Sunday Afternoon 8/30/2015

11227668_1121441371203913_6977975113905518297_o

Here we go again. I swear it’s almost like we’re living in Storm Central this summer. Ignacio, a Category 4 hurricane will approach the Big Island this evening, although will most likely pass on the north side. It will still be close enough as it continues to the north that we’ll get plenty of wind and rain. Hurricane Jimena, right behind Ignacio, is expected to strengthen to Category 5 in the next couple of days, but so far no one knows whether Hawai’i will be in its path or not. It’s still one scary storm though. And, as you can see from the picture above, another big storm is forming up in the east, right behind Jimena. And, that storm that’s off to the west of the islands is Kilo, which thankfully couldn’t get its act together while it was near to us. It turned to the west and is now a Category 3 hurricane, with winds over 125 mph. I tell ya, all this waiting, watching, and worrying about these storms is exhausting! I’ll be so glad (and relieved) when storm season comes to a close.

Our landlord keeps bugging us to buy this house. He’s a real estate agent (sells condos and time shares), and he’s gone into overdrive with us because he’d love to get a quick sale on the house rather than the long wait it’s probably going to be otherwise. We keep politely but firmly saying “no” to his pitches because we really don’t want to buy this property. Hopefully he’ll get the message sooner rather than later and stop bringing it up. Another agent is coming to look at the property on Tuesday to help get it priced and it should be listed soon after. I’m not looking forward to having to go through showings again, although I don’t think there will be all that many.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I downloaded three books to my Kindle yesterday (using an Amazon gift card from Swagbucks) and last night I started To Hell and Back: Last Train From Hiroshima, about life in Hiroshima and Nagasaki before, during and after the atomic bombings. I lived in Hiroshima in the early 70s as an overseas study student, and was able to interview several survivors for my required research project, so the topic is still very interesting to me. I also put Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand, on hold from the library. I’ve read it twice already, but it’s my second all-time favorite book and I want to read it again (my favorite book ever is Beloved, by Toni Morrison).
  • Listening to: The hum of the fans. It’s going to be another hot, humid day.
  • Watching: Brett and I have greatly been enjoying going through Endeavor, the Inspector Morse prequel. There’s only two seasons available though, so we’ll finish up this week, and then will probably start watching Inspector Lewis. We’re still looking for a non-mystery/detective series to start, but so far nothing has grabbed our attention. In the meantime, murders still are taking place and being solved at an alarming rate on Midsomer Murders.
  • Cooking/baking: I need to bake another batch of blueberry bran muffins today, and YaYu is making chocolate and dulce de leche empanadas for her Spanish class this afternoon. I’ve got Brown Sugar & Garlic Chicken going in the slow cooker, which I will be served with rice and some sort of Asian-y coleslaw for dinner tonight – yum!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I finished up another lesson in Rosetta Stone Japanese. This past one was primarily review for me and rather easy, but I did learn a few new vocabulary words and cleared up a couple of grammar points. I don’t think the next lesson coming up will be so kind.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re meeting with a buyer’s agent tomorrow along with her office’s managing broker and will get started on the house-buying process. We got pre-qualified this past Friday afternoon so we know how much house or condo we can afford, but right now all we can do is look, because the income we will qualify on is based on my future Social Security, which doesn’t start until next January (although it will be officially set up in October).
  • Thankful for: I am so grateful that between current low interest rates, our income and not having any debts we will be able to buy a nice condo here on the island. I honestly did not think we would be able to afford anything here, so it was a very pleasant surprise to find out that we will.P1080391
  • Bonus question: Do you collect anything? I don’t collect anything these days, but when I was young I collected souvenir key chains from all over, and I also collected silver charms from all over the United States which I kept on a bracelet. When we lived in Japan (both times) I collected hashioki (chopstick rests). There were so many available that I limited what I bought to ones that had the color blue in them somewhere. I have over 400 of them; they’re currently sitting in a box under my bed. One of these days I’m going to figure out a way to display them.

How is your Sunday afternoon going? How was your week?

Feel Good Friday

189

In spite of the humidity, in spite of the news that our house is going to be sold, and in spite of feeling sort of generally blah right now, there still were things that went right this week:

  • I learned that my Social Security payments will be just $13 less than I was estimating. I was pleasantly surprised that I got it so close.
  • We arranged a meeting with a real estate agent next Monday.
  • We found out we can afford more condo than we thought, even with added HOA fees (doesn’t mean we’ll spend that much though).
  • $7.09 went into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • We got our monthly Costco shopping done, and were $150 under budget.
  • Brett was given a lovely set of tools by the Division of Forestry & Wildlife to use for trail maintenance.
  • We saved $30 by not going to the farmers’ market this week (it was raining, and we still have plenty of fruit and vegetables on hand).
  • We got almost a gallon of coconut water from the coconuts harvested from our trees.

How is your Friday going? What good things happened for you this week?

 

The Second Dip

blog_smiley-triste-thumb5455437

I’ve been feeling rather sluggish and unmotivated lately. I have had little to no energy or interest these days in things I typically like to do, like read or cook. I have been feeling very blah most of the time, and sometimes have had to make a real effort to even do basic tasks.

Yesterday I began to think about what’s been going on and why I’ve been feeling so off about so many things these days. Was I perhaps suffering from depression? Or is the current round of heat and humidity to blame? We’ve been on and off here all summer with storms threatening (and yes, there is another one on the way), so maybe the current ennui is from stress, subtle or otherwise. The news about the house day before yesterday was certainly discouraging, but I knew it wasn’t the cause of these feelings, just something to add to the rest of the malaise.

I know this may sound strange because we’ve been here on Kaua’i for over a year now, and because Hawai’i is part of the United States, but I think I am still suffering from culture shock. Coming here was in many ways like arriving in a new country. Hawai’i is very different from the mainland in so many ways, and besides coping with those differences I’ve also had to deal with the loss of friends and other familiar things. Introvert that I am, it’s also been hard for me to get out and meet people and make friends.

The culture shock experience is sometimes graphed as a “U” or a “V.” There’s an initial euphoria or high where everything in the new location is different and exciting. Soon frustration or annoyance with everyday activities sets in, and the initial high plummets. Eventually though adjustment takes place, a positive attitude returns and all seems well.

A more realistic graph of culture shock, however, looks more like a “W.” That is, there is a second dip that follows the first. The initial acceptance of the new location (the middle peak of the “W”) actually occurs only on the surface. Eventually one has to confront deeper issues, both cultural and personal, that start to bubble up to the surface, and which typically cause feelings of discontent or depression. As these issues are dealt with, feelings of satisfaction and belonging in the new location eventually return, creating an upward swing in one’s mood and motivation, and leading to a true acceptance of one’s new place and situation.

The more I thought about it I realized I’m definitely deep in the second dip of the graph. We’re going through another hot, miserable summer. Much as I love our house, I’m honestly tired of having to wash dishes every day and go up and down to the garage to do the laundry. I deeply miss my Portland friends. I still haven’t figured out my place here or where I belong, and I still don’t know what I want to do. I’ve reacted by shutting down and by doing nothing.

I know this will pass. I remember going through a similar stretch when Brett retired from the navy and we moved to Portland. For a long time I didn’t know where we belonged or if I would ever fit in, but I found my place, made friends and Portland truly became home.

I know the same will happen here. I truly love living on Kaua’i, and have never even once felt like we made a mistake coming here nor have I ever thought about leaving. I know I just have to give myself time to find my place here.

 

 

An Unpleasant Surprise

move_cartoon-1I woke up this past Saturday with a knot in my stomach – I had been dreaming that our landlord had just told us he was raising our rent to an amount we couldn’t afford. Once I was awake enough to realize it was just a dream my stomach calmed down, but it turns out the dream was a foreshadowing: We learned yesterday that our landlord will be selling the house. It will probably be listed in early September.

I can’t say I am entirely surprised – he got divorced within the last year and we thought there might eventually be financial reverberations coming that involved the house. Our rent increased slightly this year, and while we were not entirely happy about it the house remained affordable, especially since all utilities are included in the rent.

Houses typically take a l-o-n-g time to sell here, and our lease has to be honored no matter when the house sells. Our landlord is giving us first refusal on buying the property, but we frankly can’t afford it. Even if we could we have no desire to deal with the maintenance this place requires, and have no interest in being landlords either.

Our lease allows us to stay through the end of next May, but after that there is no way to know if a new owner (assuming the house has sold) would maintain the current set up. The most likely scenario is that the rent will go up but will no longer include utilities. Our gut feeling is that we should start looking for a new place to live sooner rather than later.

However, after crunching a lot of numbers yesterday evening, Brett and I think it’s time to consider buying rather than renting.

We have decided to contact a realtor next week and find out just what we can afford and what’s available. With WenYu heading off to college next year and YaYu following in just two more after that, we won’t be needing as much space as we do now, and a small condo would give Brett and I someplace solid to live as we grow older. We wouldn’t have to worry about external maintenance (just those HOA fees!), and we wouldn’t have to worry about the rent going up or the house being sold out from under us. Owning our own place would allow us to consider things like house swaps and such when we travel, something we can’t do in a rental. Finally, moving to a smaller place would also give us an opportunity to downsize a bit more.

Still, all of us are feeling very, very sad right now because we genuinely love this house, and honestly thought (hoped) we could live here for several years. It’s been a perfect home for us in every way as we have settled in and made Kaua’i our home. The location is wonderful, the views from our windows beautiful. We have known all along though that having to move was always a possibility, but we just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.

Stay tuned for future developments!

 

Sweatin’ To the . . . Everything!

imagesIf I had to pick the one thing about living in Hawai’i that I can’t handle it would be the humidity. I don’t mind the insects, frogs, chickens, geckos, heat, storms, tourists and high prices, but I have still been unable to make peace with the moist tropical air here. During the winter it’s not too bad, but during the summer and into early fall the humidity levels have just three settings: bad, even worse, and downright awful, and there is no off position. There are days where it feels like you’re living in a ball of hot, wet cotton.

Why is it so bad?

  1. We don’t have air conditioning (nor do most houses in Hawai’i, actually). The humidity is bearable if the tradewinds are blowing or it’s actually raining, but if not it gets miserable fast in the summer, and fans, ceiling and otherwise, can only do so much.
  2. One humid days I sweat. Not perspire – sweat. And, once I start sweating it’s like a switch has been flipped and I can’t stop. It takes hours for my body to reset its thermostat. I stay hydrated, minimize my activity and do my best to stay cool, but once it gets humid enough the sweating starts, even if I’m doing nothing more vigorous than reading a book, and just doesn’t stop.

I don’t know if all this sweating is just because I’m older or if it’s purely a Hawai’i issue. I’ve lived in humid areas before and don’t remember being this bothered by it. Other older women here have commiserated with me and seem to suffer more here as well, but others seem to deal with the humidity without problem. Maybe it’s just taking me longer to acclimatize then it did in the past. Brett and the girls are very physically active and sweat heavily when they exercise, but they take a shower, change their clothes and are good to go. I take a shower and I’m still wet and hot and miserable. And, if I do something too active when the humidity is bad, it literally zaps the energy right out of me, and takes me ages to get any of it back. I’m not doing much these days in the way of exercise, but thankfully haven’t gained any weight (so far) because I have been extremely diligent about limiting the amount I eat.

It doesn’t help matters either that our kitchen sits on the west side of the house, which is unprotected from the fierce late-afternoon sun. It’s bad enough cooking in there when it’s merely hot, but add in some humidity and it can be pure hell. I’ve gotten good about making sure the fan is pointing at me while I work in there, but even then I still usually come to the dinner table a hot mess and not in the best of moods, even if all I’ve done is cut up some cucumbers for a salad.

I know, I know – I am living in Hawai’i. It’s beautiful here, it’s paradise (really), and I feel blessed to be here. The humidity isn’t actually bad all the time either; the winter months are wonderful. I also love the way my skin stays soft here. I rarely need to use lotion these days unlike the buckets I went through back on the mainland. Here it would just be overkill (although I still wear sunscreen).

But when the humidity is bad, it’s very bad. I am so tired of sweating so much, but we still have a couple more months of “summer weather” to go. And when I’m miserable, well . . . lets just say I do my best not to make everyone else miserable. Word is that the humidity here this summer is the worst it’s ever been, and I can believe it. We’re all crossing our fingers that it doesn’t last as long as it did last year, and I’m already dreaming of November’s arrival.

Sunday Afternoon 8/23/2015

We’ve had a couple of brushes earlier this summer with eastern Pacific hurricanes that thankfully turned out to be not all that, but the one that’s currently on deck, Kilo, looks to be the real deal. Almost all current projections show that it will reach hurricane status, possibly Category 2, and up until today it looked liked Kaua’i was going to be directly in its path.

See how it starts to turn to the west early Friday morning? Fingers crossed . . .
See how it starts to turn to the west early Friday morning? Fingers crossed . . .

But, this morning’s forecast on the NOAA tracker predicts that while the storm will still be turning and heading north toward the islands, it should also turn to the west in time to miss us.

So . . . big, big sighs of relief here this morning. We stay prepared for storms, but it’s always best if they just don’t show up. Fingers are all crossed that the prediction holds and Kilo gives us a wide berth.

In the meantime, on this very steamy afternoon I am:

  • Reading: My library loan of Snow Country ended before I could finish it. I had a difficult time this past week finding time to read, and usually fell asleep after reading just a page or two, so the fault is purely my own. I have no idea what I want to read next.
  • Listening to: The hum of the fans. It’s been exceptionally hot and humid here the past few days and today is more of the same.
  • Watching: Brett and I finished the Inspector Morse series yesterday evening (I still teared up when Lewis says good-bye to Morse at the end), so tonight we have just Midsomer Murders. We’ve been talking about wanting to watch Criminal Minds, so may start that, but we also have a whole list of great crime dramas that are available for streaming that we’re going to look that over to see if something else catches our fancy.
  • Cooking/baking: I made a matcha-chocolate chip cake yesterday, so no baking today. It’s too hot again anyway. Everyone was on their own for breakfast this morning, and dinner tonight was supposed to be Sticky Hoisin Roast Chicken Wings along with some rice and a salad, but it’s just too hot to turn on the oven. I think instead we’ll have some grilled teriyaki chicken thighs; nice, cool zaru soba; and a sliced cucumber salad.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: This last week was another not particularly ambitious one for me. We did get to the beach and the farmers’ market, and I got my hair cut, did some baking and got lots of chores done around the house but otherwise didn’t do anything remarkable.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m hoping to wake up on Tuesday or Wednesday and learn that Kilo is definitely heading west rather than heading to Kaua’i. There’s not a lot we can plan or count on right now until we’re sure the storm will not be coming our way. If it does look like it will miss us, Brett and I will do our big monthly Costco shop on Tuesday. I both look forward to and dread that experience, but supplies are getting low.
  • Grateful for: I’ve been through two hurricanes/typhoons in my life (a Category 1 hurricane in Key West, and a Category 3 typhoon in Japan), and while they were not fun and quite scary at times, I am thankful that I somewhat now know what to expect and am able to better prepare for a big storm’s arrival and aftermath. I’m also thankful we live up in the hills, and do not have to worry about storm surges or flooding.
  • Bonus question: Do you follow politics? Yes; I’m actually a bit of a political junkie, and keep a close watch on what’s going on in the world of politics. I read the news daily, as well as some political blogs, but I don’t watch any cable news (nor want to). I was raised that politics was not something to be discussed in polite society, so you will never read any of my beliefs or opinions, or who I’m voting for, or what drives me crazy and so forth, here on the blog. I love to talk politics and enjoy a good debate, but this is not the venue for it.

How is your Sunday afternoon going? How did this past week go for you? What’s coming up that you’re excited about?

Feel Good Friday

11872103_974419179247756_7144890765475624477_o
Kealia Beach this past Wednesday: So many beautiful shades of blue!

Lots to feel good about this Friday:

  • #1 was getting the news that the bump on my nose was not cancer.
  • The girls have today off from school, and no meetings or other obligations this weekend.
  • I had a wonderful time at the beach on Wednesday. The weather was perfect, and I loved getting to spend time with my friend Joy.
  • I got a great haircut yesterday. My last stylist went totally flaky on me week before last and I walked out. It was scary to try out a new salon and new stylist, but she did a terrific job with my short, curly hair.
  • We put $4.75 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • We had no food waste this week.
  • Brett got in three good hikes in spite of some icky weather on a couple of days.
  • Meiling got her dorm room and roommate (who is from Portland) assignment. She’s happy and so are we!

How was your week? What went right for you this week?

Ho’opi’i Falls Trail

A nice short hike, about 2 miles, on an excellent trail most of which is ideal for running as well as enjoying the scenery. Furthermore, getting there is a piece of cake, even though the trailhead is neither clearly marked nor easy to see from the road. From Kapa’a via Olohena Rd and Ka’apuna Rd, turn right at the stop sign by Kapahi Park, then almost immediately left onto Kapahi Rd. Coming down Kuhio Highway from the north, turn right just past Kealia Beach onto Ma’ilihuna Rd, then at the stop sign beyond Kapa’a High School, turn right onto Kawaihau Rd. Follow Kawaihau road past the Meneheune Store, and turn a sharp right where the road veers sharply to the left, just before Kapahi Park. Kapahi Rd is a short, narrow road so please respect the neighborhood and drive slowly. The trailhead is below the roadbed on the left, at a dip in the road about halfway down to the end, and parking for the trail is ONLY permitted on the left side, past the trailhead.

gate at end of old dirt road
Ho’opi’i Falls Trailhead

Initially, the trail is down a steep, old dirt road to Kapa’a Stream. Along the way you will see the beautiful Makaleha Mountains to your left, and the ubiquitous Monstera (monstera deliciosa) all around.

oldRoad
Dirt Road to Kapa’a Stream
makalehaMountains
Pohaku Pili (2,592 feet) and Makaleha Mountains
monstera
Monstera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just before the end of the road, the trail hooks to the left around some fallen trees, and then turns right at the intersection with Kapa’a Stream where someone has constructed a low stone dam.

low stone dam
Not a Waterfall

Continuing downstream, the trail runs parallel, within 10 feet of the stream, most of the way. You will see trails shunting off here and there, but again, please respect the neighborhood and know that these trails are on private property rather than state lands. Hau Trees (hibiscus tilliaceus) can be a curse (i.e., impenetrable) or a blessing as revealed below. These twisty intruders were originally planted to serve as a windbreaks, consequently impenetrable by hikers as they have spread wildly beyond their intended location.

Hau trees bending over the trail
Tunnel of Hau Trees

At breaks in the understory, you will glimpse a narrow stony gorge above and between the waterfalls. Placid and serene as it appears, you can hear the roaring upper falls a short distance away.

stony gorge above the first waterfall
Stony Gorge Above the Upper Falls

Moments later, you find yourself looking down on a steep path to a waterfall that cuts deeply into a stone shelf downstream.

steep descent to the upper Ho'opi'i Falls
Steep, Narrow Access to the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

…and do not be surprised to find the rocks, as well as the splash pool beneath teeming with young swimmers, especially on a hot day after school. Note that swimmers jump in from both sides of the stream, while some only ponder. There ARE sharp rocks in the stream bed, so I DO NOT GO THERE. It is far safer to enter the water downstream and hike/swim as desired.

upper ho'opi'i falls
Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

Not long after I returned to the main trail, I found myself at the edge of the stream, again facing a spectacular stony gorge that could only be captured in panoramic mode.

stony gorge on Kapa'a Stream
Lower Gorge on Kapa’a Stream

A little further along, I saw what a Toyota Tundra might look like after the “Smoke Monster” was through with it…

decaying pickup frame with wheels and 4-cylinder engine
Abandoned Chassis with Wheels and 4-Cylinder Engine

…and finally the lower falls, lacey and elegant. No place for jumping, although someone strung a mooring line in a tree on the opposite bank downstream. Mahalo!

broad waterfall
Lower Ho’opi’i Falls

Pressed for time and because I left my water in the car, I ran most of the way back to the trailhead, excluding the steep dirt road which exceeds the rated hauling capacity of my 65-year old chassis.

Some Stuff . . .

2127104878_1387947114

A few things that aren’t big enough for a whole post:

  • Back to the beach: We’re going to take advantage of the (hopefully) good weather today and meet up with a friend at the beach for a visit and some sun. We’ve had two days of monsoon-like rains up here in the hills, but are supposed to have a couple of days of nice weather before some more of the bad stuff rolls in next week. Bring on the sunscreen!

    11903972_780396238736529_3953403951773812944_n
    We are surrounded by bad weather!
  • Good news: It’s not skin cancer!! I got the call from the doctor’s office yesterday afternoon that the bump on my nose was actinic keratosis, and not squamous cell carcinoma as she had feared. There have been BIG sighs of relief around here as well as several renditions of the happy dance. I need to monitor the spot on my nose for the next few months to make sure it doesn’t reappear, and continue on with my everyday sunscreen routine, but otherwise it’s all good!
  • Small economies/big expenses: We bought Meiling’s airline ticket for her homecoming visit at Christmas yesterday. It’s the absolute most expensive time for travel to and from Hawai’i, and the fares did not disappoint (and are only expected to climb from now until Christmas). On Monday I found a decent fare on one airlines but had to OK the dates with Meiling before purchase – she got back to me late Monday night. So, I got up early yesterday morning to buy the tickets and discovered that the price had climbed by more than $100. Yikes! After a brief bout of hyperventilating, I calmed down and was able to find a fare on another airline lower than what we had expected to pay on Monday, with an as-good or better travel schedule, so it all worked out. There is a very good reason why we are currently trying to accumulate as many Hawaiian Airlines miles as possible – next year we will have two girls to get to school and back and we’d like to do it for free!
  • Not-so-good neighbors: For the most part we get along with our downstairs neighbors, but we’ve suspected for a while that they’d been “borrowing” things from the garage we share with them, helping themselves to things like our fabric softener sheets and paper towel supply. We wouldn’t mind and would be more than happy to share if they asked or if they replaced what they “borrowed,” but they never did, so now we’ve had to hide some things or bring other things up into the house. Nothing has gone missing from the freezer, but Brett says if that ever happens he will directly confront them as well as inform the landlord. Can I just say I hate stuff like this!

Small Economies

coinsI received many responses to last week’s post about whether we should try to kick up our savings, and the consensus seemed to be that we are in a good place and that we should enjoy it.

I agree – I am enjoying not having to worry about paying bills or going without or pinching pennies these days in order to enjoy our simple, but comfortable life. Other than dropping cable (because we really don’t need it), we don’t want to cut back on anything else, although there’s not much of anything to cut back on. We’ve pared things down about as far as we can for now.

However, I’ve still been thinking a bit about saving for the past few days and realized that without giving up or going without anything, we can still increase our savings a bit by making small changes in some of the things we already are buying. For example, we’ve been getting our toilet paper at Costco at a good price, but we recently discovered that ordering it by the case through Amazon Prime’s subscription service will cut what we currently spend in half. It’s not a huge amount of savings every month, but as we’ve learned, the little things can add up pretty quickly.

I typically eat a bowl of shredded wheat every morning, but after I finish up what I have on hand I’m going to switch to oatmeal. I like oatmeal, and it’s w-a-y cheaper than cold cereal. Brett already eats oatmeal almost every morning, so it’s something we already buy, and we won’t be compromising on quality. Again, we’re not talking major savings here, probably just a few dollars every month. But, that little bit, combined with other savings, will add up.

I’m sure there are plenty of other small economies that we can and will discover along the way. They won’t be anything earth-shattering on their own, but when combined with other savings will add up to a bit more than we can tuck away each month.