few particularly special ones have helped me keep it together when I couldn’t do it on my own; when I didn’t feel I had enough to take care of myself after taking care of my family. They’re who saw me grieve when I couldn’t allow my parents to see; they’re who checked on me and sat with me as I dealt with family complexities.

When I was the one who had to be strong for the family, to be their rock, these sisters made sure they were mine. And, in turn, I make sure that I do everything in my power to take care of them. I don’t look to them to replace my sister that is no longer with me, but I look to them for outlets to provide support, love and encouragement that I can no longer use toward her. It’s still in me, and it has to go somewhere. She would approve.

I think of my accomplishments, and I think of the opportunities I’ve had to be there for people the way that I’ve wanted to be there for my own sister. I hope that she would be proud. I hope that she would smile and laugh, and when I meet her next in heaven, I hope she does a little dance before she throws her arms around me. I can’t wait.

I will continue my efforts and being who I am for her, in her memory. I am nothing if not dedicated to my sisters: my rocks, my inspiration, my advisors and confidants. I had almost 19 years with my own, and I have my entire adulthood to enjoy these new chances at sisterhood. That means everything to me.

Temper Tantrums

A little kid flying business class with his parents threw the most epic tantrum I’ve ever seen. Never mind that it was 3 am and everyone was trying to sleep, he was jumping up and down so hard that the plane shook, clapping to wake people up, throwing his head phones because he wanted to watch Pokemon, jumping off the footrest so hard that he broke it, and screeching so loud that his dad finally dragged him into a lavatory just to buffer the sound. He literally shook a stranger until she woke up. His parents kept passing him back and forth because neither of them knew what to do.

Question: remember the fear? What happened?? I know I’m not the only one who could feel their mom’s eyes on us the second we started cutting up. She didn’t even have to be on the same side of the room; I could feel the threat of proximity if I took a wrong step. Shoot, I’m 31 years old, but I STILL know better than to act a fool in my mother’s presence. Never in my life has she had to say “please” or beg me to act right.

When did obedience become optional?

Truth be told, I felt bad for the parents. I could see how exasperated they were. And I think there’s only so much you can blame the parents. At some point, each child becomes their own individual person. They make choices and mistakes, just like the rest of us. This kid may have been spoiled coming up, may have never had a spanking, may never have even sat through a full time out. You can attribute some to the parents, maybe, but I just don’t think it’s all them. It’s hard to say what was done right or wrong from the outside, and I don’t think there’s just one way to parent effectively.

I hope those parents find something that gives them more confidence in their ability to parent and run their household. Otherwise, that kid is going to run all over them.

Resolve

2013.  The year we weren’t supposed to reach because the world was supposed to end.  So they say…

Looking back, I can confirm something that I hoped at this exact time last year — 2012 was a year of transition for me.  In the last 365 days, I moved 2,000 miles away from everything I knew, I turned 30, I started a new job, my dad retired, two of my best friends got married, I finally put another stamp in my passport, and I’ve been offered the opportunity to teach on a collegiate level — something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl.  I’m omitting that I found love, because I lost it too, but at least I got myself back to a place where I was open to love.

I made writing goals for myself, I bought my domain name after solidifying a pen name — the name I originally intended to give my first daughter.  With the prospect of children being rather remote, at least right now, the name I selected was one of such importance that I just had to know it would be used.  Simone Marrise.

And now, to look forward, I think 2013 will be another year of transition.  This one may have more growing pains, but I think that I’ll be a little more fearless this year.  A little more willing to do for myself what I would always do for others.  More travel, and not just all of the work trips.  More outings and opportunities.  More chances to meet the goals I’ve always had for myself that I was starting to believe weren’t feasible.  I moved 2,000 miles to a place where I had no friends or roots.  It may sound unwise, but it was the best thing that I could have done for myself, because I proved that I can go anywhere from here.

2013.  I’ll turn 31 in two weeks, and my thirties are already infinitely more promising that my 20’s were.  My 20’s were so littered with loss that I couldn’t see any of my major accomplishments, like finishing college or graduating law school.  Great accomplishments, but there was too much going on for me really appreciate what was happening.  By this day next year, I’ll have at least one book published, hopefully I’ll have also published a scholarly article, I’ll be slated to teach another college-level course, and I’ll be settled in a state that is almost the exact opposite of my native California.  Maybe I’ll find love again in the next year, but I’m not rushing that, nor am I scouring the earth in search of it.  Maybe I’ll get another stamp or two in my passport this year.  Maybe I’ll get serious about the prospect of buying a home, but I think that’s still a few years off.  Hell, maybe I’ll win the power ball.  Whatever happens, happens.

Goals I didn’t think I could attain are so close now.  I’m gaining a confidence I thought I’d lost, and it feels so good to be at peace with the past and have a positive outlook on the future.  I don’t intend to force any of my goals to happen prematurely, but I’m going to do my damnedest to check a few more off of the list in 2013.

No waiting until June to realize that time is passing by so quickly and nothing’s been achieved.  Time to get started.  Planning and intentions are great, but there’s no substitute for actual effort.

Vacation or Mission Impossible?

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Who doesn’t love a Hawaiian vacation? I mean, I’m sure there’s someone out there that doesn’t, but I love them. Beautiful sights and sunsets, lots to do, and warm welcomes. But I love the sense of calm that I find in Hawaii. True, warm aloha.

However, on a recent trip to Maui with my family, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: there is not necessarily a consensus on what constitutes a vacation. For instance, my parents are tourists (at least in my opinion). They’ve done their fair share of walking tours, they like to show off the places they’ve been before, and they try to maximize the amount of sights they see on each trip.

My brother, on the other hand, is less of a tourist, but I would say he is an adventurist. Whether it’s zip lining, snorkeling, or hiking to find the water falls, he’s down to get into something fun as long as he can also get in a little R&R.

But I don’t want to see a ton of sights, not do I consider myself crazy adventurous. Truth be told, I get motion sickness easily, I’m not always comfortable with high places, I’m terrified of most bugs and reptilian creatures, and I refuse to watch anything even remotely scary. I may have described myself as a boring homebody with no life, but I really am a social person; a fun-seeker that knows how to set up limitations. You won’t see me jumping from a plane or hanging from a rope just to zip through the air. I still have fun, people. Really!

So what’s my idea of vacation? If I have a week in Maui, which I recently did, I would want maybe one day of sightseeing, one day of light shopping, and then 5 days of sun, water, and relaxation. I brought six books with me. Needless to say, no one else seemed to want my kind of vacation. If I had it my way, the others would be upset for not “seeing” anything. But that’s just not true! If I knew someone coming back from Hawaii that said the only things they saw were the sunsets, the beaches, the pool, and they had the time to read a bunch of leisure books and improve their tan, I would be JEALOUS. I don’t want to be exhausted after my vacation. I took my vacation to relax and recharge.

There should be more of a distinction between a vacation, a thrill-seeking adventure trip, and a sightseeing tour. I’ll leave the latter two for the others. Just give me the vacations.