Sunday, June 26, 2011

I just love this shot that Dan took!
I have just a few minutes before we have to leave, so I apologize if this seems rushed and lacking detail. This morning I am doing an interview for a new restaurant across the street from the county jail (East side of island) called The Jailhouse. That’s not the reason for the name, it’s because it’s an Irish pub and the owners work in the justice system. They put released convicts to work there, helping to reintegrate them into the community.
This is by the falls near our home
At 3:30 we will drive to Koloa (South side) to interview the owner of a new Mexican food truck. He is from Mexico and I have interviewed him before. It was when I first got this job and he managed Pizzetta in Koloa. My folks got to come on that one. The menu looks awesome for both, so I’m looking forward to it!
The view from Tetchie's house

I’ve been making an effort to get out more, before my social skills completely deteriorate! This week we had dinner at our friend Tetchie’s house. She is Filipino and made us a wonderful Filipino meal that included lumpia (like egg rolls) and carne adovada. I asked her why so many Filipino words and dishes were Spanish and she didn’t know. I’ll have to look it up, unless one of you guys know. 
Right above the falls
Saturday morning I volunteered for the Mayor-A-Thon. It’s a free event put on by the county where the mayor encourages fitness. 500 people walked, ran or biked the costal trail in Kapaa and there was entertainment and breakfast afterward. I had interviewed Marie of Sweet Marie’s gluten-free bakery last week. She served three types of frittatas (Italian omelets): Veggie with roasted red bell pepper, broccoli, onions and potato; chicken sausage, potato and onion, or plain. She told me she used 80 cartons of eggs! She also served muffins and fresh fruit. I helped her serve the hungry participants.
This picture was taken at a farm while I was interviewing a farmer
Fourth of July weekend, we will be trying to quit smoking again! On the 6th, I am going to start seeing a personal trainer. I figure this will help me, stay off sickerettes (thanks Debi), get me out of the house, meet people and hopefully lose a good 40 pounds. The inactivity due to writing plus eating at restaurants (for work of course) has put on the pounds! I saw a picture of me from the Mayor-A-Thon and was shocked!
Me at the Mayor-A-Thon, Marie is right next to me. A tiny, lil thing for a baker! I hate always being the biggest person!

Dan is dropping his weight. In the two weeks he’s worked at his new job, he’s done 7 hiking tours. That’s 7 days of hiking with a 50 pound pack on his back! He’s really tired, and I have him working today on his day off, but he is extremely happy. 
This is John, one of the people on Dan's tour. He's Air Force, working at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado.

He makes great tips so we are using that money for living (gas and stuff) and the checks go straight into the bank. Looks like we’ll finally be able to start saving!
The is a dragon fruit flower, it's about 18 inches long! Can't wait for the fruit!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cabin Fever

I finally realized I could make these pictures bigger! Sorry for the tiny ones from the past. This panoramic shot at Maha`ulepu Beach was taken with Dan's wide angle lens, the actual image is 50x20 inches. It took 9 shots stitched together to get it. Now I understand why it's so hard to capture the immense beauty when your an amateur!
Happy Father's day to my wonderful and loving father! I'm so glad you're my papa and appreciate the gifts you have given me, especially the gift of the love of nature.
Some kids contemplating jumping off Kipu Falls, the one in the yellow shirt finally did. The other one sat there dipping his hand in the spring water and looking below.
Dan just finished his first week at the photo tour company. It went great, it’s almost like he’s been doing it for years. He has become fast friends with the other two tour guides, both half his age. The owners were pleased that he got back to the shop on time, most first timers come in an hour to two hours late. He’s enjoying showing people around, teaching them how to get a shot, grabbing shots himself, and being out on the island.

He did two EZ Tours, where you get out, take some shots, and get back in the van. hitting an average of 12 locations. He also did two hiking tours which involves some steep terrain, hitting about 7 locations. He figures he hikes up hill for about 4 miles when it’s all said and done, and then, of course the 4 miles downhill. All with a 50 pound backpack. He’s been a little tired, a little sore, but he expects to be in tip top shape soon. He’s been an avid hiker for longer than I’ve known him, so it feels good for him to hike again.
Rope swing at Kipu Falls. Dan composited the shots so you can see the whole trajectory.
He told me he’s the happiest he’s been since moving here and it shows! Everyday he comes home full of energy, good will and happiness. After he animatedly tells me about his day, he gets to work. He checks out all the shots he took and starts making the choice ones pretty for his blog

Monday after work, Dan met me at a gluten-free bakery for my Tastes of Kauai column. We spent about an hour and a half there before he got to come home. As I made dinner, he processed photos and wrote up his blog.
Looking west at Maha`ulepu Beach
Wednesday after work, he pulled his moped into the garage where I was waiting. Rinsed off his feet and off we left to interview a farmer on the North shore. We were supposed to go to a “green drinks” social mixer, up north a little further, but we were running about an hour late so we stopped for a sunset shot instead. He took me down a steep incline that they do on the hiking tours. A beautiful spot with a view of Hanalei Bay, I never noticed before! He’s been busy, but loving it!
Looking east
Meanwhile, I have been going stir crazy. Being a full time writer means I spend a lot of time alone, at home. Dan came to my rescue and took me to some places he does for the tour. They were on the South shore because it looked like rain up north. Dan processed these shots from the day for me to post here. 
The beautiful, lacy lava is as sharp as glass!
First, we went to Kipu Falls and while he took shots, I wrote about it for the travel agency. It’s so nice to be able to spend they day together “working”, and doing the things we like while seeing the island. Folks were jumping off the 30 foot fall into the pool below. Men, women, children, even grandpas! There was also a rope for people to swing out on. 
I asked Dan to pretend like I was a client and show me how to get a technically correct shot of this exploded lava bubble. They were everywhere. I wish I could dig one out, take it home and use it as a planter!
Standing on the edge of a sandy trail looking 20 feet below.

Then we went to Maha`ulepu Beach. It looks like an alien world with jagged, lava cliffs and blow holes. The South shore is dryer than the North, so it reminded me of the Mediterranean. Plus, in the summer, the swells are bigger on the South shores. Huge waves crashed on 40 foot sea cliffs, pounding out the underneath so they arched. The waves sent sprays higher than the cliff, which we were on, looking down into the ocean. We were walking on top of those etched out cliffs, and huge currents of air, booming sound and misty sprays came from the blowhole beneath our feet. It felt like I was in Yellowstone, like I was on primitive planet.
This is one of the cooler looking blow holes. There is a slight fog in the center, that's because of the mist from the ocean below, so cool!

It was an amazing day and I felt revitalized, and happy to be reminded of why we moved here and happy to have a husband who not only knows how to get me out of a funk, but knows some killer places to take me!

Dan is so stealthy, I didn't even realize he got this shot of me! Of course I was completely absorbed in the beauty, sound and the joy of writing about the place.
Aloha! I’m off to the laundry mat.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Past Came Knocking

I remember when I first moved here, everyone asked for more pictures in my posts. The publications I write for want first rights to Dan's pictures and rightly so. Plus, he has his blog where he posts a new picture every day.  I don't have any pictures for mine, so I am borrowing ones from his blog.
I spoke with my old friend John for about four hours yesterday. Luckily, we both have iPhones so we didn’t completely use up our minutes! He and I used to work together as editors, and since we left, he has become a manager. 
At first we spoke about his upcoming trip to Kauai in July. He and his wife will be spending 8 days on our lovely island, their first time to Hawaii and their first real vacation in seven years. We are excited to be able to give them an insiders view of our paradise!
We moved onto the subject of “luxury” items. When we were in Colorado, Dan and I were spinning round and round on life’s hamster wheel, striving for the American Dream. Trying to move up the corporate ladder, spending as much money as we made. Saving only in the form of a 401k, furnishing our home, fixing our yard up and relishing in short lived weekends and vacations. Luxury was having health insurance, a beautiful home, a big TV, two new cars; all the Good Stuff.
What we didn’t have was time. Time to let life in. To make connections.  We were too busy, too anchored by all the stuff to live moment by moment. We had to strive for more as a personal challenge and to pay for our lifestyle. 
Our new luxury item is time. The island works at its own pace and that pace is slow. When we first got here, we were frustrated by that pace and we aimed to change things. Slowly, the island changed us. We move slower and we like it. No more heart racing, pulse pumping “we have to get there now or we’re going to be late!” mentality.
I realized I have become a more patient person. I have learned to “let go and let god.” I believe if I do my best, the rest will be taken care of in ways I could never imagine. I believe this because this is what is happening. I’m an “it is what it is, live and let live” kind of girl now.
The conversation was cathartic for me. John is my good friend and he has always been an active and caring listener. He has heard me vent about my frustrations so many times, I am now embarrassed. When I started talking about why we left, I started getting angry. I didn’t realize how angry until he had to interrupt my rant to place his take out order inside a restaurant. I was so caught up in that past drama, I didn’t even realize he had gotten into his car and drove anywhere! Don’t worry, he uses a headset.
That interruption made me pause, and in that short time I realized how angry I still was about working there. I apologized when he got back on and we made our way to the changes he has made since being a manager and the difficulty he faces, mostly from his coworkers. John has always had a kind and compassionate heart, that’s one of the things I love about him. I remember years before he got the job, he was reading books and articles on how successful businesses were managed. Maybe he knew he was going to be a manager, he never said anything about it, and I thought he was just interested in how successful businesses did it. 
He said when he got the job, his coworkers teased him about his new clothes. It stung, but he shrugged it off (because that’s what he does) and tried to make the best of it. They challenged him to remain friends, to not be taken over by the dreaded Manager Slime. But, they broke the bond first. When he tried to join them for lunch, just like he had been doing for the past 10 years, they teased him. “What? Is it OK that you sit with us lower people?” It made him so uncomfortable, he doesn’t do it anymore.
When we got off the phone I felt bad about spending so much time complaining about the past, but I was glad to hear the changes he is making: no more 8 a.m. roll call for one. I went to bed wondering about how much anger I still had inside me for that place.
This morning I realized that the reason I had such a hard time is not because I was bad at my job, which deep down I knew since I always got good reviews. The lack of leadership, managers who are not unified and an (unconscious?) desire to set their staff up for failure is what made my time so hard there. The commonality between the managers is ego, that’s it. Everything was ego driven. Every manager looked out for himself, and gave the people they liked, and the people who were in their proximity, the “promotions.”*

I cared about my work, I cared about the company and I cared about my career. I was reliable, dedicated and hard working. When the company began to migrate to a different platform, I came in on my days off to learn it. When I told the director of the department he asked me “Why did you do that? Wouldn’t you have preferred to walk your dogs instead?” 
I was stunned but I didn’t let that stop me. I continued to invest my free time into becoming proficient in a complex, half-a-million dollar edit bay. I still got nowhere and four other guys got “promoted” into those positions. My friends, sensing my frustration, suggested it was a clear case of sexual discrimination. I didn’t want to believe it. I was so frustrated, I began applying for lower paying jobs within the company. Company policy meant that I had to tell my boss what I was doing. When he asked why, I told him. I said I couldn’t figure it out, it made no sense. An editor with 20 years in the industry, and 10 at that company, should not have this problem. When I told him what my friends thought, he took it to HR.
The director got demoted and I began a new campaign. I sent out emails to all the producers asking them to book me on the weekends (again, on my time) and my boss began telling me my name frequently came up in manager meetings, and that I “was the poster child for editors who wanted to move into DS,” the high end edit bays. 
My boss designed a new DS edit bay but was different from the rest. It was a self contained unit. The entire process; off-line editing, finish editing and audio sweetening, could be done in there. He didn’t think of me when it came time to staff it. I immediately asked for a new manager because this, to me, was a betrayal. Especially after what happened by his instigation. It was obvious that he didn’t have my best interest at heart. The new director called a meeting between the three of us, and when I told my boss that I felt betrayed, he didn’t understand.
Meanwhile editors who had less time in the field, editors who had less time on the box and editors who had been banished to the night shift because of drunken tardiness got “promoted.” (To the editor to who I am referring, I love you dearly. Until the day I die I will love you, you are one of my best friends, but it is what it is.)
One weekend morning I was complaining about this to Dan. Please understand, this happened over a course of five years and it became my life. I started doubting myself as an editor, and as a good person. I started blaming myself, and was riddled with self doubt. Dan said I should talk to a different manager, the one who was in charge of the video bays. He suggested I stroke his ego because that’s how he deals with him. He said tell him “You’re the man! You are in charge of all these edit bays. Your the one who has the power to make these decisions.”
 The very next day I was booked in DS! It was bittersweet. After all those years and all that struggle I got what I wanted. What started out in my mind as a natural progression from an outdated platform to a modern one, became a single minded goal. The victory seemed dirty. It seemed like it wasn’t mine.
Was I the best editor there? No. Was I the grumpiest editor there? No. Were there grumpy and mediocre editors in DS? Yes. There was nothing wrong with me. 
Obviously, Dan felt the same way even though he was the “lead editor.” We had different situations but the common theme was that we weren’t being heard. Which means we were not human beings but numbers on a spreadsheet, another notch on a managers belt. So, we decided to level our lives.
That conversation, and having my friend John, who is now a manager, listen, was a gift. I can write this and I am no where near as mad as I was yesterday. My pulse has quickened but I feel detached. The anger has been released and I can look for the lessons. The first being: When it doesn’t feel right, when you have to try too hard, when you feel like you are not being heard, move on.  Life is too short.
The conversation allowed me to release the bitter feelings I had and opened me up to appreciate the good things that came my way by working there; friendships, personal and professional growth and the money to start over.
Now, my “luxury” item is living. Really living, feeling and connecting to people. I also get to do something I am passionate about, and get paid for it. And, of course, I live in paradise! Everything turns out better when you listen to your heart.
* These positions were an elevation in status only, no pay or title was received by obtaining this level.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Shock and Awe

Kolo Kai Farm grows ginger, turmeric and Okinawan purple sweet potatoes.

I can finally relate to the words shock and awe. Two years ago yesterday, Dan and I spent our first whole day on Kauai. We were infatuated from the moment our feet hit the ground but slowly, as the week passed, we fell in love with the island and decided we wanted to die here. Well, live, really live, first!

Since Dan's last week at Papaya's ends this Thursday, I told him I would miss all the great produce he brings home. So, all week he has been bringing me goodies. This is a huge mountain apple.

The flesh of a mountain apple is juicy and has a mild, sweet taste with hints of rose.

At home we spent a good week deciding if we really wanted to move to Kauai. Did we really want to give up everything we had worked so hard for? Our family was close by and we had treasured friendships worn comfortable over time.

Perfectly ripe Crenshaw melon, from the mainland. We don't grow melons very well on Hawaii. The fruit flies sting and ruin them.
Once we decided, there was no looking back. Like a corvette, we accelerated quickly. In six short months we were living on Kauai, with our dogs. We knew no one, had no jobs and no idea what we were going to do. 

While at a chocolate farm getting pictures, I was given a gardenia.

In the beginning we were on extended vacation, but after a month, we got fidgety. The first lesson I learned was that I am not a sedentary person even though I thought I’d like to be one. We signed up for an organic farming class, on a whim. Because our only plan was to look for open doors and go through them. I went to the farm to sign up for a CSA and check the place out. Dan came with me because he had nothing better to do. As the farmer described her class, her words tugged at my heart and I got emotional. I decided that was an open door and went through it.

We took a tour of the Coco Palms so I could write about it for the travel agency. It's Graceland sad. Not because the home of a legend has turned into Disneyland, but because the once legendary, trend-setting (they are the ones who started the evening tiki torch lightings) resort that Elvis stayed and filmed at,  is falling to ruin.

All the while I faithfully posted to my blog, a blog a friend suggested I start. When I started that, I had no idea that writing would become my passion. One that I would get paid for. I wrote the farm’s newsletters and press releases and made connections within the local papers.
I Interviewed a taro farmer so we had to get some. Taro is the only ingredient in poi besides water. Baxter goes crazy for the stuff!
One day, on another whim, I sent a letter to one of those connections. I described who I was and what I had been doing with my life. I suggested that since she wrote almost everything in the paper, I was available if she wanted help. She passed the email on and I got a phone call asking me if I wanted to do the food column! Unbelievable! I guess I have imagined doing this since I bought a book called Will Write for Food about 5 years ago.
When I first started writing for the paper, they assigned me the restaurants. Once that stopped, the Kauai Grill in Princeville was one of the first ones I did.
So, I get to eat at restaurants and not pay for it and I get paid to do it. Inconceivable! (Think: Princess Bride) Recently, I picked up another weekly column spotlighting local farmers. That makes a total of three weekly writing jobs, if you count the travel agency on Oahu.

Right before Dan got his new job, his wide angle lens and camera bag/pack arrived in the mail. After he carefully packed his three lenses, miscellaneous stuff and attached the tripod to the back, we had to take it out for a test drive.

Meanwhile, Dan has been reorganizing the produce department at the local health food store while taking “Yum Shots” for my articles. Just over a week ago, he got a phone call out of the blue asking him if he wanted to do photo tours. That’s where he is at right now, doing a hiking photo tour on the North shore. I won’t be surprised if I see something from today on his blog.

Nani Moon Mead, the only meadery on Hawaii and was my first non restaurant article. They use organic fruit exclusively from Kauai for meads like pineapple guava; starfruit and lilikoi; ginger spice and chocolate with vanilla beans, yum!

Through this job we have met award-winning chef’s; dined in the finest restaurants on Kauai; sampled handcrafted food from local chocolate, mead and jam makers; hung out with one of the local DJ’s; talked story with farmers and attended an award ceremony put on by paper I write for. We have made new dear friends and have taken many beach and mountain excursions. My next goal is to take a guided hike of the Kalalau trail.
Monkeypod Jam can only be found at three of the island's farmers markets. We have over ten, one or two every day. Monkeypod makes things like papaya coconut cream and coffee jam using coffee from Moloaa Bay on the North shore.
I am shocked and awed at what has transpired in the past two years. From living very comfortably in Colorado to living meagerly in paradise. We are at the front steps of new careers that were never imagined. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Although we miss our friends and family dearly and even Colorado now that winter is over and things are warming up. I know tomatoes and peaches are right around the corner, things that don't grow well here. I love every single moment on this beautiful island with it's sincere and cooky people (think, Island of the Misfit Toys). They say if the island doesn’t like you, she’ll spit you out. I think she likes us. I know we love her!
Koa is the only cacao farmer on Kauai who also makes chocolate. There is one other in the United States and that is on the Big Island.
Tomorrow is our 12 year anniversary. We'll be working but it'll be fun. The paper bought us tickets so we could cover the Taste of Hawaii! It's a foodie festival at Smith's Tropical Botanical Gardens in Wailua with 50 chefs from around the state, 15 wine and beer vendors plus the mead lady and 10 bands. Pinch me!