Showing posts from 2010

No Island is an Island. Oh wait.

This morning I was surveying my jumbled bedroom--tattery quilts, improvised window coverings, listing shelving-- and thought: I just need to get rid of all of my stuff.
I then immediately thought: and then I can get all new, better stuff, that I will keep nice and take care of forever!
Then I laughed out loud and my husband thought, probably, "she's a loonie."

So today I've been thinking about stuff. I have a ton of it and I don't like to throw any of it away, but if you sat me in an empty room with a notebook and forced me to write down everything I own I probably would draw a complete blank: uhhh, lots of books?

There's something in the socio-cultural air right at this moment-- a post-recession urge to purge. Our voracious appetite for cheap credit for cheap crap got us into this economic mess-- maybe craftmanship, quality and austerity can pull us from the mire. Can you live in a smaller house? Get rid of your car? Quit your job? Have no-impact? Quick, hold yo…

ESP, baby, 123.

*So I published this post last night, as is, and today it was bothering me-- and I realized that I need to contextualize it a little better. I haven't read the comments yet, just so you know.*


I have been reading and thinking a lot about human evolution. I find the vision of an ancestral environment very moving-- up until 10,000 years ago or so when humans developed culture, language, institutions, religion. I'm intrigued especially by the traits that we usually wouldn't call biological- the cultural, the religious, the familial. Recently I've read a really stupid book --Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters-- that completely ignores culture as an impetus for behavior-- and a really wonderful book --A Natural History of Parenting-- that will inspire you and blow your mind. Both illuminate the surprising evolutionary roots of common human stuff. Trends, choices, behaviors can be seen through that lens in a fascinating way. Re-seeing …

Stuff I see on my run

I try to get out of the door by 7-- leaving the wailing baby and grumpy toddler behind with my long-suffering mate. It's not exactly cold in the morning, not yet, but the air is wet, fresh. My body feels ill-jointed, like a marionette, and I take my first few arthritic steps out of the garage and onto the dirt road. The neighbor's giant wood-chipper truck is already on and warming up, puffing out diesel fumes, and four guys pull up in their pimped trucks, in their orange shirts. They leave their cars, pile together into the chipper, and go to work. I am shy to jog by them, so I say good morning and walk until I'm out of sight.

Things smell rich-- the flower-smell from the white ginger, the toxic burnt-plastic smell from the rubbish burning pit, the cut grass, the everygreen cat smell, the grassy horses.

I start to run -- stomp, stomp, stomp-- and remind myself that not to fight each jarring step but relax into it, let the movement massage my muscles and bones.

Running feels l…

Save the whales! Screw the people!

It's a tiny island, and people feel strongly about things. The place is so beautiful, so fruitful, so productive-- the history is fraught with racial blow-ups and slow simmers but ribboned with intermarriages and cross-cultural pot-melting-- and there is nowhere on earth like it. People born here either want to stay here forever, or run for the hills of the mainland. People on the mainland fantasize about the crashing waves and tropical breezes and long to move here finally. And then do, and find it provincial, stubborn and unaccommodating. But no denying the shocking fertility of the earth, with our passionfruit vines coiling up the electrical wires, and the unique-- sacred-- diversity of the reefs. There was even a shark in the baby pond recently, along with the usual endangered seals, endangered turtles, rare octopuses, leaping black crabs, revolting sea slugs, and las vegas show-girl lobsters.

So today at playgroup Skyla said, "did you hear they're trying to turn all o…

Church on the Beach

It’s a beautiful hot and clear morning. We decided to head to the beach with RJ’s big foam noodle and a slick boogie board to crash in the waves. I set up camp in the shade of a palm tree with baby while Matt took RJ to the water. I noticed some music—the un-chick, un-chick of inexpert ukuleles—from a nearby pavilion. I pointed my toes along with the beat—the singing was loud and earnest.I was feeling a bit antsy and lonely and thought—what the heck. What’s the purpose of music, anyway? To create a little community, to participate in something. So I picked up baby and walked over to listen. It wasn’t a sing-along. It was church-on-the-beach.I’ve seen the signs along the road, “Come Worship With Us!” It reminds me of the Simpsons joke about the godless showiness of nature. I’m sure it cuts down on A/C bills.The pastor looked like a model in a catalogue—Carribean black skin, with a goldenrod silk short-sleeved shirt and brown pants, leather sandals. He shook my hand and invited me into …

mommy happenings: parenting as performance art

This morning was a particularly chaotic preschool co-op: it was pouring and blustery when we got to the park, so all the kids sat shivering on the broken picnic bench under the pavilion (this time the nails were facing DOWN again, as they should be, not up waiting to shish-kabob a toddler).

The project was potato stamps: the moms fussed, the paint dribbled and soaked through the paper, the kids--an unusually young group today-- poked stubby fingers into greasy paint mounds, moms swatted painted hands away from fussy tops and tiny jeans. Knives and potato halves abounded, and the kids broke rank relatively quickly, barricading each other into the tube slide and brandishing twigs.

I've noticed an inverse correlation with Parental Fussiness and Kid Engagement with these projects.

After I rolled up the printed paper with all the potato halves and paint smears inside and mashed the scroll into the garbage (art is transient, kids,) I was chatting with some of the other moms. The topic was …

Whole Foods

There is a whole foods on Maui.

Living on Kauai, I spend a lot of my transplant small-talk time keening with people over retail that exists elsewhere and not here. Most frequently mentioned: Target, Ross, Old Navy and especially Trader Joe's. A close runner up? Whole Foods.
Well, I went to the beloved Whole Foods on Maui. I warned my kid that she was going to have to be so patient because this shopping trip was going to take FOREVER.

And it did. I savored every second of it. I walked up and down every aisle, looked at every thing on the shelves, admired the bulk bins and the saintly edenic cosmetics and the gourmet prepared food (take something fancy. Stuff it with something else fancy. Voila.)

I found about 6 things I wanted to lug home with me (for one, sunscreen decorated with cute Eric Carle drawings and with big reassuring letters: "Contains No Bad Stuff." Just like The Hitchhiker's Guide: "don't panic.") And spent $100 on my wee basket-full. Hah! remi…


I was at the beach yesterday, sitting out my kid's nap in the car, reading my novel. Two muscle-bound guys sat on the guard rail in front of me in the shade, smoking and drinking 6-packs and talking colorful story. "And then I had trow the barstool, it wen ricochet lie dat off his head!" or "He had hit me but I buss him up, I say to him 'ho, das the end of your boxing career!'"
One guy was in a longsleeved neon orange shirt with a pencil line beard around his jawline and sleek sunglasses. The other guy was shirtless. And that guy-- there was something funny about him. For one, he was obviously the beta dog. He kissed up: "you see, das why we friends! Cuz we nice guys, but you nevah mess wid us! We the same!" And during one of his swashbuckling adventure stories ("Deze guys had come corner me in da batroom an den...!") the other guy lowered his glasses and ogled a passing 16 year old Filipina in a thong, without even a pretense of paying…

Austerity Measures

I worked for a couple of years as a bookkeeper for a small company. I loved the way the numbers lined up, decimals all in a tidy line down my screen. I loved balancing the ebb-and-flow accounts down to the cent and the zen-like tranquility that came from reconciling a statement perfectly. So, even though now I just manage our family's money, I still am quite meticulous about keeping track of everything. And I've always preened a bit about our perfect credit scores and debt-free lifestyle.

But recently, to my embarrassment, I realized that we are --ever so slightly-- living beyond our means. Not extravagantly, not obviously. Just enough to make me feel financially arthritic-- joints dangerously creaking on themselves rather than swinging easily along.

Eating just a couple of hundred extra calories a day gets you 10 pounds heavier at the end of the year, but who has the self control to cut back just a little? Nobody. Similarly, a financial crash diet is in order. A money-habit pur…

Cloth or plastic?

So in a little while, Kauai will be banning plastic grocery bags because they are pointless litter and choke sea creatures and befoul our lovely island, littering highways and beaches and clogging our already maxed-out dump and reveal our moral decrepitude and innate slovenliness. Every store offers righteous little reusable cloth ones to replace the plastic ones. The cloth grocery bags offer a new vision of the future-- where we'll all recycle, shop at farmer's markets, apply sunscreen, and pay our bills on time.

The other day I was driving down the main highway and I saw something tangled in the guard on the right. It was a cloth grocery bag.

Old chucking-bags-out-of-vehicles habits must be hard to break.

A bunch of Hui

Mahalo, Ola, Pono, Aina, Ono, Piko, Pau....I hear Hawaiian words all the time. And mostly from non-Hawaiians. But I only hear the same handful of words over and over--the Hawaiian-word pool that we can pick from is limited.

There are some Hawaiian words that Haole imposters, like myself, always feel free to bandy about.
Aloha is one of those words we've beaten into submission-- especially pronounced, "Hello-hah." Because it is un-American to pronounce a word from a non-English language correctly, "Hello-hah" lets you make a limp-wristed effort but without having to fully commit to a non-English word. Win-win.

Malama is another one we say a lot-- and we use it to suggest, like finger-wagging school marms, that others could be taking better care of things. Malama Aina, Malama Kai, Malama Pono, Malama ola-- don't forget to pick up after your doggies, people. Don't mess up the ocean, be righteous and eat more vegetables! And Kokua-- you better cooperate!


BYO Mexican

I took my kids to the May Day concert at Island school the other day. The school is private, expensive, lofty. The auditorium was bright and clean, and all the parents were in their aloha best-- matching aloha print shirts and dresses for the whole family, and lots of folks yoked with leis in mounds on their shoulders. May day is lei day in Hawaii, after all.

I was curious about the crowd-- who sends their kids to this school? Rich or frightened parents, I suppose-- jittery overpaid transplants, anxious underpaid locals, everybody gnawing their nails about our state's 3.5 day school week and shelling out more than I paid for graduate school from preschool onward.

We got there half an hour early and the bleachers were already full of proud parents and grandparents-- we found a spot on the last row in the far corner. Soon after we sat down and started our I-spy game, two Mexican ladies walked over. Real, genuine Mexicanas, with that rich accent, and wide Indian cheekbones! Yes, Hawai…


I just realized that it's been four years this month since I moved to Hawaii. And-- notice the long silence since my last post?

There's a couple of reasons (excuses) for that.
Life is busy-- I just had a new baby, my older kid stopped napping, and my full-time gig as a kid-chaser has become more brain consuming. Maybe I just don't have time.

But there's another reason why I don't have much to say on this blog. I started it up as a way to salve the growing pains I experienced from transplanting here. My hackles were up-- listening for slurs against me and against my new home. And I had that clear-eyed view of things that tourists and newcomers have: this compared with that, home vs. away. I laugh to see the line of tourist cars pulled helter skelter off the road, taking pictures of weedy flowers and branchy trees-- stuff that they have at home but that they never SEE. When you're traveling, touring, or transplanting-- the strangeness and beauty of things come into…