Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve, Hawaiian Style

Hawaiian/Asian style, the new year is ushered in with fireworks and food. In Hawaiian homes, the food is traditional. In my mother's home, it is always laulaus and poi. For the uninitiated, a laulau is usually a hunk of pork and a smaller hunk of fish wrapped in taro leaves a.k.a luau (lacking taro leaves, spinich is an acceptable alternative) which are then bundled into two ti leaves (not the stuff you put in a tea pot ...) set at right angles to each other and then brought up around the pork/fish/taro leaf bundle, tied and then steamed. These are always served with a bowl of poi, which goes with everything -- like rice or potatoes in other cultures. Additional dishes can be added -- chunks of brine-soaked salmon served almost like a relish with fresh tomato and green onion; chicken stewed in coconut milk and cooked with long rice; poke -- chunks of raw ahi seasoned with assorted stuff (my favorite of the traditional seasonings is inamona, ground up kukui nut; crunchy seaweed is also popular), always best when eaten with poi. Sometimes there is opihi, the Polynesian version of oysters on the half-shell. Opihi are those little shells you see on the reef that look like a Chinese hat. It takes a sharp knife and a quick hand to pick opihi off the rocks, always keeping one eye on the waves for safety. Pop the animal out of his shell and serve. Cooking spoils the flavor, not to mention the texture. Haupia is a basic cornstarch pudding made with coconut milk, cooked thick enough so that the finished product can be cut into squares and eaten as finger food. Luau Cake is a white cake with haupia filling (not cooked so thick, tho) between the layers and frosted with gooey white frosting and lots of freshly grated coconut. Since there were just two of us tonight, Mother and I settled for the laulaus and poi with no frills -- served at regular dinner time instead of at midnight.

The popping of fire crackers began shortly after dark - about 6:30 p.m. It's now 11 p.m., and the booms of the bombs and crackles of the strings of firecrackers are getting more and more frequently. It's difficult to tell whether the flashes in the sky are light from someone's fireworks or lightening from more storms promised by the weather folk. We've had bits of rain -- some of it quite defeaning on the metal lanai roof. Ray and I, with Larry and Leonore from Sacramento, spent the 2005-06 transition 23 stories up in a condo in Waikiki. I'll never forget Ray and Larry looking out across the city about this time of night at the flashes and pops and bangs and air thick with smoke. "It looks like a war zone!" said Larry. Wait until midnight!!

The smell of gunpowder and the sight of bits of red paper littering the ground remind me of happy childhood times when we hung strings of firecrackers -- literally several dozen strings -- in the mango trees to set off almost all at once at midnight, along with the sparklers and firecrackers. There was the anticipation of midnight, being allowed to light one or two strings at a time earlier in the evening. Sometimes we went to my grandparents' in the country, where kids went to bed early and then were awakened just before midnight to watch the neighborhood display -- always better in a largely Japanese community than in our staid Caucasian Kahala neighborhood.

So 2008 is nearly a memory. We're about to open a new calendar. May our share economic and social stresses allow us to focus on those things that are really important -- the people around us, those who we care about and who care about us. Reach out and let someone know you care. Look hard for something positive even in the most difficult relationships. Think global, but live local. Give thanks. Don't forget to pray ....!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It's hard to loose someone you care about. It's hard when they have been battling cruel disease of one kind or another. It's hard when they are aged and infirm. It's hard when the the mind is gone. And it is hard when they are snatched away suddenly at the prime of life.

Lindsay was my father's friend, although he was only an insignificant number of years older than my children. They fished together for years. Lindsay, the jack-of-all-trades but mostly carpenter, worked on the boat. If the boat needed something, Lindsay was usually there to make it happen. Recently, he's been the one in charge, for the boat was to become his one day. He stopped by the house about once a month, usually bringing freshly caught mahimahi or ahi or something equally pleasant. He's been twice to the hospital to visit my dad. There are several men of about the same age who fished with Daddy, but Lindsay is the only one who visits regularly and frequently. He once offered that my dad made a difference for him, trusting him and giving him a reason to turn his life around. Guess Lindsay had spent his share of time fighting the world. Now he was giving back.

But Lindsay is gone now, snatched away by a careless driver who didn't see Lindsay's motorcycle. He -- or perhaps she -- turned across a lane of moving traffic to get to where he wanted to be, cutting Lindsay off (say the newspaper reports). Then he fled. Lindsay dumped the bike, messing himself up in the process. Alone, he lay there on the side of the road -- or perhaps in the road -- critically injured. The newspapers say that instead of trying to help, bystanders stood around arguing about who was at fault. Three hours later, Lindsay died at a nearby hospital. Just a local guy with long hair and riding a motorcycle. Nobody special. Except to his family, his friends -- and my dad.

We've decided this is not a piece of news my dad is ready to hear. If we don't tell him, will he wonder why Lindsay no longer comes to visit? Will he realize that Lindsay is no longer visiting? Will we have to tell him one day that Lindsay is gone, and give him the circumstances of Lindsay's passing? Will they fish together again in another bright ocean?

Care about someone else, as Lindsay did. Give thanks for his life. Pray for his family and friends. Keep praying ....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Post Christmas Letdown

We have survived Christmas Day and are now working down the 12 days. Merry Christmas to all, and best wishes for a 2009 filled with peace and love. The “officials” will tell you that Hawaiians say Mele Kalikimaka and Hauoli Makahiki Hou. Old-time locals are more apt to say, “Happy Nu Eee-ah!” That’s what it sounds like. It’s spelled “Happy New Year”!

So besides care-giving, have I done anything since arriving in Hawaii? Sort of. I’ve discovered a cosmetology school where I can get my hair cut for $10 -- including the shampoo and blow dry. I’ve rediscovered 2 real quilt shops, a dry goods store that has a huge array of fabrics and decorates their walls with finished quilts (good for selling the kits!), and a craft shop that sells patterns and miscellaneous supplies. I’ve connected with several cousins – some who live here, others who have visited. Plus several more who I know only online.

Am quite proud that I’ve registered myself as Hawaiian, the equivalent of tribal registry for other Native Americans. Now, when I go somewhere that I want to be recognized as Hawaiian, I wear the bright red Kau Inoa bracelet. I’ve done too much genealogy work for folks who are unable to register as a part of their hereditary tribe because grandparents or great-grandparents chose not to register. That failure is seen as rejection of Native American heritage, and cannot be undone. I don’t what that to happen to my granddaughters. If you are a Hawaiian living on the mainland and would like to register, you can do it online at the OHA website. Go to or Google on OHA and see what you find.

We had just finished dinner last night when the lights went out. Oh-oh. When my brother called from his home at the other end of the island asking if we had power, I knew we were in for the long haul. He had discovered that power was out over most of the island, but had not yet heard why. I had to call California to learn that most of the generators on Oahu had shut down following a lightning strike and power surge somewhere on the system. Thank you, Nancy.

With only a limited number of generation stations, one line out means most of the system is out of service. This outage left the tourist centers in temporary chaos. People were stuck in elevators, especially in the high rise hotel, condo and apartment buildings. Tourists couldn’t get dinner and were standing in line at ABC stores all over Waikiki looking for those awful pre-made sandwiches. No traffic signals or street lights. At the airport, security screening had to be done by hand. Hawaiian Electric sent a generator out to the home the Obama family is renting in Kailua. I worked on the computer until the battery ran down to critical mode, then watched a movie on the iTouch before falling asleep. Mother had a glass of Kahlua and went to bed early. By 7:30 this morning power was back on and we began functioning normally once again.

I wonder if the Obamas will have fireworks at their house for New Years? Will he have to get the permit from the State in order to buy fireworks? Wonder what the Secret Service thinks about fire works???

More laundry. Then a hospital visit. Took yesterday off, best get there today.

Look for positives. Give Thanks. Don’t forget to pray …..

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve. I have just listened to a very early broadcast of the Service of Lessons and Carols from Kings College, Cambridge. It's only early for me -- Hawaii is a full half a day behind the UK, timewise. My favorite way to begin Christmas Eve.

Still need to wrap the gifts for my father to give to his roommates at the nursing home today. That Christmas Party starts at 10:00 a.m. Then there are the still-unwrapped gifts for my mother, brother and sister-in-law for this evening's gathering. Wrapping is definitely not my favorite task.

To all of you I send wishes for a blessed Christmas. It is, after all, a religious holiday. Be still for a moment, allow the Love of Christ to fill your heart and mind over the next 48 hours. If you come from another tradition, celebrate the now-lengthening days, the promise from nature for new life, new promises of spring. Light a candle in the darkness. Become a light in the darkness.

Look for the light. Give thanks. Keep praying .....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Catching Up

I have just realized that the dribs and drabs I have written over the past month have not gotten beyond the Word file where they were created, to be shared with the rest of the world.

My father's perspective of the last month is both accurate and skewed. He asked me yesterday if the police had been to the house. It seems that he "was driving someplace" and "got stopped". The other people involved [they were very rich people] "weren't very nice" so he "wasn't very cooperative, either". He "got a ticket and had to sign a paper", but I had to sign a paper, too. Then, somehow, he got taken to an apartment belonging to those "rich people" and was given a bedroom where he was very comfortable and slept for about 12 hours. Now he is "incarcerated".

So what is reality? People in uniform -- fire dept. and EMS -- picked him up off the floor and ultimately helped him to the car. He was combative and uncomfortable in the Emergency Room, so staff was very assertive with him. He probably saw that as mean. He signed at least one consent for treatment form in the hospital, and I am sure that I signed something on his behalf. Once admitted to the hospital, he was placed in a private room on the neuro/psych floor and placed in restraints "to remind him that he needs to have someone close by when he gets out bed", as he is a significant risk for falling. The food at Queen's was good, quite unlike any hosptial food I have encountered anywhere else, with the entree actually served on a china plate. He spent two weeks there, and was moved 10 days ago to a skilled nursing facility.

So he's gone from a private room in a 500+ bed hospital to a 4-bed ward in an 82-bed facility where he is one of perhaps 6 caucasians among patients and staff combined. Initially, he was extremely uncomfortable. Then he discovered that whatever he asks for (except his freedom!) he gets. This pleases him. He enjoys the physical therapy, and is discovering how much strength he has lost. He wants to know when he is coming home. It is unlikely that he will recover enough to ever come home again, especially with the incontinence and instability. He would have to be "reminded" at home that he cannot get out of bed without help -- thus, back to the restraints which make my mother very uncomfortable. I've not seen him in a walker, just a wheelchair. This house cannot accommodate a wheelchair. He is not free to come and go at will, or even get out of bed by himself. I can understand how he feels incarcerated.

So as Christmas approaches we give thanks that he is well cared for and reasonably happy. We continue to look for those silver linings. We keep praying ....