Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Matter of Hope

My sister, Jackie, recommended a book to me some time ago.  Three Cups of Tea turned out to be a compelling read, but then, in high school I was a reader of Dr. Tom Dooley's books about his experience as an American doctor working in Indo-China (what we then called Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam)  in the 1950's.

Now Mortenson has a new book out, Stones into Schools.  If you have any interest in alternatives to guns and bombs in the middle east generally and Afghanistan and Pakistan specifically, and if you have not read any of Mortenson's work, either title is worth your time.  If you are interested in the role of women in society, Mortenson's work offers a perspective most Americans don't consider.  If you are interested in education, Mortenson's determination is inspiring.    If you are interested in mountain climbing in the Himalayas, Three Cups of Tea might prove interesting.

These books are an example of the difference one person can make, of the concept that each mountain, each pearl, begins with a single grain of sand.  Even the US Army concedes that Mortenson makes a difference.  He has spoken to cadets at the US Military Academy, West Point.

"On Wednesday, July 15, 2009, Admiral Mike Mullen, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff paid a visit to Pushgur school, in a remote valley of Afghanistan, to inaugurate one of Mortenson’s new schools, to highlight the military’s new strategy to advocate empowering local communities, build relationships and the significance of education to promote peace.... " (Greg Mortenson - Wikipedia)

Would that I could find a way to make that kind of a difference in someone's life.  Can't do it sitting at home, or going to work and coming home every day, or otherwise caught in my comfortable ruts.  Making a difference means stepping out of the box, making new trails.  May I have the courage to leave my ruts.

Happy New Year!!!

Don't forget to pray ....

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Surviving the Holidays

Normally I love Christmas.  I love the decorating, the scheming to create the perfect gift for someone else. I love the lights and outdoor decorations that we don't see much of in this neighborhood.   I love the sharing, opening my home, visiting friends.  The Advent wreath, marking those four Sundays before Christmas, reminding us of promise, prophesy, anticipation, love, candles bringing more and more light even as the days shorten and  the winter solstice nears.  Baking, and baking more.  Hauling out the fine china, polishing the silver, just the right candles on the table and around the house.  Ray was known to bring home the on duty Sheriff or Highway Patrolman for Christmas Dinner.  It was always a trauma for me to give up the cooking and trundle off to Kimo's house to celebrate Christmas with his family.

It not the same in someone else's house.  There are 95-year-old short tempers to consider, others with their own traditions of celebrating -- or ignoring -- the holidays.  My "props" -- the seasonal decorations -- are all 3000 miles away.  Even if they were within reach, there would not be room for them here.

December 23rd was my parents' 70th wedding anniversary.  It was also the annual Christmas Party at Oahu Care Facility.  Mother and I made the trek to share the morning with my dad.  We arrived about 10 minutes before the celebration was to begin.  He was still in bed, asleep.  He did not WANT to get up.  He "didn't feel good" (a frequently used excuse).  He didn't recognize my mother enough to call her by name.  But with a little prompting he did remember that it was their wedding anniversary.

Christmas Day.  I went alone to Oahu Care.  Daddy was awake, and was thrilled with the album I had put together for him from some old photographs my brother Ian has been scanning.  All of them have come from my dad's old albums.  He nearly snatched the book out of my hands, he was so excited to look at what was in it.  He didn't remember that he'd seen all those pictures recently.  They are now in a book, and that makes them special and new.  The fish t-shirt -- he liked the fish, but it was just another shirt, and doesn't have a pocket.  The non-slip socks pleased him.  But photos in an album thrilled him.   When I admitted that my brain was in "forget" mode, and I'd forgotten to bring the Christmas cards and gingerbread that were set aside for him, he was alert enough to quip, "Welcome to the club!"

In the end, I survived Christmas.  It was far from a perfect holiday, but it was not a disaster either.    Although they are not gardeners, Ian and Meda seemed intrigued by the herb pot of basil, parsley and thyme I created for them.  Mother is slowly working her way through 2 lbs. of See's "soft centers only" chocolate, and was not offended by my favorite throw-it-in-the-pot egg timer I found her after she soft boiled the last batch of "hard boiled" eggs.  Church on Christmas morning, rather than our customary Christmas Eve, helped keep the focus where it belongs.

Reach out today to someone who is alone.  Look for someone alone in a crowd.  A smile, an acknowledgement of their existence, is a start.  Don't forget to pray.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Variation on the Theme.

The theme, in this case, is purchased strips of fabric in someone's idea of pleasing color combinations.    I had not intended to put any hand-quilting into this project, but in the end could find no design that I could successfully do by machine AND liked.  The overall design in the two borders is done by hand.  The callous on the left middle finger, which catches the needle on the downward stroke and makes the requisite tiny stitches,  is becoming permanent.  The stitches are getting smaller and more even.  I am fond of the purples in this project, with the pink and green accents.  Who would have thunk it -- purple and this wonderful bright green?!   The blue backing looks like many drops of water.  My mother says she loves that backing fabric.  

Give thanks for communication opening.  Don't forget to pray!  

Friday, December 18, 2009

Abuse ... and abuse

I detest men who treat women as (sex) objects, as servants, as pawns.  I detest men -- and women -- whose behavior illustrates that spousal abuse does not have to be physical to cause great harm.

A card from a friend, received today, shared the sad news.  A mutual friend was caught embezzling, perhaps as much as $500,000, from her employer of more than 20 years.   This isn't the first time; last time it was a different employer and over a much shorter period.

She doesn't do it for herself.  She does it because she is incapable of saying "No." to her husband.  She admits that she created a monster by catering to his every whim.  It's more than just money.  He doesn't help around the house.  He doesn't provide the tools to do the tasks that needed doing.  One day Ray caught her trying to shovel snow off her front steps -- with a boat oar.   For most of their marriage, Hubby made a minimal contribution to the household finances.  Yes, he did have a responsible, good-paying job for a few years.  Now he is disabled.  The disability could have been prevented; he didn't take the action necessary  for prevention.  Their relationship is not a partnership with give-and-take on both sides.  She does all the giving, and always has.  Thank goodness they never had children.

My friend is a sweet, intelligent woman.   Unless one knows the circumstances of her personal life, she is the last person you'd expect to steal anything.  Those who care about her believed she had learned from previous experience.  It's hard to learn that she didn't.  

Pray for my friend.  Call her Liz.  Pray for all victims of emotional or verbal abuse from partner or parent.  ...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Negotiating the Marathon

Today is Honolulu Marathon Day.  

For those of us unlucky enough to live directly on the last 5 miles of the race route, it means we are trapped for most of the day.   

But today was Patu's birthday.  Her 95th birthday.  Patu is the Historian for Daughters of Hawaii.  The Fearsome Four (as we of the Historian's Committee have apparently been dubbed) invited her out  for her birthday.  We offered dinner earlier in the week, but she chose to celebrate with brunch on The Day.  The celebration was to be at the Kaneohe Yacht Club, on the opposite side (but not opposite end) of the island from Kahala. 

In preparation for escaping this morning, I parked the car on the nearest side street yesterday afternoon.  Then came home and read the traffic instructions from the Race Committee.  

When I left the house just before 9 a.m., one lane of Kealaolu Avenue (a 2-lane street) was full of runners.  As I looked up the street, the pack was arriving.  Both lanes were filled with runners.  Several miles of runners, I knew, even though only a quarter-mile or so were in sight.  

Then it was a matter of winding through the neighborhood back streets to the one intersection where traffic was allowed to cross the race route.  Three uniformed police officers directed traffic there.  Good thing I was headed to Nu'uanu and Kaneohe.  Couldn't have gotten to church; an essential intersection was closed in that direction.  
The birthday party was lovely, with 9 of us attending.  Then home. 

By now it was nearly 1:30. Race publicity suggested that by this time of day, limited local traffic would be allowed and I could get safely home.  No such luck.  There were more walkers than expected.  The race was running really late.  The nice officer I spoke to said he was bailing at 2, but it didn't look like they would clear the road until at least 3. Too many walkers.  The runners finished hours ago.   He conferred with other officers at the intersection.  Nope, could not travel against the flow of walkers, even if an officer walked alongside the car.  Not even a place to park in a zillion miles so I could walk home.  Maybe if I went up to the next intersection, they suggested,  the officers there would allow me to travel with the flow of walkers, but in the lane being used for Emergency Response.  

That worked.  Thank you, Officer Mata!  I breathed a large sigh of relief as I pulled into the driveway between clusters of walkers.  Safe for another year. 

Give thanks for friends, especially those able to celebrate 95 years of living.  Hug a friend.  Don't forget to pray....  

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Yesterday was my dad's 96th birthday.  We took him a birthday cake and some cards, the celebration following immediately on the heels of lunch.  It was a day of mixed blessings.

He ate a piece of cake, although he had turned down most of his lunch with the excuse that he didn't feel well.  He's used a similar excuse for years when served something he has decided he didn't want to eat -- doesn't like, bored with, too hard to chew, doesn't like the look of ....

He carefully "read" each birthday card, spending a great deal of time on the one from his sister, very little time on the one from Mother and me.   We wonder if he can actually see the messages on the cards, even with his glasses.

He is having more and more trouble moving around in his walker.  Before long, he will not be able to get around without a wheelchair.

He never acknowledged my mom by name.  Later she commented, "I don't think he knew who I was."  Perhaps it was deliberate, for she seldom visits and he often asks about her.  Perhaps he really doesn't recognize her.  Perhaps he just didn't think about calling her by name.

His eyes were empty, and he didn't seem to grasp the link between birthday and cake.  One day last week I asked him about birthday cake, and he commented that it was always fun to cut a birthday cake.  Maybe candles would have helped the memory.  We couldn't light candles at his care home; they set of the smoke alarms!

Conversation that includes him is impossible, for his rapidly failing memory frequently prevents him from contributing meaningfully to a conversation.  Poor hearing (although he is nowhere as hard of hearing as Mother) makes it hard for him to even follow a conversation.  His mind wanders off into its own time and place.

Soon it became clear it was time to leave.  I lowered his bed from a visiting to a sleeping position, and kissed him good-bye.  He closed his eyes and would be asleep in moments.

We give thanks for his many good years.     Give thanks for the parent-figures in your own life -- the good, the bad and the indifferent.   Sometimes we reflect their beliefs and lifestyle.  Sometimes we deliberately turn in other directions.   We are who we are because of the lessons they taught us.

Hug your children....   Don't forget to pray.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Miss Meda

Miss Meda is my sister-in-law.  My mother found this article this morning, a full two-page spread in today's Star-Bulletin -- which used to the the afternoon daily newspaper, and for which my brother used to work as an investigative reporter.  

Ian and Meda chose long ago not to have children.  Instead, they have 8 cats, all foundlings. (Except Duke, now the 19-pounder, whose mother was already pregnant when they rescued her -- and other cats -- from the home of their deceased owner.)  They have their work, and their collections.  Meda has jewelry and china and ...  Ian has cameras and old photographs.  Together they collect art with a Hawaii connection.  They are happy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It caught my fancy ....

I was browsing through quilting-related websites, and this quilt caught my eye.  Hmmmm.  Strips.   And even more strips.

There was a reference to a blog and a webaddress.  Self-described as "Inspiration for the Extreme Scrap Quilter".  The name for the website should have been a clue.  SelvageQuilts.  Selvage.  The lengthwise edges of fabric which Wikipedia tells us are
... a result of how the fabric is created. In woven fabric, selvages are the edges that run parallel to the warp (the longitudinal threads that run the entire length of the fabric), and are created by the weft thread looping back at the end of each row...

Selvage is where the manufacturer puts identifying information -- their company name, the designer's name, the design or pattern name.  It is often white, distinct from the patterned or colored fabric, with black or colored lettering.  To most quilters (also dressmakers and tailors) selvage is waste, to be cut off and thrown away.

Scrap quilters save trimmings from previous projects -- or from small purchases at thrift stores or rummage sales -- and incorporate them into new projects which might follow a color scheme but do not depend on specially purchased new fabrics for their design.  Like Joseph's Coat of Many Colors, design elements in a scrap quilter's project often follow a theme -- common block design with each block made from different fabrics,  a specific color or range of tones (reds-and-blues, or lots of different blues), a specific block shape (lots of little 2" squares, for example).  

Along come the Extreme Scrap Quilters, those who use fabric scraps even the scrap quilters throw away.  Like the selvage pieces.  Rather than cutting as close as possible to the selvage without cutting into it, they deliberately leave some of the design fabric in the cut.  They piece those selvage scraps together into wonderful, stripey designs.  The whole concept is brilliant, both simple and lovely. 

As I was writing, I got to thinking.  What else do we routinely treat as garbage, that if properly put to use could become a treasure?  I think about people.  People who were verging on hopeless as children, who grow up into caring adults who touch lives where ever they go.  People branded as "stupid" who just need to find one thing about which they became passionate.  People who find new ways to practice their passion when the "normal" ways become impossible.   People who don't look like we do, or speak our language, or eat the same foods we do.  People whose values may be a little different than ours. The ferrals of the world. 

As Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, I challenge you to look around your world.  Identify one person, animal, object, building or ??? which, if just used in a different way, could become a treasure.  What might that new use be?  Give thanks that you can recognize that hidden treasure, and do something to help it come to light.   Keep praying....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One down ....

Here's what's been keeping my hands busy recently, keeping them off the computer keyboard.  It's now done, and it's sister project is underway.  Was going to do five, but dawdled around for too long and will do will to finish two.  This is made from commercially cut strips rolled into what the quilt shops are now calling a jellyroll, with borders added.  The backing matches the binding.  It's machine pieced, but hand quilted.

Just thought you'd like to see what's been keeping me busy!

Give thanks for those with whom to share the products of favorite projects.  Don't forget to pray!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Katie!

Granddaughter Katie celebrates her 16th birthday today. She is much like her mother -- very bright, focused, ambitious. She is still learning to cope with that newly-discovered heart issue. It's hard to be 16 and facing problems far more common in her grandparents' generation. Your continued prayers are very much appreciated.

Small as the State of Hawaii is, that winter storm we were promised has so far hit almost everywhere but at our house. Oh, there's been afternoon overcast, and it feels like dusk is arriving earlier and earlier in the afternoon, but hey! It's mid-November. Hana at the eastern tip of Maui was getting 1" of rain an hour yesterday afternoon. In Hilo, waves were said to be washing over city streets. The weather map showed Kaua'i under a big red-and-yellow blob indicating heavy rain. Photographs on this morning's news showed slightly more than a sugar-dusting of snow at the astronomical observatory at the summit of Mauna Kea. I went looking for snow pictures, and found these. The extra bonus was the star pictures. Go exploring!

One quilt done, one more to go. Yes, that's down from five, but the rest will come along in time. And two is good. Photos to follow.

The holiday season is approaching. What will you do that makes a difference to someone beyond your immediate family? What one thing will you do to get beyond the commercialism of Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzah?

Give thanks for birthdays. Give thanks that Katie is celebrating another birthday. Keep praying!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More Random Thoughts

To look at the weather outside, you'd never guess that an old-fashioned, mountain-type Winter Stom Watch is in place for the entire state of Hawaii. That means blizzard conditions at the summits of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. No, they do NOT expect snow levels to drop below about 13,000 feet.

While my brother, who lives on the opposite end of the island both geographically and weather-wise, wakes to early morning rains, it has been dry here. At 7:00 a.m. everything was absolutely still. As soon as the wind kicked up, I did a load of wash to ensure things like clean underwear for the rest of the week. This "solar dryer" stuff may save on electricity, but it means that all your laundry is dependent on Mother Nature and her whims.

Why the long absence of posts? Not enough hands. They have been occupied in a hand-quilting a Christmas gift. The quilting is now done, with binding to be added later today. Then on to another. As a matter of expediency, the second one will be machine quilted! It is impossible to quilt or knit or even crochet while writing....

Last weekend was the annual Fall Festival at my church. I volunteered to help for a portion of a morning with the set-up. As it turns out, it is really a Christmas festival. The ladies who operate the thrift shop save the best of the best, as well as everything that has anything to do with Christmas, all year and then lay them out in the gym for a day of concentrated selling. That gym was built just over 50 years ago while I was in high school. It has aged very gracefully.

Set-up involves a team of custodians setting up the old, heavy folding tables -- with a square of carpet set under each leg to protect the floor; covering the tables first with white and then red or green cloths; then adding merchandise carried up from its storage space below the stage. The photo above shows the space early in the sale day. Try clicking on the image. A larger version should pop up. You can recognize the workers: the uniform of the day was red above, white below. Somewhere in that crowd my mother was browsing. She came home with a few things, and enjoyed herself immensely.

After years of twice-yearly rummage sales at our church in Palo Alto, where we even moved out the day school and took over every available space in the 5-acre complex, this seemed a low-key effort. Nevertheless, the camaraderie that develops among the volunteers is the same. I had several friends in Palo Alto that I saw only during rummage sale week. One was the mother of a well-behaved toddler daughter who actually wore freshly polished leather high-top shoes every day. When her second child, a boy, was about a year old, Ginny said to me, "Sons like ours are punishment for mothers like us who start out with well-behaved daughters and criticize mothers of rowdy boys!" I will never forget her! I don't know which of my co-workers from that set-up day will become friends, but I do know that there were many more friendly greetings in church after the sale.

Give thanks for a specific opportunity taken (be sure to name which one!) to reach out into your own community. Like the Girl Scout song, "Make new friends, but keep the old ..." Pray for friends, far and near. ....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Extremes and Forgiveness

The radio interview was with a New York Times reporter held captive in Afghanistan for seven months by the Taliban. He eventually escaped and has written about his experience. One statement stuck in my brain. "Moderate Muslims cannot cede Islam to the Talibans. ... (The Taliban) should not be allowed to portray themselves as the true defenders of that faith...."

Having spent too many years out of step with my own formerly Episcopalian Bishop, I am all too familiar with one set of views far different from mine portraying itself as the true defenders of my faith. In the case of the very conservative Episcopalians, as with the Taliban, the weapon of choice is knowledge -- knowledge withheld. Without additional knowledge, without exposure to the perspectives of the outside world, the general population takes the word of the leader as absolute, final. There is no basis for opposition, no room for questions. There is no room for independent thought.

Extreme liberals are just as guilty as extreme conservatives. I see the spectrum as an arc rather than a line. Figuratively and in reality, the two ends seem to reach towards each other at least in style if not in belief. "Believe me," they seem to say. "Ignore what the rest of the world tells you. Do it my way, or die." Both ends of the spectrum ultimately resort to shutting out, exclusion, death.

Another recent radio interview focused on a member of the IRA who planted a bomb in a hotel in Brighton, England many years ago -- and the daughter of a man who died in that bombing. Years after the bombing the daughter and the bomber had an opportunity to meet, and are now working together in The Forgiveness Project a UK-based charitable organisation which explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution through real-life human experience.

This is not to say that there is no place in religion (or politics, or whatever) for the very liberal and the very conservative. That's why we have so many Christian denominations, so many political parties. But (at least as Episcopalians) we pray, "For all who fear God and believe in you, Lord Christ, that our divisions may cease, and that all may be one as you and the Father are one, we pray to you, O Lord." Those divisions cease, we are able to achieve unity, somewhere along the midline of the arc, not at the ends. There we find our points of agreement, there we focus, there we can come together.

Growth comes as we search for those points of commonality, of shared belief. Growth comes as we struggle towards forgiveness and, ultimately, inner peace.

Give thanks for those who actively work for reconciliation, conflict resolution and forgiveness. What conflict in your own life needs resolution before you can find peace of mind and heart? Don't forget to pray ....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Memory Issues

Katie is working through, and day by day conquering, her memory issues. A difibrillator has been implanted to keep her heart functioning, and she will go home as soon as her doctors release her. She is bored. In this case, bored in good! Really sick people don't get bored.

My dad, on the other had, is loosing his battle with memory. Mother and I picked him up this morning and took him to Kapiolani Park for a picnic lunch. He recognized me, called me by name, and knew that we were going out. He transferred relatively easily from his wheelchair to the car, and then asked me "When did you get in?" As in, when did I arrive from California. He did not remember that I visited him yesterday.

He seemed to enjoy being out, devouring two chicken legs, deviled eggs, potato salad, and his share of olives, tomato wedges, and cucumber sticks.

As our meal ended he asked if we could "drive by the boat to see if it was still there". So I drove to the yacht harbor at the other end of Waikiki. As we drove past the access to his slip it became obvious that "look at" meant "go aboard". I refused to play the game, had to tell him NO in very clear language. He was not happy with me.

Fortunately, by the time we got back to his care home he was in need of a toilet. He barely said good-bye. He was, in his mind, home safely. He had forgotten, at least for a time, that I wouldn't let him walk to the boat. Mother and I were no longer needed. ... His memory fades.

Give thanks for your memories. Enjoy the memories shared by our kupuna, the elders. They are worth preserving. Don't forget to pray.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Miss Katie ...

... is awake and asking coherent questions. She's understanding the answers to her questions. She's already been out of bed. She initially had memory issues, but she's improving hour by hour. Like most other patients who have come through a critical period like this one, she has no memory of what happened or why she is in hospital. One spouse explained it this way -- your brain takes about 2 weeks to make a memory permanent. If the memory hasn't been permanently "posted" in the brain, it is not remembered after a trauma like Katie has been through. It may or may not come back.

The medical team has done the first part of the job. Katie lived through the initial crisis. Now Katie and her family take on the hard work of rediscovering and relearning those skills Katie and her medical team consider essential. The whole family will learn to live with Katie's newly diagnosed condition. Like parents of all teen-agers, Katie's parents need to remember to give her the independence she needs -- so very hard to do under these circumstances. It's a very fine line between responsible care and over-protection.

Just as it is a fine line between responsible care and elder abuse.

Give thanks for the medical team that kept Katie alive (under terrible conditions) without the worst possible effects. Give thanks for the medical teams in your own community who with dedication and caring work similar miracles on a regular basis. Don't forget to pray....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More on Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Rather than my translating from the medical, I refer you to the American Heart Association publication on the disease. Click here to find that document.

Don't forget to pray...!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

The diagnosis is solid. The cause is likely genetic, likely from her maternal grandfather's maternal line. Interesting. Katie looks very much like that great-grandmother and her family. It appears that some other things came along with what we see from the outside.

Treatment? Too early to tell. Prognosis? To early to tell. Neurological condition? Doctors are doing everything they can to give Katie's body a chance to heal in a way that minimizes neurological effects. But it will be considerable time before anyone knows her condition exactly.

Katie is being treated in a Children's Hospital in a major metropolitan area with lots of experience in treating children with Cardiomyopathy. Without a quick response and a skilled team of specialists at the hospital .... Give thanks for those medical folk, their skill and their caring.

Please continue to pray for Katie, Christie and Meghan ... and for Miriam, the exchange student from Germany who is currently part of their family.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My Granddaughter, Katie

This email just arrived from my daughter in Seattle.

Today is going to rank up there as one of those days you don't want to remember.

I dropped Katie off at school this morning a happy, healthy almost 16-year-old and found her early this afternoon as a patient in the PICU at Seattle's Children's Hospital. I wish I could say she will be fine, but I just don't know yet and we won't know for at least two days.

Katie collapsed during PE today. At first they thought she had had a seizure, but then she didn't have a pulse and went into cardiac arrest. There were several well-trained school staff close at hand and I am told everyone acted quickly and that the medics arrived in short order. Still the doctors are concerned that there may have been neurological damage from the event and have Katie medically paralyzed and sedated for the next two days....

I did a quick search on cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that affects children and blood flow into the heart.
---It has many many causes, including a virus. Is this an example of H1N1 at work???
---It can be totally debilitating, totally life-threatening, or completely controlled with medications and/or surgical implants. Doctors cannot say which form of treatment, if any, might be successful. There is no real predictor of outcome.
---One variation is sometimes called "Broken Heart Syndrome", a rather dramatic response to stress. That form usually resolves itself within a week. But we're a family with dramatic responses to stress. During the summer that Christie was 14, my own stress response was to try to go blind. ... Fortunately, my vision resolved itself.
---Twice as many children with cardiomyopathy are diagnosed in the first year of life than between the ages of 2 and 18 altogether. What does this say for Katie, who is nearly 16? That hers is not a congenital condition but a response to stress or a virus? That it is more likely to resolve itself than some other forms? That it is congenital, something her doctors have missed for nearly 16 years?
---The website says: Search for a cure continues. Unlike other congenital heart conditions, there is no surgical treatment or cure that can repair the damaged heart or the stop the progression of the disease. The first treatment option is usually medication to improve the functioning of the heart and for those with arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm) an implantable defibrillator may be recommended. For children that fail medical management, a heart transplant may need to be considered. Cardiomyopathy is the top reason for heart transplants in children. More than 80% of children receive a donor organ in time and survival after transplantation is good with an intermediate survival rate of approximately 70%.

Please hold Katie, Christie and Meghan in your prayers.

Give thanks for the quick, competent response and quality medical care Katie has received/is receiving. If this had to happen, there are many places in the world -- even in the US -- where she might not have made it to a hospital. Don't forget to pray. ...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Geography for the Day

In the last two weeks there have been a flurry of tidal waves, typhoons, and other water-related disasters in China, Japan, the Philippines, Samoa, Tonga and other Pacific Rim nations. Whenever I think about countries in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, I wonder about their relationship to the equator. Have you ever thought about it?

South America is relatively easy. Equador straddles the equator. Therefore, Colombia, Peru and Brazil are also crossed by the equator. That means all of North and Central America is above the equator.

Africa. The Mediterranian is not equatorial, so at least part of Africa is north of the equator. As it turns out, the northern edge of Lake Victoria is at the equator. So we have the Congo AND the Democratic Republic of the Congo (I didn't realize there were two countries using the name Congo ....) Uganda, Kenya and a bit of Somalia all touch the equator. A country which calls itself Equatorial Guinea must lie on the equator, too.

On to Asia. India is way north. Singapore just misses, but Sumatra and Borneo straddle the equator. New Guinea just touches the equator on the north. Once past New Guinea we have the Solomon Islands, which are either north or south depending on the map projection you are viewing, and not much else until we run once again into Equador. Samoa is a bit south. Micronesia is north. Manilla lies nearly 1000 miles north.

So what lies south of the equator? Part of South America. Part of Africa. Parts of Indonesia. Australia and New Zealand. Antarctica. A smattering of Pacific islands. The rest of the Earth's land masses -- North America, Europe, Asia, all the countries and continents most of us can find on a map (and a whole lot more in the bargain) -- are north of the equator. That is most of the population of the world. No wonder we don't know much about our Southern Hemisphere neighbors -- and cousins.

Of all the Southern Hemisphere nations, which one flies a flag carrying the Southern Cross (the constellation in the SH as important to navigation as the Little Dipper is in the north)? Answer? New Zealand!

Go exploring. This site is a little harder. If you are reading this, play for a bit on Google Earth. You never know what surprises you will find.

Give thanks that with the magic of electronics we can instantly communicate with friends and family who are literally on opposite ends of the Earth as well as those who are much nearer neighbors. Practice really listening to those whose values are different, sometimes very different, from your own. Focus on the common ground rather than the differences. Can we be friends?

Don't forget to pray ....

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cousins and More Cousins

Saturday. The Daughters of Hawai'i held one of their annual fund raisers today, a small, high-end craft fair with lots of food and entertainment. The setting, Queen Emma's Summer Palace in Nu'uanu Valley, was beautifully green and lush. The small parking lot was filled with crafters -- jewelry, clothing, hats, tapa, more jewelry, books published by Daughters of Hawaii, jams, jellies, baked goods, tours of the interior of the palace included in the cost of admission. There were t-shirts, haku lei, and Dale's Attic, a "gently used goods" rummage sale, the province of the Regent. Many Daughters -- those taking tickets, acting as hostesses, chairwomen -- chose to wear whites, the "dress uniform" of the organization: white floor- or tea-length mu'umu'u, white shoes, optional white hat. Always with lei -- golden feather lei for Daughters, black kukui for the Calabash Cousins (women who cannot meet the lineage requirement, but want to be part of the organization). They looked particularly gracious as they mingled with the crowd. It was a visual experience; I didn't take a camera.

Because I know Marty through my weekly volunteering with the History Committee, I answered her call for volunteers to work in the gift shop. Among other things, the gift shop carries several items honoring the about-to-be-sainted Fr. Damien: commemorative medals, books, and prints (by order) of a lovely Peggy Chun portrait of Damien himself. There is some jewelry -- including some glorious gold-and-silver bracelets woven as if they were made from lauhala. They are referred to as the "Donna Cockett bracelets". My ears pricked up. I have Cockett cousins. Could this jeweler be married to one of them? In a word, yes! We are admittedly not terribly close cousins. Our grandmothers were cousins, and much of what we know about my grandmother's Hawaiian family comes from Mike Cockett's grandmother. Mike's dad and my mother were Kamehameha School classmates. (Aside: In Hawaii, one of the basic questions you ask someone as you begin to find shared life links is "Where did you go to high school?") We visited their family on Kauai more than a half-century ago. (Wait, wait, are we admitting to aging? I don't think so! Mike and I were not even teen-agers at the time!)

Another look at the program, and I realized another cousin was represented. Dress designer Mamo Howell and I share a great-grandmother. Mamo's fashions were being modeled throughout the day.

Early on in my residency in Tuolumne County I learned that you don't talk folks down -- the person you are speaking to could easily be related to the person you are speaking about. It's like that in Hawai'i, too. With the small population base and several generations of family, it's easy to be related to a lots of people. What always surprises me is that despite our lack of contact over the years, we tend to end up in the same large segments of the community -- in my case, the artists, musicians and wordsmiths. Is it in the genes? Is it cultural? Or is it coincidence?

Give thanks for families, and for friends working together. Give thanks for those who care enough to work for charitable causes. Hug a friend. Don't forget to pray.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Country Kid Makes Good

If you are not a reader of the blog, please check out my brother's posting for yesterday, Sep 28. It's an amazing story of a potential supermodel, daughter of their across-the-street neighbors.

You have to understand Ka'a'awa to appreciate this story. Ka'a'awa and Groveland have a lot in common. They are both tiny towns, both accurately described as COUNTRY. In Ka'a'awa it is barely 1.5 miles from the school at one end of town to the bend into Kahana Bay at the other. In a couple of spots the town in 5 blocks deep; in most it is no more than 2 blocks from the highway to the most distant row of houses. There is a small market -- or maybe it's just a 7/11 -- a post office, a gas station and a K-6 elementary school. There's a fire station and a couple of popular beach parks. It's maybe 15 miles to the vet (an important destination when you are caretaker for 8 cats), the nearest hospital, and a real grocery store. It's 25 miles from home to Honolulu. Those are very long distances on an island that encompasses only 604 square miles.

Out of curiosity, I plotted using Google Earth the land area the subdivision where I live in California would encompass if it were on Oahu. From my parents' home in Kahala, I'd be at Honolulu Harbor before I'd gotten as far as the Pine Mountain Lake airport -- 5+ miles. To travel the distance from the PML Main Gate to the very tip of McKinley Way, I'd have to go from home well into Manoa Valley above the University of Hawaii. The distance from the upper reaches of Breckenridge Rd. across Pine Mountain Lake to the compost dump above the campgrounds is equal to the distance from this house on Kealaolu Avenue to the back side of Diamond Head. In California, it's just a subdivision. On Oahu, its a very large hunk of the City of Honolulu. So you can see that driving the 25 miles from Ka'a'awa to Honolulu daily is, perceptually, like driving from Groveland to Modesto or Stockton. The 15 miles from Ka'a'awa to Kaneohe feels like driving from Groveland to Sonora, double the distance.

Anyway, the neighbor kid started modeling classes last year. Not much different from a lot of girls who are also starting their freshman year of high school. The rest of the story is really worth reading.

They had an 8.0 earthquake some 120 miles from American Samoa today, which generated a tidal wave advisory/watch in Hawaii. From 1:30 this afternoon to 7:00 tonight, folks were advised (with strong urging from Honolulu police) to stay out of the water. They could play on the beach, but not swim or surf. So far, there has been a 1' surf surge, but that's the extent of "damage".

Give thanks that the after effects of today's tsunami were no worse than they are. Send warm thoughts to Katelin, who at 15 is beginning to struggle with the demands of a real world, highly paid, high pressure job and the impact it is already having on her family. Will she give up fame and fortune to come home to Hawaii and be just another student at Kahuku High School, or will she become Keke, an international supermodel? What opportunities are there in your own life that could make a difference to you or to someone else? "Seek, and you will find ..."

Don't forget to pray!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Houses and Homes

My parents' home is a little 912 sq ft structure built about 1940 on a 1/4-acre city lot. The houses on either side are rebuilds. One, formerly the twin to this one, is on its 3rd rebuild -- bulldoze down, start over from scratch. It's 2 stories and about 6000 square feet. Ben, Maria and their mostly-grown sons there. On the other side is something that looks a lot bigger but is actually only about 5000 sq. feet -- with 7 bathrooms. Chuck and Debra live there.

We were invited to a "party" at Chuck and Debra's last evening. They entertain a lot, complete with valet car parking (someone else runs the cars around the neighborhood looking for parking places). As it turns out, their home appears to be not so much a home as a place to do large-scale entertaining and fund-raising. The centerpiece is the pool. It used to be in the front yard. Now it is practically in the living room. It is surrounded on two sides by covered lanai (with an outdoor kitchen and bar at one end), the driveway/gated entry, and a stone wall fronting the street. Assuming their lot is 75' like my parents, the house must be 50' wide. Dead center in the house, and stretching a good 30', is the kitchen. It is an open plan, with a workspace-counter on the great room side, backed by more counter and cabinet space. There are built-in wall ovens on the right, a hallway on the left. All is charcoal granite and teak from Bali. It is not a kitchen for 2 people, nor is it a kitchen that a family would ordinarily use. It is a showpiece, designed for impressing guests while food is prepared by a rent-a-chef.

Last night's show was geared to the under-35 set, an effort to get them to vote, volunteer, and make commitments to socially conscious programs. Sustainability. That's a buzz-word you hear a lot in Hawaii, the most isolated island group on Earth. Voter registration. Mass transit. Affordable housing. I find it a bit ironic that Chuck, who preaches affordable housing in his professional life, lives in a multi-million $$ home that came in way above budget because they kept sending the wrong teak from Bali. Or the shipments were delayed because --- well, they were delayed. A definite do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do approach to life.

I wonder if Chuck knows anyone who will provide grant funding to remodel a pair of 50-year-old bathrooms so the church they are attached to can provide reasonable toilet/shower facilities when they open their one-week-quarterly shelter for homeless families. I need to ask.

Give thanks for the reality check on the lives of "the other half". Give thanks that someone is out there beating a drum in the ears of whatever follows Generation X. Pray that eyes were opened, ears re-tuned to hear, and hearts inspired to care about something, someone else. Keep praying ....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

September 24, 2009

It's our day, Ray. 32 years ago, on the opening day of hunting season (little did we know, then!) we were married. And headed off towards Utah, following Jay Brown through Yosemite National Park and up to Carson City to meet the love of his life and their infant son, Shawn.

You were right. There was so much more we wanted to do together. It just was not to be.

Oh, how I miss you....

I give thanks for the time we had together, for the things we learned from each other. I'm glad we never lost the magic.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Saints and Others

On October 11, 2009, Joseph de Veuster of Belgium will be canonized by Pope Benedict as St. Damien of Molokai, patron saint of lepers, HIV/AIDs patients, and of Hawaii. You can read his biography, published by the National Park Service, online.

Kalaupapa, the peninsula that has been home to the majority of Hawaii's lepers from 1866 to the present and was Damien's home from 1873 until his death in 1889, became a National Historic Site in 1976. As leprosy, now called Hansen's Disease, became treatable in 1949, patients were able to transition back into "normal society". Some chose to return to their homes. Others remained at Kalaupapa. I don't blame them. It is a magical place, filled with what Hawaiians call mana -- spiritual elelctricity. But as the patient population dwindled, residents became concerned that this special place would become another high priced commercial spot in the state. To protect their home, they invited the National Park Service to manage Kalaupapa.

After 30 years of living in Groveland, I have a basic distrust of the National Park Service. My experience is that their personnel pay lip service to the concerns of the resident community and park neighbors, and then ignore those concerns if they conflict with "the way we do things in Washington DC" or the personal views of park staff. Examples abound. There are ongoing threats of entry fees at Great Smokey Mountains National Park, despite the original agreements made with residents in the 1930's that if they gave up their land to form the park, it would be forever free to the American public. In fairness, I see that there is still no fee at GSMNP. At Yosemite, the Park Service badly wanted to take over maintenance of 8 miles of road accessing Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. After only 2 years of ignoring ground squirrel tunnels under the road, in what was admittedly a major rain event, the road collapsed in 3 separate locations and was severaly undermined over approximately 1/3 of its length. Who paid to rebuild the road? The City of San Francisco, who needs road access to their primary water source. I think of all the private homes at Foresta and Aspen Valley within Yosemite National Park that have burned in wildfires the last 15 years. The most recent was a 7425 acre escaped NPS control burn in August, 2009. NPS isn't fond of private landholders within their areas of jurisdiction.

What does this have to do with Kalaupapa? Federal legislation was passed this year authorizing the construction of a memorial to patients who lived and died there. That's at least 8000 individuals. The patient population, and a support group (Kalaupapa Ohana) including many descendants of former patients, want the memorial near Fr. Damien's church and the known but unmarked graves of at least 2000 Hawaiians (photo above,right), in an area called Kalawao. The mana, the spiritual energy, there is extraordinarily powerful. The NPS appears to want the memorial on the other side of the peninsula, nearer Kalaupapa Village. They are fond of a site near the garbage dump. Public hearings are being held. Input is needed. The input must reflect your perspective, not mine.

And why am I interested? Because my grandmother's grandparents and at least two of their sons lived there as patient(s) and kokua (personal caregivers) from the late 1880's into the 1890's. Among those thousands of unidentified graves are my kupuna, my ancestors. They likely lived at Kalawao.

Give thanks for those in every profession, but especially in public service, who do their jobs because they truly care about those they serve. Pray that they are given the tools, resources and support they need to be effective.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Random Thoughts

Yesterday was one of those days. I've been receiving my own personal light show in my left eye, starting at about the same time that I began a new medication. Combined with a huge loss in reading vision (at least with contacts) in that eye, prudent response called for a trip to the eye doctor. Turns out it is part of the normal aging process as the eyes (like the rest of the body) begin to break down. Another reminder that we are not always as young as we like to think. The up side? Most people begin this breakdown process in the eyes much earlier than I did!

Did anyone else catch the Public Radio interview yesterday afternoon with the fellows who wrote the book titled I Hate People? If you have been frustrated by others in the workplace, or at home when dealing with folks in their workplaces, this one is worth a second look. Can't find an online reference to the interview, but the book is available at (which has a Kindle version) and at Barnes&Noble, complete with preview pages.

Am deep in 15th-18th century Scottish wills, trying to stretch my father's paternal line beyond the ancestor whose children were born 1742-1759. It's an exercise that stretches the vocabulary. RELICT, meaning widow. UMQUHILE, meaning former, erstwhile, late; deceased.
The spelling of the word harks back to an older form of Scots writing, where -quh- was used in positions where English has -wh-, as in quhilk (which), quhare (where), quhymper (whimper) and quhite (white).
The modern adjectival use of umquhile evolved from an adverb meaning "formerly, at some previous time", itself derived from Old English ymb hwile, literally meaning "at or around a time". This adverbial use is reflected in Scottish texts from the Middle Ages until at least the nineteenth century. ... In legal use, the word often appears in formulaic statements, typified by the following from an Orkney document of 1734: "Jean Manson, relict (widow) of umquhill James Fea of Whitehall". (From, article written by Dr. Magggie Scott)

Another tidbit of nearly useless information you never thought you wanted to know. Unless, of course, you play Scrabble and allow obsolete words!

Give thanks for doctors who find gentle ways to you remind you that you are accumulating years without making you feel like you're old and decrepit. Give thanks for the technology that makes their job easier and (hopefully) their diagnoses more accurate. Hug a friend! Don't forget to pray ....

Saturday, August 29, 2009


It was four days of a totally different environment, different kinds of responsibilities, different views of the world. It was four days of sanity break.

We met on Monday morning in the Hawaiian Airlines inter-island terminal: Shannon, Pilialoha and I. Two hours later we claimed our car in Hilo and headed for the market en route to the Volcano, 30 miles up the road. In another life I looked at the Volcano as a l-o-n-g distance from Hilo, but in reality the two communities are no farther apart than Sonora and Groveland.

At approximately 4000' elevation, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is cooler than the shoreline communities. It is reputed to be more rainy, but our experience this week was the "above the fog" phenomenon -- substituting "rain" for "fog". For at least two of the four days, it was gloriously bright and clear at the volcano while overcast and drippy in Hilo. After dark the stars came out, so many more than in all the ambient light of city living. The crisp air, the occasional need for long sleeves and "real" shoes (the ones with closed toes), was wonderful. Pili said it felt like Christmas.

What do four ladies, each born in a different decade from the 1910's to the 1940's, do together? We shopped. We tried several different kinds of wine. We cleaned windows, shopped some more, attacked the overgrown bed of yellow ginger alongside the house, tried more wine, shopped again. We walked a little. We even spent a little time talking about our common bond, the Daughters of Hawaii. In between we ate, had another glass of wine, laughed and got to know each other better. Then laughed some more. We argued with Patu about who got to cook and/or wash dishes. Sometimes Patu won. That's Patu in her kitchen at the top of this post.

We visited Pele from as close proximity as the Park Service allowed us -- the overlook of Kilauea Crater and Halema'uma'u Firepit at the Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory on the crater rim. Because of the gaseous emissions (that white cloud in the other photo at the top of this post) from Halema'uma'u, visitors are not allowed to drive the rim of the crater between the Observatory and the Chain of Craters Road. The VOG fumes can be hazardous to health, and the Park Service is taking no chances with the health of their visitors. We did not offer her the appropriate gifts (commonly gin or ohelo berries); we saw no red-gold lava fountains or a glow from Halema'uma'u.

All too soon it was time to return to Honolulu. We agreed that it was a wonderful break, and invited ourselves back whenever Patu feels she can stand our company again.

Thank you, Patu, for your invitation and your hospitality. Thank you, Ian, for doing the fill-behind tasks while I was away.

Don't forget to pray ....!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Real or Not?

They are having a Bon Dance tonight at Oahu Care Facility. Bon dance season comes in the warm time of the year and honors deceased ancestors. To that extent it is like Memorial Day. There will be tradional circle dancing to Japanese music celebrating this festival Budhist season. The residents have been talking about it for a month.

My dad announced yesterday that some of the men are playing golf today. He is not playing, but has donated two sets of golf clubs.

At least he remembers that there is a special event today. He also remembered the name of his OCF doctor. This is no small feat. He had never seen the man before going to OCF last December. They see each other occasionall, probably monthly.
But my dad called him by name and in the correct context -- prescribing medication.

Give thanks for good memories. Don't forget to pray.

Hawaiian Statehood

Today is a Hawaii State Holiday. Here they call it Statehood Day, the 3rd Friday of August. In California the similar holiday falls Sep 9 and is Admission Day. In Colorado they call 1 Aug Colorado Day. Every state must have a comparable holiday. Except the original 13, who must honor their statehood on the 4th of July.

This Statehood Day is extra special. It's the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood. I don't remember the August date very well. My Hawaiian grandmother, the grandmother I knew well because we lived on the same island, was in Queen's Hospital. Her death, from untreated breast cancer, would come on the evening of 25 August.

We had done our real celebrating back in March, the day the vote was taken in Congress. Now THAT day was one to remember. I was not quite 16, halfway through my sophomore year of high school. Although ours was a politically conscious campus (Dan Inouye's wife, Maggie, was the supervising teacher in the other sophomore homeroom), I'm sure we were not the only school in the Territory where a radio in every classroom was tuned to the live broadcast of that congressional vote.

When the vote came, there was lots of cheering and excitement. We spilled out into the hallways, found anything we could use to make noise. I don't specifically remember confetti. That would have taken advance planning, but we had a good idea that the vote would come that day. On the streets car horns honked raucously. There were no churches close by with bell towers, so we did not hear the church bells ringing. School was dismissed (nobody was going to concentrate anyway!). I don't remember quite where we went to celebrate or who I went with. My sense is CAR, CONVERTIBLE and WAIKIKI. It must have been Maile's car, for her family did have a convertible. Horns honking, more waving and shouting. More excitement. It took hours, perhaps days, to wind down.

My grandmother had been through changes of Hawaiian governmental authority before. She was born in the Kingdom of Hawaii. She was a small child when Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown in January 1893, nearly 10 when Hawaii became a Territory of the United States in July, 1898. In between had come the Provisional Government and, a little later, the Republic of Hawaii. She told stories of the girls at St. Andrew's Priory (where she lived from age 3 until her marriage eighteen years later) hiding the queen periodically during the years of the Republic. From her hospital bed Grammy said sadly, "First they took my queen. Then they took my flag. Now they have taken my land."

Don't forget to pray.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Frustrations and Satisfation

Happy birthday to my brother Ian who as of tomorrow is eligible for his early social security draw. Did I tell you his age? Who, me??!
Check his website, for the photo essay of their birthday/anniversary weekend.

It is really frustrating to be without a computer. Mine is still in the shop. I don't know whether the guy really doesn't fix computers, just sells new ones, or if the problem is really that bad. No real way to tell.

I am very thankful to have this iTouch. There is a lot it does not do. But it does enough to at least keep in touch with the outside world.
So forgive the typing errors, and we'll all get along.

My dad was in bed (not unusual) when I got to the care home today. First things first: pull up the pants that were down around his pelvic bone. Then we could talk. I had been sent on a mission -- find where he put the signed copy of his trust. Did he remember that he made a trust? No. Where might he have put it? He laughed. "if I don't remember making it, how will I remember where I put it?"

Good point.

Turns out he never got the trust to a safe place, it was still in it's mailing envelope heaped in a box of unsorted papers I'm front of his file cabinet. At least it was still in the envelope!

Someone sent me a prayer request the other day. Please pray for Al who needs a liver transplant. Today at church I asked about the Prayer Chain. Turns out there is not one -- but several people think the new ladies' guild might be starting one. I hope so. I am not a Prayer Warrior, but would have to take on the role myself if no one else is going to. Please, God, don't give me a job I'm not good at.....

Off next week for three days at the Volcano with the other History Ladies from Daughters of Hawaii. It's not all that far -- a 40- min plane ride. But it requires a plane. We cannot all pile in a car and drive there. It will be fun. I'm just GOING. Can't worry about everyone else all the time; need to nourish the caretake.

Ready or not, it's time to post this entry. Give thanks for your own health. Give thanks for friends. Give someone a hug. You both need it. Don't forget to pray!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Mystery

I'm reading a mystery book. It's not a mystery story. It is a mystery how the book came into my possession.

It arrived one day in the mail. It was from The return address included the name of a friend.

Yesterday I thanked the friend for the book and asked him what he thought about it. He said I have my wires crossed. He's never heard of the book. But it is recommended by those who liked another book we both enjoyed.

When you read this, Mr Auphinger, go find a copy of "Church of the Dog". It will take you into uncharted waters, but I believe it speaks to some of the issues you are currently pondering. These sentences leaped out at me. "Most people understand life and death. Few understand life and death and life. But gardeners do...."

Monday, July 27, 2009


My computer went off to the computer hospital this afternoon. Paid an arm and leg for a two year service contract with unlimited service, including the several hours to resolve the current problem. If it can be resolved and anything rescued.
I am having withdrawls. Witness this is written on the iTouch.

Give thanks for computer doctors. Hope he can save the genealogy. Don't forget to pray!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Pain of Aging

For my mother, the pain of aging is real and it is hers. She takes Aleve like a druggie, at least twice daily and at specific times. If we are out and she has not brought a pill with her, it's a big deal. There are some days when the pain is so bad she can barely walk. Those are the days the arthritis has moved into her hip. Those are the days when she just sits, and allows me to do the rest of the "house things". Otherwise, it's her house, her kitchen, her garden ....

For my father, pain is not a major issue. He doesn't hurt. His problem is strength. And balance. And remembering. I'm not sure he really knew me today. His talk was very general, and he asked how it was in Kailua. Then he remember that I am living in Kahala, and Kailua is on a different side of the island. He's got enough memory to know that he isn't remembering, and that's painful.

For my brother and me, the pain is not physical at all. Except when I step on that once-broken foot wrong, or try hurrying down a flight of stairs. Then one ankle or one knee complain. The emotional pain which we are feeling is just as real, just as debilitating in its own way as any physical pain.

Last week our dad did not recognize my brother. At all. If we ask him what he had for breakfast, he does not know. He doesn't remember eating breakfast. He asked me about "the woman who manages the restaurant in the Advertiser Building". He sees her around town a lot, he says. He was asking about the Recreation Director for his nursing home. She has no connection to a restaurant, and he certainly isn't around town where he can bump into her.

We can have good conversations about things that happened before he was about 25 years old. I asked him today how he got his right-out-of-high-school job working on a ship. "I went down and applied, and got the job." he told me.

Why didn't he stay with it longer? "After a year I decided that my dream of being a seaman wasn't what I wanted after all. I resigned and took a job in Long Beach with Dohrmann." That's Dohrmann Hotel Supply, the San Francisco company that in 1939 sent him to Hawaii. It was also the first time that I'd heard he ever wanted to go to sea, although I knew he had been a Sea Scout all through high school. It goes a long way to explain his many years of activity with Waikiki Surf Club and the Hawaii Canoe Racing Association -- two organizations which he apparently helped found.

Today was not one of his better days. He usually devours a small bowl of fresh mango. This afternoon he picked, and did not empty the bowl. He didn't want to talk much, unless I asked a direct question about a time period he actually remembers. He realizes that his roommates are dying -- three since he arrived in the care facility in December 2008. The most recent was earlier this month.

Give thanks for those tidbits that come to light, even from a very tired 95-year-old mind. They are there, but only discovered when one listens, and asks the right questions. Don't forget to pray!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Episcopal Church in Convention

I am so proud of my Church!

This time I am speaking of TEC, The Episcopal Church in the United States, which is meeting in General Convention this week in Anaheim, California. General Convention is the national legislative meeting of Episcopalians, held every third year. This is where the business of the church is carried out, where big decisions are made -- describing who can be ordained, adding contemporary and inclusive language to liturgy, rebuilding the list of "Holy Men, Holy Women" who are remembered annually in what we used to call "Lesser Feasts and Fasts" .

I am touched by the tokens of love and support from other delegations toward the four dioceses which are regrowing after hugely divisive splits -- especially as reported by friends from the Diocese of San Joaquin. I am impressed that the Bishops of those dioceses have declined to speak about their time with the Archbishop of Canterbury, preserving the deeply personal nature of those conversations. I am intrigued that the Presiding Bishop has chosen a Bantu (from South Africa) word, Ubuntu, as the theme of the 2009 convention. Ubuntu? Bishop Desmond Tutu said in 1999, "A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed." Sounds a lot like the Hawaiian concept of pono.

This year, in addition to the widely publicized discussion on the criteria for election and ordination of bishops, between discussions of budget priorities and a new emphasis on electronic (as opposed to traditional print) communications, delegates are considering the adding a special liturgy for use at the death of service animals and special pets. As a pet lover, I am touched.

In a sidebar advert at Episcopal Life online, I found the theme of the 2010 Trinity Institute -- Building an Ethical Economy: Theology and the Marketplace. Theology in the economic marketplace? What a refreshing change from the self-centered What's-in-it-for-me? view that has helped to create our current economic chaos! And this from one of the premiere continuing education programs in the Episcopal Church....

Give thanks for the attitude of listening, the honoring of differences between delegates we are seeing in the news from General Convention. Give thanks for those International Representatives who came to learn, who were surprised at what they found, and who go home to share their new understanding. Practice listening. Don't forget to pray!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Halfway through another year ...

I realized this morning, as I looked out at the sunrise, that the days are already beginning to get shorter. We are more than halfway through the calendar year. Where has 2009 gone???

We are finally getting ripe mangoes that have not been attacked by the Mediterranean Fruit Fly. Only one of our two trees has fruit this year, for they have not been pruned or fertilized as they should. There were lots of flowers early on, but we've had wind in the interim and much of the crop has landed on the ground hopelessly immature. But those that survive! About the size of a softball and weighing in at at least 1 pound each, sweet, juicy ... three is all I can carry without a basket. Two or three of those a day would be nice. Today I picked (or picked up) a dozen. Yesterday about the same. We are making mango jam, mango chutney, eating fresh mango at every meal, giving fruit away, taking cut fruit to my father ... and letting the birds have their share, too. The "picking pole" (a wire basket with a foam rubber lining) has a 16' handle. With that I can reach the lowest fruit on the tree. There's at least another 30' of tree above that!

A friend of my brother's has a lychee tree, also large. He's lucky. He has access to a bucket truck -- one of those things with a basket on the end of a boom that allows the telephone and power folk, the tree trimmers and the cable television installers to reach high places without a ladder. We could sure use one of those!!

Yesterday was one of my dad's good days. He inhaled the little bowl of fresh mango. He could carry on a real conversation, and knew who I was talking about when I mentioned a cousin who is fighting pancreatic cancer. Daddy's problem comes in time and place. He knows I belong in California. He knows he grew up in California. Therefore, what am I doing in Hawaii? "What house," he asked, "are my parents living in now?" His father passed in 1948, his mother in 1982.

That's OK. "In the Vista Street house."

He beamed. "I remember when my father built that house. I was about 8 years old, and I remember him laying the floor, telling me how he was putting it down at an angle for strength." He drifted off into his memory for a bit. My grandfather was a shipwright who used his naval architecture training to build two houses for his family -- one in Berkeley, the other in Long Beach, California.

Give thanks for flashes of relative normalcy in the midst of dementia. Let someone know you are thinking about them. Don't forget to pray ....

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taking Part

In the New Testament Lesson from the Revised Common Lectionary for today (all you Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists will understand the jargon), says, "...I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others." In other words, what's your motivation? Are you there because it it where you want to be, or because you are afraid not to be there? The difference is subtle, but significant.

I've spent so many years taking an active part in the worship of my church, that being without that regular experience has left a noticeable void. It's where I really want to be. Now I am back into the rhythm of worship service, reading today at Holy Nativity for the first time since high school.

There are many very good readers at Holy Nativity, a much higher proportion than I am used to hearing. In California, I had a huge fan in Blake Beauchamp. No, Blake and I had a mutual admiration society. Blake and his dear wife, Catherine, were among Ray's and my mentors in the Cursillo movement in the San Joaquin Valley. We attended the annual lay reader conferences together. We visited regularly in their home. Blake almost unfailingly greeted me with a hug and asked, "How's the best lay reader in the diocese?" I always felt like Blake exaggerated. So I was very surprised when the visiting priest asked me this morning, "What were you in your former life? A teacher? I thought I could tell by your clear love of the words, your pacing and cadence ...." I was surprised by the number of strangers who commented on a "beautiful reading". It feels like an opening into the Holy Nativity family. I can make a small difference. It's a nice place to be.

Look for a way to touch someone's life. Even a smile makes a difference. Give thanks for small things. Don't forget to pray.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shopping at 95

When you are 95, the world whizzes along at top speed, while you struggle to keep up. We who once moved speedily through the day now move slowly, stopping to rest for longer periods and at more frequent intervals. Once easy tasks become a challenge. My mother cannot easily carry a pillow case half-full of dirty laundry the 75 or so feet from it's home near her bedroom door to the washing machine.

The grocery store is a challenge. Our neighborhood market (the real market, not the new Whole Foods outlet in the mall) is a small store with limited choices. But it is where she has shopped for more than 40 years, and where she is comfortable. Even five years ago she confidently walked all the aisles on a regular market day. Now I drop her at the front door where she grabs a cart and heads for the produce department. Then a quick turn through the meat department, and frequently a stop at the pharmacy in the middle of the store. Now she is tired. Bread is between the pharmacy and the registers. Occasionally she will drift over to the wine department two aisles away, looking for her favorite brands in the under $5 range. But the last 3 aisles -- the frozen food, dairy and deli sections, she has abandoned. She sends me to fetch.
"You get the milk. I like the 2%." My father would only accept whole milk.
"Margerine is on sale today for $1.00 Get 5 boxes, low fat if they have it." Don't even think about buying butter!
"Frozen potatoes. I like the Simply Shredded brand."

Today I took her to the Farmer's Market at Kapiolani Community College, between home and Waikiki. It is co-sponsored by the Food Services Department of the college and the Hawaii Farm Bureau, and happens every Saturday. It is also considered the premier Farmer's Market in Hawaii. Today they had lavender products from Maui, and fresh strawberries flown in from Waimea on the island of Hawaii. Ba-le Bakery is there every week; Whole Foods carries their specialty breads. So are several farms which sell to restaurants, not retail markets. There is sweet corn from Ewa, papaya from Kahuku. There are fresh greens from Waimanalo, even small boxes of edible flowers in brilliant purples, reds and yellows, adding color to a green salad. Sea asparagas, crunchy and salty with a definite after-taste. The green onions are 2' long, watercress about the same. An infinite variety of tomatoes looked wonderfully ripe, and the summer avocadoes are ready to eat. Gardenias are on 8" stems and so fragrant you can smell them as you approach the booth -- far larger and sweeter than any in California. Bunches of anthuriums in shades of green, pink, orange and red are displayed in 5-gallon buckets. Orchids in full bloom, purple, lavender, burgandy, white, green, lemon-yellow, brilliant gold, filled at least two booths.

Mother walked the whole thing -- except the small, back, side of one loop. I don't know whether she was tired, or thought she had already been there. Never mind. She walked, and she enjoyed herself. Exercise for the day. We will try to go at least once a month. Especially while tomatoes are in season!

Give thanks for the farmers who provide our food. Don't forget to pray!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Random Thoughts ....

Gee, I'm missing having teens in my life. I need their perspective on the world to keep me from thinking like at 95-year-old! Take my hanai granddaughter, Sarah. That's Sarah on the right, with a friend she hadn't seen for awhile. Look at the purple hair! Correction, fuchsia hair. At the risk of being politically incorrect, Po'tagee Pink hair. Once past the shock value, it's actually not bad. Oh, did Tutu say that???

And what do you do with a combative dementia patient? Once upon a time my dad was sweet, docile and obedient. He complained that he couldn't just do things on his own, but he didn't get belligerent. But that phase is apparently ending. When he sets his mind on something, he has begun striking out in anger against those who try to redirect him. After the CNA mentioned this new behavior to me, I talked to the Nursing Supervisor. He had only one report of "combative behavior" on my dad's part, but the CNA specifically mentioned three events. So staff will watch, investigate, and if appropriate, notify the doctor. Is this a part of dementia, or is there some paranoia going on?

I started taking a new medication the other day, an anti-depressant which I hoped would brighten up some of those dark corners and set me back into a more normal head space. OMG, it's not going to happen with THAT med! Two days of a very minimal dose left me with a racing heartbeat, continually drenched from uncontrollable sweats, and shaking with the worst case of 'coffee jangles' you can imagine -- times a very large number. After sleeping all day yesterday (the only way to control the jangles), I informed the doctor today that this was clearly not the drug of choice. He responded that those are very unusual reactions, but it may be an interaction with the one other prescription med I take regularly. But -- we'll let this med flush out, and try something else down the road.

Give thanks for reasonable doctors and outrageous granddaughters! Find something positive in your life today, and be thankful. Don't forget to pray!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Recognizing Opportunity

My mother is a great cook. She taught food sciences at the University of Hawaii before I was born. But she makes terrible spaghetti sauce. I, on the other hand, learned about marinara sauces from the Italians in Tuolumne County. So when the jar of sauce turned up in the kitchen yesterday to thaw for diner, I asked if I could doctor it.

First, a healthy quantity of chopped onion. Consider this is all in proportion to the something under 2 cups of sauce in the jar. Saute that in olive oil (ooops, gotta' bring that to room temp first, doesn't pour straight out of the fridge!) with a finely chopped clove of garlic. What else from this non-Italian kitchen? Mexican oregano, ground, would just have to do. Fresh basil leaves, chopped, courtesy of a neighbor. A touch of sugar to cut acidity. I would have preferred grated carrot and some celery instead of the sugar, but there wasn't room in the pot. My brother would have added anchovies. I'm not a fan of anchovies, need to learn to use those little fishies. Add the now-thawed previously made sauce. Dump the whole mix into the mini-crockpot (capacity 14 oz.) purchased at a recent rummage sale. This house has never, to my knowledge, seen a crockpot before. Plug in and ignore.

I would have liked the whole thing to mull for a couple of days, adding red wine as the liquid evaporated. No time. 4 hours would have to do. It was just enough. Lo and behold, the Chief Chef liked it! She admitted that she never ate any spaghetti (let alone any other Italian foods) as she was growing up, so has no idea what it is supposed to taste like. Somehow she got the idea that she doesn't like Italian food. Surprise!!

Look for those small opportunities. Give thanks when you find them. Don't forget to pray.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On Death and Dying

What is this death-and-dying thing that's going on in my life? Is it a reflection on my own age? Verna. Fred. Bob. Two more with hospital time because of heart issues. Now this. All since March 18, all but one since mid-May.

My brother started a new, temporary job yesterday. In his blog,, he wrote:
Well, I’m going back to work, at least for a while. City Councilmember Duke Bainum called last week and asked if I would be interested in filling in temporarily for a staffer who has had to return to the mainland. I worked at the council as senior advisor to then-councilmember Neil Abercrombie from 1988-1990, so it’s been quite a while since I made Honolulu Hale my home-away-from-home. The chance to see how things have changed in the way the council does its business piqued my interest and so I said yes. And, after very quick preliminaries, I’m starting today.

This morning's new reported that Bainum died last night from complications of an aneurysm. Possibly -- and this is speculation -- one of those "balloons" on the aorta which several of my friends are monitoring closely, or for which they have had surgery. Whew. This definitely causes one to pause, even though, to me, Bainum is just a name appearing periodically in my brother's blog posts and local newspapers.

Please, kind readers, be good to yourselves. Tell someone else that you care. Choose someone with whom you have not communicated in a while. Send an e-hug. Make a phone call. Write a real letter. Send a photograph. Give thanks for something today.

Don't forget to pray.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Ray and I used to quote something we found on a button somewhere. "We don't believe in miracles. We depend on them."

I can assure you today that miracles do happen. By all rights, my friend in Idaho should have died in his kitchen. Failing that, he should have been a brain-dead body by the time he got to the hospital.

Here's the essence of the email that hit my inbox this morning: "J recognizes all of us - he called with our daughter (someone was with him all night in he hosp) & he told me he loved me, he doesn't know what happed, etc. Brain waves are pretty good. He is responding to commands well. There should be a plan sometime today as to what will be done & where. It will be a long haul, but that's okay - one day at a time with Jesus sitting by our sides...."

They must have an awesome cardiac care unit in Boise. My friend is working his guardian angel overtime.

Give thanks for the skilled medical personnel who respond to emergencies, large and small, all over the world.

Look for something that happened today that gives evidence of the Creator's work in your corner of the world. Stuck? The sun rose this morning. We woke up. Most of us got out of bed. That's a start.

Don't forget to pray.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Still Waiting, Still Praying

Today is Ray's birthday. He was born on the 6th day of the 6th month. He left on the 3rd day of the 3rd month. ...

Another dear friend is taking her turn in a hospital waiting room, waiting, praying, crying, praying more. Her husband,whom she married nearly 50 years ago when she was just 18, had a massive heart attack the other night. He was alive when he got to the hospital, but nobody was saying whether or not there was any brain activity. He was still in hospital this morning. That's good. Or maybe not so good, depending on what else is going on in his body and brain.

Pray for Alene and her family. Pray for Jerry.

The phone rang while I was writing this. A friend received an email from me this morning that started out, "It's a crappy day...." What a welcome treat that phone call was!

Reach out to a friend. Hug someone you love. Give thanks for at least one gift in your life today. Pray without ceasing.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mothers, Daughters, Wives

It's actually the title of a war protest song from the UK, c. 1983, but it applies to my thoughts today. "The first to go were fathers, the last to go were sons, and in between our husbands ...."

Hospital waiting rooms are filled with them. Mothers, daughters, wives. So often we are the ones who wait, chewing our fingernails, praying, fingering a string of beads, knitting, doing something mindless while an important person in our lives -- often a man for whom we care deeply -- fights for life somewhere down a hall, behind a closed door.

I am reminded of this because an old friend just had two heart shunts "updated", quite unexpectedly. He's going to be fine. A trip to ER, some tests, a relatively common surgical procedure, a couple of days in hospital to make sure there are no other problems, and he's home again. But there's no warranty on this repair job. Nothing to assure his wife and family that another part isn't going to fail next year -- or next month, or next week.

I am reminded of this because there are so many more widows than widowers. I am reminded of the times we prayed for another spouse who waited for a diagnosis or change in status. I am reminded of my own time at a hospital bedside, armed with a book and some needlework. Now another friend is taking her turn at a similar post.

The men in our lives usually don't operate that way. On the very rare occasions that I was hospitalized, Ray would come in for a half-hour in the morning, disappear, and return at the other end of the day, just before he headed back to Groveland. My friend the EMT made sure he knew which bed his wife was in, then disappeared to the nursing station. No hand-holding there; he doesn't do "sick people" well.

There are exceptions everywhere. There are men who wait quietly at bedsides and in waiting rooms while their own mothers, daughters, wives lie somewhere down the hall. There are women -- including my own mother -- who refuse to wait. There are some very special men I know who care for their invalid wives.

We all have friends, both men, and women, who are always there when we need a shoulder to cry on or to hear the sound of another human voice.

Give thanks for those in your life who offer their support simply by being available.

"Keep watch, Oh Lord, with those who wait and watch and weep this night. And give your Angels charge over those who Sleep..."

Keep praying.