Showing posts from 2015


I'm on maternity leave but I got to return to my school this week for a couple of days to help out with prepping the kids for a big academic conference. I figured I'd help them put some finishing touches on their social studies projects, just polish up the English side of things. Their assignment was to describe the "push and pull" connecting certain big events in US history, and tie those events to Hawaii.
Here's one: "The Indians got sick of the American's taxes, so they started the constitutional war to get rid of the Americans. Then George Washington freed the slaves."

I COULD NOT HAVE MADE THIS UP. This was not a unique example. The kids-- seventh graders-- had no sense of timeline, no sense of causality. Not even broad general skeletons of cause and effect to hang ideas on. Kamehameha and JFK were all jumbled up-- Native Americans came from Africa and Captain Cook conquered Hawaii for the Americans by bombing Pearl Harbor. It was stunning. I c…

Baby Girl's Birth Story

10-24-2015 Saturday Baby Name As of Yet Unknown has arrived! She  is dozing on the boppy on my lap, Maile is watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for about the 8th time this week, Rosie and Matt are grocery shopping after Rosie’s double header soccer games-- last of the season. Oh-- I just heard the chain clinking on the gate- they’ve made it home.
I want to write down Baby’s birth story while it’s still fresh and visceral and hasn’t reduced itself to an outline…
So she was due October 12. Liz was here, with kids and husband in tow, staying down at my dad’s timeshare in Kapaa with a beautiful condo, a big TV, and a open-late pool that we swam at every day. Liz, with her experience as a doula and auntie status, was here to help with the birth, and especially to watch out for the girls, make sure they were in the right place, make sure they weren’t freaked out… so we waited and waited, spent nice time at their pool, sent their family off on little touristy adventures while we had spr…

Talking the Baby Out

So my due date has come and gone, my belly is round and starting to drop, strangers on the street feel a kind of tribal ownership of my body-- patting my belly and shouting across the farmer's market at me-- You Look Very Pregnant!!! Why yes. Yes I do.  I love that pregnancy DOES connect me with a universal human experience-- everyone is interested and excited and maybe freaked out or pitying-- but I'm not alone in this. It's special but it's universal, too.

I still haven't spent much time thinking about what's happening next-- I worked like a crazy thing up to fall break and through it-- haranguing students about last-minute assignments, grading, crossing my fingers that things would go smoothly over the next two quarters while I take off from work-- and I tell people that working full-time through this pregnancy saved my life. Yes, I was bone-tired, but I never had the time or energy to feel sorry for myself. Pregnancy is not a malady like a nasty cold-- the …

Sex Ed, Pono Choices, and Me

Warning: Contains NSFW language in the context of describing students' Sex Ed Questions!

For years I've been disturbed, amused and shocked by comments my students make about sexuality. I've occasionally had to bring my English classes to a screeching halt to talk about consent or sexual identity or even basic anatomy.

A couple of years ago, our school was able to participate in a pilot pregnancy and STI prevention program called Pono Choices. This program is funded by the University of Hawaii, and co-created by Planned Parenthood and Alu Like which is a nonprofit for empowering Native Hawaiians. The social studies teacher taught the curriculum, and I saw an immediate improvement with my students. They gained new confidence talking about their bodies, sexuality, and the tools they would use to accomplish their goals.

This is a big deal-- Every year we've had kids get pregnant either senior year or right after graduation. And considering that some years we only have ONE …

Kids Write Stuff and That's Good: Literacy as an Empowerment Tool for Indigenous Education

A lovely woman from Kamehameha Schools came to chat with me and my coworkers about literacy in Hawaiian education. She reminded me of my college professors in the schools of education: chunky jewelry, clean shoes, briefcase, steady theoretical competence. "Literacy is simple!" she says calmly, and shows us a beautiful portfolio full of functional literacy items from her own life: thank you cards, passport forms, christmas letters...

I was lucky enough to have really stellar professors in my Brigham Young University English Teacher program-- especially Sirpa Grierson with her early-adoption of web-based technologies for literature instruction, and Deborah Dean, who has been a real pioneer in the field of genre based literacy. So the little PD at school this week didn't really touch on anything novel, but still. It was an interesting reminder to take a step back (as if you were someone who wore nice shoes and carried a briefcase and got to think calmly about education inst…

Two Minds about Two Bodies

I'm about 5 weeks away from giving birth-- really a month and a day from my due date, but you never want to hex it by shaving days off your full 40 week sentence.

My belly is profound, my bosom is bounteous. I groan and creak when I stand up or resettle in my chair. I require a phalanx of pillows to sleep (in the small of my back, under my neck but not touching my shoulders, under my left armpit and between my knees, no blanket but yes a sheet, but not covering my feet or arms) and even then I wake up to pee, to drink, to fret, to check facebook, to restart the soporific audiobook, to drink water, to swat mosquitos...

My belly is moon-round and lightly marbled with new stretchmarks-- pearly little striations. I rub them daily with coconutty lotion. My girls sniff at me and grimace-- you smell like baby belly!

This pregnancy-- I want to capture it before it's over. The baby bumps and rolls and stretches up under my ribcage-- sometimes jabs a sharp ankle or heel outward and make…

Poems that I Want In My Brain

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.  --W B Yeats
A Little ToothThomas Lux, 1946 Your baby grows a tooth, then two, and four, and five, then she wants some meat directly from the bone. It’s all over: she’ll learn some words, she’ll fall in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet talker on his way to jail. And you, your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue nothing. You did, you loved, your feet are sore. It’s dusk. Your daughter’s tall.Egg By C.G. Hanzlicek I’m scrambling an egg for my daughter. “Why are you always whistling?” she asks. “Because I’m happy.” And it’s true, Though it stuns me to say it aloud; There was a time when I wouldn’t Have seen it as my future. It’s …

Translation Problems

The other day I was talking to someone, a transplant from the mainland, who works here as a facilitator-- she was telling me about her work in different organizations, and how entrenched people can be in their feelings about ideas, and how tricky it can be to untangle some of those interpersonal knots. I mentioned that with school we've had facilitators come in to lay western-style groundrules and accomplish western-style goals, and that we've also had Hawaiian ho'oponopono. She was curious about it-- how does it work? What is it like?

I told her about my experience, how it went for hours and hours, starting immediately after school and carrying on until nearly midnight, what the alaka'i' did-- his role seemed similar to the mediator's role-- providing space for everyone to say their part, to be heard.  In my limited experience, it didn't seem that there were set scripts to follow, although every person was expected to speak, and everyone, as we went around…


This year has been a bumper year for summer fruits: the mangoes went wild last month-- we were spoiled for the sweet ripe juicy fruits, nectar on our mouths and running from hands to elbows, leaning over the porch railings to enjoy them cubed and inverted, like this:
And now it's the lychee. 
We have two giant trees who, in nearly five years at this house, have never given us more than a handful of lychee, but for whatever reason this year are bedecked like bacchus, long red clumps of the fruit hanging like bangles all over the trees.
We started picking them the second they had any meat on them-- they were still mostly green and very tart and juicy. Now they've matured into fat red globes, brimming with juice as soon as you peel away a bit of the hard bumpy skin. 
From across the lawn they all look perfect: cascades of red rubies like dangling earrings. I drag cloth grocery bags and my extendable fruit picker over.
A little closer and you can see where wild parakeets and doves…

Lambda Aloha Tiny Gay Dance Party

I got home at midnight last night but went straight to bed so this morning I still have residual fire-engine red lipstick, a waxy paper "bud light" arm band, a wrist stamp, and several tiny french braids above one ear for what the internet assures me is an "edgy faux side shave."

Heh, edgy. Not really the first descriptor I'd pick for myself.

But it's mildly gratifying to wake up with these little relics of A Night Out.

This is a tiny, sleepy island. Restaurants shut down at 9.  Nights Out are few and far between.
And I am a person who would really, truly, whole-heartedly prefer to stay home and listen to BBC Radio Drama, with Clive Merrison as Sherlock Holmes. (No really, they're great.) So usually I'd pass the chance to Go Out because it's not really what feeds my soul, ya know?

But my friend Yuki asked me, so gently, so politely, so ready to be disappointed. And look at this earnest little promotional website: So …


It was a hot day-- heat swimming up from the pavements, everyone dreaming of lemonade. After school, I drove my girls up to the river to jump in and cool down. The beaches would be warmer, balmy pacific lagoons with still-waters and lethargic tropical fish. But we needed something bracing-- something reminiscent of glacial Rocky Mountain streams.

The river up the road is easy-- a short drive (through the river itself) to a pitted and pocked parking area. Then a short walk between colorful and peeling rainbow eucalyptus trees to a steep stream bank. There are a few picnic benches and pavilions-- overflowing rubbish bins and redolence of skunky Pakalolo-- and on weekends families come with pavilions and tents and rock-blockers and barbecues and coolers and generators-- but today the place was empty.

We skid down the mud-root-mud gulch onto the little rocky "beach"-- just a few dozen feet of flat ground on the bank of the river. Over the years, people have carved and terraced t…

Aha Awa

I've lived in Hawaii for nearly nine years, but I still am a malihini-- a newcomer. The more I learn, the more I feel like a waterbug, barely skittering across the surface of cultural waters. This week, partaking of awa as part of ka hoomakaukau i na pukana-- preparing our graduates-- I was reminded of how shallow my knowledge really is.

I've only participated in three Aha Awa-- or Awa ceremonies-- one every year for my students' graduations. The first year I understood maybe one in three words in Hawaiian, and the next year three of four-- this year was the first that I understood everything that was said, which freed me up to be puzzled by the bigger questions.

This is what happened.

We met at noon. It was scorching. The Alakai-- the charismatic Kumu Kaina, who left the school last year to farm full time, set up under a tarp-tent ready for graduation the next day. He and his kokua--- or assistant-- Anakala Keaka, Kumu Kanani's partner, spread out the tools for the ce…