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❤️ Letter 90: Lessons from Omi, The Holiday, Health Is Wealth, Bodhi Day, Internetly, Kanaka

10 min

What idea am I most excited about in my life right now?

Aloha fellow learn-it-all

Greetings from Diamond Head, O’ahu, Hawai'i 🌺

I have been sick in bed the majority of this week. It’s tough feeling this way with it looking so glorious outside.

I spent my morning in a snaking line at the airport to get tested yet again because of the doom and gloom emotional sickness I feel that I have the dreaded virus. At least I was in neat company with this furry friend.

The results of both my tests have come back negative though I still don’t feel the most healthy.

If you are new here or missed last week's edition, you can catch up on the past letters here. If you are reading this for the first time, I’d love you to sign up below to join the other 313 learn-it-alls:

Now, let’s dive into letter 90 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

🖊 Writing

My Dutch grandma has been on my mind having passed a little over two years ago. I called her Omi. This shows the epitome of how she lived, inventing her own ways, where she didn’t want to be called Oma because it sounded old. She's more spunky than that having rode her bike until she was about 80 or so.

Dutch heritage has continued to fascinate me because I was fascinated by her stories of how she grew up and of what war was like with a Nazi invasion during WWII.

In a twisted way, I think about how I am grateful that she passed before the chaos of Covid. She would've been so confused and lonely during the pandemic.

The first piece I ever published on my website on December 18, 2019 was this Tribute to her.

I believe that in order to get to know myself better I need to understand better who I come from.

Since rereading my original tribute, I have restructured and added more depth to it to make it more readable with fourteen lessons:

  1. Stick to your promises and be punctual.
  2. Have fun creating imperfect things.
  3. Even if it doesn’t taste or feel good at the beginning, it’s worth it.
  4. Be intentional word choice— this includes making up your own phrases.
  5. There are different ways to get to the same outcome. Respect that diversity.
  6. All it takes is at least one cheerleader who believes in your creativity.
  7. Invest in your relationships.
  8. Learn to say no.
  9. Listen to comfort  others and help them feel seen.
  10. Model the way for others to never stop learning
  11. Zoom out and see the big picture of life.
  12. Open your eyes and be observant .
  13. Stick up for what you believe in.
  14. Celebrate and learn to love life full of many little moments full of spontaneity and surprises.

To read the whole piece:

🎬 Watching

I'm not going to lie it's really challenging to get into the holiday season without snow in the tropics.

To try to help with that I watched The Holiday. This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies. Yes, it's a total chick flick and rom com, but I love it anyways. From writer and director Nancy Meyers, two women on opposite sides of the globe swap houses only to discover that a change of address can really change their lives.

Produced in 2006, I've noticed some things from it that make me feel old.

  1. "You sleep with your BlackBerry [phone]" was only what workaholics did and now I'd say it's safe to say that most people sleep with their phones, workaholic or not.
  2. "You're supposed to be the leading lady of you own life, for God's sake. Arthur, I've been going to a therapist for three years. And she's never explained anything to me that well. That was brilliant. Brutal but brilliant. Thank you."
  3. Wanting to run away from stress with the antidote of a vacation and to read a whole book and not just a review of one.
  1. No more movie stores and the physical perusing of films anymore. I miss Blockbusters
  2. How foreign of a concept it was to do a home-exchange site before airbnb normalized it. They both decided within less than an hour of text exchange on a whim. I would've thought this was a scam in reality.
  3. Kate Winzlet picked up her neighbor, Eli Wallach, whom she'd never met before. She knew where he lived and it wasn’t thought of as creepy. This was pre-Uber. WHAT. I wouldn’t thought in my head “what a creep?”.

Of the many reasons why this isn’t just another movie is because of how much I relate to each of the characters. Here’s a deep die on the main five:

  1. Cameron Diaz - She encapsulates the typical American busybody.

    Despite being on the 'wrong side' of the road and sitting on the opposite side of her car in England, she drives super fast because she doesn't know how to slow down in life. She doesn't know how to sit in boredom for even an instant and starts heavily drinking wine even in the grocery store. Her first impulse is to book her flight home after the first six hours because of how lonely she feels.

  2. Hugh Grant - His silly “Mr. Napkin Mouth” skit has be laughing every. single. time. I relate to how he tries to compartmentalizes his life. His compartments look much different than mine nevertheless, his are being a full-time dad of two daughters sewing dresses, being a book editor, and a widower seeking a new mate.

  3. Kate Winslet - The constant bombardment of her ex and unrequited love in the modern age via postcards, emails, calls, texts. That didn't even include social media back in the day of 2006. Maybe there was AIM? Catch me @Klorinekween333 in ‘o9.

  4. Jack Black - I absolutely love how he can capture a whole movie like Jaws in the tone of his voice with a mere two notes. He ends up creating music that reminds him of characters Kate and Eli. Future project when Jen the Ukulele player is not an amateur: create songs that remind me of my friends so I never need to miss them.

  5. Eli Wallach - My FAVORITE scene in the whole movie is where he walks the red carpet past all of his adoring fans. They all wanted to hear about his career at Hollywood starting at age 17. I always get goosebumps and end up crying. It's impossible for me not to feel his pride that people did notice him despite being an "old cocker".

Three favorite words

  1. Gumption: shrewd, spirited initiative, or resourcefulness
  2. Cheeky: bold, Brazen-faced, impudent or irreverent, typically in an endearing or amusing way
  3. Schmuck: yiddish for a foolish or contemptible person

Finally, last but not least…

The music in this movie is phenomenal.

The German film score composer Hans Zimmer is THE man.

He integrates electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements and makes every bit of an emotion I'm feel get reinforces with complimentary sounds. He recently produced the music for the new movie out in theaters called Dune and gotten reviews for being like an otherworldly equivalent of a “Planet Earth”-style nature spectacular.
I recommend the soundtrack:

🎙 Recording on Racket

So as I mentioned up top, my final week on O'ahu has not been going to plan with unexpected surge in Covid exposure.

Along with physically feeling like a train wreck, I've had guilt and paranoia looming over me. To keep my conscious clear, I did go to an electronic concert and pretending that everything was as it was when I saw Dillon Francis in 22 months ago.

Clearly not the case.

My immune system is not as it used to be so what can i expect. What was I thinking? It’s so easy to be hard on ourselves.

I felt anger and frustration as the test result came swooping in. I have some sort of cold still and it sucks, even if it's not the big C virus.

Moral of the story?

Your health is your wealth.

I’m not trying to have a pity party. My last week of being in Hawaii this year was not planned to be spent popping C and zinc or chugging pedialyte. Nevertheless, here I am.

This has been a brutal reminder that you cannot plan your life to a T.

The curveballs in it curve and you don’t see them coming. I was supposed to be getting some last minute Christmas shopping in this week, and I’m physically incapable of leaving my bed at the present moment.

We are not invincible. We are only human and health can be fleeting.

I recorded an 80 second racket summarizing this if you’d like to hear from me:

📖 Reading

I've been absolutely LOVING a Write of Passage C6 Alice Lemée's Internetly newsletter. Her most recent edition on "Why We Always Dream of Leaving But Are So Afraid to Go" got me feeling all types of ways.

When I moved across the world in June, I didn't allow myself to really analyze the decision. I knew I had been stewing up so many ideas up in my journal and then the job opportunity was too good to pass up.

I love how Alice articulates her love/ hate relationship with her home:

I’m looking to break free from this urban snow globe. I need to breathe, to drain NYC’s competitiveness from my psyche. The destination is still unknown, but I’ll figure that out as I go.

Despite it all, I’m terrified to leave NYC. It’s peculiar, considering someone reading this is probably horrified at the idea of moving to NYC. Life’s funny that way.

I also love the metaphor shared on creating momentum. It is beyond true that ideas feel perfect when they stay up in our heads. It's not until they became a tangible project that the messy fun begins. Like any creation the slab of clay needs to be thrown onto the pottery wheel to start to take shape.

I highly recommend you checking out Internetly for more content like this!

🔎 Word to define

Kanaka: "human being" in the Hawaiian language

Mankind, person, individual, Hawaiian


When translated into English, however, it was naturally used in referring not to people in general but rather to Hawaiians of Polynesian ancestry, or more broadly, to any Polynesian person.

Since this usage has often been perceived, and has sometimes been intended, as derogatory, Kanaka is best avoided by outsiders.

Among Native Hawaiians, however, it is often used today as a term of ethnic pride, especially in the form Kanaka Maoli, a traditional Hawaiian ethnonym which can be translated as "true human being" or "real person."


At a new film screening of Ala Moana Boys last week, I heard Kanaka being used several time to show pride for being native Hawaiian.

(Side note: it was so heart-warming to be in the same room as the director and actors in the film)

🌟 Quote to inspire

“The biggest risk of all is not taking one.” -Mellody Hobson

❓ Question to think about

What idea am I most excited about in my life right now?

How can I double down on it to create something meaningful around it?

📷 Photo of the Week

It was Bohdi day this past Sunday.

This is the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni), experienced enlightenment and became Buddha.

I went to my first Zazenkai ever with a Dharma Talk from Michael, the lead teacher at the Zen Center I joined a couple months ago. It was around Buddha's enlightenment.

It was also so strange to be sitting at the same level next to each on the perimeter of the room on the same level as Michael while he spoke. This is incomparable tothe spiritul event I went to while growing up in a Catholic church with a podium and alter.

Everything within me wanted to take notes during the talk, but we aren't allowed to. As a practitioner, I am to just listen and let it soak in without worrying about remembering, understanding or even figuring out what is shared. This is so uncomfortable to everything I have programmed in my student system of habits to capture.

From my fallible memory of what I remember reacting to during the Dharma was how Buddha in his youth noticed he wanted more than to move from gratification to gratification in his life. Like me, I have also been reflecting on how I can move beyond what historically would motivate me.

After the talk, I made it through 90 minutes of the silent sitting for my practice. I have not yet made it to through the full 120 minutes of meditation quite yet. This by no means meant that I felt 'zen' for each of the 30 minute sessions though. I felt so fidgety and by the 3rd session I felt stir crazy and had to leave. My leg fell asleep and I felt like sitting another 30 minutes would be out of the question.

It's definitely challenging to stick with the practice knowing I leave feeling frustrated that my mind became noisier. It makes me start to question my relationship with my mind.

🙏 Shoutouts

I appreciate you reading this! If certain ideas resonated or you have feedback to improve my future newsletters, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet.

If you want to learn more about who I am, I welcome you to visit my online home.

Never stop learning 😁

Mahalo 🌺


PS - There are 24 of you reading this for the first time and I’d love to know your first impressions

PPS - Whether you are new or not, I’d love to hear from you and what one takeaway is from this letter that resonates with you.

👣 Footnotes

On appreciation for my roommate for accepting my abnormal behaviors:

On a new addition I made to my weekly impossible burger meal:

On my belief that time is never wasted:

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