The Guardian of Manoa

(Lic. from Adobe Stock)
(Lic. from Adobe Stock)

Most days when I’m driving in and out of Manoa Valley, I see this guy walking, sometimes jogging alongside the road. He looks like a local guy, flattop haircut, smart moustache, always wearing the same outfit: black shorts, black shirt and a long-sleeved white-shirt under the black; white socks, black shoes. Most of the time he’s stretching his arms out, like he’s keeping them prepped, warm, ready for action.

And he always has this stern look on his face; and he seems very alert, conscious of everything that’s going on. He seems like the kind of guy you wouldn’t mess with.

I first started running again on July 4th. I wondered if I would run into this guy and what I would do…

Turns out he and I did cross paths; we nodded somberly at each other and instantly I felt this connection, this sense of well-being.

This is the guardian of Manoa.

Now, I’m sure he’s just a man trying to make his way from day-to-day like everyone else. But just seeing him out most days, on patrol, eyes always looking around, I can’t help but imagine that if any danger or threat were to come to this valley, he’d be there.

In Hawaiian mythology, there are guardian spirits – Aumakua – that appear in forms of animal, nature, or man. Whoever the walking man is, I believe he is Manoa’s Aumakua.

Three Months…!

Good-ness.

THREE MONTHS!

It’s been three months since one world ended and another began.

Two days old...
Two days old…
Just shy of three months in this'un.
Just shy of three months in this’un.

Dadgummit…makes me misty already…

He’s been with us for three months. I remember thinking three days was a big deal and then three weeks.

His personality is definitely emerging (as are his vocal talents) and…it’s just amazing.

Life just keeps barreling on.

Jenn started back at her job this week after taking off a whole year to aid in Nightstorm’s conception and to allow her a little more time with him.

I’m taking this and next week off from work to help a bit with the transition as well as furthering my own career transition out of the Navy in just a couple more months(!).

And this week we’re getting an idea of what it’s like to have someone else watch our kid for the day while we both work. Spoiler alert: it’s weird.

It’s good in that it’s her parents, so the boy is already getting some good multi-generational exposure in there, but still. To think that he’ll be spending the majority of his days now with people other than his parents.

Jenn felt the melancholy more than I did, at first, because she’s been with him all day everyday (with the exception of a couple date nights and a spa day) since he popped out of her very own body. And her body continues to nourish him, day in and day out – talk about an intimate bond…

But then, this morning I felt it, too. Getting him ready, putting him in the car seat, driving him to his grandparents’ house. A part of me wanted to call and cancel, to say that I’ll be spending time with my son today and everyday the rest of my vacation time. Thing is, it’s just not practical.

Even though I’m off from my day job, I’ve got to hustle a bit to ensure that my next step is ready and generating income. I mean, I’ll have income from the G.I. Bill when I go back to school at UH, but in trying to supplement that with the dream I’ve pursued since I was in middle school in trying to get published through crowdfunding; it’s taking a lot of work – work I can’t necessarily do with an adorable, yet needy, little/big munchkinboy hanging out with me. And then first full week of August I’m back in the office again anyway.

I don’t know about Jenn, but I think what I’m feeling is a sense of failure. Our family unit is unable to stay together throughout the day; Stormy has to be with someone other than his nuclear family because we can’t afford to be a single-income family.

But then I realize that this is actually the norm – the state of the American dream, I reckon. It’s how I was raised, by babysitters and daycare supervisors before I was in school and then afternoons after school, waiting to be picked up; during the summer months, too, until I was old enough to be a latchkey kid.

And for the first time I really understand what the debate about paid family leave is all about and I have a sudden urge to relocate to Iceland or Sweden.

Nevertheless I am grateful for in-laws who love their grandbaby and spending time with him, so for them it’s no chore.

I look forward to a time where it doesn’t have to be this way, but if grandma and grandpa can babysit so mom and dad can have lovey-dove fun time that’d be great.

Some days these next couple of weeks I will be staying home and looking after Stormy all day to get a feeling of what it may be like to work from home should my writing or video production career take off.

Sometimes when he starts getting fussy or needy and clingy I want to teach him independence and how to lay the ju-do smackdown on feelings and such. But then when my picking him up calms him, or when he flashes that precocious, half-smile my damn heart melts to gooey-gooey blood sauce confections.

Three months…where will he be in three years? In three decades?

Making the world a better place, I hope.

The Frozen Wastes Update!

After a couple false starts involving vanishing Word docs, I’ve finally got a handle on the file management system with back-up and so hopefully I won’t have to start the book bible from scratch again. Especially now; it’s getting quite extensive.

[You can pre-order here: https://www.inkshares.com/books/the-frozen-wastes ]

I DID start on the manuscript tonight – got a whopping 476 words! I know that’s not a lot, but I got 800 and change in the bible, so in all, over 1200 words going toward the story. And however many is in the chapter posted here and that’s over 2000! Only 48000 to go! Woohoo!

I want to thank you all again for following and supporting and especially for the folks who plunked down the digital cash for the pre-order! That’s really the best kind of support an author can get, I think. Moral support is great, of course, and the support of my wife, giving me time to work on all this, is fantastic. But moral support doesn’t get books published – dolla bills do.

I know I didn’t finish out the project before, but you can rest assured I will finish this time.
There’s about 88 more days in this campaign…please tell your friends, especially if they like sci-fi/fantasy in the vein of the Weasley twins taking Frodo Baggins to a party at Cair Paravel being DJed by the Doctor and crashed by Kefka.

If you get all those references or know someone who would, this book is DEFINITELY FOR YOU. If you just like the Harry Potter books, Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit and the like, THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. It’s book 1 of 13, so there’s a lot more adventure to be had!

Thanks again – have a wonderful day!

Cliff

Four Years

Four years ago to the day my life was about to change in ways I never imagined.

I boarded the plane in Baltimore, had a six hour delay in Chicago, and at 11ish PM Friday, July 13, 2012, I set foot in Honolulu for the first time in 23 years.

When I was eight years old my family spent our summer vacation here for just shy of two weeks, I think. We landed in Honolulu, spent the night here, then flew to Maui the next day for a few days, then to the Big Island for a few days, then back to Oahu for the last few days before heading back East.

I have a handful of solid memories but mostly just impressions from that trip:

Marveling at the lava flow on Big Island.
Running around a golf course at midnight on Maui and helping bullfrogs learn to fly.
Sparrows flying into the rooftop restaurant on Oahu.
Being afraid that the roof of any of the inter-island Aloha airline planes we rode would come off like it did a few months before.
Chewing sugarcane for the first time.
Watching my first Indiana Jones movie – The Last Crusade – at a drive-in movie theater.
Marveling at the hula ladies…

Even then I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something magical about this place.

Twenty-seven years later, after four years of living here I still can’t.

The Aloha Spirit.

Ohana.

The verdant landscape.

First scenic shot. Taken on my birthday, July 29, 2012.
First scenic shot. Taken on my birthday, July 29, 2012.

The very earth itself brimming with life and vitality.

There’s just something magical, mystical; old yet fresh about this place.

While I’m not a fan of the population density on Oahu, I always feel like I’m back home whenever I return from a trip somewhere else (with the exception of The Big Island – I always feel like I’m going back home whenever I visit there).

Four years ago today, I had no idea what I was getting myself into; what with my assignment at a joint command, my first duty station usually reserved for no lower than E-5s, maybe an E-4 soon to be promoted, yet there I was, an E-3.

2013 shot - doing background work for an episode of Hawaii Five-0
2013 shot – doing background work for an episode of Hawaii Five-0

And little did I know how much of the world I was about to see.

I thought boot camp and “A” School busted open my worldview…

Cumulatively six months in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

A month and some change in Europe and then a couple months on a couple glaciers.

I feel as though I’ve certainly aged, but I also feel as though I’ve gotten a little younger somehow…

Started making real-life grown-up decisions on my own, being as far away as one can be from friends and family before you start going back around.

In 2014 I met, dated, and married this gem of a lady. Best initiative I ever took.
In 2014 I met, dated, and married this gem of a lady. Best initiative I ever took.

Knowing what I know now there are some things I wouldn’t have done, but I don’t really regret anything. It all goes into that worldview I was talking about before.

I’ve learned not to grasp things too tightly for too long, so I’ve learned to cherish the present moments even more.

Entering the service and giving up many freedoms have helped me appreciate and value freedom even more; I feel more a free man than I ever have.

Nov. 2015 - Barking Sands Beach, Kauai. Living life and learning to live with Jenn. Loving almost every second of it.
Nov. 2015 – Barking Sands Beach, Kauai. Living life and learning to live with Jenn. Loving almost every second of it.

I met my wife and my kid was born here.

Where will I be in four more years? No clue.

Probably still around. Maybe about to head elsewhere; who knows?

Until then I just keep doing what I do everyday: take it one day at a time.

There is A LOT going on this year, but the arrival of this little guy is by the far the most epic.
There is A LOT going on this year, but the arrival of this little guy is by the far the most epic.

The Jesus Experience?

Now that I have your attention...
A sometimes accurate portrayal of how I feel with Jenn.

Why do I continue on in traditions such as celebrating Christmas and Easter; or praying before meals, especially with Jenny?

Why do I pray for her and our son?

The fire I once possessed has long since gone out. Perhaps for longer than I realize.

My first real positive experience with Jesus was LIFE ’95 during Jacob Aranza’s sermon. I google him now and there’s some serious stuff not of a positive nature out there. I suppose that’s to be expected.

Anyway, it was toward the end, during the altar call-type thing, that I first felt forgiven. It was the first time I felt that any evil things I had done didn’t matter in terms of who I was as a human being.

Following that experience, I tried to get the most out of every time of worship. Anytime there was singing to God I tried my hardest to commune with the Almighty. Sometimes there was success, but most of the time, I suspect, it was emotional responses.

And actually, I suppose that’s what it was at the LIFE event: an intense emotional response. A response to some serious truth, but an emotional response nonetheless.

Hm.

In his book No Man Is an Island, Thomas Merton says that if one is in step with the Spirit one doesn’t feel it. Illustrating the point with a marching formation, he points out that when troops are marching in step together they don’t come into contact with each other, thus not feeling each other. It’s when you get out of step that you feel it; that is to say, how one feels is not necessarily a good indicator of one’s relationship.

One thing I can say though, is the LIFE event changed how I experienced thunderstorms. I believed (and perhaps still do (we don’t get many thunderstorms where I live nowadays)) that God is closest to our plane of existence in thunderstorms. I mean, the idea is he’s omnipresent, but maybe within the cumulonimbus formations, the membrane between realities is stretched a little thinner. Just the power and might of the rushing wind, the flashing lightning bolts and explosive thunder…

Saying all that to say, I went from having a mortal fear of thunderstorms to eagerly looking forward to them. To this day I still have what some may consider an unhealthy desire to personally witness a tornado.

That fire I spoke of earlier…

At its core I think it’s a good thing. However, I took it, in response to the aforementioned emotional response, and figured I owed God something. Like, I needed to pay Him back or something for the wonderful way He made me feel.

And then, over time, it turned into the feeling a junkie gets when he does all the drugs to try and replicate that one feeling he had, the first time he smoked a joint or shot up. No matter what I did or tried, I couldn’t get that exact feeling back.

And there was that whole issue when my first girlfriend put it on God to break us up because, I reckon, she was afraid of hurting my feelings or something. I was angry, upset, pissed off at the Almighty. After that great thing He had done at LIFE, and all I had done in those few intervening years before high school graduation, how could He pull this shit? I was a vocal witness for Christ; I got into debates and discussions about faith; I wore provocative Christian t-shirts that spurred conversations; I listened to nothing but Contemporary Christian Music, taking in the Word of Life through modern music styles to help edify my soul and remember doctrine more easily (I think I still know the full rap by DC Talk for Jesus is Just Alright).

All that – all that – and He ostensibly took away the most precious relationship to me up to that point in my life.

Of course, from what I learned at church and in books is that I was guilty of idolatry, putting my ex up on a pedestal, wanting her more than I wanted God. Close friends and family warned me about balance (which made more sense). But what was the death stroke was the shame my sexual desire was shrouded in. I didn’t give up my virginity until after that experience, but my innocence was already taken from me at a very early age. And someone who should have protected me and helped me heal, instead swept it under the rug; it was never to be spoken of; it didn’t happen. It was a shameful thing to have happened and to bring it up was to only bring on more shame…so it was never spoken of until my mid-20s, in therapy.

That shame came from a faith rooted in fear, not love. It was the faith instilled in me, even when I had that life-changing experience.

I guess therapy was when I had the next real Jesus Experience.

Not to retread, but it was there I learned that I was enough. I came to see that I am lovable as I am. That’s what Jesus – or unconditional – love is all about. And as such, it’s a love with no demands or expectations. There’s nothing to pay back, there’s nothing to do in return.

Of course, there’s reciprocity. When someone loves you, you want to love them back. The root of desiring to repay, I think, springs from a guilty conscience. That mentality doesn’t believe one is worthy of that love; and maybe one isn’t (from a certain point of view), but one has it, and it wouldn’t be so freely given if the giver didn’t think the receiver was enough.

Reciprocity is different than paying back. You don’t have the compulsion to repay, but someone makes you feel good (i.e.: loved) and you want to make them feel the same way. What’s scary is that this principle is also at the root of vengeance.

So anyway – we’ve got LIFE ’95; therapy; when would be the next Jesus experience…?

I think it would actually be…meeting Jenny.

When Jesus was on earth, He was all about upending the System, bringing new light to old wisdom and new life to old souls. I was caught up thinking that marriage – finding a mate – was supposed to be a certain way. “Equally yoked” was a buzzword concept thrown around a lot in my formative spiritual years and, as such, was ingrained in my membrain (I know that’s not how you spell it).

As my first attempt at marriage fizzled, I put myself back out there. In spite of all relationship failures up to that point (and they are legion), and in spite of that ultimate relational fail, I was bound, determined, and sure that true love was out there waiting for me.

However, as fast and hard as I tried to run from the old way of thinking, “equally yoked” still prefaced every prospect. There was a lady or two I met who met the conventional meaning of being equally yoked but many more (with whom I felt more compatible) who did not; Jenn was among them.

And this wasn’t the first time this had happened.

When I was in college I dated a young lady who wasn’t conventionally equally yoked, yet upon reflection the relationship had the potential to be one of the best I ever had. But because of that conventional belief, I ended it. At the heart of it I was a coward and didn’t know what I had. Twelve, thirteen years later I resolved that if I ever found myself in that position again to not just abandon it, but to hang on as long as I could.

Though I am a quick study, I’m a slow learner. After a few dates with Jenn I knew in my gut that she was the one, yet convention still called…as well as fear of happiness. I called it off; but she didn’t. She still liked me and when I went off to Germany for a few weeks we stayed in contact.

It was one afternoon, after traipsing through the beautiful countryside, and then seeing a picture in ein alten Frau’s living room of two horses: a mare and a stallion standing together, looking into the distance…weird, I know, but it was in that picture – let’s say the spirit of the picture – that I saw us.

As soon as I could I skyped her and told her I loved her and that I wanted to be with her.

This is what true love looks like.
True love is serious business.

And then with her, it’s just been one Jesus experience after another. We take turns in pissing each other off, or disappointing each other to varying degrees, but everything is overshadowed by our love for each other. Most of the time we’re making each other smile and/or laugh.

And inherent in love, I believe, is commitment, faithfulness, and trustworthiness (to name a few). Such things I lacked in myself for a very long time because I couldn’t ascribe them to myself; I didn’t think I was worthy or sufficient.

But then learning that I am, I’ve slowly been able to develop these traits and cultivate them more and more, and thus, love more freely. Not perfectly, mind you; and I still screw it up more times than I get it right, but I’d like to think that now the majority of my actions come from a place of love instead of fear.

Now more than ever with Stormy in the picture – managing the love streams between child and spouse.

These have been my Jesus experiences so far – experiences of unconditional, unbridled love and self-realization. I reckon it’s facilitating such experiences for others by being an honest, loving human being that Jesus is getting at when He talks about the Great Commission. Not making a sales pitch for hellfire insurance, or getting people into the “feel-good-about-yourself-club” and making them follow a bunch of rules; but rather showing love, dignity, and respect to everyone; and insofar as we’re able, to aid them toward self-realization so that they know they, too, are worthy and sufficient, and that that’s something that’s worth keeping going in this broke-up, busted-ass world.

Maranatha, and all that.

Baileys Do the Big Island

In the summer of 2015 (almost a year ago!), my wife and I took a trip to one of our favorite places: THE BIG ISLAND. Everyday we went on an adventure, exploring that wonderful place, but we didn’t use any GPS while en route. We planned beforehand and then used MAPS – how ’bout dat? Please enjoy this little production of our fun times!