Tuesday, November 4, 2014

When Photos Don't Lie

I just read a blog post entitled "When Photos Lie" that talked about the way we portray ourselves/our families/our lives on social media, and how those pictures are often misleading because they tend to show the best moments of our lives, or even just the best moments of a given activity. As I sat here pondering that idea, I realized that maybe I'm a random oddball in that I tend to post an equal number of "look at how great my life is!" pics and "this is the shit I'm dealing with right now, dammit" pics. So, just for funsies, and in response to the "When Photos Lie" blog, I compiled a few of my favorite When Photos DON'T Lie pics from my Instagram account, mostly using my hashtags #dropkickthemoutthewindow #naughtylittlemonkeys and #dammitovaka.

Enjoy. (And read the ig captions for extra chuckles.)

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Postscript from Finau...

I wrote a post for Feminist Mormon Housewives about my experience with Tongan gang violence. I emailed Finau what I had written before I posted it, and after speaking with him tonight, he asked me to add a few of his thoughts. Rather than add them to my original post, I decided to post them here. I just went ahead and put up a screenshot of his email reply so that if any of the boys or his family are reading this, you can see what he wrote to you directly from him.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Moving Forward

Last night I only slept for about three hours. I went to bed around nine, but I tossed and turned and didn't fall asleep until well into the night. I knew today was coming, and I've been waiting for it with equal parts anticipation and dread. At 8:45 this morning, my divorce was finalized and I am no longer married to Finau. 

As I reflect upon the last five years, while I can't say that I have absolutely no regrets, I can honestly say that the overwhelming emotion that I'm feeling today is gratitude. Although this is never the outcome one hopes for at the onset of a marriage, I'm grateful for the opportunity that I had to be Finau's wife. I'm grateful for the things that he taught me, the lessons I had to learn for myself while we were together, and most of all I'm grateful that because of him I was given the five greatest blessings of my life. 

So, although today is a day tinged with sadness and some regret, it is also a day of great gratitude. And as I move forward, I will strive to look at the past with compassion and to the future with hope.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Birthday Musings...

So, it’s my birthday.  Last night, I was lying in bed talking to an old high school friend, and I made the comment that I feel old.  But, when I talk to this particular friend of mine, I inevitably revert back to my late-1990s self and suddenly I’m 18 years old again, in all my blissfully ignorant innocence.  I love that.  I like remembering what it was like to be 18: Back when the most stressful part of my day was trying to decide which outfit looked cutest.  Back when my family life was simple, and I hadn’t yet lived through my parents’ divorce.  Back when having children was something I thought about with an eye to the semi-far distant future.  Back when I thought I was worldly, but I see now that I was incredibly innocent and surprisingly sheltered from the darker parts of life.  I’m not gonna lie…getting older is a weird business.  Sometimes I look in the mirror and am surprised to see an old lady in a fat suit staring back at me.  Is that really me?!  Yep…it’s you alright.  Own it, girl.  Seriously, people, I am 35 years old.  As in…half a decade away from 40.  What the hell, man?  When did I get so old, anyway? 

I think back to high school, and realize that, for me, high school was SEVENTEEN FREAKING YEARS AGO!!  Wow.  Just…wow.  I totally loved high school.  Most people talk about how college was so much fun, but if I had to pick a time in my life that was the most fun, I think I’d choose high school.  Sometimes I miss my high school self.  Everything in my world seemed so much more black and white then.  I’ve always considered myself kind of a shades of gray type of person, but the fact is, I really had no idea what the heck gray even looked like 17 years ago.  Although I think I’ve always had an open mind, when I was in high school, I hadn’t been exposed to any ideas that really stretched me or made me seriously explore what I had been taught.  Really, it’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve felt compelled to truly examine my beliefs and figure out for myself if I genuinely believe what I’d always been told was true.  Frankly, it’s been an incredibly painful progression, but I have learned so much about myself that I feel like the pain is a necessary part of a genuinely beautiful process.

So…now that I’m practically over the hill, what have I learned that’s worth mentioning? 

I’ve learned that humans are amazing creatures that can do some really hard things.  In particular, I've learned that I can do hard things.  Like, lots of hard things.  Like, lots of hard things over a fairly long period of time…on almost no sleep, with snot and occasionally poo on my clothes, and without completely losing my mind.  Lots of people look at all my runts and say, “Man, I don’t know how you do it!” and my reply is always, “It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have a choice!”  Hahaha.  No, but, for real, y’all…when the girlies were little, I learned that there was a surprising number of things I could do with one – or sometimes even two – human beings hanging from my boobs enjoying a nice snack or meal.  I learned that I can handle being the sole responsible adult in a house where 3 toddlers had a stomach bug that caused copious amounts of vomit and diarrhea, all while I was 6 months pregnant.  (My mom and Bryan timed their vacation perfectly, so as to avoid all the fun of Barf and Poo Fest 2012…by far the worst barf and poo experience of my life thus far.)  I learned how to comfort a 2 year old who missed his daddy and didn’t understand why he wouldn’t be back for a long, long time, and I learned to humbly and  *hopefully* graciously accept more help than I’ve ever been able to give or can ever hope to pay back.  I learned that its ok to need people, that I can’t do everything by myself, that interdependence is often superior to independence, and that my Heavenly Father and my Savior remember me even when I’m so focused on just surviving another day that I forget to appropriately remember them.  With God, all things are possible, and we can do hard things.

I think I’ve also learned a lot about relationships.  Mostly, I’ve learned what not to do, but I like to think I’ve learned a little about what works, too.  Many of you know by now that I filed for divorce.  It was one of the hardest, but most necessary things I’ve ever done, and I’ve learned so much as I’ve dealt with this struggle in my life. I’ve learned that you can’t love anyone enough to make them love you back the way you need to be loved if they don’t want, or don’t know how, to do it.  I’ve learned that loyalty isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be…that for loyalty to be binding and precious, it can’t be one-sided, and that one-sided loyalty is really just sad, not noble or honorable.  I’ve learned that I am capable of acting in ways that embarrass me and make me ashamed of myself when I am hurt and angry, and I think I’ve hopefully learned how to better control that part of me.  My dad likes to tell his players’ parents at the beginning of each season, “Everyone has a little crazy in them.  Your job is to keep your crazy under control this season because I don’t want to see it and it has no place here.”  I think I’ve learned to deal with my crazy, and I’ve learned how to recognize the things that make me crazy and take care of myself so that they don’t drive me to do stupid things that I’ll regret later.  I’ve learned that sometimes you have to put others’ needs before your own, you have to let go of things you can’t control, and I’ve learned that letting go is not the same as giving up.  That last one was an especially tough lesson that I think I am relearning every day.  Letting go is not the same as giving up.  When I think about letting go, I think about William, the main character in the movie A Knight’s Tale, who says, “It is not in me to withdraw.”  I often feel this way – like no matter what, if I’ve made a commitment, I cannot withdraw.  Although I think I’ve learned a lot about letting go, I feel like my initial thought is always that it is more honorable to go down with a sinking ship than to take a step back and say, “Yeah…no, this really isn’t going to work for me.  Let’s figure something else out, or I’m going to have to let this go because the path we’re on is not acceptable to me.”  Really, my kids are the ones who forced me to learn this lesson.  I had no choice but to learn it, because I quickly realized that these little monkeys are stuck to me like glue, so if I go down with the ship, they’re coming along for the ride, and THAT was not acceptable to me.  So, in all of my relationships, I’ve learned that it’s important to remember that you have to let go of the things you can’t control, and that letting go is not the same as giving up.

Recently, I was somewhat surprised to learn that I am something of a feminist.  Not the “burn your bra” and “never shave your armpits or legs again” kind of feminist, (these ideas don’t bother me, they’re just definitely not for me), but more of a, “Hm, this is how I’ve always been, and now I realize that maybe feminism is a term that fits my belief system” kind of feminist.  For a long time, I resisted the feminist label.  Then one day, I remember reading something derogatory that was written about feminists, and thinking to myself, “Hey!  They’re talking about us!”  Then, I immediately thought, “US?!  Wait…am I a FEMINIST?! What the freaking hell?!”  So, yeah…SURPRISE.  It sure surprised the heck out of me, I’ll tell you that much.  Really, like I said, I think it just put a label on something that I’ve been all along.  I’ve always had a strong sense of “fairness” and I think feminism stems from the part of me that wants for things to be fair.  A wise teacher once told me, “Fair doesn’t mean that everyone gets exactly the same thing.  It means that everyone gets exactly what he/she needs in order to be successful.”  I love that, and when I think about feminism, that’s what feels true to me.  We don’t all need exactly the same thing, but we all deserve to get exactly what we need to be successful.  Anyway, along those lines, I’ve learned that we all need different things, and I have happily discovered that I have a love of people that runs much deeper than I originally thought myself capable.  Frankly, I’ve always kind of characterized myself as a people-hater.  Ok, maybe that’s a little extreme, but for as long as I can remember, upon meeting new people, my initial reaction was always to dislike them until they showed me a reason why they were likable.  Weird, right?  But, I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to try to love people for who they are, as opposed to who I want them to be.  Again with the letting go…it’s so much easier to love people for who they are when you learn to let go of the idea that you have any control over who they decide to be.  My oldest son teaches me this every day.  We are so similar in many ways, and so different in others, and it is a huge learning experience for me to learn to let go of the things I can’t control when it comes to him.  Sometimes I have to take a deep breath and say to myself, “It’s ok if he wants to wear the same 3 shirts his Uncle Westlee got him on rotation every. single. day. for the rest of his life.  And it’s ok that he isn’t super competitive and isn’t particularly interested in trying new things.  Let it go, Kalani.  He’s happy…be happy for him.”  Admittedly, sometimes I totally lose it and yell at him to get back upstairs and change his shirt, or I will spank him like I spank the other kids when they don’t listen, and don’t think that 9 years old is too old to be spanked, because it’s not.  Or, sometimes I sign him up for things he’s already said he doesn’t want to do because I’m just SURE that I know better, and that once he gets into it, he’s going to LOVE it.  Sometimes it works out for me, but usually it doesn’t, and in those instances I have to just chalk it up to another learning opportunity, another reason why I have to learn to let go, and one more reason to remember that different people need different things to feel successful, and that’s ok.

So...there you have it.  Thirty-five years worth of wisdom boiled down to a single blog post.  Thus spake Kalani, aka The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ode to My Naughty Runts

So...I decided to take my parenting frustrations out on my new ukulele, and wrote a song about my runts to the tune of Jingle Bells.  It's nothing spectacular, but it made me giggle, so I thought I'd share. Please keep in mind that I've only been playing the uke for a week, and anyone who has played guitar with me can attest to the fact that I super suck at strumming. Also, I have to go back and fix a few of the captions on the bottom, but I'll have to do that later because that's gonna take time I don't have today.  So...all things considered, this isn't pro-quality or anything, but it's about as good as it's gonna get. Enjoy!  :)


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Jammin' with Pod

So, I posted a little clip of this from my Instagram account yesterday, but just for fun I am posting the whole song here on my blog. I love my dad and wish he and my brothers and sister lived closer to me so that we could sing together more often. I learned to love music from my parents, and I hope to pass that love on to my own children. Today Ilaiasi has his final audition for the Spring ISD honor choir, so I think it's fitting that my dad was able to come and sing with is last night. Love you Pod!  :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Stupid parents...

So, I've been stewing on this for a few days, and I've just got to say something because it's eating at me.

Two things have happened recently to put Spring ISD in the spotlight in a very negative way.  The first unfortunate incident concerned one of Ilaiasi's favorite teachers of all-time, who was arrested on multiple counts involving child pornography.  It was a complete shock, and was truly a heartbreakingly awful situation for all involved.  Then, as we struggled to recover from the shock of this event, another horrific crime rocked our community when a stabbing at Spring High School left one student dead and four more injured. 

So, in this backdrop of turmoil and heartache, I have seen lots of different things pop up on my Facebook news feed, ranging from intense sorrow to gripping fear to passionate anger that borders on hate.  I am a firm believer in the idea that feelings are a normal part of the human experience and that no one should be made to feel ashamed of their feelings, but I also believe that we do not have the right to act in any manner we choose, simply because of those feelings.  I decided not to respond to many of the hateful and hurtful comments I saw on Facebook at the time because I acknowledge that many of the people writing them were justifiably scared about the events that transpired, and were likely not thinking as clearly as they might under normal circumstances.  However, now that a few days have passed and people are (hopefully) a little calmer and more rational, I have a few thoughts I'd like to put out there.

More than once, I saw comments that went something along these lines:

  • "What is this world coming to?  The parents of that murderer should be put in jail, too.  These things happen because of lazy parenting!"
  • "...Stupid parents that can't monitor their damn kids!"
  • "I was thinking the same thing about the stupid parents..."

And on and on and on it went in my news feed and in the comments of those posts afterwards.  Like I said, I didn't comment on the posts at the time, because I know that sometimes in stressful situations people just need to vent.  However, it's been eating at me all week, so I feel like I need to say something about it.  This will probably make me even less popular than I am, and unfortunately I have never been the popular kid in my family -- my brothers and sister have always seemed to find their niche in the "popular crowd" no matter what the situation, but, alas, that is not so much my lot in life.  But, I suppose that's a story for another time.  Anyway...here we go:

As a parent, a teacher, and, frankly, just as a human being, I found the assumption that the parents of the child who did the stabbing were lazy, remiss, and stupid to be incredibly offensive.  And infuriating on multiple levels.

Where do I even begin to approach this issue?  I guess I'll start with myself.  I know I'm biased, but, seriously, I have the world's most amazing parents.  My mom is basically a saint and is good at anything she attempts.  No lie.  It's kind of ridiculous.  Need a wedding cake?  No problem...give my mom a minute and she'll whip one right up for you.  Oh, you need a prom dress?  Well, it just so happens that my mom is an expert seamstress as well.  She also cuts hair, composes and arranges music, has unending patience, is calm and rational in emergency situations...the list never ends. 

And, growing up, I had the dad that everyone else wanted.  He was the guy that came to eat lunch with me and bought all of my friends ice cream.  He made time for me and played sports with me and talked to me like I was a competent, capable person.  Daily, I would turn away kids from the neighborhood who knocked on our door -- not for me -- but to see if my DAD could come out to play.  (Yes, I was a selfish snot and turned them away.  He's my dad.  MINE!!  Sorry I'm not sorry.)

So, obviously, we have now established that I have the most amazing parents on earth.  But, guess what?  Even with such awesome parents, I made big mistakes.  HUGE.  Ridiculously huge ones that impacted not just me, but other people as well.  Just to put it out there for you so that you understand where I'm coming from on this, let me just say that my oldest son, Ilaiasi, was born out of wedlock while his dad was serving a 6 year jail term (yes, I was pregnant before he went to jail, so this scenario is most definitely possible).  It made for an incredibly rough start to Ilaiasi's life, my parents had to step in and help me in ways that I'm sure they never anticipated they'd have to help any of their children, and I really struggled personally as a result of my actions.  That said, I will never, EVER be sorry for that choice I made, as it brought me one of the five most important things in my whole life, but it definitely went against absolutely everything I was ever taught.  Is that a reflection on my parents' poor skills?  Does it make them stupid or lazy or unable to monitor their children?  I'm going to say no, it does not.  So, there's my first issue with that train of thought.

I also take issue with this argument, not just from the perspective of a child, but from the perspective of a parent.  Let's face it...parenting these days is really hard work.  I know that every generation says this of the one that comes after, but, truly, I NEVER had to deal with so many of the problems that kids these days face at an incredibly young age.  It's really, really scary.  As a parent, I think I can honestly say that I am doing the very best I can.  Many of you know that after about four years of staying out of trouble here in Texas, and being married, and having four more children, Finau went back to prison at the beginning of this year, and will be there for several years to come.  So, basically, I am doing this whole parenting thing by myself.  If you were to look at my kids on paper, not knowing anything about our personalities, values, beliefs, etc., I wonder what you would see?  I'll tell you: you'd see kids who are growing up in a single parent home, with one parent in prison and the other working to try to support a large family on a tiny income; you'd see kids who are receiving free lunch at school, going to daycare, being driven around in a car that doesn't even fit their entire family.  Basically, on paper, my kids are trouble waiting to happen. 

I'm sure you understand where I'm going with this, but in case you don't, let me just say that all of these strikes against my kids say nothing about who they are.  I think most of you who have had the opportunity to interact with my children would say that they are normal, well-adjusted little people who are full of life and fun and mischief and happiness.  Why is this, I wonder?  I think it's because I was incredibly lucky, so THEY have been incredibly lucky.  My kids are lucky that their mom has an extraordinarily loving and supportive family who took them in and is helping to care for them since she is a single parent.  My kids are lucky that before our struggles, their mom was blessed with parents who stressed the importance of education, and pushed her to go to college and get a degree so that, should the need arise, she would be able to provide for her family.  My kids are SO lucky that their mom has an exceptional support network that includes family, friends, church programs, and, now, government assistance.  Without any one of these things, our story would be very different from what it is today.

So, what's my point?  My point is this: even the best of parents need help.  And even the worst of parents are most likely doing the very best they know how to do.  When kids do stupid, horrible things, yes, maybe their parents played a role in the ultimate resulting poor decision, but, with many of these kids (and I've seen a LOT of struggling kids as both a coach and teacher), I feel like we as a society are failing their parents, and then blaming them for the actions of their children. 

I was lucky.  I was taught how to be a parent by loving, nurturing, caring parents.  I learned what to value from moral people who were full of love and integrity.  But, what of the many, many people who were not so fortunate as to have been born into such a home?  Whose responsibility is it to teach them how to be good parents?  And, should they fall on hard times like I did, who should they turn to for support if they don't have a family as loving as mine?  Or awesome friends...or a great church family to rely on.  You get the idea.

Truthfully, I don't have the answer to those questions.  They are hard questions with no immediate answers, and I don't presume to know how to fix this societal problem today.  But, with all the things I don't know, there are a few things I do know.  I know that blaming parents -- whether that blame is warranted or not -- is an exercise in futility.  I know that the world needs less judgment and more compassion.  I know that there are lots of parents out there who are doing the best they can and are still failing miserably, and that having others point out their shortcomings will not better the situation in any way.  I know that even the best parents can have wayward children.  For my LDS readers, who remembers Lehi and Sariah?  Last I checked, they had some sons named Laman and Lemuel whose actions most certainly did not reflect the values and teachings of their parents.  I don't know...I guess this big rant is just to say that maybe we should give each other a break.  I would imagine the parents of the attacker are grieving just as much as the parents of the victims.  I can't even fathom what it would feel like to be them.  Hopefully I'll never have to know how they feel.  To those who were critical, may you never have children who embarrass you, who go against your teachings, or who fail to live up to your standards.  But, if you do, I hope that others are kinder in their judgments and comments than what I witnessed this week in the aftermath of the sad events at Spring High.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So...this sucks...

I'm starting this post with some pictures of my kiddos.  I love these funny little people.  They are my favorite people in the world...even on days when I want to dropkick them all out the window.

So, here they are...my reasons for living.  I just adore my 5 sweet babies.

And now...a new blog post.

Well, if you're my Facebook friend, you've probably seen my posts about my knees.  For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, I'll do a quick recap and bring you up to speed. 

Basically, my knees have been bugging me off and on for a long time.  With the multiple pregnancies/bedrest/weight gain of the past three years, I kind of thought (hoped) that my knee problems were due to hormones/inactivity/stress of additional weight, and thought (hoped) the pain would go away once the babies were born and I could be active again.  However, Sofia is now almost 10 months old, and as I've tried to be more active, I've noticed that the more I try to get back into shape, the harder it is, and the more my knees hurt just doing basic everyday kinds of tasks.  I can't kneel on the bathroom floor when I give my babies baths, or get up and down to play with them easily.  Walking is usually ok, but trying to do anything that requires me to twist or turn quickly sends these horrid shooting pains from my knees down my legs.  I tried exercise classes, but quickly realized that "pushing through the pain" only brought more pain, and it made me FINALLY give in and go to the doctor.

So, a couple of weeks ago I went to see an orthopedist.  Upon arrival, they took some x-rays of my knees, then sent me to my little room to wait for the results.  While I waited, one of the doctor's assistants came in and chatted with me, asked about what was going on, and basically told me that since I couldn't recall an exact moment of injury, I should probably just do the whole "RICE" (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment and hope for the best, and if that didn't work, I should come in and see them in a couple of months. 

I almost cried.  I told him that I had been around high level competitive athletics my entire life, that I knew the difference between being "hurt" and being "injured", and that this was not something I could just "RICE" away, or I wouldn't be sitting there talking to him.  I think he was still kind of skeptical (and probably thought I was a raving lunatic since I was seriously on the brink of tears), so he said he'd let the doctor make any decisions, but that he didn't really see a need to do any further testing until after I tried the RICE business.

So, I sat there trying to stay composed and wondering what the heck I could possibly say to get them to take me seriously, and in came the doctor.  Thank goodness for him...he was AWESOME.  He listened -- like, REALLY listened -- to what I had to say, and then he went to check on the results of my x-rays.  When he came back, he told me that I had "significant degenerative arthritis inconsistent with my age" and that this was likely causing meniscal tears.  Which, apparently, means that my knees are super old compared to how much my body should have aged.  So, yeah...there ya go.  Fun stuff.

Anywhooo...I was given some cortisone injections and a prescription to go for rehab for a few weeks.  And, that, my friends, brings us to today, and the reason for the title of this post, "So...this sucks..."

Let me start by putting it out there that today I'm feeling super sad and sorry for myself.  This might be a bummer of a post, so if you're prone to fits of depression, maybe stop reading here.  I'll try to throw a joke or something in at the end to lighten the mood, but I'm just saying...I'm feeling rather melancholy, so who knows what's going to come out.  But, I digress. 

I went to rehab today and got a chance to chat with the physical therapist for a bit.  While he was very encouraging and kind, what he had to say really brought home the serious and permanent nature of my condition.  "Condition."  He emphasized that word.  He particularly wanted me to understand that unlike an injury, which can often be rehabbed until it heals and you can resume similar activities to what you did before you were injured, the "condition" of arthritis cannot be healed, but, rather, must be managed.  It's a seemingly small difference that has monumental consequences.  In a nutshell, he told me outright that my volleyball playing days are over.  Losing weight, strengthening my knee, stretching...all of these things will likely delay the speed with which my knees degenerate, and may improve the symptoms temporarily, but this pain is my new lifelong buddy, and "pushing through" the pain will not fix the problem this time.  Rather, it will just cause additional pain.  Bummer.

As I mulled over what this prognosis meant for me, something that kept popping up in my mind was the millions of little memories I have of playing volleyball and being active with my dad.  From the time I was tiny, my dad took me with him to his volleyball games.  We would pepper on the sidelines, race each other in the hallways at church where we played into the wee hours of the morning, he showed me how to jump, and taught me by example how to hit and block and not be afraid of hitting the floor. 

And, in an instant today, I realized that my girls will never have these memories with me.  It took my breath away, and, admittedly, I cried.  Ok, I bawled like a little baby in my car as I drove home from rehab.  The pain in my knees is real and it really hurts, and I'm sad that I'll most likely never be able to do lots of the things I love anymore. But as sad as that seems, and as physically painful as this is, that pain is nothing compared to the realization of how much I am actually losing by not being able to play with my kids.  I'm heartbroken.

So, I guess I don't really know what the purpose of this post is, other than maybe to vent and get this out because up to this point it has been sitting, heavy and sour, in the pit of my stomach.  Seriously, guys, I'm so, SO sad.  What do I do?  I know that I can't dwell on this or I'll just be bitter and angry about it.  I've been really working on putting my trust in God and trying not to force things to happen how I want them to, and instead focusing on stepping back and letting things unfold the way that my Heavenly Father wants them to, but, seriously, I'm kinda pissed.  Throughout all of the rough times I've experienced in the past several years, I can honestly say that I've never thought "why me?"  Admittedly, sometimes I've thought, "why the hell is this taking so long to resolve when I'm doing everything I know how to do to make things better for myself and my kids?" or "what more can I do to speed this trial along so that I can get through it and be grateful for it?"  But, I never questioned why I had to go through the things I've been through...until today.  WHY ME?  WHY CAN'T I PLAY WITH MY KIDS?  I don't even care about not being able to do things for my own pleasure anymore, but I just can't wrap my head around the idea that I won't be able to do the things with my babies that I loved to do with my parents.  It just seems so unfair -- to me AND to them. 

So...this sucks...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


So, after almost a year on hiatus, I randomly got an Etsy sale yesterday.  Shocking and exciting since I didn't even realize I still had stuff listed for sale.  I vaguely remember relisting some pieces at some point just before or after Christmas, but since I haven't been actively keeping up with it, I totally forgot I even had items to sell.  Anyway, the Etsy sale made me think about my little blog, so here I am once again. 

This past year has been a doozy.  Lots of hard things have happened in my life, but with those difficulties I have learned and grown so much.  I'm not going to pretend that I'm completely grateful for all of these hard times, but I do have hope that at some point in the future I will be, and at this juncture I am already learning to be grateful for the experiences that have forced me to grow and think and expand my understanding in ways I never would have otherwise. 

You may or may not know that Finau is back in jail and will probably be there for a while.  He says it looks like no more than 3 1/2 years...give or take a few months.  This means I'm flying solo trying to provide for our five kids on my own without any support from their dad.  So, that's been hard.  The 4 babies are still so tiny and get sick so easily that putting them in daycare and working outside of the home is not presently a realistic option for me, so I've had the extremely humbling experience of moving back into my mom's home, applying for and receiving government assistance, and also getting some help from my church.  To say it's been rough feels like the understatement of the century.  It's extremely challenging to go from being self-supporting and really kind of thriving and excelling in your professional life, to being completely dependent on the kindness of family, friends, and the government to help you care for your family.  I see my friends post random angry and abrasive memes or comments on Facebook about "freeloaders" and people who live off of the government, and I cringe inside and think to myself, "they're talking about me and they don't even know it."  Watching my mom and Bryan (and other family members, friends, acquaintances...the list is really so vast and help has come from so many unexpected people and places that I couldn't even begin to name everyone) throw thousands of dollars my way to bail me out of car payments so that I'll have something to drive my little troop around in, buy diapers for my kids, enroll Ilaiasi in sports programs...I'm overwhelmed with gratitude, but it's so hard and sad and depressing for me to feel like I am unable to provide for my little family.  I don't really want to focus on the sadness, though, because, while real and important to my life, it is most certainly not the only, or even the most pervasive, feeling I've experienced throughout this difficult period.

I feel like I've grown more in the last six months than I had in most of the rest of my life combined.  I've had to ask some really hard questions and accept some even harder answers.  I've been working through some things that I'd really rather not have dealt with, but I'm still alive, I'm still as sane as I've ever been (which, if you've ever been to my house while I'm trying to get four babies to go to sleep at night, you know is actually a pretty impressive accomplishment!), and I'm moving forward.  It's been a struggle to get to the point of being ready to move forward, and sometimes I wish I didn't have to go through all of the things I've been through in order to get to this point, but by trudging through this messy part of my life, I feel like I've become a stronger, healthier, happier person than I would have otherwise been.  And this experience has given me a new and greater appreciation for bravery and for courageous people.

As I've assessed my relationships, I've come to realize how many truly brave and courageous people I know.  I'm so impressed with people who are unafraid and unashamed to be themselves and to show their authentic self to the world.  Friends and family, old acquaintances and newfound bosom buddies...so many amazing people in my life have shown me through their example what it means to be brave and strong and honest, even in the face of rejection or disproval or the unknown.  The deeper I've looked into myself, the more I realized how scared I've been and how much I had closed myself off to the world.  My life was so chaotic that I didn't want to let anyone in, didn't really even want to let my guard down enough to let MYSELF see what a mess I was in, so I hid behind my babies and made excuses for why I couldn't interact with others (ok, being real here, much of it was not an excuse...it's hard and time consuming work taking care of 4 kids that are 2 or younger.  Just sayin.)  But, I've slowly started doing things that scare me again.  I've started, little by little, putting myself out there and I've risked letting people in again.  And, guess what?  Nothing horrible has happened because of it.  In fact, for the first time since before Ovaka was born, I have friends again...the kind that you actually go out and do stuff with and talk to just because you want to chat.  I don't feel alone anymore.  Even when I'm the only one I know going through the things I'm going through, and even when I know my opinions and ideas set me apart from the rest of the group, I no longer feel like I'm trying to survive this life alone.  And, honestly, in my mind I knew I was never alone.  There were always people willing to help, willing to listen, willing to lighten the load if I would let them.  But, for whatever reason, I didn't feel like I could unload any of what I was carrying without my entire life crashing down around me.  Then one day, it all came crashing down anyway, and I realized that "this, too, shall pass" and that really I never was in control to begin with, so I needed to let go and let God do his thing.  Once I FINALLY got this concept through my thick skull, I started seeing all of the quiet heroes in my life.  So many of you are bravely facing your own giants and are doing so with so much grace and class and serenity.  Others of you impress me with the brutally honest way that you go about living your life in spite of everything you struggle with -- and I appreciate the way that you let others into your struggles and allow me to watch you make sense of your own struggles so that I can emulate you in trying to make sense of mine.  So, thank you to all the unsung heroes in my life who have shown me how to be brave again.  Thank you to those of you who have courageously let your voice be heard, even when you knew your opinions and ideas would be unpopular.  Thank you to my friends and family who have shown me how to soldier on in the face of adversity.  Your example has not gone unnoticed, and you have been a light to me during a very dark time.

My little post of gratitude wouldn't be complete without acknowledging how grateful I am for my children.  These cute little monsters have kept me going when all I really wanted to do was go lay in bed and never get out.  I am so, so, SO grateful for the way they save my life every day by giving me something wonderful and hilarious and beautiful to live for.  They fill my life with so much LIVING, and I just adore them.  I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I've had to be their mom.