Walking the Minimalist Talk

DSC_0373“You can do anything, but not everything.” – David Allen

Over the last year I’ve allowed my online life to get quite complicated, working on three different websites and various social media accounts. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not doing a very good job at any of them, and so I’ve decided to stop writing here so I can focus my energy, but I won’t be going away. I’ll be at my personal blog JoelleIhilani.com, talking about many of the same things I was talking about here. In fact, I was having a hard time blogging at either place because the posts I wanted to write were a great fit for either blog. Why in the world would anyone want to run two blogs that compete with each other? That just doesn’t make sense.

So, if you’d like to continue reading the sorts of posts I’ve been publishing here, come over to Joelle Ihilani. Keola may drop in occasionally. I feel I should warn you though, my personal blog is not Twenty-one Delights. It’s much more conversational, has a lot more of life in all its’ messiness – life as it’s lived. I also show a lot more of my creative/business side there with lots of pictures, but now that I will no longer be updating this site, Joelle Ihilani will become more like Twenty-one Delights because I really do love to think and write about life, simplicity and finding joy and happiness in the every day. I will likely slowly move these posts over to my personal blog as well, just so I can have everything in one place. I hope you’ll join me, but I understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Thank you so much for reading and supporting this little blog. I feel a bit like I’m letting you down, but I couldn’t let a simplicity blog complicate my life. That would defeat the purpose.


The Very Real Need for Loving Discipline – From a Kid who Missed Out


I don’t like to admit this but there are times I just want to spank my oldest girl.  When I’m heated, I think to myself, “Why are you crying?  I didn’t even spank you.  You want to cry for something!”  Sometimes it takes all my strength to be calm and talk to her like a person.  But it’s hard because no one talked to me like a person when I was a kid.  If I cried, I wouldn’t get a chance to talk.  My ear would just get pulled or Iʻd get an old school spanking.  Then thereʻs a part of me that wonders if I’m spoiling her.  That maybe she’ll grow up to be a disrespectful and unproductive member of society.  The words, “spare the rod spoil the child” comes to mind.

Should I spank my kids?  This question popped up while living through one of the worst times of my life.  Around 2011, I was losing my childhood home through foreclosure and my sister was going through a messy divorce, which resulted in my family taking care of my two nieces.  I was under employed and felt like a failure as I struggled to find work that matched my education.  It came to a point that I was willing to work anywhere, no matter the pay.  This didn’t help my chances as I soon learned that having a Masterʻs degree creates a glass floor that wouldn’t allow me to work at any retail stores at the local mall.  With life feeling out of control, I started “kicking the dog”.  Iʻd take out my stress on my 2 year old daughter, who at the time was acting appropriate for her age.

Now when I say, “taking out” I mean giving her the death stare and talking to her in a rough manner.  I wasn’t beating her but I did spank her on the butt once.  In the moment it felt like the right thing to do and it got the job done.  Then one day, I saw my daughter accidentally spill her bowl of cereal and before I could say anything she started to cry.  I wasnʻt sure why, so I tried to talk to her.  When I approached, she backed away from me and nervously looked up at me.  She was afraid of me, her father.  Then she said something that tore a big hole in my heart.  Through her tears she whimpered, “Am I a bad girl?”  Those words made me pause as I reevaluated what my discipline tactics were teaching her.  I decided on that day to change my style of parenting.  I would try to be slow to judge and quick to listen.  Remembering that disciplining our children have long term effects and therefore should be done thoughtfully.

Why should you think twice before spanking?

1.  Spanking produces obedience through fear.

When I was growing up, I was a good kid, a very good kid.  I never rebelled or did anything to make my parents or grandparents angry.  I think for any parent, I’d be the golden child, however, if you looked deeper, you would see how messed up I was.  Many of the things I did for my family was out of fear.  I was scared of disappointing them and making them mad.  So I stuffed my feelings so deep that I loss sight of who I wanted to become.  This generalized to all aspects of my life.  I wouldn’t fight back when picked on or stand up for myself when I knew I deserved better from my friends.  I didn’t have a voice because I learned at a young age that it was important for me to make other people happy.

2.  It’s usually done in the heat of passion without reason.

When I was spanked it was always coupled with blind rage.  It wasn’t done in a calm and deliberate manner.  It was more like, whatever was in my grandpa’s hand could be used as a weapon.  Then afterwards, there wouldn’t be a conversation of why I got spanked.  The usual reason would be short and to the point.  “See when you no like listen.  That’s what you get for being stupid.  You don’t have any common sense.”  So what did I learn? Nothing but the icy bitterness I felt toward my grandpa.

3.  It shuts down communication.

This is the biggest reason I don’t want to spank my kids.  I know through experience that when you spank without reason.  The fear it produces will stop honest communication.  For instance, when I would make a mistake or do something wrong, I would try to hide it.  Or if I knew a choice wouldn’t go over well with my grandpa, I would try to do it undercover and if the risk was too great I wouldn’t do anything at all.

Now there are many more reasons I can come up for not spanking my kids but I would like to know what you think? Why should you spank or not spank your kids.


On Beating the Odds and Living Your Dream


With shaky hands I handed the cassette over to the teacher. She loaded it into the stereo, hit play and melodious guitar strumming filled the air. I put my hands on my hips, bent my knees, lifted my head, smiled a nervous smile and started to dance, my body automatically forming the movements that my mother had taught me over the course of several weeks. I had not grown up dancing hula in a halau or schoolbut hula had always been in my life, and every Hawaiian girl knows at least the basics.

It’s 1995. I was in sixth grade, and it was the year that I could become May Day Queen. May Day is a big deal in Hawaii, where schools put on a big festival of  student performances filled with song and dance. In elementary school, each grade sends a “prince” and “princess” to represent one of the eight main Hawaiian Islands as part of the royal court. The court “rules” over the festivities, and the crown jewel of the court is the May Day Queen. For years I gazed in admiration at her long white holokū or gown, her crown of small white crown flower blossoms and the beautiful maile lei draped around her neck. How regal and graceful she looked! I was always held in rapt attention as she danced a solo hula for her fellow students. She was a vision, and all eyes were on her.

I desperately wanted that girl to be me one day.

When May Day preparations began in my sixth grade year, the faculty decided they’d hold an audition for May Day Queen. She had to be a good student, who worked hard and got good grades, but beyond that, the most important requirement was that she could dance. 

I knew I could dance, but I also knew who I was up against – girls who were formally trained to be meticulously precise, girls who knew how to perform in front of large audiences, girls with a whole catalog of dances they could recall at a moments’ notice, girls who had a closet full of pāʻū skirts and drawers full of traditional hula adornments.

I was out of my league.

“It’s not gonna be Joelle. She doesn’t belong to any halau,” was whispered as we sat waiting to hear what the teachers had decided.

It’s hard for me to describe the utter shock and disbelief that coursed through my body at the sound of my name escaping the teachers lips. Me! May Day Queen! Only a handful of girls get that opportunity and I was one of them!

The next few months were a flurry of rehearsals, dress fittings, more rehearsals and more dress fittings. And when that day came and I stood before the entire school and began to dance with my own beautiful white holokū with its long flowing train, my own crown flower crown and maile lei draped around my neck, I realized that I was living my dream, and there isn’t much in this life that’s sweeter.

To this day I don’t really know what the teachers saw in me or why I was chosen, but if I had let myself get intimidated by the other, more experienced girls, I wouldn’t be telling you this, one of my most cherished memories today.

Whenever I feel like I’m not good enough, or that I shouldn’t even try since there are obviously so many more capable people than I, I think about that twelve year old girl who had the guts to go for it, knowing that she probably wasn’t the best, and she probably wouldn’t be chosen, but that she’d regret it for the rest of her life if she let the opportunity pass her by.



Four Lessons on Soaring in Life, Taught by a Kite

kite-01This past April our oldest daughter Noweo turned four. She’s at a wonderful age where she’s beginning to do “kid” stuff like riding a bike, roller skating, putting together more complex puzzles and acting out her favorite movies. One of the gifts she received this year was a kite, and I was just as excited as she was to take it out for a spin. We did just that a couple days ago at one of our favorite parks and it was pure magic. I was surprised however to make several observations about flying the kite that I found to be highly applicable to striving for and achieving success (at anything). Here’s what I discovered:

  1. You have to run into the wind. In order for a kite to pick up height, you have to run into the wind. Noweo didn’t understand that, and went running willy nilly all over the field. Whenever she ran with the wind, the kite fell to the ground. When we face a daunting task, it’s tempting to take the path of least resistance, but we won’t reach great heights without pushing ourselves against an opposing force.
  2. You must know where the wind is coming from. I tried to get Noweo to notice where the wind was blowing from so she would know to run in that direction. When I asked where the wind was coming from, she said “the sky.” Cute right? But there’s an important lesson here. We can’t achieve anything if we don’t know where to focus. I’m certainly guilty of trying to do too much at once and not really doing anything as a result. Choosing a path that will offer us the greatest chance of growth, even if it scares us (or perhaps, especially if it scares us) and staying on it will take us higher than if we ran around trying to go everywhere at once.
  3. You need to be patient and lengthen the string a little at a time. We all want to see the kite soaring high above the ground, but if you give it too much slack, it won’t have the tension necessary for the wind to catch it and carry it up. Sometimes we want to run before we can walk, or we look at others achievements and think we need to be where they are, forgetting that they had to start somewhere too. We are much better off flying on a “short string” and slowly lengthening it to the desired height.
  4. Conditions are everything. When we first arrived at the park, it wasn’t too windy (our town in general isn’t that windy) so we were never able to get the kite to stay in the air, though we did get it to fly for short bursts. After flying the kite for a while, we decided to spend some time walking around the park. Out of the blue, the wind started to pick up until it was blowing in strong gusts. Excitedly, we took out the kite and started to fly it, but the wind was so strong and wild that it was even harder to keep it in the air than when the wind hadn’t been very strong. Turns out a storm was coming so we ended up calling it a day and running for the car. Sometimes when we attempt something, we fail because the timing was wrong. We’ll have a better chance at success if we begin our endeavor at an ideal time. Of course, we don’t always have the luxury (i.e. SURPRISE! WE’RE PREGNANT and we’re still in grad school with tons of debt and a tiny apartment…true story) but it helps. So if something doesn’t work out the first time, it might not be you, it could just be your circumstances. Don’t beat yourself up if you weren’t amazing the first time. Put it on the side, focus on something else and come back to it at a better time.

This little list is probably more for me than anyone else, but I do hope it’s useful to someone out there who feels like they’re banging their head against a wall. We all have what it takes to soar if we watch for ideal conditions, focus, push ourselves and grow a little at a time.


Finding Balance and Calm in the Midst of Change


Ever since my second daughter was born, I’ve been trying to figure out the right balance between being a father, husband, employee and church member. I’m also at a crossroads career-wise, trying to decide between furthering my education or finding other employment. I’ve struggled with maintaining a healthy weight for years and I’m passionate about writing, but don’t do it as much as I’d like. Isn’t it funny how the things that will really make you happy, gets the least amount of attention. Why am I slacking? Each have different reasons associated with them.

Weight loss = I feel guilty when I want to exercise, which I usually prefer over dieting. I don’t think I should spend time on lifting or running when my wife is busy with the kids.

Writing = I’m lazy after work, spending time with the kids and cleaning up after dinner. Once the last dish is cleaned, kids are asleep and my wife is free, I just want to watch a movie. I want to enjoy the few free time hours I have by losing myself in watching a flick or sports.

Now I’ve been asked to serve in a leadership calling at my church. No longer able to blend into the shadows, I’ll be front and center. I’m excited but scared. Fearful of the time I might lose with my family. Frightened by failure. Unaware of how I’ll balance everything, especially since I haven’t been doing a good job at that in the first place.

My negative voices have already started to creep in. “You’re going to fail. You not worthy. You can’t handle.” These voices really hit hardest in the beginning but it’s important to remember that it’s normal for anyone to be nervous with change. Doubt can set in, especially when you are struggling with depression. It’s hard to feel like you can learn new things when you have little confidence in yourself. Change can look like a treacherous mountain to climb, unless you can stay focused on each step, understand that doing what you can is good enough and remembering the successes you have along the way. If you can do these things, climbing the mountain will look more like an opportunity then a burden.

What sorts of changes have you gone through or are going through in your life, and how are you working through them?


Hello Dear Readers


I owe you an apology. I haven’t been blogging in this space for many months and I know I let at least some of you down. Turns out being a hormonal, postpartum new mom is NOT  a good time to start a blog. There were more than one turning points at the end of last year, some personal, some business, A LOT of trying to define different aspects of my online life, and it all left me with no time or energy for this space.

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Now I’m back and I’m excited to announce that I’m bringing my husband on board! We have a history of successful collaborations. We first met in college in the Hawaiian Club on campus, helping to put together a gigantic hula performance with more than 100 club members in less than a semester. Over the course of those few months we discovered that we’re pretty dang good together. Fast forward a year and a half and we successfully presented a joint senior thesis on cultural identity development a week before getting married and becoming permanent “collaborators.”

Nearly eight years later, wherever we went, whatever we built, whatever we lost, we did it together.

Nowadays he has a typical 9-5 job and I stay home with our kids so we don’t really get to work together on fun projects like we used to. I’m ecstatic that we’ll be sharing this space and I think you’ll find that he has a lot to offer. Our upbringings could not have been more different and he’s certainly given me new perspectives on life that I had never considered. He also brings a MA in Counseling Psychology to the table, which he employs at our local university helping students succeed in college. I know those skills will come in handy here.

Ok I think that’s enough from me. I’ll let him introduce himself:

Hi Everyone. Iʻm very grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with my wife.  Like she said previously, when we work together we can become an unstoppable force.  Weʻre like Mr. and Mrs. Smith minus the shooting and the near death experiences.  As you already know, sheʻs a great writer. I hope to contribute by bringing a unique experience to the table, which I hope will be useful to some reader out there in the vast expanse of the digital world.

Most of my writings will be focused on my journey dealing with depression and anxiety.  My goal is to support you in your struggles by sharing my own story. You are not alone. There is a way to live and strive while dealing with trials.  We may not share the same struggles, but the lessons I’ve learned over the years may be just as applicable to your unique situations.

Thank you for your precious time and I hope you enjoy the journey.

Are you excited? I am. He has so much to share – we have so much to share about our efforts to create a life that we love. We hope you enjoy the conversation.


Forgiving Ourselves – An Unlikely Lesson from a Three Year Old

The other day my daughter and I were playing, and she got really excited and started hugging my leg. And then she bit me. Hard…because she was happy. I know that doesn’t really make sense, but 3 year olds don’t often make sense. It didn’t take much to let her to know that she had crossed the line between playful and hurtful (a loud “OW!” sufficed), and in her shame, she started to cry. I told her I wasn’t mad and that I knew she didn’t mean to hurt me, that she just got excited, but that just made her cry more. When she knows she did something wrong, she runs and hides, so after a while of trying to make her feel better, we just decided to let her emotions run their course. It turned out to be pretty funny actually, because while we were calmly doing other things around the house, we could hear her howling from her room like the world was coming an end.

This went on for a good 10 minutes or so before she emerged, grinning from ear to ear like we just told her she was going to Disneyland or something. I thought my moodswings as a 16 year old were bad. Three year old moodswings are borderline bipolar.

Anyhow that got me thinking about forgiveness. Even though I had forgiven here almost immediately after she bit me, it took her an extra 10 minutes before she finally let go of what she had done wrong. I thought to myself, “What if we all just sat and howled like a three year old for as long as it took to forgive ourselves for the things we regret?” Not only would that be hilarious, but nothing would get done.

My daughter missed out on ten minutes of her life that she could’ve spent doing more pleasant things. Instead she chose to sit and cry. Ok. So we’re all grown ups and we’ve learned how to hide those feelings deep so we can still function during the day, but that doesn’t mean our regrets aren’t holding us back. How much of our lives are we missing out on because we metaphorically sit out and cry over past wrongs we committed that we can’t change?

Chances are, the people we’ve hurt have forgiven us – especially if they love us, but we often insist on paying for it, making our own lives miserable by not forgiving ourselves. Rather than learning from our past mistakes and moving forward, we shackle ourselves to an unrealistic expectation of perfection and are then surprised and disappointed when we don’t make the grade.

Instead of holding ourselves to an unrealistically high standard, let’s treat ourselves with kindness and generosity, acknowledging our faults righting our wrongs as much as possible, and then moving on, allowing ourselves to live a full and happy life, knowing and accepting that we are mostly good people that sometimes make mistakes.


Let’s Get Stressed


The other day I watched an interesting TED Talk by Kelly McGonical about the real purpose of stress that totally shatters my pre-conceieved notion of what stress is. Stress in a nutshell, is your body’s way of gearing you up to meet your challenges. While it is true that sometimes bad things happen that cause us stress (divorce, death, illness, financial problems, etc.), it is NOT something to fear or avoid. Stress gives us that extra “oomph” that helps us to achieve our goals (which is probably why I procrastinate so much…I need an extra level of stress to get stuff done.) It was an awesome talk with lots of great information that’s definitely worth watching and contemplating, but it was what she said toward the end that really struck a chord with me. She said that rather than running from discomfort, we should search for meaning, and whatever discomfort (stress) comes our way, we would be able to handle it because we’re doing something meaningful.

That made my husband and I think about the things we’ve run from, and the things we’ve run toward, and we’ve found this to be true in our lives. College, marriage, kids….all those things brought (and bring) a decent amount of stress in our life, but because it’s something we chose, something we are passionate about keeping in our lives, the stress (usually) works to our advantage, giving us energy and courage to do the uncomfortable things.

When my husband left his job in Oregon, it was literally because it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth living out of Hawaii, away from family. It wasn’t worth it financially, mentally, emotionally. We were enduring a lot of stress and because we realized (after we got there…of course) that we weren’t particularly excited or passionate about being there, we didn’t accept and manage our stress well, and decided to leave. It was actually better to be unemployed in Hawaii…

This is why it’s so important to do the things that matter, because we’re going to experience stress no matter what. We shouldn’t spend our lives trying to get away from it, but rather in puruit of the things that give our lives meaning, and by default, we will have a more positive relationship with stress because we’re doing positive things with our lives. If we’re doing work we love, then our stress will sustain us, buoy us up and cause us to rise to the occasion.

Is your attitude toward stress negatively affecting you? Does re-framing it this way help?


Overcome Overwhelm, One Tiny Step at a Time


Today felt hard. I worked all day long trying to clean and organize the house, but for every step forward, I felt like my 3 year old was setting me 3 steps back. By 4pm, the house didn’t look any better than it did at 8am.

I don’t know why I bother cleaning while my kids are awake.

So there I am at around 5:30pm, exhausted, utterly spent, grouchy and discouraged. I roll of my sleeves and get to work making a quick dinner, putting away dishes, picking up and putting away toys, folding blankets, etc.

And it dawned on me.

Cleaning the kitchen is hard.

Taking a plate and moving it from the dish rack to the cabinet isn’t.

Organizing my girls’ room is tedious and time consuming.

Gathering up the books and returning them to the shelf isn’t.

Doing the laundry can take all day.

Folding a shirt takes 15 seconds.

Scrubbing down the bathroom can be disgusting.

Cleaning the toilet is…still disgusting, but less overwhelming when you remove it from the larger context of the entire bathroom.

This, I believe is the first time the idea of micro-actions really clicked for me – not to reach a goal, or establish a habit, but to simply get through my day.

Of course, my day may look entirely different from your day (and to be honest, I don’t do ALL that housework in one day). You might teach 25 6 year olds, deliver babies, make sales calls, wait tables, write books. All those things are simply descriptions for the little tiny actions that, when put together, create a teacher, a midwife, a salesperson, a waiter, and an author. And in everything we do, there is potential for overwhelm.

Our entire lives are made of tiny actions whether we see it that way or not. Every day we think about EVERYTHING that we have/want to do, and the overwhelm can be paralyzing, but when we break down our day into hours, and minutes, even seconds if we need to, and immerse ourself in each tiny span of time, we can get through whatever overwhelms us, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.


4 Questions for Getting Your Home to Maintenance Mode


We moved to this house back in May (it’s now October) and I’m still trying to get it to maintenance mode.

What is maintenance mode you ask?

Maintenance mode is where everything we have actually belongs here, and everything has a home. Maintenance mode is where our space is planned out in a way that makes sense to us. Maintenance mode is where I’m done sorting and re-arranging and I can simply maintain our space and focus more attention on other things…like my family…or this blog…or some business ideas that are floating around my head.

Some of you may think “Well I’m not moving anytime soon”, or “I haven’t moved recently,” but there are lots of things that may cause a shake-up in our living spaces – a new pet, baby, business, or hobby just to name a few. Some of us simply live in chaos for years and are numb to what a energy-drain and time-sucker living in “set up” mode can be.

If you came to my house today, and then visited again tomorrow, it’s very likely that some piece of furniture would be in a different place. In fact, that’s what often happens to my husband – he comes home from work and something is different. A few weeks ago I completely re-arranged our living room furniture. The next day I switched our dressers over to different walls. Then I moved a bookshelf from our bedroom to the dining room, and during this whole process, I’ve built up a big box of stuff I want to get rid of.

All of this takes time and energy and I want to get through it as soon as possible (I know…it’s October….and I said we moved here in May…in my defense I was either very pregnant or very early postpartum. Even now at 2 months post-baby it’s hard to get stuff done)

Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself as I work toward “maintenance mode.”

What do we want the function(s) of this room to be?

This almost goes without saying, but I’m asking this question because I’m thinking of turning our living room into a little preschool for my daughter, so I’m seriously questioning exactly what we want this space to be. This would mean a huge shift in our current arrangement. NOTHING would be where it is now. It’s all about making this space work for our purposes.

Is the amount of space we’ve allotted to a certain activity proportionate to the amount of time we spend on said activity?

Case in point: We only use our dining table for eating, but it takes up almost half of our living/dining area. I don’t think we spend half our time eating, so it shouldn’t take up half the space. I’m thinking of demoting it to a corner of the room. Never mind what interior design experts might say. Chances are no one from HGTV will EVER see the inside of my house.

Is this ____________ worth the investment of money/and space we put in to it?

I’m specifically thinking about my desk. It takes up quite a bit of space, and it’s currently catching paper and whatever junk doesn’t have a specific home. Heck, I’m sitting on the couch typing this post up. CLEARLY I don’t HAVE to be sitting at a desk to get stuff done, and CLEARLY I was more enamored with the idea of a desk rather than the functions of a desk when I bought it (curse you Pinterest and all your lovely office spaces!). I’m conducting an experiment to determine whether or not I really need it, but that deserves its’ own post.

Even when we’re in maintenance mode, these questions are still helpful. Just because we’ve done something a certain way for 20 years doesn’t mean that’s the best/most efficient way to do things. It’s healthy to entertain other ideas once in a while, just not too much, lest you throw your whole house into chaos.

How can I best utilize the assets of our space?

Can we fit all our clothes in a closet rather than buy a dresser? Can we use those built-in shelves for our book collection? Our house doesn’t have a ton of built-in storage, but we try to make the most of the storage we do have by editing what we have so that our things fit nicely (still VERY MUCH a work in progress).

Eventually I’m hoping that things will settle down in our place, and these questions have been integral in helping us (and by us I mean me) get there.

Are you in a place where you’re happy with your space? What (if any) changes would you like to make?

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