How to make 2018 the most badass yet

As a cup-is-always-half-full, silver-lining, eternal-optimist type of gal, the phrase NEW YEAR, NEW YOU makes me cringe.  

As much as I love the idea of a New Year, New You, from an Eastern Medicine perspective, it’s misleading and impossible.   It implies you haven’t been YOU all this time in 2015, 2016, 2017…and poof, all of a sudden 2018, here I am, new and improved.  You don’t just wake up one morning a new person. While that might have worked for Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, that is not reality and we all know that.  Yes, you may wake one morning with a new attitude; but a new attitude is not a new you.  A new attitude is the same YOU with a new attitude.  

But let’s stay optimistic here and focus on the motivating intention of making 2018 you the person you know you want to be, dream of being, the “real you” inside, without all the BS.  How you doing with that?  I hope you’re doing awesome, staying motivated, and committed more than ever to make 2018 your year.  However, if your New Year’s resolution is slowly falling to the “well maybe next year” priority list, keep reading.  You’re not alone for many reasons.  Below, I’ll share my 5 reasons why I don’t like this impossible phrase, but I’ll also share 5 ways to mentally prepare yourself if you truly are ready to make 2018 the biggest, the brightest, the most badass year yet.

So here are the reasons the NEW YEAR NEW YOU is misleading and makes me want to shake my computer every time I read it:

  1. A NEW YOU DOESN’T EXIST.  It’s an illusion.  You have always been you.  In yoga lingo, we call this your “True Nature.” Most of us are just out of touch or disconnected with our “True Nature.”  And to reconnect with that True Nature–what I believe the saying “New You” is trying to get at–doesn’t just happen when the clock hits midnight, or when you lose weight, or when you can do a handstand, or make your clothes look like you jumped straight out of Pinterest.  
  2. STARTING A NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION IN JANUARY IS OUT OF ALIGNMENT WITH THE RHYTHMS OF NATURE.  And yes, no matter which way you look at it, you are part of nature.  January in the Northern Hemisphere is the dead of winter.  In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the middle of summer.  Neither of those times are conducive to truly making and sticking to a plan.  Winter is all about self-care, slowing down, and reflection.  Summer is about playing, partying, firing up your life, and shining brightly.  Hard to follow-through with new plans when everything about you is wanting to hibernate (north) or play and have fun (south). Truly, the best time to set a resolution or new year plan would be in SPRINGTIME!   If you want to stay in touch for my Integrated Yoga and Eastern Medicine Springtime workshop (online and in-person), make sure to sign-up for my Instragram feed and newsletter.
  3. NEW YEAR, NEW YOU MARKETING ASKS YOU TO THINK OF YOURSELF AS LESS THAN WHOLE.  In some way, you are broken and you need to be fixed.  This type of messaging is fear-based.  Sadly, it works.  For the majority of people, it’s easier to believe “there’s something wrong with me” or “I’m not good enough” so therefore, I need to buy this product or that program to make myself new.  Again, your inner-YOU is not broken, it’s totally enough, and doesn’t need fixing.  Your inner-YOU may be covered by years of bad habits, trauma, unfavorable experiences, and lack of self-care but all that, all those layers are not YOU.  The real you, under all that, is still there and is waiting for you to uncover, rediscover, and love it like you do your phone and gadgets.  
  4. MOST PEOPLE WANT A QUICK FIX.  Most people don’t want to take responsibility for their own life. [sigh] Most people want a quick fix, someone to tell them what to do, how to do it, and what it should feel like.  Truth is, only YOU know if it’s working for YOU!  Life is not like a yoga class.  You don’t just show up, listen to a teacher, totally trust them 100%, feel good, and say “I’m fixed.”  If it were that easy, every yoga teacher would be out of work.  Life is not a quick fix.  It’s a journey.
  5. PEOPLE DON’T MAKE SELF-CARE A PRIORITY.  Most people don’t want to do the work it takes to uncover their True Nature.  Uncovering the layers of bullshit, drama, habits, guilts, fear, beliefs is exhausting…but also exhilarating.  You do the work because the work is the most important thing you can do for yourself, your family, your community, and the global family.  Living in your True Nature is the most important work you can do in this life.  

So maybe you’re like, but yeah, yeah, that isssss me.  Everything above.  Yes, that’s where I am.  I’m ready for all that.  I want to do the work.  I’m tired of hiding.  I know there is a me inside just waiting to be uncovered from all the dust that has slowly built up.  If this is you, AWESOME! Amazing!  Get it. 2018 is your year!  Don’t let any amount of my realism get in your way.  Here is a reality check for truly taking on this New Year, New You mindset, so when February 1 rolls around, you’re still motivated and when January 1 rolls around next year you can look back and think, “wowwwww, that was quite a year.  I DO feel like a new me, a version of me that’s more ME than ever before.

  1. STAY COMMITTED.  MAKE YOURSELF A PRIORITY.  Ask yourself daily, “Do I really want to uncover the real ME that has always been inside?” Meaning, do you really want to do the work: physical, mental, emotional, digging up the past, learning new habits while ditching old ones, making new relationships, letting go of patterns and people who no longer align with who you are?  You know, really doing the work to uncover the layers of what you believe, why you believe it, and ready to think, act, create, and grow based on who YOU are, not what someone told you to be?
  2. DON’T GET ATTACHED TO THE UPS AND DOWNS.  It’s not all golden rays of sunshine and happy Care Bear clouds.  The process, the journey (not the destination), the work (possibly the most important work you’ll ever be a part of), is a rollercoaster.  This rollercoaster is what most people jump off of at some point thinking, wtf, this is not what I thought it would be like.  But really, what did you think it was going to be like?  Be ready for life to feel like it got turned upside down, shaken, kicked, and rattled…but believe me–IT IS WORTH IT.  YOU ARE WORTH IT!  Also be ready for some really high times too.  Like some of the most elated, unforgettable feelings of freedom, bliss, love, relaxation to name a few. Don’t get attached to these either.  Life is always up and down, like rollercoasters or waves.  What goes up, must come down, and luckily it will go up again–as long as we don’t get attached to these ups and downs.
  3. FIND SUPPORT.  Ask for help and seek support from friends and professionals in areas you find challenging.  For years I tried to do this “life journey business” on my own.  I barely talked to anyone about it.  I used my mat, my journal, and my escapism (literally to the middle of the Pacific) to try and figure it all out myself.  It was about 5-6 years into this path that I really truly realized, I didn’t have to do this on my own, there were a LOT of other people who shared similar experiences and it was actually not as scary, frientening, and tough when I reached out and allowed my life to be surrounded by people, friends, and health care providers who I TRUSTED with my stories, experiences, and body.  With this said…
  4. BE WILLING TO CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIORS.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  Be open to trying new modalities.  Ask friends and other mentors if they have personal recommendations for supportive health care providers.  Thinking outside the box might mean changing your Primary Care provider, or consider seeing a Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, Physical Therapist, Private yoga classes, Reiki healer, Sound therapy, Homeopathy.  With this said…
  5. YOU’RE WORTH IT! Your health, your physical, mental, emotional, health and wellness, are priceless.  Just because your insurance doesn’t cover it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the types of treatment or support you need.  You may have to pay out of pocket to get what works for you.  Sometimes this requires creative money planning and a re-evaluation of financial priorities.  You might find excuses not to pay out of pocket because you don’t believe you are “worth it.”  Believe me, YOU ARE!  Without you, no amount of money or success in your life matters.  Your physical and mental presence is the most priceless asset you have.

New You really means a new attitude and commitment to finding time every day to peel back the layers of all the bullshit, drama, and habits that limit your ability see, think, feel clear, and to heal the parts that feel broken or out of alignment.  It requires taking “me” time every day (some days more than others) to do the work. So, I don’t mean to burst your New Year Resolution bubble if you’ve been flying high on the global energy created by the changing of a year, but I do hope you find more truth and lasting motivation for your New Year mindset.  

From my heart to yours…Aloha & Namaste

 

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Driving in Bahrain, part 1

Driving in any foreign country is often a cultural experience on to itself.  Bahrain is no exception.  Upon arriving in Bahrain I was still shaken up from my car accident in the States and the thought of driving in Bahrain was a nightmare.  I literally still shook when I had to drive and sitting as a passenger in Bahrain was just as terrifying.  Now, looking back I realize Bahrain was just  the cure to my driving fears, mostly because I either had to sink or swim.  Not really having a choice, unless we wanted to hire a driver (which is totally a normal thing here), I have learned to find driving in Bahrain quite efficient.  Not really sane or safe in anyway, just efficient.  I get from point A to point B, which is the whole point of driving, right?

Driving in Bahrain is frustrating for my western, logical, mind.  When we first moved here, just getting to my destination seemed like a momentous occasion to be celebrated.  I’m still amazed at how I’ve learned to navigate around Bahrain since Google maps “does” work here but seems to be about 1 block delayed and street signs may or may not exist.  Even the signs that do exist can be so faded you can’t read them, blocked by an overgrown tree or bush, or just straight up wrong.  Before one can really celebrate arriving at your destination, finding parking (which might be a whole blog on to itself) becomes the real obstacle and test of patience.  Thank goodness the rules, I mean guidelines, for parking are even less defined.

Driving in Bahrain takes patients, a lot of patients.  It also takes the sense of letting go of expectations. Which seems weird because if you think about it ALL of driving is based on expectations…certain expectations that everyone will generally follow said country’s driving rules.  And this is where the patients come into play.  Driving “rules” and “laws” do exist here but no one really follows them.  They are more like guidelines or suggestions open to serious interpretation based on the driver’s country of origin, how expensive your car/SUV is, and how big your vehicle is.  Now having been here 15 months, from what I have witnessed, these are the only agreed upon driving guidelines that most driver’s follow:

  • Drive on the right side of the road, inshallah.
  • Turn on your lights when driving at night, inshallah.
  • Stop at a red light if there is a traffic camera.  Otherwise, inshallah.
  • Honk often.
  • You are the most important driver on the road, so everyone needs to get out of your way and read your mind since you don’t use any signals.
  • Do not use any signals.
  • Park anywhere your car sort of fits.

Those are the guidelines.  Speed limit signs and other traffic signs are posted everywhere but these are more like side-of-the-road decorations or, again, suggestions.  Right of way exists to the largest vehicle in the vicinity, or the car that honks the most aggressively.  Pedestrians definitely do NOT have the right of way and never assume since you are walking half way across a street with your kids in hand a car some distance away will see you or slow down.  This makes walking with the kids a nightmare.  This is probably why you rarely see kids walking around on the streets.

While no one seems to know how to use a turn signal here (a pet peeve of mine even in the States), honking is everyone’s form of communication.  It’s not as bad as Delhi, India, Lima, Peru or other major cities I’ve traveled, but it’s still a lot.  At first, the honking got to me and it made me all flabbergasted and stressed out. Over time, I’ve learned to distinguish between the honks and realized honking (not signals) is a form of communication between drivers.  Here is my analysis and honking guide for Bahrain:

  • One long honk = equivalent to the middle finger -or- I’m not happy -or- get out of my way -or- watch out.
  • One short honk = move -or- start driving.
  • Short repetitive honks = (typically following the one short honk) i’m losing my patients and you need to move now before this turns into one long honk.
  • Two short honks = thank you (I have only seen three people in my entire time here actually wave as a ‘thank you’).

I’ve started using the honks. What I’ve learned is: 1. they work, and 2. God forbid you accidentally give someone two honks (“thank you” honk) when you meant to give one short one. The car in front of you becomes so confused they freeze and it takes longer for them to move. Rookie error.

There is so much more to go into this topic like parking, Saudi Swoops, car seats, and motorcycles but for now I’ll leave you with this. In a country that seems to be me-me-me first on the road, Emergency vehicles (i.e. EMT vehicles) have to stop for red lights even when their lights are flashing and sirens on. YES!!! I know.  I’ve seen this happen many times.  Every time I have witnessed this all I can do is pray. Pray that the person or people inside make it. Pray that the added 1-5 minutes (depending on the red light) isn’t the difference between life and death. And pray that the driver says “Fuck this shit” and blows through the light knowing how ridiculous it is to wait while no other vehicle on the road does.

Then again, maybe this is a deeper reflection of my time in Bahrain. Maybe this country, while I love it, has made me a little less optimistic. Or maybe it’s more optimistic, depending on how you see it. Either way, if you choose to visit us (and the doors are still open as long as we are here) please come with your favorite anti-anxiety remedy/medication or a new bottle of whiskey.  Tad particularly likes Jura which is hard to find here (wink wink).

Until next time. Aloha & Namaste.

Living in the illusion

Note:  I allowed the following to flow through me this morning.  I use to write this stuff on paper and in my journals in the past.   They are buried away in boxes (so is the life of a military spouse).  Today it came out on computer.  It is incredibly scary and vulnerable to share what comes through me at times like this.  This is a cathartic blog.   Having caught up on my morning World news, I  was balling.  From violent shootings in the US, villages being raped and torn to pieces in the name of dogma, starvation and lack of fresh water in the Middle East, and millions of people being displaced around the globe due to catastrophic weather patterns…it felt, and feels, too much.  It makes me so angry, so sad and then when I just let it out, cry until I can barely breathe, I begin to hear a calming voice that keeps me focused on something higher than myself.  Honestly, to me it feels like my version of “God” trying to talk me off the roof, bring more love into my life, and to make sense of all the suffering.  

To share the following is terrifying.  However, in the last year something shifted in me.   I use to be more reserved and afraid of what others thought of me.  Now, if something terrifies me, I say “fuck this shit” (meaning the fear) and I do it.  This FTS attitude, has been incredibly healing for me and for many others who have written to me encouraging me to keep up the online presence, or writing, or authentic shares.  So yes, I’m sharing the following below, unedited.  I’m not even sure if it makes sense. Maybe there will be something in it.  Maybe not.  But at least I feel better now that it’s out than keeping it in stuffed in some corner of my crying heart.  

I use to tell my mom as a child, “If I can positively impact the life of one person before I die, then I will have lived a fulfilled life.”  She reminds me that I have already done this.  I now realize I’m upping my own game.  From here on out it is my heart’s and life’s mission to positively impact the life (i.e. reduce suffering) of as many people on this planet as possible, including myself. My own experiences and past will not control me.  I will use them as tools for my own growth so I may shower as many people on this planet with love and aloha as possible. 

With this said, I’m giving you a huge hug right now. No, even bigger than you imagined.  I love you!
H.

—–

There is a saying in Chinese medicine, “When treating a person, above all you must treat the Spirit first.”  It sounds woo-woo, sounds out there but it is Truth.

The biggest cause of fear in our World is our disconnection being talked about as our “differences.”  The biggest cause of illness and dis-ease is STRESS from this disconnection.  No, that is not empirically researched, that is straight up living, learning, and dedicated observation in trying to understand life.  This country, our world, our communities and our families are divided not by a real division but an ILLUSION of a division that stems from a lack of connection with their True Nature, their Spirit, and a belief that different means bad or wrong..  The only Truth’s I know are: everything is always changing, death will happen, and we are already whole.  However, most people choose to live out and live in their illusion of their lack of wholeness.

The Founders of the US Constitution, pure geniuses imo, were correct when they said, “we were all created equal.”  Truth.  However, the interpretation that we all have equality from that moment forward is an interpretation.  It is false and another illusion to believe that each person born into this world is equal.  The only equality that exists is the unity of a whole being that is uniquely different from all the other 7 billion other people on this planet.  What is true is that each person on this planet is uniquely there own and whole just as they are.  Nothing else is equal.  Rather than push a false narrative that we are created, born, and live equally is just false.  What makes this human existence truly our own, divine, and unique is that from the point forward after creation (when the sperm meets the egg) a whole host of factors beyond our control and within our control begin acting on us and it is how we respond consciously, physically, and unconsciously that make each of us uniquely our own person.   Created equal and get to live equal are NOT and will never be the same human experience.   We are different and we need our differences in order to be uniquely our own self.  But there exists an illusion that differences equal bad and since we do not want to support the “bad” we disconnect.  The illusion exists that because you are different, we cannot connect, or share similar experiences, bond, or have discussions regarding our differences.  The illusion is just that, a false veil.  Differences are good.  Differences are what makes sushi, sushi and lasagne, lasagne.  What gets us in trouble, what divides us, what makes us want to be right over the idea of being free is when we begin to live disconnected or separate ourselves from things that are different than us or our beliefs. Difference’s exist.  Disconnection exist.  But differences does not have to mean disconnection.  Disconnection will always lead to suffering…as every traditional healing method that has survived the test of time all say…disconnection from our Spirit brings about death.

What I see, what I feel, what I witness, what I have learned every time I fear and work with people in a studio or clinic setting is that people are living in their illusion of separateness and disconnection rather than allowing themselves to live in connection with self, others, nature, and hence the world around them.  And I don’t care how religious you are, how many times you pray or meditate or do a sun salutation, religion is not a deep connection with your higher self and your version of God, Universe, Love, Oneness..  It might mean a connection but if it is, than you’re not offended by the above statement because you know you’re connection is Divine and doesn’t need labels.  Connection is about something deeper than a weekend pot-luck and group or affiliation or how far back you can bend.  Connection takes you deeper to a place that is about walking your talk and living your message.

Perhaps if we all asked ourselves these questions everyday we would know if we were living connected or in the illusion that disconnection.

Do you care about how you treat yourself, and what you say to yourself in the silence moments when the lights are out and you’re about to go to bed, when someone is attacking you physically, emotionally, or mentally?

Do you care about how you treat others when they are right in front of you but more importantly when they are not in front of you?

Do you care about how you treat Nature, the very Earth that gives you all your sustenance (food, water, sources for shelter, cars, and technology).

Are you walking your talk?

Do you care more about being right or free?

Have you sat with your own fears and really analyzed them?  Have you sat with your past? Your trauma? Your experiences?  Those skeletons in your closet and really allowed yourself to heal and get help?  Or did you disconnect with that part of yourself and push it aside.  Whether you were raped or are the rapist, the child being hit or the one hitting both are whole people just responding and protecting their illusion to fit what they thought was their reality, what was real, what right, what was needed to stay “safe” or in “control.”  But surprise, you are whole (always have an always will be) and it, all that stuff, your past, your experiences, are still with you, just stuffed away in some corner of your consciousness, heart, and tissues persistently trying to have a life of its own until one day you have a break down and it can finally release itself.  It doesn’t mean you’re broken.   It doesn’t mean you’re bad.  We are just Spirits having a human experience and the rules are not so black and white.

We are trained from a very young age to protect ourselves, and figure out what is “right” and what is “wrong.”  As we get older though, we have the ability to think for ourselves and to wake up to the illusion.  Wake up to the fact that you’re living in an illusion that you choose to live in or live out.  If you’re living to be “right” than you are not free and you’ve pushed your Soul aside in favor of your mind’s ego, little brain, cultural norms, or safety, literally the caveman/cavewoman aspect of yourself.  And that’s fine if you want to live that way.  Honestly, the majority of our planet has to live that way because of safety and needs based living (think Maslow’s hierarchy here).  But if you’re reading this, if you are part of the population that gets to live life outside of your minimum and basic needs of food, shelter, water, and physical/mental safety then it’s time to wake up.  You ask yourself why the World looks the way it does?  It’s because the people who have the ability to wake up AREN’T.  They are choosing to be RIGHT over FREE.  They are choosing to hold on to an illusion that our differences are somehow bad, wrong, ugly, or unsafe and disconnection is the solution.   It’s time to DISCONNECT with the illusion and CONNECT with your Spirit, your true nature under all the veils you, your family, your culture has placed on you.  It’s time to wake up.  Enough is enough.  Wake up.  Wake up.  Take responsibility for YOUR life, for your choices, for your words, your actions, your thoughts and reconnect with what matters most…your connection to your Spirit, that silent voice within that is trying to be FREE. Stop stuffing that voice away and needing to be RIGHT.

When was the last time you really looked into someone’s eyes?  Not an IG feed eyes or a FB feed eyes but the eyes of your neighbor?  The stranger walking past you?  The person making you your favorite $5 coffee drink?  And people get all up in arms about people who cover their hair, or wear veils, or wear booty shorts but does anyone look in the eyes anymore?  This is what I’m talking about.  I’m guilty of it too but when I catch these things in myself I really want to make a difference and take the steps to make a change within myself.  This doesn’t make me better or worst, maybe a little self-centered, but I’ll take it.  My form of self-centered allows me to feel good about who I am and give my love openly despite your color, race, cultural background, or disease.

Reconnect to your Spirit and you will find at first that it feels like your life is falling apart.  It is, because if you want to live connected with Spirit with your True Self than you can’t continue to live the same way you have been in fear, illusion, and disconnection.  But not all things that fall apart are broken.  Things falling apart is the illusion of your separateness and disconnection breaking apart allowing your life to reflect something more connected. Will it feel like you’ve lost control? YES, 100% but that’s the point.  When you try and control your life, that being “right” is better than being free, you have to build up a lot, A LOT, A LOT of barriers and walls to maintain that disconnect and way of life.  However, the more you continue to allow yourself to be connected with your Spirit you will begin to see your life take shape in ways that feel easier and more alive, and things you once would have dismissed as weird or from the twilight zone are now signs and serendipitous messages.   The differences won’t seem so scary anymore and the fear based living will slowly subside.

So yes, treat the Spirit first, not last.  Treating the Spirit is treating the body and the mind.  It’s all connected.  Disconnect with the illusion that different is bad or wrong.  Reconnect with your breath.  Reconnect. with Nature.  Nature has always healed, always will heal, and will always continue to heal for those who want to reduce suffering.  So go outside.  Take a breath of fresh air.  Put your feet in the dirt.  Get dirty. Worry less and embrace all of it as if it were your own child.

 

New Years in Sri Lanka

I’m about 9 months post date on my blogs.  I seem to start blogs and then never get around to finishing them.  But I still want to make sure I write down what I remember so our kids have memories.  Let’s be honest, so I have memories.  This mommy memory loss is no joke.

Here goes…NEW YEARS IN SRI LANKA, 1-7 January 2017

Luckily, with a little help of the Universe making it nearly impossible to get to India for the New Year as I had hoped, we found ourselves looking forward to a week in Sri Lanka. Not knowing anything about Sri Lanka I decided to book through a tour company. The thought being, if this is our only chance to see Sri Lanka then I want it to be the most informative, spectacular, memorable, AND fun trip for everyone. With the help of the tour company Red Dot, we had just that.  To this date, Tad thinks our trip to Sri Lanka was our best yet.

Here is what made Sri Lanka an amazing family vacation.

Day 1: After a direct flight from Bahrain, and an Izzy who did not sleep very well (ugh), we arrived at the newly renovated Colombo airport.  Our driver, Aruna, met us there and made us feel very welcome and comfortable instantly.  His van was immaculate, his English very good, and there was even water waiting for us in the van.

The first Sri Lanka experience was surprisingly not the airport (as I had mentally prepared for) but the just the driving.  Within seconds of leaving the airport it was clear I should not look out the front window because it always looked like we were about to hit someone or someone was about to hit us.  Tad immediately pointed out that he was glad he wasn’t driving and happy to turn the wheel over to a professional.  At first it seemed chaotic but we learned after a few days that there is definite order within the chaos of driving in Sri Lanka.  Like many places, the law of gross ton, applies.  The bigger you are, you have the right of way.  You can pass as many cars as you want, even with cars heading straight at you, but be prepared to feel like you’re going to have a head-on-collision every time.  Still, it was worth every single penny to have someone drive us around for the week.

We jumped right into our vacation by heading straight to the to the Millenium Elephant Orphanage Foundation.  As I read from other family blogs, this stop is a good way to get the kids excited about being in Sri Lanka.  It worked.  It was perfect.  Even for Tad and I, the Elephant orphanage made us realize we had stepped into a totally different time and place.  Within a short walk from the front entrance, we were greeted with a huge field of elephants.  There is no glass or walls or anything between you and the elephants, just a few guys with sticks to guide and corral the elephants. Aruna had timed our arrival perfectly so we got to watch the tourist coveted “feeding.” Honestly, it hurt to watch because it looked so uncomfortable for the elephants. But apparently elephants like milk and I trust they are not hurting the elephants at an orphanage.  Right?

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As soon as the feeding was over, Aruna told us to follow him.  At first I was really annoyed he was taking us out of the park and not letting us look around.  But he was insistent we follow him and quickly.   He led across the main highway (a two way road), down a tourist-trap street filled with Sri Lankan knik-knaks, to a hotel that sat on a beautiful river.  He then said, “Sit here. Order tea. Eat lunch.” Little did we know the best elephant show of our lives was about to take place. We had the best seats in the house to watch the elephants bathing in the river.  Within 15 minutes a huge herd of elephants were parading right next to our table and heading to the river we were overlooking.  It was both magical and humbling.  All of a sudden it was clear these were not cozy little kittens but huge, powerful, smart creatures.

While some of the elephants were chained in the water, most were let free to just bathe. There were huge water guns spraying at the elephants (which they seemed to like) as well as fireman grade hoses spraying them off.  It was so funny to watch.  You could begin to see personality in the elephants and how they preferred to bathe.  My favorite had to be the ones who just plopped down and started rolling around.  I’m not quite sure who loved it more, the kids or Tad and I.

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After lunch we got back in the van for a few hour drive towards the Central Province of Sri Lanka.  Since we arrived in good time to our hotel area, Aruna suggested we visit the Dumbulla Caves, aka the Buddha caves.  I hadn’t included it on our itinerary because I wasn’t sure how the kids would do but I am so glad Aruna essentially forced us to go.  As you approach there are prayer flags strung above the road letting you know you’re approaching a very holy Buddhist site.  And holy, divine, and great it was.  From the parking lot, you turn a corner and BAM you’re greeted with one of the country’s tallest golden buddha statues.  My mouth dropped.  My heart fluttered.   It is by far the the tallest Buddha statue I’ve ever seen. It’s not the largest in the world, by far, but it’s still breath taking and emits an aura that is respectable.

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To see the caves, dating back 2700 years, you climb up a steep hill lined with monkeys and people selling floral offerings.  This was also the first glimpse into the Izzy show. Almost every person we passed swooned over Izzy, smiling, cooing, pinching her cheeks, kissing her head.  At this point, after being in Bahrain for so long these types of gestures don’t bother me and we follow Izzy’s cues.  Partly tired, partly uncomfortable she wanted Tad to carry her.  So while the rest of us walked, Tad carried his little movie star up the steep hill.  Trace was totally thrilled that he wasn’t sitting anymore and happily walked up the hill.

The Dumbulla Caves Monastary are still functioning and are the oldest preserved edifices in Sri Lanka.  The kids were scared of the caves but enjoyed running around looking at the lotus flowers in the ponds.  It was just the beginning of a full week of lotus flower excitement.  Tad and I each took our turn in the caves and were both happy to have visited the holy place.  The cave paintings are very well preserved and the statues are breathtaking.  I would have liked to sit and meditate in the caves but long gone are the days of traveling on my own time.  The kids were getting rowdy and it was time to head to the hotel.  My photos will not do this sacred place justice but these Google images will.  The Dumbulla Caves have a fascinating history and worth a read on Wikipedia.

We stayed two nights at the Elephas Resort in Sigiriya. It’s a small boutique style hotel with an eco-friendly attitude. Most memorably, it had the best shrimp dish I’ve ever had.

Day 2 in Sri Lanka we ventured to the famous Sigiriya, Lion’s Rock Fortress. The history of this fortress is impressive and captivating–a real life tale of rulers, harems, Buddhist monks, honor, and wars.  Walking around the pool gardens trying to imagine what it would have looked like in 5th century was exciting and unbelievable.  Aruna hired a guide who took us to the top which means the guide also carried Trace up all the steep and treacherous spots (there were many).  For most of the trip you’re climbing steep steps strapped to the side of a mountain with scaffolding…and not US standard scaffolding, Sri Lankan standards.  In retrospect, Tad said we totally got lucky that our guide didn’t get mad or upset at us or Trace and accidentally let Trace fall over the cliffs to a horrible death.  That never even crossed my mind.  We’re an adventurous family with good intuition and I thought it was good for us (said the mom not carrying a child up the steep steps). I was most proud of Tad knowing he isn’t the biggest fan of heights but he didn’t say anything and kept trucking along with Izzy in his arms.  Izzy, showed her love for all things adventurous and daring and had no troubles with the heights.  The top of Lion Mountain where the main palace was built had a spectacular view (as you might imagine) and was WORTH every sweaty step (again, said the mom not carrying a child and who loves heights).

That afternoon we arranged to go on an elephant safari at Kaudulla National Park.  We had our own private jeep and guide who knew which area of the park the elephants were gathered.   Apparently the elephants migrate between three main areas during the different seasons. Not only did we see the most spectacular wild elephant show ever imaginable (blew Day 1 out of the water), we got to see a wild elephant on the way to the park just cruising along the highway.   Elephants are spectacular, breath taking creatures even at the zoo but to see them in real life, in their habitat, playing together, fighting, eating, cruising, bathing…it makes me love them even more. It was this park that we also got to see our first peacock with its feathers raised. It was far away but still spectacular.

Day 3 we loaded up the van and headed to Kandy. And yes, it took all day. Sri Lanka, while having modern roads doesn’t mean the traffic or driving is fast. The twists, turns, and traffic made what would be a quick hour drive from point A to point B a six hour drive.  Knowing it would be a long drive, Aruna was really good at spacing out stops for us.  The first one was at an Ayurveda spice garden.  Having self-studied Ayurveda since I was a teenager and then becoming certified as an Ayurveda Wellness Counselor in the States, I was excited to see the medicinal plants in the wild.  To be honest it wasn’t anything spectacular but it was a good mini-ecological stop and opportunity to see Ayurveda medicinals in action.  Right at the end of our tour, Izzy tripped and fell slicing open her knee.  She couldn’t have done it at a better place.  Immediately 10 guys swooped around to help and calm her (obviously freaking her out more) and clean up her wound with traditional Ayurveda herbs.  I was thrilled to see Ayurveda from its motherland in action.  They applied crushed herbal powder onto her knee and told me to let it stay on as long as possible.  No joke, her knee healed surprisingly fast.

The next stop on our way to Kandy was at a friend’s of Arunas.  This family showed us how to use every part of the coconut tree from the nut itself (water, milk, oil) to making rope with the coconut shell husk, and woven mats from the fronds.  Being a lover of all things coconut, it was informative and impressive to see how the whole tree was used and processed to aid humans’ lives.  The kids each took a turn making coconut fiber ropes which they then carried with them throughout the trip like a trophy.  I liked that stop even more than the Ayurveda botanical gardens.

We arrived in Kandy at rush hour…although I have a feeling it’s always congested. After checking into our beautiful and modern hotel OZO Kandy, we took a guided tour at Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.  The Temple is one of the major pilgrimage places for Buddhists.  Honestly, I’m not sure what was more impressive our 98 y.o. tour guide or the temple.  Joking, not joking.  Our tour guide had Tad and I holding back laughter the entire time.  He was so sweet mannered and definitely knew every single piece of history about the Temple but was unable to field any of our questions without repeating his entire monologue again.  Neither Tad or I are Buddhist but we have both read lots of Eastern philosophy texts and Buddhist books.  The Temple took all of our breath away at different points.  The most notable moment was in the meditation hall near the actual tooth relic. Trace and Izzy, despite being squirmy since getting out of the car, sat still and silent while our Monk friend forced us to sit and “meditate.”  Clearly I was all about it but to see the whole family feel something unique and quieting was unexpected and heart warming.  As we exited the museum to conclude our tour the only rain of our trip poured down on us.  It was a welcomed blessing and “cleanse.”

We finished our only night in Kandy with a Sri Lankan cultural dance show.  Although Tad and I were very excited to see it, the kids took one look at the masks and nearly lost it. Okay, Izzy totally lost it. Trace lasted about 10 minutes then was too scared to go on. Oh well. That’s one of the things about traveling with toddlers–not everything is going to be a big win.  Tad and I have to make quick decisions and decide if it’s worth moving on, potentially having already paid for a ticket or fee, or to make the kids tolerate it because we really want experience/see it. We decided to leave the show and walk the long way home around Bogambara Lake which was a nice way to feel and see more of the city before heading to bed.

Despite spending most of Day 3 in the van, day 4 was our longest day on our total week long vacation.  Again, God bless our kids were growing therefore napping all the time, we drove about 250km from Kandy to Laya Safari Resort, due west of the Yala National Park entrance. Technically Google Maps says it takes about 5.5 hours but it took us 8.5 with scenic stops along the tea plantations and lunch in Nuwara Eliya.  For many, driving that long and far doesn’t sound like a way to spend vacation. For Tad and I, we totally love it! We got to see SO much of the gorgeous countryside we wouldn’t otherwise see. We also weren’t driving so we could nap when we wanted.  Since Tad and I love tea, stopping and taking a tour at the tea plantation was awesome. We learned so much and gained an even deeper appreciation and love for all things tea.  And like everywhere else in Sri Lanka, Izzy was asked to be in many family photos.  To me, it’s bizarre to even imagine why you’d ask a stranger to be in a family vacation photo but apparently it’s a thing.

Nuwara Eliya was a nice lunch stop with the best shrimp masala Tad and I have ever had.  This is where a lot of Indians and Middle Easterners come to vacation.  It definitely has a resort town feeling to it.  I’m sure there is a lot to do but we continued on.  The last stop before we left the mountains was in Ella.  Ella is Sri Lanka’s backpacker’s mecca.  It wreaked (literally and figuratively) of backpackers with all the quintessential backpackers places like the german bakery, internet cafes, smoothie and juice stands, lounges, yoga decks, and shopping.  While we stopped for a quick tea, and let Izzy indulge in her first experience with chocolate cake, it was nice for me to remember my backpacking days and think about how much I would have LOVED this town.  Now, as a married globe trotting mother of two, I realized I no longer desired this type of vacation spot and was truly happy to be where I was in life.  As we drove away with sounds of Bob Marley and ambient music playing from hippy-chic incense burning cafes, I felt like I was driving away from that part of my past for good.  It felt sweet and freeing.

When we did finally arrive to our next hotel, Laya Safari Resort, we realized just how far our money goes in a country like Sri Lanka. While the places we had stayed in were nice up to this point, this was another step up into luxury vacationing.  Lotus ponds greeted us at the front entrance, the property sat right on the Bay of Bengal, elephant markings were all over the property, and monkeys were playing and watching us humans from the rooftops as if we were the safari park.  This is also where Trace and Izzy learned the phrase: NO MUD, NO LOTUS.  The service and food were incredible and we were at the gateway to Sri Lanka’s coveted Yala National Park, one of the best safari parks in the country.  While we were assured it was a family friendly spot, I was a relieved when we were lead away from the beach front properties to our own private two bedroom Thicket Villa.  We were completely isolated by nature and the sky. The kids finally got to experience the night sky in all its glory and we even got our own monkey visitors the next day. 

Day 5 we began the day lounging around the pool and taking a walk-about on the beach… with the lifeguard.  At first I was really annoyed that he wouldn’t leave us alone but then I felt bad when Tad told me the lifeguard had lost all his family and many of his closest friends and teachers in the 2004 tsunami.  My heart sank when I learned this.  It was our first reminder of the devastating tsunami that changed the lives of thousands in this tiny country.  Hearing his past and reflecting on my annoyance made me remember to be more compassionate with all.  My perspective immediately shifted and I was grateful he cared about us so much.

That afternoon was our Safari Day at Yala National Park.  Right before our safari we had our own close-encounters with wild monkeys at our cabin.  What started off as, “oh look at the cute monkeys right there,” quickly escalated to Tad locking all the doors and witnessing a monkey throw itself against our patio door. We still don’t know if it was trying to get Izzy, open the door, or just show dominance. Either way, I no longer saw the cute hotel monkeys as “cute.” Instead, I wanted nothing to do with them.

As we began our private safari tour, I sat back with very low expectations.  Since we had already seen the most magnificent elephant safari I could imagine in Kaudulla, I wasn’t too worried if we saw anything else in Yala National Park.  The safari was filled with beautiful landscape and tons of animals but I also got really upset when we found ourselves in a jocking match with 20 other jeeps for the best view of a small family of elephants.  I know our driver just wanted us to get good photos but I just wanted us to stop, respect from afar, and watch them rather than worrying about being “the closest.”  I finally asked Aruna to tell our driver to stop and to just sit and watch.  When we did so, four or five elephants came really close to our jeep.  I got to stare into the eyes of a huge elephant and then as it stood there, I noticed the belly was moving.  It was a pregnant elephant.  I got chills watching her slowly pass us and watch the unborn elephant move from the outside.  I admit, I was teary.  It was a magical in-the-wild moment for me.  Four hours later filled with elephants, water buffalo, crocodiles, peacocks, an eagle eating a rabbit in a tree, and more peacocks, we were all beat and full of wild life sightings.  It really was spectacular and fun.  By the end, I had decided my new totem animal was the Water Buffalo and Izzy had a keen eye for peacocks.  Every time she saw one she yelled in her cute little toddler voice, “eecock, eecock.”  Izzy now has a peacock poster on her wall.

Day 6 we drove along the south coast and finally experienced the Sri Lankan coastal vibes.  Between the cities that were bustling with tuk tuk’s, horn honking, ladies in beautifully colored saris, and the aromas of delicious Sri Lankan food were vast stretches of coconut lined turquois white sandy beaches.  We even got to see the Sri Lankan famous stilt fisherman (either for tourist purposes or because they were really fishing, probably a little of both).  We arrived mid-day at another amazing hotel, Mosvold Villas in Ahangama Bay.  The minute they opened their private gates I felt like we were transported to an entirely new Sri Lanka. And we were. It was the beach life version of Sri Lanka. While we had experienced a large touristy hotel for lunch, we were thrilled to be staying at small private boutique hotel with only 8 rooms. I HIGHLY recommend this small hotel chain. It was amazing! In fact, to this day it is still one of my favorite hotels of all time. Then again, maybe it’s my association because I FINALLY got to go surfing!!!! IN SRI LANKA!!!!!!! I hadn’t been surfing since June 2014 when we moved away from Oceanside, California. Over two years later, thanks to Tad watching the little ones on the beach, I got to go surfing in Sri Lanka!!!! Insert biggest Haunani smile you can imagine.

Ahangama is just west of the popular Weligama Bay and surf breaks.   There were plenty of surf lessons in Ahangama but not a lot of wave catching.  That wasn’t going to deter me.  After I found the board I wanted from a beach hut, the owner told me there was a reef break at the far east side of the bay.  At the time there was only one other guy surfing and one lady patiently waiting on the beach for the waves to pick up.  I didn’t waist any time.  I said my little prayer to the ocean Goddesses and jumped right in.  Now before I make myself sound better than I am, I do NOT call myself a “surfer.” I like to surf.  I love the water.  I can paddle out, catch a wave, and repeat.  I can surf but I leave the term “surfer” for the ladies and gentlemen who live on the water.  At this point in my life, and the long sabbatical since 2014, I am more like a visitor or surf vacationer.  I wish it were different, and maybe some day we’ll get stationed near a surfing town again, but for now I was beyond giddy, excited, and pumped to be catching little 1-2ft waves. Seriously, smile from ear to ear.  And since there was only two of us out, it was a wave factory–wave, after wave for just the two of us.  Eventually 4-5 more people paddled out and that’s when I decided I’d go in.  My last wave even brought me all the way to the beach.  It was the perfect exclamation mark to an amazing family vacation.  That night ended with a mediocre last meal in a beach restaurant that lost power.  Little did we know the lack-luster last meal on vacation would become a Drake family vacation trend.

Day 7, our final day in Sri Lanka, we woke very early to go whale watching. While the warf and marina experience was very exciting and the kids loved it (when they weren’t sleeping), Tad and I wish we had stayed at the hotel for the morning.  We did see a few whales but it didn’t come without me getting super worked up. The whale watching mirrored the Yala safari experience. When a whale was discovered all the whale watching boats (maybe 10 in our area) would go into high speed to chase the whale. Again, I’m sure it’s because they want the passengers to get good photos but it made my heart sink. I want to respect the whale in its environment, not scare the poor thing.   Logistically there are so many people crammed onto the boats anyway, good luck capturing a decent photo unless you’re willing to hand your camera and a few rupees to one of the deckhands.

By the time the whale watching tour was over, we were already exhausted but had to pull ourselves together for a quick turnaround to the airport. By that point, Bahrain felt so foreign again, so distant, and we were all pretty excited to get back. Sri Lanka was so good to us but we also were ready to settle into 2017 in Bahrain. Surprisingly, it was a little emotional for me to say good-bye to Aruna, our driver. I didn’t anticipate it but a week on the road in a foreign country makes you very fond of your driver. Like an Uncle you didn’t know you had until you realize he’s willing to do anything to protect you, make you have a good time, and be straight up honest with you about religion, politics, people, and philosophy. He was fantastic. If anyone wants his number, I still have it and am happy to share it with you. To this day, several months later, Izzy still asks about Aruna and every time she sees a grey van asks, “Aruna?”

Sri Lanka was more amazing and more enriching to our senses than we had anticipated. The people were beyond friendly…something to be said about traveling in a Buddhist country…and the food delicious.  My favorite way to describe Sri Lanka is: Sri Lanka is all the best parts of India without the grime, crime, and anxiety.  For those of you who are afraid or uncertain about traveling to India (I don’t blame you having been there several times) but want to travel to a country that is very far away from the western world, I recommend Sri Lanka.  People who have been to south India say Sri Lanka is like South India.  I doubt it.  Nothing will be just like Sri Lanka. Only Sri Lanka can be Sri Lanka. There is a magic there that will enter your spirit and you will come home with a little more of Buddha’s smile shining from within.

Aloha & Namaste

Final note:  Due to weird computer issues, I’m having troubles getting my Sri Lanka photos uploaded.  If you would like to see photos from our Sri Lanka trip, click HERE.  It will take you to Facebook where we have an entire album dedicated to our Sri Lanka vacation.

Even bees get “Bahrained”

#bahrained is a common hashtag used in conversations among my American friends living in Bahrain.  It’s hard to describe #bahrained unless you live here.  It’s kind of like an inside joke but the joke is on you.  Bahrained is typically an unfavorable outcome or describes a situation that only seems plausible and acceptable in a place like Bahrain.  In addition to #bahrained there are also the regularly used #bahrainproblems and #inshallahtiming.  Let me use my week to shed light on insiders’ terms and give you a glimpse of what life can be like living in Bahrain.  Note to reader: I did not make up any of this.

I pick up my car, the Island Beater, from the mechanic on Sunday night.  I don’t drive it at all on Monday. On Tuesday, as I’m driving to teach my first class at a new yoga studio, my Island Beater overheats because the water tank decides to fall apart.  I’m stuck turning the AC off and turning the heat on in 118F/48C degrees hoping it will help cool the engine off.  Simultaneously I pray to God, and every remover of obstacle deity I know, that I can make it over the one stretch of highway that is a bridge with  no shoulder and no exits.  #bahrained

I make it across the bridge and even further than I had anticipated.  Eventually, my car finally dies in the middle lane and everyone honks at me and gives me the Bahraini hand swat in mid-air as if I’ve purposely let my car die in the middle of the road trying to ruin their day. #bahrained

#Luck: My car turns back on.  I go back into prayer mode, “please car, please car just get me to the studio.  please.”  I’m giggling with how ridiculous my morning is.  It’s only 7:48am.  At snail’s pace,  pleaful chanting, and reassuring car talk like my car is trying to have a baby, I putter my way to the yoga studio.  The car dies as I turn into the parking lot. BUT I MADE IT!!!  I think, “it’s not a bad day after all.”

I’m dripping sweat because I’ve been driving with the heat on in 118F/48C degrees.  I run into the yoga studio for a sweet surrender and cold escape only to discover the studio’s AC and electricity are not working.  Not joking.  Seriously #bahrained!

I pull my phone out of my bag only to be reminded my phone died the night before (not joking) and I’m using a back-up phone with no contact information for any of my “guys”–not the car/mechanic guy, not the tow truck guy, not even my Bahrain friends. The only number I have is Tad’s because it’s his old phone but then I realize he isn’t allowed to have his phone with him at work so I’m texting all my updates to a turned off phone sitting in a locker. #bahrained

#smartphonesforthewin:  I go to open Facebook to start my search for phone numbers, tow trucks, mechanics, etc. and discover the FB app is not loaded on the phone and there isn’t enough memory to download it.  Thank god for plain old internet on a phone.  I think, “I love you Steve Jobs.” 

I have to choose where to rectify my situation: inside the studio with no AC but a roof to cover me from the blazing sun OR outside with a slight breeze.  It’s now a feel temperature of 122F/50C degrees and the iPhone6 is beginning to get hotter and hotter with every search and phone call I make and the battery is draining like crazy. #bahrainproblems

#LifeisGood:  It’s now Wednesday…I go 24 hours without anything “exciting” happening.  My car actually got towed to the right mechanic.  My kids are sort-of listening and not draining my soul with whining.  It’s a good day. I’m also headed to a sunset SUP yoga paddle session with a Bahrain bestie.

I’m being a good global citizen by picking up the trash in the water as I paddle around only to pick up a bag of ground beef and half of it is still filled with flesh (semi-cooked because the water is so warm) and it flies across my legs, arm, and board.  Beef?!  Who finds ground beef in the ocean?!  #bahrained.

It’s still Wednesday, the sunset was beautiful and I’m relaxed knowing I got all my #bahrainproblems out of the way for the week.  I was wrong.  Just as I’m finishing up I receive a text from our nanny that there is no running water at the house.  Surprise, I just got #bahrained…again.

On the way home (my friend is driving) the mechanic calls to say he thinks he’s fixed the car but he can’t be 100% sure. Furthermore, I can come pick up the car tonight and hopefully it doesn’t overheat again or I can leave it with him until tomorrow and he’ll double check the engine in the morning. I decide to go another day without a car and now start to realize I may have to cancel work because I don’t have a car and possibly running water.  #bahrainproblems #bahrained

It’s evening prayer time and close to dinner so my landlord and his brothers are not checking their phones and receiving my calls.  I need the plumber guy ASAP but I don’t have his number because, remember, I still don’t have any phone numbers because my phone is dead.  #bahrained

My landlord comes over and realizes he can’t fix the water, he’ll send someone over in the morning…Inshallah.  I don’t hold my breath because that literally translates to, “someone will come check out the water situation in the next week.”  Let me introduce you to #inshallahtiming.

I smell like dying flesh because I haven’t showered all day but have sweat like crazy teaching yoga both on land and in water and had to walk to and from the yoga studio in 110F/43C degrees (because my car is still at the mechanics), and I still have remnants of semi-cooked beef juice on my arms and legs.  HOWEVER, Tad tells me there is water in the upstairs bathroom.  YES!!!  So I squat under the trickling stream of water, lather up and scrub the beef juice areas extra hard, turn the water on to finally wash off and THERE IS NO MORE WATER.  NONE.  NOT EVEN A DROP. I’m forced to wipe off the soap with drinking water, a wash cloth, and baby wipes.  #bahrained.

#Luck:  It’s now Thursday morning, less than 48 hours after my car died and about 60 hours since my phone died, and the plumber guy actually shows up.  It’s the first time in a full year someone has shown up when they said they would.  Inshallah THAT!  It’s going to be a good day.

Thank goodness I took the day off because not only can the plumber not figure out why our water isn’t working (and I’m now wondering if I need to move us into a hotel), I now also have the Civil Defense Department at my front door.  What? Where did they come from?  Why are a bunch of very official looking men standing at my front door.  Oh wait, the landlord this morning saw a bee hive in our yard and is having it taken care of. #bahrained  This is a good time to insert a joke: “How many men does it take to remove a bee hive?”  Apparently in Bahrain, about 10.  No surprise though for anyone who lives here and constantly sees one man working and 3-8 on-lookers…I mean helpers.  We’ve finally arrived to the title…

Even bees get #bahrained.  The Civil Defense’s solution for a bee hive is to blast it with water.  No joke.  The very official men all arrived on a florescent yellow fire truck.  They drug a fire hose into our entry way and blasted the poor hive to pieces.  I didn’t want them to do it but the order was called in by my landlord out of wanting our family (mostly the kids) to be safe.  When I saw they were honey bees I lost it.  Honey bees are like GOLD!!! I thought I was doing so well this week given the onslaught of #bahrained moments but it was the bees that broke me.  I started crying for the thousands of bees dying and drowning in my entry way while the Civil Defense crew picked dates off my tree.  Even bees get #bahrained.

#Life:  So there you have it.  It’s now 2pm on Thursday [deep breath of relief].  I’m still using a back-up phone because the phone plan we use (Google’s Project Fi) only has a few specific phones that work with its plan and NONE of those phones are sold in Bahrain.  Surprise.  And YES, if you just silently said to yourself “Bahrained,” you get it. You got it.  By noon I got to bring my Island Beater back home and our water was turned on while I was getting the car (it’s a miracle).  Life is good.

Honestly, I’m not really surprised by this week.  About one week ago I heard that voice within warn me, “Are you ready?”  I knew what it was talking about.  I hear this voice and have glimpses of what-might-come-to-be in the most random times, doing dishes, opening a car door, brushing my teeth.  Life’s been really smooth lately—no major bumps, a few house issues (but what’s new), and overall we’re all in a really good Bahrain groove.  The voice was letting me know the pot was about to be stirred.

The old me, the version of me I still have memories of in college and even in my 20’s, would have cried, lost it, complained, and even thought the world was out to get me. Now, I know these weeks are here to test me.  I see weeks like this as a check-in to see if I’m really walking my talk.  They are also a good reminder that life is good.  I mean really, the truth is if I’m texting my Bahrain besties #bahrained or #bahrainproblems, it means we’re making light out of an annoying situation.  No one is hurt.  No one is in serious danger.  I’m overly grateful to have the means to take care of each situation as well.  We’re turning our complaints into jokes and trying to just do the best we can given our western upbringing in a same same but different country .

During weeks like this I can’t help but think about all the people who move to the United States and have to adjust to life there.  Do they have a term with their friends that helps them get through their adjustments?  Like ‘Merica’d, or “RWB’d“?  That culture shock and adjustment just seems unfathomable to me.  Like all things, living in Bahrain is another great test of letting go of the things I can’t change and learning how to be more adaptable, open minded, and even accepting of the things I don’t wan to accept.  I know not everyone moves as much as we do but maybe my week, my #bahrained vignette will help you to be more compassionate to people in your neighborhood, city, office, or school.  Please, next time you meet someone who has moved to the United States, might I suggest you think of Tad, Trace, Izzy, and I. They are likely going through a similar adjustment period but uniquely their own in a foreign land.  Rather than see them as different or not fitting in, maybe just realize they are a son or daughter making the most out of their given situation and likely getting there version of #bahrained.   

From my heart to yours…

Aloha & Namste

 

Happy 1 year Bahrainiversary to us!

And just like that, we’ve been here for one year [eyes bulge out of disbelief]. In my mind, it feels more like 7 months. To Tad, he says even shorter. But alas, we’ve hit our 1 year Bahrainiversary and we are definitely in full stride.   I had full intentions of writing a 1 year blog before we went to Georgia (the country in Europe, not the United States) but that clearly never happened. So here I am, one month post Georgia finally getting a moment to write.

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Tad and Trace feeding the camels at the Royal Camel Farm.

Bahrain has and continues to treat us well (knock on wood). Tad has been traveling all over the Middle East and back to the United States quite frequently. While he doesn’t like being away so long and so often, he seems to be enjoying the executive treatment at the airport lounges like a kid in a candy store. And let’s be honest, traveling without kids has to feel like winning a jackpot.

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Trace wearing his Pre-Nursery end-of-the-year costume at the bowling alley.  Yes, that’s a 11lb bowling ball.

Trace LOVED attending Kidz World (pre-school) this last year and is still our avid learner and bookworm. To my own fault, I often treat Trace way older than he is. Tad taught Trace how to say, “mommy, I’m just 3.” I wish I didn’t need to be reminded, but I do. He’s just so mature and smart.  Aaaand he still loves to cuddle.  I feel like I can really get into this age.  Maybe 3.5 years is my thing.  2.5 is definitely NOT.  Intro Izzy…

 

 

 

 

 

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Izzy is better at walking in heels than I am.  She has also perfected her fashion blog pose at an impressive age.  

Izzy…Oh Izzy. She is so her own (said with a huge sigh and huge smile). That girl. Pre-Geogia she was getting soooooo bored staying at home with me (yes, she would tell me) and kept asking me to go to school with Trace. Thank goodness Kidz World is hosting a summer camp they both started after our trip to Georgia. Izzy is super excited to be a big kid now and Trace loves having Izzy at “school” with him.  Already, this summer is a big turning point for Iz. Not only is she going to Kidz World every morning with her favorite person in the whole entire World, but she also decided she doesn’t want to wear diapers anymore. Score!  She also has turned up the boundary testing by 300%.  Maybe Trace was this stubborn but if so the amnesia is real.  She’s testing me in every way possible.  Tad just taught her, “mommy, I’m just 2.”  Izzy naturally threw in the head tilt and cute blinks while saying it.  Watch out World…Izzy’s coming for you.

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Getting ready to paddle out for a solo Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) Yoga session.  

And me, oh yeah, me. It’s all divine timing. The week I signed the kids up for summer camp I was contacted by three different yoga studios to teach.  Yoga is just beginning to become a thing here, as is all things natural and holistic.  And with the country being as small as it is, apparently my name got out.  It is really good timing for me to be here now. Now that the kids are at summer camp and soon-to-be pre-school every morning, I’ll be teaching yoga at two new studios in Bahrain while continuing to teach Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) Yoga for Beach Culture and growing my YouTube channel library Yoga with Haunani.  I’ve also been asked to do cupping, acupuncture, and workshops.  We’ll see if that comes to be.  So yeah, we are all in our little Bahraini groove and it feels amazing.

Recently, I’ve noticed Tad and I sharing more and more phrases that start with, “You’d never know unless you lived in Bahrain….(finish the sentence with something new to our family).” So in honor of this one-year mark, I figure I would share some of these insights we’ve gleaned as a family. Honestly, I’m not sure these are specific to Bahrain.  They are probably more like lessons you learn for western family moving anywhere in a Middle Eastern desert-like country.  However, since we live in Bahrain, here goes…

You’d never know unless you lived in Bahrain:

  • 105F degrees feels cool, even with humidity.
  • Having a “guy” for everything is the only way you get things fixed here.
  • Wearing glasses or sunglasses with metal frames during the hot-season (June-October) will burn the side of your face or anywhere that your frames accidentally touches your face.
  • Having your own date tree is the best!
  • Driving gloves are required…not for the cold (the only reason I knew they existed) but for the billion degree steering wheel that cooked in your car while you were getting groceries or running an errand on Base.
  • We are in the middle of everything…it takes 3-5 hours to fly all over the globe and we are definitely taking advantage of it.
  • A 3-5 hour flight with toddlers is no big deal.
  • Hummus in the United States is gross.
  • Tripping or falling onto your hands, knees, and even face, during the hot-season, can lead to 1st and 2nd degree burns.  Izzy helped us figure this one out.
  • Making crisp, fresh french fries is harder than you think.
  • Holistic anything…yoga, Acupuncture, Ayurveda…is spreading like crazy here.  It’s a good time for me to be here and help that growth and education.
  • Keeping a house in good working order…water, electricity, plumbing…is apparently a miracle.  We all live in miracle homes in the States.
  • The “Saudi swoop.”  It’s totally acceptable to cut across three lanes of traffic to make a turn or u-turn.
  • Fruits have seeds in them…duh, I know but everything you buy in grocery stores in the US has been modified to lose the seeds.  I love showing the kids all the different types of seeds and making them learn how to eat around the seeds.  Less work for mommy!
  • You can drink camel’s milk.
  • Rain is both a blessing and a curse.  Blessing because it’s rain in the dessert and a curse because this island was not built for rain.  Everything turns into water front property, including your bedroom floor when the water starts leaking through your roof or running down your walls out of the Air Conditioning units.  We lucked out but several families here had full on rivers in their homes.
  • Google’s Project Fi is the best phone service and invention for families who move abroad and travel a lot.
  • Cars have a lifespan of 10 years.  It’s literally so hot and sandy it destroys the cars. My car is 12 years old and everyday I pray to God it starts and doesn’t fail me mid-drive.
  • High rise buildings and malls are still built by hand…like the whole thing, cement bricks and all.  Only the really rich developers bring in the machines like a crane or cement mixer.  It’s truly impressive.

I’m sure I could keep going on and on because a lot of stuff we’ve gotten use to.

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Now that we are at our one year mark it means we are mentally preparing for our next move.  I know, CRAZY, but that’s how it works.  Move.  Adjust.  Settle.  Prepare (to move again).  Repeat.   With that said, NO we don’t have any idea where we’ll be moving next. Maybe by December but I’m not counting on it until March 2018.  I have asked Tad numerous times to extend and stay here but that will not be happening.

By the way, I post a lot of family (Trace and Izzy) photos and our life in Bahrain on Instagram.  Only a few get shared on Facebook.  So close friends and family, if you want to see more of us, follow me on IG at BreatheConnectBe.  If you want to follow my work (yoga, acupuncture, holistic health), follow me at AlohaYogiMom.

Until next time.  Aloha & Namaste.

The Drakes do Oman, Oct 6-9 2017

I spent Spring Break 2001 in Oman.  Not the most sought after Spring Break location but I was just about to turn 21 years old and studying abroad in Kenya.  Back then, never did I imagine 1. I’d return and 2. with a family (I was that girl who was never going to have kids).  Not that I didn’t like Oman.  My memories of it are beautiful, quieting to my Soul, shawarma (yes, I had my first shawarma in Oman), and the people lovely.  But just because you have fond memories of a place doesn’t mean you’ll go back, more like, get the chance to go back and THAT is the difference.  

Part of my initial shock and excitement of learning we were moving to Bahrain was flooded with memories of Oman.  It felt like the experiences of my past were surely being connected to the present.  I mean really, who goes to Oman on Spring Break? And then who moves to another Middle Eastern country 16 years later?  Clearly my past was preparing me for my future as a globe trotting military spouse…or not and I’m trying to find meaning in something much larger than myself.

When Tad informed me of his interest in going to Oman, I was super excited.  Truly, I never thought I’d ever get the chance to return.  It’s not like I had major connections or people to visit, it’s just one of those places I never thought I’d ever visit again.  But here we were planning a trip to Oman.  From the little I could remember (my excuse is that my frontal cortex was in its infancy of full development in 2001), I knew we would head to Muscat and see some of the most beautiful coastline in the world.  Luckily with the help of TripAdvisor, Expedia, and Facebook planning our trip was relatively easy.  Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, specifically Al Waha “The Oasis,” it was.  And yes, the photos on their website are real.  It is THAT beautiful.  

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Our second international family trip was similar to our first in Dubai, a long four day weekend.  While that doesn’t sound long, when traveling internationally with two toddlers, it’s LONG.  It’s just long enough to know you’re not at home and long enough to feel like you’ve been away a long time when you return.  The great thing about something as simple as a bus or shuttle ride is that Trace loses his mind with excitement. The saying “the journey is the destination” comes to life when traveling with Trace and Izzy.  The little things, a bus ride, shuttle ride on an open top trolley, walking sidewalks, are huge monumental experiences.  This is why traveling with toddlers is TOTALLY worth it.  What Tad and I may consider boring or just a means to get from point A to point B becomes the experience.  Every detail of a four-day vacation is epic for someone in the family.   

When we arrived in Oman it was nighttime.  We hired a pre-paid taxi at the airport to drive us to our hotel 45 minutes away.  While I was trying to stay calm and relaxed, inside I was really hyper and excited to be in Oman again.  Would I recognize anything?  I was staring out the windows pretending not to care but internally I was straining every strand of my poor-night vision to catch a glimpse of something familiar.

As we approached the hotel the hills were rolling and there were a few white washed middle eastern looking villas glowing in the backdrop of date palm silhouettes. As we exited a long beautifully lit tunnel the hotel entrance hit every sense of curiosity and luxury.  I’m pretty sure all four of us spontaneously said, “aaaaawwwwww.” We had arrived and we we knew we were in for a treat.  Not only was our room beautiful, clean, and welcoming, we actually got an adjoining room just for the kids.  WHAT?!!!!  Are you frickin’ kidding me?! Hallelujah!!!  I was beyond excited and probably jumped over the counter to hug the receptionist while exclaiming, “this is already the best hotel we’ve ever stayed at.”  OK, that’s what I was doing in my mind.  Being close to midnight we were all exhausted and the kids happily jumped into their hotel beds.  Izzy refused to sleep in the pack n’ play they had provided and got the opportunity to sleep in a real big-kid bed a.k.a twin size bed.  Clearly she felt like a queen too–the little things.  

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First impressions from the room balcony

The kids were asleep in their own room and the surrounding mountains and nearly full-moon beckoned me to sit outside on the balcony–no book, no drink, no phone, and just sit.  It was glorious.  I may have cried.  Tad drained the mini-bar of its beer. Retrospectively, I now realize the mini-bar raid is a ritual he practices upon arriving at a hotel.  Probably has something to do with traveling with kids but I giggle inside celebrating that he’s just enjoying himself.  

We really didn’t have any plans for our trip except to just play it by ear.  While I have a lot of enviable friends in Bahrain who are super-planners for their family vacations, our approach is one of “let’s see what happens.”  Truthfully, I wish I planned more for our vacations but where does one find the time to research, call, hire, and plan all this stuff???  So really, our vacation style is out of laziness or what I like to tell myself, going with the flow.

We spent our first of two full days at the hotel.  I know, this sounds so lame if you’ve never been to Oman.  I hear the questions now why didn’t we hire a guide, take a jeep safari, go to the wadis, do anything besides stay at the hotel?  To be honest, Tad and I just needed a day of doing nothing.  The hotel was the perfect place to vacation and do nothing.  Between the pools, splash pad, lazy river rides, beautiful beaches, amazing customer service, and delicious food it was a perfect day.  We seriously spent hours just floating around and around and around on the lazy river ride.  Post nap time we somehow got our act together to go to Old Muscat on the hotel shuttle.  

It was the first time we were actually seeing Muscat during the day and it was just as beautiful as I remembered it.  One of the biggest differences between Oman and Bahrain is that there are hills.  No trees, but there are still hills.  Cafe colored desert hillsides with pure white houses flowing into a brilliant turquoise blue ocean is a photographer’s dream.  Izzy decided to string together her first two word phrase on this bus ride pointing out the window yelling with toddler excitement, “Blue boat!  Blue boat!”  No, there were not actually blue boats outside.  After twenty minutes of excitedly exclaiming “blue boat!” and every passenger quickly turning their heads thinking maybe this time there actually was a blue boat, or dhow, we drove into old Muscat where, to everybody’s surprise and delight, sitting in the middle of the bay was…no joke…a blue boat.  Tad and I laughed hysterically.  I know, you’re not laughing as you read this last part but Tad and I will look back at this entry one day and smile with joy remembering “blue boat.”  To give you perspective of this moment, the kids gave Tad a blue boat for his birthday.  

As the bus drove through Old Muscat, specifically the area of Mutrah, we drove past the hotel I stayed at in 2001.  I couldn’t have told you anything about it before we drove-by but the minute I saw it, I knew.  It was a huge de ja vus moment.  I remembered where the shawarma truck was parked, where the souk was located, the memories came flooding back.  It was surreal.

Mutrah Maket is just as lively as the Bahrain market.  Again, the phrase “same same but different” applies to the Mutrah (old Muscat area) souk.  Souks are both tourist traps for their sensory overload but also where locals do their shopping.  Spices.  Gold.  Fake gold.  Brass statues.  Shoes.  Kids clothes.  Fabric.  Food items.  Gems.  Rocks.  Jewelry.  Imagine what a “mall” would be like pre-mall times with no air conditioning, no outside structure, each stall slammed up against each other creating one giant maze, uneven ground, with the smell of not Auntie Anne’s cinnamon pretzels but of thousand year old sweat.  Aaaah, it’s so hard to describe.  If it’s intriguing to you, just come visit.  The “souk” is something that needs to be experienced not read about.

That night we ventured back to the hotel for dinner.  The highlight was when Trace was accosted in the bathroom by two beyond tipsy young ladies (late 20’s I’m guessing).  They thought he was the cutest boy they’d ever seen.  I agreed.  He shy’d away when they asked for an Instagram selfie with him but then he was jumping up and down when they each gave him a kiss on each cheek.  Tad was perplexed by the perfectly shaped red lipstick marks on Trace’s cheeks when we returned to the table.  This is probably an appropriate place to point out that this trip was our first trip with a “potty trained” Trace.  Most potty-training “experts” say don’t make any big changes when you potty-train, routine is everything, yaddah yaddah yah.  Supposedly any big move, stressor, or travel can throw off a child’s sense of comfort and lead to potty-training “regression.”  Well, since Trace had been a full week into his potty-training graduation, we took a trip to Oman.  That’s the type of parents we are.  But Trace chose us as parents and HE DID MARVELOUS!!!  Not one accident!  When they’re ready, they’re ready.

The next day, day two of two, we hired a guide to take us around Muscat to show us some of the big highlights of the city.  Still being a million degrees outside, it was a good way to explore the city–from one AC place to the next.  We saw the fish market (again, same same but different as any other outdoor fish market in a coastal town in the middle east), the Al Alam Palace, the fortressed bay behind Al Alam Palace and near Al Mirani Fort, and then toured the Bait Al Zubair Museum.  With the help of a full complete Trace meltdown, we decided spending the rest of the day at the hotel was best for everyone.

Enter Izzy’s first ice cream experience.  Thank goodness we had our phones with us to capture her unforgettable joy and cuteness.  No words can describe the initial bite.  The mix of, “What is this?  Wow! I like it…I mean love it!  Wait a minute, you guys (parents) have been holding out on meeeeee. More more.” This photo series may be my favorite of all photos taken of my children.

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That night, we had the best family dinner at the hotel’s seafood restaurant overlooking the ocean.  I can’t tell you why or how it worked out so well but the kids behaved like they were 27–no yelling, no screaming, polite, ate everything on their plate, and allowing us to eat like adults, not Neanderthals with our hands.  Maybe the key is taking them to nice restaurants instead of family joints?  So much for their college fund.  Needless to say, Tad and I left the restaurant feeling like we’d won the lotto.  And really, we have.  It was a perfect family vacation.  It wiped away any remaining hesitations about traveling with the kids.  Exploring the world with two amazing kids who embrace the people, the smells, the foods, the languages…we are so grateful for all the blessings in our lives.

Upon leaving Oman we knew we had Nana and Grandpa’s visit, as well as the holiday season quickly approaching so we did not know what our next travel would be.   Luckily, with a little help of the Universe making it nearly impossible to get to India for the New Year as I had hoped, we found ourselves looking forward to a week in Sri Lanka.  

Side note: Sorry this post is nine months late.  I literally have been working on it since last October. Oh Life!  Hopefully I’ll have our Sri Lanka, India, Dubai/Abu Dhabi, and Georgia (the country) trips soon.  Fingers crossed.  Don’t hold your breath.

Until next time…Aloha & Namaste

Ever receive a bird as a party favor? We just did.

Warning: there is swearing in this blog. Yes, it is warranted.

I have so many blogs to write, to catch up my online journal/family memory lane blog.  I’ll get to them.  Some day.  But this one—this one deserves staying up to write.

I consider myself rather imaginative.  I can come up with really crazy stories, out there ideas and hypotheses.  I’m a “free thinker” in so many ways.  But never, ever, ever, EVER in a million years did I ever consider that people gave away birds as party favors, let alone be on the receiving end of this unimaginable concept. But it happened. Oh yes, it happened.  And it happened to me last night.

Let me say, as I begin writing this I’m about 24.5 hours into this cultural comprehension moment and I’m still in a little shock and overcome with random chuckles and LOL moments.  Last night I was leaning more towards the shock side of the experience and as the day progressed, I’m just laughing and giggling at this very unexpected and unconventional “gift.”

Screenshot_20170611-23So how did this happen? The short version: I delivered some goodies for the kids celebrating Gurgaon (a special day in Ramadan) to our neighbors and came home with a bird. Literally, I wish there was more to the story but there really isn’t. The neighbors had invited us to come celebrate Gurgaon with them but by the time they were celebrating (after sunset, Iftar, and prayer) our kids were already asleep. This is not the first time this has happened. The Bahrain family schedule is very different than ours. Since I had prepared goodie bags and some treats, I didn’t want them to go to waste or spoil so I thought I’d just stop by really quick, drop them off, and apologize that our kids had fallen asleep.

Yeah, well as I left our house Tad and I both knew there was no way I could just drop something off. A polite invitation to join the festivities would inevitably happen. For how long I’d be there, we had no idea. I asked Tad to call me if it got too late. So off I went with the goodie bags and cupcakes (from the amazing Semper Fi Treats).

When I arrived there was a sea of shoes already at the front entrance.  Like in Hawai’i, people take their shoes off before entering  a home.  I was greeted by our landlord and he immediately invited me to joint the festivities. Several woman–his sister, wife, mother, and cousins–all came and welcomed me. I couldn’t leave. No matter what I tried to say, it would be unacceptable to leave. So there I was invited to sit and join the family Gurgaon/Ramadan gathering. I was feeling both happy I had changed out of my pajamas and back into my day clothes (jeans and a blouse) since the room was full of beautiful gowns and dresses and super uncomfortable since I had not gone to great lengths to look my best.  In fact, I had the just-got-out-of-the-pool-and-put-on-some-clothes-look.  I was stunning in my own special way.  Haha.

I sat down and was immediately given a huge bag of gifts for Trace and Izzy. I learned quickly it is quite uncomfortable to receive gifts for a holiday you don’t celebrate and from people you barely know. Literally for the next twenty minutes there was song, dancing, and blessings for all the children, especially the new babies in the family. From what I gathered from the cousin who patiently sat next to me and tried to make me feel at home Gurgaon is a big celebration for the children, especially the new babies in the family since last Ramadan (at least this is how it was being celebrated).

During this time there was a non-stop stream of gift giving, mostly candy and food items, but also fully wrapped gifts of all shapes and sizes. I sat there more and more uncomfortable. I literally came over with goodie bags of candy and chocolate and here I was being given so many gifts it eventually would take me three large bags to bring it all home. As the blessings seemed to be winding down, the song and dance less the focus of I saw one of the cousins leaving with her son that goes to Trace’s school. In my mind I thought it would be a good time to leave.  If she’s leaving, it won’t be rude for me to leave either.

After I said my good-byes and thank you’s, I was attempting to walk out when the sister stopped me and asked me to wait for one more gift. I already had three large bags of gifts and food they had just shared, what more could I possibly carry or get? This is when she came out of the house with the bird cage and bird. I’m sure my jaw dropped, my eyes bugged out of my head as I chuckled with disbelief trying to turn the gift away. But when she said it was from the two new babies of the family (I forget their names) I realized there was no turning this bird away. Culturally it would be beyond rude and a disgrace. Somewhere in my shock and bewildered perspective-rocked mind, I thanked her and proceeded to walk home. The rented black and white miniature pony didn’t even get a double-take from me as I carried the chirping bird toward my house.

Thinking back, I must have looked like a crazy unkempt lady walking down the street with bags in one hand, a tiny bird cage holding it in front of me like it was a dirty diaper, while I stared straight ahead like a zombie mumbling quickly and out loud to myself, “Oh my god, we just got a bird. Oh my god, Tad’s going to die. [Quickly glancing into the cage but not long enough to acknowledge the reality of it all] Oh my god, this is a bird. What the f&ck? Who gives a bird? [chuckle] I’m holding a bird. [chuckle] Oh my god, I’m holding a bird. What do I do? Should I let it out now? What the f&ck? What the f&ck? What the f&ck!” Then I was home.  We live two houses away.

Thank goodness Tad is an animal loving Saint who took the news and appearance of a tiny pink cage and scared-shitless bird to heart with a chuckle, open-mind, and heart. He immediately understood the cultural conundrum I was put in and also realized I couldn’t turn the bird away. His first overzealous, animal loving idea was, “great, now we can have a house bird that just flies around.” Having lived with parakeets in my pre-teen years, I immediately vetoed that idea reminding him bird shit would be everywhere. He disappointingly agreed.

Between our disbelief and fits of chuckles and laughter we discussed our other options. Should we release it outside? That wouldn’t work because what would we say when the landlord visited or brought his kid over for a play date and asked about the bird. Would we lie to them? Tell them we “accidentally” let it out? And in our hearts we knew the finch would likely become feral cat food more than anything—which I’m sure would make the neighborhood cats happy and tiny birds are not endangered but the thought of this little bird being mauled by street cats was disheartening.

“It wouldn’t be acceptable to return the bird would it?” we considered. That’s when Tad declared, “I guess we’ll just keep it.” And if any of you know how Tad makes decisions, once it’s made, once it’s declared, it’s done. So, just like that we had a bird. Tad decided it would be good for the kids, the kids could name it, we could only keep it for one year because we could not move with it (military wouldn’t allow it), so what harm could having a bird for one year do? For a second my imagination ran wild with memories of my birds, the cleaning, the smell, biting Trace and Izzy’s fingers, bird getting loose and there being a mad hunt trying to get it back in its cage, and then the tears of having to say good-bye to another beloved friend when we have to PCS (military move). In my mind a lot could go wrong with this bird. But it was decided Tad chose the name Lemy (after _____) and then went to bed. So much for the kids getting to choose a name.

I poured myself a glass of wine, sat there half stunned, half hysterical as this little bird chirped away in a cage way to small and I posted on Instagram and Facebook about our bird. “Does anyone know what type of bird this is? Male? Female?” Screenshot_20170611-211908.pngWithin a few minutes I was informed it was a male zebra finch. Upon doing a Google search I could confirm it was and I began reading up on what I was now going to be responsible for keeping alive for one year until we could re-gift it back to our neighbor/landlord who has a huge aviary at his house.

The information I read was only putting me into greater shock and disbelief. This one overly generous unnecessary gift was escalating quickly. Everything I read said I’d need to get at least one more bird, if not more since they like community. I’d also need to get a huge cage.  If I wasn’t so concerned about early-onset dementia I would have been pounding my head into the table saying, “what the f$ck?!!!!” over and over again. I chugged the wine, told the little birdie to have a good night, turned off the lights and went to bed not convinced his name was Lemy.

After a surprisingly deep night’s sleep the very first thing I woke up thinking was, “Fuck, I have a bird downstairs. Should I go release it before the kids wake up?” I checked my phone really quickly almost hoping I had a message from Tad saying he’d already done it. Nothing. I did have a bunch of social media updates that made it clear birds are either loved or hated; there’s no in between. By the time I had my contacts in and ran down to see if it was still in the cage, I heard Izzy waking. By the time I got back upstairs Izzy was standing at the top of the stairs and immediately said, “I hear birdies.” Her cute little voice saying “birdie” sealed the deal. It was too cute. She would love it. I picked her up and we listened a few more times as I told her we got a new bird. Before I knew it, Trace was up and asking me about the chirping sounds too. The look of anticipation and excitement was like Christmas. Now that I think about it, that must have been quite a morning for them. Go to bed with no clue of anything changing and wake up to mommy and daddy getting a new pet bird. I think we just reinforced their concept that mommy and daddy are magical.

IMG_20170611_090253.jpgTrace and Izzy were in love at first site. I quickly told them it was a Bahrain bird so that when we travel and move it needs to stay in Bahrain. I also told them we needed to find a name for it. Trace wanted Bobby. Izzy thought about it through breakfast than declared Kaka. Both seemed appropriate. After I told them daddy’s name idea, Trace then declared “the parrot” should be called Lemy Bobby Kaka. In good ‘ole Hawaiian style our bird has a forever long name.

Trace keeps calling it a parrot even though I correct him every time. Izzy…oh, Izzy, she is hysterical. She is her own. All day today she has been running up to the cage and yelling, “Boat snack!” to the bird. This makes me laugh out loud every time. For those who don’t get it, it’s a reference to the movie Moana. Maui, the demigod, calls Moana’s chicken a “boat snack.” I found Trace singing to the bird before school because he told me it would make the bird less scared. Izzy also kept saying in her sweetest voice ever, “It’s okay birdie” every time it chirped. So yes, we now have a pet finch (not a parrot) for the next year.

IMG_20170611_204538.jpgThe neighborhood watchman found an unused cage at the landlord’s house so we could upgrade the size of the cage this evening. Tad is already talking about buying a friend for the finch so he doesn’t get lonely and depressed. I, on the other hand, have cleaned the surrounding of the cage five times today. And while the bird seemed to like yoga class today, possibly even falling asleep during savasana, it’s going to take me a while to get over the culture shock of receiving a bird as a party favor.

When something unexpected happens to you that is both hysterically funny and culturally out of the box, it is quite a psychological experiment in mindfulness and watching the mind waver between thoughts and reactions that are both loving and ones that are cruel.  I know this is just a bird.  It’s not like it’s a rare species or human being but still…receiving a bird as a party favor is like my friend texted me, “so funny, so wrong.”  I’m already hesitant to attend any more events at my landlord’s house, especially for Ramadan or Gurgaon next year. I guess our saving grace from a pet chicken or who knows what they’ll hand out next year, is that we will be getting ready to move this time next year. Now THAT is crazy to think about too.

Toddlers are a yoga practice

If you didn’t know, yoga is a BIG part of my life.  What began as a simple idea of, “I should try every exercise class on this schedule,” at the Walla Walla YMCA turned into an obsession and eventually a way of life.  I didn’t know it then but I do now, yoga gave me a framework to relate to the world, a paradigm that I finally felt connected to with all my heart and soul.  I’m not sure if I found yoga or if it found me but either way, it saved me (physically, mentally, spiritually) and has continued to be the biggest teacher in my life.  Until I had kids.

Trace is now 3.  Izzy is 2.  [eyes bulging out of my head]  No, we did not “plan” on having two toddlers but clearly I needed this in my life for some reason.  Izzy, right on queue, began having tantrums (the reeeeeal ones) two days before her second birthday.  For a moment, I had forgotten about tantrums because Trace is now old enough and smart enough to just get angry and scream bloody murder rather than be two-year-old-irrational-crazy.  I hate tantrums (said every parent ever).  In my mind it is an ice pick cracking my soul in half, my brain in two, and every foul word out of my mouth before I can catch it.  No, I don’t swear at my children (not yet) but the things that come to my mind are not pretty.  I hate tantrums.  They suck my soul right out of me and leave a skeleton of hate cooking a meal (because for some reason tantrums happen when I’m trying to prepare a meal…or maybe I’m just in the kitchen a lot. So cliche.  I know.  But true.)

do not use or copy this photo without mother's permission

Being 2 is hard.

Since my yoga practice has been more focused on the meditation practices rather than the asana (postures) recently, I decided to “meditate” through some of Izzy’s tantrums over the past few days.  I didn’t sit in lotus pose, close my eyes, and “oooommmmm” it away, I simply took a few deep breaths when they began and really listened to what she was saying, how she was saying it, and how I was responding.  In doing this, I realized my response to her tantrums (typically irreverent, eye rolling, patience that quickly turns to yelling, or laughing) is just as much a “tantrum” as hers.  #TruthHurts

I knew I needed to flip a switch before I flipped-out-of-my-mind. Yoga reminds us to look within ourselves when external things are triggering, upsetting, emotional, reoccurring, hurtful, etc. One of these self-inquiry practices is to ask, “How is this [in this case Izzy’s tantrums] a reflection of my own life?”  While sitting with this question over the past 24 hours, as I watch and listen to Izzy maneuver through her world with mommia’s and daddia’s rules and expectations, I have begun to think that my toddlers (including their tantrums) are meant to be a direct reflection of the relationship I have with Universe and God—deeply loving, comforting, give me-give me-give me, no No NO, lots of unnecessary crying, and yet utterly devotional.

Before I go on you have to know that I am not a Bible-type and I am also not a religious person.  I didn’t grow up in a “church” and in fact, probably have entered a church more times for weddings than for a sermon—but I am deeply spiritual and have a very deep connection with God…thanks to Yoga.  This is probably worth a whole blog on to itself.  What I’m getting at is this: I know the word “God” can be off-putting to some. I was that person once.  I invite you to replace the G word with something like “Love” and see if that resonates with your own life.  Back to my point about toddlers, tantrums, and God…

What really gets my blood boiling is when Izzy asks for help and then when I help she SCREAMS at me for helping her, “I do it!!!  I do it!!! I do it!!!!”  It makes me want to throw her out a window.  Of course I won’t but her vacillating is the hardest on a daily basis.  When I stop to reflect I realize this is how I use to feel when adults would ask for help and guidance and then when I offered a solution or course of treatment they would tell me, “no thank youbut continue to complain about said challenge in their life. Either take the steps to fix it or shut-up would be my internal monologue. It used to drive me craaaaaazy. I eventually grew to understand that sometimes asking for guidance or help is part of the journey.  The actual work, treatments, or solutions are just another level of response, self responsibility, and commitment that is difficult in our bandaid-make-it-go-away-now culture.

The other big trigger is when Izzy asks for something and then when she gets it flails into a storm of irrational hatred and disappointment, a.k.a a tantrum. So with my new attempt at looking at tantrums as a reflection of my own life, I pondered…do I ask for help (ehem, pray for things) and then when I am offered help, guidance, signs, direct outcomes do I pout about it? Scream about it?  Push it away?  Yikes, [swallow of truth] I think I do.  Maybe I don’t scream bloody murder and yell, “I’ll do it!!!” or throw it on the ground and stomp all over it but in more subtle adult ways I talk myself out of the signs, or tell others who are offering their support or advice “thank you, no thank you,” or even feel down in the dumps that my life isn’t the way I planned, or the way I asked God to make it look like.  Again, [sigh] humbling.

I actually wrote out this conversation I had with Izzy the other day as part of this process. It was EYE OPENING to say the least.

Mommia: What would you like Izzy?
Izzy: I want a cookie.
Mommia: No cookie right now. [Izzy starts crying the second I say this.] Maybe later. What about a banana? Would you like a banana?
Izzy: [trying to stop crying] Yes, ba-ba-banana.
Mommia: Here you go. Would you like your water too?
Izzy: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a banana. No banana. [Throws it on the ground.]
Mommia: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no banana then. [I pick up the banana and put it on the counter, potentially for later]
Izzy: I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa! [crying and screaming] I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa!
Mommia: Izzy, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your banana.
Izzy: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. Baa-banana please.
Mommia: Here you go. [Eyes rolling behind a loooong blink] Thank you Izzy for using your big girl words and tone of voice. —-End Scene—–

I then decided to flip-the-script with my new insights. Mommia is now “Universe” or “God” and Izzy is now me, Haunani. [Note: in no way am I insinuating that I am equal to Universe or God, it is merely an exercise of reflection. Keep reading.] Cookie and banana are now name your desire: a car, husband, soul mate, new career, patience, health, freedom, abundance, etc. For the sake of this script, I’m going to use car for cookie and lasting relationship for banana.

Universe: What would you like Haunani?
Haunani: I want a ­car.
Universe: No car right now. [Haunani starts crying the minute Universe says this.] Maybe later. What about a lasting relationship? Would you like a lasting relationship?
Haunani: [trying to stop crying] Yes, lasting reeee-reeeelationshiiiii-shiiiip.
Universe: Here you go. Would you like Love in that relationship too?
Haunani: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a lasting relationship. No lasting relationship. [Throws it on the ground.]
Universe: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no lasting relationship then. [Universe picks up the lasting relationship and puts it on the counter, potentially for later]
Haunani: I want the laaaaa-laaasting re-re-relationship! [crying and screaming] I want the relationship!
Universe: Haunani, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your lasting relationship.
Haunani: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. La-lasting relationship please.
Universe: Here you go. [Eyes rolling] Thank you Haunani for using your big girl words and tone of voice. ——-End Scene——

This exercise rocked my Mommia world. I was immediately humbled. It’s become so obvious to me that my kids are reflecting my true expectations and relationship with Universe and God that I began to change how I relate to the laws of karma, God, and Universe overnight.

Not that I respond to life all the time like the above scenario, but neither does Izzy. She’s just being a two year old with no books, no guidance, figuring out a new language, figuring out everything—being a two year old is hard. What’s my excuse? OK, so I don’t have a book on being a mom but at least I know my language, know how to listen, understand responsibility, have some emotional awareness, know and use logic, etc. I have no excuse. Being so humbled by this newfound awareness, I then made a list of the other things Izzy does that make me “lose it” rather quickly.

  • Only use the word “please” if reminded to.
  • Only use the word “thank you” if reminded to.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you’re not going to get what you wanted.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you ARE getting what you asked for.
  • Purposefully do things after being told not to.
  • Purposefully doing the same thing after falling, getting hurt, or watching others (her brother) get hurt or in trouble.

Now I feel like a do a little better on some of these than Izzy and other adults I’ve encountered but woah, apparently my expectations of God and life are a little unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  And now having this realization, I now see I react to Izzy’s two-year-old nature because I feel she is being unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  Clearly my expectations are too high.  How is she suppose to know?  [My heart softens and I take a long slow sigh]. I’m not proud of this realization but acknowledgement and acceptance is the first step in choosing to make a change or not.

It’s hard being a two year old.  It’s also hard being the mom of a two year old. Many days I wish I worked full-time just to escape the irrational tendencies. I didn’t like it with Trace and I definitely do not like it with Izzy.  And here in lies the teachings.  Izzy is my major teacher right now. Like all good teachers I’ve discovered she’s shining right back at me like a pure reflection.   I am humbled, embarrassed, and at the same time completely motivated to make a shift TODAY both in how I respond to Izzy and my relationship with life, the world around me, and God.

Note to reader:  Overall, Izzy is an incredible child and I know this.  I am not complaining in this blog but merely attempting to share my process of coming to terms with tantrums through a mindful and humbling approach.

Metta “Loving Kindness” Meditation

This week on my YouTube channel Yoga with Haunani I shared the Metta Meditation, also known as the Loving Kindness Meditation.  While I do not know the whole history of this meditation, I do know it works.  I can’t even remember who I learned it from or where I was when this meditation practice was taught to me.  All I know is that it stuck with me and I have been using it for several years.  This was my go-to meditation practice when I taught yoga to Marines and Sailors at the Naval Hospital.  One of my favorite memories of sharing this meditation is having a very young Marine who was clearly upset before class, finish this meditation, open his eyes and say out loud as he was gently nodding his head, “damn, that really worked.”

In many ways this meditation practice is really a blessing.  You bless yourself, another, your community or family, and then all beings everywhere.  It’s a simple practice, easy to follow, and effective. I’m writing the words out in this blog so you can follow along or print it out as needed until you have it memorized.

When repeating the phrases you can say it out loud, whisper, or repeat them silently to yourself.  A longer version of this meditation is to say the four lines out loud, then repeat at a whisper, and then silently to yourself.  Each time you say a line, take a moment to breathe in the statement and just witness what arises.

Prepping for the meditation:

  • Print a copy of the Metta Meditation.
  • Find a comfortable place to sit for this meditation
  • Remove yourself from distractions (i.e. phones, computers, electronics)
  • Connect with your breath
  • Give yourself permission to let go of your day, or your plans, to just focus on the practice

The first round of the meditation is directed at yourself.  This comes back to the idea that you must take care of yourself before you can truly care for another.  Or, you must love yourself before you can truly love another.  The first round is for you to reconnect with your heart.

MAY I BE HAPPY.
MAY I BE WELL.
MAY I BE SAFE.
MAY I BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

The second round is dedicated to another.  At first, I recommend you choose someone who you are grateful for, who cares for you, is a mentor, or is an inspiration in your life. With them in mind and in your heart, repeat:

MAY YOU BE HAPPY.
MAY YOU BE WELL.
MAY YOU BE SAFE.
MAY YOU BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

Remember to give yourself time to breathe in each statement.

The third round is dedicated to your family (blood or soul), your community, or a group of people you entrust.  Keeping them in mind, repeat:

MAY WE ALL BE HAPPY.
MAY WE ALL BE WELL.
MAY WE ALL BE SAFE.
MAY WE ALL BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

The final round is dedicated to all beings everywhere.  You might imagine the World, a sea of people, or a symbol or concept that weaves us all together.  Keeping this in mind, repeat:

MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE WELL.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE SAFE.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

Take time at the end of the practice to sit and be mindful.  Notice how you feel at the end of the practice compared to at the beginning.

When you become familiar with this practice you can also use it as a powerful healing tool.  In the second and third rounds, you can bring to mind someone or group of people who has hurt you, made you angry, frustrated, or upset.  By keeping that person or group in mind, you can rebuild a sense of oneness or connection between the frayed or fraying relationship.  Using the Metta meditation in this way may help to soften the hard edges of emotions and feelings you once had toward that person or group of people.

As in all meditation practices, allow yourself to be present and witness what arises. Try to avoid judging your thoughts or having expectations of how you’re suppose to feel or be during and after this practice. The Metta Meditation is powerful in that it allows the heart’s true nature to arise and release what it has been harboring at the conscious and unconscious levels.

Be kind to yourself and just allow this words to help you reconnect with yourself, someone you love, your community, and the World.