My name is Celeste Noelani McLean and I’ve been blogging in some fashion since 2000. This might be at least moderately impressive if my early posts didn’t look exactly like this:
So we went to the zoo this mornin’ and it was a lot of fun. We got to see chain link, electric and barbed wire fences. We saw grass and plants and the elusive giant orange traffic cone in its natural habitat. It is a close relative to the less known, photographed and studied: dwarf orange traffic cone. We did not see any of those at the zoo, however. I think perhaps their habitat was still under construction.
– June 23, 2001
My current blog’s primary function is to help me explore the intersection of grief, mental health, and my Pacific Islander ancestry. I was born and raised on the island of O’ahu and had the extreme good fortune of being immersed in a proud, vibrant Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) family. My father was three-quarters Kanaka Maoli and my mother was half Chamorro from Guam. Both of my parents are now gone after long struggles with terminal illness. Recovery from their deaths has been slow, shaky, and completely brutal, but I am so lucky to have been their daughter. Even though our relationships were often dysfunctional and actually damaging, I miss them both every single day.
When I was a child, my Kupuna Wahine (grandmother) lived with us, giving me the priceless gift of her patience, wisdom, and boundless reserves of aloha. She has always been my most important role model, and I strive to be as steadfast and kind as she managed to be while dealing with her own traumatic losses. When she died in 1993, I was deeply, deeply heartbroken. I left Hawaii a year later, running away in ways I am only now beginning to understand.
Moving to the Pacific Northwest has been an amazing, revelatory, and ultimately depressing experience. I love the home I’ve made for myself here in Seattle, but struggle with a homesickness so intense that nothing else ever feels quite right. Moving back is not an option for the time being, and I honestly don’t know if it ever will be.
In the meantime, I find ways to reconnect with my ancestry, discovering things I never knew as a child. As I learn more about the history of my Pacific Islands, I glean new empathy and understanding of some of the more unpleasant memories I have of both my parents. Learning about the worlds they were born into helps me not only to forgive, but to understand. I also know how critical it for me to understand the world my parents raised me in, and the world into which I have brought my own children. In doing this work, I am breaking the cycle of trauma for my family. Or, at least, that is my dearest hope.
One of my favorite things to do is to go through the boxes and boxes I have containing my family’s photograph collection. The photos stretch back to my parents’ childhoods, offering a glimpse of stories both told and untold. And of course there are a multitude of photographs from my own childhood. Those stories stir up many complicated memories, from days spent spent clinging to my father’s strong body at the neighborhood pool, to the devastation of watching him deteriorate before my adolescent eyes.
And, of course, the joy of being my beloved Kupuna’s little hula girl.
For now those priceless pitures are tucked away, safe from dirty preschool hands and reckless teenage feet. My children, Jonas (15) and Iliana (4), are adding daily to the family photo collection. And my grey hair collection. They are loved dearly for both of these things, and more.
My middle son, Christopher Robin Kealakaiolohia has a small set of photographs that are the only ones I’ll ever have of him. He was stillborn at 22 weeks exactly on September 25, 2009 – two days after my membranes prematurely ruptured while I was at work. I never returned to work after my son’s death and started this blog just a little more than a year later. And while this isn’t a de facto pregnancy loss or grief blog, I definitely do process here regularly. I process many things, because there is an awful lot to process.
And so, here I am.
It would be impossible to exaggerate how much I love hearing from people who read my blog. I have met the most amazing people through my strange journey. I hope that never stops.
You can email me: celeste at runningnekkid.com.
Life With No Room – Winner of second prize in the Mothering Through the Darkness competition. Anthology to be published Fall 2015
On Choosing Life – Published on Stigma Fighters December 16, 2014. To be included in upcoming Stigma Fighters anthology. (Date TBD)
Sometimes Babies Don’t Come Home – Published on SisterWives Speak October 9, 2014
He Loves Me Despite Myself – Originally posted here; featured on BlogHer September 12, 2014 and earned me a spot a as a BlogHer VOTY 2015 honoree.
It’s Such A Bummer About Body Hair – Originally posted here; Featured on BlogHer August 8, 2014
Spotlight On Baby Loss: The Isolation of Grieving My Dead Son -Published at Band Back Together October 26, 2012
The Death of Suicide – Originally posted here; Published on Band Back Together August 28, 2012
Small Stuff – Originally posted here; Published on Band Back Together August 16, 2012
Praise for RunningNekkid
“…Poignant, poetic, earnest, soft. She does an exemplary job of taking us through her journey wrapping around and all the while gleaning cogent and complicated insights. Truly remarkable.” – Dr. Jessica Zucker Mothering Through the Darkness contest judge
“I don’t know if you ever have those days where you wake up convinced you are the worst writer in the world. I have those. Just in case you do, I wanted to tell you the truth: You are EXCEPTIONAL.” – Chris Hendrickson
“I love barf!!!!! And I love you even more!!!!” – my friend Karen