In elementary school. I left campus each lunch period to go to the corner convenience store. The principal figured this out and called my parents. They asked him to follow me to see where I was going. He followed me the following day and watched where and what I did. He called them back and reported that I was going to the store and purchasing a jar of pickles with my lunch money and eating them on my way back to school. My parents treated this as a very big deal. They bought me lunch tickets and I was selling them to other students at a discount in order to obtain cash for my pickles. They grounded me for the rest of my life and made me write daily reports on the dangers of leaving campus at lunch. On the last night of my report-writing punishment I had run out of dangers and spent the evening writing about how dangerous wild dog bites could be.
I’ve always had a weakness for dill pickles. It’s that thing that once I start, I can’t stop. I am reminded of this today, decades later. I was at Winco and saw a jar of baby dills. I stopped in my tracks, staring at them as if they were talking to me. I bought two of the big jars. When I came home, I sat down and couldn’t get them out of my head. It’s been three hours and the jar is about empty. I am Jolene and I am a pickle-holic. Thankfully, my children don’t read my blogs.
I’m at that age where I’m increasingly having to care for my parents while still tending to my children. As I’m talking to a case manager at an assisted living facility she said that I’m what’s called an Oreo. This is a specific stage in life and I have many thoughts about it:
My father continues to offer to pay me to manage his schedule and finances. I remind him that he never charged me to do these things when I was little. He thinks that’s funny.
In the last month, I’ve been to five medical facilities to visit four relatives.
In the last two months, I’ve been to five doctor’s offices for one relative.
Nearly every day since May, I have had to navigate complicated school systems for two boys.
At college orientation, we were told by faculty and students to let our kids figure it out on their own and that it’s ok for them to fail. Yeet.
I wonder if my kids will have to one day manage my schedule and finances. Since I have boys, I wonder if I do need help, will they help me or their wives. I better be nice to both.
The minute I’m caught up, another situation requiring my attention pops up. It seems never ending. It also seems like resolution is seldom simple. This is a challenge for someone who is wired for speed.
While this may be the biggest juggling act of my life so far, I kind of like the newness of the experience and the challenge of doing good work in all arenas. Cheers!
I am incredibly excited to announce that I have been recognized as a Book Excellence Award Winner for my book, Seven Bridges in the Young Adult Category.
Out of hundreds of books that were entered into the Book Excellence Awards competition, my book was selected for its high-quality writing, design and overall market appeal.
To view my complete award listing, you can visit their website.
Seven Bridges was released in 2016 and is about a being who journeys through seven lives in order to become enlightened.
Seven Bridges is perfect for young adults and the young at heart. It plays with perceptions and relationships in a unique and creative way.
You can get a copy for yourself on Amazon.
My youngest child uses the pass-through counter from the kitchen to the living room as his own personal study area. I’ve been battling him for years to take everything back to his room when he’s finished. Seldom does he heed my threats. It drives me crazy. A couple of weeks ago, I was walking past the area and grumbling about the clutter. I realized he’ll be moving away for college and I will be clutter-free. No sooner did I think it then sadness overcame me. He won’t be here to make messes. As a result of this epiphany, I haven’t complained since. In fact, I told him about my realization and said that he can keep his clutter there if he wants. And that is when I began creating a list of lasts and a list of firsts.
There will no longer be a need for a morning shower schedule
There will be an empty space in the garage
I won’t have to call the school when he’s sick or late (won’t miss that one…)
I’ll no longer have an errand boy
It’s quite possible that we’ve had our last 4th of July street fireworks celebration as a family
He’ll be living away from his family
He’ll have to shop and prepare food himself (that should be interesting)
He’ll have to do his own laundry (probably won’t – sorry roommates)
I’ll have no idea what his grades are at any given time
He’ll have to find his first job
I keep thinking of more lasts and firsts. This experience has caught me by surprise. Your kids are with you from birth until they move out. That’s a big hole to fill. I’m looking forward to watching him grow and mature. I’m also wondering about all of the adjustments we’ll make on this end without seeing him every day. An interesting point in life.
In high school I participated on the track team. Because I was a sprinter, I worked out with the boys team to push my time down. One day as I was walking to the track, passing the boys locker room one of them spotted me and began singing the song ‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton. The others joined in and their voices resonated off the walls and drifted throughout the area. This is my first recollection of the song and how it related to me. At that time, I had no idea that in nearly every week of my life going forward, someone would ask me about that song.
They ask questions such as:
Have you heard of that song ‘Jolene?’ ‘Yes, yes I have,’ said with a smile.’
Does anyone ever ask you about that song ‘Jolene?’ ‘Yes, all the time.’
Were you named after that song? ‘I was born way before the song came out…’
Do you hate that song? ‘No, not at all.’
I’ll bet you get tired of hearing that song. ‘I really don’t think about it one way or the other.’
Did you take her man? ‘No, I have my own.’
Sometimes, they’ll just break out into singing it to me. It’s such a part of my life, I’m just used to it. I really didn’t analyze my thoughts on this matter until I was on the phone with a customer service representative named ‘Brandy.’ She asked about the song and I gave my usual answer of ‘Yes, I’m always asked about the song,’ and ‘No, I don’t mind at all.’ Then she said she could relate because her name is ‘Brandy.’ I said, “Oh! By Looking Glass. I love that song! In fact, one of the main characters in three books that I’ve written is named Brandy after the girl in that song.” She replied, that her parents had named her that because her dad was a sea captain. I said, “Funny, I named the character Brandy because she was married to a sea captain!” We both laughed at how a song had integrated its way into our lives. With that exchange, I stepped back and began consciously listening to what people would say to me about the song.
As a joke, I downloaded ‘Jolene’ as a ringtone. After the novelty wore off, I changed my ringtone. However, for some unexplained reason, the Bluetooth in my car would begin playing the song every time I started the vehicle. Even my millennial boys couldn’t figure out how to make it stop. Funnier still, I was working in Washington and driving a rental car. Somehow, the Bluetooth in the rental car began playing the song and I couldn’t get it to stop. It would be easy to just turn it off, but I needed the GPS system to help me navigate the several hours that I was driving. If I turned it off, the GPS would stop. So, for several hours I had to hear the song in its entirety over and over and over.
While at a doctor’s office, the receptionist called ‘Jolene’ to which two of us got up and walked over. It turned out we had the same name. This had never happened to either of us before. The first question I asked was, “What is your middle name?’ Her first question to me was, ‘How do you spelled it?’ During our time together, we would look at each other and smile, almost like some kind of sisterhood had instantly developed. There aren’t very many of us out there apparently.
The obvious benefit to this notoriety is that people seldom forget my name. I guess you could call it a great marketing tool. So for that, I thank you Dolly!
Even as a baby, the pictures and videos show me as predominately left-handed. The only other person in my family to be so was my Grandfather. When he was growing up, they forced him to use his right hand for everything, including writing. As a result, his handwriting was terrible. When my mother realized that I too was left handed, she set off on a crusade to ensure that no one attempted to change what came naturally to me. In the first grade, she requested Mrs. Mackey as my teacher because she was left handed. My mother actually interviewed her prior to making the request to confirm that she wouldn’t allow me to curl my hand up and then down the paper like other lefties tend to do.
There are elements of being left handed that only lefties seem to unconsciously do. Here are some examples:
Backing out of the driveway – the three right handed drivers in my family back up cars to their right out of the driveway. I back up to the left. I only realized recently that this was occurring.
Ironing has always been a challenge for me. We have a built-in ironing board and it is designed for righties. I’ve always had to wrap the cord around my wrist to not iron the cord on accident.
Hanging clothes on hangers – I can tell when I’ve hung up clothes or when a righty has. Mine face the opposite of everyone else’s in my family.
Sitting on the ends of the table – when lefties go out to eat, they head for the two corners of the table that allow their left hand to extend out the most. You recognize a lefty because we all do it. If, as a lefty, you’re confronted with another lefty who wants that same spot, there is a momentary look of surprise that you actually have to deliberate who gets the choice seat. The reason for this is that as a lefty, when you’re sitting with a righty on your left side, you have to be more careful with your cutlery, otherwise you’ll keep elbowing your neighbor.
Desks at school – in college, the lefties would come in early to try to get one of the two desks that were designed for left handers. If you weren’t early enough, you had to sit in the right-handed desks and turn your body sideways to write. It was funny watching a righty accidentally sit in one of the lefty desks, realize it and pop up to find a ‘normal’ one.
Researching left-handedness didn’t really reveal anything I felt was statistically relevant. It seems as though studies have shown we’re more creative, better athletes and smarter. While looking at the methodology for such studies, I tend to think no one really knows. But until someone comes up with more definitive answers, lets go with that.
March 7, 2019
We left at 6 am from Fresno and arrived in Lihue at 2:15 pm. Walking off the plane and being hit with the humidity was a surprising remembrance of the five previous times I’ve been to Hawaii.
We were picked up at the airport and greeted with lei’s and baseball caps that had the state fish, Humuhumunukunukuapua embroidered on the front. Our hosts took us to dine at Keoki’s Paradise in Koloa. It would turn out to be my favorite restaurant and we would eat there three times during our stay.
Our suite was very nice. We had two bedrooms, walk in closet, two bathrooms, full kitchen, dining room, living room, washer and dryer, and a lanai that spanned the living room and the master bedroom. We were on the top floor (4th) with an unobstructed view of the ocean. We left the patio drapes and windows opened the entire time. It was decadent waking up each morning to that view and having coffee on the lanai.
March 8, 2019
I ran four miles to start my day. There is something about the climate here that lets me run as long as I wish without feeling tired. As I was running, it rained off and on. I was treated with a beautiful full arched rainbow. I would see several more rainbows while on the island.
We drove to Waimea Canyon State Park. It’s often cloudy or raining on this part of the island, but the day we went it was sunny. From the lookouts, and we stopped at every single one, you could see the dynamics of the canyon including the many waterfalls, a multitude of colors from the foliage and the soil. We were told that there are wild boars and goats, but saw neither. This area is called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii.
On the way back, we stopped by a papaya grove. Being from an agricultural area, I was surprised that there was a tree that I did not recognize. I had tasted papaya the day before and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it.
We wanted to purchase fruit from the small stand in the midst of the grove but their prices were crazy high, $8 for an avocado for example.
For lunch, we ate at the Wrangler’s Steakhouse in Waimea. Being that it is a steakhouse, we assumed that the steak would be good, but it was just ok.
On the way back to our suite, we visited Hanapepe for their Friday Night Festival & Art Walk. We got there early and found a place to park. While we were getting out of the car, two women came up and said we would have to move the vehicle in 45 minutes so that a tent could be set up. Because the festival is so popular, parking becomes difficult. We found a spot on a side road so that we could stay longer if desired.
Tucked behind the main road is the Swinging Bridge. It does sway and seems rickety, but looking down to the Hanapepe River below, I calculated that if the bridge did fail, I would survive the fall. It’s only wide enough for one person at a time. Bridge etiquette suggests waiting for others going in the opposite direction as yourself to cross before embarking. The walk was enhanced by keeping my arms up in the air while crossing.
Our final stop in Hanapepe was Talk Story Bookstore which boasts to be ‘Westernmost Bookstore of The United States.’ They sell new and used books. My husband asked if they carried any of my books. They did not. However, they offered to provide a table for me during an upcoming Friday Night Festival so that I could promote my books. If we come back to this island, I will definitely do this! As a side note, there is a cat who lives in the store. Her name is Celeste and she likes to be petted, but only on the face. Celeste added to the charm of the place.
March 9, 2019
Just down the road from our condominium on the South Shore in Poipu is the Spouting Horn. It’s a blowhole that created by a hole in the lava along the shoreline. The spout can rise to 50 feet. There is a guardrail that prevents people from getting too close. From the lookout you can also see seals and sea turtles. Along the path to the guardrail are several vendors. One said it costs $3,500 per month for the table and $3,000 per month for daily set up/take down service. We marveled at how much they would have to sell to break even. Good thing there is a steady stream of buses bringing cruise ship tourists to visit this place.
For lunch we ate at Savage Shrimp where ‘The best coconut shrimp in the world’ is made. It’s this little, unassuming eatery where you order at the counter and they bring your entrees to your table. There aren’t very many tables. The coconut shrimp was good, but I wouldn’t say best in the world. Fun little vibe though.
Late afternoon we went to Sunshine Helicopters where we had a 55 minute tour of the island. From the air we saw Waimea Canyon, many waterfalls including Manawaiopuna which is the iconic one shown in the Jurassic Park movies, and the Na Pali Coast which can only be reached by sea. It is good to get this aerial perspective of the island early in your trip. Especially because much of the beauty can only be seen from this vantage. There is a military base on the east side of the island. The helicopters and water vessels must steer clear of it. It’s called Pacific Missile Range Facility and apparently monitors activity far and wide. We were told that the equipment there is so powerful that it has affected pacemakers recently. It’s said that you can’t see anything at the facility but that you can occasionally hear things.
From the air we could see the results of torrential rain nearly a year ago. Kauai now holds the record for the most rainfall in a 24-hour period, 49.69 inches. It washed out roads, caused massive flooding and left an entire community stranded. While they continue to repair the roads, people have to caravan in and out of the area at prescribed times.
The pilot said they had recently found an illegal commune and removed about 100 people from the jungle.
March 10, 2019
The property has an activity orientation on Saturday and Sunday mornings. They have a raffle each time for free things, the incentive works well at getting guests to attend the gathering. One speaker from a nearby diving company had taken third place in the National Geographic Great White Shark Photography Contest. He had taken his picture off the coast in Africa.
We went to church at Kauai Christian Fellowship in Koloa. It was one of the highlights of our trip. The band played rock music, most of it written by members of the band. The sermon was the story of David, Nabal and Abigail. I hadn’t remembered much about this story, but the message was how important it is to have self-control. It was delivered well and impactfully. When we left, I was surprised that we had been there two hours. The time went so fast.
We snorkeled off the beach in front of our condominium, lounged in the pool and spa and had dinner in. A very relaxing day, which I needed as I was extraordinarily tired. Maybe it was the 6 mile run this morning combined with the two glasses of wine at lunch at Keoki’s Paradise Restaurant.
March 11, 2019
We left at 5:30 am for the Holo Holo Niihau & Napali Coast Tour. It’s a 7 ½ hour excursion. They take you to the coast lines that can only be accessed by boat. Our boat is too big to stop along the shoreline, but we can get close enough to see the undisturbed beauty. It’s the end of whale season and we saw baby and adult whales. There were otters and dolphins as well. In the summer, you can get permits to camp in this area. You have to transport all your equipment, etc. via boat. I would like to do that next time we’re here.
After seeing the coastline, the catamaran headed to Niihau’s North Shore where we snorkeled at Lehua Crater. There are no others boats to be seen from this secluded place. The fish look like most of the ones in the Finding Nemo movie. There are many and they’re all so unique and colorful. My husband saw a Monk Seal under water swimming toward him. It startled him.
At one point, a school of Spinner Dolphins swims alongside our catamaran. They can keep pace with the boat. The Captain likens them to unsupervised teenagers. They do have big personalities and like to thrust themselves into the air while spinning up to seven times before plunging back into the ocean.
On the way back, I asked if I could sit with the Captain. He is on a perch at the top of the catamaran and there is an empty seat next to him. He allows me to join him once he reaches the coastline heading home.
March 12, 2019
We started our day with a tour of the Lydgate Farms Hawaiian Chocolate Tour in Kapa’a. The farm itself is quite extensive in the variety of foliage along the path.
It begins with the tasting of fruits grown on the island. Most I had not seen nor heard about before. Most notably was the dragon eyeball fruit. It got its name because it resembles an eyeball and the black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil. While the texture and name gave me pause, it was my favorite.
We then made our way to the cacao grove which proved that chocolate does grow on trees. The entire process for making the fruit into a chocolate bar is described. The last part of the tour is a chocolate tasting blind test. Chocolate will taste different depending on a number of factors including where the fruit was grown, how it was processed and what ingredients are added (herbs, cherries, flowers, etc.). There were nine chocolates tasted, both my husband and I each correctly guessed five
That night we went to the Luau Kalamaku in Lihue. There is a craft fair section and my husband and I both got jaguar temporary tattoo. We both chose sea turtles. It’s interesting because it needs a few hours to dry, you then wash off the ink and there’s nothing on your skin. In a few more hours it reappears and lasts for about a week.
The dinner itself was buffet style and included the traditional fire pit cooked pig. The show was reenacting a moment in ancient island times and included hula dancing, fire poi ball twirlers and fire knife dancing.
March 13, 2019
Today we did the Wailua River Kayak & Hiking Tour. We had to leave at 5 am to arrive at their office in Kapaa by 6 am. At check in you are offered a chance to leave your shoes at the office and wear a pair from a large pile on the floor. I’m so glad that I did. The red mud on the hike would have ruined my own shoes. As it was, it seeped into my borrowed shoes and stained my feet.
We were in a group with four others and our guide, Thomas. We drove the short distance to the launching point on the Wailua River. There were two people per kayak. My husband sat behind me and gave paddle directions. The kayak portion of the trip is two miles each way. Then there is one mile each way hike to the Secret Falls which is a 125’ waterfall. We ate lunch at the base. The falls aren’t so secret as there are many people here. You can swim in the pool. Some swam under the falls, but there are warning signs that boulders are loosened and can splash down with the water causing injury or death.
The hike is physically challenging. Because of the constant rainfall, the path is nearly all mud, much of it deep. Because you have to walk with a stick for balance and pull your feet out of inches of thick mud, the path seems much longer than one mile. You also must cross a few tributaries, one that comes up to your hips. My husband and I had no problem, but my uncle and cousin were very challenged.
Kayaking back, my husband wanted a get a coconut from the shoreline trees. He was unsuccessful so our guide grabbed two for him. We already had a coconut from Honolulu that we brought home in 1995. We weren’t sure if we would get them through TSA and the agriculture inspection at the airport, but we did. They’re now here with their Honolulu cousin, drying out. The entire experience is absolutely beautiful with scenic features you won’t find anywhere else. Our concierge suggested going to the early morning tour because there are less people. It was good advice. By the time we left the river and trail were over crowded.
After the excursion, we took a driving tour of this part of the island. We saw Princeville and Kalihiwai. We toured the Kilauea Lighthouse which is in a wildlife refuge that is the home to many creatures including the Ā (Red-footed booby), Mōlī (Laysan albatross), ‘Ua ‘u kani (Wedge-tailed shearwater).
March 14, 2019
Our flight leaves tonight so today we just relaxed at my uncle and cousin’s suite before taking a meandering drive to the airport. We stopped one more time at the Keoki’s Paradise restaurant and closer to the airport we walked around an abandoned port that was used for inter-island trading. There were several feral cats.
I attended a meeting where the parents were upset and attempting to oust a coach. One of the parents, Sue, came in late, decked out in her work clothes. She sauntered in and sat down. As soon as she realized the purpose of the meeting, she got up and walked out. It was at that moment I decided I wanted to be like Sue. She’s happy-go-lucky and has an extraordinarily great attitude about everything. She stays out of the weeds unless absolutely necessary. But she can also be a barracuda. It’s just a matter of selectively choosing what matters and what doesn’t.
That was nearly a decade ago. Yet, that momentary observation has stayed with me. To this day, I ask myself if a cantankerous situation needs my input or not. Almost always, I can be like Sue and walk away. It’s really been a great way to keep the blood pressure down and retain more friends than I lose.
It's also interesting how a single moment can cause a person to reflect and change.
Our culture takes line etiquette very seriously. The first recollection I have of this was waiting in line with my mother to purchase tickets to a concert. A man walked up to the front and asked if he could go next because he was in a hurry. Several people told him emphatically ‘no’ and sent him to the back of the line. As he passed us, my mother said, ‘He’s just a little man with a little job.’ Being that decades later I still remember this incident vividly, it must have had an impact on me.
I’ve noticed that other cultures don’t find line etiquette quite as important as we do. A bus full of Americans were dropped off at an air terminal in Tahiti. My husband and I were the last in line, waiting to be checked in. While we were waiting another bus dropped off French tourists who would be on the same flight as us. The French immediately started pushing their way to the front of the line. The Americans created a physical barrier that wouldn’t allow them to cut in front. Being that I was the last American, a French man took his cart and begin pushing it into my body. I whispered to my husband to look at what this jerk was doing. When he saw what was happening his protective instincts kicked in and he became aggressive (to say the least). When the other Americans noticed, they surrounded us in solidarity. The French made the wise decision to back up behind us.
Decades later, I was in Southern California taking three children to see Disney on Ice. The line into the parking lot queued from two lanes to one and therefore cars had to merge. Apparently, the man behind me after the merge felt he had been jilted of his rightful place. He laid on his horn, rolled down his window and began yelling profanities at me. Mind you we both had children in our cars. We’re all going to see a Disney production for Pete’s sake. He kept it up until we were actually parked, several minutes later.
And while waiting in the reception area of an office, while there is no physical line, it’s a foregone conclusion that most people know exactly who was in the area before and after they came in.
Gas stations are one of the few situations where it’s outright warfare to get to a pump. There are loose lines that rearrange themselves based on the driver’s analysis of who will be done first.
Concession stands and grocery stores, where there are multiple lines, a person must make a decision based on careful calculations of those ahead of them.
While we might not collectively even realize our cultural difference on the fine art of lines in America, others have noticed. The British Broadcasting Corporation aired a segment entitled, ‘Waiting in Line in America.’ The description states, ‘Benjamin Walker visits airports, amusement parks, roadways and colleges to document how the priority queue is re-ordering American society.’ How funny that outsiders even recognize our obsession, even if we may not.
Many years ago, my husband and I started attending a new church. We noticed that there were signs everywhere regarding the ant problem. Signs asking to wipe down tables. Signs reminding to take the garbage out every day, etc. The table legs each sat in small bowls filled with water so that the ants, apparently unable to swim, couldn’t make their way up the legs and onto the tables. This was especially interesting because the chair’s legs didn’t sit in water and could provide access to the table tops if the ants so choose.
One day we asked if they had a pest control company that they worked with. Yes, they did and the company came out once per month. We asked if they might think of hiring a different company that could eradicate the ant problem. They said that they hadn’t discussed the problem with their company. With one phone call, the ant problem dissipated.
What this situation taught me was that comments from fresh eyes can force people to self-reflect. Folks new to a situation may see it differently. Their comments may or may not be accurate, however, when someone questions something I’m doing I may not like what they’re saying but I remind myself about the ants and consider the observation. Sometimes it’s useful, sometimes it’s not but it does keep me from getting comfortable in complacency.
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.