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Sunday, October 4, 2015

notes of gratitude

It's been a long few weeks. Living on a university campus, in a tiny room, in the midst of a heat wave, is hard, whether you are in paradise or not.

But the other day it kinda hit me. As the kids were squabbling in the car, sweat dripping down our faces, trying - and failing - to make it to Costco before it closed. We drove away, requiring silence even as newly minted four year old tried to sing away her blues, loudly, and little miss jammed her fingers in her ears, crying for silence, and little man buried his head in his ever present Kindle, disengaging. And I look up, as the forced silence finally fell upon the car, to see a beautiful pink-y purple sky, the ocean a deep mauve below, stretching both ways as far as you could see, the beach before it a faint grey in the fading light, bedecked with the fringes of palms off in the distance.

And I felt gratitude sinking in. We had accomplished this seemingly impossible feat, of moving so far from everything, and we were really here. In all our squabbling glory.

And I see one of those facebook things floating around. Somewhere, its says, someone on this planet is happy with much less than what you have.

And its true. I have a roof. Hot and tiny though it feels on this sweltering afternoon as I type. A room that is clean and safe, Beds for all of us. A fridge stocked with juice and fruit and bread and milk.

And the bubbling feeling of a new life is inside of me. Movements now that are so evident as I lay in bed at night, trying to sleep. A tumble here. A flutter there. I'm nearly halfway (19 weeks) and its starting to feel so real. Another life. Another head of curls. Another sturdy body. Another soft smile.

And a friend of mine from college posts online, her cancer is back. She is my age. With a child and husband and career she loves. And it seems so damn unfair, even as this new life flutters inside my healthy body.

And I see reports of college shootings and fleeing refugees, the bombing of a hospital full of aid workers in Afghanistan.

And suddenly the heat of my little room isn't so oppressive, looking at refugees living in tent cities in the desert. My three children, fighting over who's iPad turn is first - they are whole, they aren't lying traumatized on a mattress on the floor, unable to speak because of the unspeakable horrors they have seen, horrors no one should see, let alone a child.

And I find myself crying more. Softening. Feeling the gratitude creeping in, taking hold of me.

And I look at my kids, complaining over what was served in the cafeteria, realizing, why shouldn't they complain, I have been too. And I realize, for the forty millionth time, how their gratitude starts with mine. How my eyes need to see the good, in them, in our circumstances, even as things feel hard.

Because things are not hard. Things might be inconvenient - the heat, the small space, living on the side of a volcano walking up and down the pathways of campus with a swiftly growing body inside of me - but things are not hard.

We let, so often, the inconvenient become the hard. We confuse the two. The merely nuisances become the stressful. And then they overpower the joys. The kids fight over who plays Minecraft first - but they ACTUALLY LOVE DOING THE SAME THING (miracle of miracles!)  Little green whines about riding her scooter all day - but she has strong active legs and a strong body that loves moving. My body feels slower and more cumbersome with each week that passes - BUT I'M GROWING ANOTHER KID TO LOVE. The heat feels like being trapped in a car without the AC on, some days - but in the evening the ocean breezes blow in and the waves ripple on the mauve sea under a pink sky and the beauty overwhelms everything.

The hard becomes a blessing.

So, those are my notes on gratitude. A reminder to myself. And one week from now we get to set up house in our new rental and the days are cooling as we move into fall and the kids are meeting friends and I AM MEETING FRIENDS (amazing!) and this is good. And this is where we should be. Even if pumpkins cost $9 at Walmart. (HA HA HA, can you believe that???)

Life is so beautiful friends. Dammit. It is.

My birthday dinner at the beach last week. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

slaying dragons - Michaelmas 2015

That sounds like the name of a band or something, doesn't it? Dragon Slayers.

In any case. In the past several years we've enjoyed celebrating Michaelmas, the feast day of Saint Michael, celebrating the coming of fall, the end of the harvest season, and looking at the dragons we must battle as seasons in our lives change. (See this post, and the story below for more)

We have had some change lately. Not seasonal, mind you. It is the same 90+ degree weather we were having in an unusually warm early fall back in the Midwest. Actually, here too, the hottest season anyone can remember in 20 years. And, no AC in the average Hawaiian home. I sit in front of the fan, sweating, with iced tea as I type, kiddies plugged in to afternoon ipad turns.

Yes. Everything is changing. I have no kitchen to bake dragon bread this year. No wool to needle-felt a dragon for our nature table. No nature table. We are still in campus housing (think dorm style apartments) my patience for this situation is getting very very very thin. On good work days, where I go to meetings and talk about the exciting work to come, it seems worth it, just a couple of more weeks, really, and we will move into our rental house, and all will even out, and all will be well. And then days like today. Where a couple of weeks IS TOO LONG. The children are TOO NOISY. Husband is working TOO MUCH. Stressful calls come in. Real life bites me in the butt. And I implode. Falling in on myself in worry and stress and heat. Did I mention that I ridiculously hurt my foot - KICKING LAVA ROCK - last week? Then, I threw out my back - BENDING OVER AT THE BEACH. And, after a relaxing dip in the ocean - ACTUALLY GOT A DOUBLE EAR INFECTION FROM PUTTING MY HEAD UNDER THE WATER.

Things feel ridiculously difficult on days like today.


They are winning.

There is no slaying going on.

Am I the only one? I know I'm not. I know you are out there. Trying to do the new. Fighting the good fight. And some days, its too hard, too strange, too testy. You just want to run away, back to your little town where the leaves are turning colors and sweaters are coming out of storage and story time is every Friday at the library and life is predictable and even and manageable.

But Sara, you say, you live IN PARADISE. Remember the pretty flowers? The beach? THE PARADISE-Y SUNSETS? Yes, well, dragons exist here, even. They have a habit of following one around, despite one's locale. For me - IMPATIENCE, STRESS, WORRY - these guys love me. They seek me out, even in paradise.

So, we sit under the banyan tree at the coffee shop on campus. We draw our St. Michael and the Star Children story, then we retreat to fans and iced tea and ipads.

And really, one can only put one foot forward at a time. So, that is what you do. Aware of the heat and the struggle and the change. And as I feel it, so do my little people and I try to see them at it, to know that their crabby attitudes and squabbles are the same as my whining texts to dada. This is TOO HARD. So we eat popsicles and try to be more indulgent and go to the pool - again - and drink iced water and pray for rain tonight to cool down the room.

One foot. Then the other. Adapting to the new. Fighting the old. Moving forward.

This is the season of my life this year, no saddling up and charging out, blazing sword in hand. Trying to be faithful, even so, in the good fight.

Little man was drawing a diagram of a particularly gruesome battle in the history of the settlement of America and is therefore not in this photo set. Ha. 

The beach where I threw out my back and baby green succumbed to heat fever. 


Taking the belly to the beach. 

Michaelmas Story of the Star Children
by Corinne Batzell
Once upon a time there were beautiful children who lived in the stars. One by one each of these children took a long, long journey over a rainbow bridge and down to earth. They brought with them from the stars, seeds and bulbs and roots to plant in the earth to make it a good and beautiful place. They dug into the earth and planted their seeds and bulbs and roots. They watered them when they were dry and watched that no one stepped on the places where the seeds and bulbs and roots were planted. They made sure that the weeds didn’t push their way over, crowding the plants and blocking out the sun’s light. As the little shoots of green poked their noses out of the earth, the sun warmed them and the Start Children watched over them with loving care.

But there was a terrible dragon who roamed about the earth and one day he came to the garden where the Star Children had planted their seeds and bulbs and roots. The dragon didn’t like to see such beautiful things coming to the earth. He felt very angry and he began to breathe red flickering fire all around the garden. The little green stalks and shoots that were growing up so carefully and beautifully began to dry up and wither and turn yellow and brown. The Star Children did not know what to do. They were so very sad that these gifts which they had brought to the earth were being destroyed by the dragon.

Suddenly a golden light filled the garden. It was a knight in shining armour riding on a beautiful white horse. In his hand was a golden sword. It was St.
Michael. The knight charged at the dragon and fought with him until the dragon was so worn and weary that he fell at the knight’s feet and promised to be his servant.

St. Michael turned to the Star Children and smiled on them and on the garden. The plants began to grown new green leaves and shoots and the children ran to get water for them.

St. Michael gave to each Star Child a golden cloak. “These golden cloaks will protect you always so that you may work on the earth to help all growing things.” He said.

And the Star Children put on their golden cloaks and watched over their garden. The plants grew and there were flowers, and the flowers were just the shape of stars.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

snippets of our Hawaiian life thus far

Rain showers. The sound of thunder up on the mountain above our little town, nestled between ocean and volcano on a bed of lava. Thunder breaks and you know you have 20 minutes or so before the rains come tumbling down through the pearly haze, over the green sea of the mountainside. And then. Relief.

The scent of flowers, punctuating the hot green smell of island life. Flowers falling everywhere, off of trees, so common they are scraped off the sidewalk, raked up like fall leaves. Tucked behind little girl ponytails or in the sleek buns of business women dressed to the nines.

The baking hot afternoon sun, stepping out of the shade of the lanai, hurrying up the steps scattered everywhere on campus, torturingly so for pregnant women who have hurt their foot in the past week by - ironically - banging it against a volcanic rock, used as landscape walls everywhere, and then making it to the next shaded spot, a sigh of relief. Finally, retreating to the air-conditioned car to seek out respite in air-conditioned Target or Walmart or Macy's or anywhere. Hey kids, lets ALL go get toilet paper!

The salty caress of the sea. Everywhere in the air, so present, little miss says, when she has a day of feeling sick, that she must be sea sick, because the sea is everywhere here. A view, a glimpse of shimmering blue, early in the morning, then later in the day, as the haze creeps down the mountain, it becomes a silver streak, seen through every window, off of every porch, just a step away, and there it is.

The prickly heat, late at night, which causes one to discover the wonders of witch hazel, mixed with lavender oil, in a spray bottle, squirting backs arms and hot little tummies, kicking off sheets, lying in the relief of the fan.

Birds, chasing diving screaming pecking, everywhere. Outside my window as I type, perched in the palms a crow-like Myna bird. The tiny yellow saffron finch. The red-headed cardinal. Replacing our familiar robins and blue jays with these exotic looking specimens.

A sea turtle, bumping up against the rocks in the shallow reefs where we take the kids snorkeling. Little miss clinging to my leg, Baby Green chatting away, as the turtle flips around, poking its nose through tourist legs, trying to make its way back out to the peace of the open ocean.

Shells and bits of coral, washing up to shore, as we dare the beach wide open to the ocean, frantically holding hands to little bodies next to us, lest the riptide tear them away. The bits of treasure flung wide after storms ripped up the ocean last week.

The newness. The seeking of schedules, routine. Rising with the sun and then 6:45 breakfast, trudging down the hill for 8am coffee shop for school on the large patio, mama sipping an iced latte, the breeze coming in off the ocean. Then the air-conditioned campus library. Quiet now kids, do your math little man. Then 11:30 lunch at the campus cafeteria, scrape your leftovers into the slop bin for the pigs. A visit to the farm on campus where they teach sustainable agriculture and raise fish in aquaponic tanks that feed water to the lettuce plants growing in tubes. We gather passionfruit off the ground and marvel at the huge kale plants. Then quiet time, where mama might work and where more witch hazel spray is applied and then mama closes her eyes for a minute or two while kiddies play iPad, then we rouse for the park, where new little friendships are formed from kids around the world, and mamas gather and swat at flies and complain about the heat and then we all head up to dinner at exactly 4:30 and sit in the gathering shadows while the kids run and play after reluctantly swallowing two bites of chicken and some lettuce, gulping down ice water and feeling the cool of the evening breeze pick up off the ocean and then to the sweltering rooms for cold shows and more spray and books and then the sound of rain, as the night air finally cools and then, sleep.

And I miss coconut oil. And having a kitchen. And craft supplies. But the ocean is there, out the window, glinting faintly in the afternoon haze. And this is good.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

we have arrived

So far...

Very very hot.

Very very green.

Very very ocean-y.

And I mean really. It is dang hot. There are green flowering trees everywhere. And you can see the ocean just about anywhere you step outside because the town is built on the side of a volcano so...


We are in temporary housing at the university where I am working/teaching. And it feels very...temporary...

I get to about 1pm every day and feel like I am going to fall apart.

But, so much good.

Work is going to be interesting, once it gets into full swing (a lot of the leadership is at a big conference in Australia right now, so I am rather work-less at the moment)

Fresh fruit at the farmers market.

So many amazing looking food options. Thai food on every corner. A pizza place with GF crust options AND KOMBUCHA ON TAP! I mean, come ON.

Our little church sang the doxology in Hawaiian.

Lots of beaches to explore. Towns too. Its a great little island.

Geckos and beautiful birds everywhere. We even saw a mongoose. Freaky creatures but the reason there aren't snakes here, apparently.

Can you tell it's the afternoon? I'm tired.

We did school sitting out on the patio under a banyan tree at the campus coffee shop. Kinda great. Our first day. Rather different than last year. I think my head is kinda reeling from all the different. Different different everywhere...

Thanks for all the well wishes in our big adventure, seriously it was so special to read all your messages. I think once we settle into our permanent rental (3 weeks from now!) it will all feel more real. For now its like, huh. Um. Who am I again?

Here are some pics thus far. I promise more coherent posts soon.


Monday, August 31, 2015

where i am at

Where I am at is trying not to drown in suitcases and ziplock bags and boxes of things that stay here...

And this song, that the kids and I love, came on today as we drove to the city in a borrowed car to pick up dada who just sold our best-van-ever (trying not to mourn the fact). And it made us so happy.

So here it is.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

the post with two announcements

So. Here is the deal. 

I've been writing this post in my head for the whole of this summer. 

I totally wanted it to be the trifecta announcement...the two things I've got to say below plus something book-ish. I've got an agent! I've got a deal! 

Alas, although I DO have a completed manuscript and this one, my third thus far, could be THE ONE. Maybe. Ha.

But, nevertheless. 

Two announcements. 

Yes, lying in bed at night, awake for hours, crafting this post.

At first I thought I would do it when we arrived at our new locale...a picture of me, in front of palm trees, with a nice trim little belly.

But then word started getting out. And in any case, we bought our one-way tickets so...


We are moving to Hawaii. For a year. 

Remember the whole "WE ARE MOVING TO HAWAII!!!" post two years ago???

SO yes. We are doing that. Except this time, we are doing it for realz. Tickets purchased. Bags being packed. We leave a week from today in fact.


We are leaving everything in storage. Hopefully finding a furnished rental. Selling our van. Buying a new one. And we are open to staying longer. So. Yes.

me and baby green in hawaii teaching several years ago

And, the nerves of it NOT happening is why I had to stop posting this summer. God, it was a hard summer. Dada's business venture had some rough setbacks (now recovered from thank goodness) but it was hard and sad and harsh and it felt like NOTHING WOULD EVER GO RIGHT. And I have a hard time writing when I feel like I have to fake it. 

So, its a little different from buying a goat farm in the frozen Northlands. Yes. But. I imagine they have goats in Hawaii, right?? You know what they do have?? COFFEE. As in, COFFEE FARMS. Ha. new dreams surfacing. Which is what life is, right???

SOOOO. Yes, I will be teaching and working part-time-ish on this venture, described at our resurrected for a short time only GO Fund Me page. And I will be setting up a new blog on my professional website where I share book-ish and work-ish stuff. I'll share the link here when it happens.

And yes, I was contemplating shutting down this blog for a bit, for the year, but to be honest. You know. June wants to go to Hawaii too. She works so hard. She deserves a year in paradise, right??? Blogging about homeschool lessons on volcanoes and how sugar is made and ocean life unit studies and crafts with shells and raising guavas and avocados in the background and OMG YEAR ROUND GARDENING. June is about dying with excitement. 

So, Yes, she needs to come. 

And then. 


In the midst of all this business worry and do we move to Hawaii or not....



Oh yes, that is what you think it is.

I tried to orchestrate a cutesy pinterest worthy announcement photo with the kids but, eh. HA HA.

So. Yes. As my friend put it the other day, "last time we talked you were wondering about more kids or an, you DECIDED BOTH?"

Apparently. HA. 


And yes, being the "advanced maternal age" that I am, we wanted to wait a bit. So I am out of the first trimester and ... still gaggy...Husband says it means BOY. We shall see.

I'll pull an Angelina Jolie here and say "late winter" is the general time frame for baby to come. 

So, yes, we will be living in Hawaii when baby is born. So, yes, ALOHA BABY! Hey, I was born in Hawaii so, its all full circle, right? 

And, that's that. 

Two announcements. Big things. Big time. But, still, the same. June is back. But, be prepared for pig roasting posts. HA HA HA. 

Thanks for sticking around. Hugs all.

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