One Year Later

368 days ago our family, minus one, hopped on a plane for six hours and flew to what many call a paradise. Being as it wasn’t my first time as a resident of Honolulu, I landed knowing that is not always the case; paradise is a lot of things but it isn’t equally the islands of Hawaii. Maybe paradise is sitting on a sunny beach, all lathered up with sunscreen and cheersing a cold bevvie with someone you love, or it is riding bicycles with your SO, hair in a ponytail and the sun at your back as you feel the wind under your feet and around your neck. What I am saying is I think of paradise as actions or feelings, not locations.

The first few months

We arrived in Honolulu and went straight into quarantine with family for two weeks. We spent those fourteen days adjusting poorly to the warmth of Honolulu, the famished mosquitoes who loved feasting on our sweet blood, and admiring the daily dose of vitamin D we were now ingesting.

And my job search began.

Then, my job search continued. And in some rash logic, I chopped something like 10 inches off of my hair to cut out all the bad juju I was feeling, to renew myself, and to have some dramatic start-over, just like our move.

At some point, I counted 35-ish applications submitted all around the island. I edited my resume a slew of time. I began walking daily just to clear my mind and do something. And more importantly, I started taking it personal. I had invested so much time and effort into earning my degree in HR Management and earning my SHRM certification that it just baffled me that I was only phone screened twice out of all those applications. What became glaringly obvious was that Hawaii operated human resources very differently from the mainland – where time spent in a specialty was more important than my time as a generalist. Yes, that eventually ended and I landed somewhere amazing but wow did imposter syndrome rear its ugly head at me.

A house vs a home

A couple years ago, a friend messaged me privately asking how I can so openly share my life experiences in my blog without fear of hurting other people’s feelings. I said, I write from my side and I tell my truth. I still stand by that but it just hasn’t been feasible here in Hawaii. My words might affect others. That is the best explanation I can give on my one-year-blog-post-hiatus. I couldn’t bring myself to look at it. And with that said…

In January we closed on our house alongside my father-in-love; this had been the plan for some time. This house has not been the greatest experience of my life for a myriad of reasons. Suffice to say the boys love their rooms, our dog loves her yard, and we anticipate a pool in the future.

When we drove by our old home on a visit to see family and friends, I turned away, unable to look at it. In that same sense, I cannot bring myself to share the Hawaii home. And that includes inside.

Island Time with Vee

Which brings me to the many friends who have reached out about Island Time. I really am continually surprised by how so many of you grew to love that weird little cooking show with me. I thank you all so much. We initially took a pause as the citizens of our nation cried out liberty and justice for all when it was becoming so glaringly obvious that still was not the case. It felt trite to film me making food while cracking eggs and jokes while protests erupted globally with experiences being shared that could bring you to your knees. George Floyd died and not one person opposed to the BLM movement has been able to eloquently excuse it or explain it away to me. Then the election. Then my grandfather died. No moment felt right, including purchasing this home that has not found my heart yet.

I don’t want to film it. Does that mean ever? I don’t know. It means not for now. I sincerely thank each and every person who has watched even one episode and cheersed with me and laughed. It means the world.

Family

Saying goodbye to my Grandfather before we left for Hawaii unsettled me. I knew without really knowing that I would not see him on this side again. As we began settling in here, I fell into a routine of calling him at least once a week on my drive in to work to chit chat. More often than not I would ask him how he was doing and almost always he would answer, I haven’t died yet. I would scold him, Grandpa, that is so morose! I mean, we danced this dance so many times that even though I knew it was coming it would still gut-punch me every time. We knew it was coming.

One of the last things he said to me was, the end is part of the journey.

I know it is true. It still hurts the same.

He passed on the morning of the election, which I laughed about because we disagreed so much on politics. He was convinced Trump would be reelected and he didn’t live to see that outcome. I find something poetic in this. I still think of him so often and being so far away from family was hard. I couldn’t just fly back because of my new job to hug my mom who had just lost her father. I couldn’t hold her hand and tell funny stories of him and his boisterous shenanigans and in turn, my other familial support was very limited. Grieving sucks. I wish I could have been with my family. I cannot thank my friends who became my family enough for the love and reaching out. I would be lost without you all.

Some of you have been able to visit me (I LOVE YOU SO MUCH) and some of you have weekly phone calls with me, and some of you have scheduled zoom happy hours. When you love people and they love you back, distance or a pandemic does not get in the middle of that noise. And I see you.

The Meanager

Parenting an adult son has been the tits, friend. No longer can I scold his one word responses or force him to answer my texts or calls. I’m always on a cliff of worry on if he is okay, if he is drinking water, if he is missing me, if he is not speeding while driving. I want to talk to him every day but in the same breath, I am not calling my own parents. Logistically, I know he is okay. I just want to snuggle him and chat with him. I have only gotten to physically see him twice since we moved and it hasn’t been enough. There are countless books on parenting small kiddos yet where is the What to Expect When You’re Expecting an Adult? Where is that nonsense? All the jokes about empty-nesters but what about missing-pieces-of-your-hearters? Where are they? Is there a support group? I would choose teething with him again over not seeing him daily. I would choose baby-poop blowouts with no diaper bag over not having him over for dinner and laughs every night. I want him to live his life and have the greatest time and still somehow be a part of it so bad that my heart physically hurts.

Hawaii and its new beginnings are harder without a complete family. I can love moments here while simultaneously missing so much from back home. And that is all I will say about that.

COVID

The end.

And then I shaved the side of my head.

Three days of getting (re)fresh, as told by Vee

Guess who’s going to Hawaii in three sleeps (read: today)!!?!?!?! This beezy RIGHT HERE!!! My brother-in-love is getting hitched, saying I do, and bidding farewell to that bachelor life that he always made look so friggin fun. We are so excited! And you know what Hawaii means? It means you’ll be on a beach at least once, probably spending some hours at a pool, and wearing a lot less clothes than you have been for the last ten months because Washington gave you the longest winter in all of history. So you do a reality check, realizing that birthday month was a treasonous time in your life and you acknowledge that every article of clothing you wear now fits snug (read: tight) and you haven’t even worked out recently. As in at least a week. I figured it’s never too late to recommit to your health journey, so I ordered myself a 3-Day Refresh from my fave peeps down at Beachbody and read the rules yesterday to get ready.

Now, what is the refresh? First off, it’s a fancy schmancy title for a cleanse that restricts dairy, meats (read: proteins) and treats (read: wine) for a whole effin 72 hours. Doesn’t that sound like a nice cup of “stab me repeatedly with a fork for three days?” Needless to say, we ate pizza, drank wine and had fudge chocolate treats Sunday. We are the worst kind of cleansers. It is three daily shakes, a fiber drink, an ocean of filtered water, and rationed portions of fresh fruits and veggies. THAT.IS.IT. And here is an unbiased account of the ordeal:

Day 1: Today I woke up at 7 after hitting snooze an eff ton of times. I didn’t want to get out of bed. My eyes were so heavy. When you can finally manage to haul your bloated ass out of bed, you’re supposed to drink around 10 ounces of water to get your system (does this mean your digestive track? Like, get ready to poop?) going. I had a water bottle by the side of my bed but I had gotten thirsty at night so I estimate it only had around 6 in it. That may or may not be remotely right. I’m a horrible estimator of liquids. Suffice to say I drank the water and felt it hit the PITS of my stomach. Of COURSE I would wake up on day one of my refresh starving. Typical.

Within an hour of waking you drink your first shake. Yay there because I love my shakeo! Except I didn’t drink it on time because it’s frowned upon to show up to work ugly. And when I rushed to make it, I started out with too much water and not enough ice so it was a weird texture and consistency (super watery) so it felt like I was drinking super diluted iced coffee (I am drinking the vegan café latte for this). It didn’t feel like breakfast, when my shakeo normally does. Along with the shake you eat your first installment of fruit. Up first on the menu is a cup of cantaloupe that I actually measured! That’s already a win because I try to eyeball everything. My one downfall? I forgot to eat the fruit at the same time as I was drinking my shake. When I remembered I could have it, I SNARFED it down in two seconds. You guys. A cup of cantaloupe is just enough to make you CRAZY hungry but not enough to make you even feel like you ate. Throw on top of that a work lunch I’m planning so I was on the Fred Meyer’s catering website looking at pictures of baked chicken, fried chicken, sushi platters, sides. This is torture to the umpteenth degree. I am never as hungry as when I tell myself I’m doing something to feel better. Every time I think I need food I make myself guzzle some water. PS, I’ve gone to the bathroom six times and I’ve only been up for four hours. And because I can’t stop thinking about how empty my stomach feels, I set a timer on my phone for when I can have my next shake, which is the Vanilla Fiber Sweep. I foresee more bathroom breaks. Yikes.

Vanilla Fiber Sweep is done. I drank it fast because I’ve read other people’s accounts of the flavor of it so I was anticipating liquid death. I chugged it SO FAST because almost everyone says you can’t let it sit for more than a few minutes or it changes into a fire-breathing dragon that promptly makes you it’s meal. Shit, that dragon would be getting more of a mouthful than I currently am. Good news, there was no time to let anything evolve into anything dangerous and I basically shot-gunned a really tasty drink. I would equate it to an original orange Julius, which is doubly bizarre, being as it’s vanilla. The deed is done, either way and now I have to wait at least an hour before I can have my lunch. Yes, there’s another timer set and yes, I am going to drink more water.

1:00: Lunch time. FINALLY. I mixed my vanilla fresh shake, took my rhubarb salad out that I made yesterday, grabbed my baggie of strawberries and filled my water. I was making myself wait a little longer because somehow that felt much less dramatic. I mentally told myself I would eat slow and savor every bite because 2/3 cup of rhubarb salad IS NOT REALLY EVEN ONE BITE OF FOOD, that I would not down my shake like it was a margarita. YOU GUYS. I’m a liar liar pants on fire and lunch was inhaled in less than three minutes. It’s been less than an hour since and not ONCE did my stomach feel like it had anything in it.

2:23: I found a little Styrofoam box of pad-see-uw in the mini fridge from lunch last week Friday. I heated it up and told myself I would only have a few bites because I NEED FOOD. I picked out the broccoli and ate it because broccoli is allowed on the refresh even though I’m almost positive its not allowed when it has a delicious sauce on it (I’ll just double check what the list of guilt-free flavorings says about that) and told myself I wasn’t cheating. Then I told myself I could have two bites of rice noodle and that would be it. I then had four little bites because I can’t be trusted and then threw the box away because otherwise it was about to be shoved into my pie-hole (yum, pie sounds AMAZING) and because I started to get angry with myself. I am only seven hours into this shit-show and I’ve already messed up. This is why I have jelly-belly and this is why I have more than one chin. Send BOSS BABE vibes this way, because I need all.of.them. Now I’m drinking water and pissed.

4:00: I ate a teaspoon of almond butter and downed 700 ounces of water, at least. I’m not even exaggerating here. I feel empty but I don’t feel EMPTY. See, I’m so hungry ish isn’t even making sense anymore.

4:50: My iWatch just told me to stand up. That’s fine since I HAVE TO PEE ANYWAY.

6:00: I’m at my son’s baseball game and I have to urinate so bad that I have lower back pains. Ku texted me beforehand and asked if I wanted her to bring me strawberries and my response was something like, “Yes, I can have 12. And if you think you might want some also, please bring more than 12 because I need ALLMYSTRAWBERRIES. I texted that to my wifey, friends. And she didn’t throw fruit at my face when I got to the game and she didn’t threaten to leave me. I want to add that the fact she even stuck around the rest of the night without yelling PEACE and throwing her hands in the air is AMAZEBALLS. I would have run for the hills.

10:00: Went to bed listening to the relaxing sounds of my STOMACH GROWLING and some pretty horrendous releases of gas. Today sucked. I realized I am completely emotionally addicted to food. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been such an effin sourpuss all damn day. I may need more than 3 days to break this.

DAY 2

7:00: Woke up and said, “I’m starving,” right out the gate and then realized that wasn’t actually true. My stomach hadn’t even said good morning. It was when I downed my 10 ounces of water that I remembered my stomach had a bottom. All that water found it, quick. I also didn’t drink my shake within that first hour. I’m a natural rule breaker. I just can’t help it. PS, I ALSO forgot to eat the fruit at the same time again. Frick!

1:00: I’ve not stopped thinking about food and how hungry I am. I had to pick up lunch for the office, which is straight out of chapter one in the book of “Ultimate Corporal Punishment for your Subordinates.”

1:30: Got to the office with the FRIED CHICKEN, BAKED CHICKEN, BBQ CHICKEN, MACARONI SALAD (I love macaroni salad. I friggin LOVE IT) and POTATO SALAD. I don’t know why I just yelled that. I ran to my office and grabbed my effin rhubarb salad and my water and joined my co-workers in the conference room with every intention of not straying. And then five minutes later I had a sliver of bbq chicken and one teaspoon of macaroni salad in my container and I ate it super slow. I savored EVERY BITE and then got upset because I have done some pretty hard shit in my life. Why can I not control what goes in my mouth?

9:00: I told myself I was going to have a hard boiled egg because I’m certain not consuming protein is a death wish. There is no way this program knows what it’s talking about. But then I didn’t, so win there! Oh, let’s also throw in that I weighed myself this morning and I didn’t lose ONE OUNCE of weight yet. And somehow that’s determining my success with this. Goodnight, world. I cannot with today, anymore.

Day 3

I woke up this morning, drank my water and felt a little better. I almost just typed refreshed but I refuse to give this program any kudos. Yet.

Some point in the middle of the day: I am not starving. My thoughts are not consumed with food on the constant. I have felt more awake, more able. More in CONTROL and that is pretty phenomenal. The whole day goes by and I’m drinking my water, eating my food, following the plan and not once do I feel deprived today. I’m doing the thing. I’m friggin crushing it!

9:00: Ku and I pack for Hawaii and my whole time home I didn’t think about how I was so hungry and needed dinner now. I had a half a cucumber and felt good. WHAT THE WHAT? We went downstairs after getting a lot of packing done and Ku made some quesadillas and convinced me to have half of one. It was a whole wheat tortilla and some crock pot pork, so I decided to have it. I only ate the half, ate it slow, really enjoyed it and had ONE GLASS of wine. Over the course of two hours. If I won at anything, it was in THAT.

When I woke up Thursday, off the refresh, I didn’t immediately want food. I feel like I look the same, perhaps a touch less bloated. I took my after photos and see it, that the bloat is gone. I want to keep that ish going! Where the real transformation happened is in my mentality about food. I have not forgotten the feeling of absolute emptiness I had on Day 1 and Day 2. I always knew I was an emotional eater; I mean, I’ve been living this life for 35 damn years! Really seeing the grip my nutrition has on me made me realize why I haven’t had more success in my journey. It makes TOTAL.SENSE. Overall, I’m down four pounds. I don’t want them back. I’m cutting those toxic pounds out of my life FOR GOOD because they have been like herpes with my health journey. BE GONE!

I’m not going to say I’m going to be perfect from here on out, because I cannot lie to my friends. I will say that I’m going to try maintain smaller portions, remind myself I do not really need more food or carbs or an eff ton of meat (that was the hardest, giving up my meats. I don’t know how vegetarians do it!) or six glasses of wine. Because all of that has happened.

You want to try the refresh out? Hit me up. I would totally be up for torturing myself alongside you, because who doesn’t want to push the boundaries of just how much your loved ones will put up with. AMIRIGHT?!?!

QBSJ7356

Island Time

Before I dive into explaining Island Time and all that it entails, I want to disclaim the following:

I am not a chef.

I’m not even a real cook.

I’ve had zero professional training.

I most DEFINITELY am not a nutritionist.

Not a wine sommelier.

*

When I was five years old, my parents did something they had been working towards, dreaming about, saving for. They opened their own business, a Mexican restaurant. I remember moving to a small city, in the middle of nowhere to a place that didn’t even have a stop light. It smelled of cow manure and the American Dream and we were knee deep in it.

It was a small place, just full of hopes and ownership. They did all the work themselves, at least from what I can recall. They painted, made brick archways on the walls, hung some tropical ceramic birds from the ceiling, bought some fake plants, set up a used cash register. There was endless days of cleaning and preparing and I can remember most of it. The opening day, though? It’s nowhere in my mind. Maybe I wasn’t privy to be there or maybe it happened while I was in school. All I know is that one day it was a “soon” and the next it just “was.”

In no time or maybe plenty of time it was a happening place and had created a buzz around our tiny hometown. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was welcoming. I think back to the beginning and I smile, because it was pure. As I grew, the restaurant grew. I think about it in terms of falling asleep. It was gradual and then all at once. My days revolved around enchiladas, rice and beans, burritos and so on. Within five years we had outgrown the cozy dwelling on Front street and we moved closer to the Canadian border, away from our roots.

In all its growth and all its success, I never found myself in the kitchen. The cooks were rough looking, older, spoke Spanish (unlike me at the time). They were intimidating, deviant looking people that towered over me. I wasn’t one to find myself conversing with them, or them with me. It just wasn’t an acceptable thing. And then the end of sixth grade came. My Dad decided I should spend some time in Mexico, with some family, so I could learn my culture, my language, my roots. And off I went.

I lived in Chihuahua, Chihuahua (yes, that’s a place) for a little over a year. I attended seventh grade there. It was a literal sink or swim for me, in terms of communicating with anyone. Naturally, I began to really understand Spanish. More than that, and more rewarding, was understanding this foreign notion to me. family time. With the business, my parents were so busy. We had limited time for family meals or hanging out. It’s just how it was and it was all I knew, really. Mexico, though. It was amazing and harsh and scary and fun. My Aunt and Uncle taught me so much with so much love and patience.

My Aunt Celia was a phenomenal cook. She would get up early in the morning and make her two older kids and myself breakfast. She would pack me a lunch. We would all sit and have dinner together. She was the first to show me how to make homemade salsa, Mexican rice, enchiladas. I taught her how the cooks cut onions and tomatoes faster (I was watching, if anything). She was everything you could ask for in a teacher, but the reality was that I only enjoyed eating the food. That’s the truth! I never found the joy in cooking like she did.

When I came back to the states, I began to pick up on certain assumptions that people made when you tell them your parents owned a restaurant. The most common was they would give me that sweeping look, the one that says, “Oh YEAH they do because you are CHUBBY.” Or, they would ask me if I could cook amazing food. Yes, I was overweight. No, I couldn’t cook. Not like their employees at the restaurant and certainly not like my Aunt Celia. I didn’t want to.

I got married at nineteen years old and kept hearing from my ex MIL that I had to start learning. That I needed to put the food on the table. That it was my responsibility and I think as sort of a big EFFFFF  YOU, I refused. I didn’t want to learn. I wanted boiling water to be near impossible and I wanted to burn all the things. I wanted to make certain foods on repeat EVERY DAY and I wanted cereal for breakfast for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to be fancy. I certainly didn’t care if it was healthy. People deal with depression and anxiety in many different ways and this was one of mine. I had zero control over almost everything so this, this unreasonable aversion to cooking and house-wifing, this I would have on lock down. I wanted to fail and I made it obvious.

When I met Ku, who is a TOTAL FOODIE, my mind woke up. It started to remember what my lovely Aunt had shared with me, things I had seen in my parent’s kitchen, stuff I had seen on TV. My memory started to flash things back at me and this DESIRE to come out of my shell just took over. It’s been on fire since! Not a kitchen fire. A SOUL FIRE. And somehow, somewhere in that, a show was born.

There seems to be this misconception that cooking healthy is boring, bland, blah. It is salads on the daily and baked chicken breast with steamed broccoli. Friends. IT MOST CERTAINLY IS NOT! I promise I’m not making this up. I’ve had this EXACT conversation with NUMEROUS friends! And because of this, I started to put in the work myself and taste test away. I’m SACRIFICING myself for my friends and life has never felt more perfect!

We gave birth to Island Time with Vee (which is this homage to both the island in our kitchen, where we always congregate with family and friends, and a nod to our family in Hawaii, where our true Island time is) from this place of wanting to share healthy, easy recipes with everyone. My whole goal with it has been to keep it light, far from preachy, and fun! I make a show almost EVERY Sunday (sometimes life gets in the way and when that happens, I kick a throwback episode in there) and I bring some wine to the island because WINE IS LIFE, friends. When I can and it makes sense, we go live on my Facebook page to really showcase the simplicity and time saving recipe I found and tried before sharing it with you. There have been times I think something will be delicious and then try it and I’m like THAT IS NOT DELISH AND I CANNOT SHARE IT WITH MY FRIENDS and we scrap the whole thing in the garbage!

This latest episode is a skinny egg salad recipe and it’s easy to customize and AMAZING. Unless, of course, you don’t like eggs and if that’s the case, I don’t know what to say to you! I LOVE EGGS! If anything, watch it for a laugh, because you all know how MUCH I LOVE TO LAUGH. That’s the ONE thing I can promise on each episode! I hope you try it and share your thoughts with me! And the next time I post one of my videos here, I won’t go so deep into my backstory so we can cut straight to the chase!

And PS, the moral of this story is that it is INCREDIBLE how fantastic your food can taste when you use LOVE as your main ingredient. And if you would like to see my other Island Time episodes, find me on Facebook!