Surfing Safari

On Saturday, I did something totally awesome.

No, not really.  First of all, that’s a dude. Get your eyes checked. Secondly, if I tried to do that, I would break in half. But I did take my first surfing lesson, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

The moms’ workout group I belong to organized a group rate surfing class with Hawaiian Fire. Ladies and gentlemen who prefer gentlemen, wrap your heads around that: surf instructors who are also firemen. Things were getting a little hot under the rash guard, if you know what I mean AND I THINK YOU DO.

First was an on-land lesson in form. Here I’m demonstrating the dorkiest way to keep your face from getting whitewashed if you’re paddling into a cresting wave–assume partial cobra position and let it flow under you. This is also how to get up–get into this position, and in one fluid move, pop up so that your feet are parallel to each other and at right angles to the midline of the board.  If you look at your feet or lock your knees, you’re going ass over teakettle.  (Not shown: me flipping the instructor the Buddy Christ after he congratulated being able to pop into position.)

Tom captured that shot moments before I went shoulders-first into the water, right above a reef.  I locked my legs, you see.  The instructor later said “Well…that was a nice flip, at least!”  You’ll also note that these waves are, at most, about two feet.  So my dreams of conquering the elements and subjugating the wild ocean under my board? Not so much:

It’s all I’ve got.

What really surprised me, and perhaps this is due to the size of the waves, was the amount of stability.  The board was very long and wide, and thus very forgiving of blunders.  I could correct my feet rather easily and found that weight-shifting didn’t automatically equal a dump into the ocean.  I was able to ride in a few waves this way in a non-dorky, non-embarrassing fashion.

By the hammer of Thor, look at me go!  I have conquered the SMALLEST WAVE EVER.

It surprised me how well the boards worked with the waves; I usually felt pretty stable.  What killed me was the paddling and the cobra-ing.  I now understand EXACTLY why hardcore surfers do not have an ounce of body fat.  It was the best arm workout I’ve done in my entire life, and my abs are still screaming today.  Once up on the board, you can see my thighs are really low in order to absorb shock and stay stable, and that can get tiring too.  It’s a phenomenal workout, to say nothing of the fact that even with the strongest, best sunscreen in my arsenal the backs of my legs are still medium-rare toasty.

Jokes about the size of the waves and the size of the board notwithstanding, I am so proud of myself.  I feel like I did something athletic very well for my first time, and that’s not a feeling I’m familiar with. Gotta start somewhere, right? It was exactly the way I remember skiing first thing in the morning right after a 1″ dusting of snow: refreshing, head-clearing…really, just the purest kind of joy.  And now I can say something that few people can: I have surfed in Hawaii.

I can’t wait to do it again.


Cash Money

One of the things I really miss about Tom, other than his ability to crack me up with “Arrested Development” quotes, is that he generally makes sure that I am well-fed. As much as I adore food–and oh, I do–I’m also bone lazy. When I can eat a fruit salad that my mom made up and a quick microwaveable quesadilla, I’m not going to take the time to prepare a full meal. Maggie eats extraordinarily well, but she also doesn’t eat anything that takes a lot of effort to prepare or she eats a smaller version of what I’m having. If I boil up some tortellini and make some meatballs for me, she just has a meatball, some tortellini, and whatever fruit is handy. Doesn’t take long. When Tom cooks, I can count on a well-seasoned sauce over a delicious pasta or some exotic sausage with a salad of spinach, mozzarella and tomatoes at least three or four times a week. It’s not super-varied, but it sure is tasty.

Willing myself to cook is one more badge I have to earn. In Maryland this past spring some friends and I were discussing our “adult badges,” or the things we’ve done that demostrate stepping toward adulthood. For example, I’ve locked down marriage, parenthood and regular exercise. Another friend is a property owner, training to begin her own business, and always looks fabulously put together. A third friend is professionally successful, travels extensively, and is totally independent. All just badges toward the sash.

Since I’ve done pretty well at setting goals for myself and gaining some level of achievement, I’m revamping my goal list. The first is cooking. The second is becoming good with money. I guess by some standards I’m pretty good with a buck; we have no credit card debt and I stay on the budget that Tom sets for the family. We cloth diaper and bank the savings; we buy used when we can and invest in high-quality items when we can’t. We’re about to be totally out of car payment hell, Tom’s almost paid off his college loans, and I’m on track to pay mine off before Maggie begins school. That’s a lot of savings for a small family and we could do well with it if we plan correctly. There are probably lots of people we can ask for advice in our lives, but we think it’s best not to invite friend ‘n family opinions into our financial forecast so for now we’re going to get a third-party financial planner to help out.

One thing I’m glad that I did was open a small passbook savings account for Maggie. (Note: passbooks don’t actually exist anymore.) She got a few checks, a tenner here and there in a card, that kind of thing, for her first birthday. Since we’re talking the sum of a baby’s birthday money and not the Onassis shipping fortune, a basic savings account made the most sense. Tom and I matched her birthday gains, opened the account, and set up a “monthly allowance” for her–the minimum $25 monthly transfer required to avoid fees. Until she’s cognizant of the power of money, we’ll bank all her birthday and Christmas money for her. When she’s older, she’ll be required by us to save at least fifty percent, and we’ll match what she saves until such time that she gets her first paying job (she’ll be required to save 50% of those wages, too, and she’ll also have to pay for her own entertainment and gasoline). She’ll also be required to give some away to the cause of her choice; hopefully she’ll do so cheerfully. But by the time she’s four or five, there should be enough in that account for a CD and the real fun of making her money start to work for her will begin right as she’s old enough to participate. By the time she goes to high school…who knows? It’s a good start, at any rate.

So we’re working on our own “fiscal responsibility” badge, and we think we have Maggie on the way to that one by the time she leaves our care. An understanding of money and how to manage it responsibly as well as using it to help the community is one of the best gifts we can think to give her.

But someone else is going to have to teach her to coordinate an outfit, because I sure as hell can’t do that. There’s a reason I love Hawaii: clean and no holes is practically formalwear.

Something Pretty

Over the last year I set a list of goals for myself. Number 3: Make Something Pretty for my Daughter. In addition to making Maggie some felt and wool toys, I also learned a single stitch of crochet and took off running.

Given how impatient I am, I should have learned more than the single loop stitch before proceeding. It’s the easiest GED stitch there is, but it’s tiny. In not asking my mother about the scope of my plan, I made a serious error. Since I’m so impatient, I ran off half-cocked, chained a huge long starter chain, didn’t measure it and relied on my nonexistent depth judgment for the length, and thought I was making a 3′ blanket when really it was more like 4′, and I chose a thin, worsted-weight cotton yarn and a smallish hook. So what I’m saying is, “Mistakes were made.” But only in the planning process. The execution was lovely. Closeup!

The border is a double-loop stitch, taught to me by my mother after two weeks of hand-cramping single loop stitches. It took another three weeks after that to complete. The end result was a 36×48″ blanket, rainbow variegated with a purple border. It was painstaking and repetitive but I love the tight weave, and it’s a cotton blanket so it’s light but warm.

Maggie appears indifferent here, but she’s been sleeping under it (or on it, actually) for the last week or so.

Goal 3: Achieved. And I’ll never do a single-loop blanket ever again. At least not without measuring.

Goal Setting

Before we begin…

It never gets old. I hear Baby-Fu’s voice in my head, and it sounds like DRUNK HULK.

Back in July I set a list of goals for myself. Let us update, shall we?

1 & 5. The travel website I was hired to write for has still not launched, because when it does I will sing it loud and proud from the rooftops. I need to look at my spreadsheet and invoices but I estimate that I have written over 300 keyword-based articles (is that SEO writing? I was intrigued by the going rate for SEO writers and going to research freelance jobs in that market. $120K for a degree in PR and communications and I have to self-teach social media marketing. I want a refund, AU.). I’ve been paid for some of it, some is still pending. Y’all will be the FIRST ones to know when that site goes live, aside from Tom and the baby, because without their patience I couldn’t have stuck with the 6 articles/night pace I had kept.

The good news is that I have learned so much doing it. How to structure the articles, how to sound fresh while writing 300+ articles with the same 10 keywords, how to stay disciplined while writing them. I’ve also learned fascinating things about Hawaii: the major geography of all the islands, the history behind the famous sites. I could take anyone on a kick-ass tour of any of the islands.

2. The UH’s digital art program was cost-prohibitive, plus the majority of the classes were available online. To me that says the curriculum is not tech-intensive. I’d want a professor in a media lab showing me the finer points of Photoshop and Illustrator. If I could teach myself graphic design, I would buy a Macbook Pro, CS4, and For Dummies book and rock it at home for a fraction of the price. I did shoot my first wedding (it was my sister’s, for free) and though I think I have a long way to go, she was pleased. I do think I’ve gone as far as I can go with the Digital Rebel, and so I am getting myself a little reward for going through the next few months flying solo on the parent front while we’re on the East Coast.

3. My mom is teaching me to knit and crochet! Woo! I, uh, haven’t asked her to teach me, but we’ll be in Florida for three months so I’m sure it will come up. I just want to make my kiddo a blankie, it can’t be that hard. Right? (Hold me. I’m scared of needlecraft.)

4. Stroller Strides, and I did wind sprints today for the first time in ten years. This looked and felt as utterly ridiculous as it sounds. I plan to put extra bubbles in my bath to console myself.

Appropos of nothing, the baby is wearing rainbow leg warmers. Pictures later.

Goal Setting

Last year, one of my favorite bloggers put her Life’s To-Do list on her blog. In a long confluence of events, Intel agreed to sponsor ten items on her life list. They range from the humble (sparklers with her son) to the more grand (write a million dollar check to charity). That got me thinking. I’ve always been a big dreamer, but my follow-through isn’t always so great. I figured attitude is half the battle, so I decided a few weeks ago that I should make a list of five things I wanted to do by this time next year:

1. Be paid to write and/or photograph
2. Start a new school program
3. Create something beautiful for my daughter
4. Exercise regularly
5. Learn more about Hawaii–history, language, and things to do around Oahu

Well! Ask and ye shall receive.

RE #2: I was accepted to UH’s Digital Art program last Wednesday. It was a last-minute application so I don’t know if I will have the necessary (and in my opinion, really stupid since I’m not living in the dorms) MMR and TB paperwork in on time. I will have to play registration by ear but the program is a combination of photography and graphic design. Whee!

RE #3: Rummaging through my craft drawer, I found a ball of pink, orange, yellow, and green varigated silk yarn. I don’t know how much 145yds will knit, but I found a simple dishrag pattern that I know my left-handed aunt and mother can do (my aunt knit a beautiful, sturdy cotton blanket for Maggie using an adaptation of the pattern) so I am going to ask her and my mom to help me start it this fall in Maine. If it’s not enough for a full blanket, it can be a blanket for Dr. Drewbear, the bear my friend Andrew got her when she was born.

RE #4: Dr. Google found me a Couch-to-5k program that looks interesting. I may start it this week if weather permits!

And the best one is a combination of 1 and 5…

After some digging, applying, and sample-writing, I was hired by a travel start-up to write content for a guide to the islands. The pay isn’t much, but it’s all on my byline, allows me to stay home with the baby, and in time they may pay for me to travel to other islands. o_O I know! How cool is that?

So that’s what’s new here. Neat, eh?