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.