Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Country Kid Makes Good

If you are not a reader of the blog iLind.net, 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 Amazon.com (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 www.scotslanguage.com, 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 ....