A New Normal

“Growing apart doesn’t change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled. I’m glad for that.”
Ally Condie, Matched

Somewhere between then and now, we grew into our new normal… we found a rhythm that works for us. I feel really content with where we are, and where we are headed. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because that little girl finally feels the comfort of having her Father. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I love our new normal.

Celebrating my law school graduation with my Father.

Celebrating my law school graduation with my Father.

Just last month, he organized a barbecue at Ala Moana Beach Park to celebrate my graduation from law school. It was the sweetest gesture ever. This was his first time planning a gathering for me. He made a few calls, invited some family members, and gave me specific instructions to bring sausage to throw on the grill. I asked if we needed anything else — a salad maybe? Some rice? Anything? No, he had already designated items to other family members. My job: bring sausage.

It was a beautiful day at the park. Our lives seem to continue crossing at Ala Moana Beach Park — the same park I’ve mentioned in other blog posts. The same place where I met my friends in the “Forest,” the same place where I rollerbladed as a little girl growing up in Honolulu, the same place where I reconnected with “Hobo Bob.” So it was befitting that multiple generations were collectively coming together on the very shores of my childhood, all invited by my father’s direction.

The sky was painted an incredible blue that morning, and everyone brought their appetite. It was quite a fiasco trying to rally all the family members back into one spot to get the barbecue going. The kids were in the water, one of my cousins was fishing with my father at the opposite side of the park, my husband was busy with the kids, and the other family members were busy getting things settled under the tent.

I decided it was a good time to figure out how to operate the grill. I’m a “go-getter.” To my half-sister’s credit, she was somewhat cautious about my approach in attaching the propane canister to the grill. Okay, so maybe I didn’t really know what I was doing… and it wasn’t a good idea to try to flick the igniter while attaching the propane tank — the switch was not a mysterious “lock” to get the tank to screw on.

Thankfully, my husband returned and knew what he was doing. Everyone started to regather around the tent and slowly started pulling out their dishes. We brought our sausage like we were asked. My cousins brought meat as well. And my uncle and aunt… brought meat and a massive tub of kimchee.

Nobody brought rice.

I started to giggle. My husband knew what I was thinking, but didn’t want to say it. Finally I broke the silence and blurted out, “A bunch of Koreans are at a barbecue and nobody brought rice… how are we supposed to eat?”

It was cute. It gave us all something to laugh about together. My father shook his head in disbelief. He went around the circle and asked if they were absolutely sure that he hadn’t asked them to bring rice. This was the first time he had organized a family gathering, and we were all just really proud and happy to be enjoying each other’s company — rice or no rice. I’m glad it happened though… it seemed to break the ice, and helped everyone to feel more comfortable. Who knows, maybe he planned that all along!

The rest of the day was beautiful… the water was perfect for swimming. My father wore regular khaki shorts and shoes. He didn’t have any swimwear with him. I was a little surprised that he would suggest coming to this beach park, and not be prepared to get in the water. And then it dawned on me… I had no recollection of seeing him in the ocean. I had no memory whatsoever of being in the ocean with my father.

How could that be?

We live in Hawai`i. We are surrounded by water. The ocean is such an important part of my life — a source of healing energy, a way to reconnect with myself and my spirituality. I had to take another minute to consider this.

We have to get into the water together.

It took several tries to convince my father that his shorts would dry just fine. We had a paddle board and I begged him to let me paddle him around. I literally broke out into what probably resembled an excited 6-year-old’s dance. I hopped up and down, clapped my hands, grinned from ear-to-ear, and pleaded with him…

Please, please, pleaaaase? Pleaaase? I’ve never asked for anything before! PLEASE get on the paddle board with me! You remember what I said about paddling and how it’s been such an amazing heeeealing experience for me? Pleeeeeaaase?”

I think he was enjoying every moment of my desperate whining. He quietly said, “If you keep pushing me, I won’t do it.” And then he flashed a grin. Okay, so I had to be more reasonable. I went to law school. Heck, I graduated from law school. I quickly adjusted to a new strategy…

Dad, we have never been in the ocean together… and who knows when we will have access to a paddle board again? I’ll be really busy studying for the bar exam, so we may not be able to do this again for a couple of months. This is a great time to make new memories!”

Hook. Line. Sinker. 😉

I watched our feet disappear under the sandy shores of Ala Moana Beach Park that morning. The water creeped up above our ankles and then our knees. We shared a smile, and I soaked up the warmth of his skin under my hands. We were connected. With a little encouragement, my father sat on the paddle board and I was able to briefly standup.

Beach Day

There must have been a little confusion about what was going to happen on the paddle board. I thought I was going to be able to “paddle” away with him on it — he thought he was just going to idly “sit” on the board… on the shore. His reaction was darling. As soon as he realized what I had intended, he gripped the sides of the board and jumped off as fast as he could. I was so close!

Even though we weren’t able to leave the shores that day, I am still deeply appreciative for that brief moment we shared as father and daughter. I hope we can someday explore deeper waters. For now, I am loving our new normal… I am loving these moments that continue to unfold with each passing day.

Wishing everyone lots of love and inspiration in this life journey. Hope you enjoyed being able to hear of another “first” I experienced with my father and my family.

Hugs,Diana

Which way from here?

“Never give up. There is no such thing as ending, just a new beginning.”

I know it has been quiet lately. I can’t ever seem to keep up with my own life, let alone find the mental space to sit down and sort through it all. I have been wanting to write it out, and for whatever reason I’ve been keeping most of it to myself. I think it was easier to write when I knew this blog was “just for me.” But then I’m reminded of all those who care… those who have been equally touched by similar life experiences. I’m not alone. So here we are again.

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My husband wanted to capture the moment that the Photo Book finally came in. A little teary-eyed, but my heart was all smiles.

A lot has happened since the last time I posted. A lot always happens, and that’s nothing to complain about given that everything can be seen in the positive. I know people are curious about my father’s health, his “progress” in life. Since the last time I wrote, my father passed his final taxi examination and started driving again. It was definitely a moment to celebrate. And then for various personal reasons, he decided to stop and wait another few months.

I can’t blame him for making that decision — the main thing is that he feels comfortable with where he is today. And he is… that’s all I can ask for. Again, I remind myself that “he is good for today.”

On a positive note, I finally finished the Photo Book for the Kickstarter project. The draft copy arrived in the mail last week, and it was quite a feeling to revisit the photographs. I showed my father the copy, and he was really proud of the fact that I finished it. It was something I have wanted to do for many years, and it couldn’t have been possible without the Kickstarter backers and my father’s encouragement.

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My father looking through the photographs.

The Photo Book contains a a series of photographs, separated into three major parts. It also includes photographs my father created using the camera that I had given him for Christmas last year. For those who have been following along, you may remember that I gave him the camera that I had intermittently used while he was on the streets. I hoped that by including his photographs, he would feel a sense of accomplishment as well.

Speaking of accomplishments, my father and I had a really nice conversation the other week. It’s always a hit or miss on whether he talks, or just wants to sit quietly. I usually let him guide the pace of our time together, and I love the moments when we connect through conversation. Shortly after showing him the Photo Book, he brought up my upcoming law school graduation and career plans for afterwards.

I am so proud of you,” he said.

And I am proud of you,” I said.

My father and I have been through hell and back separately and together. There was so much more to this moment… so much back history that has not been shared. Ever since I was little, I always wanted to make my parents proud. It’s ironic that I had to abandon everything I knew, to get to where I am today… a place where I can forgive him, a place where I can have the patience with myself and others to move forward in a positive way. And there were so many friends who helped me along the way.

His pride made me smile. We talked about my future, his future, my mother… and how things got to the way it did. He told me stories about her, and what she was like when she was younger. He pointed out our similarities, our differences, but ended with:

I always thought you were more like me…”

There it was again, he made me smile another time. He could be right, but I think I’m a good mix of both and definitely influenced by the good people who I’ve met along the way. I reminded my father about my graduation date, and how I wanted him to be there. He has been part of my law school journey… a source of struggle and suffering, but also one of acceptance and healing.

My law school community has been incredibly supportive all these years, and I’m really looking forward to having my worlds come together. I bought him a university pin the other day. As a former military soldier, he always seemed to have a thing for “pins” and “badges.” He wanted a pin to wear, and I asked if he was going to put it on his vest (he wears his gray vest religiously).

No, it’s for my suit,” he said calmly.

Well, now that is something I want to see! I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen him in a full suit. I may just go out and buy him an Aloha Shirt — I can’t imagine that he will be comfortable to be wearing a suit under the hot sun. Either way, I thought it was incredibly sweet that he wanted to wear a pin to show his pride in my upcoming graduation.

It’s getting late and I have a full week of work, school, and family duties ahead. I wish I could sit here and keep writing, but I know that it’s time to clock-out and get back to reading.

A few things I do want to share before I go…

I recently started an externship with a family court judge, and am looking forward to putting my experiences and legal education to good use. I think that a lot of what I’ve been going through with my father in the past few years has prepared me to help others who are going through traumatic life events. It feels like a step towards the right direction.

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Honored to be selected as a “Rare Under 40” awardee, and looking forward to meeting these incredible individuals in Washington, D.C.

I have also been participating in a number of community-wide events and conferences to continue the dialogue. I know that homelessness is never going to “go away,” but I truly am grateful for the people who spend their energy and time into helping those in need.

I know the nature of politics can be divisive, and that Hawai`i is especially having a difficult time addressing the needs of the homeless. Without delving too deeply into the politics of homelessness as an “issue,” I just want to recognize the efforts of all those who participate and engage in our system, to help address challenges and barriers that our disenfranchised experience everyday.

And with that, I hope that all of you have a meaningful week ahead… a meaningful life ahead. There is still so much more to learn, more to share, and I know that this is just the beginning.

With love and big hugs,

Diana