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 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:

 

100 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

I read somewhere that on your 100th blog post you should write 100 things about yourself. So, in honor of my 100th post, I present to you…

100 Things that You Probably Don’t Know About Me

  1. I am embroiled in an unhealthy and one-sided love affair with cheap wine.
  2. A colleague and I were once driving in South Africa when we were pulled over by men carrying big guns. When I tell the story now, I say we were pulled over “at gunpoint.” The guns were pointing somewhere… just not at us.
  3. When I was a kid, I wanted to name my future daughter Phronsie Brett, after a character in The Five Little Peppers.
  4. The first time I cried from joy was when my parents told my sister and I that they were going to have a baby. I was ten years old. It was Christmas morning, 1980.
  5. I resent getting old.
  6. The happiest hour of my life was the hour after my husband proposed to me.
  7. I can flip a quarter off my elbow and catch it in my palm.
  8. I learned to drive on a stick shift.
  9. The only time I ever heard my father swear was when he was teaching me to drive.
  10. During the summer between fifth and sixth grade I read 52 books. I thought I was a shoe-in for the Summer Reading Contest. Turns out I was wrong. Another girl won. She read 53 books. Her name was Sally Sokolowski.
  11. Some of my favorite family memories consist of holding séances with my cousins at my grandparents’ house.
  12. The last time I cried from happiness was when I received a 21-seond personal video message from Sean Stephenson.

  13. I once broke up with a boyfriend the day before my birthday. That night a girlfriend took me out to get drunk. Then we decided to dye my hair. It didn’t turn out well.
  14. The hardest I’ve ever laughed was the afternoon that my sister, Angela, and I decided to wax our underarms. I lost my nerve and couldn’t pull off the wax. We spent over two hours trying to melt it off my right armpit using matches.
  15. I am an expert in absolutely nothing.
  16. When my sister, Cori, was a baby, I used to take toys away from her before she was done playing with them. I then handed her something else that I thought was more interesting. When I was in college I was an intern for a PhD student doing a research study on this exact behavior. Turns out mothers who do not allow their children to naturally choose which toys to play with do serious damage to their kids. Sorry, Cor.
  17. I was once slapped by an old woman in the streets of Nepal.
  18. When I was a teenager I would regularly fantasize about going to a pep rally before the “big game.” In my fantasy I would be overcome by the heat of the bonfire and faint into the arms of a cute boy who would instantly fall in love with me.
  19. I’m judgmental and petty. Not all the time. But more often that I like.
  20. I have epilepsy. Several times I’ve lost consciousness and was caught by a cute boy. It sucks.
  21. I am terrified of screwing up my children.
  22. I broke my nose in high school when I was playing right field in a softball game. Pop fly. I lowered my glove for some reason, which allowed my face to catch the ball. When I tell the story, I played shortstop and the batter hit a line drive.
  23. The six weeks I spent in Africa were simultaneously the best and worst six weeks of my life.
  24. I’ve walked barefoot over hot coals three times, walked barefoot over broken glass twice, and broken an arrow with my throat.

  25. I got caught shoplifting from Wegmans grocery store when I was in middle school. Turns out that eating from the bulk food bins with no intent of paying for what you’ve eaten is considered stealing.
  26. I make killer ice cream.
  27. Parenting doesn’t come naturally to me. What? You didn’t know?
  28. I fish for compliments.
  29. The most emotional years of my life were in 1984, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2009, and 2012.
  30. I accidentally flooded my class toilet in Kindergarten because the bathroom was out of toilet paper. I used paper towels instead. The teacher was pissed. She made all the students in class put their heads down on their desks in silence. The intent was that we stay that way until the culprit confessed. I never did.
  31. I care terribly what you think. (It doesn’t even matter if I like or respect you.)
  32. I became engaged to be married at 5 years old. My marriage proposal came from a boy of the same age. He sent it by mail. It was written in white chalk on black construction paper.
  33. My first concert ever was Captain and Tenille.
  34. When Zaffron was born I was terrified of her. Russell took care of her almost exclusively for the first three days.
  35. When I was a kid I had a huge thing for men with mustaches. HUGE.
  36. I had a very happy childhood.
  37. I idolize Harry Chapin.
  38. I won “Most Original Costume” in my elementary school’s costume contest. I was a McDonald’s French Fry Guy. When the local newspaper lined up the various winners on stage to take a photo, my ping pong ball eyeball fell off and bounced off the stage.
  39. I’ve travelled to thirteen countries: Canada, Mexico, Japan, Thailand, Nepal, Swaziland, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Australia, Belize, France, and South Korea.
  40. I’ve fallen in love exactly three times. I’ve never fallen out.
  41. When I was a kid the worst punishment I could receive was being grounded from the family typewriter.
  42. I was a horrible mother to Mgazi for the first 6 months.
  43. I do a mean imitation of a horse.
  44. Last August, I climbed the Waimea Bay rock with the intent of jumping off into the ocean. I lost my nerve. I’ve been marinating in self-imposed humiliation ever since.
  45. I once told a joke to a captivated crowd of family friends that lasted over twenty minutes. The joke was about a giant pink gorilla. I killed it. (The joke, not the gorilla.)
  46. Sometimes I think that Post-Paris Kristine is just a figment of my imagination.
  47. When I was in high school I had a pin on my denim jacket that read, “Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.” I thought it was original.
  48. My sixth grade class had an ornament-making contest. I made a balsa wood Christmas tree hanging in a balsa wood oval frame. I got disqualified because the teachers thought I didn’t do the work myself. The winner was Sally Sokolowski. She made a God’s eye. Have you ever seen a God’s eye? I could have made a stupid God’s eye in my sleep.
  49. In high school I had a pen name. Myrtle T. Clearwater.
  50. My favorite vacation with my husband was on a Disney Cruise. Don’t ask me. I’m baffled too.
  51. I cried during the last chapter of the last book of Harry Potter.
  52. I have a horrible memory. I don’t know how old I was when I lost my first tooth or got my period.
  53. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid.
  54. I was 26 years old before I realized that things don’t always turn out “okay.”
  55. I sucked my thumb until I was in sixth grade. The only reason I stopped was because I picked up a fan (while it was plugged in and turned on) and sliced all the skin off my thumb.
  56. I’m not one of those people who have no regrets.
  57. I have seen the Monkees in concert six times. No, this is not one of my regrets.
  58. I’m sometimes embarrassed to say I’m a blogger.
  59. My mom worked for NutraSweet when I was a teenager. Several types of candy used it as an ingredient at the time and they used to send her logoware. I used to walk around wearing a t-shirt that had “WHOPPERS — The Original Malted Milk Balls” printed across the chest.
  60. I think my first memory is of falling down the basement stairs.
  61. A 911 operator once hung up on me during an actual emergency. (Well, it was my friend, Sam, that they hung up on. But the story flows better if I substitute myself for my friend.)
  62. In sixth grade I auditioned for the lead in the Christmas play. When I sang “O Holy Night” for my teacher, she stopped me short and remarked, “Boy, you sure do sing with your mouth wide open, don’t you?” I didn’t get the part. Guess who did? Sally Sokolowski.
  63. I once had a “run-in” with Owen Wilson in a bar in Waikiki.
  64. My favorite joke of all time is The Pig with the Wooden Leg.
  65. If I knew any famous people, I would definitely name drop.
  66. I think I’m funnier than I actually am.
  67. I have a horrible memory. I have no idea how old I was when I experienced my first kiss or what I said in my wedding vows.
  68. In sixth grade I had the best friend in the world. Sally Sokolowski.
  69. My dad taught me that you never boo at a hockey game. And you always clap for a player who makes a good play. It doesn’t matter which team that player is on.
  70. In high school biology class I dissected a grasshopper and wore his leg on my yellow sweater the rest of the day — like a gruesome corsage.
  71. My favorite and boldest Halloween costume was a short dress accompanied by a a bow with a simple gift tag tied around my neck that read, “To: Men. From: God.”
  72. I adore hyperbole.
  73. My favorite books of all time are: A Prayer for Owen Meany, Life with Father, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Straight Man.
  74. I value honesty more than almost any trait. Honesty made more attractive by decorative details is even better.
  75. When I was a kid, I memorized the Announcer’s Test. My dad taught it to me and my sister during long drives. If we made a mistake, he’d stop and we’d have to wait until the next long drive to try again. My dad memorized it by listening to Jerry Lewis say it, just one time, on the radio. I can still repeat it to this day.
    • One hen.
    • One hen. Two ducks.
    • One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese.
    • One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese. Four Limerick oysters.
    • One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese. Four Limerick oysters. Five corpulent porpoises.

    And on and one until number 10…

    • One hen. Two ducks. Three squawking geese. Four Limerick oysters. Five corpulent porpoises. Six pairs of Don Alverzo’s tweezers. Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array. Eight brass monkeys from the ancient, sacred crypts of Egypt. Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth. Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who haul stall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivery, all at the same time.

  76. When Russell and I were dating, I accidentally backed my car into his ex-girlfriend’s car in a parking lot. It was a total accident. I swear.
  77. I have an intense dislike for the aloha shirt.
  78. I scored in the 97th percentile on the verbal portion of my GMAT. Don’t ask me. I’m baffled too.
  79. I once had a fist-fight with a neighbor boy on my front lawn. I was protecting my sister’s honor. In my version of the story, I won.
  80. During my sophomore year of college I owned and operated a singing telegram company.
  81. I was baptized when I was thirteen years old. It was a full-on dunking.
  82. The first time I got drunk was in eighth grade. Gin.
  83. My mother used to say I was never happy unless I was complaining. Thirty-five years later, I think I finally agree with her.
  84. In sixth grade my friends and I put a girl on trial for stealing my Rubik’s Cube. We appointed her a lawyer and rigged the jury. The verdict came back guilty. We also planted the Rubik’s Cube in her locker. I’ve always wanted to apologize but I can’t remember who we did it to.
  85. My first job was at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  86. I breast-fed Zaffy until she was 22 months old. By that time she could ask for it by name. (It got a little freaky.)
  87. I believed in Santa Claus until I was in sixth grade. When my parents finally told me the truth I locked myself in the bathroom and alternately sobbed and shouted “YOU LIED TO ME” through the door.
  88. I fervently defend my right to tell my children that there is indeed a Santa Claus.
  89. In seventh grade I started drinking Diet Coke. I hated the taste but kept drinking it because I thought it was cool. Now I crave it.
  90. At the age of forty-two I started drinking coffee. I hated the taste but kept drinking it because I thought it was cool. Now I crave it.
  91. As a kid, I loved to play the 1980 Atari 2600 version of Space Invaders. I even remember flipping the game. (When you reach 10,000 and the score flips back to zero.)
  92. Once I was trick-or-treating at a neighbor’s house and I stood on the wrong side (the hinge side) of the screen door. I could barely see out of my costume and when the lady in the house opened her screen door I didn’t move out of the way. The door knocked me off the porch and into the bushes. My arms were pinned to my sides and I couldn’t move so there I stayed, wedged between the house and her bushes until my sister grabbed my dad from the bottom of the driveway, and he came and pulled me out. The lady was mortified so I got extra candy. Such is the life of a french fry guy.
  93. I’ve gone to a nude beach. I even took off my clothes.
  94. Until recently, I believed that pride was a sin.
  95.  I have never had a cavity.
  96. The best I ever felt about my body was when I was pregnant with Zaffron.
  97. I’m a piss-poor long-distance friend.
  98. Growing up in Buffalo, New York, I had a very sheltered childhood. Everybody I knew was white. There were a couple of black kids in school and one Chinese boy in church. (Where’d you disappear to, Peter Ho?) Except for the congregation at my church, everyone I knew was Catholic. 90% of the kids at my high school were Polish. Imagine my surprise when I got to college and discovered that the Italian boy I had been dating for three weeks was actually from India.
  99. Five days ago I dyed my hair blue.
  100. I love myself.

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.


 

Saving the World, One Karaoke Song at a Time

The family attended a surprise birthday party at Krazy Karaoke the other night. The everning turned into so much more than I had expected. I mean, I expected to have fun… but I didn’t expect the rush of love I would feel for each of my children as I watched them belt out tunes into the microphone.

My kids throw themselves into everything they do. Zaffron exudes zaffiness. Her sister, Mgazi, oozes gaziness from her pores.

Zaffy takes everything very seriously. Here she is with Mgazi and our friend, Lisa (bless her heart), singing Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Zaffy is so earnest. You can see her pain… if only we could all “make that change.”

Mgazi is confident, mischievous and flirty. We had to wrestle the microphone from her several times during the night. Here she is with her sister singing “Say Hey (I Love You)” by Michael Franti & Spearhead. (Hey Gazi, I love you too!)

It may be fantastical thinking, but I think that if these two stick together, and Russell and I don’t completely mess them up, they can conquer the world some day.

Zaffy opens her mouth WIDE when she sings

When I was in 6th grade, I auditioned for the school Christmas Play. I was singing O Holy Night, when the music teacher stopped me and said, "Boy, you sure do sing with your mouth wide open, don't you?" The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

The Girls Singing Karaoke

Mgazi: Flirty. Zaffron: Serious

I am very grateful for this night of karaoke and the opportunity it gave me to experience my girls simply being themselves! Thanks Jen, for throwing the party and inviting us. Thanks Brian, for growing old *smile*! Thanks to all the guests at the party who good-humoredly wiped pizza grease off the microphone (when they were successful at wrestling it from Mgazi’s death grip). You all rock!

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!


“Bad” Words at the Beach

Zaffron at beachI was recently asked to give a 2-minute testimonial at a church service. The topic was how the church’s Religious Education program had impacted our family. Of course,  I spoke for 5 minutes.

Here it is:

Russell and I have been attending the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu for twelve years. We first got involved in our church’s Religious Education (R.E.) program many years ago, when we were leaders of the youth group. It was a humbling experience. Each Sunday I would leave after an hour or so of “teaching” the teens feeling as though I gained so much more than I could ever give. I remember the Youth Sunday the year we were youth group leaders. After the kids had done their thing during the service and it was time for the congregation to respond, I stood up and told those kids the most honest thing I had shared with them all year. I said, “When and if Russell and I have children, nothing would please us more than to have them turn out half as wonderful as any of you.”

So, now, we have kids. Two. Zaffron, who’s about to turn seven, and Mgazi, also known as Lulu, who just turned five. Both love coming to church and are soaking up all that R.E. has to offer them. Just last week, I was in my bathroom, brushing my teeth, getting ready for work when Zaffron walked into the room and said, “I don’t think I believe in God.” It wasn’t an announcement. She wasn’t proclaiming anything significant. It was conversational. Apparently, this had been rattling around in her head and this is what popped out. Of course, I immediately started hyperventilating. I grew up Baptist. Twelve years of being a Unitarian didn’t erase the fear of God in me.

When the nausea passed, however, I was filled with pride.  I’m pretty confident that none of Zaffron’s R.E. teachers told her there’s no God.  Instead, they shared with her facts, and history, and stories, and details of religions around the world and here at home, and most importantly, our U.U. principles, and this is what she decided based on the information she was provided. R.E. is helping my daughter become a critical thinker.

What's the Big Secret?Our church’s R.E. program is not parked solely in the realm of religion. It also offers a groundbreaking human sexuality program called O.W.L.—Our Whole Lives.

We enrolled Zaffy when she was five years old into this program. She learned the medically appropriate terms for body parts, the different forms that families can take, what’s appropriate behavior and what’s not, how to stay safe, and, somewhat to my dismay at the time, but now my relief, how babies are made… down to the very… last… detail.

Mgazi at the beachRussell often takes our daughters to Kaimana Beach on Saturdays. One of the girls’ favorite things is to rinse off in the showers after an energetic morning of swimming and playing in the sand. They’ll run ahead of Russell, leaving him behind to collect the towels and toys. They jump under the falling water of the showers, completely unaware that other beachgoers may have been waiting for their turn.

One of the girls will invariably turn around and yell across the beach to my husband who is still gathering their things, “DADDY, SHOULD WE RINSE OUR VULVAS?”

[Don't believe I said "vulva" in church? I've got video proof!]

This is what we get out of this church’s R.E. program. Children who are unafraid to speak their minds. Children who analyze information that they are given and make their own decisions. I realize that both of my examples of how R.E. has impacted our lives convey a mixture of horror and pride. But to me, this is a good thing. My kids are becoming independent thinkers, in no small part due to our church’s R.E. program. And any good independent thinker is going to provoke a variety of emotions in the people they interact with.

I’m thrilled that my Mgazi and Zaffron get the opportunity to participate in our R. E. program. I’m even more thrilled that they are well on their way to becoming just as wonderful as the teens that Russell and I had the privilege to learn from ten years ago.

Ballet Class Ticks Me Off

Mgazi has ballet class at her school every Wednesday afternoon. Every Tuesday night, I put her leotard and ballet slippers into her backpack in preparation for the next day’s class. To be honest, I’m successful at this only about 50% the time. The other half of the time I forget completely. This results in Mgazi having to take class wearing her school clothes and socks — something I know she doesn’t appreciate because she complains bitterly. Apparently it’s not easy to plié in jeans.

So, I had the brilliant idea of putting the ballet supplies in her backpack and instructing her to leave them there all week long. That way, they’d always be handy and I wouldn’t forget to pack them the night before class. I reasoned that she only wears the leotard for 25 minutes at a time anyway. She could wear it each and every class and I probably still wouldn’t have to wash it! Should I wash it? Of course! But do I HAVE to? It’s a judgment call. I chose to be kind to the environment and do as the hotels do — only launder what was left for me balled up on the bathroom floor.

My approach seemed to be working. Mgazi stopped complaining. I promptly forgot there was ever an issue.

Last week, I got a note from the ballet instructor informing me that Mgazi’s class would be giving an end-of-year “informal performance” at the school the following Wednesday. I’d been to these performances before. The parents gather in a hot room and proceed to ooh, aah, and sweat as their children skip, hop, run, and gallop, much like they do in their own backyard (without the aid of paid instruction). But in ballet they do it while pointing their toes.

I googled the definition of performance. It is an act of staging or presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment. What I was going to endure the following week can in no way be considered a performance.

flower

A token for the 4-year old’s efforts

Furthermore, the ballet instructor suggested that parents bring a flower or token of support for each child. I’m sorry, can someone please explain? A token for what exactly? According to the note: for the children’s efforts! I’d seen other parents bring their children (and the other children in the class) flowers or leis or candy in previous years. I’d never done it. Because I considered it unnecessary. My child is only doing what she does each and every Wednesday afternoon from 3 o’clock until 3:25. The only difference is that I’m there to witness it in all its informal glory while sweat drips down the crack of my ass. This performance isn’t something she’s been working toward. It’s not something she’s excited about. There is no accomplishment to celebrate. Essentially, I’m giving my five-year old accolades for participating in a class that she asked to attend and I agreed to overpay for. “Good for you, Gazi! You attended class! You deserve a flower!”

Resentful that I would now have to purchase tokens for the entire class, I did what I usually do in these situations — I filed the note under “things to deal with at the last minute” and went about my day.

Tuesday night rolled around and I decided it was time to wash Mgazi’s leotard. I opened her backpack and found it filled to the brim with, as my mom would say, everything but the kitchen sink. I found head bands, shredded paper, three markers (and only one cap, not attached to a marker, of course), a squished banana, two unmatched and dirty socks (one of which was Russell’s), and last but not least, one single ballet slipper. There was no sign of her leotard or the slipper’s mate.

“Mgazi, where is your ballet stuff?”

“I don’t know.”

We turned the house upside down. Searched every little nook and cranny. We found the second slipper in a drawer – how long had it been there? We didn’t find her leotard. Evidently, it walked off on its own accord – probably out of protest of some sort.

“Mgazi, how long has your leotard been missing?”

“A long time.”

“Child, did it not occur to you to say something to me?”

“Not really.”

It was too late to buy another leotard that night. I would have to leave work early the next day, buy her a new one, and drop it off at school before her class.

Argh in a bucket.

The next day, performance day, I rushed to the store and bought Mgazi a black leotard, switching it up from the usual pink. The note from the ballet instructor failed to mention how many children were actually in the class so I took an educated guess and purchased fifteen flowers.

I arrived at school early, some parents milling about, clutching roses and candy leis. I couldn’t help but announce how I resented buying their kids Gerber daisies simply for attending ballet class. Of course, I followed this quickly with a second announcement: they shouldn’t have to buy my kid anything either. A nearby father started laughing and couldn’t stop, which only encouraged me to rant more. His wife smiled but tried to hide it. A woman next to her was horrified by my brazen distaste for the whole business and shot me a glance full of brazen distaste for me. A third mom, whose daughter is in the same class as Zaffy, held her hands out toward me, Price-is-Right style and exclaimed, “Ladies and Gentleman, I introduce to you, Room 1-10’s Class Parent!” With an embarrassed bow — I’m a pretty lame Class Parent — I excused myself to deliver the leotard to Mgazi, tags still attached.

Mgazi’s teacher was surprised to see me enter their classroom. I quickly explained that I had realized yesterday that Mgazi had been attending ballet without the proper attire. She replied, “Yes, it’s been that way for a couple of months now.”

Ummmm. “Teacher, did it not occur to you to say something to me?”

She didn’t respond… probably because I only said it in my head.

Mgazi accepted the leotard without so much as a smile and asked, “Can I quit going to ballet?”

“No, you may NOT quit ballet,” I told her (out loud) and popped her on the head with the Gerber daisies before realizing that might not be my smartest move with the teacher still in the room. Shamed, I took my leave.

Russell met me at the performance space. No stage… just a dojo with no air conditioning and windows so high off the ground that any feeble breeze that manages to enter the room only floats around uselessly above our heads. After ten minutes of idle chitchat with the other parents (on Russell’s part) and energetic complaining to the other parents (on my part), sixteen children entered the dojo prepared to dazzle us with their dancing skills.

What followed was ten minutes of nothing that resembled ballet. But the children had fun. Especially when they found themselves showered with flowers and candy for doing little more than roaming aimlessly about the room pointing their toes.

Oh. I forgot to mention, fifteen of the children were wearing pink leotards with frilly skirts and matching pink ballet slippers. The sixteenth child, my own, the one who would NOT be getting a Gerber daisy from her mother, wore a black leotard that was two sizes too small and was so tight it strained to cover her bottom. I can’t help but wonder how many of the adults in attendance think Room 1-10′s Class Parent sent her child to ballet class wearing a thong.


Glass of white wineRecommended wine: Today I’m going to recommend Ballet of Angels, a favorite wine of folks in New England. According to its website it is a bright, crisp, and semi-dry white wine with an impressive floral bouquet. I have yet to try it, but I find no reason to doubt the good folks of New England. I can imagine that a glass or two of  Ballet of Angels will help ease my guilt at having contributed so heavily to my child’s growing sense of entitlement. I’m going to have to find a way to get my hands on a bottle. You can orded it from Suburban Wines & Spirits but I can’t stomach the $35 shipping fee to Hawaii!


Hawaiian QuarterHawaiian QuarterHawaiian QuarterHawaiian Quarter


P.S. I want to be very clear. I do not intend to insult or otherwise disrespect Mgazi’s ballet instructor. She obviously loves children, is extremely talented, and extraordinarily patient. I bow down to her.

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.