How This Mama Found Herself in Hawaii

This Mama Went to Hawaii for a Week and It Changed Her Life

I wanted a getaway, but found myself in the trip back home.

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Growing up, my family never went on lavish vacations. We live about five miles inland of Myrtle Beach, so every few summers, we'd pack up the old red minivan and head that way, staying with family along the Crystal Coast on the trip back up. The first time I flew was to travel to New York City to celebrate my high school graduation.

The first time I traveled outside of the country was on my honeymoon. Twenty-one and evergreen, we booked a stay at an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It took us about four days to adjust to the idea that we had absolutely nothing to do. That first half of the week passed in a haze and it wasn't from the frozen margaritas we kept ordering (all-inclusive, remember?) Rather, it was because we were both terribly unseasoned adventurers. After eating our fill of jerk chicken and walking along the strip of shoreline that turned out to be much more narrow than they advertise on television, we finally ventured away from the hotel grounds and went on a few excursions. We rafted down a river, hiked up a waterfall and visited a local street fair at two in the afternoon.

We came home invigorated, and ready to see what else was out there. In the five years that passed after that trip, we went on six road trips. We saw the Pacific Northwest twice, New England, the Grand Canyon, West Coast Highway 1 and Las Vegas. Every October, when the busy season ended at my work, we'd hit the road, staying at mom-and-pop hotels everywhere, eschewing major chains like we were too good for them when the reality was we just couldn't afford them. For the most part, the experiences were charming, save that one time we stayed in a cabin in the Catskills and every pillow was covered in strands of hair and the shower didn't work and the thermostat was broken and we shivered until we fell asleep.

Then, life happened. Babies came. Two in less than two years. And we didn't go on a solo vacation for five years.

This past August marked our 10-year wedding anniversary. So, we decided to go big. We have a few major changes coming up in 2019, mainly a big move into a new property, so we knew we had to take this chance to get away while we had it.

We left the babies in the care of their grandparents and booked 10 days in Maui. The flights to and from there were a beast, but once we arrived, it was glorious. We spent way too much money on an entire day at the spa, indulging in hours-long massages and soaks in mineral baths. We hiked to find hidden waterfalls, jumped from makeshift rope swings and spent nights in hot tubs overlooking flower gardens. It was everything I'd hoped it would be and more.

On our last day there, we drove around the north side of the island. The roads were narrow and the guardrails were minimal. I was clutching my side of the car with every turn. Then, we stumbled upon a little banana bread shop set up at the side of the road. It was rustic and tiny and perched on the edge of a cliff, but we managed to find a place to stop. It was heaven in one bite, the only thing that's come close to replicating my favorite banana bread recipe that I love to make at home. It also reminded me of the people back on the mainland who were waiting for me, namely our two toddlers who would have loved to nibble a piece of that treat as we kept chugging onward toward our hotel.

We returned home that next day, and I've never been more relieved and happy to walk through my front door. Turns out, while traveling can be the most exciting thing in the world and is absolutely necessary at certain junctures in our lives, there's nothing better than sleeping in your own sheets, with the people you love the most in this world tucked in soundly around you.

We likely won't take another vacation like that for another decade. When we jet-set off to somewhere fabulous to ring in our 20-year anniversary, I hope we have the same sense of wanderlust. I hope I'm calling my children in college to tell them all about the adventures their dad and I just went on. I hope we still climb banyan trees and drink coffee at midnight and stand beside active oceanic geysers amazed, our sunglasses salty with sea brine.

Then, I hope we return back to our little country hideaway, the new one we're designing as we speak, and thank the heavens above for a place called "home." I thought I'd find myself in the bamboo forests of Hawaii, or the big city lights of Vegas. Maybe in the vineyards of San Jose or the ranches of New Mexico. Turns out, I found it when I circled back around to where I came from, my purpose renewed and my spirit refreshed.

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Dear Taylor Swift, Christians Are Not Homophobic Bigots, Sincerely, The Majority Of Christians

Taylor, you need to calm down when talking about how most Christians act.

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When Taylor Swift released her newest single "You Need to Calm Down" last Friday, I didn't agree with the entire message of the song, mainly because of its heavy political overtones. But as the great Dick Clark once said, "It's got a good beat, and you can dance to it." So, for what it is, it's really easy to dance to this song, and I can see it becoming a pretty big hit.

But then the video came out, and I saw something that really bothered me.

In the music video for "You Need to Calm Down", Taylor is seen partying and hanging out with multiple LGBT+ icons in honor of Pride Month, such as the hosts of Queer Eye, RuPaul, and Ellen Degeneres. There's also a moment with Taylor, dressed as French fries, renewing her friendship with Katy Perry, who's dressed as a hamburger, which is as amazing as it sounds.

However, there's another cast of characters which acts as a foil to the happiness and colorful joy which is taking place in the video. There's a group of protesters surrounding the trailer park where Taylor and all her friends live. They're all dirty, buck-toothed, and dressed like your typical redneck stereotypes. They're also holding up protest signs while screaming at everyone in the trailer park. I saw one of the signs said something about Adam and Eve, and I realized most of the protesters were most likely meant to represent Christians.

And that...didn't sit well with me at all.

I know that these people never explicitly said they were Christians in the video, none of them even wore a cross. But, whenever someone sees anyone protesting rallies and organizations such as Pride, I can guarantee you that most of the time, the first thing people think is that they're from the Westboro Baptist Church, which is notorious for its protests. And I won't lie, there are some Christians who act that way.

But if you haven't heard this yet, let me be the first to tell you that not all Christians act like that. In fact, most of them don't act that way.

Christians don't agree with the LGBT+ lifestyle because of what the apostle Paul wrote in the book of 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). However, Jesus never once taught that just because you don't agree with a person doesn't mean they're automatically your enemy (Matthew 5:44). Christians are supposed to represent the love of the Savior of the world, which encompasses every and all aspects of humanity. This definitely includes people whose lifestyles we don't agree with. By not showing love to certain types of people, we are directly going against one of Jesus's greatest commandments.

Not agreeing with people is one of the cornerstones of humanity. It's a divisive world out there to be sure, but that doesn't mean people from any side of the debate need to perpetuate the division. Grouping all Christians into one group of hateful bigots is no different than Christians grouping all the members of the LGBT+ community into one group of evil people. One of the key elements of Christianity is showing people who have different beliefs from us the same love Jesus would show to anyone. And I know I'm not the only Christian who wants to show love to people of all walks of life. I may be the only Jesus they ever see in their lives, and we all wish to express the same love to others.

So Taylor, it looks like you're the one who needs to calm down on this issue.

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Different But The Same: Navigating My Life as One of Three Siblings

I couldn't be more different than my two siblings, but on some levels we're more alike than I thought.

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I am the oldest of three lively, loving and faithful siblings. My sister is seven years younger than me and my brother is nine. Two of us shared a room growing up, and the other lived just down the hall. In a lineup, we're unmistakably related. We share the same nose from our grandfather, the thin hair of our great-grandmother and the thick Italian eyebrows of our mother.

Deep down, we're all cut from the same cloth. Our moral compass, foundation and background are the same. We'd answer alike if you were to ask us our favorite childhood memory, how an elder should be treated, what to say and do at the dinner table and what is essentially right and wrong. All three of us are driven academically, hunger professionally and seek to mine the most good out of every day. Yet, on paper, we couldn't be more different.

Take my sister, for instance. She's the librarian at our local elementary school. We can't go to the local diner, the swimming pool or even walking down the road without scores of children recognizing her, running up to her and giving her a bear hug. There are entire circles of people who only know me for who I am in relation to her. I'll admit, when she first got that position, I went the entire summer long feeling as though I were walking in her shadow, though I eclipse her by half a decade of experience. There's a reason she's so well-known and loved, though. My sister is unfailingly kind, generous with her time and attention and genuinely invested in the young people she serves. She devours books, classic television shows and the family homeplace she shares with her high school sweetheart turned husband.

Then, there's my brother. He was in middle school when I got married, so our time together as adolescents was shorter, but we're more alike than it may seem. It's from him that I got my love of folk music, thrifting and antiques. He's an avid environmentalist and programs coordinator for our local arts council. In a world obsessed with smartphones and tiny screens, he takes walks with his fiance with a dictionary in hand, discovering new words and worlds as they travel. They hike every weekend, hole up and work on crosswords at their tiny cottage in the woods and spend all the time they can in their favorite mountains. In fact, they will likely relocate there or to the west coast when they tie the knot this September. He's outdoorsy, worldly and hyper-aware of how every decision he makes affects the world.

That bring us to me. Though I'm older than both of them in age, I feel as though I fall right in the middle of my brother and sister in terms of our interests and ideals. Like my brother, I love being outside and spend as much time in nature as possible. Yet, as the mother of two, I depend on disposable diapers and eat off paper plates to save time and money. Like my sister, I love nothing more than curling up with a great book, but as a technical writer and proposal manager, my life has me behind a screen more often than not. I read on my laptop into the wee hours of the morning, though like her, I spend many hours reading board books to children myself, though it's in the comfort of my home and not the local library.

At our core, we're wildly unique but I love the common thread woven between all of us. I love that our parents treated us all the same and made sure that what they did for one, they did for another. We all grew up feeling cherished, protected and loved beyond measure and for that, I'm eternally grateful. As we grow older together, we're learning from each other, exploring each other's interests and cultivating our own personalities in the process. It's a beautiful thing, doing life with these two. Thankfully, we all live within three miles of each other, so we get to unfold daily mysteries together on a regular basis. I couldn't imagine a better way or place to live.

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