April 27, 2012

Life's a Beach


 Many people vacation in Hawaii for its beautiful beaches. Many people move to Hawaii for its beautiful beaches. Beautiful beaches, beautiful beaches, beautiful beaches. Surely we go to the beach every day, right?

Meh.

In the first several months of living here, I made less than a handful of trips to the sandy shores of Oahu, and I felt pretty guilty about that. I didn't like the feeling that I was taking it (my new home) for granted somehow - that I should really be out on the beach every day, because so many people would love that opportunity.

So here's my confession:

My name is Nikki, I live in Hawaii, and the beach isn't my favorite place to be on a sunny day. 

In fact, in the game of "Would you rather...?", I've been known to choose the mountains over the beach. On multiple occasions. And I don't think that means I should be kicked out of the state.

I love to look at the beach. I love to know that the beach is there, never more than a short drive away. I love to visit the beach on a breezy day when the sun is almost (or already) down for the day. I love to sit in a shady, grassy area near the beach. Some of my favorite Hawaii memories have been nighttime beach visits. Toes in the cool sand, staring up at the stars, workin' on my moontan and reflecting on my place in the universe.

Visiting the beach on a warm, sunny day is just too much of a process for my taste. I don't love loading up on sunscreen, which is a necessity to maintain my fair, vampire-like complexion. I don't see the fun in laying still in the sun, sweating for hours on end. Sure, I can listen to my iPod. I can even read a book! But then if I'm reading a book, I'm trying to figure out how to hold it without casting a weird, uneven shadow... It's just not my idea of relaxation.

Add Bryson and his gear to the mix (including SPF tent/canopy contraption, battery-operated fans, wide-brimmed hats, fully-loaded diaper bag, toys), and whoa. A trip to the beach just seems to add more stress than it relieves. We tried our first real beach trip on Easter Sunday. While the first five minutes went smoothly (see left), the remaining 71 did not (see right).

 So, with at least a year left (and hopefully many more, Navy-permitting) in this tropical paradise, I'm gonna keep it real and enjoy the beach guilt-free, on my terms. I don't have to go every day, week, or even month. I don't have to go on a hot sunny day. As Bryson grows up, I will try not to influence his opinions on sun, sand, sweat, and sunscreen. I want him to have a fair shot at being the beach bum I will never be (while carefully protected with the appropriate SPF, of course).

So that's that. Life's a beach that I prefer to enjoy either at night, or from the shade of a nice, big umbrella, with fresh cool grass between my toes, and I'm okay with that.

Plus, I don't know if you've heard, but moontans are so in right now.





P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!




April 13, 2012

Easter (on an) Island

"Maybe if I stay totally still..."
His first Easter goodies :)

What's Easter in Hawaii without a trip to the beach?

The older I get, the more I realize that holidays are whatever you make of them. I distinctly remember being in my dorm room my freshman year at TCU around Christmastime and realizing that unless I decorated, it would be easy to forget it was the most wonderful time of the year! That's a testament to my fabulous parents, who always made each holiday a fun and special occasion in our house growing up. Now the torch has been passed, and it's our turn to make holidays special for our little one.

While my crafting was at an all-time high before Bryson was born (thanks to Pinterest, my crafty sister-in-law Courtney, and my nesting motivation), I went all out for my homemade Halloween decor. Made a little wreath for Thanksgiving, let Target do the heavy lifting for Christmas, a half-hearted (get it?!) effort for Valentine's, and BAM. Easter was upon us! Which wreath would be next?

Well, our Easter decorations ended up consisting of the stuffed bunny I'd gotten last year as part of an American Greetings promo at the NEX, a blue Easter egg a Gymboree friend gave to us, and the cute cut-outs that arrived via FedEx sent from our Texas family. No homemade wreath this year.

And I'm okay with that. Because just like Christmas isn't all about Santa and reindeer (while I dearly love and embrace St. Nick and his talented sleigh team), there's more to Easter than the Easter  Bunny and his candy-filled eggs. Certain special holidays are about more than fun traditions and fabulous decorations. And just as my parents taught me, I want to teach my son.

What we really celebrate at Easter is the crazy and incomprehensible lesson we learn in John 3:16. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

What?!

While I grew up going to church, praying before meals, singing worship songs, and participating in enriching and eye-opening mission trips...I have to admit that I still feel like a baby when it comes to my faith. I don't know all the right verses (or many verses at all, for that matter!), I don't go to church every Sunday, and I don't even remember to pray every day. I'm sometimes lazy and intimidated, always flawed. And that's the point. Jesus didn't die for the best of us. He died for all of us. When I take the time to really try and absorb that, it blows my mind.

I'll never forget the Sunday School lesson that our dear family friend Paul shared with us back in high school. He said that while he loved us and would sacrifice his life for us if it came down to it, he couldn't bring himself to sacrifice his son's life for us. That's what God did.

Ten years later, I still remember that illustration. Ten years later, I have a son of my own, and that illustration has become even more heartbreakingly real. There's nothing worse than hearing my little one cry out when he's in pain. How God made this sacrifice, how Jesus endured such unimaginable pain....I'm lost. I literally can't comprehend the love it took.

2012 Easter sunrise over Pearl Harbor
While at the sunrise service at the USS Missouri on Easter Sunday, the chaplain shared an anecdote about a game he plays with his grandson. He asks him how much he loves his grandpa.

"This much?", holding out his thumb and index finger.

"Nooo..."

"This much?", holding out his hands.

"Nooo...THIS MUCH!" And he held his arms out as far as they would stretch.

An inaudible mumble came from one of the first few rows, and those in the immediate area broke out in a roar of laughter. He explained to those of us in the back that a kiddo up front had quickly chimed in, "He loves you MORE!" He'd been upstaged, and it was awesome. I can only pray that one day, Bryson will "get it" like that little one does.

I could say a lot more about my thoughts, my questions, my wonders on Christ and what he means to me, and maybe I will down the road. For now, though, I just wanted to mark Bryson's first Easter by acknowledging that while I may not understand all the theology and doctrines and history behind His life, I absolutely believe He died on the cross for us. I absolutely believe I am undeserving and imperfect and fall so short of what I should be, but I absolutely believe I am forgiven, and that faith is largely about the journey, not just the destination.

While I consider myself a baby in my faith, my baby really is a baby. Let's be honest. He will not remember his first Easter beyond the stories we tell him. So here's to my baby's first Easter. A meet-and-greet with the Bunny himself, a sunrise service, a brief stint at the beach, some yummy food and egg-dying entertainment, and a whole lot of love.

Love.  

Maybe I can incorporate that theme into my wreath next year.




P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

April 3, 2012

Park Ranger Barbie: Mom Jeans

Let me start this one off by saying I love my job. First volunteering and now working for the National Park Service out here in Hawaii has been a dream job in so many ways, and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity!

Let me also say that the views expressed in this post (and every post on this blog) do not in any way reflect the views of the National Park Service, my coworkers, or anyone else. (Even though really, I think lots of people DO share this particular view. Let's be serious.)

The following is an email that I sent to my circle of trust on September 1, 2010, on the brink of my first 60-day hire with the National Park Service.

What are the odds she'd have red hair?
Hi fam and friends,

Many of you know that I've been working/volunteering at the USS Arizona Memorial this summer, and hope to make it a bit more of a full-time gig later this year. Only a select few of you know about my first experience trying on part of a National Park Ranger uniform today. Let's just say it was a bit traumatic.

I hate to use the term "mom jean" because it's offensive to moms everywhere, but let's just say the pants came up to the middle of my rib cage, out at the hips (wonderfully flattering), and in at the ankles. This just won't do.

After notifying a good number of my NPS buddies of this budding fashion emergency, we've decided my best bet is to try and order some men's pants and see if they fit any better, but who knows. I fully realize that the Arizona Memorial is not a runway and the focus should definitely not be on what the rangers (aka interpreters) look like, but I simply cannot feel comfortable speaking to hundreds of people in those pants on a daily basis. Trust: the world does not need to see me (or anyone) in these babies.

Fortunately, I won't be wearing the uniform at all until I officially start my two-month "emergency hire" status with the National Park Service September 29th, so there's still time to get everything sorted out.

In the meantime, I'm going to search for the cutest comfy brown shoes and watch possible, since I'll have to express myself and my style via accessories in this new job ; ) If you see anything fabulous yet not too expensive, be sure to let me know. I'm in the market.

I have to laugh at myself, and it helps if you laugh with me, your personal Park Ranger Barbie. Please enjoy the attached photos of the female NPS ranger uniform, past and present, and have a giggle knowing that it will be ME in just a few months. Good thing I love the job!!!

: )


For your viewing pleasure, I've rounded up a number of photos to trace the history of the NPS female park ranger uniform.

Many of these come from historical gem, Breeches, Blouses, & Skirts: Women's Uniforms in the National Park Service, 1918-1991:

Early Years
Claire Marie Hodges, one of the first two women ever hired for the NPS, 1918



Herma Albertson sporting the men's uni, 1929

Ideas for a unified effort - Spring 1940


1960s - Stewardess-Chic

Feminists didn't like this look, but I think it was kinda cute!?

And that brings us to the hits of the 80s...90s...00s..and whatever we call this decade. No change!?


Must get Bryson one of these, inspired by the current uni:
Park Ranger Doll - Amazon

Now, here are my own NPS unis, past and present:

I should point out that there is a skirt option, but it requires heels, and that's not practical when you're on your feet for close to 10 hours a day. Therefore, I opted for the men's pants (shhh...don't tell), and eventually, men's shoes! EEK! This photo was taken when I was 14 weeks pregnant. My dear Noni wanted a picture of me in my uniform, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to button these babies much longer, so we went for it.

Please note the clunky brown (women's?!) shoes I sported until I literally wore the soles out. (I realized that fun fact when my left sock was soaked on an uncharacteristically rainy day.) That's when I made the switch to a dazzling pair of men's leather Crocs. My first and only pair of men's shoes (and Crocs!) to date. Very comfy, I must say!



Then it was time to rock the TRUE mom jeans - maternity pants! I got a lot of interesting comments from visitors who were not used to seeing a pregnant ranger in uniform. I couldn't tell if one guy was trying to be funny or trying to insinuate I was "out of regulations" when he asked, "Can I leave my shirt untucked too?" I gave my belly a Beyonce-like rub and replied, "When you're pregnant, you sure can!"

Fun fact: Apparently there was/is also maternity tent jumper option. Not interested.



While I'm thankful there was a maternity pant option, I would gladly welcome the opportunity to provide feedback on how to make them more comfortable. While they provided some stretch, they were kind of awful. This one was taken when I was about seven months along (Hi, Bryson!).


While pregnant, I ordered the skirt just for kicks. When it arrived, I hung it in my closet and stared at it longingly, knowing it was going to be a while before I could take it for a spin. Six weeks after Bryson was born, it made its debut at the 70th anniversary commemoration ceremony, December 7, 2011. It was a little snug, but I was determined to make it work. While my own tiny Junior Ranger was in attendance with us that morning, my patriotic arm candy helped distract from any indication that I'd just given birth :)


Fast-forward to December 7, 2012. Over the past year, I've adopted the skirt uniform as my mainstay when it's time to suit up. I've even had the fun experience of needing to order a smaller size, twice! That's always a good feeling. This year's patriotic arm candy included some of my favorite men from the Greatest Generation, like Mr. Ray Emory. (More on this year's D7 in another post. It was amazing.)


And there you have it, folks. My experiences with the uniform. It's an honor to wear it. The flat hat, the badge...they're icons of the American experience. While I don't think the mom jeans are flattering or friendly to the females who have no choice but to wear them, I do have hope for a brighter, more boot-cut future.

Who knows? Maybe the NPS uniform coordinators will stumble upon this blog post and start a professional, yet fashion-conscious focus group on how we can improve our collective bottom halves. They've had think tanks in decades past, after all!



A girl can dream.


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!