Posted by: First Mate | February 1, 2015

Why We Are Not Watching the Super Bowl This Year

We won’t be watching the Super Bowl this year. It’s not because of the snacks, beer or TV, I love all that. It’s not because of the commercialization, I love Super Bowl commercials. I love football, I went to USC and like Pete Carroll. I even shared season tickets with my brother one year. When I lived in Kahuku, Hawai’i I remember the pride when two young men from our small community, both Pacific Islanders, played in Super Bowl XLIII – Steelers vs Cardinals. Actually, 17 professional football players attended Kahuku High School in the last several years. We won’t be watching the Super Bowl for a few reasons: the league which makes approximately $9 Billion a year doesn’t really seem to care about the players and violence is promoted in the game.

How is it that we are shocked when violence carries over into the personal lives of some of the players? As a consumer I am saying no to deflate gate and to endorsing football as a form of religion in this country. And yes, many college and pro football players are amazing role models, family members and community leaders. Despite the Manti Teo girlfriend drama, he provides the perfect example of a small town, religious boy and big press.

Here is my rationale for “quitting football”:

Despite the fact that the NFL is now FINALLY hiring a Chief Medical Officer, to address concussion and other issues, in my opinion they still need to adopt more responsibility towards the players from a holistic standpoint. Hire a Chief Financial Educator/planner for the players. Teach them that their abilities and their resources are finite. Many of these players, like the ones from Kahuku and Lai’e came from hard working families with limited resources and just don’t realize the responsibility of a big contract on several levels. According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress.

More press was given to Deflate Gate than to the murder of Dr Michael J Davidson at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  This is upsetting due to the increasing trend of violence against healthcare providers.

It took the suicide of Junior Seau (USC) and Paul Oliver to start a national media discussion on football related head trauma.  And it took the settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by 5,000 former players for the league to admit nearly 1/3 of players will develop long term cognitive problems (Alzheimers and dementia) related to head trauma in the game.

Every year it seems there are reports of rape and violence against women by college and pro football players. It wasn’t until the Ray Rice elevator knock out video, I won’t include the link, which the NFL denied having knowledge of, and the Adrian Peterson domestic violence case that a discussion of what is actually going on among players and the community started to take place in the national media.

In 2013, Florida State player Jameis Winston still won the Heisman Trophy despite accusations of the rape of a fellow student. Ironic, another Heisman trophy winner, this one from USC was accused of the gruesome murder of his ex wife and her friend  – then was acquitted and eventually given custody of his children. Do we really need to revisit the OJ saga?

I am not sure I will go back to football, as the mother of a daughter, it’s hard for me to get excited about a culture that denigrates women as seen in the Buffalo Bills Cheerleader lawsuit, and the Ray Rice incident. People including the New York Times, have been asking “Who Needs Football?” for a while. Football is an American pastime. This family just needs to take a break from the mayhem.

Posted by: First Mate | October 10, 2014

Metastatic Melanoma….

I was first diagnosed with an in situ Melanoma on my right medial thigh when I was 23 years old living in New York. After the initial removal, there were cells at the medial border so the area had to be re-excised. Darrell Rigel, MD, became my dermatologist and I had the photos taken and was diligent about check ups, chest X-rays and liver function tests. I had a second Melanoma on my lower back when I was in graduate school at Columbia. Another excision. I had a basal cell carcinoma taken off my neck last year. I am 46 years old and I have had several other biopsies and excisions and look a little like an ex-knife fighter in a bathing suit. Or as my new dermatologist says, “you are like a chocolate chip cookie.”

I am genetically very pale with light hair (now ash blond/white) and light cornflower blue eyes. On the Fitzpatrick scale, I am a type I (scores 0–6) Pale white; blond or red hair; blue eyes; freckles — Always burns, never tans.  To say that I am the Sunscreen police now is an understatement, yet even I mess up now and then. I learned too late – as a child I was a swimmer and spent most weekends in the sun or camping at the beach in Mexico. I loved the hot sand, the water and being in the sun – still do. I had one or two bad burns a month. In high school, ‘laying out’ was the thing to do and everyone wanted to be darker… PTHs (peak tanning hours) were when everyone had to be by the pool or in the sun with baby oil or at the most with a sunscreen of SPF 4. The first 19 years are the most dangerous for skin damage. At USC I didn’t want to be the girl without a tan, so I went to a tanning booth during Rush week. In the photos, I looked positively orange. Living in New York, I would go to Amaganssett and Shelter Island in the summers and would wear Coppertone Sport SPF 30, but would still be at the beach or around the water all day in only a swim suit.

I am putting this all ‘out there’ because my friend’s 9 cm lung tumor and lymph tumors are metastatic melanoma. I suspected this, but also feared it. He has had two melanomas in the past, and has missed his check ups in the last two years. You see he is a busy father with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. Cancer of any kind is overwhelming and just sucks wind.

Huge advances have been made in the diagnosis and care of melanoma since I was first diagnosed. The American Cancer Society estimates that at present, more than 120,000 new cases of melanoma in the US are diagnosed in a year. In 2014, an estimated 76,100 of these will be invasive melanomas, with about 43,890 in males and 32,210 in women.  Learn what to look for, schedule regular exams, stay out of direct sun between 10 and 3pm, cover up with sunscreen, a hat and clothing.  Reapply your sunscreen every two hours.  Note, my first melanoma was caught at a free lunchtime screening at BBDO where I was working at the time. So if seeing a dermatologist is not within your reach, get checked at clinic or by a friend.


With brutal honesty, I am going to list 10 things I would do if I could see into the future and discover impending doom.  So I’ve been listening to, watching and reading the news lately.  And this morning, I was thinking about a close friend who has a 9 cm mass in his lung and a CT scan showed masses around the lymph nodes in his mediastinum.  No path results yet but a bone scan was clean.  Monday morning in the pool another swimmer and I were talking about the horrid conditions of an open water race we participated in last Saturday.  We discussed how open water swimmers die when they are not spotted or can’t be brought to the beach in time.  And then he said something with total clarity, “we’re all going to die sometime.”

So here are 10 things I would do if I had 6 hours, 6 days, 6 months or 6 years to live:

  1. I would make cassoulet for my husband.  Cassoulet is one of my husband’s favorite things and aside from other things, smiling and laughing at his jokes – this one is a no brainer.  And frankly, the other things are
    off the table for the next 6 hours because I have two weeks worth of laundry to put away, a house to clean, a looming deadline, etc, etc.  But I love him and seeing him happy fills me with joy – so this is in his future – unless he gets Ebola.  (I know, that is not funny.)
  2. Help my daughter with her homework.  I don’t always enjoy this.  It’s like nails on the chalkboard, however, she loves the interaction and involvement and it is good for both of us.  While it teaches me patience, it demonstrates to her that I love her.  I don’t mind working with her on social studies, music or math, but she loathes Language Arts and fights it/me.  I LOVE reading, vocabulary and grammar and I just don’t have the energy to fight the battles of explaining why certain word uses don’t work.  So I will smile, go to my happy place and know that while we listen to Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian she is learning as much as when she is writing a paper on the Chinook Indians with primary and secondary sources.
  3. I would be happy.  I am happy, for all the first, second and third world feces I deal with on a day-to-day basis, I am a happy person.  Honestly, “Yo no se mañana,” we have no idea what tomorrow brings.  Things will either work out or they won’t.  All that other stuff is just thought.  What will happen to my child or my husband?  Will we ever really know?  And what will knowing do except steal time from RIGHT NOW.
  4. I would stop answering calls from people who really just want to talk about themselves or find out how awful my life is or tell me about how awful someone else’s life is today.  Or worse, how awful their life is…. Life is really too short to enjoy a narcissist – no matter how long you are going to live.  Yes, I have empathy and know we live in the same reality and all struggle with the same issues, but sometimes I forget it’s all thought and the back-handed compliments and subtle criticisms get to me and just WASTE TIME.
  5. I would smile.  Have you ever smiled at the scariest &^%&er on the street and had them stop and say “You just made my day with your smile”?  I do this all the time – it falls into my “fake it until you make it” policy.  I am often so overcome with fear and doubt and then see either ‘angry guy’ or ‘perfect woman’ walking toward me, I smile at them with the most irritating fake smile you have ever seen. Some how this is life’s great diffuser? While they may not have laundry, bills piling up, a terrible boss, sick family, etc – everybody has some thought in their head that makes them sad, anxious, unhappy – it’s humanity. Also, it makes you pretty, ugly people don’t smile and aren’t kind.
  6. I would sit by water: a lake, pool, the ocean, a river or a stream.  I love water, it’s calming for me.  But so is just being quiet and reflecting. According to a new book, (which I haven’t read) by Wallace Nichols, water contributes to our happiness and success.
  7. I would thank people.  I do this normally, thank you for your help, thank you for your support and hard work, thank you for being my friend, thank you for being such an amazing husband, thank you for taking care of me.  It is such a simple thing.  While I normally am good with thank you notes, these past few years have been a mess, so I will also apologize if you haven’t received the time-tested thank you from me.  I will show appreciation for your generosity if I see you and remember.
  8. I will wash my hands.  What, I have 6 days to live, why waste 20 seconds at least 40 times a day washing my hands the correct way?  Because if I haven’t made it clear, I love my family and friends.  And honestly, while I have no fear of Ebola, I do fear the Flu, yes, I was vaccinated at Walgreens two weeks ago. I also fear other viruses, like the party of Norovirus or EnterovirusD68.  If I perish, I don’t want pass any of these nasty things on to my community or some angry person I have just smiled at on the street.
  9. I would remind all my family members that I love them, even the ones who no longer speak to me, maybe in a letter or that long overdue thank you note.  I am sure I forgot a birthday or a thank you card, sent a lame gift instead of what they asked for…  I do that stuff all the time. But despite the menial garbage, I still love them, even when they annoy the crap out of me.  And NOTE, I am not sure I would tell them I was dying.  I think often I discuss what ever drama du jour as a way to share my fear, insecurity, guilt.  But if I had 6 hours, 6 days, 6 months, why tell anyone other than my immediate loved ones.  It is a burden. And death is just that, death, it happens just like life.  While I’m not a nihilist, I do feel it is easier to laugh and be joyful when you aren’t discussing your impending death; unless you are a member of my family – we always find humor in the most inappropriate things – farts for example.
  10. I would laugh until I cried and my ab muscles were toned like a supermodel.  Okay let’s me honest, it would take more than 6 months of laughing to tone my abs to that of a supermodel; and who wants to be a supermodel?  As I always tell my daughter, it’s better to be smart than pretty –  because stupid is forever – even when life is short.

Exercise, work, eat, sleep, repeat. Not the answer but it’s the cycle we use to function, until we can’t, due to that nagging feeling. The reality of the the anxious feeling is that it is trying to tell us something. It is just a thought or rather thousands of them that fly through my head and call out to me to address the underlying issue at hand.

A problem with work, a personal unhappiness, a need for change, a personal conflict interferes with the cycle of how we function. Feelings I notice when attempting to resist resolution and change: fear, need, anxiety, frustration and exhaustion. The feelings often are manifested in actions: I can’t pull this off – this could happen if I attempt it, I need these shoes, this exercise/food/wine/purchase will help me relax, why did I do that, I need to rest now – I’m so exhausted I’m just not thinking straight. All these are procrastination tactics. The reality is I loathe a certain part of my job and it leaves me lost, frustrated, full of fear and anxiety. I need a change.

First, consider the task, colleague or conflict. Is this a situation that is temporary, do you have the power to change it or remove yourself gracefully? Are the deadlines clear? Is the colleague untenable? Why do you feel this way and what do you need to do? What do you want to do? Be honest and brave….. I say brave because often for me, the fear of confronting a person I have chosen to see as difficult is terrifying but this this just my thought. And honestly, it’s not a reality, it is what I have chosen to see.

Second, make a plan. Bargain with yourself and set attainable goals. Let’s be honest if I’ve never written a book, I won’t be completing one for a 5 week deadline. But I can write 500 words daily. If I fall off the wagon, start again tomorrow. The best time of day for me to be clear headed is in the morning, so afternoon meetings are a problem, I’m tired, fuzzy headed or looped on caffeine. If there isn’t a way for you meet the client expectations, be honest, I’m working on this problem, here are a few ideas, but at this point I need to charge you x amount to assist you further. Understand that not all tasks/jobs are going to be a good fit, make a plan to extricate yourself. Designing mailers is a big part of this job, it is not something I’m an expert at, let’s bring in a graphic designer who is good at this.

Third, let go of expectations. ‘Just Do It’ is a fantastic slogan because it is true. I loathe quickbooks yet I need to do them monthly. It causes a serious rift between my husband and I because I am an expert procrastinator. By doing small tasks daily, weekly, etc. – you get it. If you hate your job, do your resume, one line at a time. Once you get started, it will flow, but you need to get started.

Fourth, forgive yourself and forget the idiots. Mistakes and failure are a part of life and business. Do not dwell on the past, live in the present and learn to trust your intuition. Slow down, look around and make a plan. Avoid people who can not live in the moment and need to project their own fears/issues onto your ideas and plans. Review your plan, project from an unbiased perspective and just do it.

Fifth, enjoy the work. Make the choice to be optimistic and happy about the process. Live in the moment, and simplify the details. I loathe submitting grants online, it is a tedious process, yet once delivered, there is immense relief. When I can be present, the subtly of life and relationships are more accessible. Life is simple, exercise, work, eat, sleep repeat and JOY, with smaller attainable goals and honesty we can accomplish a lot and more importantly avoid the drama.

Posted by: First Mate | May 7, 2014

Long Days and Short Years

Last Saturday night the Captain said to me “Do you realize we have passed the halfway mark?  Ruby is 10, we have 8 years left with her.”  What?  A friend once told me that when raising children, especially toddlers, the days are long but the years are short.  With that in mind, I have decided to throw out all inane parenting advice.


I have been told that children need roots, they do better with stability.  What defines stability and roots?  Honestly, I think no one knows your child as you do.  There is no single way to raise a healthy adult.  A few weeks ago another parent asked me if I had I read any books on parenting gifted children.  Um, no I’m too busy reading about bacteria, vaccines and finishing page turning young adult novels.  “When you read the books you will understand your child better.” So I diligently went home and looked up a bunch of books I will NEVER read.  The process actually brought back anxiety from those awful books on how to get your child to sleep, how to put them on a breast feeding schedule (!$?&* ridiculous) and how to potty train in a week. I realized – I understand my child and have confidence in her abilities. I think the reality of my life with my daughter is just let her be a child, she likes playing piano – great she can have piano lessons.  But that doesn’t mean she needs piano camp, piano key shaped sandwiches and piano clothing.  She will find her own interests. I don’t need to dictate everything for her or make her try everything. I also feel that if I am happy and have diverse interests, she will see that as normal, if I am narrow minded and myopic about life and people – she will find that acceptable as well. If I am anxious, stressed, overbearing thus wouldn’t anxiety be a natural result?

So now to the cursing issue I have developed. I am working to set a better example for my daughter because words have meaning.  Yet for some strange reason cursing seems to act as an anti-depressant/anxiety remedy in certain situations at this point in my life.  Plus – I feel that the world would be a better place if we were just honest – with or without the dirty words.  Even for 10 minutes a day.  Here are some examples of truisms I wanted to say but have refrained in the past few months –

  1. Sounds like and amazing product and it is definitely a multi-level marketing scheme that I want no part of…
  2. Life without humor blows.  I know you are taking this very seriously, I am uncomfortable which makes me want to giggle.  (Best used in hospital ICUs.)
  3. He seems like a nice guy except for the married part – it’s not him, it’s you not putting yourself first – thus he NEVER will.
  4. If he is really that awful, why did you stay with him for so long?
  5. It’s boring when you complain incessantly, you sound like a spoiled child. Make the choice to be happy and give your own life meaning for a change.
  6. Don’t take whatever people say or do personally – ever because it is rarely about you.
  7. Buy organic – not because it is cool – because we need to curb the overuse of antibiotics in industrial farming.
  8. When you name drop, criticize people relentlessly and spend/consume ridiculously you look and sound insecure and I feel uncomfortable around you – is that what you intended?
  9. And Alcohol, drugs, shopping, more work, etc don’t solve problems they just let them simmer until they boil.
  10. You look beautiful/handsome but you don’t need so much…. perfection, stuff, alterations – because pretty is what pretty does.
  11. Learn as much as possible always, then consider the options.
  12. Slow down, not because we live on an island but because life is too awesome even with all the ugliness to miss one special moment.


Posted by: First Mate | April 12, 2014

Why We Need an Internal Editor and How to Find Yours

I write grants, proposals, abstracts, curricula and manage projects for a living.  I have the editing down to a science and when I am off my game there is always a colleague, reviewer or the Captain to help me. When I write for myself, I am a disaster, especially if I write daily, which all writers need to do.  I misuse there and their, effect and affect, here and hear and loads of other things you can spot daily on this blog.  These errors are not because I don’t know the difference, rather, I am writing to get the thoughts that crowd my mind out.  It’s a purge. When I have had a chance to go back and review the piece of myself I have just provided the world, I realize…. I look like an idiot.  Which I assure you, I am not.

I have been living my life without an internal editor for several years.  To clarify, I have not been following my gut instinct or inner wisdom.  I took on projects even though my inner voice said “you will be miserable.”  I spent time with people despite the fact I always felt awful afterwords. I continued with work I loathed in the grand quest for money I wanted but didn’t need. I spent money, procrastinated, read, cooked, ate, drank coffee and wine and did many other things to avoid listening to my inner voice. Sound familiar?

One day, not so long ago, I had an awakening.  I’m no yogi or visionary but I knew in my heart that my lifestyle was not/is not sustainable.  I have this cool clock on my dashboard that tells me how much I drive in a day. Driving four hours a day five days a week isn’t a bad thing if you’re a trucker or even if you live on a majestic island in the middle of the Pacific.  It’s not sustainable for me. I love  that we listen to books on tape on the way to school and while we live in an amazing location, we don’t live where my daughter can walk outside and find a neighborhood friend to explore with.

Cool car clock

Cool car clock

I have had my own business for almost 12 years.  It is both wonderful and awful, feast and famine.  It has given me the freedom to live in Hawaii. Many days I dream about having a simple office job with specified tasks, a regular paycheck and 9-5 hours, do those jobs even exist any more? Either way it wouldn’t work for me.  Medical education and the business of medicine have changed so much in the last few years and my perspective has changed with it.  I and much of my industry have provided education and research while missing the importance and necessity of providing tools for behavioral and systemic change.  If a process, whether a lab procedure, clinical decision tree, or a group of medications provides a better outcome, why are awareness and satisfaction targets vs. behavioral or systemic change? And the science behind so much of the ‘proof’ is skewed also – just ask Ben Goldacre. Ok, this is getting boring and many are working toward change, it is just slooooow. My point is, I wasn’t practicing in my own life what I was proposing and preaching, unintentionally, in a sense I had become Sisyphus. I was plagued to do the same job over and over with the same results or what Einstein called insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Then I read a book by a tiny 5’2″ firecracker from Phoenix, Az called Alison Levine. The book On The Edge: The Art of High Impact Leadership is wonderful.

I’m from Phoenix, and somehow her anecdotes on life and leadership struck a chord with me: namely that getting up the mountain is only half the battle, getting down safely with your team is what is important.  My epiphany was like waking up and looking at your partner and realizing “I don’t love you anymore and I am profoundly unhappy.” What now? Note: I still love and admire the Captain, but I didn’t have a lot respect for myself after what felt like several years of pimping myself out (figuratively speaking-my 10 year old reads this blog) for tedious tasks with what I determined had no impact on public health, physician and health system outcomes. I know I am not the only one banging my head against a wall about healthcare. But I was making this a pattern throughout my life.  I was lifting everyone else up, solving problems, being the superhero mom, while I had lost my own direction and was spinning out of control.  I lost my internal compass.

It took me several months and a lot of reading including The Inside Out Revolution by Michael Neill to start moving and making changes.  I fired my biggest client and am terrified but happy. I started exercising every day – and when I am sore or too tired I forgive myself. I made sleep a priority. And I slowed my life down and spent real time with my family.  Not what I call “Facebook” time where something fabulous and photographic is scheduled and everything appears perfect from the outside. Rather I attempted to spend time listening, dreaming, talking and thinking.  Funny thing: they were at the same place I was/am. My daughter doesn’t like all the activities: she doesn’t want to swim on a team right now, or sail – ok, great.  As a family, we are going to downsize, our great retirement plan started owning us. We faced the myth of ownership, when what we really want is time and adventure together.

The awakening or key to behavioral change won’t be the same for everyone but one thing is consistent: YOU MUST LET GO, slow down, let your mind wander (and not about deadlines, laundry, or whatever eats at you.) Get off the treadmill, stop spending so much time with other people and be thankful/grateful for what you have and who you are for 5 seconds a day.  Write down one thing you want – whether happiness, health, a car, a job, a trip to Hawaii :), a better doctor, you get the drill.  And MOST IMPORTANTLY – stop blaming other people: it is not your boss, your husband or your child’s teacher – it’s you.  Don’t take things personally.  I say this because I learned it was always me – be responsible for your own unhappiness and change it. Admit it is you over and over and discover what you want. Be HONEST, I don’t care if you are a professional poker player – you have to be honest with yourself.

This applies to organizational change as well.  A very wise Kapuna, or Hawaiian elder once told me never look at an organization and think “I’m going to fix these problems.” Rather understand  the organization and it’s Ohana (family and community) and kuliana (responsibility) FIRST.  Then work with the members to establish tools – identify assets without always focussing on problems.  There is a sign at Queens Medical Center that says “No coolers (or cooking equipment) allowed in hospital waiting rooms.”  Okay, I may have added cooking equipment  for humor. The hospital is attempting to keep the waiting rooms clear of the many large families or Ohana that come with those hospitalized patients.  Under the Compact of Free Association (COFA), Hawaii is obligated to provide medical care to Pacific Islanders, so large extended families fly from outer islands and literally move into hospital waiting rooms.  For the hospital and staff this can create problems, but can this be beneficial to the patient and their family?  If the organization looked at the cultural implications of these actions, can a public health intervention be provided to the extended family early?  By slowing down and looking at all sides, creativity blossoms. But first we must let go.



Posted by: First Mate | April 10, 2014

Quality of Life

Blanca is not ready to be back in the cage.

Blanca is not ready to be back in the cage.

Houdini, Blizzard and Blanca are fine after their ROUS harassment incident.

Houdini, Blizzard and Blanca are fine after their ROUS harassment incident.

Today I was all set on writing about making changes that would impact your quality of life and the value in those changes.  Changes which I am attempting to implement.  Then around 5pm, it was time to deal with the rabbits again.  Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for the outcome. Let’s just say it involved nitrile exam gloves, a rifle, 4 rats – I should really call them Rodents of Unusual Size (ROUSs) and a lot of mosquito bites.

Rather than write, I will post a few photos.  After I put my daughter to bed, one will hear the vacuum sloosh and ‘bau’ with a very hard b from a good bottle of wine because tonight the rules of ‘wine interferes with my well needed beauty sleep’ don’t apply.

I do have to say, I am very proud of myself – no cursing out loud today in front of Ruby (at least that I remember and you can’t ask her)…we could be getting somewhere. And all the rabbits are alive and well, if a little traumatized.  And I finally found the other hole in the chicken wire and closed it with nylon ties.  Who wants to visit? It is Hawaii after all.


Dead ROUS, at least 1.5lbs

Dead ROUS, at least 1.5lbs


Posted by: First Mate | April 9, 2014

Houdini Has Done It Again

Today I started over, a clean mouth, no cursing, eight hours of sleep, a healthy breakfast, everyone to school early, spinning class, work, teacher conference ….. and then the little bastard did it again.

This is a first world problem.  We gave our daughter 4 rabbits because one of our two goats was eating the house (literally pieces of the house),  my entire garden; while the other, the original feral goat, was harassing the neighbors anxious dog, who is already on Xanax (?) because – wait? why am I asking that?  We moved the goats to a farm that we can visit daily or every weekend. We know they are happy and calm and won’t be eating anyone’s retirement.  One rabbit died within a week: Sage. Sage

But we have three others: Blanca, Houdini and Blizzard.  Ruby and I have read all about how to take care of rabbits: fresh food, pellets, litter box, let them explore their environment.  Houdini is named because she is the fastest runner and always disappears into the 4.5 acres of JUNGLE behind our house.  And for a 2 lb white rabbit in 4.5 acres filled with vines and feral cats it’s a mini Hunger Games.

Today I was tired, wanted a nap or meditation? What is that? I knew we needed to feed the rabbits and start dinner if anyone was to get to bed before 9.  I fed the rabbits and went inside to start dinner.  After a bit, in comes a screaming Ruby:  “There is a rat! a RAT in their cage!” Okay, we live in a jungle with lots of fruit trees, we get lots of rats. A few years ago, Ruby had a play-date – a new friend who also loved chickens.  They were in the coop and guess what – there was a rat in the coop.

I grew up in Arizona, at 8 years old I went to Pioneer Girl camp where we were given a bible, a .22 rifle and a tree house to sleep in… I married a man who lived in Alaska and was a defense contractor who developed weapons.  We support background checks and sound laws for gun control but we are comfortable with the guns we keep locked up at our house.  During the chicken coop incident, the Captain handed me a .22 and said “you handle it, I’m not going in there – the door is too low and narrow.”  I shot the rat – picked it up and walked toward the trash with the .22 under one arm and a giant dead rat hanging by its tail from my right hand… just as I was crossing the driveway, the lovely mother of this little girl pulled up in her minivan. “Um, Hi. Girls had a great time..”  Meanwhile, I’m thinking -‘Ruby, hope you had an awesome time because this friend is never. coming. over. again…’ while the music from Deliverance played in my head.

Back to today, the Captain says he’ll deal with the rat. Ruby and I are panicked as the doors to the cage open, surprise: no rat! We use nylon ties to cover the gaps in the cage and decide to let the rabbits out to ‘explore their environment.’ Meanwhile Reed has a meltdown because of the mosquitos in the yard…21 degrees North of the equator, who knew there would be mosquitos or thrips with what 10 inches of rain last weekend?

Houdini lasts approximately 2 minutes before flying into the bush.  Nooo. (Insert horrific cuss words here.) I was wearing shirt, skirt and flip flops (or slippahs in our language). Blizzard and Blanca jump around as the three of us try and catch Houdini, no luck, then Blanca takes off into a patch of saw grass…. I get her and as I am leaning over a streak of curses flies out of my mouth as Blanca jumps around I fall into a pit of jungle. More prison-worthy language flies out of my mouth. No comment from Ruby today.

Eventually, Houdini comes back and sits beneath the cage taunting us as we try and catch her.

Houdini2 Houdini shoulder

We don’t live on the boat but that was a fantasy of mine for a while.  I could shelter my daughter from the Disney channel and she would grow up independent like Pippi Longstocking, strong and filled with loud, off key songs having fabulous adventures with other boat children while proper ladies frowned at their adventures and behavior. Right now I am sitting at my desk, trying to crank this out while listening to my daughter and her father belt out ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen before she does her homework and practices piano.

Okay, I like ‘Let it Go’.  I like ‘Happy” By Pharrell Williams more.

For me the lesson of parenthood has been about flexibility.  From the onset, I was out of control.  I had this hippy fantasy that I would have a ‘natural’ Bradley Birth, in a hospital. I could hypnotize myself for the pain.  The universe had other plans and we are both still laughing. My doctor said “They call it MODERN medicine for a reason.” My husband would roll his eyes and drag himself to our Bradley classes after he had raised three amazing kids.  When I checked into the hospital the nurses almost fell over with laughter calling out of the labor room to the reception desk – “we’ve got another natural birth plan.”  I still applaud that I lasted 12 1/2 hours.

While I also worked, I made her baby food, went organic, did Mommy and Baby yoga, music classes, small fry aquarium education. We passed on the fancy private preschool and moved to the small rural town of Kahuku on the North Shore of Oahu. Shrimp trucks and Samoan NFL football players are from Kahuku. In my Super Mommy bliss, I looked at the other children in her preschool who were well behaved and ate everything instead of whole grain pancakes and organic fruits – they often had Spam, a gumball and fruit juice for breakfast.  I’m not saying it’s the right breakfast – but these kids were happy. All of the sudden the veil of Super Mom was gone.  In stepped a saner, semi rested mom who would drive her kid around the island so she could nap and I could listen to NPR.

She is now a 4th grader and won’t be living on a boat anytime soon.  Her interest is animals – chickens, goats, birds, guinea pigs and her new favorite pets –  rabbits. Horray for me, I have become the poop lady.  Parenting is about showing up, being honest and allowing children to live their own dreams.

I still choke back laughter at some of the things that come out of this child’s mouth.  I used to be fanatic and reserved in regard to cursing… I seem to belt dirty words out like a stevedore. On the way down the driveway today, she says to me “Mom, please don’t use that language, I get enough cursing at school from Kala’iku.”

Me:  “oh, what did I say?”  I must have been muttering to myself about work?

Ruby: “You said the ‘c’ word?”

Me:  “What?! You mean the ‘S’ word?”

Ruby:  “The ‘c’ word that means the same as the ‘s’ word.”  Ah, now we are getting somewhere.  Okay, I won’t be using C-R-A-P consciously or unconsciously in the future.

I try to model healthy behaviors for my child, but at heart I am wild and impulsive and still recovering after attending an all girls Catholic high school, thus I am asking the world for a lot of forgiveness on this one. I am an optimist, so I am pretty sure she will be fine. And as a brilliant friend without children said to me yesterday “they’ll figure it out.”



Posted by: First Mate | April 7, 2014

What Defines a Healthy Relationship?

Spoiler Alert: I’m armed with nothing but common sense and the newly discovered Psychology Today posts that keep appearing on my Facebook page.

Almost weekly I tell my daughter: “Friends build you up and they would never tear you down, not to you or to anyone else.” I also tell her never to measure herself against anyone else. I learned this lesson teaching high school English.

Long ago, I taught Later American Literature and assisted teaching American Culture: Jazz and Literature for a very brief period at Stuyvesant High School in New York. I thought I was a horrid teacher and due to my anxiety and hyperhidrosis I would literally sweat through my classes exhausted, feeling I could never live up to this challenge.  In 1997, almost every one of my 11th grade students asked me to write them a recommendation to colleges they were applying to regardless of the grade I gave them.  Hmm?  I walked into that classroom knowing these teenagers had been chosen out of 800 applicants to attend Stuyvesant and although they may have traveled 2 hours to get to school from an outer borough and often worked after hours in their family’s first generation business after school, they were in many aspects more intelligent than my own white bread Ivy League sweaty armpits. This taught me respect.  For the students, not their parents who I feared and often loathed.  Many parents would yell at me that their child could not get into Yale with an A- or I would hear stories of the student that would have to stand on a chair holding books in each hand for hours due to a less than optimal grade. Healthy relationships demonstrate respect, thus respect yourself and your peers – and believe it or not your peer is often the person who is serving your fast food, fixing your car or cleaning your house. We are all living in the same consciousness.  Just ask Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs.

As you may have guessed by now I have no clue on what defines healthy relationships.  I don’t think I have healthy relationships with food or wine, I love them both…too much.  I have been married for almost 12 years to a man that I am madly in love with, I am sure he is also on the spectrum, so moment to moment I wonder what his focus will be.  If you are not familiar with the Autism spectrum, he is brilliant and has the ability to hyper-focus, he can learn anything and takes amazing care of his children and me.  He is also uncomfortable in many social situations and I never know when he will be “honest” with me or basically let lose in public.  He is true to himself, something I both admire and aspire to – for him it is how he is wired.  Because he doesn’t have the ability measure outside of his “vision” his behavior is not something one should measure along a line of social norms.  I still love him, because he makes me a better person.  With him I have confidence, he thinks I’m brilliant and with him, I am brilliant.  Yes, we argue and share laughter, support, fear, vulnerability, forgiveness and challenges together.  And he makes me a grown up – yes, hard to believe but he holds me accountable to my dreams.

People open to healthy relationships block out people who are both sociopaths and narcissists.  I am an abject failure at this but learning.  Labeling people is a waste of time, however in this case it defines both how I have lost money and spirit in business and life.  Sociopaths are entertaining and interesting, they make you feel smart and important, then you turn around and your money, reputation or both are in the toilet and you don’t understand how you were played by the person you saw as a mentor, ally and friend.  Sociopaths are impressive and fantastic at critiquing others, they are always fixing something and they have no remorse at the total destruction they cause. It is unhealthy to question the destruction in your life after one of these relationships – feces occurs, move on. The narcissist is better at feigning empathy, they care about and can point out all your problems (which they identify over and over along with their own) and will help you with them. They will also discuss all your problems with anyone who will listen.  Narcissists will always have what I call a first world problem or drama so you feel comfortable confiding in them, until you realize you have no secrets and no value in their world.  Your life is just pure entertainment in their ongoing drama, which they need to stir daily. Shut the door as gracefully as possible and don’t question your instinct which has been saying what the —-? after every conversation with these types of people. Be grateful for your own life, it’s yours, freckles and all.

Lastly, You reap what you sow, I am not religious but I believe Kharma is a powerful boomerang. If you are unhappy, move on, life is too short to cheat yourself of an opportunity.  If they are married, stay away or run like hell, regardless of what they tell you – people work in patterns. If someone tells you they are terrible at relationships, they care about you enough to say step back. DO IT.  We have a natural reboot, they may come around but don’t waste time waiting or fixing. The peace keeper is often trapped cleaning up the pieces of broken souls in an attempt to avoid introspection. If you don’t put yourself first, no one else will either. The point is healthy relationships happen with healthy people. Healthy people know who they are and what they want.

I don’t have a tool kit or a road map, I know to be kind, patient and positive with myself and others.  And I am slowly learning to trust my instinct.


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