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Today marks four weeks since my mother lost her 2-year fight against cancer and I am still unbelieving that she is gone. I catch myself still thinking she’s a text message or phone call away, but she is not and I am then reminded of being motherless.

I had never wished for death to come to my mom until I watched her suffer in her final days. It is a difficult thing to watch, the passing of a loved one, but in the end, I felt relief.

The funeral director told me later that despite my mom’s death being difficult, my family was actually quite lucky. At first I was upset, but when he began to explain, I understood his point. For him, he’s worked with families where death was sudden and unexpected. In some of those cases, there is often regret because family and friends wonder if the person who’s passed on knew how much he or she was loved. Feelings and thoughts are sometimes left unsaid.

With my mom, watching her health and her spirit deteriorate was difficult, but my family emptied our hearts to each other. We all said how much we loved each other, every day, several times a day and when she finally passed, there was no regret, no feelings left unsaid; only relief that her suffering was over.

My family cries because we are reminded of the void she’s left in our lives now that she’s no longer with us. I miss the funny and fiercely determined woman who instilled in me the qualities that have shaped me into who I am today and who loved me unconditionally.

I love you, mom.

Life Companion

December 19, 2015, would have marked my parents 43rd wedding anniversary, but a week prior, my mom passed away.  Though it was a very sad occasion, I have come to terms that she is in a better place where she no longer experiences the constant pain in her body and is resting.  For the past five years she had been battling a few ailments (heart failure and cancer) which all involved multiple surgeries.  Through it all, my father, her husband and life companion for the past 50 years was by her side.

Though my dad does not enjoy the doctor’s office nor the hospital, he would hold it all together just to be with her.  He would go anywhere my mom would take him, even if it meant not being in a place he was comfortable.  My mom would drag my dad to her weekly health classes to learn how to eat better, care for her body, and basically socialize with others who were also going through the same things as her.  My dad listened throughout these classes and started to make changes in their meals and would do anything to comfort my mom including back rubs and leg massages.

Finding a life companion who you love, cherish and respect is without a doubt the hardest thing we can all claim to have found.  I know that it does not happen instantly, you definitely need to be patient and work on blending your interests and differences together so that you can all live in companionable harmony.  I will miss my mom, but the greatest gift she gave me was living by example of what she hopes I will also have in my life companion.


For Paula’s Thursday Special: Companionable

Weekly Small Pleasures #13

It’s time, once again, to take stock and be grateful for those moments, big and small, that made this week amazing.

  1. Early Mornings – It was week #3 and I’m proud to report that I’m now getting up enthusiastically at 5:00 am. As a result of this newfound appreciation of dawn, I now enjoy the brilliant sunrises instead of lamenting how early it is or how tired I am.
  2. Tuesdays with Mom – I flew to Honolulu on Tuesday to meet my mom and dad for her doctors’ appointments. No matter how depressing it can get, it’s always nice to spend the day with my parents.
  3. Flying – This past Tuesday, I was reminded that I love flying. Unfortunately, the only long-distance traveling I’ll be doing in the next month is to Honolulu for a bunch of meetings and mom’s medical appointments. No matter. I enjoy the 45-minute commute.
  4. Macarons – Need I say more? Oishii desu ne!
  5. Cooking – Now that I’m working out regularly, I’m spending a bit more time in the kitchen, but because my schedule is getting tight, it’s forcing me to do a lot of food prep on Sunday. I spent part of today grocery shopping and prepping meals for the week. It certainly makes food during the week easier to pack when I do it this way.
  6. Lightning and Thunder and Rain, Oh My! – We enjoyed some heavy rain, lightning and thunder this past week, with the lightning and thunder even going on for 2+ days. Unlike Maui, who got the brunt of the rain and flooding, Hilo managed well. I absolutely love rainy weather.
  7. Binkies – Max, one of our tabby twins, has been particularly clingy with his binky this week. It’s a super soft face towel I bought in Japan and gave it to him when he was a kitten, but now he can’t sleep without it and I don’t have the heart to take it back. He even carries it around in his mouth and drags it around. Aww!!
  8. Last, but not least, The Chainsmokers – Okay, I’ve been living under a rock, a Generation X rock. So their single, Closer (featuring Halsey), always shows up on my playlist and I just discovered them this past week. Love it!

Want to see other people’s Weekly Small Pleasures? Here are a few:

This week’s small pleasures: episode 24 – Thistles and Kiwis
Weekly Small Pleasures #100 | A New Life Wandering
Weekly small pleasures #23 – Holding onto summer | Middle Europe

Weekly Small Pleasures #12

It’s been a while since I posted one of these, but I had a few amazing moments this week that are too good not to document.

Lava Viewing Trek – That little excursion out to Kalapana is still fresh in my mind.


Return to Fitness – This past week was week #2 of being back at spin, hula, and yoga and I’m finally feeling great. As you all know, when you get back into working out, it’s kind of a bummer. Your body’s in shock, you’re still trying to convince yourself that miserable sweating is worth it, and you’re exhausted all the time, but after going 2 weeks straight, I’m hitting my stride and it’s amazing. I’m eating and sleeping better, I’ve got a lot more energy, I’m happier, and I even managed to rock the front row last Friday. Hurray fitness!




















Pretty Nails – I’ve mentioned this before. Painting my nails is my way to feel more girly and I’ve been looking for just those colors that I can love. Well, I think I’ve found them! Mint green is growing on me, and it seems to match my skin tone, so here’s to mint green nails for the next month!

The End of Rizzoli and Isles – I’ve watched this show for 7 years and it all ended this past week with the series finale. What a great run it was!

Chicken bánh mì – I found out that one of my favorite local restaurants, Hilo Rice Noodle, sells my favorite sandwich! It’s the perfect serving size. Not massive like the “normal” size of Hawai’i eateries. Delicious!

Korean Dramas – You all know my fascination with Korean Dramas, exhibit A and exhibit B, but I continue to watch them. Here are a few that are currently airing and that I’m watching every week:

  • Cinderella and Four Knights – 4 cousins who hate each other and whose rich grandfather pays a modern day Cinderella to bring them closer together. Now they’re all falling in love with her. 
  • Blow Breeze – A South Korean attorney is reunited with a North Korean girl he once knew growing up in Macau. Outside of that, an elderly North Korean millionaire is hoping to find his granddaughter.
  • The Gentlemen of Wolgyesu Tailor Shop – The lives of four men who work in a tailor shop.
  • Jealousy Incarnate – She’s a weather reporter for a TV station and she’s soon torn between two men. The first is a haughty reporter at the same station she harbored a crush on for 3 years prior. The second is his good friend and fashion tycoon.
  • Our Gap Soon – I’m only watching this 50-episode drama because of my fascination with Song Jae Lim and Kim So Eun, who were once a couple of the variety show, We Got Married. I ship them so hard. LOL.

Have a great week everyone!

See what other people are grateful for this past week:

Wailoa Reflections

In response to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, Mirror, I’m sharing this photograph taken at Wailoa State Park. It was one of the first photos I took shortly after moving to Hilo and when I decided I would start pursuing photography with some level of seriousness and commitment. Mind you, I never really dabbled in photography before moving to Hilo, but I thought, “Why not?”. It was a creative way to orient myself to my new home and to engage in something I’d always wanted to try.

This photo was captured moments before sunset and I thought the scene looked almost haunting. The fuzzy reflections are my favorite part of the photo.

Lava Viewing at Kalapana

Our friend Adrel called me on Saturday to see if I wanted to go with him to take pictures of the lava flow in Kalapana. You may have seen Adrel’s amazing photographs on our Holoholo Girls’ Instagram and being that we’re both recreational photographers, I jumped at the chance.

After discussing trekking at night or early morning, we decided on today, Labor Day. We packed up and headed out of Hilo at 4:30 am. Once in Kalapana, we were surprised to see that other people had the same idea, no doubt wanting to see the beautiful glow of the lava in the dark.

Getting to the actual viewing site was not that difficult. It’s a 3.5 mile walk/hike on a mostly flat gravel road. Adrel heard that people head out on bikes, so he managed to secure two bikes and we rode toward the site with headlamps. Walking wouldn’t have been bad, but biking was better.

People were already situated on the cliffs, cameras out and taking photos of the amazing view. While Adrel moved closer to snap some pics, I stayed behind the safety marker and marveled at the dazzling sunrise to the east and the lava flow to the south. A boat with tourist also showed up, allowing the passengers to get up close and personal.

Getting some exercise while enjoying nature was the perfect end to a long weekend!

Fish on Top

This weekʻs Weekly Photo Challenge, Cherry On Top, came at a great time.

Poke is sold at most local grocery stores in Hawaiʻi, with lots of different varieties to choose from. I usually buy a tiny bit, whether it’s ahi (tuna) or salmon, made spicy or with some delicious condiment like shoyu (soy sauce) or inamona. Some grocery stores here actually sell poke bowls, which are fresh raw fish, topping a bowl of rice for lunch or dinner. I prefer just buying the fish and making my own poke bowl, or making my own poke, like when I make mushroom poke.

After eating a few pieces of my poke, I’m usually left with a few chunks that have passed the raw “expiration” date, so I flash fry it in a non-stick pan to give it new culinary purpose. Once it’s done, I transfer it into a small bowl and onto some rice and voila! We have a modified poke bowl.

This week’s poke leftovers was also tossed with onions and fresh, local limu (seaweed). Absolutely delicious!


On my recent trip to Maui, I stopped off at Ali’i Kula Lavender farm for a tour. After learning about the process of growing and harvesting lavender as well as the many varieties of lavender that are grown on the grounds, I also learned about different plants on the farm. If you go, you’ll see fruit and olive trees, flowers of all kinds, even a few spaces for corn and kale. What a special place!

Waiting for the tour, I noticed these little succulents that were growing in a cluster on the side of a little hill. I’ve always loved succulents for their pretty patterns.


pretty row of succulents

Living in Hawaiʻi my entire life, I have never seen a protea that was still growing. Most of the time, I see these flowers in arrangements or being sold at farmers’ markets. Seeing one in “real life” made me appreciate every detail of the protea’s beauty.


A blooming protea

Nature is truly, an amazing artist.


Looking Up Roots

img_3710For two days, Maui has been my playground. Lingering clouds, majestic mountains, tall trees swaying in the breeze, one can’t help but look up, especially in a place that is unfamiliar.

I’ve been to Maui before, but only for day trips and minutes from the airport. This time, I decided to do a last minute getaway, hoping to cure myself of jetlag from my recent trip to Japan, but also to reconnect with my genealogy. Using frequent flyer miles and taking advantage of last minute deals for lodging and ground transportation, I was on a plane yesterday morning, excited to develop a different relationship with Maui.

img_3676My Native Hawaiian great-grandmother hails from Makawao. More specifically, she was born and raised in Ulupalakua. Each time I’ve spent time in Maui, I never left the Kahului city limits, so this time, I strayed off the beaten path to spend most of my time here in Makawao and to find ways to reconnect to her. You see, I know very little about my great-grandmother. She passed away the year my dad was born and everyone else who knew her, has also passed on. Those people mentioned her quiet and loving disposition, but no one thought to ask her about her childhood. It just wasn’t something you did back then, so we have very little to go on. Additionally, things weren’t written down and recorded as they are now.

One thing I do know is that she was the last mānaleo in our family. A mānaleo is someone whose first language is the native language, and since then, two generations later, Hawaiian is being spoken in our family again. Although Hawaiian is a second language for me, I learned it to feel closer to her, and on this trip, I hoped that I could feel even closer to her, to perhaps stand in places she once did.

I went to the face-lifted historic town of Makawao, where perhaps she frequented, to Ulupalakua where she might have run as a child. Driving down winding roads and walking around in these so-called new places didn’t seem so strange. They each reminded me of my own childhood on Kauaʻi, where twisting roads and old buildings were common. Despite the sexily renovated store fronts and bustling tourists in Makawao, I can imagine the old and what it might have been like at the turn of the century when my great-grandmother lived there as a young child, before she married by great-grandfather at the tender age of 17.

This trip has been a journey into the roots of my family. Determined to “look up” my great-grandmother, when I arrived in Ulupalakua, a gentle breeze greeted me, kissing my cheek when I stepped out of the car. I threw my head back and turned my gaze up to the sky when the coolness of the breeze hit my face, and I felt at peace. No, I felt at home.

Grandma Lucy, I’m here.

Look Up

Pilihonua Notecards

Movement has always been my creative outlet, but now that I’m back to dancing and we’re doing a lot of it, it was time to turn my attention toward reconnecting with my visual art-sy side. I’m in no way a designer, but I do dabble with this website, photography, and graphics.

To thank our hosts in Yurihama, we normally bring makana (gifts), which have historically ranged from chocolate covered macadamia nuts to anything related to Hawaiʻi. This time, instead of heading down to buy calendars, I decided to make one-of-kind cards. No small feat, considering I’ve been incredibly busy. Here’s the end product:

I used the following native plants in this batch :

  • Hala (Pandanus) – Most commonly used for weaving and plaiting, the word hala, is also defined as “passing”. Hala lei are still seen at occasions that mark rites of passage like graduation and funerals.
  • Ulu (Breadfruit) – Although other parts of the ulu can be used for its wood, sap, and leaves, the fruit is most known as a food. It was often used as a primary staple in some areas and even made into poi. The common definition for “ulu” is to grow.
  • Koa (Acacia) – This hard wood was and continues to be used in creating ceremonial items as well as seafaring craft like surfboards and wa’a (canoe). “Warrior” is another definition of koa.
  • Kukui (Candlenut) – Used for medicine,  food, and oil to burn for light.

I’ve used native plants to print ʻaʻahu (costuming) in hula, but we were always relegated to black or brown paint. As you can see, I went a little crazy with colors. I love the freshness of this new palette and they certainly put these prints in a more modern perspective.  The usefulness of these plants, even now in modern times, is still relevant.

I’ve coined this little project Pilihonua, being in kinship with ones surroundings. Using native plants that my ancestors relied upon makes me feel more connected to my culture and perhaps now our Japanese hosts can begin to understand that connection we Hawaiians also feel to our environment.


Glow in the Dark


Our first visit to the Maui Ocean Center was very memorable and interesting, especially when we came across the moon jellyfish exhibit.  I was tired after chasing my toddler through the Center that when we got to this dark room with the glowing jellyfish I suddenly felt a calmness and tranquility settle upon me.  I sat and was transfixed on the jellyfish swimming in this large aquarium vessel in the middle of the room.  There were seats all around the perimeter of the room allowing visitors to also admire these beautiful sea creatures.  I think they knew that after a long day of perusing through the exhibits once you reached this one you needed to kick back and enjoy the glow.

For Paula’s Thursday Special

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