Our Final Anniversary

Russell & Me

My husband and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary at a fancy restaurant. After he ordered an expensive bottle of wine, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his gift to me. It was a handwritten list of treasured memories from our marriage. Memories, he said, that reminded him of how much we belonged together.

It was a long list, maybe twenty or so memories. I glowed and held his hand as he read them to me. Some memories I had long forgotten, like the deep embarrassment that accompanied our first and only visit to a nude beach. Others were stories we told over and over because they touched our hearts.

I met Russell in Georgia a few days after I had made the decision to leave Atlanta and return home to Buffalo. My life in Georgia had taken a turn for the worse and I needed to go home to the safety of my family, regroup and start again. We had been dating casually for about three weeks and despite loving my time with him my plans hadn’t changed. But that didn’t keep me from agonizing over them.

One night, we were returning to his apartment after a date. He was unlocking his door when I began complaining about my dilemma. “I really should move home,” I said. “And it’s too late to change my plans now.” He stopped fiddling with the key and turned to me, exasperated but smiling. “You could keep debating about this, or… you could stay here and be happy with me.”

That sentence ushered in the next twenty yeas of my life.

My husband folded the list of memories and put it back in his pocket. Our food had arrived and there was no more time for reminiscing.  We had more important things to talk about. Like where each of us was going to live and how we were going to break the news of our pending divorce to our kids.

There was no illicit affair, no drug, alcohol, or sex addiction, no financial troubles, no split-personality disorder and no secrets.  None of the socially acceptable reasons to end what seemed like a perfectly decent marriage.  Which is why some of our friends are finding this new development so hard to accept. And why my husband and I are having such a difficult time explaining why we are making the decision to separate after two decades together.

“And so, you’re going to end it. Just like that? As far as I can tell you’re throwing away a really good thing.” This, from a friend who loves me dearly.

“Are you sure you’ve done absolutely everything you can do? I mean, absolutely?” Another good friend.

It had never occurred to me that I would have to justify our separation to our loved ones. I expected surprise and maybe sympathy, not outright demands for an explanation. And my reasons never seemed quite good enough.

“Honestly, Kris. Your marriage is a dream compared to mine. You don’t know what you’ve got.”

“It couldn’t have been that bad or you wouldn’t have waited so long. What about your children?”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

As scenarios like this played out over and over I found myself resenting these questions and the people who asked them.

“If you are so sad, why don’t you work on your marriage?”

I was stunned. Why the anger? Why the hostility? What the fuck? We had read the books. We had seen the therapists. We had taken the vacations strategically designed to rekindle the romance.

“I’m sad because I have been working on my marriage! I’ve been working on it for eighteen years and it’s not getting any better!”

I’d had enough. Didn’t the fact that my husband and I no longer shared the same dreams count?  Didn’t it matter that we had grown so distant that we sometimes didn’t speak about anything personal for weeks? When we did dare talk about personal matters, it was always with trepidation. Who would disappoint the other? Who would blow up in anger or stop talking altogether? Who would cave to the fear of being swallowed by this growing sense of being stuck? Would this be the conversation when one of us finally admitted that that we were too tired to try anymore?

“Well, I think you are courageous,” a girlfriend told me over drinks. “You are making a decision that many of us would like to make but are too afraid to even consider.”

Like twenty years before, a single sentence changed everything. Our normally loving and caring friends weren’t demanding explanations. They were asking for reassurance. They wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing. But they were also afraid. For us and for themselves. They felt blind-sided. We seemed so happy. Yet, we did our best and our foundation still broke apart under our feet. Could the important things in their lives crumble too?

The list of memories that Russell gave to me for our anniversary was bittersweet. It was full of loving, tender, and funny moments. The problem was, except for two notable exceptions, when our daughters came into our lives, every single memory that reminded Russell of why we belonged together, was from the first two years of our twenty-year relationship.

Our closets weren’t full of shameful secrets, cackling skeletons rattling the doors for attention like a cheating spouse or a gambling habit – reasons for divorce that our friends could understand. No, our skeletons were like ghosts, floating just behind us, reaching out their thin bony fingers to tap tap tap on our shoulders, and whisper… don’t turn around, you will have to face what you see.

Solo Travel – Facing My Ferris Wheel Fear in Paris

Journey Soulo Kristine Castagnaro travel solo trips

Check out this video! It’s 1 minute 26 seconds long!

One of the things that I love about traveling solo is how it opens up opportunities for me to face my fears. I’ve talked about this before… facing my fear of massages in Nepal, facing my fear of heights in Japan.

My fear of heights. I can’t seem to shake it. But I have had a lot of nervous fun trying in Belize, France, and even here at home in Hawaii!

Even though it was technically a “business trip” for Journey Soulo, my last trip to Paris was no exception.

My business partner, Toni Takeno, and I were there to research our upcoming trip with clients in May (psst! You should come with us!). When Toni & I saw that there was an opportunity to go high in the sky and film it…. well… here’s what happened!

It’s a 2012 “Big Thing” – I Dye My Hair Blue

Sadly, my iPhone cannot fully capture the rich, and textured, multi-color work of art that is now my hair. Yet it somehow manages to catch the detail of each and every wrinkle on my forehead. What gives?

I cannot believe I haven’t posted this. I dyed my hair blue (and orange and purple and green) way back in October!

Why? Well, it was getting towards the end of the month, and I hadn’t thought of a “big thing” yet and I was feeling kinda panicky and… oh! You’re not asking why I dyed my hair blue in October. You’re asking why I dyed my hair in the first place!

Easy!

  1. Because I’m 40-ish years old and technically too ancient for this kind of foolishness
  2. Because I’ve always wanted to color my hair but was afraid of what other people would think
  3. Because lately I’ve come to care a lot less about what other people think of me and my personal choices
  4. Because I’m smack dab in the middle of a mind-numbing mid-life crisis that dulls my ability to make smart decisions

(# 3′s my favorite)

I love my hair. Right now it’s blue and purple, but last month it was blue, purple, green, and a bit of orange. It’s a look that is supposed to resemble that of a peacock. I told my husband that if he wanted to show off his peacock to friends and family he was now free to do so. He didn’t take me up on the offer. Not sure why.

I also adore my hair guy. Jentry, you are a rockstar! You are a talented artist, a savvy businessman, and a dear friend who happens to be incredibly handsome. I’m so glad you’re mine (er… my hair guy… I’m so glad you are my talented and artistic hair guy)!

Blues and purples this time. Again, iPhone fails to communicate just how cool my hair really is.

Honestly. What does a person have to do to get some respect around here?


Glass of white wineRecommended wine: In honor of my awesome hair, I’m recommending a little chardonnay from Peacock Hill Vineyard, a micro-boutique vineyard in Australia. If you decide to pick up a bottle, please buy an extra and send it over to the excellent folks at The Black Cat Studio + Spa. They deserve it!


2012 “Big Things”

It’s been a big year.

It’s a 2012 “Big Thing” – I get Published in a National Blog!

Families in the LopOkay, okay, so the nature of the web means that all blogs are national… or worldwide, for that matter… let’s not get technical and suck the joy out of this very cool moment.

An excellent website out of Chicago, called Families in the Loop, asked me to write a little something. And I couldn’t be more honored. This is just as exciting as walking on fire or seeing the Dalai Lama pretend to poop!

FITL (I can call them that, we’re tight) encourages their parent bloggers to “let loose” so I took them at their word and wrote about Zaffy losing her tooth and the extreme heebie jeebies that resulted.

I hope you like it: ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS TO KNOCK OUT MY KID’S TWO FRONT TEETH!

It’s a 2012 “Big Thing” – I Get High

So, I’m afraid of heights. Nothing new. Lots of people are. So, when choosing a “Big Thing” to experience each month, lots of ideas tend to focus on conquering this fear. That’s why I chose ziplining in June and flying in a powered hang glider in July (during which I got as high as 4,060 feet, thank you very much).

September was ticking away though and I still hadn’t found a suitable “big thing” for the month. I happened to be in Japan on a business trip when I learned about SKYTREE TOWER. It’s the second highest structure in the world, the highest tower ever built at a height of 634 meters. People can go up to 451 meters  high inside the tower (that’s METERS people). I immediately decided that I must do this. Then I immediately decided there was no freakin’ way I was going to do that.

I am really afraid of heights. Here’ some examples.

Know why I’m smiling? Because we’re on our WAY DOWN!  I wanted to puke the entire time I was in the air. But I couldn’t… had to save face in front of Mgazi. (183 meters)

This is me at the type of the Eiffel Tower. Drinking champagne in a vain attempt to quell my irrational fear of the entire tower tipping over right at that very moment. My smile is fake fake fake. (324 meters)

I was not afraid while in the powered hang glider. I don’t know why. (1238 meters)

This is me in Belize. At the top of a very tall tree. Why am I sitting down? Because I’m scared to death! (30 meters)

This is the rock at Waimea Bay. See me at the top? I’m frozen in fear.  I wasn’t able to build up the nerve to jump. Had to take the walk of shame back down. (a zillion meters… or maybe less than 20)

After laying in bed in my mini bed in my mini hotel room in Japan having a mini conniption about going up in the very tall tower, I texted my husband. He reminded me that I’m post-Paris Kristine.

Damn.

I didn’t have a choice. I had to go to the top of the Skytree Tower.

Here it is, the one minute 42 second recap:

 

It’s a 2012 “Big Thing” – I Deliver a Baby

This is Noah. He’s here because of me.

Well, not really. But mostly. I mean practically. Not from my particular body, but…

Let me explain.

August’s 2012 “Big Thing” was supposed to be a twofer that focussed on my health.

1. Drink 8 glasses of water every day

2. Do some form of exercise every day

I started strong on August 1st. Went to the gym. Guzzled down amazing amounts of water. I was proud. (And I did a butt-load of mirror affirmations!) On August 2nd, I again came out swinging. Went BACK to the gym, this time did some serious time on the elliptical. Problem was, I forgot the water. Completely.

What do you do when you make a commitment to yourself and you don’t keep it? Revise the commitment, of course!

My August “Big Thing” became:

  1. Do some form of exercise every day

That lasted until August 11th.

Lucky for me, my BFAW (Best Friend at Work), Lisa, was very pregnant and she and her husband, Tim, had asked me to attend the birth of their baby. My role was to be “fake doula.” (Apparently, to be a real doula you have to go through some sort of rigorous training or something.)

With that said, I did try to prepare myself. Lisa provided me a stack of hypno-birthing CD’s to listen to so that I could adequately and appropriately support her during her “pressure waves” and protect her “bubble of peace.” I listened to those CD’s at least ten times in the weeks leading up to her son’s birth. Unfortunately, I also fell asleep before I ever got more than 4 or 5 minutes in. It seems you don’t have to be pregnant to enjoy the benefits of hypno-birthing techniques.

No worries!

After many hours of pretty intense labor, Lisa started referring to her “pressure waves” as “OW OW OW OW, IT HURTS!” (also known as “contractions”) and I was relieved of my duty to protect her “bubble of peace.” It had popped.

Instead, I trolled Facebook and caught her up on the “news.” I fetched food for her husband. I read her trashy entertainment magazines. We gossiped. I was happy enough — I had my Diet Coke. I was also blissfully unaware that Lisa wanted to slap me every time I raised that sweet bottled beverage to my lips. I thought she was enjoying her ice chips!

I make a pretty awesome fake doula. I was in charge of Lisa’s right leg — making sure it was where it was supposed to be every time she had a contraction. I was also responsible for her gas mask – lifting it away from her face when she pushed, putting it back when she rested. I’m proud to report that I only deprived her of oxygen once — okay, twice — fine, six measly, insignificant times — during her entire two hours of pushing!  It was also my job to ask the nurse “are you sure you know what you’re doing?” every ten minutes and yell things like, ‘Push, Lisa! Push! For God’s sake, woman, aren’t you ready for this to be over?”

It was exhausting. I mean, really, you have no idea. But I prevailed.

After twenty-three long hours in the hospital, Lisa gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Noah.

Congratulations, Lisa and Tim. It was an honor and a privilege to share this beautiful moment with you.

It’s a 2012 “Big Thing” – I Fly (Yeah, in the Actual Sky!)

I have done some pretty cool things this year. Big things: I ran my first 5kI walked on fire (hot hot fire) and on broken glass (sharp sharp glass), and broke an arrow using nothing but my throat (my delicate, somewhat important throat).  I found new truths, watched as the Dalai Lama simulated going the bathroom in front of thousands of people.  I launched this blog and ziplined and decided that it didn’t matter if I had flabby arms. These are big things.

But not one, not a single solitary one, was as cool as this: I flew a powered hang glider 4,060 feet above the island of Oahu.

Oh yeah I did!

Many many thanks to Tom (the pilot) and Denise of Paradise Air. If you want to do one of the most amazing things you’ll ever do in your life, call them (808-497-6033)! They’ll hook you up!

 


 

It’s a 2012 “Big Thing” – I Love My Flabby Arms

If I’m doing this, I can’t hear you!

Okay. Not exactly true. I don’t love my flabby arms. But I’m trying not to hate my flabby arms and that should count for something. But my June “Big Thing” didn’t start out being about arm fat, so let me take a step back.

As you now probably know, I’ve decided to do one “big thing” each month during 2012. It’s been invigorating and exciting, doing all of these things — facing my fears. In January, I ran my first 5k. In February, I walked on fire, and on broken glass, and broke an arrow using nothing but my throat. In March, I found new truths and in April I witnessed the Dalai Lama pretend to take a poop. In May I launched this blog. That was the scariest of all.

I didn’t do a lot of planning ahead for any of these big things. They just came to me. And I expected they would continue to do so throughout the year. So, I was quite surprised on June 20th when I realized that there were only ten days left of June and I didn’t have a “big thing” waiting and ready.

I panicked.

I wrote a quick note to Vincent Kellsey, the life and business coach who helped me become a firewalker, asking him for ideas on what my next big thing should be. He wrote back:

Dear Kristine,

My first question to you would be: How many things do you need to do to prove to yourself ( or anyone else) that you can do whatever you set your mind to do?

When will you decide that it is enough?

He wrote a bunch more. Lovely stuff. Caring stuff. Intelligent stuff. But I got stuck on the first part. Why am I doing this? To prove something, as he said? When would enough be enough? It gave me a stomach ache to think about it, so, I did what I always do when I don’t want to think about  something. I filed the email away in the “La La La” drawer.

Three Drawers

Since Vincent was giving me the answer I needed rather than the answer I wanted, I moved to plan B. I took some girlfriends out for drinks for “big thing” brainstorming. And it only took three drinks (one for each of us, thank you very much), some fried calamari and a martini glass full of raw fish to come up with this:

ZIPLINING!

Oh, ziplining scares the bejesus out of me. It was a good idea. A fear. A first. Something I have avoided in the past but actually would like to do if it weren’t so damn scary! (Don’t tell Russell. Back in 2010 he wanted to vacation in Costa Rica at an eco-lodge that had ziplining and white water rafting. I strategically steered him to Belize and an eco-lodge with canoes and tapirs.)

I could just picture it: whizzing through canopies of leafy trees, with the ocean on my left and picturesque mountains towering over my right. Problem was, Oahu has only one ziplining course and it’s over the Bay View Mini-Putt Golf Course.

Nuts. It would have to do because I was out of time. And you know what? It was a lot of fun! Check it out!

Fun, yeah? But really short and not as dramatic as I had hoped. While I was scared at the top the whole event didn’t feel “big” enough for a “big thing.”

Russell asked me how I liked it afterward and I answered, “It was fun, it was harder when I was putting my arms out, it was scarier. But then, halfway through, I just pretended I was flying.”

Even if it only lasted twelve seconds, it was an accomplishment of sorts. Maybe I could count it as half a big thing? I wasn’t sure and I was mulling it over later that night when Russell and I decided to review the video he had shot.

He did a admirable job keeping me in frame as I was zipping over the fake lake and paper mache mountains of the mini putt golf course. I was pleased with the footage and decided immediately that it was suitable for a blog post. Then we turned to the interview portion of the video… where he asked me what I thought of the ride. I looked happy in the video. Maybe even a little elated. I could use this for the blog too, I thought…

Until…

I noticed something awful. When I threw my arms wide to imitate flying, the skin on the back of my arms flapped in the wind like laundry hanging out to dry!

What the fuck was that?

“Did you see that?” I asked Russell, who stood there stupified, staring at the tiny screen.

I rewound. Yes!  The skin on the back of each arm seemed separate from the rest of the arm as though it had a mind of its own. It didn’t move at the same rate as the rest of my arm did. If my arm moved forward, the skin below it hung back. As my arm moved backward, the skin below flew to the front like reverse inertia. The two parts of my body, that should have been one, were always at odds with each other. One going one way, the other going another.

Russell actually took a step away from the video camera and said, “Oh…,” followed by a slightly lower-toned “ohhhhhhhhh.”

It was horrifying! It was an affront to all the hard work I’d been putting in at the YMCA. (Damn YMCA.) This video was definitely not going to go on the blog!

I know I’m supposed to love my body and all, but geesh, that’s a lot to ask of anybody. If I put this video online I would not only be acknowledging my flaws, I’d be highlighting them! What would people think?

Hmm…

As the second half of my June “Big Thing” I present to you, my droopy triceps snapping in the breeze like Tibetan prayer flags on Mount Everest!

Nice, huh? You can see now why I slowed way down at the end of the zipline. My arm fat was acting as a sort of parachute. *smile*


Glass of white wineRecommended wine: Today I’m going to suggest you try the 2010 Windsock White Viognier by Fly High Vineyards in Jacksonville, Oregon. It’s bold and full-bodied, just like my arm flab.


 

It’s a 2012 “Big Thing” – I Embrace the Crickets

I’ve been posting the funny things my kids say on Facebook for years. If I post about the state of affairs in Iran or where I ate for dinner, nobody responds but the crickets. But if I post that Zaffy thinks the Wicked Witch of the West is after Dorothy’s shoes because “she wants a splash of color,” the comments section goes wild.

I don’t like putting something “out there” and being met with silence. I rely on validation. I need to hear I’m doing a good job, or I’m doing the right thing. I need verbal support. That’s my crutch; that’s my incentive. So, I stopped posting much of anything except the funny or cute things my kids said. I basked in the glow of the replies and often friends would encourage me through the comments section to write a book or collect these sayings somewhere.

Then out of the blue someone said, “Are you and Russell doing okay? You never post anything about him. It’s like you live separate lives.”

Ouch.

Then another friend said, “How have you been? I mean just you… all you talk about is your children. They are precious, but what’s up with you?”

I was confused. What do you people want?

Wait. What do I want?

I want to be something other than a wife, mother, and nonprofit COO. Is it bad that I need more than the great stuff I’ve already got?

I don’t know.

Paris

This is me. Right before I leave the hotel to explore Paris for the very first time. I wonder if I knew at the time that life would never be the same.

A very dear friend of mine remarks often about our first world problems. I have food, clean water, shelter, safety, a loving family and a rich social life with friends who care about me. Why isn’t that enough?

No clue here either. Because I’m greedy? Maybe.

But what I do know is this. Until I went to Paris in September 2010, I was terribly unhappy wandering through my life on autopilot, checking in if things went too awry. If I remained unhappy, if I ignored it, what good was I doing anybody? What example was I setting for my children, who I want, very much, to grow into confident, self-fulfilled women?

Post-Paris Kristine

So, here is what I did. I took the transformation that began in Paris and used it as a catalyst to become Post-Paris Kristine. I am now living, not merely existing. And suddenly, I am more than a wife. I’m more than a mother. I’m more than an adoption advocate. I’m Post-Paris Kristine and I really like me.

And I want to express myself.

So, I started this blog. And yes, the foundation is parenting. Many of the posts are the funny things that my kids say. After all, parenting is what I primarily do and it’s my most important role. But it’s not everything. I’m throwing in quite a bit of “me” into this blog.  And you know what the response has been?

Crickets.

But that’s okay. I am Post-Paris Kristine and I don’t need validation.

Right? You agree, right?

Just kidding!


It’s a 2012 “Big Thing” – The Dalai Lama Talks Poop

The Dalai Lama came to Hawaii this week. It was perfect timing for me. I had decided that each month I had to do a “big thing.” Something that was extraordinary. Something that was Post-Paris Kristine. Something that mattered. I think seeing the Dalai Lama counts. It was mighty kind of him too, to schedule his trip right when I needed it.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The talk was exceptional. It wasn’t a religious experience but it was a humble one. I took notes. Here they are:

  • Prosperity comes through action not prayer
  • Success is in the mind
  • Healthy body <–> healthy mind <–> happy life, loop back
  • Any decision made during extreme emotion is rarely the best decision
  • He is very fond of George Bush. They like the same kind of cookies. But knowing that person is a good person does not mean that you agree with them all the time. A person’s motivations can be good but their method is unrealistic so the goal is not achieved.
  • The key to inner peace is warm heartedness.
  • Develop your own practice, your own views, your own convictions so that when everything around you is negative, you can remain strong and influence your environment.
  • Fear can be realistic (dangerous dog coming at you) or unrealistic. You can deal with unrealistic fear by being open so you can create possibilities and see what happens.

The best part of his talk was the Q&A. A person asked him if he smiled all the time, even when he was not in front of cameras. He said, yes. Then he added he smiles even when he is in the bathroom.

Yes, he said that! I’m paraphrasing because I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to quote the Dalai Lama from memory. But I swear to Buddha (can you do that?) he said it.

THEN HE SAID…

“Well, sometimes… when I’m having trouble with things coming out… when I have to assert a little pressure…” (Yes, I’m using quotes, but they’re just for show. I’m still paraphrasing and I’m totally not making this up.)

His Holiness pretended to  squat over a toilet with a grimace!

Uh huh. That’s what he did. On stage. I swear on all that I hold holy.

THEN HE SAID… referring to when he has to assert a little pressue

“Well, I’m not smiling then.”

!!!!!!!!! I kid you not.

The same person asked another question. How happy can anyone expect to be? The Dalai Lama answered that any event has many angles from which it can be viewed. The problem is that human beings tend to look from only a single angle. Therefore, we miss the joy and good that can come from the bad things. He instructed us to use our intelligence to look at things from different angles.

Yada yada yada. I had stopped listening. The Dalai Lama, one of the greatest men living on earth, had just pretended to take a poop on stage. And I was there to witness it.


Below is a video from Pillars of Peace. In it, His Holiness talks about the power of Aloha, and the fact that he didn’t know what the word meant at first.