Blessed at Mauna Kea

Pu’uhuluhulu, the hill across the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (formerly Saddle Road) from Mauna Kea Access Road, is the site of a pu’uhonua (city of refuge/sanctuary) for kia’i (protectors) of Mauna Kea. A kuahu (altar) appears in the center of the photo. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.


When kia’i (protectors) blocked Mauna Kea Access Road to prevent construction of TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) in April of 2015, I was in Hilo for the Merrie Monarch Festival hula competition. Hilo was abuzz with the fight to protect Mauna Kea from being further desecrated by its 14th and biggest telescope. I did not get a chance to go to Mauna Kea to lend support, something I regretted. 

Kia’i once again came to Mauna Kea’s defense in July of 2019. I went to Mauna Kea to offer my prayers, support, and aloha. It is one of the best and most important things I have ever chosen to do.

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A dormant volcano and the tallest mountain in the world when measured from the sea floor, Mauna Kea (shortened from Mauna A Wakea) is part of land that belonged to the Hawaiian monarchy until the overthrow of Queen Liliu’okalani in 1893. As ceded land, Mauna Kea is to be preserved for the benefit of Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian people). Federal law defines native Hawaiians as descendants of the indigenous people who occupied the islands before 1778.  

In 1998, an audit revealed that the DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) and the University of Hawai’i had greatly mismanaged the University’s 65-year lease on Mauna Kea’s summit by allowing 13 telescopes to be built on Mauna Kea without developing and enforcing plans and regulations for the protection of the mountain as required by the lease. 

In 1999, the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, an order of knighthood whose members are of Hawaiian descent, asserted jurisdiction over Mauna Kea. The Royal Order declared that, in protecting Mauna Kea, civil disobedience was a valid option for native Hawaiians. In 2019, The Royal Order created a  pu’uhonua (city of refuge) at Pu’uhuluhulu, the hill across the highway from Mauna Kea, as a sanctuary for kia’i of Mauna Kea.

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When I arrived at Mauna Kea, there were two knights of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I standing at the entrance to Pu’uhonua Pu’uhuluhulu. Although a misty rain was blowing in the wind, the men wore only their suits and waist-length capes, having neither raincoats nor umbrellas. Their presence, in service and protection, filled me with a great sense of gratitude.

For the rest of my time there, I went back and forth between Pu’uhonua Pu’uhuluhulu and Mauna Kea Access Road without worrying about safety or disruption by law enforcement. Like the knights, I had no rain gear, but I was content to walk in the rain that I always considered blessing.

The weather likely dissuaded many people from coming up to the mountain that morning, so I moved around easily without having to navigate around, or be distracted by, large crowds. I tried my best to be aware of things I could only feel, not just things I could see and hear. I decided to take as few photos as possible, so I could be present in each moment.

I brought my ho’okupu (offering) to the kuahu (altar) at Pu’uhuluhulu, offering an oli (chant) as I did so. The kuahu was covered by offerings of ti leaf leis, the first layers already having dried in the sun in the past two weeks. My ho’okupu, which I made with plants I gathered at my parents’ home outside Hilo, was not grand, but I offered it with all the love and reverence in my heart.  

Kuahu (altar) at Pu’uhonua Pu’uhuluhulu. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

Walking around the pu’uhonua, I was impressed by the tent community that provided food, supplies, outerwear, sanitation, education, and medical care to all the kia’i camping out in tents on both sides of the highway near Access Road. The pu’uhonua was well organized, well-staffed, clean, and orderly. I later learned that some people working at these tents would stop what they were doing when they heard the sound of the pu (conch shells blown into like horns or trumpets) summoning hula dancers for protocol (ceremonial activities) at Access Road. 

One of the groups of tents of kia’i (protectors) at Pu’uhonua Pu’uhuluhulu. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

As I surveyed the tents and read signs to avoid going somewhere I should not, I spotted a pop of color in the form of a pink infant onesie…on a miniature white goat. I walked over to meet the goat and members of her human family – a woman and two young children. The woman introduced me to Mahina, a friendly and well-behaved goat. When I bent down to pet Mahina, I felt something under her onesie. “Wait,” I said to the woman, “Is this a diaper I’m feeling under Mahina’s onesie?” The woman smiled and told me Mahina is an indoor family pet, hence the diaper. 

Mahina and the two children waited patiently as I chatted with their mom, who shared with me that it was their second week on the mountain. I stood in awe of this woman and her children and thanked them for what they were doing. I knew they did not need my thanks and that they might think it was not my place to do so, but I thanked them anyway. My family has been in Hawai’i since the early 1900’s. I love Hawai’i and the Hawaiian culture, and I feel indebted to the Hawaiian people who share and preserve both. After we said our goodbyes, I thought to myself, “What a valuable experience this mom is giving her children.” 

Mahina the miniature goat in her pink onesie. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

I made my way to Pu’uhuluhulu University, the brainchild of one of the kia’i who thought people could learn more about their history, land, and culture while they were on the mountain. I saw cultural practitioners, authors, and kumu (teachers) holding classes on a large space of flat rock in the soft but steady rainfall. I listened to an author read from her book on Hawaiian history, and I saw a presentation about recognizing different varieties of kalo (taro). One tent served as a classroom for small children who were so engrossed in their work that they did not seem to notice whenever the wind blew the door open.  

Back across the highway on Access Road, the prayerful and uplifting morning protocol included oli and hulas that I had never seen or heard before. Everyone was invited to participate in the oli. Kia’i reviewed the code of Kapu Aloha (acting with empathy, respect, and kindness) and the rules to follow at Mauna Kea.

The welcoming of a Hawai’i Island canoe club was particularly beautiful. After the group’s presence was announced to kūpuna sitting under the tent, the students and their kumu exchanged oli and hulas with the kūpuna, dancers, and other kia’i. After some back and forth, kia’i and kūpuna motioned for the students to come forward. The students, most of them teens, looked nervously at each other to see who would go first. It took a final directive from their kumu to get the students to approach the tent where kūpuna received them. It was a glimpse of tradition and history from the past. As a student of hula, I felt tremendously privileged to witness it.

Mauna Kea Access Road. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

I saw kūpuna and leaders whom I had seen at other public events and whom I had read about for years. I had gotten used to seeing some of them in daily social media posts and news reports over the past two weeks. I saw celebrities who helped bring attention to the cause of Mauna Kea. Well known or not, all the people at Mauna Kea were making an extraordinary stand to protect a sacred mountain against further desecration in the form of an 18-story telescope that would require drilling into Mauna Kea, disrupting sacred land and burial grounds, and endangering natural resources. They were standing for the right of an indigenous people to preserve what they deem sacred.   

Kūpuna and kia’i at Mauna Kea Access Road. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

There were no egos looking to be stroked for doing something difficult and brave. There were no dour faces crying, “Poor me, living in a tent in the cold and rain.” There were quiet voices, smiling faces, quick hands that offered assistance, and quick feet that carried people wherever they were needed. There was optimism. There was calm. There was resolve. I felt hearts full of deep and selfless love. I felt mana (spiritual energy) that reached back to ancestors and ancient ways and emanated from the depths of Mauna Kea itself. It was palpable and powerful. 

I went to Mauna Kea to offer prayers, aloha, and support, and I received much more than I gave.      

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019. 

Hawai’i’s Other Flag

A local friend who married into a native Hawaiian family gave me a Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiian) flag. Coming from her, it means much to me. Some people consider it wrong to fly this flag instead of the Hawai’i state flag, but I find the symbolism of this flag meaningful. 

The Kanaka Maoli flag was introduced by Gene Simeona in 2001. He believes this design was the personal flag of King Kamehameha I that was destroyed by British Navy Captain Lord George Paulet when he seized Hawai’i for five months in 1843.

Simeona claims that in 1999 he met a descendant of Lord Paulet. This descendant told him the Hawai’i state flag is not the original flag of Hawai’i. This led Simeona to search the Hawai‘i State Archives for the design.

The green shield at the flag’s center has a coat of arms, which includes a kahili (feather standard for royalty) and two paddles (to reflect the canoe voyaging history of the people). 

Yellow represents the ali’i (chiefs/royalty); red represents the konohiki (they oversaw ahupua’a – land divisions – for the ali’i ); and green represents the makaʻāinana (commoners).

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019. 

Kapu Aloha

I’m back on Big Island (Hawai’i Island) to help my parents with a few things. I spent some time in Hilo yesterday, taking in the spirit of this area’s gentle people, something I miss very much when I’m back in Kaleponi (California).  

I returned to Hilo with my head full of Kū Kia’i Mauna (Stand Guard over the Mountain). In my mind, TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) is Too Much Trauma for Mauna Kea. I do not understand how the environmental science behind the degradation of Mauna Kea can be ignored in the name of advancing science. Why do we seek to know all that is out there in the universe before seeking to understand what is under our feet, in our oceans, and in our air? Will future generations call us advanced and enlightened if their planet is not habitable and their natural resources are contaminated or depleted? 

I also do not understand how people who navigated by stars thousands of years ago can be called anti-science. Hawaiians studied and understood astronomy before there were telescopes on Mauna Kea. Ancient Hawaiians, like indigenous people around the world, understood that ecosystems are interconnected; they grasped the need to take care of the earth that takes care of us. All this is backed up by environmental science. So how can anyone call Hawaiians ignorant?  

Finally, I do not understand the further desecration of a mountain that Hawaiians honor as a sacred place of worship and as a burial ground. Every time I pass a cemetery that has been encroached by roads and construction, I cringe. Sacred lands have been desecrated throughout history, I know. But is this justification to keep doing it? Do we need to wonder why the protectors of Mauna Kea say enough is enough?   

But yesterday I felt some division around Hilo. Faces, looks, comments, silences… It reminded me that all local people do not have the same mana’o (thought) about TMT. I learned last night that even among my own relatives, there is not a unified stand against TMT. Some people choose not to discuss TMT to avoid arguments, following the custom of not talking about religion and politics at the dinner table.  

This morning, I learned about an incident at a pro-TMT rally in Hilo. I guess the video of a kia’i (protector) at the rally has been removed from social media. I also read about accusations of bullying from both sides – TMT supporters remaining silent for fear of being attacked, TMT opponents being called ignorant.

So, note to self. Kapu Aloha: conduct oneself with dignity, respect, and humility. Disagree, share your mana’o, hope to change minds, hope to reach agreement, but be gentle and kind in your strength and resolve. Let nothing, like alcohol or other drugs, alter your ability to think and act thoughtfully. 

Another thing on my mind is selfie fever on Mauna Kea – people who mean no harm, but who treat the stand at Mauna Kea as a passing curiosity. They want to take photos and post them just to say they were there, like Jason Mamoa and Dwayne The Rock Johnson. Practice kapu aloha toward them also. 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019. 

Turning Napkins into Capes

Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

For Father’s Day this year, I took my husband to brunch at a restaurant that was awarded a Michelin Guide Plate (L’assiette Michelin). In the Michelin Guide rating system, this recognition is below Bib Gourmand, which is below the coveted Star (one, two, or three). In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t consider myself a foodie; I have a plebian palette. I know about the Michelin Guide because my daughter is a food and dining editor for a newspaper, and I love the movie, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” starring Helen Mirren.   

We arrived promptly for our reservation. While we waited for the hostess to seat us, I surveyed the restaurant. The modern farmhouse décor felt soothing. Families celebrated their dads at larger tables in the center of the restaurant. Empty nesters like us and couples without kids sat at high tops by the open kitchen in the back or at smaller tables that lined the front of the space. 

With my back to the covered patio, I had a view of the entire restaurant. My eyes zeroed in on a family with four well-behaved children. The youngest was a little boy. He was having a good hair day, like his dad and brother. Black hair perfectly combed, shiny, and set in place with hair product. His shirt, still stainless, was tucked into his pants, and he wore shoes on his feet that dangled above the floor. 

This little boy was adorable, and I shamelessly spied on him. I smiled when he noticed me, hoping not to scare him. He had the size and coordination of a six-year-old, and he needed no assistance eating his food. When he finished one of his courses, he wiped his mouth with his napkin. He then spread his napkin across his lap and brushed off the crumbs, which made me laugh. 

A few minutes later, my eyes returned to the little boy. His napkin, white with blue trim, was now draped over his shoulders like a cape. He sat straight up in his chair, probably channeling his inner superhero, but to me he looked like a regal little prince. Boss move. 

Two tables away, a woman in her 70’s told her server she stopped drinking wine because “Well, you know, the sugar.” As she began to recite the evils of sugar, our server headed toward our table carrying a cast iron baking dish. The woman and her husband instantly took notice. “Look at that,” remarked the woman’s husband. With their eyes fixed on the dish now at our table, the husband asked, “What is that?” I hated to disappoint, because they looked so impressed. “It’s a cinnamon roll,” I replied.  

In all fairness, the cinnamon roll was the size of a mini cake, and I had never seen one served in a baking dish. I’d only seen them in glass cases at bakeries. The orange cream cheese frosting had piqued my interest, so I suggested to my husband that we share one. It was warm, and we were hungry, so we ate most of it before our entrées arrived. Why let it get cold? Besides, we needed something in our stomachs as we sipped our mimosas. Sugar fest.     

Another couple at the table to my right looked like they were in their 60’s. The gentleman studied the short menu for a long time. When he finally decided on an entrée, his wife disapproved. Gently, but confidently, she brought up his health issues and told him he could make a better choice. Sorry, dude.  

I wondered what the gentleman could have wanted that was so awful. This restaurant featured vegan options, locally sourced organic produce, and very few meats. Looking less than grateful to be saved from his questionable choice, the gentleman changed his order. His wife asked the server a few quick questions about the menu before she ordered a salad with fish. How boring. 

As I enjoyed my Norwegian Eggs Benedict with smoked trout and my husband devoured his Corned Beef Hash, I wondered, “Is this what I have to look forward to?” Poring over menus and worrying that I might select something delicious that could shorten my life? Hoping, but not really, that my husband will pull me back from the brink of unhealthy entrée selection? Lusting after other people’s cinnamon rolls? Isn’t going to a nice restaurant supposed to be fun? 

Then I looked back at the little boy with great table manners and a napkin around his shoulders. Living proof that one can mimic responsible adult behavior for only so long. Adulting is hard, and aside from wisdom and senior citizen discounts, getting old seems mostly torturous. People talk about growing old gracefully, but what about continuing to have fun while growing old? By all means, behave and make good choices, but let yourself stray from the rules once in a while. Like going to a nice restaurant, life should be fun.   

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019. 

Hiding in Plain Sight

Kimo hiding. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

Many people have personal beliefs about angels. Some say that angels walk among us, taking forms that let them hide in plain sight so they can work undercover. I always believed that angels were invisible guardians who waited for our invitations to assist or to protect us, so they didn’t interfere with our exercise of free will. But something I experienced, twice and during periods of great stress, made me wonder about angels.  

While out in public, somewhere crowded, I turned around and noticed someone watching me. It startled me. It’s unnerving to think that someone has been following you, stalker style. I walked away, trying my best to play it cool. I looked back when I thought the person wouldn’t see me turn around, but I couldn’t find the person.  

The first time this happened, the person was a man. He looked like he was in his 30’s or 40’s. He wore blue jeans and a plain shirt. His hair was brown and needed to be cut. The second time, the person was a woman in her 60’s or 70’s. She wore a long skirt and a sweater. She had a faint smile and kind eyes. They carried nothing – no backpack, no purse, no umbrella, no water bottle, no cell phone, no keys. They weren’t especially tall, short, thin, heavy, beautiful, or ugly. They didn’t stand out, they blended in.

Who were these strangers? I had no idea. But I started thinking about the expression on their faces. They didn’t look guilty like people who had been caught staring. They didn’t look threatening. They seemed frozen in time and space, completely unaffected by all the activity of the people around them. No one asked them to move. No one came near them. They looked peaceful, standing motionless and silent with their eyes fixed on me.  

No one I know could be this calm and still in the middle of so much activity. Why couldn’t they look away and pretend they hadn’t been staring at me, the way I do when I get caught staring? Why couldn’t they pretend they needed directions to the bathroom? Their calmness was eerily unnatural. 

Nothing sudden and miraculous happened after I encountered these strangers. My worries didn’t magically disappear, but somehow I managed my stress despite feeling overwhelmed. And I eventually found ways to work through my problems.  

Was the serenity of these strangers supernatural? Did they intend to silently tell me that they were watching me? Did they secretly bring me comfort and strength? Do angels hide in plain sight and work undercover among us? 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

Don’t Miss the Journey


Akaka Falls State Park, Hawai’i Island. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.


Akaka Falls, Hawai’i Island. Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

My family and I spent Christmas and New Year’s visiting my parents, my brother, and extended ‘ohana (family) on Hawai’i Island (Big Island). The planets had to align for several adults with busy schedules to vacation together. This blessing is not lost on me; it gets harder and harder to do with each passing year.

Aside from the minor miracle of our schedules falling into place, the experience that stands out most in my mind from this trip is not one of the new things we did. It’s something we’ve done before, although not in a while. We walked (it’s an easy hike) through Akaka Falls State Park to see the waterfalls there.

Maybe I’ve always been in such a hurry to get to Akaka Falls that I’ve raced through the forest in the past. This trip, the forest commanded my full attention. The lushness, the scale, the variety, the wildness. This was no manicured garden with trees and shrubs trimmed and clipped to perfection. This was Mother Nature with her hair down and without an ounce of product. Plants sprouting and thriving right next to whatever seeds took root next door. Vines twisting and turning on tree trunks and limbs, staking out their claim to a spot of sunshine. Moss happy to occupy spots of moist shade.

Not to be outdone by the flora and fauna as an anticlimactic finale, Akaka Falls and the smaller waterfalls offered their own bit of drama. The waterfalls were streaked with soil runoff from the recent rains. No photo-perfect, crystal clear water falling here. Instead, muddy water churning and plunging in a violent, white-bubbled torrent.

Seeing Akaka Falls was well worth the walk, but before I reached this destination, the forest had already taken my breath away. My destination was merely icing on the cake.

What else have I missed while racing toward a goal? What wonders of syncopated chaos have I failed to admire on my way to a destination? I’m already in pursuit of a major goal this new year. I hope I take in the journey instead of letting it slip by me in a blur.


©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2019.

Killings at the Tree of Life


On Saturday, October 27, 2018, an anti-Semitic man walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and shot and killed 11 people. This massacre is the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Last night, October 29th, 2018, I attended a memorial service at the synagogue of Congregation B’Nai Israel in Sacramento, California. The synagogue was packed with 1,300+ Jewish and non-Jewish people – people of different ethnicities, clergy from all faiths, politicians, heads of law enforcement agencies, and members of the media. People stood several rows deep in the back and around the synagogue.

We were there to express our condolences to the congregations of the Tree of Life Synagogue, to the people of Pittsburgh, and to the Jewish community around the world. We were there to mourn the violent and senseless taking of life. We were there for help in processing a new reality of unleashed and lethal hatred.

In her opening remarks, Rabbi Mona Alfi spoke about the biblical story of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. When God asked Cain where Abel was, Cain replied, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” This, Rabbi Alfi said, is a question we have to answer.

For everyone at the memorial service, our presence was our answer to this question – a resounding “Yes, I am my brother’s keeper.” By coming together we made a statement to ourselves, to each other, to everyone who has been frightened, and to everyone who seeks to intimidate and terrorize that we stand together against hatred and violence. Being our brother’s keeper means calling out and opposing lies, deception, divisive propaganda, unlawful government actions, and rhetoric that fans the fires of anger and aggression.

Our humanity unites us. We have more in common than we have extrinsic differences. When some of us are demeaned, devalued, and dehumanized, it divides us. And when we are divided, it becomes easier for some of us to be preyed upon. The decision to remain united with our fellow human beings who are threatened or attacked could be seen as a selfish one – there is safety in numbers. But it is a choice that speaks of the beliefs and values we hold dear and choose to live by.

These are the names of my brothers and sisters who were murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue. May their memories be for a blessing.

Joyce Fienberg, 75

Richard Gottfried, 65

Rose Malinger, 97

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Cecil Rosenthal, 59

David Rosenthal, 54

Bernice Simon, 84

Sylvan Simon, 86

Daniel Stein, 71

Melvin Wax, 88

Irving Younger, 69


©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2018.

Aloha ‘Oe – Farewell to Thee




Copyright Writing Wahine, Living off Island 2018. 

Did I try hard enough? I asked myself this question for months, but as long as she was alive, I didn’t have to face the final answer. First came the news about her stroke, which explained why she hadn’t been at the Hawaiian shows and festivals where we always caught up with each other. Then came the news that she was home but having memory issues and dealing with her new physical limitations. Whenever I saw her husband and her daughter, they politely said she wasn’t ready to see people, but they would let me know. Each time they cheerfully assured me that she was fine and not to worry.

Then came the moment I saw her husband standing nearby as I was waiting to go on stage and perform at an outdoor festival. I was eager for news about her and once again hopeful for an invitation to visit. But as I spoke excitedly, performance adrenaline in my veins, I watched his face fall. His chest rose, his jaws clenched, and the light in his eyes dimmed. For the umpteenth time, he had to tell someone that his wife passed away. Months ago. Not from complications of her stroke. From brain cancer. Two weeks after she moved into a care facility. There was no memorial service. They were waiting for the right time…

Pushing my shock aside, I awkwardly offered my condolences. I walked back to the rear steps of the stage, still trying to absorb the blow. Panic washed over me as I suddenly couldn’t remember choreography. Muscle memory kicked in, and I smiled through my group’s performance.

In this age of cancer journeys shared and chronicled on social media, her news blackout was a throwback to the days of private illnesses and protective inner circles. People share for different reasons: for help in bearing their pain; to ease the worry of those who care; to inform, to educate, and to inspire others… People who live privately usually die the same way.

She is the second person I’ve known who refused to see friends during a cancer battle. The first person passed away several years ago. He fought in a war. He retired from law enforcement. He was a lifelong bachelor. As inflexible and as gruff as he could be, I knew his heart was softer than he wanted the world to know and that he had made a spot in it for me. Not being able to say goodbye or to have one final normal, happy meeting with him haunted me for a long time.

Her hobby was decorative arts, and a few of her creations are in my home. I will always picture her as she wanted me to see her: with her hair perfectly done, a pua (flower) tucked behind one ear, adorned in her Hawaiian gold jewelry, her smile big and bright. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t get to say goodbye. I was blessed to know the gentle, warm, and loving person she was.

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2018.

When a Dinosaur Gets a Fitbit


Copyright Writing Wahine, Living off Island 2018.

I’m married to a man who likes tech toys. For my husband, anything worth doing can be done better with a piece of technology. Why read a printed book when you can read it on an iPad? Why listen to music if you’re not listening on a designer speaker via Bluetooth? Why bother getting fit if you’re not using a Fitbit?

I’m a dinosaur. I like writing notes in cursive with ballpoint pens and sending them via snail mail. When I need to drive somewhere I’ve never been before, I look up the route on my laptop, print the directions, and practically memorize the route before I get in my car. I rely on treadmills and elliptical machines to tell me how many miles I’ve gone and how many calories I’ve burned. I prefer the feel of a hard copy book in my hands to an iPad or a Kindle.

After many failed attempts, my husband recently convinced me to get a toy he already has – the Fitbit Blaze, a smart watch. I always told him I didn’t want to know how far short I fell of the daily 5,000- or 10,000-step goal. But I’m a life-long insomniac, so the sleep tracking function was what finally enticed me.

I’ve only had my Fitbit for 2.5 days and the only surprise so far is that I get even less sleep than I think. The sleep app tracks my sleep stages – awake, REM, light, and deep. I slept three hours last night, five hours the night before, and both nights most of my sleep was light. Abysmal. I need to make some serious changes.

I already know that I will not be a slave to my smart watch. I will not enter (into my iPhone or my laptop) all the foods that I eat so my Fitbit can count my calories. I will not enter every drop of water I drink so my Fitbit can tell me how hydrated I am. My husband happily does these things. I know I shouldn’t judge him for this, but I can’t keep my eyes from rolling. I must be cranky from lack of sleep.

Since my husband got his Fitbit, his collection of handsome watches has been neglected. I keep looking at this black square and black band on my wrist and asking, “Why can’t you be pretty like my other watches?”

Before my Fitbit, I had already lost 11 pounds in 9 weeks the old fashioned way: I ate healthier foods in correct portions; I drank lots of water, some coffee, no soda, and very little juice; and I did cardio and weight training five days a week. I did this with no personal trainer, no meetings, and no pre-packaged foods. Pretty good for a dinosaur, right?

But here’s the thing that has me laughing at myself. My Fitbit vibrates when I get a phone call or a text message. And I can read the text message on my Fitbit screen. Ooooo… This dinosaur likes this. The dance of seduction is on.

I’ve been here before. I loved my StarTac flip phone that made me want to say, “Beam me up, Scotty” every time I opened it. But then my job made me use an office-issue cellphone, which was the size and shape of a blackboard eraser. That phone let me send text messages by pressing each button the correct number of times to get the letter I needed. Texting took forever, but that’s when this dinosaur learned to like text messages.

Then this dinosaur had to take a long, hard look at her leather bound, monogrammed, stuffed-to-the-gills, sticky-notes-poking-out Franklin Covey planner. “I’m visual,” I used to say, “I need to see things to remind me.” My planner took up most of the space in my briefcase, but I lugged it around dutifully. I’d quickly write court dates and meeting times on Post-its and enter them into my planner later. My husband coaxed me into trying the calendaring app on my iPhone. I dragged my feet and whined while I learned all the shortcuts, but I quickly learned the benefits to having my calendar on my laptop and my phone. I retired my planner and parted ways with Franklin Covey.

So I won’t be returning my Fitbit just yet, but I’m not giving up my dinosaur ways. When Armageddon, the zombie apocalypse, or the collapse of the Cloud happens, tech lovers will be asking to borrow my hard copy and paperback books. I’ll remind the world that it’s possible to lose weight without the assistance of a gadget. And I’ll teach people that cursive is faster than printing. Until then, I’ll be the dinosaur who’s always late to the party when it comes to discovering the latest and greatest in tech.

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2018.

The Chaos of Love


Copyright Boscia Photography 2018.

It’s typical for hula hālau (hula schools) to have an annual hō’ike (show) that allows the haumāna (students) to share what they have learned. Contrary to popular thought, the primary purpose of a hō’ike is not to entertain. Hula has spiritual roots as religious ceremonial rituals. At the hālau I belong to, we are taught that the true purpose of hō’ike is to honor and to give thanks for what we have learned about dance, history, culture, ourselves, and each other.

That being said, our hula hālau puts on a great show, thanks to our kumu hula (hula teacher). Oli (chants) for hula kahiko (ancient hula) connect us to the past and carry tradition forward. Musicians and vocalists provide a wonderful concert for the hula ‘auana (modern hula). The costumes and adornments made from fresh greenery such as ti leaves (la’i) and ferns provide a colorful feast for the eyes. All this combined with beautiful choreography performed by dancers makes for an enjoyable show.

We have to laugh after each hō’ike, though, when we gather for kūkākūkā (discussion) to share our thoughts and memories about the experience – backstage and onstage. For those of you who are stage performers or who volunteer to help backstage, you know what I’m talking about. Human beings aren’t perfect, so their endeavors won’t be. Things don’t always go as planned or as rehearsed. We roll with it and do our best.

Somehow each year, hō’ike is perfect when viewed through the eyes and in the memories of love. Members of a hula hālau share the common goal to learn and preserve the Hawaiian culture. We are taught to live by the core values of aloha (love) and ha’aha’a (humility). When people come together with this common goal and these shared values, love prevails, allowing us to accept ourselves and each other with all our strengths and all our weaknesses. This is what our kumu calls “the chaos of love.”

The best thing about the chaos of love is that it can work in every area of our lives – with our families, with our co-workers, and in our communities. With love, chaos can be embraced as a display of human emotions, honest and free of ill will. With love, mistakes are lessons learned for the future instead of embarrassments. And the icing on the cake is that when you don’t take yourself too seriously, you’ll find it easy to laugh at yourself and at life. So when you’ve done all you can, surrender to the chaos of love. You’ll be fine.

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2018.