Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dead men floating

Walking down dark and narrow browning yellow tile steps I could hear the creepy echoing of quiet splashes. Moisture clung to the walls and ceiling, threatening to drip on my head. It was my first time going down to the pool-level at the ancient YMCA and I was glad I wasn’t alone. We gripped our swim caps tightly and sunk into the thickness of our terrycloth towels, venturing into the unknown.  I was five years old, my sister was 6. I remember at the time feeling a little bit of disbelief that my mother would let us descend into the dark cavern on our own to meet certain death.

It was my first-ever swimming lesson and it was in the dead of winter. We came from outside where the weather was dry and probably in the minus degrees, slogging through thick piles of snow drifted in high heaps cut neatly with paths to the waiting doorways. In hindsight, I’m sure that my mother had been overwhelmed with all of us running screaming through the house on winter break and decided that now was the time to not only educate us in the art of swimming, but also provide herself with needed alone-time. “What use is belonging to the local Y if we don’t utilize it all year round?” she most likely professed.  The change in atmosphere was almost debilitating. From freezing cold to 99% humidity and 80º in under 2 minutes. From hats, mittens, scarves, coats, and boots to almost naked and feeling vulnerable in under 10 minutes.

As we emerged into the large cavernous space that housed the Olympic-sized swimming pool we were met with a disturbing and somewhat revolting site. There, just inches from the slippery and scum-covered pool edge, was a lifeless figure floating face down in the murky water. Ok, the water wasn’t exactly murky, but it may as well have been full of alligators and man-eating carp, because all my little brain could process was the real and somewhat puffy corpse in front of us.  Here we were about ready to learn life-saving techniques, and there in front of us was an example of someone who could have used these important instructions.

In actuality, a moment later the corpse came to life, declaring himself our swimming instructor telling us that what we had just witnessed was called the Dead Man’s Float (which, if executed properly, could one day save our little lives). I could have puked. What kind of cold, calculating beady-eyed person would think that this type of maneuver would actually want to make people jump in the pool? The answer: everyone else in the class, including my sister.

We eventually all mastered the Dead Man’s Float but the reason still escapes me. Shouldn’t we be floating on our backs so we can actually breathe? Maybe this attitude explains my life-philosophy: if life gives you lemons, float face up in the lemonade. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Found in Translation

As of late, I've been perusing Craigslist to see if it is possible to find "better accommodations". Translated, that means a place where the walls don't mold, there isn't termite doodoo falling all over everything, there isn't a dusty unpaved road in front of the house, and perhaps there would be an enclosed yard.

But, I am finding that my standards could possibly be unreachable here on Kauai. The other things on my wish-list for housing also include: a nice view, within earshot of the ocean, not in a neighborhood, dogs allowed, high ceilings, it catches trade winds, not too far from work, and, of course, a solar water heater would be nice.

What I am finding, though, is that there is a special language employed by those who post rentals. But no worries! I am here to translate.

Cozy = usually under 800 sq. ft. (yes, there are plenty of these)
Water included = the landlord lives on the property and doesn't want to break out the bill
No dogs = there are already 50 dogs on or near the property
Furnished = circa 1975 hotel motif
Utilities included = there are other renter(s)/landlord on the property
Ocean view = If you stand on the roof, you may spot an inch of blue
Country setting = dirt driveway
One mile from beach = As a crow flies. Does NOT imply view of beach
Shared washer and dryer = the landlord or other renter(s) on property
Cute Hawaiian Shack = nature close at hand (outdoor shower, ants, spiders, and centipedes)
Lots of mirrors = Feng shui to make 400 sq ft look like 1,000 sq ft.
Downstairs unit = bottom part of two story house. Landlords usually above
Steep driveway = usually unnavigable in a vehicle
No smoking, no drugs = landlord lives on property and they have small kids

I could go on, but you get the picture. I'll put my desires out to the universe anyway. You never know, the perfect place might be waiting for me; posted by someone who does not speak the Craigslist language yet.

Wish me happy hunting!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pointing at the moon

“When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger”
Chinese Proverb 

Oh, my gosh. Did you see the moon tonight/last night (depending on when you are reading this)? It was the biggest and brightest moon I have seen in a very long time.  Which is saying a lot because, here in Hawaii, we get to see a lot of moons due to expansive vistas, clear skies, lack of extremely tall evergreen forests that blot out the sky, lack of pollution, reasonable viewing temperatures, I really could go on and on.

Anyway, it took me a little by surprise because I haven’t been noticing the phases as of late. But I think my body clock already knew the waxing moon was on its way. My inner urgings were telling me to plant; plant seeds, plant seedlings, plant plants. Get in the dirt and plant something!

Over the past week and a half I have planted two papaya trees, two cherry tomatoes, three loofah seeds, three sweet pepper seeds, three spider plant babies, and an orchid. All of the seeds have now sprouted and are beginning to shed their little seed-pod hats. I’ve even taken measures to protect my papaya trees from the neighbor dogs by enclosing them in a flexible net (this will keep the wild chickens from digging them out as well).

Historically it has been shown that during a waxing moon (from no moon to a full moon) you should plant above-ground plants. During a waning moon (from the full moon to no moon), you should plant below-ground plants. This has to do with the moon affecting not only the ocean tides but also water tables and even the fluids inside the plants! Greeks and Romans knew these facts and it has apparently been passed down through folklore and with the help of The Farmer’s Almanac for centuries.

So, my window of opportunity to plant any more foliage-type plants has closed and I should now consider putting some taro, carrots, or potatoes in the ground. But I won’t. Like the moon, I feel my energy waning as well and my body fluids firmly planting me back onto my couch in front of my computer.

Now all I need to add is a little water and watch the magic happen. Ain’t life great?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Danger, Will Robinson!

Yesterday, I was talking on the phone with my mother who had just purchased a new vacuum and was reading the owner's manual. She told me that not only did the instructions tell her to not vacuum up hot ashes, but that the cord contained lead and other things that may cause cancer, birth defects, and god-knows-what, and that she should wash her hands after handling it. Say what?

Are we talking about a modern day cleaning appliance, or a nuclear science experiment? You'd think in this day and age it would be safe to purchase and use common household items that weren't deemed to be "carcinogens known to the state of California"!

This question ties into my ongoing fascination with hazard signs. If you knew of all of the dangerous activities, machinery, chemicals, and situations that are lurking around every corner ready to assault you, you'd never leave your house.

Loud noises. Thin ice. Slippery things when wet.  High voltage cables overhead. Tsunami hazard zones. Men working overhead. Dangerous places while machinery is in motion.  Wet floors. Bio-Hazards.  Oh yes, and the ever-present Pedestrian crossing ahead.

Here is why I love living in Hawaii reason #46: people do not take hazards seriously (the one exception is the ocean - Dangerous shorebreak, Sharp coral, Sudden drop off, Slippery rocks, Man-o-war, Jelly fish). These are no laughing matter.

I'm talking about other daily hazards; working in a restaurant kitchen in flip flops, riding a bicycle while holding a surfboard, having your rear view mirror so loaded up with dead flower leis it is impossible to see 63% of the windshield, and lastly, Pedestrian crossings.

Aloha from Hawaii!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nature versus Nurture

I have Created In My Likeness. I'm not proclaiming to be godlike or have special superpowers. I'm not even claiming that they share my genetics or even look like me. But I have utilized the power of "habit" and created two likenesses that mimic my character, drive, and productivity.

Yes, I have created two Saturday Couch-potatoes. Their names are Koko`o and Bean and I have successfully turned them into me. We sleep in late (not arising at the normal 5:30 am alarm clock setting), do nothing but lounge around all day, and eat when we're hungry instead of at mealtimes. Sometimes we all even stay in our p.j.s all day!

I never knew that dogs could sleep so much during one day. Out of the 12 or so hours that we spend "awake" (that means not in bed sleeping at night), they probably sleep about 7 of them. Plus the 7 or 8 hours at night. That means that they sleep roughly 63% of each day! Is that healthy? 

Anyway, I feel badly that they have become accustomed to my laziness. I think it would help if they could actually talk. "Hey, why don't we go run at the beach today?" might come out of their little mouths, guilting me into activity.

For now, their needs are silent and only involve "calls of nature" (interpreted by me as furtive glances toward the sliding door). I have nurtured them completely away from their instincts of hunting and chasing.  Perhaps I can cultivate this even further and teach them how to make meals in a crockpot or even operate the washer or vacuum.

But for now, we are just enjoying another lazy Saturday, sitting all in a row, listening to the activities of the neighborhood drifting in through the window.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why is the color blue associated with baby boys?

In honor of the recent spat of baby boys born to my friends in the past month, I thought I'd provide the answer to a question I know you all are clamoring to know the answer to: Why is the color blue associated with baby boys?

The association of colors with babies undoubtedly started as an attempt to identify the gender of that one group of humans to whom the cliche "they all look alike" often applies.

But why blue for boys? In ancient times, it was believed that evil spirits lingered over nurseries and that certain colors possessed the capability to combat evil.  Blue was considered the most powerful color, possibly because of its association with the sky and, thus, heavenly spirits. Since boys were then considered the most valuable natural resource to parents, blue clothing was a cheap form of insurance.

Evil spirits apparently couldn't bother with pestering baby girls.  Not only were girls not dressed in blue, but they had no color to call their own until centuries later.  Our association of pink with girls stems from European legend, which professed that baby girls were born inside of pink roses.

European legend also holds that baby boys are born in blue cabbage patches - yes, the same patches that spawned the doll craze of Christmas 1983.

Welcome to our world new baby boys! You know who you are.

From Imponderables: the solution to the mysteries of everyday life, by David Feldman

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting dressed in the dark

Aside from the risk of committing a major fashion faux pas, there are countless reasons not to get dressed in the dark, especially in Hawaii. As we move into shorter days with the darker mornings of fall and then winter, I’d like to offer a countdown of reasons why NOT to don your wardrobe without the lights on.

Ants in your pants. Actually, make that bra. This just happened to me. For some reason, my friendly neighborhood ants like to throw a party on my lingerie shelf in my closet. Here they not only scurry around underneath my unmentionables, but they decide to set up shop and start producing mini-me ants by the thousands. It is gross. Just when I think I’ve evicted every last one of them, they give me a surprise party in my bra. I don’t notice them until it is too late and the “get the effin’ ants off of me” dance begins.

Cockroach in your shoe. What is it about cockroaches and shoes? This even just happened to one of my coworkers. He was casually chatting with us one morning at the office, got a horrified look on his face, and went dashing out of the office in fear of the worst. Luckily it was only a cockroach…

Cane spider on your towel. Ewe. Before getting dressed, it is wise to check your towel before rubbing it on your bare, wet body. I cannot explain why these giant palm-sized spiders like the bathroom so much. Maybe it is the plush, warm terry cloth they dig. Or the clean, smooth feel of the fiberglass shower.  Even before you check your towel, better turn around in the shower and check the stall. They may be smaller than you, but you are completely naked and without defense.

Jumping geckos. Gack. These are seemingly harmless creatures that, in fact, help us with some of the before-mentioned pests. But why, oh why, do they have to always be where you are reaching? And why, oh why, do they always jump toward you and brush against your arm, leg, foot, etc.? This spastic specimen usually does no harm other than increase your blood pressure and cause minor heart palpitations.

Stepping on the dreaded centipede. Although it is commonly felt that these are strictly an outdoor-pest, one occasionally finds them inside one’s house. I have experienced an in-the-dark-encounter with a centipede and it was definitely something that I will always remember. I knew instantly what bit me and the pain was excruciating.  I have friends that have also experienced this pest in reasons 1 and 2 and the results were not friendly.

There are many more reasons I could list, but I’m still uncomfortably itching with phantom ants. So, if you live in Hawaii, or just plan on visiting, heed my warning. You can ask anyone who lives here and they will regale you with stories of their own. I’ll be following this list up with others like: Why you don’t want to walk across your yard in the dark, Why you shouldn’t walk barefoot in the dark, Reasons to shake the tree before cutting the bananas, and others.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Battle to the death

Last evening I waited a little too long before I drew the screen door across all of the unwanted creatures of the night. On this fateful evening, my true nemesis entered into my abode, undetected, and started wreaking unfettered havoc upon my person. This assailant? Aedes albopictus; the Asian Tiger Mosquito, vector for dengue fever. Cue music: Duhn dun dunnnn...

Okay, well, it would have been poking tiny little bloody holes of dengue fever in me, if dengue fever were here in Hawaii, but fortunately this is not the case.  But it was poking tiny little bloody holes in me all evening and by the time I was ready for bed I was covered with bites and bruises (the bruises from slapping myself silly trying to get da little bugga).

How in the hell does this world-class irritating pest not only elude my whacking but decide when and where to bite me at my most vulnerable spots? Well, apparently, this is not a process for thought at all. A mosquito brain is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Not a lot of room in there for decision-making. They actually rely on chemistry. I happened upon an article that was so interesting to me I have to quote from it with abandon.

"Chemical traces in the air tell a hungry adult female mosquito that an appropriate victim is in the vicinity". Apparently, even if you wear a repellent, they can get confused, but they still find you.  And by "appropriate victim" I think that this means which person has the least amount of clothing on.

"The pricking is a complex business, involving a flexible tube made up of six highly specialized mouthparts". Some of these parts are serrated and they are used to saw through the tissue. Yuck. I'm picturing steak knives with suction tubes.

"A successful mosquito will suck up about one-millionth of a gallon of blood. That doesn't sound like much, but it may amount to four times her original weight".  That would be equivalent to Uncle Billy Bob guzzling  about 1,067 Bud Lights at one go!  "Stretch receptors in her bulging abdomen send full-tank signals to her dot-sized brain, which tells her to disengage and get away". I wish I had stretch receptors. Hmmm. Sounds like a good diet invention.

Fortunately for me, I was able to end the miserable tormenting. Unfortunately for it, I shortened her month-long life by hopefully, um, a month. I'd like to boast that I've helped saved humanity from this nasty pest, but I just read that mosquitoes have been around for about 79 million years. Definitely longer than humans. But not longer than cockroaches. But that is another story...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

When reading is not really reading

I worked the Library Book Sale yesterday evening and discovered something interesting. Firstly, that the sales amount set on the books were ridiculously under-valued (50 cents each), but secondly, that people are crazy and will buy just about anything if the price is right.

20 year old tour books? Of course. 10 year old text books on physics? Absolutely. How to redecorate your house with that modern touch (circa 1991)? Why not? People were leaving with huge and heavy boxes filled with books they will regret lugging home as soon as they begin to unpack them. Personally, I restrained myself (as my bookshelves are mostly double-parked with books as it is) and left with three books as gifts (two of them cookbooks), a popular paperback that I have never read before, and a tabletop book about stars (I don't think this will go out of date at the speed of light like some books).

I looked up this book-buying phenomenon and there is actually a name for it: Bibliomania. This is an obsessive-compulsive disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged (probably your back from sorting, hauling, and lifting them). Then I found out that this is only one of several psychological disorders associated with books!  

I'm sure that there were quite a few normal people (at least in appearance and behavior) at yesterday's book sale) but I question the ones that went out with multiple book-laden boxes. On one occasion, while I was tallying a gathered pile of books for payment, the book-collector was still grabbing random books from the nearest table! Once, I even made a suggestion to one fellow that he reinforce his bookcase since none of the books he was purchasing was under six pounds each!  During a lull I discussed this weird book-buying frenzy with my fellow-cashier and, to be honest, she was mostly glad that the books were going out the door. She suggested that perhaps those people were planning on opening their own book store. Perhaps.

Or, perhaps, they are suffering from bibliophilia (the usual love of books), bibliophagy (book-eating), or even bibliotaphy (book-burying)! (Yes, Wikipedia is my friend). And don't forget biblioginormosity (huge book collecting - okay, I just made that one up).

Whatever the case, the Kapa`a Public Library thanks those patrons and we ask that they kindly never return any of those books. We are non-judging Friends of the Library and thank them for their support. And, possibly, suggest that they seek some support themselves.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Conspiracy theory? I think not.

Today, as I was lying on my bed recuperating from a hard morning in the garden, I was struck by an online news article that sounded very odd. The headlines read, "Squirrel to blame for power outage." 

So, I'm thinking, "Really?" Visions of a fluffy-tailed rodent in a ski mask, dressed in black, slinking stealthily into the substation fill my brain. Tiny black gloves holding a miniature flashlight sweep the light beam across the room, making sure the coast is clear. Deciding which piece of critical equipment he can damage to affect the most power customers will take cunning expertise.

This got me questioning the whole idea of blame being placed on a rodent with the brain the size of a walnut. So, I did a little research. First, I found out a little more on their habits: "In the summer squirrels are most active two to three hours after sunrise, then they'll rest in the afternoon (no doubt planning their devious power-grid-stopping scheme). Resuming activity again two hours before sunset (to carry out said plans with precision-accuracy). The squirrel will retire to its nest well before dark,  and will rarely leave the nest in the dark (to further establish their alibis)". Yes, the parenthetical comments are mine, but read on.

Next, I thought maybe my imagination was getting a little out of hand so I decided to verify the credibility of this news article. What I discovered was shocking. In fact, the, um, facts were so overwhelming that I had to create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them all. What I discovered was that in the past nine days, in 10 different states and two Canadian Provinces, squirrels were responsible for power-outages affecting 56,530 people! Many of these occurrences even happened on the same day!

What I think we have here is an organized conspiracy among the order "Rodentia". These little guys are planning complex strategies to inconvenience thousands of humans, no doubt in order to deliver a little payback for the invention and deployment of "squirrel-proof" bird feeders. Sales of these feeders has increased every year. It is all in the facts.

Of course, a lot of these squirrel missions are fatal to the perpetrator. Yes, now they are little hairy martyrs for their followers. And how many followers are there? "There are over 365 species of squirrels in seven families."  I think this means that there are about one hundred billion. And this isn't the worst of it!  A squirrel's teeth grow continuously...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A raging war of might


I have a phobia. Spiders. Okay, it isn't the worst thing to be afraid of, and it isn't as though my whole life is dysfunctional around this disabling affliction, unlike someone else I know. But, yes, arachnophobia has ahold of me by its eight tiny little legs.

This fear of mine manifests itself in a couple of ways. Firstly, if there is a spider in the room, I can spot it. Chip in the paint? No, a spider. Dirt clod in the corner? No, a spider. My eyes are instantly riveted to the slow moving spot on the wall until a) I leave the room, or b) it is dead. Secondly, it produces in me such a rush of adrenalin that my brain ceases to function properly. While my brain is screaming random thoughts, the rest of my body cannot remember what it is supposed to do and motor skills flail and jerk in a frenzy of activity.

One night, deep in slumber, my daughter gently whispered in my ear, "Mom, there is a spider in my room." Instantly awake with my eyelids snapping to attention, I leapt out of bed, confused and dazed.

"What? What is the matter?" I asked, brain struggling to process the steps it needed to become fully conscious but hindered by the creeping sensation that it was awoken by something that had to do with a lot of articulated legs.

"There is a spider in my room, on the wall," my daughter repeats slowly and clearly, sensitive of my affliction. Oh, My Dear Lord. I stumbled across the hall and paused in her doorway. Gazing across her room strewn with clothing, books, and stuffed animals, I stood rooted to the carpeting.  There was only about one square foot of clear flooring surrounded by 99 square feet of spider-harboring habitat. And there, on the wall, at the foot of her bed was a 5 inch black, hairy, cane spider. I was transfixed with terror.

We both stood for a moment. Finally, my daughter looked in my panic-sticken face and said, "what should we do?"

Even though I knew that my role was to be one of hero, all I could think about was how I could seal her room off from mine. In the end, a pesticide bomb was placed in her room (she slept elsewhere) with a towel efficiently tucked under the door so that we all wouldn't perish along with the spider. It was found the next day, to confirm the kill, and everyone was happy.

I'm not proud of my selfish fears, but those who know me accept that this is who I am. But woe to the spider who crosses my path. Expect a fearsome end; this is a battle of the fittest. I may not be as agile, but I'm a hell of a lot bigger and I've got hysterical, adrenaline-fed reactions on my side.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Self taught genius?

This morning I ran into an acquaintance of mine at the grocery store. I politely inquired as to how her son was doing and she lamented that he couldn't find a job in the field that he was interested in; Fish & Game.

She explained that he was "self-taught", which in layman's terms means that he didn't go on to college. And there just weren't any jobs available that didn't involve an internship or some other stretch of time that equated to working without an income purely to enhance and validate your experience.

This got me thinking. It seems that gone are the specialized jobs that do not require extensive schooling. To even get a vocational job (a.k.a. Blue Collar) one has to get an Associate's Degree or some special credentials certifying that you have learned what needs to be learned.  Passing down specialized knowledge through generations of family is slowly ceasing to exist as technological innovation whizzes by at blinding speed; making the aforementioned historical gems obsolete before they even leave grandpa's lips.

On the other hand, this same technology is now available right at your fingertips. It is easier, now more than ever, to become a self-taught genius. Just Google it! You can be an expert at anything from quantum physics, to unplugging whatever is preventing your windshield wiper fluid from squirting onto your windshield. Just don't count on getting a job in your area of newfound expertise... there are plenty of other "professionals" out there and increasing by each click of the keyboard.

Take me, for example. I decided to become a bonsai expert. "This should be easy", I thought. "All the information I need is at my disposal", I mused. Two short years later, I realized I am still missing one critical element to make the desired miniature outcome: talent. Yes, you can be self-taught, and you can even be a genius. But if the talent isn't there, all you are is informed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Out With The Old

Why is it that when we are ten, we can sleep on the floor and stay up all night at slumber parties? But when we are 52, we need back-supported, ultra plush, mega pillow-topped, form-fitting mattresses before we enjoy a solid night of blissful sleep?  According to M. Alter, the main reason we become less flexible as we get older is a result of certain changes that take place in our connective tissues. As we age, our bodies gradually dehydrate to some extent. It is believed that "stretching stimulates the production or retention of lubricants between the connective tissue fibers, thus preventing the formation of adhesions." In other words, as we age, we become shriveled old prunes.

That is why, last week, I bought a new bed. Oh, there were warning signs that my torture-contraption-bed-of-pain (TCBP) was the cause of my rapidly debilitating back ache. Twice I had to stay at hotels where my spinal pain mysteriously and gratefully disappeared after only one night. After my last trip to the mainland (where I luxuriated in a king-size bed of wonder and comfort) I returned to find that after only two nights back on my TCBP, I was crippled with pain and could not even stand upright. I was shuffling around like my 95 year old grandmother, unable to reach the upper shelves in my kitchen or walk without my face contorted with pain.

First, I went to the "mattress store" where I thought that at least I could lie down on the sample beds to take them for a "test drive". Much to my horror, the price tag of $1,200 was not for the entire bedroom set (headboard, footboard, mattress, boxspring, and side table). No, this was the sale price of the mattress alone! Yowzers! The saleswomen patiently explained to me the nuances of mattress shopping and the importance of the spring count. All I felt was the cold plastic on my bare legs and no pillow under my head. Not an overall great experience for my body or my pocketbook.

So, I took the course of least resistance and went to Costco where I could supply myself with a matching mattress and boxpring of high quality that even had an extra bit of "memory foam" to aid in my peaceful slumber.

Now, I am all tucked in on top of my 14" mattress, the old bed is waiting for it's next victim in the guest room, the bunk-bed is waiting in the wings to provide ongoing convenience and joy to some future Craig's List parents, and everyone is happy.  Except for maybe the extortionists who run the mattress store downtown.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The not so soothing sound of silence

Ah, the peaceful night-time comfort sounds of cows bellowing, cats fighting, dogs barking, roosters crowing, and crickets, uh, cricketing, once again soothe me into gentle slumber. The wind rustling in the swaying palms is a gentle symphony. It is Mother Nature's White Noise and it shouts with clarity and volume in my neck of the woods.

Recently, while visiting family in Oregon, I was lying in bed wondering why I couldn't fall asleep. Ah! It was too quiet. I slid out of bed and crept to the window, opening it wide, expecting the unleash the nightsounds into the confines of my bedroom. Alas, the only comforting noise I heard was the distant clackity clack of a train rumbling through town, followed by the blast of the horn echoing eerily across the lake. But after it had passed...silence.

It made me realize that I didn't appreciate what I had at home. Something that could distract my brain from the continual and persistent ringing in my ears that has afflicted me for going on 30 years. 

The theme song from an ancient TV show keeps rattling about my head: Green acres is the place for me, farm livin' is the life for me. Country spreadin' out so far and wide. Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside". I can still picture Eddy Albert and Ava Gabor in their dilapidated farm house...

Okay, I may not be completely a country girl. I only want to hear the animals, not take care of them or smell them. I barely keep my houseplants alive. But there is something extremely comforting about letting those nature sounds lull you to sleep at night. It makes you more a part of it, more in tune with it. So, good night, Bessie. Sorry your udder is full or your little calf has been taken away from you, or perhaps you need a mate. In any case, thank you for the midnight serenade!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bring on the New

I've been busy today playing a new game I like to call "Catching the Water Flying in Through the Windows".

My 86 year old mother lives in a house that is 71 years old (only three owners), and last week she decided that it was time to paint it. Okay, this is a good decision. She is contemplating selling it and it is looking a little war-torn due to recent neglect. 

However, due to the fact that most of the windows are single glaze, multi-paned, and made during the Great Depression, they let in as much of the elements as they do light. So, as you can imagine, when 3,500 psi of water is directed at them in a frenzy of cleaning energy, a fair bit of that nasty, dirty, spider-laden slush comes shooting through to the inside. And I was there to catch it.

You can picture it: I am mouthing to the handy-man outside on the precariously stretched ladder, "stick to one window at a time!" But he is thinking, naturally, that it would be better to spray from the top of the set of windows to the bottom, back and forth, with an inserted wiggle of up and down. What this means to me is that I am frantically trying to match his movements pushing rags up against the windows to stop the deluge, simultaneously trying to dodge the bits of gunk flying toward me. A bit like that hit-the-mole-with-a-mallet game at arcades, but slightly messier.  And only he has the raincoat and waders on...

Everything is beautiful now and, to his credit, he did a thorough job. No wet masses of pine-needles or soggy plant matter litter the yard or walkways.  Just a clean house sparkling in the summer sun waiting for a fresh coat of paint.

And, on the inside, every window shines clear again. Years of cobwebs have been wiped away, spider poop and dust now only a memory. Reflecting on the day, I sit and ponder the expression that I hear so often, "They sure don't make things like they used to" and wonder, "What the hell?"  It's a good thing!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Remembering Life's Adventures

“Go ahead, try it. I hear they are loaded with protein”, my sister soothingly said to me as we crouched behind the sofa looking at the dead flies on the windowsill. She knew to focus on logic even though I was only 4 and had no idea what protein was. She made it sound as if it was definitely something I needed.

She never appealed to my sense of pride when there was convincing to do. She somehow knew that there was no point in trying that tactic with me. There was never a, “I dare you” or even any sense of coercion.  She was a master at mischief and I was her willing stooge.

My sister Gale seemed to have a talent at making things sound like so much fun. Whether it was poking my other sister, Gwen, in her most ticklish spot simultaneously while sitting on each side of her in the car, or heading out on an overnight camping trip late on a rainy afternoon with the dog in tow.  Together, we would ignore the sage advise of our oldest sister, Lynn, and plow ahead heedless of the consequences.  I knew that every pursuit was going to be packed with excitement and daring.

I was not alone in feeling like I needed Gale. She gathered friends like a light gathers moths. She had an element about her that burned bright when you got near to it. It was mesmerizing, soothing, satisfying and fulfilling.

Gale was one of a kind. She was full of life and adventure. I like to think that I share one strong trait with her: the sense that nothing is impossible.  Gale never thought small. Every project or endeavor was epic in size or complexity. But, somehow, she always gathered the resources needed to accomplish the task. The sense that something was a chore never seemed to enter the picture. Helping her seemed natural and expected.

I never projected myself as an old woman of 80, let alone an old woman with elderly siblings. But in thinking about this now, my heart breaks that she will not be there to share this time of life with me. I assumed that she would always be there with that twinkle in her eye and that easy smile, ready for the next adventure. I do realize that one of us had to go first, I only wish that it had not happened so soon.

Gale now rests with her heavenly Father. She is probably busy making friends and gathering family members. I will miss her so much and feel as though a part of me has died with her.  But, I will carry on the adventures without her and do my best to make her proud. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Collective insight

I discovered recently that there is an expiration date on the "Pick of the Week" iTunes cards that I had greedily snatched up  for free from the Starbucks coffee counter. Darn, I had collected over a dozen of them from my various visits and they were beginning to make my wallet bulge with importance. Some, I discovered, were dated way back to December of 2009. Hmmm. Perhaps it is time to clean out my purse.

In retrospect, I am not entirely certain of my motives for picking up those cards. Was it that I was intent on previewing cutting-edge music, or that I could so easily collect something that was not only free but the exact size of a credit card? Every once in a while, while retrieving something from my wallet, I would glance at these cards, thinking to myself, "Gee, I've got a lot of music here."  It was powerful to think that I could so tangibly have at my fingertips something that usually can only be experienced audibly.

This got me wondering if there are other things that I have an obsession about collecting besides the plentiful array  of dust featured all over the finer things in my home.  

I think Iʻd have to add books to the list. It isnʻt as though I have a compulsion to collect them, it is more that I canʻt seem to get rid of them. Books are now accumulating in double-parked fashion on the first row of my built-in bookcase.  You know the library in the movie My Fair Lady? It is an over-large room lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves. The ceiling is two stories high and the room features an interior balcony halfway up so that you can stroll along in mid-air perusing the collection. That is my fantasy room.  AND an awesome place to enhance my ongoing dust fetish.

My common collections, though, seem to consist of:  Taco Bell napkins (why do they always give me five when I am obviously only ordering for one?), ketchup packets (I donʻt even ask for them), beer bottles (oh, wait, Iʻm planning on recycling those), and clothes that are too small for me (I plan on fitting them again one day).

What keeps me  from spiraling down the path of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is that I have experienced what it feels like to purge.  Ridding oneself of everything except only the most essential of items helps put your "needs" in perspective. In fact, on a daily basis, I have learned to ask myself, "Is this a want or a need"? Iʻm not saying that I am entirely in control of my "wants", but it does make me pause long enough to measure the anticipated pleasure-factor in possessing it.

So, for now, Iʻll keep up my fast food collections and keep feeding my hungry bookshelf, knowing that, in theory, I could purge them at any moment. 

Oh yes, and I forgot to mention my almost insignificant Pez dispenser collection. When my son had decided he was too old to collect them, I just could not bear to throw them away....

How many do you need of something to transform them from a "bunch of things" to a "collection"? I guess it depends on how many you feel you need.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summer Camp

I remember summer camp. Sort of. I remember being about 10 years old and wondering why my parents could banish me from their lives into a snake-ridden, mosquito-filled hell, surrounded by screaming girls.

What did I do to deserve this? And why did they talk it up and make it sound like a once-in-a-lifetime rare privilege? And why, for gosh darned sake, did they make me go without my sisters? All these questions flooded my mind as I watched a four foot long, fat, and probably poisonous, snake slither from the rafters of my cabin and drop down to the wooden floor. "Why had I chosen a top bunk", I thought in panic? At the time, I had solely focused on crawly things on the floor, not even dreaming of the dangers that lurked in the ceiling.

As I rack by brain trying to think about more of the details of that summer, I only get snippets. The snake, of course, but also other first-time moments in life. The first time I had been in close proximity to someone "of color". She was blacker than an 8-ball and I was absolutely fascinated by her. To say that I grew up in a white upper middle class neighborhood would be stating the obvious at this point. Anyway, she was beautiful; with her glistening kinky hair (that she treated with vaseline) and her mesmerizing eyes. We instantly had something in common: we both were petrified of snakes.  As I recall, maybe her fear was a bit more than mine because after the snake-dropping-from-the-rafter incident, I don't remember that she remained in our cabin. I'm not sure that she even remained at camp.

Another first was cooking a complete meal over the fire in only one sheet of aluminum foil; every camper's necessity. It was a meat-stewy sort of meal; mushy with bits with hard-cooked bits. And oh, so delicious. I was certain. at the time, that if only my mother knew of this crockery-saving meal, that we would be eating it every night in the future. Fortunately, in hindsight, we didn't usually cook our menus over campfires at home, so this dinner was not destined for our dinner table.

I cannot remember where this Girl Scout Camp was located; even which state it was in. I do remember that it was dusty, hot in the daytime, cold at night, offered no privacy, exposed me to sleepless nights listening to sniffling and crying girls as they lie tucked into their bunks, and that we got to have a pocket knife as part of the required gear.

No doubt today's camps are a bit different. Surely no knives are allowed and they probably send each happy camper through a metal detector on their way to the great outdoors. But each of us takes some unique memory or lesson from these experiences. My lesson was that when I became a parent, I would not subject my child to the indignity of a shared bathing facility. But, to each his own. I'm sure that I ended up creating some other horrifying childhood experience for them.  I mean, what is parent-hood good for, after all, if you can't leave some indelible mark on their psyche? My only consolation is that I know for sure that it did not involve snakes or knives.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Broke da slippa

What a catastrophe. Today my slipper broke. For those of you who are non-Hawaiian, this means that my flip flop came apart. We aren't talking about some $1.99 pair from the local drug store.  These were expensive puppies from the Birkenstock store. Yes, arch support and everything; custom fit Chacos.

I guess I was expecting that since I put down a pretty penny on these orthopedic wonders, that they would last maybe more than a couple of years. But, alas, I was wrong. At first, they were feeling a bit looser than I remembered them being. Then, "kapow", we have separation, Houston. The toe-hold came right off and my footbed was left dangling in the wind.  Luckily, I was only casually strolling through my dining room (these were my cherished indoor slippers). What if, God forbid, I had been running down the street being chased by my nasty cat-eating neighbor-dogs?! 

Last week, I tempted fate and donned my righteous-consumer-hat and managed to exchange a cloth tote bag at Walmart that I had bought several months previously.  It was beginning to fall apart. "Obviously poor craftsmanship", I explained to the customer service people. They all gathered around the fraying edges of the bag, tssking at the idea that such poor-quality items would be sold at their store. I didn't even bother to wash the coffee stains off or pick the ground-in dog food from the inside. I was so confident that I would be in the right, I threw caution and cleanliness to the wind.

These slippers, however, are another matter. On the one hand, I've already pushed my luck with the Chaco distributors here. My last pair of Chaco sandals (you know, the ones that look like Teevas with the winding strap around your foot), started coming apart at the sole. I promptly returned them and then promptly forgot that I had returned them. I kid you not, it took almost two years to retrieve them and for all my troubles, they just replaced them with new ones.  On the other hand, I am not anxious to send these beloved-but-broken sandals into the black hole of shoe repair. I need indoor shoes NOW.

Oh, woe is me. This time "nothing lasts forever" outweighs "you get what you pay for". As my friend used to tell me, "It may not be right, but it is so". I guess they were starting to stink anyway.

Conserving cultures

I recently spent three days in Honolulu attending a conference on conservation. The theme was "Applying Traditional and Western Knowledge Systems". I had no expectations as I went into this event; I only knew that I'd be tired at the end of it.

But coming away from it has me re-energized regarding the underlying reasons regarding my passion for conservation. Yes, it helps to connect me to a land where I have decided to place my roots. But even stronger than that connection is the re-alignment of my sensitivities to the ancestors of this land who are whispering to me in the trees, the water, the clouds, the fish, the ground; this place called Kaua`i. 

The "take-home" message for me was that conservation is not a new concept to Hawaiians. Historically, the way in which the people of these islands communed with their environment was sustainable. Everything they took from the land or sea, they gave back in some way.  Kamuela Enos, with MA`O Farms, said that he doesn't really like to use the word "stewardship" when talking about caring for the environment because it does not properly reflect the kinship that the Hawaiians had with the land.  It is their father, mother, brother, sister.  The land is intricately woven into their life; not only does it provide sustenance but it feeds their spirituality and their well-being.

On the last day of the conference, something that someone said really resonated with me. They said that when you are in a place, you should recognize how it makes you feel. This isn't just a "stop and smell the roses" type of platitude.  What they were trying to convey is that you should recognize the sense of why you are there and what that spot is telling you.

If I don't listen, I may misinterpret what I am supposed to do. I plan on doing much more listening in the coming months. 

`A `ohe pau ka `ike i ka halau ho `okahi.  All knowledge is not taught in one school.  One learns from many sources.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My love affair

So far, it is only stealing glances, the occasional fondling, and yes, soft and gentle caressing. And as soon as I am done with my current two-year relationship, I will break free and make all of my wildest dreams come true!

"Move over", Blackberry on Verizon and "Hello", iPhone on AT&T!

I am completely and utterly smitten with the new iPhone 4G. This yearning can only be matched by the one I had in 1975 for the alluring and playful convertible VW bug. Although that relationship never came to fruition, I am determined to make this one happen. The only thing standing in my way is this darned contract with my current wireless carrier and my problem-plagued Blackberry Storm.

Oh sure, I went through the usual relationship process getting to know Storm. At first I was excited and blinded by the new technology. But then I gradually came to realize that I was in a relationship with something that didn't fit my needs or my lifestyle, was constantly "glitching" and ignoring calls, and was an all-around disappointment.

Just to be clear, I am not a "grass is always greener" sort of person. I've done my investigation into this new  uber-cool iPhone technological beauty and it is something worth having.  My Blackberry, on the other hand, is a huge disaster. I am currently on my 5th replacement of the same model. Granted, one of the occurrences was my fault and I definitely had no intention of falling into a stream with it, but all of the others are because this phone is a huge dud.

No more "Can you hear me now?" utterances will ever escape my lips. I promise to be true and faithful and to always take care of it with the utmost attention. Apple, you are brilliant! I am already a Mac convert, own a iTouch, and will soon (uh, ten more months and counting) be a proud owner of the smartest phone to ever be made. If you don't believe me, you can check it out here. Antenna issues? Pshew. Please, what phone doesn't have reception or antenna issues?

This phone relationship will be forever. Unless of course an affordable version of a Dick Tracy-type watch-phone comes around.  I bet you Apple will be the ones to come out with it.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The screamer

I have a screamer that lives next door to me.  I am guessing that she is about 10 years old and I think the cause of much of her woes is that she has several older brothers. Now, I get the frustration that siblings bring at that age. I also get that some people need to vent their frustration in some manner. What I don't get is how it can go on and on and on and...

I mean, where is the rest of the family while this rant is happening? Do they just tune her out and pretend that it isn't taking place? Remember, I live in Hawaii where multi-generational domiciles are more than common.  There is a very minuscule probability that there are not several other relatives at home at each given moment when a tantrum of this type is occurring. Don't they mind? Do they have sand in their ears?  Are they investors in cotton, earmuff, and earplug companies?

What I also don't get is the actual need to scream. I must be missing some female gene that dictates that every girl must scream starting at around the age of 2.  I see girls screaming with delight at the playground. I see teens screaming as they look on in teen-adoration at their teen-idols. I even see grown women screaming in either fear or excitement at something as simple as squirting water.  I, myself, am not a screamer.

Oh, I do exclaim the occasion "Oh!" or "@$?&!", but never a full-blown blood curdling scream. 

Hold on a minute. I think I do remember a time when I let out a throat-burning, lung-deflating, scream of terror. I was just about ten years old (the same age as my neighbor), on the verge of drifting off to sleep.  My older sister jumped into the doorway of my room (dark silhouette backlit from the hallway) and in a menacing voice yelled "TARANTULA" with her arms thrown wide. I remember I sat bolt-upright in bed, eyes popping, screaming bloody-murder. Even the thought of it makes my neck ache a bit.

Yes, that may have contributed to my life-long phobia of spiders, but it did not send me down the road of being a serial screamer. Luckily, I think I may have passed this missing scream-gene proclivity on to each of my two daughters; it was a blissful and peaceful time at the playground with them. No ear-piercing shrills, or deafening tantrums.

My young neighbor, on the other hand, is perfecting her skill at every opportunity.  With the aid of her brothers, she will be ready to enter into the Banshee Hall of Fame at a very early age. And she will know people far and wide who will be able to verify her claim.  Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Are Wii having fun yet?

Normally, I think of myself as being an agile and well-coordinated person. But, as of late, I have discovered that I am no good at snow-boarding, floating in a bubble down a stream, or riding a Segway on the beach. But, on the other hand, I am really good at hula-hoops, kung fu, and flying like a bird.

And, my wings are feeling very tired.

I have discovered the wonderful world of Wii Fit Plus. Not being of the "gaming generation" this is all fairly new to me.  We are talking about a virtual yoga instructor as well as a sassy cartoon that tells you that you are not only obese (according to medical standards, of course), but automatically adjusts your Mii caricature to reflect your plumpness.

Not feeling daunted by the Nintendo manual that warns of seizures, eye strain, motion sickness, and damage to your console or TV screen, I leapt onto the Wii Fit Board and began my journey into wellness. 

"DO NOT JUMP ON THE BOARD" the screen warns me as it puts me back at the beginning of my routine. Shoot, I thought I was doing so well.  "STEP IN TIME TO THE MUSIC" it then screams at me. Wait a minute, I was in perfect sync. It is the carpeting under the board that is screwing with the results. "SO, BALANCE GAMES AREN'T YOUR CUP OF TEA", the screen consoles me, "KEEP WORKING AT IT", it placates.

So far my injuries have been minor; feet tangling with the edge of the board as I attempt to step on and off in time to the music, a sore elbow from trying to hit home runs, and a very bruised ego.

The dogs have learned to flee the room when they see The Board being laid out on the floor, and I'm wishing that I actually had curtains on the windows. But, my personal trainer is very encouraging and never laughs at me; at least to my face. For all I know this thing is hooked up to some central Wii Fit Headquarters where virtual trainers compare whose "client" is least coordinated or who is not in first place, but rather, who is in millionth place.

Overall, I am having a blast with this thing and it will all be worth it as I whittle away layers of exercise apathy and shed pounds of inert activity. Besides, I take comfort in knowing that I at least look better in person than all those little Mii characters that I am in fierce competition with.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Life and Death

As my daughter so succinctly put it, “Life is always fatal”. At its base level, it is easy to understand that yes, we all must die one day. But, seeing it Up-Close-And-Personal during my recent trip to Oregon and Idaho saying goodbye to family, knowing this fact doesn’t make it any easier on those left behind.

Certainly, life is a journey. Although this is an oft-overused cliché, it is absolutely true.  It is an ongoing quest to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually.  It is a journey fraught with danger as well as delights; filled with friendships, family, and sometimes heartbreaks. But it is a journey we all must take. If we are lucky, this trip will take generations to complete.  For others, it must come to an end sooner.

And, as we approach the end of our journey, or are forced to face the end of our loved-one’s journey, it is a time to contemplate whether every road taken was the right one.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to look back on your life and not have one single regret?

But to contemplate regret is actually to admit that no action was taken after determining that a wrong turn was taken. It is so easy to just sit back and ride that slippery slope into a lifetime of “what-ifs”. 

Through all of this introspective time, I have determined that my new year starts now. I have resolved that I will no longer let life happen merely to me. I will go and make life happen for me.  Every mistake I make is mine and I had better wise-up and learn from each one of them. Go for the gusto, grab for the brass ring.

Death will come for me; I have no doubt about that.  Although I might not be ready for it, when it does come I want it to say, “GOOD JOB. NICELY DONE.  LETS GO NOW”.  And, I’ll have no regrets. How about you?


Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Wish Tree

Today I went to a an event at a Asian marketplace that they called the "Oregon Summer Fest". It was a gala affair with hot-cooked noodles, lots of kimonos, an Asian band doing covers of the Jackson 5 and Elvis, and, best of all, a Wish Tree.

A Wish Tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit, saint, or goddess, fulfillment of a wish (yes, I looked this up on Wikipedia).

In this case, it was a small bamboo tree in a pot, moved into the parking lot area, easily accessible to the masses. The point of the Wishing Tree was to write down your wish and hang it from the tree. Today, it was even made more special for us non-asian or japanese-speaking revelers by having someone read the wish and write on the back of it the same wish in Japanese. How cool is that?! A double-whammy wish!

Anyway, I decided to go with the whole "fate gives you what you ask" philosophy, backed by the fortune cookie I just received last night at Panda Express (which clearly stated that I will have a comfortable life). So, I bought a Power Ball ticket and made a wish. Yes, it is flapping in the light breeze, in both English and Japanese, summoning the great spirits to shower wealth upon me (as well as good health and happiness).

I'll let you know how it turns out.


Monday, June 21, 2010

What My Father Gave To Me

My dad was descendant from Nordic and German stock, which translated into English means that he worked extremely hard at everything he did. Although achieved later in life, I get my work ethic from him.

In high school, he wasn’t much into sports, but could outrun most of the track team. He did high diving, until he broke his eardrums. I could always picture, in my mind, all six feet of him jack-knifing from 20 feet in the air. He was an excellent swimmer and tried to teach all of us how to do the crawl. I wasn’t much interested in learning how to swim properly; I was more interested in climbing onto his stomach as he floated there on his back with even his toes sticking out of the water. I get my buoyancy from him.

At 19, he enlisted in the Marines. Looking dapper in his uniform, he met my mom at Cal Berkeley at a social event. They danced, and romanced, and later they wrote. The jitterbug was his favorite. I get my sense of rhythm from him.

After the war, he came back and, with a fever and temperature of 103, was married to Margery May Fowler, his redheaded true love from Berkeley. They moved to Seattle, where, on the GI Bill, he went to the University of Washington and got an Electrical Engineering degree. He had wanted to be an architect and work with his contractor-father, but his dad had died suddenly of a heart attack a few years earlier and his dream of building a business with his dad had died as well. I get my ability to overcome adversity from him.

They made plenty of friends during these early years in Washington, and for entertainment, they would flip their living room coffee table on its side, and all sit on the floor to use it as a net for balloon volleyball.  I get my playful nature from him.

After college, he was hired by Pacific Bell, and entered on a management “fast track”. As our family grew so did the number of times we moved: Washington, California, Washington (where I came along), New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, Oregon, Washington, then, finally, Oregon. He was able to hold us all together even though our roots were not allowed to grow very deep. I get my wanderlust from him.

Higher and higher in management he went. This had its perks for our family. We got the first Princess phone, the first push-button phone, the first intercom connected to a phone system, eventually we each got a phone in our own room; we got to see what silicon discs were cut from, we got to see the first micro-chips; the wonders never ceased. I couldn’t wait for each new invention to make its way into my dad’s hands to be shared with our tiny minds.  I get my tech savvy-ness from him.

One of my fondest memories is of watching my dad construct a train table for “us”. This was a massive affair made from two-by-fours and plywood. It cleverly hinged in the middle so that the whole thing could be easily folded up and rolled out of the way. He spent hours gluing grass and roads. He constructed little houses, tiny train stations, miniature car garages, and small stores. Trees of different species were selected and placed.  Tiny villagers were hand-painted in the many hues of ethnic diversity. Ahh, the smell of those model paints was intoxicating (probably literally). I’m not sure about my sisters, but I claimed a favorite house, car, and even miniature people. Each item had a special place on the table and I remembered being insistent that each time we set it up everything had to go back where it belonged. I get my attention to detail from him.

Eventually my dad retired but things did not slow down for him. Not only did he spend many hours on various boards and committees, but also had a role in a cutting-edge technology start-up company. Imagine storing information from your computer on a thin round disc that could be erased and written on again! Too bad it was before its time. This technology (CDs and DVDs) eventually hit the market about 8 years later. My dad was always ahead of the curve. I get my entrepreneurial ideals from him.

I could stand before you today and talk for hours about what an outstanding father, mentor, and friend my dad was. He always had a smile and hug for anyone he met. His generosity was epic, his capacity to love, endless. He laughed with us and allowed us to drag him on “adventures”. He once let us talk him into trying some toffee, which, after one prolonged un-sticking of the first bite, pulled the bridge right out of his mouth. In true form, he laughed right along with the rest of us. I get my joy and appreciation for humor from him.

There are other traits and talents that my father had that I wished I had acquired: patience, tolerance, acceptance, the ability to complete tasks, ambidexterity, a low golf handicap, the ability to tan, and last but not least, the ability to do the crawl.

He is one-of-a-kind and will be missed by everyone who knew him. He played with us, he taught us, he respected us, he laughed with us, he encouraged us, he applauded us, and he supported us. We could not have asked for a more loving father and all of us are truly blessed to have had his influence in our lives.