Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Molokai-Day 2

So, I told you about Day 1 of our visit to Molokai about 10 days ago. It was only a three-day trip (Fri-Sun), but at this rate, you all get a month's worth of Molokai!

Just a reminder that Amber (@tiabla)worked to set up a promotional weekend retreat at Aqua's Hotel Molokai, so our stay there as well as our dinner Friday night at the Hula Shores restaurant was free. Woohoo!

Saturday morning we decided to grab some breakfast at Hula Shores before exploring the island. I ordered the three-egg omelette, but with two eggs, and my husband ordered the short stack of pancakes. While we waited for our food, we enjoyed the peaceful ocean-front setting, with a great view of Lanai. Again, I didn't get any good pictures of the food, but there was lots of it, enough that Amber didn't need to order anything when she came down and joined us later. We had enough left over that she had a whole meal of her own! Luckily, @Melissa808 was more on top of things, and she got some good foodie pics for her blog, Urban Mix Plate. Please visit her post, Unplugging on Molokai (Part 2) to get an idea of what we were dealing with. This is no place for amateurs!

After all that food, it was time to visit the Farmer's Market! Where we could go look at more food! So, seven of us piled into a van and drove into Kaunakakai, which is the place to be on Saturday mornings. You can buy fresh produce and see wonderful arts and crafts from local vendors. Again, I failed to get any good pictures-morning's not my best time, OK?-but, again, Melissa came through! Without any coordination on our parts, she managed to get all the pictures I would have taken, so I'm going to send you back over to her blog, this time for Part 3 of her Unplugging on Molokai series. I particularly liked the painted gourds and coconuts-they're very whimsical. I grabbed a business card from the lady running the stand with the intention of putting in a link to her web site but somebody threw it away. I won't name names, but I think it was my husband. I did, however, manage to get a picture of what might be the cutest dog in the world. (Here I will dazzle you with cuteness and hope that you will forget about my lack of journalistic skills).

You can see how I might have been distracted, no? Now, I can't guarantee that you would see this same dog if you went to the Farmer's Market, but it might be worth a trip just to check. And now you forgive me for not having pictures of eggs, right?

After the Farmer's Market, we returned to the hotel so that people could drop off their loot and to reassemble for the afternoon's activities. Some people decided to lounge in the bar for the afternoon, others decided that a hammock was the perfect location for a nap. We (me, my husband, and Amber) decided it was time to drive around and check out the island. We jumped on the road and headed east, for a beautiful drive toward Halawa Valley. The road from Kaunakakai to Halawa Valley is 28 miles, the last seven of which are narrow, one-lane and winding. (Coincidentally, Hawaii's longest continual coral reef, just off the south shore of Molokai, is also 28 miles and accompanies you for most of the drive, even though you can't really tell from the car.) Since there aren't too many places where you can really stop and take pictures-narrow one-lane road and all-I was just snapping pictures through the open top of our Jeep. So, this picture is a little blurry, but it gives you an idea of where we were in relation to the ocean-not a lot of room for error here.

There are a couple of places that you can stop on the way to Halawa Valley. Puu O Hoku Ranch has a little store where you can grab a snack or some locally-crafted items. The thing that most intrigued me was the Pepsi Natural-I had no idea such a product existed, so, of course, I had to try it. It was good, but it reminded me more of a root beer than a Pepsi.

After our stop at Puu O Hoku Ranch, we continued on to the Halawa Lookout, a place where you can pull over and get some pictures. See the waterfall waaay at the back of the valley?

Now that we could finally see our destination, we were even more happy about our decision to take this drive. After the obligatory tourist stop to "Oooooh," and "Ahhhhh," and take pictures, we continued on down to the beach area.

From there you can hike around the valley, up to the waterfalls, but it is recommended that you coordinate with a guide as much of the land is privately owned. I've seen and heard a couple different pieces of advice regarding guides, so it would probably be best to check with the locals once you arrive on island. If you are staying at Hotel Molokai, you should be able to arrange a tour through them, and I would expect to pay up about $75/person.

We didn't hike around the valley, as we had plans for the evening and didn't want to be out too long, but we did ford the stream to walk along the beach for a little while, enjoying the beautiful setting and trying to keep our pants dry.

You might think I'm holding a fish in my mouth. I'm not. It's a Peppermint Patty, but it's not even my Peppermint Patty. My husband foisted it on me half-way across the stream, and it was already open, so I couldn't just put it in my pocket and it was too hard to hold it in my hand without getting chocolate everywhere and keep my pants out of the water. Sheesh.

After a beautiful day out in nature, it was time to return to civilization and check out the Saturday night jazz at Coffees of Hawaii, but first we had to make an airport run to drop someone off and stop to take some sunset pictures.

Just as Hula Shores at the Hotel Molokai is the place to be on Friday nights, Coffees of Hawaii is the place to be on Saturday nights between 6:00 and 8:00. Everyone gathers here to listen to some great music and visit with friends. There is a limited menu available and, of course, coffee, but you can BYOB. We listened to Molokai Jazz, perused the Coffees of Hawaii gift shop and enjoyed some red wine. The music was great, the female vocalist has a wonderful velvety voice and seemed to know almost everyone in the audience, and we walked away with a whole lot of coffee. Everybody out there knows about Kona coffee, but we've been fans of Molokai coffee for a few years now, so we were stoked to visit the mother ship of one of our favorite products. Bonus! Coffees of Hawaii is a member of 1% For the Planet, a group of businesses that have pledged to donate part of their proceeds to environmental causes.

While the menu at Coffees of Hawaii looked good, we were holding out for pizza at the Zagat-rated Molokai Pizza Café. While we were waiting for our flight to Molokai, we met a woman who lives part-time on Oahu and part-time on Molokai, and she works at Molokai Pizza Café and invited us to stop by during our visit. So, we did. Although the restaurant looked like it was in near-closing cleaning mode, we were greeted like family with big hugs and enthusiasm by our airport buddy, B. We ordered a pepperoni pizza and a BBQ chicken pizza, both of which were really good. The crust was light and crispy, and the BBQ sauce had an odd sweet flavor which might not be for everyone, but I liked it. We told B we were planning on a big hike the next day, and she said they could wrap up some sandwiches for us. So we ordered some sandwiches, which were huge! Also, they wrapped all of our pickles separately, which we very much appreciated when we opened up our non-soggy sandwiches the next day.

After an early breakfast, Farmer's Market, driving along the coast, hanging out on the beach, an airport run, jazz and wine and a pizza dinner, you'd think our day would be done. Wrong! We still had the Saturday-night bread run. The what? The late-night bread run for fresh bread from Kanemitsu's Bakery. You saw pictures of their day-time operation at Melissa's blog. This is the other place to be on Saturday nights. We had heard from several locals about the drug-deal-like quality of walking down a dark alley in the middle of the night, knocking on a door, and waiting for someone to appear to take your order, but until you actually go, you're a little skeptical. And then you drive into the middle of Kaunakakai, where all the shop owners have long since closed up for the night, and you start walking. And you think, Seriously?

Yeah, seriously.

Now, we had just gorged ourselves on pizza, and we weren't particularly hungry, and we were really doing this more for the experience than anything else (except Amber, who was trying to avoid being beat up at work on Monday for returning from Molokai without any Kanemitsu bread!), but when we got back in the van and decided that we should at least taste this stuff...you know how sometimes something is so good that all you can do is laugh with joy? Yeah, that's where we were. It's worth staying up until 10:00 for the bread run.

After that, it was finally time to return to our room at Hotel Molokai to rest up for our big hike the next day. We were afraid that we were going to have a repeat of the bar noise from the night before, but everything seemed to die down pretty quickly, and we were left with a quiet, relaxing night's sleep.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-42: Podcasts Anyone?

This week, Suey wants to know what podcasts we listen to, "preferably book related, but not necessarily so."

Well, the first book-related podcast that comes to mind is Books on the Nightstand. Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness link to their weekly podcast in their blog by the same name. Each week they discuss books they love, books they can't wait to read, books by genre, and whatever else they think their listeners might be interested in. I always enjoy listening to their podcasts, but I can't listen to them in the car because I always end up needing to write down the titles to at least two or three books, and I don't want to try to do that while I'm driving! I find this to be a good end-of-day podcast-you can sit in the dark and listen to a couple of friends talk about books, add a couple of titles to your ever-growing TBR list, and then go to bed.

My other favorite podcast has nothing to do with books at all. It's Car Talk, and it's hosted by Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers, a.k.a. Ray and Tom Magliozzi, a couple of MIT-educated auto mechanics who take calls about people's cars. I know this doesn't sound very exciting but it's hilarious! Click around on their web site a little bit and you get a feel for the self-deprecating wackiness that Tom and Ray exude on every show. It's impossible to listen to them and not be in a good mood by the end of it. They clearly have a great time doing what they're doing, and it comes across in every podcast. You don't have to be a car enthusiast to enjoy this show, heck, you don't even have to own a car! This one is good for listening to in the car though!

Anyone Flying to Hawaii Any Time Soon?

Because if you are, Hawaiian Airlines is offering $25 off each ticket for you and a buddy. (This works for anyone flying from Hawaii to the mainland also). You have to be a Hawaiian Airlines member (you can join for free), and it does have to be a round trip ticket. Why am I telling you this? Because I like Hawaiian Airlines. For years, my husband has built up miles on United, and we've been able to take advantage of them a few times, which has been a great advantage to us. I know how loyal people can be to their miles. Once you've started accumulating them with one airline, you don't want to have to start all over with another, but we've recently made the decision to use Hawaiian Airlines wherever possible, even if it means losing miles on United.

Here's the thing: I like Hawaiian Airlines so much better than United. (If I'm not mistaken, I have at least one regular reader who is a United Airlines employee. Let me just apologize now. You might want to skip this part). For one thing, Hawaiian Airlines' flight attendants don't make a point of telling you, "We're here primarily for your safety." In other words, please don't bother us for menial crap like blankets and extra water. For another, I'm willing to bet that a lot of people have had experiences with United that allow them to commiserate with Busy Dad. Also, in my former life I had to deal with their automated lost luggage "assistant," who, if I remember correctly, is named Simon. Simon will say things like, "Please state the city that you landed in," and you'll say, "Denver," and Simon will say something like, "I think you said, 'Saskatchewan.' Is this correct?" and after 20 minutes of this, someone in your office will tell you to stop yelling, you'll flip them the bird, and they will crack up because they've never seen you this pissed off before, and Simon will tell you that he is unable to help you and to please hold while he gets an agent for you. You will tell the agent all the same things you told Simon, but now you will be cranky and mean to the poor guy in India who is just trying to earn a living for his family and, truth be told, is probably just as sick of cleaning up Simon's messes as you are frustrated. To be fair, it's been about five years since I've had to deal with Simon. Maybe things have improved.

Okay. So, where was I? Oh, yeah, fly Hawaiian Airlines instead! Granted, they don't go to all the places that some of the other major airlines do, but they will take you to a lot of places in the Pacific, and miles build up fast when you're flying trans-Pacifically. Also, I don't know about you, but I'm tired of going out of my way to give my money to companies who don't give a crap about customer service. If I'm going to spend hundreds of dollars on something, I'd just as soon give it to a company that I like and that I want to support, especially in these economic times where everyone should be fighting to hold on to their customers. My husband recently flew to Korea via Hawaiian's code-share partner, Korean Airlines, where the staff came out and personally and sincerely thanked each passenger individually for choosing Korean Airlines. Granted, he was in the business section, but still. When was the last time you were treated that way?

I honestly didn't start this with the intention of turning into an "I hate United" post, it's just that they are the airline that I have the most experience with. I'm sure other airlines have their fair share of disgruntled customers, and United probably even has somebody out there with a stellar customer-service story. Hawaiian's not perfect either-you still have to pay the extra baggage fees and pay for headphones and snacks (their snacks are really good!), but their meals have always been good, and I'll gladly pay the earphone fee to have the extra 2 or 3 inches of legroom that you get on Hawaiian. You know what I'm talking about. You've been stuck in that middle seat, trying to reach that dropped pen or the gum in your carry-on only to realize that you are going to have to dislocate your shoulder in order to reach it or ask someone if you can borrow their screaming baby to crawl around under your seat to get it for you, neither of which are ideal options. So, instead you just deal with the cramp that's already formed in your neck and try not to breathe on the guy next to you for the next 8 hours.

So, anyway, there it is, my post urging you to fly Hawaiian Airlines if you ever get the chance. Let's re-cap:

  • Friendly staff
  • More leg room
  • Best snacks I've ever had on a plane
  • Good meals
  • #1 in National Airline Quality Rating (I didn't mention that above, but I wanted to throw it in).
  • Less chance of offending your seat mates with your bad breath because you can't reach your gum.
  • Another thing I didn't mention-they also have gaming devices available for rent

  • Limited destinations
  • Baggage, snack, headphone and gaming device fees still apply
Please feel free to share any stories you have about good airline customer service. I always like to hear stories of good triumphing over evil, even if it's from United! ;)

11/24/09-Edited to add: Per Beat of Hawaii's October 27th post, Hawaiian pilots have been talking about striking, so if you do choose to travel Hawaiian, it might be a good idea to have travel insurance in place that would cover such a contingency. Please check out their whole article for more details and a different point of view on Hawaiian Airlines.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prematurity Awareness Month

November is Prematurity Awareness Month®, and November 17th has been designated as Fight For Preemies day over at Bloggers Unite. Hundreds of bloggers have signed up to blog "for a baby [they] love and to help others".

According to the March of Dimes, "Nearly 13 million babies worldwide are born prematurely each year, and more [than] one million die."1 In the United States, one out of eight babies is born prematurely.2 Premature birth can cause serious complications like respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, heart problems, intestinal problems and eye problems leading to vision loss.3 If a baby survives all these, he could still be left with cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease, blindness and/or hearing loss. Many times, the reason for premature birth is unknown. The March of Dimes is committed to finding out what causes it and how to pevent it.4

I imagine most people will be blogging about their own babies, nieces or nephews, maybe their friends' babies or babies that they have taken care of as doctors or nurses. I have experience with none of this. I've never had children, so although I can imagine, I don't really know what it's like to be scared for your child, to bring a life into the world and then not know if you're going to be able to hang onto it, to wonder what difficulties your child will face as she grows up, to lose a child because he was just too small to fight. My life has, however, been changed by a preemie, and that's why I'm blogging today.

The odds are stacked against premature babies today, even with all the advances that have been made in medicine and technology, so you can imagine what they were back in 1972 when my husband was born 3 months early, weighing just 2 lbs., 2 oz. The odds were so bad, that the doctor who delivered him was going to throw him away. Now, maybe this speaks to the character of the doctor more than it does the state of medicine at the time, but for whatever reason, the doctor who delivered my husband was going to THROW HIM AWAY. He had so little faith that a baby that tiny would be able to survive that it wasn't worth the effort to try to keep him alive. Maybe he was just trying to save my mother-in-law the inevitable pain of losing a child after watching him struggle for life, maybe he thought a baby that tiny would be plagued with medical issues that would cause him to suffer the rest of his life, or maybe he was just trying to save his hospital some money. I don't know. What I do know is that my mother-in-law was A) coherent and B) damned if she was going to let some doctor throw her baby boy away. Luckily, the nurse in attendance felt the same way and was strong enough to stand up to that doctor and intervene on their behalf.

Like all preemies, my husband spent a lot of time in the hospital before he was able to go home, and understandably, his mother has always been a little more protective of him, even though he's not the baby of the family. Ladies, you know how hard it can be to win over your mother-in-law when you're coming in and taking away her little boy; well, try coming in and taking away this little boy. We've brokered a peace, but it was definitely rocky for a while!

Thanks to his mother's strength and belief in him, my husband did, of course, survive. He's always been ambitious and able to find a way to achieve his goals, even when everyone standing between him and his goal was telling him, "Sorry, that can't be done," whether it's gaining entrance to the Air Force Academy or getting a notary to accept his autographed picture from Miss Hawaii as his official form of ID. Seriously. His coworkers always tease him about his Jedi abilities ("These aren't the droids you're looking for."). I've always just written this off to the fact that he is unfailingly charming, but now that I think about it, I guess he's been honing these skills since birth.

Since his birth waaaaaaaaay back in 1972 (I'm just giving you a hard time, Babe!) my husband has grown into one of the smartest, funniest, most generous and thoughtful people I know. He's also one of the most active people I know-he hikes, cycles, dives, climbs trees, surfs, kite surfs and kayaks-he is a preemie success story if ever there was one, and I can't imagine my life without him.

Luckily, my husband has been a fighter since the beginning, and he was able to overcome the great odds that faced him when he was born. Not all children are so fortunate; some struggle more than others, and some aren't able to overcome the difficulties of being born prematurely. The March of Dimes is committed to giving "all babies a fighting chance against the threats to their health: prematurity, birth defects, low birthweight".5 Of course, there are other ways to help besides a monetary donation, but if you would like to make a donation, now is a great time to do it. If you use your MasterCard to make a donation between now and the end of this year, MasterCard will match the donation (up to $225,000 in total). If you are going to donate, why not do it now while a matching gift program is in place?

I've never donated to the March of Dimes before because, honestly, I didn't really know what they did-it wasn't relevant to me. It still isn't relevant to me in the same way that it is for a lot of people, but there is a connection there. I will be donating a set amount to the March of Dimes this year, but additionally, I will donate $5 for each person who comments here. I'll bump it up to $10 if your comment includes a link to your story about the special preemie in your life.

Visit Bloggers Unite to read other stories by bloggers who are Fighting for Preemies or to add your story. Thanks to @GlendaWH, @Starbucker and @molokainews for tweeting about this.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Molokai-Day 1

I recently had the opportunity to take advantage of a promotional weekend offered by Aqua's Hotel Molokai. They were hosting an Unplugged Retreat, a chance to get away from all the blogging, twittering, Facebook-ing, iPhone-ing, and texting that usually goes on in our lives and actually enjoy a beautiful place like Molokai. Our room was free as was dinner Friday night at Hotel Molokai's Hula Shores restaurant. We arrived Friday afternoon and departed Sunday evening. I decided to break this out into separate posts, one for each day, instead of one looong rambling post.

On Friday, we flew via Mokulele Airlines to the island of Molokai. Our flight was delayed and our pilot was a little snippy because when he finally showed up to escort us out to the plane, my husband had gone out of the gate area to see if he could get any information about our flight since there is no information available inside the gate. That's right, you have to walk back out through security to the little Mokulele counter to find out any information about your flight. Then, of course, you have to come back through security. So, just know that going in. Once we got in the air, it was only about a half-hour flight on our nine-passenger plane, and it was pretty smooth until we got over Molokai where things got a little bumpy. Luckily it's a short flight and you have a great view of the islands as you fly over toward the airport.

Flying over Molokai, looking at Lanai (I think. We might be looking at Maui, but I'm pretty sure it's Lanai. Can anybody help me out on this?)

When we arrived at the airport we went to the rental car counter (THE rental car counter-there's only one!). Here I have to give props to Alamo for their customer service. Both our pickup and our drop off were very pleasant experiences. The women who were working behind the counter each time were so friendly and made us feel like we were really being taken care of.

When we arrived at Hotel Molokai, we were a little surprised. It doesn't look like a traditional hotel, it sort of sneaks up on you.

The parking lot is in front, so it's set back just a tiny bit off the road, but it's almost easy to miss-it blends into it's surroundings a bit better than most of the giant hotels in Waikiki I guess. We got the keys to our room and found our Garden View Deluxe room nicely appointed. You can tell that the property is an older property, but they have done a nice job updating the rooms. I would say that the pictures on their web site are a pretty accurate representation of what you actually get. No magic cameras here! We also had a huge lanai (at least by Hawaii standards), big enough for a largish four-person table and a porch swing. Our main view was of the banana trees planted outside our balcony, but from the outer side of the lanai, you could see the ocean. Even though the buildings here are fairly close together, they've done a good job of maintaining privacy on the lanais. Here's a poorly-adjusted picture looking from our room to our lanai, but you get the idea. Hey, I never claimed to be a professional photographer.

The other side of the room, opposite the lanai, was all jalousie windows. This is great for letting in air-not all rooms have A/C-but not so great for privacy since ours opened up on the main walkway between the front desk and the restaurant, and there are no window coverings. Also, jalousies provide absolutely no insulation from noise, and since we were close to the restaurant/bar area, there was a lot of noise. This was the view from our room.

After we got settled in to our room, we decided we still had some time to drive around and check out the island before our dinner. We drove up to the Kalaupapa Lookout and Phallic Rock. As you might expect, the Kalaupapa Lookout looks out over the Kalaupapa Peninsula. If this sounds familiar to you it's because it is where the recently-sainted Father Damien did his work with patients suffering from Hansen's Disease (leprosy). In 1866 King Kamehameha V exiled people suffering from the disease to this isolated peninsula. Today, Kalaupapa is a National Historic Park. There is still a settlement there, but people are not confined as they once were. Visitors are allowed to the settlement, but arrangements must be made ahead of time to fly in, hike in or ride in on a mule. I've heard this can be a pretty treacherous hike, so research your options ahead of time if you do decide to go.

Anyway...the lookout was beautiful. It is surrounded by a gorgeous wooded area that felt very "Where the Wild Things Are" to me and, of course, provides an excellent view of the Kalaupapa Peninsula.

After admiring the view here for a few minutes, we walked back to the parking lot and headed over to check out the Phallic Rock. Because how can you not? What can I say. This is one aptly named piece of nature. How could it not have some lore attached to it? Just imagine you're the first person to discover this-you're walking along one day and all of a sudden, "Whoa. Hey, what's this?"

"Hmmm...my...well, that looks slightly...let me just walk around and examine this a little more before I make any final..."

(Running back to village) "You are not gonna believe what I just found! You guys gotta come see this!"

So, our curiosity assuaged, it was time to return to the Hula Shores Restaurant at Hotel Molokai for their weekly Aloha Friday Sunset Celebration. Every Friday people from all over the island gather here for music, drinks, hula, story-telling, general camaraderie, and, of course, food. What Hawaiian gathering is complete without food? We heard from many people that we talked to on the island that this is the place to be on Friday nights, and it seems they were right. By the time we got there at about 5:45, the parking lot was full, and we had to park on the road. We missed most of the hula, but there was music going all night long, and we got there just in time to wash our hands and go to dinner.

Before dinner was served though, everyone stood up and joined hands (good thing I just washed mine! I hope everyone else did too...); I thought someone was going to say grace, but instead the band started playing, and everyone started singing. Well, I say "everyone," but I mostly just swayed and smiled since the first song was a Hawaiian song that I didn't know. Later it morphed into another song, something patriotic, I just can't remember what. I think it was "This Land is Your Land." By the time I figured out that I actually knew what was going on it was over. Story of my life.

Dinner was wonderful. Our gracious host, Michael Drew, General Manager of Hotel Molokai, started us out with some yummy pupus followed by our tasty entrees which were accompanied by good drinks and followed by a rich cheesecake for dessert. I ordered the Huli Huli Chicken, which is the island version of rotisserie chicken, and it was perfectly cooked. It had great flavor and was still very moist. I didn't get any good pictures of the food, but @NctrnlBst got some good pictures and posted them in a slide show at the end of the great post he wrote about his weekend on Molokai. He also provides a better and more thorough explanation of our unplugged weekend. So, please head over to check out his post on his blog, Baker's Hours.

After all this great food at the end of a long week, we hit the wall. It was time for us to retire while the Unplugged Retreat raged on in the bar below us. This is the part where we found out that not only is our room not noise-proof, but actually acted as a bit of an echo chamber. It didn't matter. We were tired enough that we were able to sleep through the band, and the raucous laughter that continued well into the night and into the wee early hours of the morning, which I'm told was about 11:00 or so, maybe midnight. I think I'm getting old.

And so ends our first day on Molokai. Join me later in the week and I'll tell you about late-night bakery runs, amazing hikes and what might actually be the cutest dog ever.

Anyone else who has pictures and/or blogs from this weekend, please feel free to leave a link in my comments. Thanks!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Matching Gift Will Double Your Donation to Women for Women International

A lot of you already know that I am a big fan of Women for Women International. Maybe you've checked them out and thought about giving but the time just wasn't right or you didn't think you could contribute very much. If that's the case, please reconsider. If you donate any time between now and November 15th, your donation will be doubled through a matching gift program.

Women for Women International currently has programs in eight countries, helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives through skills training, rights-awareness education, literacy training and leadership education. Many of these women have lost their husbands and other family members to war, have been raped, have not been allowed to receive an education, cannot read, cannot afford health care, have little or no marketable skills, and are now responsible for taking care of themselves and their families and rebuilding communities that have been ravaged by war.

After such war-time experiences, women often feel isolated, shamed and helpless. Women for Women provides a safe place for these women to gather and share their experiences while they learn new skills that will help them earn money for things like food, shelter, clothing, health care and education. Once these basic needs are met, women have the opportunities to continue on to become successful businesswomen or community leaders, striving for change and peace within their communities.

If you feel that this is a worthy cause, please donate soon. If you donate by November 15th, your donation will go twice as far. If you wish to donate but can't do it by November 15th, that's OK too. Your contribution will still mean a lot to a woman survivor of war.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans' Day!

Thank you to everyone who is serving our country and to all those who have served in the past.

For more information on Veterans' Day, check out this National Geographic article.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happiness A-Z: L

If you don't know what's going on, go here, or just keep reading. It's fairly self-explanatory. :)

Leaves-We don't have much of a fall to speak of here in Hawai'i, so when I do get so see autumn leaves in all their glorious colors, I think they are absolutely beautiful. Check out this gorgeous photo at Dolce Belleza and tell me if that doesn't make you want to go out and buy a bike. That's not to say that I don't like regular green leaves either though, oh no. I love green plant-y things, and I can't help but touch plants that I encounter as I'm walking down a street or on a trail. I just want to feel them and see how they move and pet them. Usually this works out OK for me, but I know some day it's going to backfire. I told you about my experience in the cactus garden, right? Yeeeeaaah.

Libraries-A place where you can have all the free books you want? What's not to love??

Literacy-I can't imagine not being able to read. If you can read, you can learn how to do pretty much anything else; if you can't, you are dependent on other people for everything, and the world becomes so much more limited and difficult. I am so grateful that I know how to read and that I enjoy reading. I think my life has been much richer as a result.
Luna MothImage by kpauli via Flickr

Luna moths-They're just so pretty!

Lady bugs-They're just so cute! And they eat all kinds of bugs that would otherwise destroy your yards. And their babies look like little alligators...sort of. Grrrr!

Love-Really, do I need to explain this one?

Larry and Liz-My dad and stepmom.

Laughter-It's always fun to laugh, but sometimes it's even better to listen to other people laugh. Baby's have the best laughter-it's the sound of pure, unbridled joy, and it's awesome. My sister also has a great laugh, in fact she laughs a lot like a baby now that I think about it! Hers is a contagious, full-on belly laugh, and I love it.

Lava-I like fire, so you can imagine how cool I think lava is, right? Lava has been flowing continuously on The Big Island (Hawai'i) for about 26 years now, and if you ever get the chance to go over there to check it out, take it! My husband and I have been to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park a few times, and depending on where the lava is flowing you can just walk right up to it.

During the day it's cool, but when night starts to fall and you realize that you can look down through the cracks that you are walking over and see the lava glowing, well, to be honest, that's a little scary! But also really cool! It's so primal and mesmerizing and beautiful. Also, there are no lights out there, and if you lie on the lava field at night and stare up at the sky, you will see the sky like you have never seen it before. The Milky Way is bright across the sky, and if you happen to be there during a meteor shower, it's even better! You do have to have some common sense-take a flashlight, lots of water, layer your clothing, wear sturdy shoes that aren't likely to melt (seriously) and heed any park warnings. You're mostly on your own out there, so be smart, but do check it out!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Okay, Maybe "Soon" Wasn't the Right Word

So, the other day I realized that I never followed up on the rest of my "Coming Soon!" post...from back in July. Anyway, I thought now would be a good time to follow-up on that. I mean, hey, at least it's still gonna get done this year, right? If you are looking for explanations of the rest of the pictures, they can be found here, here, and here.

I believe I had yet to address two items, the first of which is this:

Where was I when this storm moved in? Hint: Not inside!

As it turns out, there's really not too much to this story. My friend and I got up super early to catch sunrise from Diamond Head. The thing is, sunrise happened before the park even opens, but we still caught a pretty sunrise, just not from the top of Diamond Head like we were planning. This pictures was taken at the top, as a huge wall of water was moving in. And, yes, it moved in right on top of us. It wasn't really that big of a deal though. It moved through pretty quickly, and it kept us cool on the hike back down. Some things to keep in mind if you decide to hike Diamond Head:

If the park doesn't open until after sunrise, you can still get a nice view from the rest area outside the gate.

It's steep, and there are a lot of stairs.

So, be sure to wear sensible shoes. These are not sensible shoes.

Let me reiterate: Not sensible shoes.

I was happy to have railings to hang onto climbing up and down all those stairs, but they are rusty. When it rains, that rust transfers right to your hands. I would suggest taking some wet paper towels or something with you just in case. Being a grownup, I was able to keep from transferring the rust from my hand to any part of my outfit or the outfit of anyone around me. However, I think if you had little ones with you, this would be a nightmare for you and your summery white shorts.

Finally, hiking to the top of Diamond Head crater was not quite what I thought it was going to be. It's all sort of paved-see pictures above-so it's fairly easy going in that regard, but at the top you have to do this weird little ascent up a ladder and through a little crawl space opening-like crawling up out of a bunker, which may very well be what it is-and then once you get to the very top it's just a series of platforms. The view is wonderful, but there's no real place to just hang out and enjoy it. It's you and 40 of your closest tour bus buddies all trying to get the same picture and then right back down the trail again. This is a tough one if you have bad knees (I know). Or claustrophobia (I would imagine). If you want the great views without all the tourists and a much more serene, respectful setting, try visiting the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Oh, also, if you plan on parking and you go early in the morning, be sure to have small bills with you. All I had was a $20 bill, and as I was disdainfully informed by the booth attendant, they don't have change that early in the morning. Luckily, my friend had change. Otherwise, I guess they just wouldn't have let us in. Seems like that no-change-in-the-morning thing is something they could address, but maybe that's just me.

That bring us to the last of my "Coming Soon" teasers:
And finally, horseback riding 101.

Don't worry, nobody's broken; that's just my husband showing you how relaxed he was at the end of our moonlight ride at Gunstock Ranch. This is an awesome experience! If you ever make it out to Hawaii during a full moon and want to do a horseback ride, it's worth the effort to try to schedule a moonlight ride. They have schedules set up around the full moon, but they were very accommodating and set up a private ride just for us since my friend was flying home before their first scheduled ride. We've done this twice now with our out-of-town visitors and it's been a great experience both times. Sorry I don't have any better quality photos, but my camera doesn't do very well with night shots.

The guides take you around the ranch property, and you'll see cattle wandering around, but mostly you'll just enjoy the country while you watch the light fade and the moon rise on the horizon. We did this the same day that we went to Diamond Head, and what a fabulous beginning and end to the day!

Sun setting behind us at the lookout point.

And the moon rising over the ocean on the other side.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Blogger Holiday Swap

The Book Blogger Holiday Swap is on! You have until November 12th to sign up. I didn't participate last year, but it looked like a lot of fun, so I am looking forward to finding out who my Holiday Swap buddy will be! Are you going to participate?

Thanks to our hosts:

Amanda (The Zen Leaf)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Questions for the Rocky Mountain Institute?

I am going to be meeting with a representative from the Rocky Mountain Institute® (RMI) next Friday, November 13th. I'm not sure how best to explain RMI, so I figured I would let their Mission Statement do it for me. As stated on their web site:

Rocky Mountain Institute® (RMI) is an independent, entrepreneurial, nonprofit think-and-do tank™. We envisage a world thriving, verdant, and secure, for all, for ever. To that end, our mission is to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources.

RMI's style is nonadversarial and transideological, emphasizing integrative design, advanced technologies, and mindful markets.

We work extensively with the private sector, as well as with civil society and government, to create abundance by design and to apply the framework of Natural Capitalism.

RMI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to come up with solutions that companies and industries can implement that will help them be not only more environmentally responsible but financially successful as well. Their goal is not just to come up with great ideas, but great ideas that are usable. You can check out their Summer 2009 eSolutions Journal to get an idea of some of their projects.

Sounds pretty awesome, right? I've been a supporter of RMI for a few years now (see them over there in my sidebar?), but never in what I considered the "Hi, we're in town and we'd like to meet with you," realm, so I was very excited to find out that I would have the chance to sit down and chat with someone from the organization.

I thought I would offer up my services and find out if anyone has any questions they would like me to pass along. If so, just let me know in the comments, and I'll do my best to get them answered for you. If you are submitting a question, please do so by Wednesday, November 11th. Thanks!

Oh, also, wish me luck so I don't say or do anything to make me look like a bumbling idiot. I've never met with anyone from a think tank before!

What I'm Reading Now-The Gargoyle

Cover of "The Gargoyle"Cover of The Gargoyle
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson-What can I say about The Gargoyle? I'd heard so many good things about it, but I was so disappointed by it. The funny thing is, I don't necessarily think it was a bad book, I think it just suffered some timing issues. Here's a rough breakdown of my reading timeline:

Week 1: Reading The Gargoyle
Week 2-3: Reading The Sparrow (which I loved!) because my conscience finally kicked in and made me return The Gargoyle to the library.
Week 4-5: Slogging through the rest of my re-checked-out copy of The Gargoyle.

During Week 1, I was really enjoying The Gargoyle-I thought it was interesting and that the narrator was funny in a dark, cynical kind of way. He's been badly burned in a car accident, and his ensuing hospital recovery is filled with his wry acceptance of the fact that he will probably not be able to return to his career as a porn star as well as lots of interesting medical facts. For instance, did you know that burn victims go through a period of hypermetabolism when they're healing, thus "...a body that normally requires two thousand calories a day can consume seven thousand after a severe burn."? I didn't either!

So, this book is filled with interesting little tidbits like that along with some pretty gruesome narration about the things that happen to a burned body, both during the actual burning of the flesh as well as during the recovery period. The book is also full of stories told by Marianne Engel, the seemingly crazy woman who comes to visit our narrator in the hospital. She claims that they have known each other in previous lives and proceeds to tell him all of their fateful love stories, trying to convince him that she is, in fact, not crazy and that they do really know each other. I didn't really care one way or the other. It's not that the stories were bad--in fact I rather liked some of them--or that I couldn't suspend my disbelief for this possibility, but I kept thinking how much I liked The Sparrow and how much this paled in comparison. The writing seemed flat and I didn't particularly care about any of the characters, but, oddly enough, there were a lot of things that both books had in common.

-They both had main characters for whom words are their life. In The Sparrow, Father Emilio Sandoz is a linguist and in The Gargolye the narrator is a writer and a smooth-talker of women. At some point in each of their stories, their words, the one thing that they have always been able to count on, fail them miserably.

-In The Gargoyle, Marianne's 14th-century self discovers at an early age that she has a gift for translation, much like The Sparrow's Sandoz for whom languages come easy.

-Both The Gargoyle and The Sparrow address suffering as it pertains to religion. The Sparrow brings up questions of how God can allow so much suffering and The Gargoyle discusses suffering as a way to become closer to God.

-Both books have characters that are described as resembling Raggedy Ann/Andy dolls. That's kind of weird, right?

-Both books have characters who question celibacy and the church-is it right and/or necessary to deny the love of and for another of God's children in order to serve God?

So, while you would think it might be good to have a lot of things in common with something that I enjoyed so much...you'd be wrong. I felt like The Sparrow was what The Gargoyle wanted to be when it grew up; but, as I said earlier, I think this mostly just suffered from timing issues. I think if I'd read it at another time, I might have liked it better. The Gargoyle suffered the fate of many a rebound relationship. No matter how good it is, it's going to suffer strain under the constant comparison to your last relationship. That said, The Gargoyle seems like a perfectly nice guy. He's had a bit of a sordid history, but he's cleaned up his act, and he's got a good sense of humor. He just wasn't right for me. But you might like him!

Random favorite quote that I was too lazy to couldn't fit in anywhere else: "...against stupidity even the gods struggle in vain." See what I mean? Good sense of humor!

Reviews and other stuff:
Ann at Books on the Nightstand (podcast portion starts around 3:29) gives us some interesting background on the book.
Joanne at The Book Zombie tells us about a song that reminds her of The Gargoyle.
Jessica at Both Eyes Book Blog examines some of the historical aspects of the book.
Ali at Worducopia gave us some thoughts during her read as well as a final mini review.
Fond of Snape loved it!

Did you review The Gargoyle? Let me know, and I'll add a link to your review.