Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Books of the Year

I thought it would be fun to come up with a list of my top five books that I read this year. I was not entirely surprised to find that all of my top five are non-fiction books, even though I read far more fiction books this year than non.

I am notoriously hard on fiction books. I find most of them pretentious, like the authors spent too much time learning tricks in writing class rather than just writing what they feel. Because of this, I mostly read books in the chick-lit fiction genre. Which are, you know, not exactly works of art, but they make me feel good.

So here are my top 5. I would highly recommend that anyone read all of these books:

5. The American Plague by Molly Caldwell.

About the little-known yellow fever epidemics in the U.S. and the men who discovered how the disease was spread and how to cure it.

4. The Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran

Written by two men who raced each other around the world without the use of airplanes. Both laugh-out-loud funny and touching.

3. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Cheesy, I know, but I do love this book about a man who reconnects with an old friend during the last few months of his life. Very inspiring for me.

2. A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz

A history of the men who explored the Americas prior to the arrival of the Puritans, coupled with a travelogue of the places those men visited. Very fun and interesting.

1. Columbine by Dave Cullen

Topic self explanatory; this book is both gripping and devastating. I don't have enough words to express how moved I was by it. Simply one of the best books I've read EVER.

And if I absolutely had to pick one fiction book that I read that topped all the others this year, I'd have to go with The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark, a clever and engaging book about a young chef's apprentice in 14th century Venice.

Happy reading, everyone! I'm looking forward to more great books in 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tales from the Bookstore: Found Picture

We find stuff stuck inside books all the time at the used bookstore where I volunteer. Most of the time, it's forgotten notes or other pieces of paper. I find lots of business cards from all over the world. The older ladies tell me that they sometimes find money (once a $100 bill), although I've never been so lucky.

By far, my favorite thing to find (barring that magical day I ever find money) is pictures.

Once I found this fantastic 1980s prom picture. It was very 80s-rific and I loved it. I grabbed the book I found it in (Pride and Prejudice) and took it home with me. However, on my way home, with all the windows rolled down on the car, a particularly strong wind blew through, ripped open the pages of the book, and my lovely 1980s prom picture flew out the window. I was sad.

At any rate, one of my fellow volunteers found this particular picture in a book yesterday and I brought it home with me. I have a real fondness for other peoples' photos:

This photo is great. It begs all kind of questions. Who is this man? Why is he holding two pineapples? Did he sell pineapples? What's up with his hat? What has happened to this man - what has his life been like?

I told the ladies at the bookstore, someday I'll die and someone will be going through my things and they'll wonder how I'm related to all these strange people that I have pictures of. But I like to keep the pictures that I find randomly discarded. I feel like I'm honoring these people in some way.

A Sad Little Library Book

A month or so ago, I read online somewhere that they were planning on making a couple of movies out of Terry Brooks's fantasy epic Shannara series. I read the first three books of this series as a teenager and loved them (I have particularly vivid memories of reading the first book, The Sword of Shannara, while on a family trip through Pennsylvania one summer).

Even though I kept copies of the books throughout most of my life, I never really read them all the way through again. So when I read that the books might be turned into movies, I decided that it would be fun to read the books again. I logged onto the library's website to see if I could order a copy.

To my surprise, the whole entire Hawaii state library had just one copy of the first book. Two other copies had been lost - one, the website said, all the way back in 1986. The only copy was checked in, although on another island, so I requested it. I was the only person on the wait list.

Still, it took more than a month for the book to find its way to my local library, which isn't necessarily uncommon when you order books here, I've noticed. But it finally came in this week, so I dutifully went down to pick it up. And this is the book that I found waiting for me:

The name of the book is written on the spine in pen ink. The book is held together by packing tape. On the inside, the binding is slightly broken. The book is also water damaged.

I've thrown away nicer copies of books than this at the bookstore where I volunteer. Heck, I've seen way nicer copies of this particular book at the bookstore than this. I'm kind of tempted to buy one (for just 10 cents) and donate it to the library.

Honestly, I may sound mad, but I'm more amused than anything. I really kind of can't believe that this is the only copy of this book that the library owns. In a way, though, it does make me a little sad. There aren't many fantasy fiction fans in the world, I know, but I am one of them. And it makes me sad that fantasy books get so little "love" from bookstores and libraries.

I have to admit, after ordering the book, while I waited for it to come in, I wasn't sure that I wanted to read it again after all. But now that this sad little book has found its way to my hands, I feel compelled to give it a good turn.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tales from the Bookstore: Proud Parent

I volunteer every Saturday at a used bookstore whose proceeds benefit the local library system. This has got to be one of my all-time favorite volunteer gigs. I love books. I love talking about books. The other volunteers are great, and I like talking to the customers, especially the "regulars" who come back every few weeks; sometimes every week.

Today I was talking to a lady at the counter who bragged that her son was in one of the books she was purchasing (it was a locally-made book). I expressed interest, so she opened the book to the page he was on. "Here's his picture," she said. "He's not credited, but he's so excited to have his picture in a book."

The picture was of a disheveled-looking man (likely homeless), rummaging through a dumpster. "It says he's a homeless man on Oahu, but that's not accurate. This picture is obviously taken at Iao," she said. I was a bit taken-aback, I have to admit. I don't think I've ever heard anyone brag about their homeless child before. "Is he all right?" I asked. "Oh yes," she replied. "He's autistic, but he started his own business collecting cans for money."

She beamed with so much pride. And I was incredibly touched.

It made me think of all the children in the world - both those that are still children and those that are all grown up - who have worked so hard in their lives to make their parents proud, only to be disappointed because their achievements are never enough. Some parents just aren't proud of anything their kids do, unless it's exactly what they wanted them to do. It's very sad.

But here was this woman, so proud of her son, no matter how small his achievements have been. As the child of a father who couldn't give a flip about her achievements one way or the other, it touched me down to my soul.

I wish that more parents were this accepting of their children, and vice versa.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


The sunset was amazingly spectacular this evening.

The sun was already down behind the western mountains, with low-hanging clouds covering much of the early evening sky. The clouds were black, but their undersides were splashed with a brilliant orange.

The effect was quite exquisite. I just sat and watched for a while.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rudeness Part Deux

Last night, we went to a restaurant that I've been wanting to try for a while. Before the food arrived, I decided to visit the ladies' room. As I was walking in, a young lady came walking out. I had noticed her before because she was in a fancy black cocktail dress, which, for a pizza place, seemed fantastically over-dressy.

At any rate, one of the stalls was out of service, so I utilized the one that wasn't broken which, presumably, she had just left. I get in the stall and, voila!, she had peed all over the seat. All over it. And not just a little bit. There was all kinds of pee, and she hadn't flushed the toilet, so there was pee in there too (not sure how that's the case, seeing as how there was so much on the seat).

Why oh why do women pee all over the seat and leave it like that? Believe me, this isn't the first time that this has happened to me. The stall had seat covers, so if you don't want to put your bare ass down on the seat, use one of those. Don't like that and want to use the "hover" technique instead? Fine, but clean up after your damn self. After all, if you're loathe to clean up your own pee, why do you think someone else will want to do it for you?

Seriously, I just don't get it. I don't know why people are so afraid of toilet seats (I've sat on many without the protection of a seat cover and have yet to contract any diseases or cases of crabs). And I don't get why people think they're too good to clean up their own pee.

Of course, someone came in and was waiting for me to finish as I was cleaning up after Miss Prissy. I'm sure they were wondering why I was taking so long. I was rather angry. As I came out of the bathroom, I discover that Miss Prissy was not only sitting right next to the bathroom, but facing it. I suppose that takes a lot of balls to pee all over the one working toilet, not clean it up, and then sit there to look your victim in the eye.

But of course, she didn't look me in the eye. I shot her the dirtiest look I own, but as soon as I came out of the bathroom, she became very interested in her beverage. If you know it's wrong, ladies, then don't do it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tim Gunn Can Never Hide Right

Right before I went to bed last night, I watched a true crime show about a rather gruesome murder. It was apparently a bad idea, because I then spent the dark hours of the night having bad dreams. However, in the middle of one of these dreams, something rather funny happened and I felt the need to share it.

In my dream, I was a young man who was part of some kind of resistance group. My whole family had been wiped out except for me and my sister. My sister was the leader of the resistance group. We were at hour headquarters when the enemy captured us. They were trying to get information out of my sister, and when she wouldn't comply, a hail of bullets began to fly. I escaped through a secret hatch with another member of the resistance.

We found ourselves running through the back areas of a grocery store. We were in a walk-in cooler and were about to reach our final door to escape when someone began to come into the cooler.

Suddenly, my companion in this escape was style guru Tim Gunn. As I hid behind the opening door, I shouted to Tim Gunn to hide as well. Instead of finding a place to hide, he froze where he stood like a statue. I thought to myself, "Tim Gunn can never hide right!" Hahaha. That was the best part of the dream. Like I go around trying to hide with Tim Gunn all the time. "Tim Gunn can never hide right!"

Fortunately, the people who happened to come into the cooler were Stacey and Clinton from TLC's "What Not to Wear." They were delighted to see Tim Gunn, a fellow stylist, in there. They began to chatter excitedly. Then I woke up.

It was the best dream ending ever.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Musings on Religious Conflict

The other day, I heard U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" on the radio, a song about the Protestant/Catholic conflict still occurring in Ireland at that time. It suddenly struck me how odd it is that I have lived through times when there is still armed, bloody conflict going on between two factions of the same faith. I mean, when you really think about it, it's absolutely insane.

Religious belief is something that is so deeply personal, and so fundamentally based on faith, that it still dumbfounds me that anyone would argue over it, let alone kill each other. In my opinion, if you are fully confident in your convictions, what someone else has to say about them can't possibly touch you. A lot of my atheist friends have told me that they're "afraid" to tell people that they're atheists because their beliefs will be attacked. I think to myself, so what? Defend if you feel you must, but what's the point? Their opinion should have no influence on you.

As a very committed agnostic, I have been attacked by both sides. The standard attacks come from religious believers. I just shrug my shoulders. They're entitled to their opinion. The atheists have often told me that I'm an agnostic because I'm not "brave enough" to be an atheist. This amuses me. How can it possibly be cowardly to admit that you don't know the answers? The great irony is that believers and non-believers are more alike than they think; both take great comfort in the fact that they know the truth, even though the truth is unknowable at this time.

It makes me sad that it's nearly impossible to talk about religion with a large, diverse group of individuals without insults being hurled. I love religion and I love to talk about it. I'm fascinated by peoples' beliefs, and I'm not easily shocked or offended by them. Religion was my field of study in both undergraduate and graduate school. I've pretty much heard it all already, and have learned to keep an open mind (within reason, of course. I don't condone underaged girls getting married to men 3 times their age, or human sacrifice, for example).

But most discussions are ruined by people who just can't be content with letting others believe what they want to believe. I wonder if tearing others down is an inherent part of being a human being, or if it is learned behavior. Whatever it is, I wish we'd all grow up a little bit and just learn to share the world without being so judgmental and self-righteous.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Personal Pet Peeve: Rudeness

The other day at work, we received a fax that was meant for somebody else. This has been a fairly common occurrence in my working life, and I always try to be polite and call the sender to let them know that their fax had gone astray. It just seems like the right thing to do.

So I call up the sender. I identify myself and where I'm caling from. Click. She hangs up on me. Now, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I told myself she disconnected me by accident, although I don't really believe that. So I call her back. I re-identify myself. She doesn't apologize that we were disconnected. I explain to her that her fax came to us by mistake. Before I can explain which fax it is (in case she sends many) or what her mistake was (one digit off on the number), she says, "Okay, thanks," and hangs up.

I found myself irked by her rudeness for much of the rest of the morning. Later in the day, when I received the same fax twice - erroneously once again - from a different organization, I never called them up to tell them.

It reminded me of an incident that happened last week. Our subsitute mailman brought back a packet that I had sent. Before I go further, two things: 1. According to my scale, the packet weighed under 13 oz. and 2. I was unaware that you have to take envelopes over 13 oz. into the post office; you can't put them in mailboxes.

So, this mailman - not our regular - brings me back this packet because, he says, it's over 13 oz. Then he says to me, "I guess you tried to sneak it in, but we do weigh the packets at the station." I was so stunned that I could hardly speak. I mean, really, does he think I had some grand conspiracy to cheat the post office out of 17 cents? Give me a freaking break. What on earth possessed him to say something like that?

I was steamed about his comment for much of the day. By the way, I took that packet in to the post office and was told by the lady at the counter that it was not, in fact, over 13 oz. However, she said, since it wasn't "flexible" (it contained several manila folders), I had to send it at the "parcel" rate. Whatever. That's a new one to me. I've sent "non-flexible" packets in the mail at non-parcel rates before. So they got their extra 17 cents after all. Exactly who is attempting to cheat whom?

I know that I let these incidents get to me far more than I should. But there's something about professional rudeness that really bugs me. It just doesn't make any sense. Why be rude to people who are trying to do you a favor? Why be rude to someone that you have to see on a regular basis?

I don't understand why cooperation and consideration wouldn't be your first priorities on the job. Do most people hate their jobs that much? I hate my job, but I don't see it as an excuse to be an asshole to everyone who crosses my path. I try to be polite and professional all the time when I'm on the job, and usually in my personal life as well. I don't always succdeed, but when I do slip up, I apologize.

Sometimes I feel like I don't even belong in this world. I feel like I have all of these ideals and standards that other people just don't seem to share. I don't even know where these ideals came from. I don't think my parents modeled them for me. It's like I came into this world this way. I've felt this way about myself for most of my life. I used to think that it was teenaged angst, but now I'm not so sure.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Small Worlds

I guess the world has always seemed a little small to me. I may have grown up in a small town, but I've lived in several larger cities since then, and none of those large cities have ever seemed large to me. I always run into people I know. I always find out that people I meet are friends of friends. There are always unexpected and delightful connections.

I suppose it all makes sense. You tend to make friends with people who are like you. They, in turn, tend to make friends with others like themselves. Eventually you cross paths. And like-minded people tend to go to the same places, so you can reasonably expect to go to a favorite coffee shop, bar, bookstore, etc., and run into people that you know there.

Maui, of course, is a small island with a small population, leaving it rife for such unexpected connections. I experienced two recently that have left me rather amused.

Our friend B. was born and raised on Maui, and has many, many friends, some of whom he's known for 40 years. I suppose that finding people randomly connected to him should come as no real shock. But I was still amused a couple of months ago when he invited us over for dinner and we met his friend W. After a few minutes, it quickly became clear that W. was no stranger to us. In fact, we had met him several months previously, on top of Mt. Haleakala, during an evening of star gazing. After the sun went down, we were the only ones left, chatting, watching the stars wheel by through our telescopes. How funny to meet him again all those months later, sitting down to dinner.

Then this week, my husband went to home and saw our neighbor P. sitting out on his front porch with a young man who he thought was another friend of B's that we'd met on several occassions. He couldn't remember the young man's name, so texted me to ask. I couldn't remember either, but said, "Oh yes, I've seen P. out on his porch with a man who I assumed was his son (who he lives with), and he does look like B's friend!" I didn't think it was B's friend, though, because the man I'd seen looked too old.

A few minutes later, my husband texted me to say, "His name is J. and he is P's son!" Turns out that I had seen P. with his other son, who of course does look like J., his brother. I was just bowled over. I couldn't believe it. All this time we've been living two doors down from someone that we've met on several occasions, and we didn't even know it. As I told my husband, "What a small freaking world."

I like how intimate the world is. As we grow ever more connected via the Internet, I hope that the world continues to get smaller and smaller.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What the Heck? Week 1

I've decided to start a (hopefully) weekly segment called "What the Heck?" which will showcase the worst driving offenses I witness in any given week. (I was going to use the "other H word" in my title, but thought it best to clean up my language for any sensitive readers.)

The idea for What the Heck began to form last weekend, when the husband and I were driving to the beach. A truck pulled out rather unnecessarily in front of the car ahead of us, cutting them off. If they had only waited, there were no cars after us. "What the heck?" I shouted. 

It then occurred to me that I shout this frequently while driving on Maui (for the worst offenses, it actually typically involves the "F" word). So I decided to begin paying attention to how often this phrase escapes me while driving and report the craziest instances on my blog.

This week, I had 4 What the Heck moments while driving. Here are the worst two:

1. While driving home from work on Monday afternoon, along the busy Haleakala Hwy, there was a queen-sized mattress in the middle of the road. That's a right, a big pink mattress. It lay in such a way that it blocked parts of two lanes, causing cars in both lanes to swerve to avoid accident. "Who drops a mattress in the middle of the highway and leaves it there?" I wondered aloud.

I prefer to think the best of people, though, so I'm guessing that the perpetrators didn't realize that they had lost the mattress and probably had a big "Oh crap" moment when they reached their destination.

2. While driving home from work on Friday afternoon, along the same busy highway, which is currently undergoing an extensive construction project, there was not one but TWO instances where all of the traffic signs indicated that we were merging down to one lane and that the lane we were losing was the right lane.

In both instances we in fact lost the left lane.

Of course, this created a lot of confusion and bottleneck traffic. Personally, I think the county is lucky they didn't cause any accidents with this kind of ineptitude.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Comfort in Difficult Times

Last night I was watching  a television show where all of the main characters are police officers. One of the policemen was shot, and his female colleague's father stopped by to check on his daughter, fearing for her safety.

At the end of their brief conversation, he father handed her a saint's medallion. I don't recall which one; but I remember that he was the patron saint of lost causes. As he handed the medallion to his daughter, he said, "If you're anything like me, you don't believe in any of this mumbo jumbo. But this has brought me a lot of comfort in difficult times."

The moment really struck me. I'm not a big believer in "mumbo jumbo" either. But I consider myself an agnostic who is open to all possibilities. I don't believe in pretending to know what the right answer is about God, the after life, the purpose of our existence, etc. I feel that people - believers and non-believers alike - who think that they know the absolute truth are just kidding themselves.

At any rate, the reason that this scene in a little TV show struck me is because I have a similar "talisman," if you will. A few years ago, at a Christmas party, I won a "saints" bracelet in a "Yankee swap." I was thoroughly charmed by the trinket.

The thing is that I often find myself wearing my saints bracelet on days when I'm feeling a little down, or on days when I know I might have a tough day, or on days when something big is going to happen. It gives me a great deal of comfort.

I'm not sure why this is. I suppose it's just nice to think that someone might be looking out for you when you need it most. Or maybe, if you get raised with a belief system, there's a part of you that never stops believing, on some level.

I love my saints bracelet. I'll be wearing it tomorrow when my mother has her open heart surgery. I suspect that it will bring me comfort.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Forgotten Observation

The other day I was reading the Maui News and found an amusing article about an 18-year-old man who was pulled over and ticketed for knocking over traffic cones while driving down the Honoapiilani Hwy.

I can only assume that the act was born out of the desperate boredom that only young people can feel. The young man was actually hanging out the window as he drove, knocking over the cones with his hand. Unfortunately for him, he did it in front of an unmarked police car.

By far, however, my favorite part of the news article was a quote from a police spokesperson. It turns out that the young man had been driving without a valid license. Said the police spokesman: "When driving without a valid license, it's best not to draw attention to yourself."

I got a good laugh about that.

Personally, I think that perhaps the best lesson one can take from this is . . . wait for it . . . NOT to drive without a valid license. But what do I know? I don't work for the police department.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Odd Things Observed This Week

The main highway to my home - and the only decent direct route - is currently undergoing a great deal of construction for much of the route. This requires merging, lane-changing, and routes marked off by traffic cones. Perhaps understandably, this often causes confusion and slow traffic.

Driving home from work on Monday, I believe, I witnessed the following. At one part of the trip, one is required to choose between two lanes marked off by traffic cones; the left lane puts you driving against opposing traffic, but is the only lane you can take if you want to go to a town called Haliimaile.

At any rate, I was a few cars behind an SUV that was in the right lane, but decided suddenly - too late - to take the left. They proceeded to cut through a swath of traffic cones, sending several of them flying into the vehicle behind it. Fortunately, the vehicle behind was a large truck, otherwise I think this may have caused an accident. I did notice that the truck proceeded to tailgate the SUV for the rest of the trip, probably because the truck driver was pissed.

"Well, I guess somebody needs to get to Haliimaile," I thought to myself. But no. The SUV passed the Haliimaile turn off and proceeded up the highway, eventually turning at the same road where I turn.

So why did they so desperately need to be in the left lane that they nearly caused an accident? I doubt that they even know the answer to that question.

While driving to work Thursday morning, heard radio announcer read the weather report, in which he stated that we had blue skies (rare at 6:45 a.m. on any day) and that we would see sunny skies and 80 degree weather all day. At the time of this report, it was pouring rain so hard that I had my windshield wipers on high and could still hardly see out the window. It continued to pour rain for most of the morning, with high winds.

I assume that the radio station was playing a morning show out of Oahu, which often has different weather than us. But I prefer to believe that he was here and simply had not bothered to look out the window before reading a report that was written for him. This amuses me.

Ruminated Upon:
I realized today that nearly all of my current female friends either have no siblings, or only have male siblings. I find this strange. As I search my memory, I can think of only one female friend - my childhood best friend - who had all female siblings. The other female friends I can think of who have sisters each only have one, and have at least one brother as well.

I wonder if this means anything. I wonder if it says something about me. Personally, I have no sisters. I wonder if I, in general, do not like women who grew up surrounded by other women. Or perhaps I socialize differently, because I grew up with boys.

But it's probably all just a vast coincidence.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Chimpanzee Attack

I was reading last night about Travis, the chimpanzee now famous for the vicious attack on Charla Nash a couple of weeks ago. I have to admit that I hadn't paid much attention to the story until this week. I am emphatically opposed to keeping wild animals as pets. Therefore, these kinds of stories both anger and sicken me to a point I can hardly tolerate. This whole event was entirely avoidable. Ms. Nash didn't have to be horrifically injured; Travis didn't have to die.

I started paying attention this week after learning the extent of Ms. Nash's injuries. I was telling my husband about it, and he expressed surprise that the chimpanzee could do so much damage. I think that he, like a lot of people, erroneously believes that chimps are small. Travis weighed 200 pounds, had sharp claws, and very powerful jaws. At any rate, the husband's disbelief triggered in me a memory of a similar attack that occurred a few years ago, so I looked it up.

St. James Davis was attacked by two chimpanzees in 2005, when he went to visit his chimpanzee "son" Joe in a sanctuary (Joe had been removed from the Davis household by the state, although Joe had been part of their family for 30 years virtually without incident).  

When I looked up the Davis attack, I was shocked to discover that Mr. Davis's injuries were almost a mirror image of Ms. Nash's. Mr. Davis lost an eye, his nose, his lips, and several of his fingers. One of his feet was also badly mangled and now has a MRSA infection, so he may lose it. Ms. Nash has lost her eyelids, her nose, her lips, and her hands (I assume they were so badly mangled that they had to be amputated). She may also have brain damage.

I find this morbidly fascinating. I guess that this is just how chimpanzees fight: they go for the face and the hands. It makes sense, I guess, in a very instinctual way. Take out the eyes, your opponent can't see to fight you. Take out the lips, they probably won't be able to bite you. Take the fingers, they won't be able to grasp or claw you.

And that's the thing. People are talking about how Travis "went crazy." He didn't go crazy. He's a chimpanzee. He was being a chimpanzee. As human-like as primates can be, they don't have rational thought like we do. If I get mad or jealous, I'll most likely stew in the feelings for a while; I might even say something mean. But I'm very unlikely to attack someone. A chimpanzee gets mad or jealous, they don't sit around thinking, "God, so and so was such a bitch to me!" They attack. It's instinct.

It's all just so sad. I wonder if we as Americans will ever learn that just because we WANT something doesn't mean that we deserve it, or that it is good for us. No one NEEDS a tiger in their backyard or (I shudder to even think that she did this) a chimpanzee taking a bath with them. Let wild animals be wild.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Happy Feet

It occurred to me the other day that, when and if we ever move back to the mainland, I think that one thing I will definitely miss is bare feet.

I love walking around barefoot. I love wearing open-toed shoes pretty much all the time. Even in cold, rainy Portland, I chafed against having to wear enclosed shoes, although it was obviously a necessity. On the few occasions I've worn socks and shoes since I moved to Hawaii, it's felt weird. My feet balk at the very thought.

I tried to take a picture of my happy, bare feet, but my feet ended up not looking happy enough, so I've decided not to include it with this post.

But trust me, they'll be sad feet if we ever move back to a colder climate. They will likely begin to demand pedicures again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Career Love

This morning I was reflecting on love. Appropriate, I guess, on the eve of the one day each year we take to officially celebrate the concept.

I decided a few years ago that the only point to being alive is love. I mean, really, what better thing is there in the world than what you love? It doesn't have to be romantic love. You can love your friends, you can love what you do, you can love where you are, you can love yourself, and you can certainly love your children, if you have them.

I've always figured that, as long as you have love, you're good. But as I was thinking about it this morning, I realized that while I have love, I haven't been doing so good. I know that it must be no secret to anyone who knows me well enough that I've been pretty melancholy lately. It's not really a new phenomenon, per se. I have felt bouts of melancholy on and off throughout my life, some more severe than others. This just happens to be one of the more severe ones.

A lot of my friends seem to assume that the majority of the problem is my husband - an interesting commentary, I think, on how they perceive our relationship. They are, however, wrong. My perpetually patient and supportive husband is not the problem. 

I think that a decent portion of the melancholy can be attributed to my homesickness for Portland, something which I'm surprised to still feel so strongly after 7 months. But the biggest portion of the problem is actually my job.

I hate my job. I hate my job so much that I literally dread going to it every morning and can hardly drag myself out of bed. I hate it so much that a part of me secretly hopes to get laid off, despite the fact that this would have a severe, negative impact on our financial situation. But that part of me doesn't care. That part of me can't stomach the thought of another minute of working a job that is as infuriating as it is pathetically boring and unfulfilling.

I've come to realize that I have never worked a job that I love. There have certainly been jobs that I have liked parts of - beloved co-workers, a fun atmosphere, accomplishments I've been proud of. But I've never had a job that speaks to my heart. I've never had a job that involves the things that I actually find interesting - sports, crime, history, reading, pop culture, politics, etc.

Really, it's kind of sad, when you think about it. I've spent 16 years of my life in the working world, and I haven't really enjoyed all that much of it. I suppose most people feel the same way. No wonder they drink so much and take so many drugs!

But I'm not interested in "medicating" the pain away. I want to fix the problem. I want to do something that I love. I'm not sure yet how I'm going to do it, but I'm pretty certain that I can find a way. Life really is too short to feel this miserable all the time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Aloha Spirit

I've been struggling a lot lately with the concept of "aloha spirit" that is so frequently talked about in Hawaii. I know that people like to think of Hawaii as somehow different from everywhree else. In a lot of ways, it is, but I'm not convinced that it's different in the way that people want it to be. Here is a series of events that has led me to question how "different" Hawaii really is from anywhere else:

In late December, a Kahului man shot to death his own 19-year-old son in a dispute over, of all things, the son having left a game controller on the floor. It was the first murder on Maui in 2008, but it was followed shortly by:

The first murder of 2009. A Kahului woman stabbed her boyfriend to death in a dispute over her alcoholism.

On New Year's Eve, my roommate's car was broken into. About a week and a half later, it was stolen (presumably by the same people) and has not been recovered. I doubt we'll ever see it again. (Don't feel too bad. It was a POS car, only $800, and he didn't even have it insured.)

Last week, a man followed another man into the store where my husband works and started a fight with him that broke one of the store's window frames. It turns out to have stemmed from a road rage incident, although witnesses all felt that the instigator was high on drugs.

And I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've had people tell me how jealous they are that I live in Hawaii. It honestly perplexes me. In the most basic sense, Hawaii is no different than anywhere else. For the most part, you can't get by without a job. I don't know anyone here who spends all day on the beach. We all work. We all go to the store. We all sit home some nights and watch TV. And we all have problems.

Hawaii isn't some magical place that's outside the normal realm of human existence. Maybe if you could be on permanent vacation it would be, but that's not reality for 99% of the human race.

So does "aloha" really exist? I think it does. But I just see it as basic kindness. I've lived in other places where people are just as friendly and genuine. And I've lived in other places where they're not as friendly or genuine. I haven't seen anything special yet, but here is a nice story to leave you with:

In November, we were in the middle of a move that left our bank account briefly depleted. I went to Costco to buy some rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, not knowing that they don't take credit cards (I never shopped at Costco before moving here) and unaware that my husband hadn't deposited the cash our roommate had given him, as he had told me he would. Needless to say, when I got to the checkout, I didn't have enough cash to buy both bags of rolls that I wanted. It was excrutiatingly embarrassing. I was fumbling for the cash to buy just one bag when the lady in line behind me graciously gave me the money to cover the second bag.

It's two months later, and I still feel so grateful.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And the Scandal Deepens....

Last week, a "group of Maui residents" (as the Maui News described them) initiated a petition to have county council member Wayne Nishiki impeached, based on the late filing of his financial disclosure.

Really, color me shocked. I never thought it would get this far. I have to admit that I have a hard time understanding where all of the moral outrage is coming from here. Are people angry about the perceived deception, or about the possibility that one of our council members could "owe" something to the biggest, baddest development company on the island?

Whether it's the former or the latter, I'd be really dumbfounded to discover that people on Maui are somehow ridiculously naive, as compared to the rest of the country. Do you really think politicians never deceive, never use smoke and mirrors, never fudge the truth? And what is politics if not deal-making and compromises done behind closed doors? Honestly, you'd think the island of Maui had never seen a political scandal before.

Maybe I'm just a cynic. But I don't think what Nishiki did was all that bad. And I certainly don't think it's worth an impeachment. A reprimand, certainly, but impeachment? Seems a touch dramatic to me.

At any rate, I was feeling a little suspicious of the motivations of the people leading the impeachment charge. The Maui News did not identify the group, and listed their leader only as "Dave Mackwell," without any explanation of who he is or how he's associated with the situation. 

So I followed the newspaper's link to the impeachment group's website. (Sorry, no link; I don't care attach it to my blog.) They also fail to identify themselves as anything other than "angry Maui residents." They make no mention of Dave Mackwell. However, they do take great pains to note that they are "in no way affiliated" with Don Couch, Nishiki's opponent in the hotly contested battle for the council seat that Nishiki won.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, methinks they doth protest too much.

So I started doing a little digging around on the Internet, and here's what I discovered. Dave Mackwell is a former board president of the Kihei Community Association. Don Couch currently serves on the board of the Kihei Community Association. How interesting.

Now, I don't have any conclusive evidence at this point which would prove that they served on the board at the same time, but it appears as though they did. They both seem to have been on the board within the last few years, and I gather that they may have overlapped for at least one of those years. It's a small board. I find it hard to believe - if they did serve at the same time - that they didn't get to know one another.

Which leads me to ponder: Does the Mackwell group's drive to impeachment really have nothing to do with Don Couch? And if these two men do in fact know one another, isn't this just as deceptive as what Nishiki did?

And, seriously, what's up Maui News? I found out this info by using Google. You might want to try it. Scandal sells papers, you know!

Will update when and if I find out more on this topic.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

33 Going on 13

One of my brothers was complaining to me the other day that his co-workers were making fun of him for bringing his lunch to work. Now, it's a firmly well-established fact that my brother works with a bunch of petty idiots, but I found this particular incident rather perplexing. How could grown adults possibly consider this something to make fun of?

I thought about it for a while, and it struck me that the last time I ran into this kind of attitude was when I was in junior high. Back then, it was "uncool" to bring your lunch to school. Only losers did that. I remember because we were pretty poor growing up. I couldn't afford hot lunch, so I was definitely one of those uncool losers. But I also remember leaving that attitude behind a long time ago. In fact, pretty much everywhere I've ever worked as an adult, bringing one's lunch to work was the norm.

This line of thought brought me to something my husband is frequently saying. I belong to an on-line forum where there is a fair amount of drama and stupidity. Whenever I complain about this to my husband, he says, "Well, everybody is 13 online." Which, when you think about it, is an apt description of many online encounters.

So this has got me to thinking. I wonder if, on the inside, we're all still 13 years old? Of course, some of us are better at controlling it than others, and some are better at hiding it than others. But what if our inner 13-year-old lurks there all the time, just waiting to burst forth when our guard is down?

I definitely see mine in me. She's been around a lot lately.

I don't like my 13-year-old self all that much. She's not who I want to be. I remember other selves that I like better. There was my 20-year-old self, who traipsed off to another country and finally learned how to make real friends. She was pretty cool. And there was my 23-year-old self, who moved to Portland with little more than a job and two suitcases, who managed to build a nice life for herself. She was a lot braver than she realized at the time. Then there was my 29-year-old self, who learned to stand on her own again. She had a couple of pretty good years, despite a few hardships.

I know all those selfs I admire are still in there too. So I wonder why the 13-year-old still resonates so loudly, these 20 years later?