Monday, June 1, 2015

Goodbye, MANA Magazine

This letter was published to the final digital issue of MANA Magazine, the June/July 2015 issue:

As I write this, I feel as if I’m eulogizing a close friend. MANA was, after all, my life for nearly two years.

I’d like to say MANA will always be among the best jobs of my life, but the reality is that MANA was more a calling than a job.

Beyond a calling, MANA was a promise. Hawaiians and our allies have worked years to bring Hawaiians to media’s frontline. MANA was that culmination for me. We have too often been marginalized and lambasted by the media, and worse, here in our island home. MANA was a chance to do it right. We might make mistakes, but for the first time in a long time, we – Hawaiians – would be putting our own stories, people, ‘āina, and culture onto the written page.  

MANA made me excited to read magazines again. It inspired me as a writer and editor. Above it all, it made me proud.

I’m not sure where we’ll all go from here. Our MANA ‘ohana will go our separate ways, whether we were readers, writers, editors, or artists. One thing we’ll always have is the knowledge that we were part of something so much bigger than us.

I have to believe, in the end, that owners John Aeto and Duane Kurisu didn’t name their magazine MANA so that it would fade into a distant memory once we laid the final issue to rest. MANA must live on – just in different forms.

I ask you all to think of what MANA meant to you. Was it a sense of pride? Did it quench your thirst for knowledge about Hawaiians and our community? Did it inspire you to know the people in your community? Were you moved to action? That sense. That mana. Take it with you and honor it in your own life.

You might have been a reader, writer, photographer, illustrator, editor, but you took part in that something bigger. We can be sad to see MANA go, of course. But let’s find ways to move that MANA into new forms. Go out and take pictures of your one hānau. Help your local farmer. Take a hike along a historic ‘alaloa – walk where your ancestors did. Write a story. Call your state representative. Get involved. Let MANA continue to be a part of your everyday.

And if you’re so moved, step out for Hawaiian journalism too. Support Hawaiian journalists – we’re few and far between. Hold the news media accountable. We should not only make headlines when we’re bad news. No newsroom should exist without Hawaiians in it (they exist here in Hawai‘i where Hawaiians are almost a quarter of the population). We should not be a niche market. We should be in the editor chairs, calling the shots. We should be in the field writing and photographing, sharing our stories. We as a lāhui should be telling the news media that we matter and we want to see stories that matter to us.  

MANA was never just a magazine. It was a movement. Let its legacy move you, move all of us, move our lāhui, move our Hawai‘i.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stuck in Stuck

There is something to be said about being stuck - be it physically, figuratively, metaphorically, spiritually, or some other creative caption.

Don't believe me? We even have different names for it: stuck in rut, stuck between a rock and hard place, stuck in the middle, stuck on you. Okay so that last doesn’t quite have the effect as the others, but you get the point. And when we say we’re stuck, almost every time, it’s not a good thing.

Depending on the composition of the sentence, the Hawaiian word for stuck – pa‘a – doesn’t just mean stuck. It can also mean firm, solid, tight, and secure.

So, as I sat here thinking of what to write my next blog post about – stuck in a writer’s block and frustrated – I thought of how one word can mean so many things in Hawaiian. I thought about how maybe I, too, should think about stuck in a different light. Stuck doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

A block is one of the worst things a writer can face. It can paralyze you staring down that fast-approaching deadline. When you’re on a stage about to perform and you blank, a different form of stuck but a similar block, it’s similarly paralyzing. In these kinds of moments, fear is often the first feeling to rise up.

Fear isn’t always a bad thing. That fear can push you to write through a block. It can make you move onto the next word in a song. But what happens when fear of staying stuck can be paralyzing? One thing that’s helped me for a long time is to find a good mantra and accept the stuck.

Finding a Mantra
You need to find a mantra that works for you in that particular situation. Sometimes it’s the same as in other situations. Other times, it’s not. I suggest you compile a set of them to pull out of your tool belt at the right moment. Here are some of my favorite stuck-in-a-rut mantras:
  • You’re okay.
  • You don’t build the courage to do something; you do something to build the courage to do it again.
  • You’re a good person.
You might think that saying these kinds of mantras sounds silly. Believe me, they kind of do. But their power can far outweigh the silliness of it all. In fact, studies have shown that optimism can affect your physical and psychological health.

It’s not just about having a good attitude all the time though. It’s about being able to handle challenges. When you can approach a challenge with optimism, you have a higher likelihood, not just of success, but of the ability to thrive.

Find something that works for you, though. Using others as guides can be a start. I’ve found that my mantras are whatever they need to be at the time. Just remember to keep it positive.

What to Do Once You Have a Mantra
There a couple routes you can take depending on what kind of stuck you are. If this is a single occurrence, such as writer’s block for this blog, try closing your eyes, taking deep breaths, and repeating the mantra either out loud or in your head. Repeat it at least three times.

However, if you’re getting a broader feeling of being stuck, say in life in general, you might want to commit to a daily routine. When my husband and/or I are having a rough spell in work or personal life, it’s not uncommon for us to take 5 minutes in the morning doing different mantras or exercises. It can feel really silly or awkward. But, trust me the only logical outcome to putting out positivity is to feel positively. If you’re feeling social pressure, just lock yourself in the bathroom, close your eyes, and run through the mantras in your head.

Beyond Mantras
I’m a strong believer in mantras. I’m an even stronger believer that positivity breeds positivity. I’m also a strong believer that tough things and hard times are a part of life. A mantra might get you through a difficult moment, but it might not get you immediately out of the rut if the rut is a poorly fitted job or a toxic relationship.

In these circumstances, I try my best to go back to that Hawaiian word: pa‘a. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I may not be meant to get unstuck right away. I may be meant to take the time to be firm and to hold tight. And, it might surprise you that perhaps life is giving you this challenge because you are pa‘a. Just because you’re stuck doesn’t mean you’re any less secure or firm in yourself. Let’s not forget Queen Lili‘u’s motto was ‘onipa‘a – steadfast and resolute.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

5 Steps: How To NOT Stay Mad at Your Partner

The other night I got really frustrated with my husband. I came home early so I could get dinner ready, pick up the house, and maybe get a little exercise for myself. I was on track to have it all ready to go by 7p, enough time for him to get home for work and do a little exercise himself. 

Then I texted him, "What time do you think you'll be home from work?" 

He responded, "It's looking like 7. I've got a sh*t load of work to do." 

I didn't respond because what I wanted to say was, "THANKS FOR TELLING ME NOW YOU'D BE COMING HOME LATE AND NOT TWO HOURS PREVIOUSLY!" And yes, I wanted to say it in all caps. Eventually I mustered up a "Oh :(" and then later asked politely for him to let me know when he would be home so I could try to have dinner ready but that I couldn't promise I'd wait to eat with him. How passive aggressive of me, I know. 

He did leave the office at 7p. Dinner didn't get served until 8p. And by the time we sat down to dinner, we carried on a jovial conversation. It was a miraculous beast turned handsome prince episode, and I had been the beast just an hour and a half previously.

Every couple goes through conflict. I, personally, think it's natural given how close two people are when they share such close physical and emotional spaces. The indicator of healthy though is how you deal with that conflict. There is no right answer or blanket rule for conflict. It's different for different people, different couples, and different situations. The toughest conflicts to deal with in my book are those that are a little more than an annoyance and less than a full blown fight because the appropriate response can vary so significantly depending on a number of things and people. 

We all know to take a deep breath, but what do we do after that? These are 5 tips to NOT stay mad at your partner. 

1. Articulate why you're upset in one sentence

Think about the last time you got really annoyed or frustrated with your partner. There were probably a million different thoughts running through your head. You might have even talked yourself and your partner in circles trying to get to the root of the problem.

Emotions in their rawest forms are intangible. They're difficult to characterize or even trace at times.So, I've come to find that when I can narrow down where my rage is coming from, it makes it better for me and my partner.

Next time you're frustrated, like really frustrated, try and articulate what you're feeling and why in one sentence. It's a lot harder than you might think. You might think you're angry only to realize you're disappointed. You might think it's about your partner not giving you a head's up on plans changing only to realize it's because you don't feel like your time is being respected.

When you can get it down to one sentence, you will have harnessed that raw emotion and made it easier to communicate what you're feeling to your partner.

2. Do something for yourself

I don't mean go on a shopping spree and max out your credit cards. But do something that will make you feel better about yourself. That other night when I was upset, I got on my bike (I have my bike set up on a trainer in my house), turned on some dance tunes, and spun it out. When my husband came home, I insisted I get another 10 minutes to complete the time I had allotted for myself.

Doing something for yourself can help recenter you. It can give a sense of pride and boost confidence in yourself broadly and also in the specific feelings you've articulated (see above). It might also just get your mind off of the subject. That's okay, too, and it might even give you some much needed perspective.

3. Think of 3 things your partner does right

If you thought articulating your feelings and why you're feeling them was tough, this one might top it. When we're wrapped up in anger or frustration, it's easy to focus on the negative. Slate even worte about a study that talks about this phenomenon of holding onto memories of bad behavior, with respect to cyclists.

My husband was late coming home from work. He's usually good about updating me, but in that moment, all I could think of was all the times he hadn't.

So try this exercise when you're fuming mad: think of three things that your partner does right. I know it seems totally off track, but I promise it helps. In those moments of hurt I felt, I willed myself to come up with these. First, my husband spends extra time on the road every morning just to take me to work. Second, my husband does the dishes after I cook. Third, my husband texts me to tell me he loves me randomly.

What does this have to do with my anger? It doesn't have much to do with my anger at all. It does have a lot to do with the perspective I need to take. My husband is not someone who habitually disrespects my time. In fact, this misstep was a temporary lapse in judgment not the standard. And, we're all allowed mistakes, right? It doesn't mean I stop being frustrated altogether, but it does mean I know this a tiny pebble in my shoe, not the completely wrong-sized shoe.

Bonus: when it's all said and done, I have some pieces of gratitude that are easy to hand back to my husband.

4. Give your partner a chance

We've probably all been there. You know that feeling you get when you're really upset at your partner and you just want to jump down his or her throat explaining how you feel and why. Yeah, there. Do your very best not to go there.

Give your partner a chance to apologize, explain, or whatever. At the same time, don't demand an apology from your partner. Eventually the issue will come out, but I've found conflicts tend to resolve faster when I take a deep breath and let some silence come over the situation. Your partner might just surprise you. Your partner might not, but at least you'll have a second to clear your thoughts before discussing further.

My husband surprised me during this episode. He didn't say sorry right away, but he did say, "Thank you for being so accommodating." That mahalo really went a long way.

5. Say "I love you"

This final step is kind of like number three. When you're upset, and especially if you skip number three, all you can think about is your feelings of anger or frustration. You can't think about the big picture of your relationship. You definitely aren't thinking about how your actions and inaction will reverberate in the future. So, if your partner says he or she loves you during conflict, take the high road and reciprocate.

The reality is in a conflict like this (one that is not super huge), you'll probably end up saying you love your partner shortly after everything is resolved. So, why wait?

In fact, saying I love you to your partner even when there is smoke coming out of your ears can signal that you see the bigger picture - that this is, again, a little pebble in the perfect-fitting shoe. It can be cumbersome to remove said pebble, but at the end of the day, it's the one you want to wear to the ball. And really, aren't the best kinds of relationships, even with the occasional hiccups, worth taking to the ball?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I'm Not Sorry About This Post

I'd like to propose something rather controversial. I'd like to propose a temporary moratorium on the word sorry. You heard it, let's try NOT using sorry for a little while.

It's not that I want everyone to be mean to each other and fail to recognize their mistakes. I just think the word has been used in so many ways where we're not actually sorry. The word's true meaning and effect seems to be lost. We've taken it so far that there's even a phrase that mocks its insincerity: #sorrynotsorry.

Here's a real life example: a few months back I was riding my bike through Waikiki. I was in the bike lane, obeying all traffic rules, and hauling butt to make the green light. Then a pedestrian suddenly steps into the crosswalk without any concern for the speeding cyclist coming at her. "WHOA!" I yelled as I slammed on the brakes. She looked surprised and said, "sorry" with not more than a glance my direction as she continued across the street slowly. I ended up stuck at the intersection. She finally turned back after I said, "C'mon, man," upset for missing the light and adrenaline pumping from the near collision. She barked at me with the sourest of faces, "I said I was sorry!" Wait a minute. Seriously? That's the worst apology ever, lady.

Sorry can still present problems in less contentious settings. It seems that sometimes we also use sorry as a placeholder for social norms.

I'm pathologically late getting ready. I know this about myself so much so that I often tell myself I have to leave 20 minutes before I actually do so that I have a built-in time buffer. And yet, I still come running down the stairs every morning saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Perhaps I say it out of habit. Perhaps I say it as a socially acceptable way of acknowledging that I probably shouldn't have played around on my phone when I should've been choosing my outfit. In either case, it doesn't seem all that genuine.

This social norm of saying sorry though, I think, spreads to situations where we apologize for things we aren't actually sorry for. And that's really where the sincerity of the word gets lost.

Take this exchange for example:

     Me: I'm sorry.
     Husband: Why are you sorry?
     Me: I'm just sorry because I feel bad.

Let's just stop right there. I apologized for feeling bad? That's pretty ridiculous. My husband can't actually know from this exchange why I feel bad. I'm not acknowledging anything other than my own feelings of guilt, which don't seem to do anything for my husband. And, the apology is all about me rather than him. It's crazy. And yet, this has happened on more than one occasion. I'd bet you've been on both ends of this exchange at some point in your life.

It's cases like this last one that I think truly exemplify how the word sorry is used with such disregard for its integrity. We have let the true meaning of the word - "feeling distress, especially through sympathy with someone else's misfortune" - get caught up in social norms and laziness. If I had taken a moment to think about why I was apologizing perhaps I might express my guilty feelings and ask my husband how he felt. I might say I was sorry for the ways in which my actions affected him. That would do the word sorry some justice.

Never fear, there are many words you can substitute for sorry. A quick look at the thesaurus suggests regretful, remorseful, repentant, apologetic, ashamed. You might be thinking that these seem awkward in everyday settings. "I regret stepping on your foot. It was an accident." But maybe if we had to think about why we feel regret, we would address the person we're apologizing to in a way that best sympathizes with her instead of assuaging our guilt.

How about we try it, just for a little while? Or at least, the next time you say you're sorry, maybe take a moment to consider the other person's feelings and what will make him or her feel better about the misfortune suffered. It might be harder than you think to break the habit, but I don't think you'll be sorry you tried.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why This Pedestrian Loves the Cycle Track

King Street Cycle Track crossing Ke‘eaumoku.
Photo credit: Hawaii Bicycling League (hbl.org)
The King Street cycle track opened with a lot of moans and groans late 2014. Many people, namely drivers, were confused by the two-way protected bike lane. I was super excited. Super excited. As a former commuter bicyclist in Tucson, the new lane provided hope that Honolulu would finally get the cycling infrastructure it deserved as an overcrowded city.

I knew the cycle track would be exciting as a cyclist. I never knew I'd appreciate it so much as a pedestrian.

Just so you know, I am a pedestrian. Sure, we all are at some point of life, even if it's just to walk to our cars. But, me, I'm like a permanent pedestrian. Long story short (ask me in person sometime and I'll tell you; it's really not at all exciting), I don't drive places, I walk, run, bicycle or get a ride from someone else there.

As a perma-pedestrian, I have come to observe some pretty terrible driving manners. I've had cars edging IN to driveways as if I was somehow a burden walking quickly on a designated sidewalk. I've had cars edging OUT of driveways forget that while you need not look both ways for car traffic, pedestrians could, indeed, be walking in both directions on a sidewalk. I've had to look twice crossing a street on a green, looking for cars taking right-hand turns too quickly with no regard to pedestrian signals. The worst is when a car patiently and kindly waits for me to cross a driveway, only for the car behind it to honk angrily.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided - probably out of pure laziness, believe it or not - that I would start running home as my exercise. The run from work to home clocks in about 3.3 miles. It's short enough to walk if I need to and long enough to get a minimum 30 minutes of cardio in.

My running commute takes me along 1.3 miles of the 2-mile cycle track, about 65% of the protected bike lane. I thought the thing I'd notice most was more bad driving etiquette (sorry, drivers, I've seen how you treat even us law-abiding cyclists). But instead, I've noticed how great the cycle track is - not just for cyclists - but for pedestrians on the sidewalks!

Cycle track between Alapa‘i and Ward. In the past I've had
to battle with cyclists riding where I walked. Now we
all - pedestrians, cyclists, and cars have our own spaces.
Photo credit: C&C of Honolulu (honolulu.gov)
I no longer have to worry of cyclists bowling me over on the sidewalk. I've noticed that drivers are not just more alert to cyclists, but also to pedestrians. After five or six runs along King Street, it's a rare occasion for a car to edge in or out without checking for both cyclists and pedestrians. I don't worry about cars taking a left-hook without looking for pedestrians and cyclists. Cars seem a bit more patient and cautious all around. And in turn, I feel a lot better about following the rules too, waiting at the intersection when the hand is blinking to let the patiently waiting cars make their turn.

There have been the occasion outliers, like the guy today who blocked not only the entire sidewalk, but also part of the cycle track to try and get out of a Jack in the Box, nonetheless (btw, he went from Jack in the Box to a Zippy's - at least he went up in the world). But, there are always those guys. And, nothing's ever perfect.

When it comes to running and cycling, I can be defensive in the loudest way possible, yelling and throwing my hands up. But, I think in large part due to the cycle track, when I run home now, the only throwing I'm doing is of shakas to say mahalo to all the drivers and cyclists alike who manage to travel on King Street with some semblance of harmony. It's nice. It makes the run home as pleasant as any run mostly uphill can be.

Thanks, King Street cycle track. This shaka's for you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What's in a Name?

Last month, my husband and I had a big beautiful wedding. It was a perfect day, filled with food, beverages, a gorgeous sunset off of Waikiki, and of course all the people we love. We were so happy to celebrate with so many people who got us to where we are today. But, I couldn't help but observe the social experiment in the days following our wedding when we finally opened our (very generous) gifts.

The experiment was in unpacking the bag full of cards we got.

Many of them said Keopu and Jason. Others carried our silly couple nickname, Ublitz (a cross between his Ubay and my Reelitz). A few had talked to us before and knew to write Reelitz-Ubay. There were a good amount though that addressed it to us as Jason and Keopu Ubay. And even fewer wrote Mr. and Mrs. Jason Ubay.

Who wrote what typically suggested which of us they knew best. Sometimes, it indicated at what point in our lives they got to know one or both of us. For example, friends from a specific circle that got to know both of us well were definitely the Ublitz cards. Every now and then, though, how a guest addressed us suggested less history and more expectation. It was no surprise that many close to Jason were the ones who addressed it to Jason and Keopu Ubay because, of course, they would want to see the Ubay family name to continue through us.

So let's just set the record straight: we are Jason Ubay and Keopu Reelitz most times. We're Jason and Keopu Ubay, if that's what you prefer to call us. And legally, we're Jason and Keopu Reelitz-Ubay. It turns out this whole name (and identity) thing is pretty complicated.

Jason and I had a lot of discussions after we got engaged. I told him I really liked my family name. He said I didn't need to change it. I asked if he would change his name. He said no. I talked to him about the experiences of women (particularly in mixed race couples) whose names were different than their children's. He suggested we keep our own names and hyphenate kids' names. I suggested we both change our names and get the mana (power) of both families. He said no again.

Then, one day, as we got closer, he told me he had made up his mind - we should both change our names. I was a kid on Christmas day! We wouldn't have to pick our identities. We'd create new ones for our life together.

And how has it been? We're still negotiating those identities and spaces. We've decided to keep our own names professionally, both being writers and knowing the power of a byline. But, when it comes to being a family unit, we're the Reelitz-Ubays.

People react to what I call our hyphenation action in different ways. There are a lot of "wows" and a few "how modern of you" reactions. The guy at the DMV did a double-take when he looked at our marriage certificate. He was a pretty stereotypical DMV worker when I stepped up to him, stone-faced and not one for conversation. But, when he noticed Jason had also changed his name, he looked up and asked about it, even said "good for you guys" and "congratulations" by the end.

One fascinating trend we've noticed is that people care way more about a woman changing her name than a man changing his. I've been asked 23098235908 times. Jason cannot recall a time when he was asked if he was changing his name or even if I was changing mine. I'll leave that social commentary for another time.

The expectations part of our names - what we'll live up to - will always be a space of negotiation. But at the end of the day, it's really about how you know us. My closest friends will likely only ever call me Reelitz (or Ublitz). And, Jason's mom will probably always call us Jason and Keopu Ubay, and that's okay by me. If I could make one request though, try not to call me Mrs. Jason Ubay - I am neither bald, nor Filipino, and Jason would look terrible with long hair.If all else fails, you can just call me Keopu.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Welcome Thirties

This is probably my 654684654th attempt at starting and maintaining a blog. But this time, it's gonna stick - because I used Gorilla Glue and if it could help my defunct chest of drawers, it should work here. A little (re)introduction: I'm a 30-year-old part-Hawaiian newlywed woman living and working in  Honolulu.

I'm (re)starting this blog because when you turn 30, some weird things start happening to your body - sleep now seems non-negotiable, workouts hurt...like 5 days later, hangovers happen after two drinks. Exercise and good diet now seem a bit more immediately imperative. So, you start running, and then you realize you're not the young 25-year-old knocking out a 10-mile run at least once a week. In fact, after any mileage longer than the walk from your desk to the restroom, it hurts...5 days later.

What's even crazier at 30 is that a whole new set of social assumptions and expectations arise, especially for women. For example, it is entirely appropriate for someone to ask you any one of the following questions: are you married (check), are you changing your name (sorta, not really), do you want to have kids (sure), when are you going to have kids (I'm pretty sure that's a discussion for my husband and me), did you know that kids are really expensive (are you offering to pay?), do you think you'll stay in  your current jobs (should I be worried?), are you going to be the kind of mom who stays working her two jobs (I feel like there's some judgment coming...), and any other seemingly innocuous but intrusive questions - usually about my propensity for motherhood - that might come up.

When I step back and think about it, it's all a little crazy, it's all a little humorous, and it's pretty sobering. Thinking about exercise and diet is appropriate because, sadly, too many of the funerals we go to now are of people we have too many memories of. It's no longer your uncle's cousin's great-grand-aunty that your mom says you met that one time. It's a lot closer to home - my dad and one of his closest friends.

We want to talk about settling down and having kids because our body needs the time to settle and kids seem more tiring than those runs I go on. If 30 means a workout hurts, god only knows what chasing a kid at 40 brings (then add on the extra need for sleep without the time to because you need to work more to pay for the kids and their sports; it's a real snowball thing).

Thirties...you've been with me half a year now. I feel like we're really getting to know each other well. How about we write a book together? Let's start with a blog.