Monthly Archives: September 2012

31 Days of Life in my Hawaii: Day 1

Aloha, and welcome! I’m joining a few hundred other 31 Dayers — go check them out! — and trying my best to post something every day this month. I’ll keep this page updated with links to each day; scroll down to see Day 1: your introduction to life in my Hawaii.

Day 2: Hula

Day 3: Papaya

Day 4: Plumeria

Day 5: Kolea

Day 6: Leis

Day 7: Discoverers’ Day

Day 8: Beach

Day 9: May Day

Day 10: Strawberry Guava

Day 11: Red Ginger

Day 12: Mongoose

Day 13: Baby Luau

Day 14: Kawaiaha`o Church

Day 15: Surfing

Day 16: Merrie Monarch

Day 17: Rice

Day 18: Tiare

Day 19: Gecko

Day 20: Aunty and Uncle

Day 21: Museums

Day 22: Canoe Surfing

Day 23: Wedding hula

Day 24: Malasadas

Day 25: Lehua

Day 26: Monk Seal

Day 27: Aloha Friday

Day 28: Ghost Story

Day 29: Paddleboard

Day 30: Ka Himeni Ana

Day 31: All Pau!

I am keiki `o ka `aina. In Hawaiian it means, literally, “child of the land.” What it means in real life is that I live in Hawaii, I’m from Hawaii: Hawaii is my home.

When I was growing up here, our mainland friends and relatives, taking advantage of the fact that ours was the only family they knew living in Hawaii, would come for one or two week visits fairly often. It seemed like we were constantly hosting some family or other throughout the summer or winter holidays.

As a kid, I liked that. I liked getting to do the touristy things with our visitors: driving to the North Shore, or visiting Pearl Harbor, or taking in the Kodak Hula Show in Waikiki. Or doing anything in Waikiki, which in the days of my youth was somewhat more family friendly than it is today.

On the flip side, our mainland friends also got to just live with us and experience our everyday lives. They got to enjoy the foods we ate, the flowers growing in our yard, the activities and hobbies we enjoyed on the weekends, and of course the culture, customs and traditions that form the framework of our identity as islanders.

In most ways, everyday life in Hawaii is probably pretty much the same as everyday life anywhere in America: We commute to work everyday in traffic (the worst in the nation), we shuttle our kids to school and soccer and Little League practice, we eat lunch from McDonald’s or Subway at our desks in our offices downtown or in the industrial park. We worship on Sundays in churches large and small, and when we get vacation time, we travel to, um, other islands. Or Las Vegas.

But to live in Hawaii, to be from Hawaii, is a far different thing than to just visit. And I’m not just talking about how high the cost of living is, or the fact that it takes us 5 hours — in the air — to get to the next state over.

Maybe you’ve visited Hawaii, or maybe you haven’t but you’ve wanted to. Maybe you or your family did live here for a time, but now you don’t. In any case, your perspective of this place is more than likely to be that of an outsider rather than an insider.

So for the next 30 days, it would be my pleasure to show you around — just the way we used to when mainland friends came to visit — and give you the insider’s view. I’ve got close to six decades of living in and loving this place, which Mark Twain has called “the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean.” Ano ai — welcome to life in my Hawaii!

My boy and me, hanging out

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Body Heat

Me, in the prime of life

So yesterday I had my annual appointment with my OB-GYN. He’s the same one I’ve had since I got married, he delivered my babies, and he has calmly has seen me through all sorts of wacky female issues. Which, now, in my 50’s, get yet wackier, as together we navigate … dun, dun, duuunnnn … menopause.

I’ve seen my mother and other older women deal with the Change of Life, but you never really get what it’s all about until you’re experiencing it firsthand. And the one thing that has been hardest of all to wrap my head around (not to mention LIVE WITH) is hot flashes. Very difficult to explain to someone not familiar, as it were, with the idea, but let me try it this way:

Back in my 20’s I joined a health club, sort of a precursor to the 24 Hour Fitness concept, which hadn’t yet come into being. Thirty years ago it was sort of a novelty, with its lap pool and hot tub, and steam room and sauna. I didn’t care much for the steam room, but I sort of liked the sauna; I’m not sure why. That intense dry heat was kind of hard to take; you had to force yourself to sit there on the wooden bench and just stand it for a certain amount of time. Drawing that hot air into your lungs, you might feel as if you were suffocating, but you knew you should stay and bear it because somehow it was good for you.

That’s kind of what a hot flash feels like. Only without the reassurance that it might be good for you. The other night — well, it was morning, actually; 3:00 am — I woke up to an unbearable heat that was coming not from the outside but from the inside. The inside of me, that is. It was as if I were some sort of human radiator. And it didn’t stop. When I first started getting hot flashes, they reminded me of being in labor: you know, when you have a contraction and it builds to a peak and then gradually subsides after about a minute? Your average hot flash is like that, lasting altogether a couple or three minutes. Not this one that night. I just lay there and radiated for about 20 minutes, soaking my pajamas and the sheets, while I pondered the possibility of death by elevated body temperature.

And remember, here in the tropics where I live, it’s still basically summer. The thinnest cotton sheet anywhere on me, even a toe or two, feels like I’m being smothered under a down comforter.

Anyway, my doctor couldn’t really tell me how long this nifty little phase of my life is going to last. All I know is nowadays I won’t go anywhere anymore without a little fold-up fan, and tissues to mop my brow (and neck, and upper lip, and ahem, decolletage). He did suggest that the next step might be hormone replacement therapy, which sounds a bit scary to me, even though I know countless women have opted for it and lived to tell the tale. I decided to hold off for now, but the more I think about it the more I suspect it won’t be very long before I’m calling my doctor back: “Ya gotta DO something, Doc! I can’t TAKE it anymore!” Maybe a bit less desperately than that. Maybe not.

D*mn dog

There are some days — not many, but some — when I would really like to strangle my dog. Today, you may be guessing, is one of them.

Here’s the thing: I am an unabashed dog lover. I think dogs are just the best pets ever. When it comes to dogs, I’ve got it as bad as anyone; just love ’em. But I have to say, I really prefer big dogs. I don’t seem to have as much affection for little dogs. I don’t know why that is. But the bigger the dog, the more I’m going to love it, and the smaller the dog, the more I’m … not.

However I think my next dog, much as it pains me to say, is going to have to be a small dog. Because the big one I’ve got has almost gotten to be too much for me to manage. I probably won’t end up killing my dog, as crazy as he has driven me, but there’s a chance he might kill me first.

As he almost did — again — this morning on our walk.  Do you ever watch the Dog Whisperer? And you know how his mantra is that dogs need exercise, discipline and affection — in that order? That makes pretty good sense, so I’m fairly faithful about walking my dog every day, because I figure a brisk half-hour walk is probably as good for me as it is for him.

The problem is, when we set out each morning, I have to remember that I’m walking Jekyll and Hyde. Which you’d never guess just by looking at him. I mean, look at this:

Sweet, huh? How about this:

What an angel. Most of the time he is, honest. But he has a dark side. (And I’m not just talking about the outside.) He has a problem with other dogs, which is that he really, really loathes them, and will go to any lengths to let them know what an affront they are to his very existence. And there will certainly be biting involved.

And when that happens, and I’m on the other end of the leash, I’m usually the one who ends up getting the worst of it. To wit:

This is the result of him taking off after the *evil* sheepdog who had the audacity to be walking down the same street as us, thus dragging me along the asphalt. Which makes this the fourth or fifth time I’ve come home bleeding (with a ruined manicure to boot) from what ought to be a nice bit of morning exercise, with a 75-pound Labrador Retriever who is apparently possessed by demons.

So I turned the air just a tad blue — sorry, neighbors — as I picked myself up off the pavement and tried to stanch the bleeding as best I could, and did my best to remember that he really is a good dog. Most of the time. When he doesn’t require the services of an exorcist.

Counting my blessings

a countable blessing: sunrise from my deck

So the other day when I was whining mentioned that Halloween is my least favorite holiday, it occurred to me that it’s actually closely followed by my most favorite holiday, which is Thanksgiving.

The thing that’s so great about Thanksgiving, well, two things really: number one, it’s all about the food — who’s gonna ever complain about a holiday that revolves around food? — and number two, it isn’t only about the food, it’s also (duh) about being thankful.

I mean, every November in America, you’re practically forced to stop and take stock and acknowledge the things you’re grateful for. And in my opinion, that’s one thing it’s good to be forced to do. So it seems kind of a shame that for the most part we only gear up to do it once a year.

Of course, that’s not true for everyone. Oprah for one is famous for her gratitude journal, which lots of people have decided is a good idea and put to use in their own lives. There’s even an app for it, which is kind of a clever 21st century spin on your grandmother’s admonition to count your blessings.

Which is what I’m doing today. Just since I woke up this morning, all sorts of little things I’m thankful for have popped into my head. Here’s a sampling:

  • that our boy finally, after months of searching, was able to trade in his gas-guzzling truck and get a practical, four-cylinder car that had all the specs he wanted and was in his price range (now The Coach can stop with the obsessive late-night searches on Craigslist);
  • that our girl is on her way to Chicago today for a volleyball tournament, having made the cut for the traveling team (Go Bearcats!);
  • that tomorrow I’m finally getting this weird thing taken off my tongue, which may mean a few days of liquid meals following the surgery, but that could be a positive if it translates into losing a couple pounds;
  • that The Coach (so far; knock wood) has had a relatively drama-free season with his team. Truly a blessing that he has a pleasant and easy-going group to work with, which is no small thing to be able to say about a gaggle of teenage girls;
  • that a Pilates studio recently opened up in my neighborhood, and I’m going back to Pilates classes again a couple times a week. I feel better already!

I could go on, but that’s good for now. What sorts of blessings are you counting today?

Falling behind

No offense to anyone who loves fall, but: ugh.

So if Labor Day is unofficially the last day of summer, then I guess that means today is unofficially the first day of fall.

Thereby making it my least favorite day of the year. Because without question, fall is my least favorite season.

Allow me to indulge in a little mini tirade. (As if you didnʻt already figure out thatʻs whatʻs going on here.) Can someone please explain to me whatʻs so great about autumn? One minute youʻre relaxed, tanned, and not having to dress in layers; youʻre drinking ice tea/margaritas/lemonade by the pool/lake/ocean — the next, youʻre all, get serious! back to work! and there you are, toiling away under the fluorescent lights in your windowless cubicle.

And when you go back to work, not only are you not wearing white anymore, but youʻre limited by apparel retailers to selecting from among black, brown and charcoal gray for your wardrobe choices. Mostly black. And thatʻs not even a very good color for you.

Iʻm convinced that people who claim fall is their favorite season are eternal optimists. They’d have to be, to think that fall colors, crisp air, Halloween, football, etc. are just the best things ever and canʻt wait to be raking leaves and cozying up to the fireplace with their hot chocolate.

You can have it. Since I’m from the tropics, none of that’s happening for me anyway. Except of course Halloween, which is hands down my least favorite holiday (a whole other story; don’t get me started), and football, which I have to grudgingly admit is for me the exception that proves the rule. But it seems like it’s the intangibles of fall that are the hardest to get around.

You know, like how your to-do list grows from one or two items to a dozen or twenty overnight. And now you have endless soccer practices to drive back and forth to, and homework checks, and parent-teacher conferences, and late (takeout) dinners, and shorter days on top of it all. Which means commuting in the dark. Both ways.

And by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you’re just thankful that fall and its attendant unpleasantness is mostly behind you, and at least now you have Christmas to look forward to. Which the retailers have been helpfully reminding you since about mid-October.

Sigh. I’m no eternal optimist, obviously, so I’ll just bear with this season and try to remember that summer’s just nine months away. Practically right around the corner.