Wednesday, September 12, 2012

In the Middle?

I turned 41 yesterday.
This was not an easy thing. When I was a kid I couldn't even imagine being 41, and yet here I am. It's not that I have an issue with aging, I mean it's inevitable and I know that. But, it just seems to be going by so fast, my life. Zooming by at warp speed leaving me reeling, trying to catch my breath.

My kids are growing up so fast, becoming their own people, creating their own lives.

And don't get me wrong, I am going to fight the aging process as much as I can. And exercise, I will continue to exercise. But the things I can't control, like the way my skin is just a little looser, a little softer-- these are reminders when I look in the mirror that my life is quickly winding down the back side of the mountain.

When I was misdiagnosed with Lupus I was focused on gaining as much information as I could.  I wanted to know everything. I was a frazzled, freaked out, angry, scared.  But when I was undiagnosed, that was when it really hit home, my mortality. It could really sink in. I wasn't going to die from this horrible disease... but I was going to die.

I don't mean to be morose. Quite the opposite. I want to focus on the positive, the love, joy, and excitement of my future old self.

When we first moved here to Oahu there was an older woman walking on the beach in Waikiki.  She was confidently walking along the beach in her swimsuit, tan, fit, long hair blowing in the wind, casually carrying her snorkel and fins in her hand. She was beautiful, but she was old. Chad turns to me and says, "That's you in a few years." Back then I was insulted and a little hurt. Is this how he sees me, I wondered?

But now I can see it too and I'm okay with it. My future old self will be just fine.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Barracuda: A Fish Tale

Last month when we were on the North Shore swimming with my turtle friends my world was rocked.

Now I thought I knew my ocean.  Thought I knew what possible dangers lurk in my waters.

I know about sharks, and in our two years of living here and being in the water nearly daily I have only had one encounter with a shark, and I totally missed it. But this isn't a shark tale, it's a fish tale.

I also know about eels, I have many close encounters with these sneaky little beasts and to be honest, I'm more apt to get bit by an eel than a shark.

So back to my tale.

I was swimming near the shore, in shallow water only about six feet deep. The visibility was crap the currents pulling up all the seaweed and sand making the water a silty mess. Just what the turtles love, tiny bits of tasty morsels floating near the shore. It is unfortunate that what brings these creatures to this beach is the very same thing that makes the visibility so bad.

So I had just entered the water, it was my first snorkel of the day, I was excited to get some new photos of my turtle friends. A few yards from shore I immediately see something I rarely see, a large school of Ulua the very large fish all fishermen hope to come across, raced right around me. I immediately pop my head up and yell to my son on shore to bring the spear, maybe he'll catch us dinner.

When I put my face back in the water I see a head of one of the Ulua, floating near the bottom, tendrils of blood hoover close to it.  Now I did not immediately put two and two together. My first thought was a fisherman had thrown his scraps into the ocean. But it only took a split second for that to change.

To my right I see in the murky darkness the tail of the largest creature I have ever encountered in the ocean. It seemed to slither away from me cutting the water with its gigantic tail fins. I immediately gasped, surfaced and instinctively flung myself onto my back trying to distance myself from the creature. My husband had seen it too. I was speechless. Rattled.

I knew it wasn't a shark, the tail fins were all wrong, they were vaguely familiar though, but at the time I couldn't quite place it. They were silvery with a large black dot.

The girth of the creature is what was so frightening.  It was at least two and a half feet thick, thicker than me, a lot thicker than me.

The length of the creature (of what I saw slowly slithering away from me) was at least four feet long, and mind you I did not see it's face.

Thank God Almighty, I did not see it's face.

I was rattled. I got out of the water shaken and confused. What the hell was that thing?  It looked like something from river monsters. What kind of fish gets that big? I mean it was REALLY big.

A Behemoth.

I realized from the safety of the shore that the creature was hunting and that is why the school of Ulua swam right through me, they were being pursued. I had stumbled into the middle of the Behemoth's lunch.

When I got home I thumbed through my book on Hawaiian Fish looking for that tail fin. I know that tail fin.

 And then I found it: Barracuda.  It was a Barracuda.

I had seen Barracuda before, hovering in the distance at the end of the pipes at Electric Beach. But they weren't as big as this. I didn't know they could get as big as this.

It turns out the Great Barracuda can grow to 6 feet. "These powerful predators are often found in shallow water close to shore, especially in early morning or late afternoon."

Barracudas do occasionally attack humans, especially in the middle of feeding frenzy.

We went to North Shore yesterday.  When I was packing our lunch I was thinking about my fish encounter. I have to say I was a little leery to get back in the water.  Once again visibility was crap. But my turtle friends were there and yes lurking in the brackish water I did see those tell-tale fins of silver and black, but they were much smaller, not nearly the size of the Behemoth from before.

Yes I can share my ocean with you, just tell your really big brother to stay away, okay?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Don't Get Sick in Hawaii

When we first moved to Hawaii I immediately went about trying to find a new doctor. You see I had numerous prescriptions I needed filled. Because even though I moved with prescriptions in hand, the state of Hawaii will not honor prescriptions for "controlled substances" from out of state doctors. Unfortunately this included sleep aids.

So I went about the task of finding a new doctor with diligence. Now you need to know that our new doctor would have pretty big shoes to fill, since our family had had the same doctor for the last 17 years. He delivered our children and treated our illnesses and injuries. {Insert shout out for Dr. Dee Christlieb of Ashland Family Practice! We miss you!}

When we moved here I was pleased to discover that we had Kaiser. I had never used Kaiser, but I thought that they had a fairly good reputation.  Boy was I wrong.  My first encounter of the Kaiser kind was a meet and greet of my new "Doctor" to establish care and give him the paper files I had brought with me from Oregon.  I was appalled at the interview. Kaiser offices in Hawaii are set up like this: a computer is set up with a chair for the doctor or nurse to input info into-- facing the opposite wall as the patient/customer seating.  My doctor sat with his back to me the entire consultation looking over his shoulder only occasionally to question a particular medication and my use of it. So lame.

So I know that I came from the most perfect of medical relationships, a doctor who knew everything about me and my family and cared about us on a personal level. But I was not prepared for Kaiser. What was particularly eye opening was the way the doctor would say things like I don't know if "they" would allow that... Always referring to Kaiser as "They" and implying that he had no control over my medical care, and that it was all decided by "Them". Creepy big brother crap, that I hoped was just this one doctor's perspective.

Needless to say we switched doctors. But we still had to stay with Kaiser until open enrollment. I decided I would drive all the way to Mililani for my medical care.


When I stepped inside this fairly modern building I was slapped in the face by the pungent aromas of Asian cuisine.

What?  Really?

There were folding tables set up with trays and trays of food.  What the heck?  Piles of chicken and other meats, noodles and soups all sitting out and waiting to be sold while sick people and their illness walked by trailing their germs behind them.

Yuck. Gross.  Are you serious?  Is this even safe?

And if I didn't feel sick when I walked in I sure do now.

When my doctor suggested exploratory surgery over an MRI for my injured knee, I was gone.

I remember saying, "I don't want to get sick in Hawaii." I imagined being elderly and  having to battle cancer or some other disease here, in a place where medical care seemed archaic, and it really panicked me. This is not the U.S this is like living in Mexico.

My new bout with illness (or suspected illness) has put me a little more at ease. Though I was led astray by an overzealous dermatologist, my rheumatologist had put me at ease. And yes I think my new general practitioner may make the cut as well. Only time will tell, I'm not in any kind of hurry to find out.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What Lies Beneath

Gardening sucks in Hawaii!

Let me rephrase that, Gardening sucks in Hawaii for me.

Let me rephrase that again, Gardening in Ewa, on the beach is really, really hard.

I'm sure that there are places here on Oahu that regardless of the variety, you plant it and it grows. Well maybe, but I doubt it. You see I am an Oregon State University Master Gardener. (toot, toot.) I spent all my time while I still lived in Oregon, pushing the boundaries of my USDA zone 7-8. I created microclimates and tried to get every palm and tropical plant I could get my hands on, to grow in my garden. And sometimes it worked. And sometimes it didn't.

So imagine how excited I was at the prospect of finally, finally having an actual real life tropical garden! Well, things are not quite turning out the way I had hoped.

When we first moved into our house down here in Ewa Beach, we focused on the inside, gutting the bathrooms, walling in random windows between walls, taking out random sliding glass doors (between rooms) and creating arches, painting every single surface (including ceiling fans and light fixtures). So when at last I could put my attention to my small but completely tropical garden, I was thrilled.

Well until that first time I turned on the hose. I turned on the hose to water our sorry excuse for a lawn when the weirdest, grossest thing happened. The lawn came alive! It came alive with every matter of black and brown beetles. Many of them roaches. When the water poured the bugs crawled out of the earth like some freakish, hellish horror movie. I am not exaggerating, hundreds of bugs crawled out of the earth and scrambled for dry ground, many racing towards the concrete and my home beyond! I was literally waiting for the zombies rip themselves from my lawn.

The thing is we didn't really have a bug problem IN the house. The prior owners had kept up on the fumigating and it wasn't really an issue. But outside was a completely different story. You see our house was vacant for a year, (another weird Hawaii law: if you open a permit for any kind of work and don't use a licensed contractor, you can not sell said home for one full year.)
Why? Lamest law of all time because all work needs to pass inspection, so what difference does it make who is doing the work? And the result is no flipping of homes, which means many ugly, dilapidated homes stay that way. So dumb because renovating these worn out homes is nothing but money, money, money. Dollars in materials, dollars in real estate fees, dollars in sales, dollars in property taxes. Win. Win. Win. Win. But no one asks me, so...

Anyway, so I am thinking that because no one has done a thing to the yard for a year the local creepy, crawly livestock have taken up permanent residence in my yard. Lived free, and prospered. SO before I can even get to planning and planting I have to bring out the heavy artillery and wage an all out war on these insects.

Ugh. So gross. Bugs like you've never seen before.

And I like to go Organic. But this was completely out of the question, I needed the most toxic stuff I could get my hands on. It was either that, or move. This is when I discovered Diazinon has been outlawed. Damn, that shit was good. Anyways, I spent months just trying to kill the creatures that teemed in my soil. The idea of working that soil with these hands made my skin crawl. It took about a month and a half of hitting it hard (keeping the dog out of the yard) to really completely reverse the "Zombie Effect" as it has since been labeled.

So now (I think) I'm bug free and I start to plan, and buy and dig. And I quickly discover that I do not have soil, I have sand. There is approximately an inch and a half of dark, loamy obviously imported, soil covering the entire surface of my yard. But once the shovel goes in I discover that what lies beneath is nothing but sand. At first I was hopeful. After all there were about three obviously successful plants growing on the property, maybe plants could grow in this? I was so used to the thick clay that I had for soil in Oregon that at first I was thrilled, realizing that planting would be a cinch. I would amend, I would back fill, I would make this work.

You know the problem with sandy soil? Well, besides the fact that there aren't any nutrients in it. It doesn't retain water. I live where it is 80 degrees everyday and I have soil that will not retain a drop. This means I must water every day. Every day. And amend, amend, amend amend.

But the absolute worst part of gardening in Hawaii is that THERE AREN'T ANY NURSERIES! Seriously, like none. I live in the land where nearly everything will grow-- but no one sells any plants! Oh don't get me wrong, we have a Lowe's and a Home Depot and they have garden departments. Pitiful little plots of mistreated plants cared for by employees that don't know a thing about plants. Where are the nurseries? These wonderful places filled with plants lovingly cared for by people who actually like to garden? Where? Well apparently there are such places, so I hear, over on the windward side. But none conveniently located within 40 minutes (one way) of my home. Lame. Lame. Lame.

But I will overcome damnit! I will. I will fight creatures great and shinny! I will pile on the manure! I will drive for hours for plants! I will fertilize. I will water, water, water! I WILL have my tropical garden, I will.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Prince Kuhio Day

Today is Prince Kuhio Day.

This is a state holiday in honor of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole. It is celebrated annually on March 26, to mark the birth of Prince Kuhio— heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii, prince of the House of Kalakaua, and later territorial delegate to the United States Congress. As Delegate, Kuhio authored the first Hawaii Statehood bill in 1919. He also won passage of the Hawaiian Homes Act, creating the Hawaiian Homes Commission and setting aside 200,000 acres of land for Hawaiian homesteaders.

It is one of only two holidays in the United States dedicated to royalty, the other being Hawaii's King Kamehameha Day on June 11.

This morning over coffee I wanted to read up on Kuhio, if for nothing other than to pay homage to the man that gave me the day off of work.

Kuhio was an interesting character. In 1893 the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawaii put in power a Provisional Government of Hawaii and latter a Republic of Hawaii. This overthrow was instigated by the Big Five or as Stuart McKenzie would say The Pentaverate, and no Colonel Sanders is not one of them. The Big Five was a group of English and American Businessmen who wanted more control over Hawaii. The new Republic of Hawaii no longer had room for monarchs.

In 1895 Kuhio went on to fight in the rebellion against the Republic but the rebels proved no match for the Republic. Kuhio was sentenced to a year in prison. He served his full sentence.

In 1898 the the United States annexed Hawaii and the Territory of Hawaii was formed.

Kuhio and his wife left Hawaiʻi upon his release from prison and traveled widely in Europe, where they were treated as visiting royalty. He traveled to Africa from 1899 to 1902 where he joined the British Army to fight in the Second Boer War.

Kuhio eventually returned from his self-imposed exile to take part in politics in post-annexation Hawaii. He became active in the Home Rule Party of Hawaii , which represented native Hawaiians and continued to fight for Hawaiian independence. A much smaller Democratic party, led by his brother David Kawananakoa, was less radical and also less powerful. The Republicans represented business interests including people who had originally overthrown the Monarchy.

In 1901 Kuhio switched parties and joined the Republicans. He was disillusioned with the lack of progress made by the Home Rule Party, and its control by "radicals". The Republicans eagerly accepted him into the fold. By endorsing the heir to the throne of the Hawaiian kingdom they gained significant support in local communities, and Kuhio was given a strong leadership position.

Kuhio was elected delegate to the U.S. Congress in a landslide victory for the Republicans, and helped establish a Republican hold on the legislature. He served from March 4, 1903 until his death, winning a total of ten elections. During this time he instituted local government at the county level, creating the county system still used today in Hawaiʻi. He staffed the civil service positions that resulted with Hawaiian appointees. In 1919, Kuhio introduced in Congress the first-ever Hawaii Statehood Act. It would be another 40 years before seeing fruition.

Kuhio died on January 7, 1922.

Friday, March 23, 2012

WTF Hawaii!

So it's my husband's birthday today. (Happy Birthday, honey.) And he wanted to go to a movie which is like a really big deal because he's not really into movies.

So my son and I are totally excited for the Hunger Games, being huge Suzanne Collins fans, (we love Gregor) but my husband had other ideas, and well, it is his birthday and all, so he gets to choose, right?

So what does he want to see? Casa de Mi Padre, the newest Will Farrell movie.

(Because we love all things Mexican.)

So Casa opened on Thursday so we're all, "Yay let's go to a movie!" So we look up show times and discover what?? No listings? It's not playing anywhere? How can that be? After we double check the release date we come to the realization that Casa de Mi Padre is not playing anywhere on our islands.

Now I know that we have a shortage of Latinos (and all things wonderfully mexican) here in Hawaii, which is apparent in our lack of good mexican food and my inability to find ancho chili pepper--anywhere. But you'd think that a nationally released spanish language movie spoof would play somewhere on this island. But alas no such luck. Sorry Chad.

Days like these we really miss California.

Tan it' s mi husband' cumpleaños de s hoy. (Feliz cumpleaños, miel.) Y él quiso ir a una película que es como realmente una gran cosa porque he' s no realmente en películas.

Tan mi hijo y soy totalmente emocionado para los juegos del hambre, siendo ventiladores enormes de Susana Collins, (amamos Gregor) solamente mi marido tenía otras ideas, y bien, es su cumpleaños y todo, así que él consigue elegir.

¿Qué él quiere tan ver? Casa de Mi Padre, la más nueva película de Farrell de la voluntad.

Las casas se abrieron tan el jueves tan we' con referencia a todos, let' yay; ¡s va a una película! ¿Miramos tan para arriba tiempos de la demostración y descubrimos lo que?? ¿Ningunos listados? It' ¿s que no juega dondequiera? ¿Cómo puede eso ser? Después de que comprobemos la fecha de lanzamiento con minuciosidad venimos a la realización que Casa de Mi Padre no está jugando dondequiera en nuestras islas.

Ahora sé que tenemos una escasez de Latinos aquí en Hawaii, que es evidente en nuestra carencia del buen alimento mexicano y de mi inhabilidad de encontrar la pimienta de chile del ancho--dondequiera. Pero you' d piensa que una parodia nacionalmente lanzada de la película de la lengua española jugaría en alguna parte en esta isla. Pero alas ninguna tal suerte. República eo Chad apesadumbrado.

Los días como éstos faltamos realmente California.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Paradise in Paradise

Turtles, turtles, turtles.

So I have always had a strange fascination with turtles and tortoises. When my kids were young I bought every picture book I could find about these curious green creatures. I often visited the Santa Barbara Zoo, just to see my friends in the tortoise enclosure.

Since moving to Oahu I have made it a mission to scour the island for close encounters of the turtle kind. My absolute favorite place for turtles is Paradise Cove. I'm not sure what it is exactly that draws these underwater allies to this tiny little cove. It may have something to do with the fact that Paradise is the only naturally occurring cove in all of Ko Olina Resort. After all Paradise Cove is where they got the idea for all the "man-made" coves that those overpriced resorts are perched on. Don't get me wrong, on occasion you may swim across a turtle in one of the other coves, but Paradise Cove never disappoints.

I think it may have something to do with the tiny little parking lot. There are about twelve parking spaces and usually a line of at least three cars waiting patiently (or impatiently) for the next available spot. We just park across the street at the store. But limited parking means limited tourists, and maybe the turtles appreciate this.

Today there were at least seven turtles cruising around the lagoon, including Half-swimmer, lovingly named because one of his fins was stolen by a shark or a fishing net. We spent nearly four hours swimming and sunning with the turtles. They aren't shy at all. If you wade into the shallows don't be frightened if a few huge dark rocks start swimming towards you. They're just coming over to say hello and to welcome you to their ocean. If you're in the area you should stop by and say hello.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trash in Paradise

So when we first moved into our place here in Ewa Beach and we were busy renovating and hooking up services, I stumbled upon a beautiful discovery. It all happened during a phone call to the refuse department. You see I wanted to make sure, that along with water, electricity and cable, that our trash would also be whisked away in a timely manner. So I was on the phone with the nice lady from City and County of Honolulu, asking about transferring services to our name when she said the funniest thing.

"So there's not a can there?"

I said, "Well yes there is a can here-"

"Then use it," she interrupted.

I said, "Well, I just wanted to transfer the service and fee to our name."

She laughed and replied a little sarcastically, "There is no fee. Trash and recycling is free of charge. It's fairly simple, you just put the can out in the road."

Now to say I heard angels singing, would not be an understatement. Here in paradise where everything costs about four and a half times more than it does back in the mainland I was a little shocked to discover that this particular service was provided to the entire community, free of charge. How can this be? I was expecting upwards of about $80 bucks a month, considering the last time we lived in Cali, about 15 years ago we were paying $60 bucks a month for trash, and what with inflation and this being Hawaii, well lets just say that maybe I'm still hearing those angels sing.

But wait, there's more. Once a month there is a bulky item pickup as well. Also free. Where you can leave all matter of large trash items, appliances, old beds, the entire contents of evicted tenants apartments, on the side of the road for... not so speedy removal. And I guess you could say, maybe some people don't really know when the trucks will be by to pick up said trash, and maybe those ginormous piles hang out for upwards of two weeks, just waiting.

But hey, to a compulsive purger like myself, I only see it as a positive. As I drive by the piles of trash, I can only think to myself, "Good for you, getting rid of all that crap."

The annoying thing is when you discover old sofas, or other bags of trash deposited in the shrubbery of Hau Bush, or a giant discarded pool table on the isolated road out to Iroquois Point.

What?! Really?!

Why would someone drive these things out into the middle of nowhere where they will not be picked up instead of leaving them on their street or better yet dropping them off at the dump, which is also free? Lame.

But idiots aside, free trash is pretty awesome.

I think it may be in part because Hawaii burns it's trash to create our energy. Yeah, we dump tons of diesel fuel on it and bam! Overpriced electricity. Wait a minute. Maybe our free trash isn't so free after all.

There I go again. Damn it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Up, Up and Away

I put my daughter on a plane today. I knew the day was coming. But that didn't mean I was prepared for it.

It's inevitable, they grow up and they move on, and they stumble out into the real world. And you are left standing in the airport surrounded by people, feeling totally, utterly alone. I was so torn because I knew that it was right, she's supposed to move out, find her own way. But at the same time I wanted to grasp onto her with both hands and not let her out of my sight. But instead I watched through teary eyes as she made her way through TSA screening, hoping that I had done everything possible to prepare her for this next chapter.

My husband, son and I made our way home. The trek from Honolulu was unusually quiet. We were all a little lost. We texted Sydney, told her to look out the window as she took off. We'd be sitting on our beach, waving goodbye. When we got home we headed immediately out to the beach, being sure to avoid her now empty bedroom.

We settled out in the sand, the wind blowing hard, the sun shinning brightly. And then we saw it, her plane taxiing down the runway. And then it was up, floating skyward. Up, up. I raised my hand, and slowly began to wave, as she disappeared among the clouds.