Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Part III: Christmas in Hawaii 2014 & 2015 New Year

Monday morning we called and rented a car.  A taxi picked us up on base and took us to the rental car agency and within minutes we had wheels and were on our way to explore Honolulu. 

We headed to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific also known as Punchbowl National Cemetery’s the Hawaiian name is “Puowaina,” meaning “Hill of Sacrifice.” This translation closely relates to the first known use of the area which was as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to pagan gods.  During World War II, tunnels were dug in the rim of the crater for shore batteries to guard Honolulu Harbor. More than five million visitors come to the cemetery every year to pay their respect to the 28,778 missing whose names are carved in marble tablets and to enjoy the panoramic view from the Punchbowl. 

As we rounded the corner into the cemetery, it is almost enough to take your breath away.  A small island with the American flag at half-staff and two tree lined avenues leading up to the court of honor.  We stopped in the small visitor’s center to view artifacts that have been recovered from battlefields and wreckage.  We barely talk above a whisper.

The dedication stone at the base of staircase is engraved with the following words:


At the top of the staircase in the Court of Honor is a statue of Lady Columbia, also known as Lady Liberty, or Justice. She is reported to represent all grieving mothers and stands on the bow of a ship holding a laurel branch. The inscription below the statue, was taken from Abraham Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby, reads:


A small chapel is hidden behind Lady Columbia with marble floors and cabochons are inlaid into the windows with the sun glistening through the colored gems.  On either side of the chapel are two map galleries which describe the major battles of the Pacific War. 

Next on our journey for the day was lunch at the Highway Inn in Honolulu and another Triple D recommended place to eat.  After ordering ice tea and carefully checking out the menu Larry and I both ordered the Kalua pig sliders.  Kalua is the traditional Hawaiian method to cook in an underground oven.  With all the construction it was a little hard to get to and parking is sparse but the food was great and we laughed when we realized we were just around the corner from Hank’s Haute Dog where we were at the other day.

I grabbed a Starbucks before we ventured into the Foster Botanical Gardens for a walking tour.  Queen Kalama originally owned the land before being sold to Mary Mikahala  Robinson Foster and her husband.  Mary Foster was the daughter of Kamakana a Maui chiefess and grew up in the royal Hawaiian social circle.  Not much is known about her life but she left a lasting tribute with the gardens.

There are many rare and old trees in the gardens and you can only stand under them in amazement when you look up into their canopies hundreds of feet above you or stand feet away from massive tree trunks.  When you enter the garden there is a sacred fig tree that was propagated from a Bodhi tree planted in Ceylon in 288 BC that Buddha sat under for inspiration and was gifted to Mary Foster in 1913.

In the upper terrace we found the Queensland Kauri, the Travelers tree, and Kapok tree standing tall and proud.  We rounded another corner farther down the path and I saw a Cannonball tree that looked just like it had cannonballs hanging all over it and beside it was a tree we had never heard of called a Sausage tree.  In the middle of the gardens is Quipo tree that just leaves you stunned by its circumference and height!   Have you ever chewed a chiclet?  We saw a Chicle tree and this is where modern chewing gum came from.  One of my favorite trees is the Baobab, just because of its size and beauty.

We finished the gardens by walking through the conservatory filled with orchids and tropical plants and an open air butterfly garden. 

Traffic was not too bad heading back to the base and Kelly arrived home with the little guy just after we did and fixed quiche for dinner.  Kyle was off to the gym before work tonight.

We headed west on H1 Tuesday morning to see the west side of the island.  We drove to Kapolei and then turned north through Maili and stopped in Lualualei to buy sandwiches and sit on the beach for a picnic.  The tide was coming in and it was pleasant to bask in the sunshine and the quiet, because today it’s a week day on the quieter side of the island there are not many tourist.  The scenery is definitely different on this side of the island, dry, almost high desert like, no lush green vegetation and it’s sparsely populated.  The beaches seem to never end.  You go around a bend in the road and it is more parks and more beaches with very few people and only the occasional car.

After lunch we traveled up the road to Waianae, Makaha, all the way to Ka'ena Point State Park where the road ends and you have to turn around. It is hiking trails from this point on and oh my we forgot our hiking shoes.  Driving back we saw a Small Asian Mongoose know as a 'Iole manakuke (e-oh-lay ma-na-coo-kay) run across the road.  Yes I had to look up the animal on google and while I can give you the spelling in Hawaiian, don’t ask me to say it.  They are invasive animals in Hawaii and they are trying to remove them from all the islands.   We stopped at Makaha to watch the surfers and enjoy the view.

We saw a store as we passed by that advertised $10 tires….no way.  Can you imagine the stories those tires have to tell.  Where they have been.  How they have been abused.  How much tread is left or how many times they have been patched?

We drove back to Waipahu and took highway 750 north.  Within minutes the scenery was altogether different.  Here is the valley where bananas, pineapples, taro, and many other crops are grown.  The fields are lush and full and everything is green again.  We drove past Schofield Barracks and on to highway 930 to the other side of Farrington Hwy. that we were on earlier today.  A small point of land on either side of the point is only accessible by hiking trails.  The waves on the north side of the island are putting on a more magnificent display than the west side but no surfers, only hikers at this end of the island.

We saw several glider planes get towed from Dillingham Airfield and then watched as they circled the sky before landing along with the tow planes.  Larry said it looked like they were dong touch and go’s probably for their hours needed for certification.  The small airfield is also used for sky diving.

On the way back to Haleiwa we passed a place that said horseback trail rides at Mokuleia, and thought next time we come to visit maybe the little guy and his parents would like to go for a beach ride.  We watched several stand up paddle boards at the boat marina and what looked like an outrigger canoe team practicing.  We crossed over the little bridge in town to see the east side of town which was not much and then back across the bridge to see the town that was covered in darkness when we came to dinner last week.

We decided to drive back home on highway 99 to H2 and then stopped in Mililani to go to Costco to buy chocolate covered macadamia nuts to take home as gifts and to find something for dinner, and of course while you are Costco you always find a few more items you didn’t know you needed until you got in the store.  So it is cheese pizza for the little guy and grandma and clam chowder for Larry, Kelly, and Kyle, or so I thought.  Everyone decided pizza for an appetizer was great with chowder and pretzel rolls for the main course, except me….no way, no fish, no how…no, no, no.

When we got back to base I had Larry drop me off at the preschool and I picked the little guy up and we walked home holding hands.  I’m going to miss having him tell me about his day and the fact that he looks forward to having grandma walk him home.

In my stocking at Christmas was Jamberry nail wraps so tonight Kelly did my nails and then hers.  All pretty now to go to the aquarium tomorrow.

Wednesday is our final full day in Hawaii.  We returned the rental car and Kelly followed us and we went to breakfast at Koko Head Café.  Chef Lee Anne Wong is a world famous chef and this little café is off the beaten path for tourists so it was great that Kelly and Kyle had already checked out this place.  We only had to wait about fifteen minutes to get seated and we started our meal with coffee and doughnuts, cinnamon sesame cake donuts with a Kona coffee creme anglaise sauce.  Drinks ordered, food ordered and when the food came it was too much to finish.  A great way to start the morning. 

We returned home to check in for our flight home tomorrow and then we were off to the Waikiki aquarium which has been open since 1904 and is the second oldest public aquarium in the United States.  It is not a large place but has nice exhibits, friendly staff, and the best part was my grandson loved it and especially touching the hermit crabs and the sea urchins.  The oldest and largest giant clams in any aquarium in the world live here and two of them weigh over two hundred pounds.   

We drove around Waikiki beach and then went to get frozen yogurt before going home.  While Kelly was cooking I took the little guy to the park to play soccer, run through the water spouts, and play on the equipment.  Kelly fixed shrimp cakes for everyone else and I had leftover pizza since I am not a fish person. 

One of the best websites we found for things to do in Oahu was:  and while we tried to do as much as we could, there is still more to see and do for another trip.

Kelly took us to The Guru Glass of Honolulu where she works to meet her boss before we left for the airport.  Kelly loves her job, her bosses, her coworkers and it makes us happy to see her happy.  We arrived early at the airport, unloaded our luggage, hugs, and kisses for Kelly and then we checked in. 

The airport is beautiful with the open glass corridors leading to the different terminals and a small garden below, near our terminal that is so serene.   No first class seats this time.  We were almost an hour late taking off but finally in the air.  

We arrived in Portland with enough time to buy sandwiches and then the dreaded announcement.  Our flight from Portland to Bellingham would take off but due to fog in Bellingham, there was a chance that it would not be able to land and would have to return to Portland and we would fly out the next morning.  An act of God does not get you a room for the night paid for by the airline, so you are on your own if this happens.

God was looking out for us and the fog had lifted by the time we reached Bellingham.  We arrived later than expected and Stacy had volunteered to pick us up but since she had to work the next day and we weren’t sure we were even going to make it to Bellingham we told her we would take a taxi.

I am not really sure why people say good-bye because leaving family is never easy and really hard.  The term originated from Godbwye or God be with ye.  I’ll go with the Hawaiian phrase:  Ke Akua pu a hui hou meaning God bless you and see you later.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Part II - Christmas in Hawaii 2014 & 2015 New Year

Saturday, Kelly and I took off for a little after-Christmas shopping and to see some of her favorite boutiques (Soha was just one I could remember) and various vintage stores.  We had lunch in China town at Fresh Café.  We didn’t buy much, the find of the day was little tiny blue green Christmas trees that will surely find their way into a craft project next year….oh and Starbucks coffee, buy one get one…never heard of this but it was a great deal

We drove up to the North Shore to Haleiwa for dinner of Mahi and burgers. A great drive to see part of the island and enjoy a meal with family.

Sunday, Kelly and I headed out to run errands with the little guy and we started at his favorite store, Target.  He likes to check out the dollar bins, toys, shoes, but does really, well, just riding around in the cart taking it all in.  Next up was Costco his second favorite store because of all the food you can taste and there is always the chance of getting a slice of pizza--but not today.  Today we bought crab for dinner and the little guy gets the shell, it’s a big deal.  Throw in a few clams, pretzel rolls, salad, and you have the makings of a really good feast.

Monday I walked down to the preschool and picked the little guy up.  He held my hand and asked a hundred questions about every little thing he saw on the way home and I tried to answer each question before he asked me something else.  Playtime, nap time, and I fixed dinner since Kelly had to work today.  After dinner we tried to get our base passes but the air force gate only issues one day passes so we have to go to the navy gate another day.  Kelly and I headed off to Walmart on the back streets because the freeway was almost at a standstill.  We wound our way west, with the occasional northward uphill downhill, great evening views of the shoreline with all the lights glistening out ahead of us.  It was movie night when we got home.

Tuesday the little guy requested that grandma pick him up from school after lunch and we go to subway for a snack.  Subway is only across from the school so we stopped and had lunch together and even bought lunch to take home to papa.  It is so nice to be outside in seventy degree weather, short sleeves, and the warmth of the sun just sinking into my bones relieving the ache I get when the weather is too cold.  We fixed Naan bread pizza for dinner, everyone choosing what they wanted for toppings. 

Wednesday, papa and grandma walked down to the preschool to pick up the little guy and spent the early afternoon playing monster trucks.  Nap time for everyone to get ready for New Year’s Eve.   The parents went out to dinner and papa and I took the little guy to the park which is nice because it is only about a block from the house.  We arrived back to start dinner when Kelly and Kyle came home to see the little guy before going out to celebrate with friends.  Now it’s a movie on the tablet for the little guy, football on the television for papa, and grandma gets the computer.  In Hawaii they drop the pineapple at the same time New York drops the ball, so we celebrated early at seven PM.

Kyle has to work tonight so he is sleeping while Kelly takes us sightseeing on Thursday.  We started out with lunch at Uncle’s Fish Market and Grill.  Kelly, the little guy and Larry all enjoyed assorted fish entrees and I had a prime rib hamburger on a Hawaiian bread roll, and everyone agreed the food was good.  We drove east towards the windward side of the island, passing Diamond Head and catching brief glimpses of the ocean.  We saw Haiku Stairs referred to as the Stairway to Heaven one of the most popular of Oahu's "forbidden" trails and, even if it was not blocked off the public, I am not sure we would want to hike the  2,120-foot, 3,922-step ascent.  The beaches were full of tourists but the parks were closed due to it being a holiday.

I love the old trees, standing tall with twisted branches reaching outward and upward and some with massive trunks, everywhere on the island and on Hickam Air Base.  Too bad they won’t grow in the cold wet northwest.  Some of my favorites are the Sycamore fig, Plumeria, Baobab, Bo Tree, Ficus Banyan Tree, Monkey Pod or rain tree, Pili Nut, Tamarind, Cassia Javanica also called the rainbow shower tree, and the Moraceae fig family. 

We drove through Kaneohe and saw the street blocked off with barricades and police cars leading to the house where President Obama and his family are vacationing.  We also saw the jet boats in the canal keeping guard and the other side of the waterway was blocked to boat traffic.  This is probably as close as we were going to get but we can say we vacationed with the Obama’s on Oahu during Christmas.

We stopped at Heeia State Park to stretch our legs and take in the view of Kaneohe Bay.  We also saw the wild chickens wandering the park and some of the two hundred and fifty cats that call the park home and are fed every day.  They said people just drop off their cats when they move and leave them at the park.  It’s nice they are fed but I can’t imagine leaving a pet who is like a family member in a park to fend for themselves.

We passed a Longs Drugs store and while most people would not even notice this unless they needed something, I once worked for Longs Drugs in their general office and fixture shop for ten years.  CVS now owns Longs but did not change the name in Hawaii.  Down the road we saw a windmill farm and cows, lots of cows.  We stopped for our next island experience at a little roadside shop selling Hawaiian shaved ice.  Kelly and the little guy had not yet had the experience so we all shared a new treat although I opted for the tropical fruit smoothie and Kelly shared a taste of her shaved ice.

We drove to Haleiwa on the North Shore and then headed south towards home.  A quick stop at the grocery store and then home to make dinner, watch a movie, catch up on football and bed.  What a wonderful day. 

Kelly had the day off on Friday so we headed to the health food store, Starbucks, and Target before returning home to pick up Larry and then stopping for Kyler at preschool.  We got our base passes and then Kelly took us to Ford Island to see the USS Utah that was torpedoed on December 7th, 1941 and rolled over and sank killing 64 soldiers.  You can still see part of the rusty remains of the ship that lies above the waterline and two buoys mark the bow and the stern which lie under the water.  We walked along the water and Kelly pointed out bits of metal and glass that were fused to the rocks when the ship exploded.  It is not permissible or acceptable to dig up glass or metal but if pieces are loose lying on the ground it is okay to take one.  Kelly said people come looking for glass with words or dates and today we found a piece of green glass with the number 943 so we are guessing this is part of a bottle from a solider during the war, and it was common for bottles to be marked with a year, so we think this bottle is 1943.  We found some sort of metal gear or knob lying loose but left it with the remains on the beach.

 Kelly drove us to the other side of the island to see the memorial for the USS Oklahoma which was also bombed on December 7th 1941 and 439 soldiers lost their lives.  The black granite wall suggest the hull of the USS Oklahoma and the white marble standards represent the Marines and Sailors who died that day.  Each standard symbolizes a white dress uniform standing at attention manning the rails of the Oklahoma forever.

There are several black marble slabs with famous quotes.  Below are four that stood out for me.

1.      John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
2.      They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
3.      Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.  President John F. Kennedy
4.      That was the most horrible scene that you could ever think of.  Shipmates there you can't help them. Ship cook George Brown

You can also see and tour the USS Missouri which was the ship where the Japanese surrendered.  I was on board the Missouri named for my home state years ago when it was at Bremerton Washington.

General MacArthur September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo bay:  “Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always.  These proceedings are closed.”  And with those works World War II was finally over.

If only those who choose to control other people and countries for their own personal gain and greed could understand the cost of war for those who gave their lives, those who are still missing in action, those who return home injured, those who may never recover, and the family and friends who are effected by a war.  We will always defend our country at home and aboard and others countries should never mistake our wish for peace as a sign of weakness. 

There was a group of preteens running around the Oklahoma memorial shouting about who died first, jumping up and down slapping the memorial markers, being totally disrespectful.  Kelly mentioned to the mothers that this was a memorial and they should show respect and the mothers just sort of causally told their kids to stop, which they didn’t.  Larry said the kids probably didn’t know better.  They probably didn’t but they were all old enough to understand and certainly their mothers were old enough to understand and explain that this was a memorial to honor those died.  It made me cry to look at those markers and the USS Missouri and think that US citizens can be so casual about our history.

It was past lunch time so Kelly took us to Hank’s Haute Dogs in downtown Honolulu.  Guy Fieri from Triple D on the Food Network and Adam Richman Man vs Food on the Travel Channel both have done shows from there and inside there is a photo of President Obama eating a Hank’s dog.  Kelly and I both had the Chicago dog and she also had the cheesy truffle fries and said she would eat cheesy truffle fries every day if she could, Larry had the lobster dog and thought it was wonderful, and the little guy had a regular hotdog.

Papa and the little guy watched football while Kelly and I ran to buy more art supplies.  I fixed dinner while Kelly was busy working on her dream catchers and papa and the little guy were busy with football and monster trucks.  The little guy curled up next to me on the sofa after dinner and watched part of a movie before bedtime.  It was a good day.

Kelly had to run into work today and Kyler and I went with her.  When she came out of the office she had a piece of the best English toffee candy I have ever eaten--and no way to get more. It looked like regular toffee covered in chocolate and nuts but the butter toffee was soft, not a chewy caramel but not a hard crunchy toffee, just sort of melt in your mouth. They were a gift to my daughter at work, from a customer who gets them from a friend who only makes them for family and friends. I need to be a friend.

We stopped off at McDonalds to get the little guy lunch and then it was home for a nap.  Mom and dad left for a movie and date night.  I put a pot roast in the crockpot and after nap time took the little guy to the park.   

One thing about being on base is they have Reveille, the flag raising ceremony at the beginning of the day, and Retreat, which is the flag lowering ceremony at the end of the day.  President Woodrow Wilson once said, "This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us -- speaks to us of the past, or the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it." On the base, military personnel should stand at attention and face the American flag or the direction of the music if the flag is not visible.  Civilians should stand at attention and place their right hand over their heart.

After Retreat we left the park and headed home to have dinner, watch a movie, and have bath time.  A good day is measured by hugs, kisses, and I love you’s, and today was a really good day.  Every night my grandson says his prayers with his mom but tonight he didn’t want to say his bedtime prayer that he usually says.  He asked if he could pray for the soldiers who died on the ships and ask Jesus to take care of them.  The impact of seeing the USS Arizona, the USS Utah, and the USS Oklahoma Memorial has made a powerful impression on him.

Sunday is pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Larry and Kelly were off to a one and a half hour Turtle Reef Snorkel tour.  The tour provides the equipment and you just show up for the fun snorkeling with the fish and turtles in the azure blue waters.  The Spirit of Aloha is fifty-four feet long and thirty feet wide catamaran and takes you to the outer side of the Turtle Canyon reef near Hilton Hawaiian Village.  No whales but lots of turtles and fish and it was a good adventure for the two of them while dad sleeps because he works nights and the little guy naps and spends time with grandma.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Christmas in Hawaii 2014 & 2015 New Year

Not just any Christmas in Hawaii but Christmas with my daughter, son-in-law, our only grandchild, and it’s my first trip ever to Hawaii. 

With the kids all grown and so many things have changed in all their lives, none of them needed things so Christmas shopping was going to be a little different.  James and Nicole have combined two houses full of stuff and just got married so they had wedding stuff.  They are going to need a 20’ steel container in their backyard to put it all and, hey, maybe that is an idea for next year, but for this year it is date night dinners and movies.  Michael doesn’t usually want stuff--but has quite a bit of stuff, really good stuff, more stuff than he can use in his new apartment with Kevin so he had to bring some of it back to store in mom and Larry’s 900 sq. ft. shop, so they are getting theater tickets to see the shows of their choice in Seattle.  Kelly and Kyle have stuff, giving some away before they moved from Las Vegas, posting free stuff on Craigslist, selling the big stuff, and thinking about the 2,700 sq. ft. house they were living in and thinking about military quarters on base in Hawaii--so they got a family pass for a year at the Waterslide Park.  Sounded so easy--gift certificates--but I think it was harder deciding how to buy 1 big gift than a lot of smaller gifts.  They are happy, Larry and I are happy, Merry Christmas.

That was just the planning of Christmas gifting; now to actually get there.  I stalked Alaska Airlines for weeks hunting down the best fares and flight times.  We could fly straight through heading to Hawaii, but who wants to return via Honolulu to San Francisco to Seattle to Bellingham?  Worse yet was a return from Honolulu to San Diego to San Jose to Seattle to Bellingham.  Really?  I didn’t really want to drive to Seattle and park the car for two weeks and still run into the same sort of return problems.  I wouldn’t give in and it finally paid off, Bellingham to Honolulu with a return flight from Honolulu to Portland to Bellingham.  Those credit card discounts finally paid off with me finding a discount ticket and Larry gets to fly for $99 roundtrip.  Booked.  Done.  Can’t wait.
Our bags are packed we’re ready to go.  Greg picked us up three o’clock to take us to the airport.  It’s nice to have good friends willing to help out.  When we did our online check in the night before Larry suggested we upgrade to first class for the six hour flight so we would be more comfortable.  We are preapproved for TSA so we didn’t have to take off coats or shoes for security.  We found our gate, not hard when you are flying out of a small international airport, a little food, something to drink and we waited.  Our plane arrived and we watched the new crew head out to the plan to prepare for our takeoff.

We waited and heard the first of several announcements that our flight was not ready--over and over again.  We were then told that we needed to fly to Portland to pick up more fuel before flying onto Honolulu because of heavy headwinds, but first they would need to off load and rearrange some of the fuel on our plane before flying to Portland.   

I’m sure you’ve all heard the theme song from Gilligan’s Island “Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.”  Three hours and three hundred miles.  We should have been half way to Honolulu but we were stuck in Portland.  Refueling and we would be on our way.  Well not so fast, seems there is a hydraulic leak.  We are going to be disembarking and changing gates to board another plane in Portland to take us to Hawaii. 

Our bags were checked but Larry and I each had a small carryon bag.  Walking on concrete is not easy for Larry with a metal plate and eight or nine screws in his ankle but we walked as quickly as we could to our new gate to be told our original plane was ready and to return.  Half way back to our original gate and plane we were told again, no go back to the new gate.  Tired, hungry, frustrated I looked at Larry as we stood in line again and said to Larry now they will need a new crew.  Haha…one new pilot we had to wait for.  Finally we were on board, buckled up, tired and just ready to go.  But wait…you think they would have the plane ready before we got on but no they needed to fuel the plane.  Larry kept sending Kelly text message for updates on our flight and I felt so bad because she had to work the next day.  It looked like our original landing time of 10:12 PM would now be 1:30 PM.

By the time I had finished half a glass of red wine they came to take our dinner orders only to tell us they were out of everything but shrimp.  Well shrimp will make me sick so they finally found me a pork and noodle meal that they sell in the main cabin.  Okay I could deal with it or so I thought.  I tried to read, tried to sleep and realized I was sick.  Probably a little stress, maybe the food, who knows, but I wanted to die and since that wasn’t an option I prayed for sleep.

Kelly met us with an orchid lei for me and a kukui nut lei for Larry.  About the only good thing was our luggage was ready within minutes after we got off the plane and Hickam Air Base is next to the airport.  I gave my sleeping grandson a quick kiss and everyone headed off to bed.

We spent a fairly lazy day around the house on Christmas Eve.  Kelly had to work half a day.  She left a gingerbread house kit for the little guy and me to build using gumdrops, skittles, M&M’s, lots of frosting, dots, sprinkles.  I think the little guy may have eaten more candy than actually went on the house, but that is how kids decorate.

Kelly came home and we made sugar cookies and decorated them.  This is the first time in twenty-nine years that I have not baked ten to twelve dozen sugar cookies.  It was fun and this time grandma may have eaten more M&M’s than what she put on the cookies.

We decided to do a little sightseeing and have dinner out.  Driving around in seventy plus weather on Christmas Eve is just amazing.  Larry and Kyle chose MAC 24/7 at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel for dinner.  We finally made our choices and then the little guy and I explored the hotel and finally they got the floor to ceiling glass doors to the garden open so we could go see the Koi fish. 
We ended the night going to see the Freedom Tower on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickman.  What a beautiful sight all lit up with color changing lights from multicolor to solid colors.  The Freedom tower built in 1938 is Moorish in design and stands 171 feet high.  It is octagonal, made of concrete and has eight eagles weighing 2,000 pounds located near the top of the tower.  The tower was built as a water tower and still used for that purpose today.  It was also used as a radio tower during WWII and signs of bullet holes are still visible today.    We ended the night at a small beach listening to the serene sound of the waves and watching small aircraft land before heading home to open that one special present on Christmas Eve--pajamas.

Christmas morning it was kisses and hugs and get up grandma it’s Christmas.  Kelly started a pot of coffee and the adults were then ready to begin.  What took so much time and thought into planning for the perfect gift, what to ask Santa for, the actual shopping for the gifts, wrapping them and hiding them, then finally it’s time to unwrap and it took such a short amount of time.  I will have to say though at five years old our grandson didn’t just tear into and discard each gift.  No, he wanted to open and play with each one and had to be encouraged to keep going.  Spoiled…no way…it’s Christmas and what are Santa and grandparents for.

Special breakfast, which is a tradition in our family, to make all holidays complete; then naps all around and then Kelly prepared a ham dinner and completed our day with a birthday cake for Jesus.  When my children were young I read an article about a woman who baked a cake to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  From then on we had pumpkin pie, apple pie, chocolate desserts, whatever, but there was always a cake for Jesus and she is continuing this tradition since His birthday is the reason we celebrate the season.

The kids are off to a movie after dinner and papa and I get the grandchild to ourselves.  We have a whole new library of books to choose from, and Legos, and games, and movies.  We are truly blessed to share Christmas with the little guy and his parents.

The only thing better is if I could bundle them all up with my other kids and my mom, all my nieces and nephews and be together.  Yes I am a dreamer. 

Kyle got up early to go get tickets to visit the USS Arizona Memorial.  We never thought about five thousand visitors a day and a limited number of tickets issued per day.  Lucky for us there are some first come first serve tickets given out each morning at seven AM so Kyle made the sacrifice with the little guy to go secure them.  Coffee, breakfast, playtime, time to get ready and go.

We were lucky and found a parking space close to the memorial and showed our tickets and allowed entry into the memorial park.  We walked through one of the buildings that housed artifacts and photos and showed a short film about WWII.   Our tickets were for one forty-five and they announced our tour time, again showing our tickets to the next staging area and showing them one more time for entry into a theater to watch a short film on the December 7th 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. 

We were asked to turn off our phones, no texting, no talking as a show of respect.  It was hard to watch actual video and photos of the death and destruction done to US citizens and our country.  War, the destruction of innocent lives, heartbreaking and not through our own choosing but a war brought on by another nation wanting to own and control what was not theirs.  We won the war but both countries lost so many lives.

After the movie we boarded a shuttle ferry to the memorial.  The memorial is one hundred eighty-seven feet long and spans the width of the ship.  It was hard trying to hold back the tears as you looked overboard and saw the sheen of diesel fuel still rising form the USS Arizona that lay beneath us as a tomb for the 1177 soldiers who went down with her.  At one end of the memorial are the names of the soldiers killed in action.  We took the shuttle back to the park and drove home.  I’m not sure how much our grandson will remember but today he understood that we were viewing a ship that was attacked by a bomb and the people died.  My prayer today would be that he would never have to go to war when he grows up.

We spent a quiet afternoon at home and then Kyle had arranged a date night dinner cruise to surprise Kelly.  Of course that means grandpa and grandma get more time with the little guy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

June 13th - Sacramento PD & MADD

What do you do for fun on a Friday night?  I like living on the wild side…that’s a joke to those who know me.  A few years ago I had the privilege of going on a ride along with the Sacramento Police Department.  Why would I want to do this?  I like knowing and understanding what my children are doing, even if they are all grown up.  My oldest son is a Sacramento police officer and I think taking your mother to work is such a good idea, so we had a night on the town in Sacramento.

When my son explained that he volunteered to work DUI / driver license checkpoints, I thought this was something I would like to see firsthand.  I asked if it was possible the next time I visited and he said he would ask.  The answer came back as a yes and I filled out the appropriate paperwork for the police department and MADD who I would be officially volunteering with, and more paperwork.

I had flown down to the bay area to celebrate my mother’s ninety-seventh birthday and it just happened to coincide with the next DUI checkpoint coming up.  Friday evening anywhere in California means the city streets, side streets, and freeways are jammed with traffic pretty much from early afternoon till Saturday afternoon with everyone wanting to go somewhere that everyone else wants to go, and that all reverses on Sunday with everyone trying to get home.

I left hours early for the drive from the bay area to Sacramento and it wasn’t too bad.  I only had to slow the car to a crawl three or four times and most of the time the traffic moved at fifty to sixty miles per hour.  I was meeting my son at his home and since I actually arrived a bit early I found a Starbucks not too far from his home with time to enjoy my new favorite drink from the secret menu, a raspberry Italian soda.  A cold drink, a little air conditioning, and I was back on the road, only a few miles away from my destination.

I was trying to be quiet as I pulled into the driveway but realized if the dogs were peeking over the fence barking at me that Nicole must be awake.  Nicole is my soon to be daughter-in-law and she works as a 911 dispatcher for Sacramento.  Now, usually she would still be asleep because she works graveyard, but this afternoon she was up fixing dinner for us.  Thank you Nicole…you gave up sleep for me.

James arrived shortly after I did and the granddogs got to come in and greet me face to face before they had their dinner.  Lilly the cat finally decided, on this visit, that I was okay and she graced me with not only her presence but gave me her undivided attention to be petted and talked to.  Nicole fixed chicken salad with what seemed like every imaginable topping you could add to it.  My kind of salad--a great dinner.

We all left the house about the same time as Nicole had an errand to run before work and James needed to go to his office to meet his partner before work.  I got to see the dungeon as he calls it.  Very high tech and very secure.  Knowing what your son does for a living still doesn’t prepare you as you’re watching him put on his bullet proof vest and strap on his belt with his gun.  I am so proud of him for not settling for just any job and following his dream to become a police officer.  Doing what you love for a living makes for a much happier life.

Hanging in my son’s office is a motivational poster attributed to Frank Outlaw (Frank Jackson).
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”

Great words to live by, but sort of funny considering Frank Outlaw was a Texas outlaw and this poster is hanging in a police department. 

James and his partner grabbed their gear bags and we headed out to the Ford Taurus which was our ride for the night.  We didn’t have far to go and pulled into a local mortuary that had given permission to Sacramento PD to use their parking lot for the evening.   Sort of ironic to be being doing a DUI check next to the mortuary.  The police set up at Fruitridge Rd & Mendocino Blvd.  Trailers to haul the cones and equipment, the command center to process paperwork and testing, K-9 for back up, assorted police vehicles set up for multiple tasks, and lots of SACPD officers.  Seven PM to one o’clock AM.

The Sacramento Police Chaplains had tables set up with water, pizza, and desserts for the officers working.  A lot of these officers had just finished working a full shift and then turned around to work another six hours at the checkpoint.

If a driver is suspected of a DUI, an expired/suspended license, no license, or warrants, the license and a white tag with the suspected infraction written on it are placed on the windshield and the car is sent to the parking lot where other officers are waiting to process the driver.

Officer Frank, whom I worked beside most of the night, has been on the force for twenty-four years.  He was insightful, informative, and patient as he answered questions about his job and experiences as a police officer in between being polite and respectful to the drivers who passed through the check point.

My son was getting ready to take his break and asked if I wanted to come with him.  I laughed and said I didn’t want to leave and miss all the fun.  It is an amazing instinct police officers have when one of their own might need assistance.  Officer Frank was asking all the appropriate questions to the driver stopped by us when all of a sudden his head comes and up and turns to the left.  As I glanced in the same direction I was aware that every other officer had stopped and also turned to see the sergeant and my son dealing with what appeared to be a drunk pedestrian.  No one remembered seeing a pedestrian but knowing the situation was handled everyone went back to work.

Several minutes passed when Officer Frank looked up, and said out loud “gun.”  Now every officer was looking at the parking lot at the funeral home as at least four officers had guns drawn, surrounding a car, and more officers running to back them up.  One of those officers was my son.  Passengers were being asked to get out of the car and then removed from the vehicle.  It was under control with everyone in the car being handcuffed until the situation was sorted out. 

Officer Frank went back to checking cars but we noticed when we looked up that the car was now being searched and everything removed from the trunk.  A short time later the K9 unit returned to the checkpoint and he began checking the parking lot and shrubs.  Officer Frank explained that the dog was trained for explosives so if there was a gun or ammunition the dog would find it.  Well all of this brought a few more officers to the scene but it was under control.

Back to work.  Officer Frank asked the next driver to roll down his window and put down his cell phone and produce his driver’s license.  (It is illegal to use your cell phone while driving in California.)  The driver just sort of looked at Officer Frank and didn’t say anything.  Again, politely, the driver was asked to put down his cell phone.  The driver looked down and sort of mumbled but didn’t really talk.  The driver handed Officer Frank his driver’s license, turned his hat around and picked up his cell phone.  The driver was told to put his cell phone down again but when spoken to would only look down and mumble.  The officer to our right had moved over closer to us and when the driver picked up his phone again, officer Frank asked him to get out of the car.  Now the driver could talk, wanting to know why.  Now the other officer was beside the car assisting Officer Frank.  The driver was cuffed and taken to the parking lot while Officer Frank drove his car into the parking lot.  Once you are suspected of a DUI you cannot drive any farther. 

I moved on to work beside another officer while Officer Frank took care of the driver and paperwork.  He returned a short time later and I worked beside him until about an hour before the DUI checkpoint closed down and he needed to finish his paperwork.  I worked beside several other officers until one o’clock when the DUI checkpoint closed down. 

It was time to breakdown the checkpoint line and it came down as fast as it went up.  Everyone had a job to do and they worked efficiently as a team.  I walked over to the parking lot to wait for my son to finish up his paperwork before he could leave. 

I watched as the medics arrived to transport a suspect to the hospital.  A few family/friends were still waiting for paperwork to be completed so they could drive vehicles away.  The tow trucks were arriving for the remaining vehicles and probably eight or nine were towed and impounded.

The car my son originally white tagged right before his break was the cause of all the commotion we witnessed.  Once in the parking lot, the driver got out and instead of walking away, walked straight across the street to where my son and his sergeant were.  In walking the suspect back to the parking lot they noticed his hands in his pocket and in removing his hands from the pocket, the suspect dropped bullets which led the officers to believe the car had guns.   The three passengers from the car were removed while the car was searched.  Two guns were retrieved from the car, one gun was in pieces and the police think the occupants of the car threw the revolver drum in a bush but it was never located.  The K-9 was brought in to look for it, but it was not recovered.  And I thought all the excitement was going to be out on the street.

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork….hours of work to make sure every detail is written down.  An officer’s work is not done when the day is over.  At the end of the night approximately one thousand cars had passed through the DUI/drivers license check point.  There were four DUI’s, one medic call to the hospital, guns, dogs, multiple phone calls to family and relatives to come get cars so they would not be towed (they are given thirty minutes to find someone to retrieve their vehicles before a tow truck is called and fees start accumulating). 

As a civilian I climbed into bed and went to sleep while my son was still up in the early morning hours working on his report.  And after I slept in until eleven o’clock the next morning I found my son still working on his report after a short nap.

I have nothing but respect for the Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento MADD volunteers.  Please don’t drink and drive; designate a driver or call a cab.

Before heading home I had the honor of getting a tour of the Sacramento Command Center for 911.  I had the chance to see Nicole working, responding to incoming calls, and was amazed at how fast she can type.  She was calm, professional, and busy on a Friday night, even at two o’clock in the morning.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A-Z Bread...

Several months ago I had a  GRADS (Graduation, Reality and Dual-Role Skills programs leading to high school graduation and economic independence) board meeting.  I was responsible for early morning snack so I pulled out my mother’s famous A-Z bread recipe that she has been making for forty plus years (sorry mom).  I am not sure where she found the recipe but it is a family favorite as a breakfast bread, a snack in the afternoon, or an evening dessert.

The recipe is one basic batter that varies depending on what two cups of A-Z that you choose to add.  I decided to make pumpkin with raisins and banana with walnuts but instead of baking them in two loaf pans, I used a Bundt pan.  The breads turned out beautiful and after they cooled, I drizzled them with a thinned down butter cream frosting. 

My daughter Kelly insisted several years ago that I use Glad Press’n Seal plastic wrap instead of various other brands I have used, discarded, tried, changed, etc.  Kelly liked the way Press’n seal actually stayed where you put it instead of coming loose.  So I covered the breads first one direction and then the other. 

I filled up my bags with fruit, juice, plates, napkins, and on the second trip to the car I loaded the breads.  When I arrived at school I realized I was going to have to stack the breads on top of each other to carry everything in at one time.  My arms were full when a couple headed into early bird class kindly closed the back door to my SUV.   The main door to the school has a handicap button so no problem getting in except I couldn’t see the button for the second set of doors.  Okay I can do this!  Just as I opened the door and turned to go in, the top bread began to shift and what seemed like slow motion, but took just a second, was a worst case scenario--the bread flew forward, flipping upside down, and landed with a splat several feet ahead of me.  Trying not to drop the other bread and thinking, okay one of these breads should be enough to feed the board members, I slowly bent down and turned the bread over.  The Press’n seal held the bread to the plastic plate and because it was dense bread you couldn’t even tell I had dropped it.  The bread was sealed and perfect even if the edge of the plate was cracked.  I stacked the breads, slowed my pace and walked the length of the school and down a short corridor to the GRADS classroom.  Brenda and Vicki helped me unload the morning goodies and laughed as I told them what had just happened.  Everyone enjoyed the breads and I shared the recipe with several members later by email.  All is well that ends well, but, really, not breathing and holding my breath for several seconds as a potential disaster played out before me called for an extra stop at Starbucks for coffee after the meeting.

Here is my mom’s recipe.  I hope you enjoy.

A to Z Bread

3 c. flour                                                         
1 tsp. salt                                                        
1 tsp. baking soda                                          
3 tsp. cinnamon                                              
1/2 tsp. baking powder                                  
3 eggs
1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
3 c. A-Z
3 tsp. vanilla
1 c. nuts, chopped (you can eliminate this if you choose)

Sift dry ingredients.  Set aside.  Beat eggs in large bowl.  Add eggs and sugar.  Cream well.  Add A to Z and vanilla.  Add flour mixture.  Mix well.  Add nuts.   Spoon into 2 greased loaf pans.  Bake in preheated oven at 325° for 1 hour.  Makes 2 large loaves or use a Bundt pan twice.

A to Z - use one of the following or a mixture of the following except as indicated to equal 2 c.

apples-peeled & grated
apricots-dried & chopped
bananas-mashed, 2 c.
dates-pitted & chopped
peaches-fresh or canned, chopped
pineapple-crushed, drained, 2 c.
prunes-chopped, 1 c.
pumpkin, canned, 2 c.
rhubarb-finely chopped
sweet potatoes-cooked & mashed 2 c.
yams-cooked, mashed
zucchini-grated, well drained, 2 c.

Try your own combinations.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Angels to Watch Over Us - Faith, Hope, Love

Several months ago my daughter Kelly sent me a message telling me about the sister-in-law of one of her friends.  The woman is a single mother with leukemia.  The family was planning a fundraiser to help with the medical costs and Kelly asked me if I might donate a piece of art.

I didn’t hesitate, but I usually give or sell my art right away and don’t really have a stash of readymade items, except my son James would say I have the dogs in a corner…that is another story.
I wasn’t sure what to make, what it should look like, or how it should make you feel.  I found a piece of a pine board which makes a wonderful base because it is lightweight but has so many possibilities, like drilling through it, or hammering things into it.

A coat of gesso front and back, and then I tore anaglyptic paper into random pieces and glued them to the back.  I found some fabric with lots of texture and glued it down then covered over it with more gesso.  Stencils, paint, spackle, glue, more paper, more gesso, and so the process goes.

No matter what color scheme I tried out, the white gesso seemed to pull me back, so I choose several shades of white and painted the whole thing.  I choose a soft grey, a dark graphite, and lamp black to accent the white because almost nothing is ever just black and white.  Then I needed to find the embellishments.  I dug through drawers, bins, and cubbies pulling everything that spoke to me, although where I start on a project is not always where I end up.

I played with laying pieces on the base and arranging them and rearranging them.  The pile of discards was growing and my pile of ideas was dwindling.  I dug into another cabinet and pulled out boxes of art supplies I had not used since I taught art to the girls at GRADS, and bags of bargains so cheap you cannot pass them up at the store and then you forget you have them.

I took a break from the 3D part of the art and began searching my stash of photographs, magazine clippings, advertisements, and so on and so forth.  I found a print of an angel that spoke to me but changed it from color to black and white and printed it on heavy plastic.

When you are sick it is hard to see the positive, and harder still for those around you to see it even though they are telling you everything is going to be okay.  This piece of art needed to be positive, about faith, love and hope.  I used 3D letters to spell these words and mounted them on glass attached to the art piece and added nails and tacks to represent the hardship.

I drilled holes through the wood and used armature wire to hang the art piece, twisting the ends to become part of the art piece.

I had to step back for several days, as I always do, and just look at what I am working on.  If I can look at it and walk away each time, it is done; otherwise I find myself changing, adding, tweaking, until I can walk away day after day.

The piece was finished with five days to spare before it needed to be in the mail to make the auction and fundraiser.  I received a very nice thank you from the brother of this woman when it arrived and after the auction I received a beautiful handwritten thank you from the recipient of the benefit.  This was such a blessing to receive a thank you not from someone going through so much.
The following is a poem written for this piece of art and attached to the back of it.

Angels to watch over us
When we lose our way
When darkness closes in
When black and white turn grey
We search
Trying to accept
What is true
What is right
Wheres the justice
Our faith within
Small as a mustard seed
To believe
Accepting what is genuine
What is true
New beginnings
New hope
Sent from up above
Angels watching over us
They never leave our side

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