1st Qtrr, 2018
A Life in Progress
I am a work in progress, truly a unique yet unfinished masterpiece.― Maria Koszler
On a blistering cold Fall night in 1903, my Japanese grandmother, Shige, nineteen years old at the time, embarked upon a ship for the four month journey from Japan to Hawaii. On the small ship, she was sandwiched amongst hundreds of young women, whose hearts were filled with a mix of fear for leaving their country to the excitement of reaching a foreign land to marry unfamiliar men through an arranged marriage. After the arduous journey, where many of the young women died, young Shige stood shyly on the dock at the shores of the Big Island to meet her future husband, Tokuichi Hamada. He had left immediately for Hawaii once the details of the marriage were finalized to find work and establish a home for his future bride. Tokuichi was a talented carpenter, designing and crafting furniture and cooking utensils for the Governor’s Palace. He was a brilliant man, speaking fluently in the languages of Hawaii: Japanese, Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese and. Filipino.
But life in Hawaii turned bleak when Tokuichi began to squander his earnings on gambling and alcohol. Whenever he thought death was eminent, he’d return to Japan, leaving his wife to care and support their five children. When his health improved, he’d return to Hawaii. Shige supported her family by working as a laundrywoman, scrubbing barrels of clothes for the plantation workers and plowing a pineapple plantation. One day she had given birth to a stillborn out in the fields. She wrapped her dead baby in a soiled apron, dug a grave, took the same shovel and went back to work a couple of hours later. Her infant son had died a year earlier. Eventually, her husband’s health worsened and he could no longer work. His older children were forced to drop out of school and work in the plantation. Sadly, he would use a portion of their earnings for his addictions.
Shige helplessly watched as her husband became violent and irresponsible. She wept until her heart was squeezed dry. Would life ever get better? She vowed to become both father and mother to her five children. The illness that destroyed her husband would not be allowed to maliciously poison their young lives. She taught them about honorable living, the need for education, hard work, and the strength to aspire to greatness.
Shige was a single parent during WWI, as Tokuichi would return to his homeland whenever he feared his death was eminent. But during the war when his family needed him most, he never returned to help them. Then during WWII, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were treated poorly. They could not use public facilities, drink out of the public drinking fountain, ride the bus or eat in restaurants. It was difficult to buy food and many nights Shige’s children went to bed hungry. These injustices caused her to endure many long and troubled nights, while tears flowed her pillow and her heart ached for the future of her children.
Her eldest son, Takumi, as a young adult was now head of the family, his duty was to support his mother and sisters. Shige’s heart broke in a thousand jagged pieces while watching him put his ambitions aside for the sake of his family. His younger brother, Shigemi, answered the call for volunteers to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 1943, a segregated unit made up of Japanese-Americans. He performed many heroic deeds and at his discharge from the Army received numerous distinguished awards. In 2015, Shigemi was posthumously inducted into the Military Hall of Fame at Fort Huachuca, AZ for his heroism in Operation MAGPIE, rescuing survivors of the Doolittle Raiders and 600 other prisoners from a Japanese prison camp in Peiping (currently Beijing). His team parachuted in and, upon landing, drew fire from snipers. Still, they were able to successfully extract the prisoners.
During all of her difficult and lonely years, Shige learned to never give up as she scrubbed and ironed clothes, plowed the field, cared for her children, and endured the hardships she suffered with her husband. While I was growing up, she shared her life story, teaching me valuable lessons of living well in the good times and the bad. The one thing she’d say over and over again is that we are all works in progress, but we must remember to keep working in order to progress.
You may be going through a tough experience, don’t give up. Keep walking your walk. Keep focused on your dreams. Keep creating within yourself the masterpiece you were destined to become.
Two Sides to Every Situation
“’The only people who see the whole picture,' he murmured, 'are the ones who step out of the frame.’” ― Salman Rushdie
4th Qtr 2017
As a child, the adults in my life kept asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up. Even at the age of five, I realized this must be an important question because so many people were interested in my future. So I thought as long and as hard as a five year old could about a future that seemed so far away. I began thinking about my favorite TV shows.
I loved western shows: Roy Rodgers, The Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, Wyatt Earp, Bonanza, to name a few. I watched western girls with her long flowing dresses that tossed about as they rode English on their beautiful stallions. I decided I wanted to be a cowgirl.
Then a couple of years later when I was a bit wiser, I realized that maybe becoming a cowgirl wasn’t all that attractive. I went on a lot of horseback riding escapades and this is what I learned: All they wanted to do was to get back to their barns and eat. Once dismounted, I swear my legs bowed out big time
There are always two-sides to every situation, to every story, to every opportunity. What may seem glamorous at first, when considering the flip side of the coin…hmmm…we might guess again. For these reasons alone, we shouldn’t make rash decisions of a situation. Rather give yourself enough time to gather enough information so you can make an informed decision for yourself. Here are a few tips to consider:
Be patient: It’s rare that information gathering happens overnight. Sometimes the waiting can take a toll. Always remember that a stitch in time saves nine. By patiently waiting, you could save yourself many seasons of unrest and unhappiness.
Keep an open mind: The purpose of gathering information means that we should keep an open mind and collect all kinds of data and don’t make any judgments of what is needed or not needed. One of the major benefits of keeping an open mind is that it has the capability to create a vision of what you really want in life. An open mind has no blinders. It doesn’t see obstacles. It only sees possibilities.
Build a tolerance for uncertainty: Take a strong hold to your dream. Even if people can’t see what you see, don’t get discourage. Don’t give up when your dream’s light grows dim and discouragement begins to set in. Build a tolerance for uncertainty as uncertainty is the key to success. The reason why others don’t support your dream is because it’s not their dream. Grip on to your dream and don’t let anyone else try to distract you.
Catch your star: Your star—your soul—knows where it should go. Why? Because God has planted your destiny within you. All of your answers are already planted inside of you and when you need answers, they’ll reveal what you need to know. Your star provides just enough light for you to step out in faith and see the path ahead of you.
Step outside of your situation: It’s easy to get tunnel vision when discouragement sets in. When that happens, take a step back and step outside of your situation. By looking from the outside in, you’ll get a bigger picture of where you’re at, where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Now rejuvenated, return to your journey with vigor.
The next time you’re up to your eyes in a situation, remember, that there are always two sides to a situation. Don’t forget to bundle all of these tips together and use them as your travel guide along the journey to plow forward to your dream. Answers to burning questions will be revealed and you’ll reap a blessed, happy and fulfilled life.
BLESS THIS MESS
Learn to be thankful in your trials, because in order to get your breakthrough, you need a trial to break through.” ---Craig Williams
2nd Qtr, 2017
Over the years, I’ve come to rename the term, “life trials” to “life messes.” More times than not during difficult life events, I’ve felt as though I was in a real mess. And this is what I learned: I could easily make a mess of things during tough times. Why? Because I was making up my own rules. Rules to figure out how to get out of this difficulty. Wondering how in the world did I get into this situation in the first place? Why me? Soon a list of unknowing innocent people were centered upon my bulls-eye of blame. Then pity parties followed. The worse was that I began calling myself names: stupid, stupider and more stupider. This jagged list of rules became my direction to navigate through difficulty. The result: I created bigger messes.
Then one day while in my early 20s I read a book entitled, “Dare to Live on the Edge.” It was a faith-based book and it challenged its readers to understand that God doesn’t make junk. Once I understood I had a purpose in life, then I was able to find value in myself. I was better prepared to face the book’s other challenges: to think big, to expect good out of the unexpected, and to grow where I was planted. So I began cleaning up my messes, starting with the first tip in the Dare to Live on the Edge book:
God doesn’t make junk: Because I had suffered with tragedy in my young adult life, I figured God had given up on me. But Dare to Live on the Edge explained that I had a purpose and I was equipped to serve that purpose. That deep inside I was a diamond and God was at work to scissile away the crusty messes in my life. The book further explained that God’s responsibility was to develop me to become what I was destined to be. The book went on to say that he loves me unconditionally. There’s a powerful ingredient in love that I learned—the power of freedom—when you love someone, you free that person to become a better version of themselves. God was pouring out his love into me, thus giving me a huge sense of accountability for my own behavior. The result: I trashed my blame list and stopped calling myself names.
Think big! One of my favorite Bible verses is found in Matthew 19:26, “…with God all things are possible.” The only way I could wrap my thoughts around God-sized outcomes, was to think big! This is where faith and trust comes into full dimension, but sometimes we can be taken by surprise when life takes on its own euphoric components. I just published my first book, Uncharted Territory. Never in my wildest big thoughts did I ever think that BIG!
Expect good out of the unexpected: The easiest way to expect good out of the unexpected is to change your rules. Start every morning with, “Today is the day for breakthrough!” Sure, there were times when I had to make an effort to think positive, and when I did, a curtain arose in my hindsight and I could see the horizon for miles ahead. Whenever a life event bamboozled me, I’d lean my full weight into making a concerted effort to find the good out of the unexpected. There’s always a silver lining entwined in our mess—it’s tucked around the question: Why me?!
Grow where you’re planted: My mom loves to garden. Sometimes I’d go out and watch her till the soil. Never once did I see a carrot jump over to where the tomatoes were growing. Or a string bean slide over to the rows of corn. All of her vegetables grew where they were planted. No questions asked. So out went one of my favorite questions from my list of rules: How in the world did I get into this situation in the first place? The question isn’t” how” but “what”—what can I learn right where I’m planted. Planting and harvesting is for a season. Interpersonal growth lasts a life time.
You may have heard the old saying, “Turn your mess into your message. I just did. How about you?
If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any changes. --- Julia Sorel, writer
1st Qtr, 2017
Daring to do the unexpected by stepping out of your own protective “boat” can be scary. Because what is resting at the bowel of your boat are thoughts about what you might lose rather than what you could gain. If we can take that risk, we may be surprised at what we accomplish! Risk, in and of itself, sees no limits, no negative thoughts, no hesitation. Are you ready? Go ahead! Try something new! Be unpredictable! Experiment! You don’t have to hazard huge things—even a small change can point you toward a fresh experience. Keep the following tips close at hand to remind yourself how invigorating it can be to take the road not yet traveled.
Tip #1: What You Value: Jeanette Winterson, writer, has said, “What you risk reveals what you value.” What do you value: a fulfilled dream? Advancing your career? Furthering your education? Choosing happiness? Take a close look at what you treasure. Seize your values. Whatever you value will be the fuel to move forward.
Tip #2: Strength to Venture into the Dark: Yikes! Venturing into the dark is like taking a risk without the benefit of experience, but consider the alternative. When we are brave enough to venture into the dark, we can be assured that personal growth awaits us at the end of our journey. Remember, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” How will we know what we’ll gain, until we step into the shadows that lurks outside our boat!
Tip #3: Accept the Fear of Failure. Let Yourself get Loose! Take a chance. Walk the line between the known and unknown and you’ll set yourself free! Give abandon to all those things that tend to keep you in your boat, run your fingers into the ripples of the massive ocean. And remember, you can only deal with the small amount of the vast ocean that fits into the palm of your hand. Always expect success! Expect to aspire to it! Expect to receive it! If fear holds you in this binding control, then ask yourself, “Who says I’m afraid? Who says I’m safer in my boat? Who says I shouldn’t venture out? If Fear is whispering in your ear, then tell it to hush! Tell Fear that you’re only open to positive thoughts that lead to success.
Tip #4: Set your Course and Sail Away from a Boring Life: We’ve all been entrapped in a routine where boredom settles in. If we’re not careful, it’ll become a way of life. Beware! Boredom will disguise itself as security and comfort in your life. That’s the lesson I learned from a friend, who’d take different routes to work so he wouldn’t get bored with his commute. I thought he was nuts! I always traveled the same roads and freeways during my forty-minute commute. But one day, after a particularly tough day, I decided I needed a change. This time I took a different route home. Wow! What a difference it made. I hadn’t realized how bored I was with driving over the same roads, waiting at the same stop lights! B-O-R-I-N-G!
Tip #5: Test Your Tenacity: Wallace Stevens, Pulitzer Prize recipient for Poetry, has said, “After the final ‘no’ there comes a ‘yes,’ and on that ‘yes’ the future world depends.” Never ever give up on your dream. To fully execute a dream, one must take a risk. One must put feet to their dream—a plan, a vision—or else it is just a vapor in your mind. Take a risk and follow your heart. Nothing anyone says can discourage you, because the dream belongs to you and no one else. So be tenacious! It will open doors that you never imagined. That’s what I did with my new book, Unchartered Territory! It has opened hearts, calmed fears, changed attitudes—all because some five years earlier I took a risk to keep on writing when most people told me to “give it up.” I quieted their voices by listening to my heart. Listening to my own convictions kept me tenacious to fulfill my dream!
Tip #6: Dare to be Yourself: Yes, take a risk and allow the best you to become a reality. This means we need to have the right attitude; to be brave enough to hush the fears; and to break bad habits that hold us back. Daring to be yourself allows you the freedom to live what I call the “you-phoria lifestyle.” That is to face the obstacles in your life, being determined enough to overcome them, to live large in your individuality. And don’t worry, because God will walk the path ahead of you. He will show you the potholes and give you a safer path around them. With God’s watchful eye, he’ll straighten the crooked pathways along your journey and make sure you are successful.
Let’s give a rigorous salute to anyone who has ever taken a leap! Hopped out of their secure boat! Stepped into the unknown! These brave people will tell you that they found taking a risk didn’t feel quite so risky.