Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou!

On the way to Ha`ena

Hola Papi y mami,
Dad, I hope you got some lessons on the tablet you got for Christmas. If so, Greg can put this app on there. Then, you can touch the big button on your screen, and it will open to the most recent post on my blog. Simple.
Today is the last day of 2011. I'm lying in bed, it’s 6:30 and still dark, and thinking about all I have to be grateful for. The first thing that comes to mind is you. When I came home from Colorado, it was with a heavy heart. I was afraid it was the last time I was going to see you. Alternatively, I wondered if the dad I grew up with was going to be replaced by an impostor, and was mom going to be OK?
I had nothing to worry about. 
You are the thing I am most grateful for this year. I am grateful to be your daughter. I am grateful to know you. I am grateful you are such a good person. I am grateful you are alive. I’m grateful that you are still you, maybe even improved. I am grateful you can see how loved you are.
I smile to myself, knowing that you are safe in the swank rehab facility you just moved into. As I pull the blanket up to my neck and tuck my arm under, I realize I’m grateful for chilly mornings and snuggly blankets. 

Dan getting ready 

To get this shot. It's on the North Shore, next Ke`e Beach. It's the wet cave, and the entrance to the "Blue Room", you have to swim to get there!
Tears fill my eyes and spill onto my cheeks when I think of Baxter Brown. Nothing brings tears to my eyes quicker than thinking about that dog. I miss him. I think about him everyday, especially in the morning. We used to wake up with a good snuggle. Me, on my side, he spooned in the curve of my body. He would softly nuzzle my ear, moaning in delight, as he inched to get closer. I haven’t went on a good walk since I lost him. It’s just not the same.  I’m grateful that I got to know him, that I got to love him. His kind of love was really special.
Besides being grateful for our health, Lucy Lane, the jeep that gets us around, the roof over our heads, warm clean water, a full refrigerator, money in the bank and bills paid, I’m grateful for how my husband shows up in adversity. He is a natural leader, an optimist who sees the good in people. He is my crutch when I doubt myself, my solid partner who makes me laugh. The one I hold hands with at night, the one who sits next to me when I write.

Sitting next to Dan while he works on his photographs is a dream come true. The creativity sparks between us as he asks my opinion about a shot. Do I like “A” or “B” better? “A” I say, I like how it’s composed. Words have always mattered to me, but now, even more so. As I struggle to find the perfect word to express the exact sentiment, I ask him if word “A” or “B”, has more impact. “B” he says, it has more meaning. 

Sunrise over Hanalei Pier

We spent Christmas Eve driving to the North Shore, and back to Wailua to finish getting the Jeepstyle shots. I am his assistant, and I appreciate the excuse to get out of the house. Every time I get out, I remember how lucky I am to be living in such a beautiful, inspiring place. 

We hiked over to this secluded area to get big wave shots

We stood on slippery lava rocks for about 45 minutes watching the show

Lucy was not impressed

But we sure were! Dan isn't totally happy with this shot, so we'll be going back for more. I don't mind because watching those 30 foot waves was better than any firework show!

We perch on slippery lava rocks, and waves crash and splash around us. Lucy wades in the water between them. We are getting more shots for Koloa Rum. The late afternoon sun glints off the cresting waves and pierces my heart. It’s these snapshots that I treasure. They remind me of exploring this beautiful life with my husband. Except now, we are getting paid to do it!

What I see

What Dan sees

I still pinch myself when I think about getting paid to write about food. Unbelievable. I’m glad the island has contrived ways to feed Dan and I so well. We’ve had numerous free dinners we couldn’t have afforded otherwise. When I think about how it came to me, I know the best thing to do is the best I can, and then surrender. I’ve learned to get caught up in the flow of life and let it’s current wash over me and take me where it will. Even the writing is not mine, God and my spirit dance inside me and words come out.  
I guess that’s my biggest lesson of the year. Learning to recognize that feeling. What it feels like to be plugged in and turned on. Learning to notice what I’m doing when that happens, and what I’m doing when it doesn’t. Learning how to let go of all the stuff and people that make me feel bad, and learning how to cultivate activities and friendships that make me feel good.
I have come to believe that’s our purpose in life. To live it fully so God and my spirit know what it feels like to be alive and thriving. I learned it from Baxter and Lucy and the ocean and trees and flowers and birds and plants. They thrive because they can. God and spirit want to experience the expression of joy and love through me. Knowing it affects the people I interact with, is the way I can make a difference in this world. One smile or kind word (or both!) at a time. 
In our conversations, I’ve noticed a happier man. Despite the physical challenges, you’ve come out on top. You choose to focus on what’s right in your life. Namely, your marriage, family and friends. You know that you are one loved man. That your wife is unflinchingly devoted, and stronger than you realized. That you raised your kids to be loving and kind. That you have dear friends who will do whatever your heart desires to make you comfortable. 
I wish you and mom a rich 2012, full of laughter, love and joy. 
Hau`oli Makahiki Hou! Happy New Year family and friends!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rob’s Patty

The taro fields in Hanalei (This is a Dan shot, the rest are from my phone)

Hola papi!

I have been missing my family a lot, so I decided to make some of mom's dishes. It reminds me of her, home and my family.

Dan made alioli

and we served it with seared Kauai lamb chops. Those purple chunks at the bottom are fried taro.

My attempt at mom's mac and cheese turned out pretty good.
Even though the skies are full of grey clouds, we are heading up to the North Shore to get some shots for Jeepstyle, and the Koloa Rum Company. It’s a horrible time of year to shoot beautiful pictures, but these clients want their shots by mid-January. 
Sign outside The Feral Pig
We went to a restaurant called The Feral Pig the day before, so I spent the morning writing the article for MidWeek Kauai. Dan culled though those shots, and made them pretty. My other column, Farmers Markets, is featuring romaine lettuce, so Dan processed those as well. 
By the time we were ready to head up north, it was one o’clock, and we were starving. We had done a profile on a restaurant up there, and the chef gave us coupons for two free meals. We figured we’d cash those in before they expired. 

Cloudy skies at Hanalei Bay

The restaurant has outside dining, and it’s situated right next to the garden that supplies the kitchen. When you’re done eating, or while you’re waiting for your food, you can take a little stroll around. The gardens are in a circular pattern, with papaya, palm and banana trees lining the permitter. Chickens roost and provide eggs, and lambs graze in the field.

We didn’t take you there because, when you were here, the chef was horrible and a jerk as well. Chef Rodman is the new chef. He came from Oahu where he was the chef de cuisine at the Palm Terrace in Turtle Bay Resort. It was fancy-smancy, but he moved his family here for a more relaxed lifestyle.

Dan ordered the hamburger made with Kauai beef, and I ordered the Asian beef tacos also made with Kauai beef. Dad, those tacos were so good! Tender ropes of beef, slow-cooked in a rich tomato sauce. It was served on two corn tortillas and topped with kale, because Rodman says, “It’s way healthier.” A spicy yogurt sauce was drizzled over the kale, and came with a side of black beans, quinoa, and fresh salsa.

We’ve become friends with Rodman, and while we were waiting for our food, he set a plate of poke in front of us. “Here, while you’re waiting try this and let me know what you think. I’m trying it out, see how people like it. I’ve only sold six today.”

A lady saw Dan taking pictures, and asked if he could fix her camera

I know you don’t like raw fish, but it was delicious. The ahi tuna was tender, and really fresh. It melted in out mouths. There was a spicy sauce made with sriracha, a Thai hot sauce, and slivers of raw onion. 
Since the light wasn't that great, he put it on his tripod to check it out. She appreciated it, and said she wants to hire him to take family portraits while they are here.

While we ate, Dan laughed and said, “Next time, we should just come in and sit down. We don’t even need to order.” I laughed too because it’s true. Last time we came, he had us try three other things on the menu, as well as two new fruit drinks.

Sometimes, like today, he sits with us and fills us in on what’s cookin’. “Oh Marta! You gotta try this lamb we just got in!” he tells me, his eyes gleaming with excitement. “They’re from our fields, we hung them to dry for 14 days.”
Rodman is a gregarious local boy, around 35-years old, with dark hair and eyes, and golden skin. His lanky frame leans against the chair-back, one leg crossed over his knee, and his white T-shirt is damp with sweat.
“We took those bad boys to Medeiros this morning and they had both of them cut, ground and packaged in 25 minutes!” He smacks the back of his hand into the palm of the other to emphasize the butcher’s speed. 
I ask him how the lamb is going to show up on the menu. “After Christmas, I’m going to make rack of lamb, I’m going to roast it with cinnamon and some other spices. You gotta try some of it! I’ll be right back.” He disappears into the kitchen, the screen door closing behind him with a whack!
Several months ago, the restaurant had bought some of Dan’s photos for their website, but Dan wasn’t happy with the burger shot. So he snapped about 40 shots of it while I tucked into my tacos. I learned not to wait for him, because my food gets cold. 
Everyone sits on these long, wood communal tables with tops that are about three inches thick. There are eight chairs to a table. We had one to ourselves, and it was situated right in front of the kitchen door. Lucy napped under the table. 
Rodman, with plated lamb patty in hand, opens the screen door with a flourish just as the actor Rob Lowe rounds the corner. They almost collide. Rob stops, looks down, and says, “What’s that?” 
“A lamb patty.”
“Can I have one?”
Rodman sets the lamb patty, crisscrossed with a garlicky yogurt sauce, down in front of us. “Tell me what you think,” he says, and heads off into the kitchen to make Rob’s patty. 
We are full, but we devour it anyway. Rob and his family settle into the next table over. A few minutes later, Rodman slides into the chair across from me, and asks, “What do you think?” “It’s wonderful,” I say. “It tastes so clean, and it’s very juicy.”
“OK. You gotta try this cookie we made with fresh peppermint leaves.” 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sweet As Honey

Dear Dad,
It’s been raining a lot lately. Big, gushing storms with thunder cracks that vibrate the house, and lightning flashes at once through the east and west windows. This morning we woke to a steady rainfall, and a monster muddy puddle in the middle of the driveway.
Dan and I are sleepy-eyed and crunchy because we’ve got a handful of clients who want stuff now. Yesterday, Dan spent his time on the couch hunched over the cedar chest you and mom gave us, processing photos for the Farm Bureau. I wrote two Jazzercise articles, and did some price negotiating on Dan’s behalf.  
We are up early because we have to drive through the tree tunnel and into Koloa town, just before Poipu, to shoot a video and some photographs of a beekeeper. Dan was a little cranky by the time we got in the car. Turning the ignition, the voice of Chris Cornell filled the jeep, singing, “To be yourself is all that you can be.” 
The rain had stopped as we headed out, and the sun was starting to break through the silver clouds, the ocean winked in the distance. Warm tropical air tousled our hair, and Lucy’s ears flapped in the wind. She likes to stand on me, her paws hanging over the lip of the jeep’s window, and surf the scents floating on the air. As we splashed down the wet roads, the island started working it’s magic on us, and soon, Dan was singing along. 
By the time we got to Koloa town, the rain was back and I was wishing for my hoodie. I didn’t need to worry though because Chris, the bee whisperer, has us get into zippered bee suits complete with veils. We had one pair of gloves, and since Dan is allergic to bees, I gave them to him.

A wide swatch of loam, it’s topsoil loose and scattered with leaves, stretched out before us. Twenty stacks of bee hives lined the perimeter. We stood under the canopy of trees, and pointed our cameras to Chris. Dappled sunlight danced across his forehead as he talked about bees.
I have no idea what type of flower this was, but it looks cool!

Chris has five bee yards; one in Wiamea, one in Kalaheo, and three in the Koloa/Poipu area. In one hive, there is a queen, and about 15,000 bees. He hasn’t noticed a decline is his bee population, which he has been maintaining for 10 years, and he thinks it’s because he doesn’t use docile bees.

Bees are bred to be less aggressive, so they can’t protect their hives. Chris’ bees are the way nature made them, full of aggression and power. These bees have the strength to fight off pests that try to invade their home. His bees stand guard at the entrance to the hive, and send the varroa mites, ants and mice to suckle something else.

Dan and I nervously watched as Chris took the top off a hive. I imagined 15,000 bees flying out in an angry swarm. Dan imagined getting stung, and going into anaphylactic shock. 
As Chris smoked the bees, he said it calms them down. The bees think there is a fire, and begin to suck up honey before taking flight. If you want to see a bee tongue, check out the picture Dan posted on his blog today. It’s the bee on the far right, if you enlarge the picture (by clicking on it) you can see his little tongue. 

The bees happily slurped up their sweet nectar and paid us no mind. Dan and I had our camera lenses in there, and got some great video and photos. Chris is a pretty funny guy, and he was not taking this “Kauai Grown” thing seriously. I’ll post the video once I finish it which should be this Thursday.

So proud of Dan for overcoming his fears!

I moved around front so Dan could get some shots, and a bee slammed into the knuckle on my left index finger. “Don’t freak out!” I said loudly, more for myself that anyone else. “I just got stung!” I watched the bee bear down, inject his venom, and fly off, leaving his stinger in my finger. It hurt.
Chris calmly asked me to walk away from the hives and towards our cars. They react to aggression, and when they smell the sting, they’ll sting again. They are the ultimate protector, since the bee will die once it stings you.

At this point, my index finger was swollen and red from my fingernail to my knuckle.

Using a blunt tool to scrape the stinger out, Chris said it was important not to pull it out. There is a sack of venom at the end of the stinger, and if you pull it out, more venom will get in.
It’s been just over six hours, and my finger is swollen, as well as my middle finger and thumb. It has also spread to my bottom knuckles and I can barely flex my hand. It still hurts. Dan keeps telling me to take Benadryl, I keep forgetting. 

No longer red, but swollen and painful.

I don’t know how I managed to get stung for the first time at age 45, but I know I don’t want it to happen again!
Love to you and mom, I miss you guys!
A little honey love. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dear Dad

I was overjoyed to be able to talk with you this morning. You sound really good. I know you don’t think so, because you want to be that guy right before the stroke. That guy who could wake up in the morning, get of out bed, and take a shower and shave. That guy who would kiss his wife good morning, maybe give her a little pinch on the butt, and sit down to a homemade breakfast. Maybe a cafe au lait, definitely a half grapefruit, neatly sectioned and sugared.
But I was there in the early days of your recovery, when you mostly slept. You’d wake up, full of energy, speak animatedly, and get frustrated because we didn’t understand what you said. Five minutes later, you’d fall back asleep.
In the first 12 days, all you could do was move your right arm and your right leg. You’d try to get up, and I come rushing over because you had already tried to take out all the tubes and plugs that were keeping you alive. We’d clasp hands, and you’d try to lift your self into a seating position. I knew you wanted to get up. I knew you couldn’t get up. So, I figured I’d “help” you, make you feel like you were doing something for yourself. Mom scolded me for it, she was afraid I was teaching you bad habits, encouraging you to escape.
Every now and then mom would glance up from knitting, and tap my arm. I’d drag my eyes away from my computer, my work, and a smile would spread across our faces. Your left hand or foot would tap to the beat of the music in your ears, put there by your fully loaded iPod. You’d get lost in the music, and let your body go. 
I’m sorry this happened to you.
You sounded so good today. You have passion in your voice. Frustration too, because it takes you an hour to take a shower. Guilt because you’re not there to “protect mom.” Fear because you think you’ll be a burden, and because you don’t know what the future holds.
I had no idea you enjoyed reading this blog so much. When you told me you missed reading it, with yearning in your voice, I decided that from now on, I’d dedicate these entries to you. It’s been hard for me to write here since you got sick. Things continue to unfold for Dan and I at an unbelievably fast pace. I couldn’t figure out how to write about that, while you are laid up in the hospital. 
Your family love you very much!

What you don’t realize, is that even though it takes you an hour to take a shower, you’re taking a shower! That’s progress! You can’t protect mom in the way that you are accustomed to, but you have planted seeds and she is safe. You have created a beautiful home in which she is warm, safe and comfortable. You have built a nest egg that provides for your care as well as the bills. You have raised two children who love you very much, and are happy to step in where we are needed, in what ever way we can. You have meaningful relationships with friends who care deeply for you. These friends call mom to see if she needs anything. They shovel her driveway, in the early morning light, before she is even awake. 
You and I were smart, we married great people. It may have been the smartest thing we ever did. I know it’s the best decision I ever made. You are right to be scared, angry, and frustrated. You’re life as you knew it changed in a heartbeat. But, thank god, you are still here. And your wife is strong. Strong in spirit and strong beside you. She doesn’t see caring for you as a burden, she sees it as an extension of her love. A natural inclination to take care of you, just like you would do for her. In sickness and in health.
Life is different now, and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring even in the best of health. We can fret about the future, or we can fantasize about the future. You can visualize yourself being rolled into the front door of your home, or you can visualize yourself walking through, unaided. They both require the same amount of effort, but I think the latter is more fun to think about.
I have never experienced anything like what you are going through, and I can only imagine how difficult it must be. Moving here was the hardest thing I ever did. I can remember many nights, around a year ago, when I would wake up fearful about the future. Fearful about not being a contributing member of society, about my family so far away, about feeling so alone. Luckily, I married a good man, and he held my hand, and gave me the strength to get through it. 
I have also decided that this is the last time I will bring this up. If you want someone to listen, not judge, not tell you how you should be feeling, how you should be doing, I will lend an ear. I will listen. But this space is dedicated to you now, and you have always celebrated life. I think you’re religion is Mother Nature. You always found such peace within her bosom. 
My posts will be about the splendor, and amazing beauty of Kauai and the people who live here. Dan and I are grateful for our work, because it takes us to some amazing places, and we get to meet some special people. I will be your guide. I will give you something to dream about. Dan’s pictures will give you a look that only his eyes can see. We will celebrate life, in your name, and be grateful for every second of it.