Monthly Archives: June 2012

Dwelling on Beauty

Dwelling on Beauty

I started out this blog with a question, but I’ve learned it was the wrong question. Why does a colorful sunset, or the morning sun on the face of a mountain evoke emotion? A baby’s smile, a flower with morning dew, a waterfall’s mist, the different shades of green in a forest, bright stars splashed across a black sky, staggering mountain peak views, slow meandering rivers, a vibrant butterfly, the rich hues of a shallow reef, the powerful curl of waves, the flame of a campfire…why are we attracted to beautiful things? What is it about beauty that draws us in and somehow brings relief and happiness to the moment?

But the question shouldn’t be “why do we feel good when we see beautiful things,” because the answers that will come about are scientific – our brains are attracted to mathematic symmetry and feel more at ease when we see these things in architecture, art, and nature – butterfly wings, people’s faces, sunflowers, a conch shell. We are subconsciously attracted to things that are in harmony with some universal order we’re probably not even aware of. But that answer does nothing to help live a better and fuller life. So what should the question be? I suppose it should be, “if there are things that exist that we feel are beautiful, and they bring an element of peace to our day, then how can we live a life with more beauty and less ugliness?”

I can get out of my car, grab my paddle, walk through the parking lot, jump in whichever boat I’ve been assigned that practice, and start powering away to the inevitable breathless state I end up in by the end of practice, and never once pick up my head to realize I’m in the middle of a sea of vivid blues and greens, under an equally vibrant blue sky with sprays of white in the clouds mirroring the ocean foam from the waves below. I could go through an entire outrigger canoe paddling practice and never pay attention to the beauty that surrounds me. Or I could look around and be mindful of the gift I am a part of. We can be a part of beauty and let it be a part of us merely by mindfulness and awareness.

But let me challenge myself to one more layer of thought. Beauty doesn’t just make us happier, it makes us better. By watching the rays of the sun stream through the clouds and shroud the ocean with sparkles of reflection, I am elevated from a creature of survival to a deeper soul-filled creation. Beauty finds the corners of our souls that speak of love and grace and depth and wholeness, and we feel connected to our world by a web of life.

Philosopher Elaine Scarry suggests an encounter with beauty, in any of its forms, “call us to an intensity of consciousness, to a sense of life’s utter preciousness and amplitute, actually prompting us to replicate the beauty we see. It ignites our desire for truth and fuels our desire to repair the damage done by injustice.” When we witness beauty, we are transformed to better versions of ourselves than before we saw it. We become more alive, more connected, more appreciative, more receptive, more humble, more curious, more generous and maybe even a little more loving.

Mother Teresa, the Truest of Heroines

Mother Teresa, the Truest of Heroines
Anyway by Mother Teresa

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

This is a look at one of the true heroines of our time, Mother Teresa. She was born in Macedonia in 1910, and felt guided to take her vows as a nun at age 21. She actually worked as a high school teacher of a private school until she felt another calling at the age of 38 to work with and serve the poor just outside the high and protective walls of the school in Calcutta. In her words, she wanted to help “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” After getting permission to leave the school, she began an open-air school for slum children, and depended entirely on volunteer help and donations for her efforts, even to the point of begging for her own food. Two years later, the Catholic church allowed her to establish her own order, the Missionaries of Charity, which consisted of 12 nuns.

As contributions and volunteers continued in a steady stream, Mother Teresa was able to expand her missions and service to include what she called “the poorest of the poor.” In India, these were known as the untouchables, the people that were believed to be riddled with disease and death, and touching them at all was culturally wrong.

What makes Mother Teresa so different from so many of us was that societal stigmas didn’t dictate her actions, and certainly didn’t affect her love of all people everywhere. She did not care what religious, economic, educational or cultural background people were from – certainly not the typical Catholic stigma; she saw it as her job to love people as much as she believed God loved them, and saw in each of them “the face of Jesus.” She helped to feed and care for the lowliest of people that had all but been discarded as trash, and she did it without hesitation. She gave the gifts of comfort, humanity and dignity to people that believed themselves to be unworthy, and with a simple hug would often bring a person to immediate tears because they had forgotten the feel of human touch. She respected people’s religious backgrounds, and buried them according to their own religion, not hers. Mother Teresa encouraged people to “love until it hurts,” and when questioned about how she preached, she replied, “Preach at all times…and when necessary use words.” She was a true woman of action, and loved through serving others her whole life until she died at the age of 87 in 1997. She wanted no praise or fame for her efforts, only help to add to her efforts.

It was my childhood dream to meet this wonderful woman – now I’ll have to settle for visiting her mission site in Calcutta. She inspires me to love harder and give more – unconditionally – and to see each and every person as a loved creation. She truly put her love into action, and I hope I can look back on my own life with even a shadow of love for others as hers was.

Today the Missionaries of Charity consists of 4,500 sisters, tens of thousands of volunteers, and is active in 133 countries. They all vow to give “wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.”

Some of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa:

  • I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
  • Intense love does not measure, it just gives.
  • Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. (She went on to say that for this reason, the U.S. is one of the most poverty-stricken countries.)
  • Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.
  • Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.
  • Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.
  • If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
  • There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic. We believe our work should be our example to people.
  • In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.
  • Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world.
  • If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.
  • A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.

Words Hurt

Words Hurt

As the saying goes, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Words, however, can be some of the most painful and damaging weapons in relationships, and they can leave psychological scars that don’t heal for years. Those scars leave people feeling unsure of themselves as they doubt and even forget their own self worth.

Verbal abuse takes many forms beyond the stereotypical outright yelling at someone in a derogative way. It can be name-calling, criticizing, belittling, continual correcting, denouncing, or even ignoring and withholding words from a loved one. Unfortunately, many people that are currently in verbally abusive relationships don’t even realize it. Studies show that often the women who stay in these relationships are stronger in nature and therefore more determined to make their partner understand them. They think if they can just try a little harder, or listen a little better, or share a little more, that their partner won’t be so upset with them all the time.

Another unfortunate nature of these relationships is that out in public, the verbal abuser often portrays himself (or herself) as the nice guy that everyone likes. It’s only behind closed doors that he asserts his control over his partner. As Patricia Evans, a verbal abuse author and expert says, “Nice and friendly is the persona of many an abuser.” Many friends and family members are often surprised when a verbal abuse victim comes out and begins sharing what her life behind the closed doors has been like.

That creates an even more confusing environment for the partner because she knows her boyfriend or husband to be a very likable guy, so she must be the one with the problem. This confusion is referred to as “crazy-making.” The verbal abuser tells his partner she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, or that she doesn’t listen or pay attention to him, or that she’s stubborn and always has to have things her way, when in fact none of what he has said is true. The verbal abuser isn’t communicating to speak truths or to lift up his partner, he is using his words to establish control and power. His words serve him for no other reason than to establish a one-upmanship power play. The abused partner takes his words as equal communication and thus believes them…and she begins to wonder what is true and what isn’t. After a while she can’t tell the difference between his false assertions and reality. Crazy-making.

What to do? There are many books out there on the subject, Patricia Evans is my favorite author on the subject. But most of all, there is counseling and your support network. Victims have often lost the most precious of things, their self worth. It is going to take time and a loving environment where you can relearn to love yourself and understand you are God’s gift and loved one. You have to love yourself before you can love others, and that is much more difficult to do that it might seem right now.

Trust Your Gut

Trust Your Gut

I went hiking with my friend Heidi yesterday. We decided to do a shorter hike so we could sit and talk at the top while enjoying some amazing views and catching up with each other because I hadn’t seen her since Christmas time. The pictures are from the hike where we sat – not too shabby! I’ve met a few strong, intelligent, down-to-earth women in my life, but Heidi is right up there at the top. I admire her so much for her wisdom, and she said something yesterday that stuck with me and is the topic of today’s blog…trust your gut. She’d been looking to buy a house, and learned the hard way the first time by not trusting her gut about a certain house, which ended up infested with termites soon after she purchased it. Now she’s looking again and suddenly said to me, “You know what? I really just need to trust my gut, because I already know what it’s saying, and the house I looked at this morning is not the right one for me.”

The more I thought about her words, the more I realized that I’d stopped listening to my gut, let alone trusting it, a while ago. I often find myself doing and saying what I feel like I should, not necessarily what I know or feel is right for me. According to one study, intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level and so is a real psychological phenomenon. Researchers conclude that intuition is the brain drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision – but one that happens so fast the reaction is at a non-conscious level. All we’re aware of is a general feeling that something is right or wrong. You hear stories all the time about a girl who had a bad feeling about a man, and then later discovered he was a serial rapist. Or doctors who make a surgery decision based on their gut and save lives.

When we face a fork in the road of Life and have to choose one way or the other, our gut often knows what we want or what’s best for us. I’ve looked back on tough decisions I made that I took a long time to deliberate, and I see that I really knew what I wanted all along, I just didn’t listen to my gut. So how to hone this important little skill? I definitely know what not to do. Don’t shush yourself up, don’t live on the should train, don’t cram your life with so much noise that you can’t hear yourself think, and don’t continually go to others asking what they would do. Thus the to-do list is relatively straightforward. Listen to yourself, and give yourself the space in your life to hear your own thoughts. Don’t drown out your own voice through tv and movies and social events. Trust in yourself. It’s always good to get another perspective on your life when you share with friends and family, but you can’t lean entirely on their suggestions or opinions…because Lord knows there’s plenty of those out there! Your opinion for your own life is the one you should listen to first and foremost. Of course your friends and family are there for you and (hopefully) want the best for you, but they are not in your head, and they are not you. What do you think? Write it down. Come back to it and see if it’s changed…I’ll bet it hasn’t if you were honest with yourself. This is my goal – to start listening to my gut, and then to take action with what I know to be right for me.

Happiness is a Choice

Happiness is a Choice

Have you ever heard of the saying that you’re getting in the way of your own happiness? Turns out, there’s something actually to that. Most of us, including me, go through life without much thought to what emotions we feel and what thoughts we think – emotions and thought are things that just sort of come and go as they please when and where they want. We eat an ice cream cone on the beach and we feel happy, we put our dog down because he’s sick, and we feel very sad. The emotion isn’t something we control, it’s just the natural consequence of the circumstances…or is it? The idea that we actually have the ability to control our own thoughts and emotions is a foreign concept – at least to this Irish Catholic raised in a very pragmatic world.

If I’m in a car accident, I face two possible reactions. I can feel upset at the person who hit me, as well as the probable increase in insurance I’ll face, and the inconvenience of the time my car will need to be in the shop. OR…I can feel grateful that I am alive and that my only injuries are ones that will heal, as well as that the other person is not injured either, and that we both get another chance to live and enjoy life. I have the choice of how to respond and how to think and feel, and that choice will decide my thoughts and emotions, and consequently my level of happiness.

People often feel that amidst difficult circumstances, they should feel badly. Thus they steer their thoughts into a negative sphere and invite in emotions of sadness, anger, and bitterness. All it takes, though, is one look at some of the Holocaust survivors, and the stories of hope and happiness that grew out of the worst possible circumstances to see how possible it is to control our own happiness. The video I attached is a moving example. Alice Herz Sommer was a prisoner for 2 years with her son, and sought laughter and happiness in the middle of the worst of the worst.

Maybe you are in a failing marriage, or you are running ragged with toddlers on two hours of sleep, or working with less-than-uplifting coworkers and bosses…you still have the choice of how you are going to respond. Circumstances won’t make you happy; think about the rich rockstars that commit suicide and do drugs to escape from their world. So let’s say today that we choose not to be miserable, but instead will steer our thoughts and feelings toward happiness. You are special, you are loved, and there is no reason for you not to experience the state you were created to live in – peace, joy, and happiness.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8

The Life You Chose

The Life You Chose

It’s true that there are some people in this world living a life that they did not choose, but instead one that is forced upon them. But the people reading this blog will mostly be in the category of living out of free will. It’s so easy to catch myself saying, and hear other people saying things like, “I don’t have enough time to do the things I want to do,” or “If I only had a better job,” or “I’m too tired today,” or “When he/she changes, things will be better,” or “When I start making money, then I can focus on my dreams.” If we’re even thinking we can do something, it’s either our job, or our relationship, our family, or something external that seemingly needs to change first in order for us to finally be happy and live the life we have always imagined. But the truth is, there is no blame to dish out here except right back at ourselves. The life you are currently living is the life you have chosen to live.

That can be a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people. “Wait, you mean this is MY fault?!” Yes. Of course there are the exceptions of forced marriages, and even (sickeningly as it is to think about) still situations of slavery. But if you don’t fall under either of those categories or some other extreme exception, this is your play, you are the leading character, and you have not only chosen the set, but also most of the characters in your play. The plot, admittedly, is a bit out of your hands…you’re not God or any Divine Mind after all.

This concept is especially difficult for people in abusive situations. They did not marry a person hoping to be yelled at, or hit, or ignored, or criticized. Then how is it that the situation in which they find themselves is their fault? Please don’t think me callous when I reiterate that it is their choice to be in that relationship, and it is a choice to keep a shitty job and take no action but to complain about it. It is a choice to eat meals in front of the tv and lose touch with your family, or eat when you feel depressed and add weight, or bury yourself in piles of work that keep you from home, or to seek out strangers for one-night stands when you feel lonely. Our mistakes are still our choices- bad ones, but their ours, and until we accept responsibility for them, we will be stuck in a blame cycle of pointing our fingers outside of ourselves while becoming more and more bitter inside at the disappearing dreams we will never achieve. OUCH!

I can think of one exception – addiction – when our choices have led our bodies into dependency on a substance to the point where choice to quit is no longer enough. But even recovery programs focus on accepting responsibility for ourselves in order to ultimately become better people. There have even been studies on abuse and how it can be addictive to the victims in ways that require immediate counseling and support to help get you healthy and in one piece again. If this is you, please seek help from friends, family and professionals.

The good news? It isn’t too late. Your play is not over, and the script is not set. You are writing it every new day, and you will wake up tomorrow with another chance at this game of Life. Ask yourself one question, “Am I living the life I want?” If you don’t like your answer, change something. Today I take responsibility for living the life I’ve chosen.

Another good blog on this: Choose the Life you Really Want

Pain is Not a Bad Thing

Pain is Not a Bad Thing

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “How could there be a loving God when there is so much pain in the world?” This statement automatically places pain on the opposite side of love and goodness, and instead confines it to a purely bad element. But what if it’s not bad? What if it’s necessary, and maybe even has rays of goodness woven into it?

A child burns his hands on a hot stove, and the pain hurts, but the lesson is immediate, and not likely to be repeated. Through pain we learn about our own physical limits and understand our mortality. An athlete begins to strain his legs through overtraining and feels shin splints. Through his pain he learns that he either needs to cross-train in ways to ease up on his legs, or maybe even that his shoes are too worn for proper support anymore and he needs new gear. A woman feels pain at the slap or yelling from her husband, and she uses her internal pain to give her the strength she has lacked to pack up and start a new life without him. Our country was unified on the pain brought about by 9-11. There are equally as many illogical painful situations…one of the biggest being a child dies, and a parent is left with confusion and pain at why such a thing could happen.

I could make a list of examples of pain for days and never finish because pain is a part of this world; it’s a part of our daily lives. When did we as a society get the notion that such an everyday aspect of life is bad? Just look at our commercials. You feel a headache? Take a pill to make the pain go away. You feel depressed? Take a pill to dull the pain. You feel lady cramps? Take a pill to keep living “normally” (which I generally have zero problem doing…taking pills, that is, not living normally). If you feel any pain whatsoever, take a pill and do something to immediately get rid of the pain. Yes, pain in our society has become synonymous with bad and wrong.

But what if we paused for a second to look at pain objectively. Pain can be a powerful indicator that something needs to be changed or adjusted…like the abused woman or the injured athlete. It can serve as an alert that our bodies need to be evaluated – like an indicator to a cancer or disease that needs attention. It can also be humbling and keep us grateful for what we have. I am experiencing cramps not because God hates me each and every month, but because I have in me the ability to create and nourish a new life. Once emotion can be separated from the pain, it’s easier to step back and see it as a byproduct of the natural world we live in. This is obviously easiest to do with physical pain. I have often told myself during triathlons, “Ok, Amy, the pain and strain you feel right now is just your new norm, and it’s going to be like this for the next 1-2 hours. Just accept that this is your new level of normal, and think about other things other than the pain itself.” One of my favorite movies from my college days, G.I. Jane (I used to want to be her!) quotes this, “Pain is your friend, your ally, it will tell you when you are seriously injured, it will keep you awake and angry, and remind you to finish the job and get the hell home. But you know the best thing about pain? It lets you know you’re not dead yet!”

So if we can’t avoid pain, and shouldn’t just try to cover it up with pills to ignore or get rid of it, then what do we do with it? We can see it not as a symptom to be treated and eliminated, but rather a natural life element. It is not evil, not wrong, it is as natural as a baby’s laugh, or a tree swaying in the wind. It would be impossible to have the world we live in without pain – if our hearts could feel no heartbreak, they could also feel no love and joy. If our bodies could feel no physical pain, we would surely die of neglect and abuse beyond what our bodies can sustain. We would not know when we are thirsty and hungry, or when we need medical attention. Horrific things happen which cause pain, but that is not God or any other intelligent Mind dabbling its fingers for sadistic pleasure. It is instead a byproduct of our natural world. Death comes randomly and without specific choice because we are mortal beings susceptible to injury and disease.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” –C.S. Lewis

Bucket List

Bucket List

“Man, some day I’d really like to…” I found myself saying that today while reading a new book. It’s been a few years since I wrote my last list, and it’s gotten buried and lost in some half-finished journal somewhere, with no heed paid to what was on the list. The book I just finished, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie, was good in that I learned about an historical figure I knew nothing about – it was informative. Yes, she was Great. And now I have started a new book, leaving Catherine and all her Russian political endeavors behind me. Note: I am the world’s slowest reader…what takes a normal person a couple weeks to read a book will take me months. The one book club I have been a part of, I joined mostly for the wine drinking and gossip. In any case, each and every time I pick up this new book to read, I get excited about the prospect of life and all its possibilities…it’s been a while since a book brought that out of me. Maybe Hunger Games, but I can’t exactly get myself elected in the Reaping to go kill other kids..ok stop Amy, that’s just awful. This book I’m reading now is To the Last Breath by Francis Slakey, and is the chronicle of a man who, at 37, decided to be the first man to climb all of the world’s highest mountains and surf all of the world’s oceans. The point of the book is less about the feats and more that he began his mission a very cold and callous man with the belief that connection to other people is a hindrance to life…and then finds himself and the meaning to his life in the course of these physical achievements. His list and reading about his adventures makes me want to remake my list…and who knows? Maybe even put an item on my calendar? Let’s give this a shot…

Amy’s Bucket List (open to self-editing and additions)…the ones I can remember from the last list that I’ve done are at the bottom

- sleep on a cot attached to the side of a mountain in the middle of an ascent (I got that one from the book and realized I’ve always wanted to try it)
- do missionary-type work in another country
- live in another country
- photograph Aurora Borealis
- ride in a helicopter
- learn to fly a helicopter
- go on a cattle ride with my dad
- ride in a hot air balloon
- dance the tango in Argentina
- be in a flash mob
- take an art class
- make a piece of furniture
- learn how to make Cake Boss type cakes
- learn fluent Chinese and Spanish…and rough Macedonian
- work with abused women to help empower them
- climb Mt. Ranier
- stand on Machu Picchu
- spend the night in an igloo
- have at least one child
- take a homeless person out to eat
- learn to play at least one pretty song on the guitar
- meet a Tibetan monk
- go to Calcutta where Mother Teresa worked and meet the nuns she worked with
- learn to kite-surf
- see a Broadway play on Broadway
- sail from island to island in Greece
- help at least one little girl that wouldn’t otherwise go through college
- complete an Ironman
- perfect my own gluten-free baking
- in all my endeavors, meet new people and friends
– hold a monkey
- walk on the Great Wall of China
- scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef
- kiss the Blarney Stone
- learn Chinese
- sing Karaoke in public
- ride a seadoo
- see Stonehenge
- see Monet’s Bridge Over a Pool of Water Lilies painting
- ride a dolphin

Ok that’s a decent start. Now that I look at it, I think I can actually work on a couple of these. I’d love to see other people’s bucket lists too! (maybe I’ll snag an idea or two!)

Here are two other bucket lists that may also be inspiring:

Unafraid of Myself

Unafraid of Myself

I learned a little life lesson yesterday. A friend of mine here on the island confronted me about my blog and said it was painful for her to read because she could sense the actual pain and confusion I’m going through in my life right now. It was too revealing and consequently too hard for her as my friend to read. My response was surprise, pure surprise. It hadn’t occurred to me until then how my writing has been my emotional outlet, and that there’s been quite an undercurrent of emotion.

But what she said scared me. I found myself scared to write anything yesterday, fearful of being too transparent, or making other friends uncomfortable too. I was paralyzed…not a word found itself through my fingers onto the keyboard. Then last night, as if on cue, I got an email from another friend saying the same thing about my blog – that she could sense unease and pain in my life and how she was concerned for me. But then she went on to say how creative and inspiring my blog has also been. It was at those words I was encouraged and realized my paralysis was self-inflicted. It wasn’t my friend’s comment that caused me to shy away from my thoughts, it was me.

Because there wasn’t much “real talk” growing up, I have always searched for people to be real with in my journey. There is so much superficial small talk, and I crave the real issues – the raw, hard stuff that we all go through but rarely talk about. I have a difficult time verbalizing my thoughts and emotions, so my blog is a forum I can explore and process the hard stuff. When my emotions are materialized, I can start to make heads or tails of what’s going on in my head.

The follow-on question, then, is why publish my thoughts openly out into the world? I have two reasons. One, I’d like to find and meet and dialogue with others going through similar challenges, with whom there can be mutual inspiration and encouragement. Two, there is edification into putting thoughts out into the virtual heavens. Online confessions is a current phenomenon and example. Before the internet, people wrote their thoughts and (sometimes still do) attached them to balloons, or put them into bottles and threw them out to sea. It’s a sort of letting go of yourself into the wide world. I took a friend’s critique because I opened myself up to it by publishing my thoughts online, and I let it stop me and second-guess myself. But I am not afraid of myself and my thoughts are nothing to hide from. So here it is, me into the wide world. No apologies, no excuses, just the journey.

Some Funny Moments

Some Funny Moments

I need to remind myself of some of the more amusing moments I’ve had since I moved back to Hawaii a month ago.

Coffee Kerplunk. Over morning coffee this week, my auntie was showing me all her favorite shells she had collected on the beach for an art project. She hadn’t washed them yet, so they had salty sand and fishy smells all over them. She held up her favorite among the bunch admiring it. I asked if I could look at it closer, and as she handed it to me, I accidentally dropped it…right into my coffee. I’m not sure I’m quite an addict, but I really enjoy my morning coffee – to the point of not wanting to wash down the current cup and drank on with what I could swear was a slightly fishier salty taste. When I was nearly at the bottom, I finally saw the seasoning shell to dig out. One less shell for auntie to clean!

Bathroom Privacy. Sometimes when moving to an island far away from your cars and stuff, you have to find immediate quarters, and often that is with a friend with an extra room if you know someone there. In our case, it was with my husband’s Army buddy Peter. His house, his rules…or so I’ve learned. I’m a relatively private person, so it caught me a little off guard when I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom one evening, and Peter burst through the door, and started peeing into the toilet right behind me. I almost choked on my toothpaste. The thing is, he really could care less – I’ve come down the stairs a few times now where the bathroom door is open and he’s peeing – yep, right there at the bottom of the steps, impossible to avoid. At least I’ve learned to lock the bathroom door!

Bathroom Privacy II. Ala Moana mall is the high-end mall on the island complete with Gucci, Prada and Tiffany’s. I was coming from Apple store buying a computer battery when I popped into the Loo. While sitting there, in the most fancy of shopping centers on the island with millions of dollars of products just feet away, a giant ugly cockroach eased its way across the bathroom stall wall beside me. I tried to jump away but I was not quite finished, so I sat there motionless waiting for the moment to end and I could make my escape. In hindsight I could have just hit the thing, but then it could have fallen on me. Nope, I did the right thing.

Bathroom Privacy III. I have to add one last story because it just happened last night. I was in the taking a shower and had just lathered up my hair when out popped a giant spider on the wall right by the shower head…and by my head. The place I’m staying in has a solar water heater, so there are only about 2 showers of warm water a day…and one was already gone…and I HATE cold water, even in Hawaii. So the warm water trumped my spider fear. Let me add that this was no small daddy long legs or little spider – it was about the length of my fingers…sliding on the wet shower wall threatening to fall to the ground by my feet. I turned my back to the creepy crawler and quickly rinsed out my hair, talking gently to it convinced that my telling it to stay put would be obeyed if I said it nicely. I washed my hair out without incident and jumped out of the shower as fast as I could…then ran up the stairs naked and wet to grab my phone to get a picture for proof. I’m lucky that Peter didn’t happen to walk in at that moment!