I Hung the Jury

The trial ended yesterday with no verdict. Eleven jurors voted not guilty, but I voted guilty and refused to change my vote. A mistrial was called.

We heard testimony about and deliberated on not one, not two, but 28 counts of sexual assault. The defendant, a former police officer and then the manager on the island for another state law enforcement agency, was accused of raping his stepdaughter, beginning when she was 14 years old (she’s now 24). According to the victim’s testimony, over a period of approximately four years, he assaulted her two to three times a week. He threatened her with death if she told anyone. She eventually broke down and told a friend and then a relative what was happening, and from there it went to the police, the prosecutor’s office, and the grand jury. The trial was the last stop on a long, difficult road.

The testimony we heard from the complainant was disturbing, to put it in the nicest way possible, and sad, but I found her very credible as well as the other witnesses that spoke for the prosecution. The complainant was consistent, and her distress on the stand as she recounted what had happened to her was obvious. Other witnesses supported her testimony. She wasn’t acting. The defendant and his wife were the only witnesses presented for the defense, and the wife made false statements in her testimony. They didn’t refute anything the victim said – the defendant only said, “I didn’t do it.” I had been eager to hear the testimony from the defense, but in the end it was completely underwhelming. Basically, there seemed to be no defense – just a lot of smoke and mirrors from the attorney (which was his job, I guess).

From the moment we entered the jury room though, the other eleven jurors began to tear apart the victim. They accused her of making it all up. There was no acknowledgement that an act of assault causes trauma, that a victim might not remember every single detail, that a victim might have been terrified. There was no attempt at all to try to understand what it might mean to have been assaulted repeatedly, especially as an adolescent. Not one other juror ever took the time, at least not in the jury room, even for a moment, to imagine how the victim might have felt. Over and over again someone would say it couldn’t have happened because she didn’t tell anyone, or she didn’t run away (she testified that the stepfather had threatened not only her but her siblings with death if she left).  My least favorite comment though was “Where’s the evidence?” like she would have kept mementos from the assaults, some that occurred seven years earlier. One juror seemed to want or expect pictures of her in torn clothes, with blood and semen running down her legs – without those it just didn’t happen. Several of the assault descriptions were judged to be physically “impossible,” like having intercourse standing up in the shower for example (intercourse is too polite a word for what she described in her testimony).

Here are a few things I heard in the jury room:

  • She was in love with her stepfather, and they were having an affair, but when he broke it off she accused him of assault. (This juror stuck with this story until the end. Unbelievable.)
  • She cried on the stand because she had lied and now her lies were coming out.
  • I have a lot of family on this island, and I don’t want to deal with me or any of my family living with the aftermath of [the defendant] being convicted. (It didn’t matter that he had been abusing his stepdaughter for years.)
  • She was jealous of her younger (biological) sister so she made all this up. (This was actually the motive someone offered – sibling rivalry, which caused the victim to falsely accuse her stepdad of assault?)
  • She enjoys being a victim and likes all the attention it brings.
  • His daughter is getting married on Saturday, and if we convict him he won’t be able to walk her down the aisle.

There was more, but I think you get the idea.

They also all believed if he was not guilty of one count, he was therefore not guilty of ALL counts. They were ready to acquit after less than an hour of deliberation.

The judge came and spoke to us before we left the jury room yesterday, and told us there was no problem with not being able to reach a unanimous verdict. She told us that it can be difficult to do so in sexual assault cases, especially one with so many counts. She also told us that there was lots of evidence we didn’t get to see, things that had been peremptorily excluded from the trial. I hope that registered in a few people’s heads.

While the trial is over it’s going to take a while for me to get over it. Besides the testimony, besides the deliberations, it was a bitter experience. The other jurors hated me for not agreeing with them, for arguing, for defending my opinion. I was accused of always dominating the conversation – I guess it seems that way to others when you’re the only one arguing for a side. One juror said she wished they could call in the alternate juror (so they could get rid of me) and acquit the defendant on all counts. Another juror asked me at one point, “What can we do to help you see things differently?” I told her I didn’t need any help, thank you, that I  believed the complainant’s testimony, and it was my belief based on that testimony that the defendant was guilty, guilty, guilty (28 times). Only one other juror stood up for me, and reminded the others that I was entitled to my opinion, and that it should be respected.

The whole experience has also caused me to wonder why any women or child bothers to report sexual assault. The journey this young woman took to get to this trial took a long time and was emotionally grueling. She had told her what happened to her seven times before the trial – to a friend, to family members, to the police, to the prosecutor, and to the grand jury – they all believed her. But 11 people on the jury yesterday thought she was a liar and had  fabricated the whole thing. It was ugly and cruel.

I need a couple of days to recover, but I’ll be posting again by the end of the week.

 

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Sunday Afternoon 8/27/2017

I would like this to be over now.

I will try to keep this short and sweet today as I’m tired, stressed and just don’t feel at my best today. Jury duty will continue tomorrow – we are now deliberating, but it’s not going to be quick or easy. I believe we may have a few more days to go before we can reach a verdict, so I’m not sure when things will return to normal on the blog.

My thoughts and prayers this morning are with Texas, and especially Houston and the Texas gulf coast. Hurricane Harvey was/is worse right now than what was predicted, and getting worse by the hour. Every time I check for updates it takes my breath away. I encourage everyone to help however they can – currently donations of money to relief organizations is what’s needed most; other donations, and volunteering can come later. Clean-up and recovery is going to be a long, long process after this catastrophe.

We’ve received other bad news as well this morning: Brett’s younger brother’s son, who is just two months older than our son, died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage while he was at work. He has a wife and 10 year-old son. While Brett and his brother are not estranged, they’re not close either, but this still comes as huge, sad shock. And, to add insult to injury we got a message from Meiling this morning right about the same time that during the night someone had cut the brake lines on her bike. Because she doesn’t drive, she depends on her bike to get to work and classes. Who does these things and why?

I’m feeling sad today as well because WenYu leaves this coming week, and with the trial going on I really haven’t prepared myself for her departure. I have loved having her home this summer, and will miss her greatly, but I’m also so proud of her and what she is doing with her life, a part of which is going to college.

My bedroom was the upstairs room on the right – I had my own door to the balcony!

In a not very fun week I discovered one fun thing. I think I wrote on the blog year before last about finding online that my childhood home was for sale, and how other than some cosmetics and the addition of a swimming pool nothing had really been done to it since we lived there in the 1960s. Well, it’s on the market again, this time for over $3 million (My parents sold the house in 1968 for less than $60K), and it’s been completely renovated, remodeled and redone since the sale. It looks amazing! I wonder if there’s a for-sale sign out in front this time – back when we lived there no realty signs ever went up, and houses were sold by word-of-mouth; there was a waiting list to buy something on the street. My parents heard about our house before it was listed because friends were being transferred, and they decided to snap it up.

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I just downloaded Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir, by Katie Hafner onto my Kindle, and have barely started it, but so far it’s very engaging. The trial and all that has given me to think about has made it difficult to read most of the time – I have trouble concentrating.
  • Listening to: We had an absolutely beautiful morning, nice and cool and breezy, but know it’s going to get warm (hot) later on.  YaYu had to leave early to volunteer at the county fair, and WenYu drove her so she could go shopping on the way home for some thing she needs to take back to school. It should have been quiet around here but the washing machine is doing its thing. No rest for the wicked.
  • Watching: Brett and I are watching the Rebus series on Hulu right now. The show switched actors after the first season, and the second actor (the whole ensemble, really) is a much, much better fit for the character than the first, so we’re enjoying it more. We’ll watch another episode of Endeavour tonight on PBS, but otherwise I’m not watching anything else right now – there’s just nothing I want to see, and I haven’t had the time or inclination to look for anything this past week.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re going to have lumpia (Filipino spring rolls), rice and Asian-y coleslaw for dinner tonight. The lumpia is already made – I just have to fry it, and that won’t take long. It was cool-ish for a while this morning so I baked a pan of brownies for lunches/snacks next week.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Heading off to jury duty every day this week has been a chore, but I made it on time and got through each day. I was unable to ride my exercise bike several day because of exhaustion, but I did study my language every day, and drank more than my daily allotment of water. I also reached the first goal every day with Swagbucks, and I’ve almost reached my second Swagbucks earnings goal (first was for Christmas).
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m hoping we (the jury) can reach a verdict sooner rather than later.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and the girls really stepped in to make sure everything got done around the house while I was gone for the day, and put up with me collapsing into a ball on the sofa when I got home each evening.
  • Reporting gains and losses: I’ve lost another two pounds this month, which frankly surprised me, but maybe it’s because part of me melted – it’s been that hot on a few days. I’ve lost 25 pounds so fa since February, and am somewhat ashamed to admit that there’s more to go. We put $721.46 in our travel savings last month, and our total is now $5311.22. We’re well ahead of where we need to be at this point to reach our goal at the end of the year so we’re happy about that!
  • Grateful for: I’m so thankful for my supportive and understanding family right now. I can’t talk about the trial, and they don’t ask. They also let me have the time to compose myself every evening, to get my head out of the trial, and back into the “real world.”
  • Bonus question: Do you like going to your county or state fair? Well, my answer is no – they’re really not something I enjoy. We hadn’t been to one in a long time and went to the Kaua’i County Fair the first summer we were here. It was so expensive! We thought we had brought plenty of money, but by the time we paid admission for all of us, we had enough left for the girls to go on just one ride so we could afford something to eat (one plate lunch that all of us shared). I’m not sure how families afford it. Generally county and state fairs are too crowded for my taste, the rides sketchy, and everything is too expensive. I’d rather spend my money on just about anything else. That said, I do enjoy seeing the farm and other animals and all the contest entries (canning, quilting, etc.).

That’s it for this week. I promise  details from the trial once we arrive at a verdict, but like I said, it might take a few more days. Otherwise, I hope all of you have a wonderful week, and have another good one to look forward to!

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I Am Juror #12

My name was the last one called for the jury yesterday, and I apparently passed the voir dire questioning because I was eventually sworn in with eleven other jurors (and two alternates) and we began hearing testimony yesterday afternoon.

It turned into another long, exhausting day, but at least the courtroom is cool, and we now get to sit in comfy chairs versus hard wooden benches. There’s a fridge in the jury room for us as well as a microwave which will make bringing my own meals easier. There’s also a cold filtered water dispenser so we can refill our water bottles.

We have no idea how long the trial will go – originally we were told we’d finish on Friday, but jury selection took much longer than expected, and there are a LOT of witnesses to go through. Plus, once the trial is finished we have to deliberate and who knows how long that might take?

All this is to say I’m not sure how regular I’ll be with posting for the next week or so. I’ll do my best.

But now I’m heading to bed – I’ve got another very long day ahead.

No Menu Plan Today

I spent an exhausting day yesterday at the courthouse, and have to go back again today. Jury selection is still going on, and I won’t know until the end of today whether I’ll be chosen for the jury or not. Over half of the original jury pool was dismissed yesterday, but there are still plenty of us to go through. On the plus side, the chilly courthouse was delightful.

The trial is going to be very complex and will probably last more than a week. It will be exhausting for those selected. If I am seated I am going to turn the cooking duties over to Brett and the girls, and they can fix what they want for our dinners. If I’m not chosen I’ll try to get a menu plan up on Wednesday.

By the way, there is no cafeteria at the courthouse – just two vending machines, one with water and sodas, and the other with candy bars and chips. There is no place to eat or buy food within walking distance of the courthouse either, and no place to store food. I about starved yesterday because all I brought with me was a small container of mixed nuts. Another juror took pity on me and gave me some teriyaki beef from the plate lunch she had gone out to get (Brett had the car so the girls could get to work, etc.). I also didn’t know we could bring bottled water into the courtroom, so I ended up buying two bottles of water from the vending machine, at $2/bottle – ouch!! I will be better prepared today, will bring along something more substantial that I can tuck into my bag, and will refill the water bottles here at home with filtered water before I go.

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26 Travel Questions – The Home Edition!

Here we go!

  1. Which do you prefer: tours or independent travel? I have nothing against tours, or organized travel, but I still prefer doing it on my own. There are travels/places though where I would definitely book a tour (like a photo safari in Africa or if I ever visit India).
  2. What’s the first thing you check out when you reach your destination? I scout out where I can get a good cup of coffee, hopefully without having to go to Starbucks.
  3. What’s something sort of ordinary you like to do at your destination? I love to check out local supermarkets, mini marts, etc. It’s interesting to see what food costs, what stores carry, how they’re the same or different from American stores, etc. It’s also an interesting way to get a glimpse of the local culture. I also love to visit bakeries even though I’m not eating carbs any more.
  4. Street food: Yea or nay? I mostly say yes to street food, although I check it out pretty carefully before eating. I’ve eaten some amazing things from food stands and carts (and had a few losers too).
  5. What’s your ideal travel breakfast? Ideally it would be yogurt, fresh fruit and a little granola, but I’ll eat anything as long as it’s not too heavy. I’m not a fan of pancakes or french toast, but if I see Eggs Benedict on the menu I’m going to order it.
  6. What’s your favorite road food? I prefer to eat at local restaurants versus chains if at all possible. Thankfully there are lots of different ways to find those local places these days. Favorite food? It used to be a good hamburger or sandwich for lunch, or chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner. Now that I’m low/no carb, I’m not sure what I’d order, and it doesn’t help that I can’t eat salad.
  7. What’s the most important thing you pack in your suitcase? Along with a desire for adventure and a sense of wonder, it’s a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
  8. Do you roll or fold your clothes when you pack? I do a little of both. I prefer rolling, but have a couple of items that just don’t want to roll.
  9. What do you pack in your carry-on? I usually only travel with a carry-on, so everything I need for the trip goes in. If I were checking a bag though my carry-on would have a change of clothes (and a couple of changes of underwear), basic toiletries, electronics, important paperwork and snacks.
  10. Which do you prefer: tote bag or backpack? I definitely prefer carrying a tote bag if at all possible when we travel. Brett prefers a back pack though, so we’re able to switch things around between us so that we can carry everything where it makes sense. I’m planning to carry a backpack on the Big Mystery Adventure™ though.
  11. What’s most important when you’re planning travel, transportation, lodging, food, or sightseeing? They all play such different roles, but lodging is probably the most important in my opinion. Even if we don’t spend a lot of time there, without a clean, safe place to sleep and bathe the rest of the trip can fall flat.
  12. In your opinion, what are the three most important phrases to know in a foreign language? 1) Thank you; 2) Excuse me/ I’m sorry; 3) please. After that you can add I don’t understand, where’s the bathroom?, how much? and so forth. The “magic words” in English are just as important elsewhere else as they are here.
  13. What have you noticed most about Americans when you travel overseas? We can be very loud, we’re sadly often overweight (me included), and we can be annoyingly condescending at times. We can also be very friendly and helpful.
  14. What are your least favorite ways to travel? Neither Brett nor I have ever had any desire to pull a trailer or drive an RV – it’s just not our thing. I have nothing against cruises either, but there are other things I’d rather do than float around on a ship (and for the record, I have been on a cruise – once was enough for me). Brett has said though he’d like to see what it’s like to take a cruise and not have to work 20 hours a day.
  15. If you have a choice, which would you prefer, a road trip or a flight? It really depends on how much time we have. We’ve taken some great road trips, and enjoyed them, but if time is limited, or I want more time at my destination, I’m going to book a flight.
  16. Which do you prefer: aisle, middle or window seat? If it’s a long flight, I prefer a window seat – it’s easier to find a good sleeping position. Depending on who else is in my row, I’m also OK with a middle seat.
  17. What are your favorite in-flight activities? I like watching movies, doing sudoku puzzles, and sleeping. I’ve tried to read, but have always ended up feeling sick.
  18. Which is your favorite airport? I love our little airport here in Lihue. When I go through it  I’m either going on a trip, or I’m home.
  19. Do you ever purchase travel insurance? We have purchased insurance a couple of times, on trips where we’ve spent a lot of money, but we’ve thankfully never really needed it. Our health insurance covers us anywhere in the world, so we’ve only gotten insurance to cover what we’ve paid for flights and lodging.
  20. What’s your favorite travel-day outfit? It depends on which time of year I’m traveling, or where we’re going, but usually a pair of L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants, a light sweatshirt-type of top (to keep me warm on the plane), and shoes I can easily slip off for security and during the flight. If I’m going somewhere hot I’ll wear linen pants and a light shirt, flip-flops, and carry a light sweater for the plane. Wrinkled linen is OK.
  21. What are your favorite travel snacks? They used to be granola bars, Chex Mix, good chocolate, and water. These days I take along nuts, beef jerky, good chocolate and water. I usually don’t drink alcohol when I fly, and besides water I like Diet Coke or Bloody Mary mixer.
  22. How many states have your visited in the U.S.? I have visited 48 states – I haven’t been to Montana or Alaska.
  23. How many national parks have you visited? I’ve visited twenty, from Acadia to Zion, and I’ve stayed at both rims of the Grand Canyon. There are still a lot more parks I want to see though.
  24. What are your favorite national parks? Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Zion are my top three. Bryce Canyon and Crater Lake are right up there as well.
  25. How many foreign countries have you visited? Just six: Canada (2x), Mexico (1x), China (4x), Hong Kong (when it was a British colony – 7x), Taiwan (1x) and of course, Japan (4x for visits, and lived there twice for a total of six and a half years). There’s still a whole lot more of the world out there for me to see!
  26. Who is your favorite travel companion? All of our children have always been fun travel companions, and I’ve taken some great trips with friends, but of course Brett is my favorite. He’s my best friend, we always have lots to talk about and almost always want to do and see the same things when we go somewhere.

Can you think of any more questions? And, I’d love to hear your answers to all or just some of the questions!

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Sunday Afternoon 8/20/2017

This coming week will be WenYu’s last full week at home, before heading back to begin her second year at Wellesley. I have absolutely loved having her here with us this summer, and I know it will be hard to say goodbye next week. This coming Saturday will be her last day of work, and she’ll be pulling a double shift. Her job as a busser has been very lucrative, and she’s made enough that she can consider an internship or study abroad course next summer as well as cover her third-year expenses. Of all our children, she always was the quickest to spend her money, but these days she’s all about the saving.

Later this afternoon I’m sitting down with YaYu to go over her application essay again. Can I just say I will be so happy when this whole application business is all over? Of course, after this we get to go through the waiting, which equally tortuous.

And yes, tomorrow morning I’m heading to the courthouse for jury duty! It’s the second time I’ve been called here, but the first case was settled before trial last time so I didn’t have to report. I don’t know if I’ll actually be chosen for the jury this time or not, but I’m fine either way. The tiny amount I’ll get paid will go into the travel fund.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett, came off hold last week, just as I finished Knots and Crosses. So far I am loving this book – I have gotten so caught up in the story that I can barely stand to put it down.
  • Listening to: A lovely, quiet morning here. There’s a nice breeze blowing through the trees outside, and a few birds singing, but otherwise everyone here is reading, and nothing noisy is going on outside. We’re going to start the laundry in a few minutes though, and there will go the quiet.

    Location, location, location – the city of Edinburgh is treated almost like a character in the Rebus stories.

  • Watching: Brett and I finished all the available episodes of Hinterland on Friday, and were planning to dip our toes into Game Of Thrones. However, we discovered that Hulu has the Rebus series, and since we’re both big Rebus fans (the books), we decided to watch this first. YaYu volunteered until late last night and Brett went along to help, so WenYu and I enjoyed watching some classic scary movies together (Sleepy Hollow, The Shining) because we love them!
  • Cooking/baking: It’s still too hot to bake, but I made a batch of white chocolate chip – macadamia nut cookie dough this morning and am freezing it in portions so that Brett can bake a few cookies some mornings for YaYu’s lunch. Dinner tonight will be baked chili rellenos with salsa verde, yellow rice and a cucumber salad.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: Staying within our budget on the big shop this past week was a huge chore, but we managed. We only bought what was on our list, but even then we had to put a few things back in order not to overspend, and we were only able to get two items on our stock-up list. I got all the sofa cushion covers washed yesterday and dried out in the sun. Taking them off is easy, but getting them back on is a chore. I rode five miles every evening on my bike, drank my daily water allotment (and then some), and did my language study every day. I made the Swagbucks first goal every day, although it was a challenge at times.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to jury duty or not. The last time I was on a jury it was interesting, and we’ve been warned to bring a sweater because the courtroom is cold. I can think of worse things right now than to be in a cool/cold environment all day. Brett is looking forward to getting an iPad Pro and keyboard this week! It’s a planned travel expense for next year (his current PC is too heavy and bulky to tote around), and we decided to go ahead and get it for him now.

    Favorite summer breakfast: Greek yogurt topped with fresh peaches and a sprinkle of granola

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Meiling was hired for the job she interviewed for last week – she now has three jobs but they all coordinate nicely and won’t interfere with her classes. Costco still had nice big, ripe peaches available this past week, so we bought another flat and will enjoy them for one more week.
  • Grateful for: Once again, this week I have been VERY thankful for the little fan YaYu brought me from China. It’s helped to keep me sane on more than one occasion this past week.
  • Bonus question: What do you do when you can’t sleep at night? I go through bouts of insomnia a couple of times a year – don’t know why – but my brain just can’t seem to slow itself down. I’ve learned not to fight it when it happens and just go with it. I’ll toss and turn a few times, but then usually get up and grab my book or write or search the web for a while, and when I’m tired enough I go back to bed and usually fall asleep quickly . Sometimes though that’s not until 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. I know experts say to stay away from computers, smartphones, etc. but they don’t seem to affect my ability to fall asleep or not. Brett falls asleep the minute he puts his head on the pillow, whether the light is on at night or people are talking or the TV is on in the next room (a skill he learned from serving for so many years on aircraft carriers, with jets launching and landing right overhead around the clock). I envy him – these days I have to wear a sleep mask and earplugs because I need it dark and quiet in order to fall asleep.

That’s a wrap for this week? How did your week go? What are you looking forward to? What good things happened for you?

 

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Five Frugal Things 8/18/2017

As usual, we did most of our big shop at Costco.

This week it’s mostly felt like all we did was hold the line . . .

  1. WenYu received an email on Tuesday from Hotmail letting her know that a scheduling problem had come up with her winter break itinerary. It took five tries and five different agents, but we finally got a new itinerary that worked for WenYu and did not involve any extra cost or inconvenience.
  2. There was a container of chicken broth in the refrigerator that needed to be used, so I put it in the slow cooker along with odds and ends of vegetables I found in the crisper and some chicken I found in the freezer, and we ended up with a delicious chicken soup instead of leftovers for our dinner this past weekend. No waste, and the fridge got a good clean out!
  3. We skated right up to the edge of our budget with the big shop, and were only able to get two of our planned stock-up items. We realize this is going to take a bit more work to get right. Still, we are well set for the rest of the month.
  4. We drank loads of filtered tap water and made pitchers of sun tea this past week. Both are refreshing, and don’t cost anything to make or enjoy.
  5. We put $7.29 into the change/$1 bill jar this week: $3.00 left over from the farmers’ market, $3.70 left after the big shop, and 59¢ that WenYu donated to the cause.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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#Kaua’i: A Not-So-Pretty Parakeet

The rose-ringed parakeet

After enjoying a bumper crop of lychees two years ago, when farmers were practically giving them away, we thought last year’s crops were anemic. We figured it was just an off year, but this year’s lychee crop was even more pitiful. Same for lilikoi (passionfruit). We’ve learned recently though about an invasive species on Kaua’i that’s been attacking crops all over the island – the pretty little rose-ringed parakeet! These little birds now numbers in the thousands and are causing environmental and economic damage all around the Garden Island.

Normally not considered a nuisance bird, the parakeet population on Kaua’i has exploded in the past few years, becoming more than just a nuisance to farmers, gardeners and others in the neighborhoods where they roost. Kaua’i is not alone either – they’re also causing problems on Oahu.

A flock of parakeets flies over the island at dusk.

The parakeet population is estimated to be around 5,000 on Kaua’i, and is growing exponentially. Believe it or not, the current horde started when two of the pretty birds were imported to the island by the owner of a B&B in Lawai, on the south side of the island, and escaped into the wild in 1968 and started a family. They’ve been a “slow invader,” and up until recently the birds were considered an entertaining novelty, especially when the bright green flocks would swoop into the trees at dusk. In the past couple of years however the population has reached what is called “critical mass” and unless steps are taken the number of parakeets will continue to expand at an increasingly faster and faster rate.

All these parakeets need to eat, and they have been going after fruit crops around the island with a vengeance, particularly lychee and longan trees. However, no fruit is safe from them. Although the birds are small, a flock of them, armed with their sharp, hooked beaks, can strip a large fruit tree in a day or overnight, whether that’s lychees or tangerines or bananas. They have also gone after the seed corn crops grown on the west side, and have been eating unripe lilikoi on the vine, damaging that crop. They primarily tend to flock at the tops of trees though, and besides eating the best fruit at the top they defecate on fruit below, contaminating it so that it’s unable to be sold or eaten. It’s the same for other fruits and vegetables in any area where they flock. Farmers have reported losing as much as a 30% of their fruit crops last year because of the parakeets.

The birds have also become a nuisance to condo and home owners. Once thought to be pretty, intelligent and interesting, the increasingly larger flocks of parakeets leave a mess in their wake, sometimes covering an entire property in droppings overnight. The flocks can also be incredibly noisy. The parakeets also have the potential to cause disturbing environmental damage. For now they are eating and roosting in the island lowlands, but as their population grows it’s feared they will begin moving to higher elevations, driving out native species of birds and other animals.

Kaua’i farmers are having to cover crops with netting to protect them from the marauding parakeets.

Farmers have tried to protect their crops but their efforts have either been ineffective against the parakeet hoards, or cumbersome and difficult, such as covering trees or plants with netting. Condo owners have butchered palm trees in an effort to keep the parakeet swarms away from their property. The rose-ringed parakeet has been labeled as an invasive species, and farmers and other stakeholders are now collaborating with county, state and federal agencies to try to stop their spread. The fear is that left unchecked, the parakeet population on Kaua’i could reach 10,000 in the next five years, causing widespread crop destruction as well as other economic and environmental disasters.

I first heard about the parakeets from other residents shortly after we arrived, but until recently had never seen them. I’ve now seen flocks roost in the palm trees across the way several times, although they don’t stay for long – they’re apparently on their way to somewhere else. They are pretty to look at, and I hope a solution can be found soon that protects both the birds and farmers.

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This Week’s Menu: Stocking Up

Baked chili rellenos casserole, our Sunday egg dish.

Brett and I want to kick up our savings even more next year, and one budget area we’ve decided we’re comfortable cutting back a bit is food and toiletries. Although the budget seems tight at times now, and saving on food can be a challenge in Hawaii (to say the least), we believe that by being more strategic in our menu planning and with our shopping we can cut back our monthly spending by around another $100 (we currently budget $500/month for food and toiletries.

To that end, we’re going to begin stocking up on certain pantry and freezer items until the end of the year, things that get used or eaten (more) frequently and that we know will keep for a while. I don’t say that lightly because the humidity here can be pervasive – things like potato chips or crackers or cereal that are sealed in bags can lose their crisp in a couple of months if exposed to the humidity. We don’t have a lot of extra space for storage inside, but enough that we can put a few things away, and items in jars or plastic containers can be kept outside in the garage.

Buying extras now with our current budget will mean that we can spend less next year. It won’t be a lot, but every little bit will help make it easier to save. To that end, items on our Costco stock-up list this month include but are not limited to a case of ramen, extra peanut butter, an extra container or two of nuts, and we’ll get a second container of fabric softener, and extra shampoo from Walmart. We’ll see how things total up this month, and decide if we can maybe get more. During our November and December shops is when we’ll get the things we can keep in the freezer.

Here’s to saving more next year!

Here’s our menu for this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Slow cooker stuffing with chicken;  (I am going to have 1/4 cup of stuffing, but mostly chicken); grilled zucchini
  • Wednesday: Ginger pork sandwiches; coleslaw (no bread for me)
  • Thursday: Teriyaki chicken meatball skewers with peppers; steamed rice; cucumbers (no rice for me)
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: Grilled beef Polish sausages; sauerkraut; pilaf (I’m skipping the pilaf)
  • Sunday: Baked chili rellenos; yellow rice; cucumber salad (no rice for me)
  • Monday: Panzanella with beans and cheese (bumped from last week – I’m substituting zucchini for the bread in my portion)

We’ll be getting more cucumbers from the farmers’ market, and zucchini if we can find it. Farmer’s are apparently having a hard time with zucchini right now – the flowers are rotting before the squash can set. I also hope we can get some corn, but otherwise we’ll be buying fruit.

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One Year To Go!

Just a little over a year from now YaYu will be going off to college, and after we have her settled Brett and I will be setting out on our Big Mystery Adventure™.

One year to go! While we’re on track financially and otherwise right now, there is still much to be done, and as we have learned from past experience time is going to fly by, not just because we are going somewhere, but because we have goals to accomplish and a deadline to meet, along with so much going on around us.

As exciting as the thought upcoming travel is, getting YaYu through her senior year, helping her get her college and scholarship applications finished and sent off in time, getting her to practices, meets and testing on time, and guiding her to the eventual soft landing of graduation next May is our main priority, and is going to keep us very involved and busy.

We also have to get through the holidays, and next year’s birthdays, which come right after Christmas. We’ve already met our savings goal for Christmas, and bought our college girls their tickets home, but whether our son and family will be joining us this year remains up in the air. Our son has said if they don’t come for Christmas, then they should be here for spring break next year. It’s always busy and crazy and expensive when the whole family is together, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

The only “unknown” right now is if we’ll be able to renew our lease this fall. Our landlord has told Brett several times that we are welcome to stay in this house as long as we like, and so Brett’s not worried about this at all. However, our landlord is terminally ill, and depending on how that plays out things could change, so I admit to being a tiny bit nervous. We’re going to ask at the beginning of next month about renewal (our current one expires at the end of October) because if there is going to be a change we need a couple of months notice to start looking for a new place and all that entails.

During this coming year there is going to be a lot more saving to do, as well as plans to finalize, reservations to be made, clothes and other necessary items to buy, and so forth. The schedule for all of this will pick up after the first of the year, but time will be moving even faster at that point. We can’t start making actual reservations until we know where YaYu will be going to school, and when she has to be there, but we should have that information no later than the end of March next year.

At the end of all of this though Brett and I will be taking a BIG, wonderful trip. Just one year to go – I almost can’t believe it!

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