Friday, July 24, 2009

It's a Number Game

It's funny how we get attached to or repulsed by certain numbers. For example, if you go out on a date, it's not cool to go as a threesome as one person ends up having to hold "chochin" the proverbial third wheel lantern.

In Japan, people don't like the number four (shi) as the character is part of the phrase "shinuru" which means to die so to live on the fourth floor or in apartment four does not bode good fortune. Just as we skip the 13th floor, they do the same for the 4th floor.

In America, people don't like the number 13 as it is the number of misfortune. Examine the level of tension when Friday, the 13th rolls around and it has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. People just get freaked by it and it seems as though the anxiety attracts negative energy.

The Chinese like the number 8 "fat" which means good luck. Our favorite restaurant in Hilo, the Sky Garden Restaurant, does not have their name in the phone book. But now we can remember the phone number which is filled with fat 8s...935-8888!

When we moved from Oahu to the wild rainforest of Volcano, everything was put right when our box number was the same number as my favorite sister's house number in Hawaii Kai. Coincidence? Perhaps but the move has been a good one since 1981 and we have kept the same box number.

Of course, we always think that we are getting a bargain when we need to pay only $29.99 for a product instead of the devilish higher price which is only a penny more. Have you stood in the aisle in a supermarket trying to figure out the real price per unit for an item? Which one is really cheaper per unit? This is where math skills are really important. From the newspaper, we read about how manufacturers are leading us astray with 20% more per package, cases of beer with only 20 containers. Numbers, numbers, numbers! Things are achanging but are we smart enough to figure it out?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Love of Food, Food of Love

Life is unfair! Why is eating so pleasurable and satisfying? Why is losing weight so torturous, lonely, and depressing? It is easy to intake calories with sweet or savory tidbits. It is difficult to ignore commercials displaying pictures of pizzas, fried chicken, and burgers dripping with fat when trying not to eat. It is so unfair.

In Hawaii, food is often the expression of love. A mother cooking for her family enjoys watching her kids eat with gusto as they laugh, talk, tease each other around the dining room table. Food is the expression of her love. It doesn't matter if it took a couple of hours to prepare the food that might be demolished in 40 minutes. It is the social interaction that is part of the eating of the food.

In celebrating my 60th birthday, I asked my kids if they would help me to put on a party to gather friends and family. They agreed so we proceeded. Our park reservation form listed about 40 people attending. Our RSVP list had about a hundred people. Over 100 people showed up and that does not include the 20 or so people who said they were coming and didn't show up. Needless to say, we had a packed house. We did all the food ourselves. Grilled steaks with garlic and lemon, pineapple teriyaki chicken, bean penne casserole for the vegetarians, bean salads, deviled egg salad, sweet potato salad, smoked octopus, rice. Our appetizers included a kimchee medley - tofu, cabbage, seaweed, and cucumber kim chee plates, seared blackened fish, ono cerviche, warabi salad, guacamole and chips. My kids worked hard to grill the steaks. People we hadn't seen in years came and talked to new friends. A loner came and found friendly smiles and listening ears for the evening. We ended the meal with cake, a homemade carrot cake, and platters of gourmet cookies. Wow. Love was flowing. From the hands that made the food, the people who brought the food, the people who ate the food with great appreciation...

For all the enjoyment, we pay the price of having to lose the weight for the eating of the poi. But life is short. Enjoy, enjoy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tribulation and Triumph

Murder in our community, a most heinous event. It rocks us to our very souls. When we know the people affected by the murder, we take it personally. Perhaps we did not really know the victim but we know her mother, her grandfather, her aunt, her cousin, and we really feel for them. The loss, the tragedy, the waste of it all, the devastation, the violation. We cry tears that sneak down our cheeks and we try not to sob or sniff loudly and have others spy on our show of sorrow.

Yet in the wake of the murder...the death, the mother smiles and thanks the people who have come to the funeral. Heartfelt embraces, tears, whispered words of love and encouragement. In the midst of such a loss, love emerges from the ashes of devastation and fills us with hope that there is indeed a God.

In the Hawaiian tradition, we eat together after the funeral. Cooking, eating, and talking are all forms of love. We sit together and talk, perhaps of other things, and yet, we secretly stash the thought that as soon as we leave the funeral, we will go home and tell our kids, our loved ones, "I love you." Sometimes if we are lucky, someone starts strumming on the ukulele, is joined by someone on the guitar and the music washes away our tears. As the sweet music echoes, someone's aunty stands up to do an impromptu hula. All acts of love in the stream of things. Ending off the event by having dessert washes away the bitterness with dark chocolate and luscious cherries, flavor-packed carrot cake topped off with cream cheese frosting, butter mochi - chewy and creamy.

Going to a Chinese funeral is an adventure. With the Buddhist priests' cymbals and bells clanging, the monotone chanting, the clouds of incense smoke are new experiences for the country jacks from Lahaina. We go outside to burn fake money, paper clothing, a paper car, a paper boat, all things needed by the deceased in the underworld. Chinese like to be prepared. After the funeral, we eat dim sum, luscious pockets of pork, shrimp, and crab with hot mustard sauce, and fragrant hot tea. We eat coconut candy before we leave, the sweetness to combat sorrow.

No matter what culture, a funeral brings together loved ones...ancient animosities are put aside, past injustices are forgotten, we focus on the beautiful memories, and live in the present. In the midst of sorrow and tribulation, love is showered down upon us, washing away the tears, and filling us with gratitude and hope for the future.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Mysterious Refrigerator Raider

Have you ever been plagued by a mysterious raider who steals delectable tidbits from your refrigerator during the dead of night? Remember the piece of chocolate dobash cake that you preciously wrapped and lovingly brought home to eat later after the party? You get your glass of ice cold milk ready and can just about taste the dark chocolate frosting being swirled around your mouth with the creamy swallow of milk. You step to the refrigerator door and yank it open. Where is the cake? You slam things around, looking behind bottles of who knows what, and plastic containers of dessicated treasures from weeks ago....

No cake! Perhaps you made a mistake! Another round of slamming things around here and there. Still no cake!! Disappointment, devastation, depression.

The question is: Who ate my cake?

You stare down all the members of your family. Your husband...he wouldn't dare! Your daughter...nah...she's on a diet! Your son...he hasn't come home from soccer practice, there is too much food still left in the refrigerator. Your, you hid it out of sight.

Hmmmm...the question remains, Who ate my cake?

Friend...accept the fact that there is a mysterious refrigerator raider in the neighborhood who reads our minds and selects the choicest tidbits to steal away in the dead of night.

This afternoon, we are going to dinner to my daughter's house. I had made a salad with corn, beans, sweet peppers, and feta cheese for a picnic yesterday and I made a separate container for our home for Sunday. I promised my daughter we would bring the corn salad. I checked my refrigerator and could not find the salad. I slammed things around. Still no salad.

"Eh Don, did you see the container of corn salad?" I shouted as my husband was going out the door.
"Oh...I ate it," he said matter of factly as if I should have known this fact.
"Did you eat the whole container of salad?" I asked incredulously figuring out that this was about three or four cups of salad in the container.
" Yeah...there wasn't much in the container...I thought it was a leftover," he replied, cocking his head like an inquisitive dog wondering why there was an edge of anger in my voice.

Now I knew who are the corn salad. I will have to scrounge around my cupboard and come up with another salad for Cathy's Sunday Night dinner.

But I still want to know who ate my cake!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

E Mililani Kakou

Did I tell you that I am conducting guerilla warfare against negativity? We are inundated by gloom and doom in the newspaper, on TV...the economy, lack of money and jobs, crime, drugs, people being nasty to each other. How can we even be hopeful when we are being crushed under negative, hope robbing information.

Therefore my campaign for positivity started with a public declaration. Now what I am doing is giving people I know a bumper sticker that says, "E mililani kakou....Let's all give thanks." I have a little saying posted near my desk that reminds me that "All sorrow disappears in the awareness of your blessings." For that, how can we not give thanks. From my office window, I can see the green pasture, the horses that come to graze, the leaves from the tall eucalyptus trees flitting down to earth like single winged butterflies, the gentle rains.

I am going to see how many people put the bumper sticker on their cars. I am going to see how many people take on the phrase or comment on it. "E mililani kakou" I am going to see how many people will join in by publicly declaring to battle negativity by the campaign to spread the attitude of gratitude. We cannot wait for others to begin change. Change begins with us. This very minute!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ain't it funny how things turn out?

If wishes could come true, would life be any different from how it is now? Some of the things in my life which I thought were the most devastating had really good endings such as a tragic divorce that lead to a second marriage that was better than the first.

Some times, the things we may wish for may not be what would be best for us in the end such as a chance to go to an exotic place and end up suffering from the trots the entire duration of the trip?

I guess what I am saying is to accept life as it happens. Look for the good in the seemingly sad or sorrowful events. Rejoice and be thankful when things go right knowing and accepting the fact that I had nothing to do with what went right. People who are always critical and grouchy probably have digestive problems so don't align with people who give you a stomache. Head up, face forward, head into the wind!!