One, two, tree, foa…

I was 13-years old when I met my birth father. Soon after, we took a trip to O’ahu and the Big Island so that I could meet his side of the family. The minute he stepped into a room full of “aunty-folks” (all of his aunties, uncles and cousins), he relaxed and easily slipped right back into speaking Pidgin English even though he had been living in Chicago for 13 years and had developed a mid-western accent.

I’ve been fascinated with accents since I was a child, and because I really wanted to impress my dad, I thought I’d try my hand at speaking Pidgin English…to my mother. Bad idea.

“When you get back home, you better drop that accent.”

“Yes, Mom.”

Hawaiian Pidgin English started in the cane fields when a common language was needed between all the different ethnic groups, and continued to evolve with each island having  a few of its own colloquialisms. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau recognized it as one of the languages of Hawai’i.  There’s a distinctive lilt to a Hawaiian Pidgin accent that makes locals easily identifiable on the Mainland. It’s like a secret handshake.

When Ric and I first started dating, he would occasionally use Pidgin terms, and I would just smile and nod like I understood what he said.

“Would you like to go for a hike at Wallace Falls?”

Bumbye. My ankle stay soa.”

Huh? What the heck is a “bumbye“? Google anyone?


Pidgin To Da Max has been the “go-to” dictionary for 25 years. I still have the copy my father gave to me in the 80’s.


Being in Seattle and surrounded by PNW natives, he worked hard at speaking what he calls “regular English.” But surround him by locals and he goes into “moke mode”. If you don’t understand Pidgin, you’re doomed. Hawaiian Pidgin is full of words borrowed from other languages and sometimes those words are shortened and often not fully pronounced. As an added bonus, the sentence structure is incredibly simple.  Ric maintains that Pidgin can get to the point typically in four words or less.

For example:

Question: “How was the traffic on H1 today?”

English Answer: “It was horrible! There were so many people on the road it took me an hour and half to commute from Town to Pearl City at 2 P.M.!”

Pidgin English Answer: “Brah, get choke cars!”

Over the last couple of years, Emery has asked Ric to teach her some Pidgin, to which he always replies, “I can’t teach it to you, you just have to grow up with it.” There’s a bit of truth to that. Just like learning any foreign language, you need to live among the locals to learn the culture along with the language. Only then can you appreciate all its nuances.

After a year, we understood Ric in “moke mode”, so we had a good grasp on the lexicon before arriving. We were anxious to try our skills, but he said, “Please don’t try to speak Pidgin. Just talk regular. You can understand and that’s good enough. Just be you.” Later I found out that’s because he maintains that I put the accents on the wrong syllables. Apparently I need to study  “Local Maddahs” videos by comedian Pashyn Santos to make sure I can speak da kine correctly when the opportunity arises.

At this point, Kahea has the best shot at developing Pidgin language skills and an organically-grown accent that she can take into adulthood. In fact the other day I was showing her sister something on my phone and she said, “I like see…” (translation: Can I see what you’re looking at?). In my best Pidgin accent, I replied with, “Ho Tita, you going talk Pidgin to your maddah?” To which she replied, “Wait, what?” She goes to school with choke (lots) local kids and since she’s only in 3rd grade, she will spend the next couple of years learning PSL (Pidgin as a Second Language). In no time, she’ll be like any other local girl, switching back and forth between languages seamlessly. She may even end up with a Pidgin accent when she “talks regular”, but only time will tell.

If only Siri understood Pidgin, Ric would be a happy man. If he uses “Hey Siri” he gets frustrated at the number of times he has to repeat himself until she understands what he’s saying. Personally I just wish Siri knew about the lack of left turns in Town and the timing of the contraflow lanes. I had to break up with her because of her lack of experience in Honolulu—but that’s a post for another day.

For now, I leave you with Pashyn Santos and Siri. Aloha!











1048 steps 

Emery’s been asking to spend a day with me. She wants me to take her to “Suicide Squad”, but instead of sitting in a movie theater and not interacting, I thought a hike would be a good idea. We could talk, take pictures, look for new bugs and tropical flowers.

I had been eyeing the Koko Head Trail for a few weeks and decided that would be a great thing for us to conquer together. See that vertical line on the left side? That’s the trail. Not kidding.

IMG_4250During WWII, the Army built a railroad up the side in order to transport personnel and supplies to the bunkers that served as lookouts at the top.  What remains is 1048 railroad ties (pretending to be stairs) to the summit. A handrail would be a nice addition. The trail is about 1.5 mile roundtrip from the parking lot, and shoots straight up 1200 ft to the top. The view from the bottom is both daunting and intriguing.


We arrived around 9 am, and it was already crowded. As we started our ascent, I realized that this hike was going to be my punishment for taking a year off from running with any sort of regularity.  It was 81 degrees, boob sweat was already a reality and my cardio seemingly non-existent. About 15 minutes in, I said to Emery, “Who’s idea was this anyway??”

“Yours, Mom.”

“Oh yeah, right.”

As we climbed a little higher, she said,”This hike is kind of like life. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but at the end, there’s something beautiful.”

She wasn’t trying to be profound–that’s just Emery’s optimistic, ever-forgiving heart talking.

I realized that my frequent stops to drink water and catch my breath was slowing her pace, so I told her to go ahead. She was practically flying up the hill with the regulars who work this ascent on a daily/weekly basis. As I tackled the stairs at my 50-year old pace, I stopped to take a picture of a military dad on his way down  struggling to take a selfie with his baby in a front pack, shared my water with two 20-something men who forgot their water in their car (BIG mistake), gave words of encouragement to a woman disappointed that she didn’t make it to the top and complained about the heat with a young man dressed in jeans who had a physical disability that made walking, let alone climbing stairs, difficult. At the halfway point, I saw Emery in the distance.

“Mom, there’s an unexpected part of this trail.”

Then she showed me that the path of railroad ties went over a ravine that at it’s deepest was about 10 ft. Looking down made my heart race. My legs already felt like jello and I was worried about being sure-footed across this span while wrestling with my anxiety and Emery’s. But since this is the year has been about conquering my fears, we charged ahead. My thoughts went back and forth between “Holy sh*t!” to “Dear Jesus, just get us across this bridge” but out loud came “Take your time, Ems. You got this.” About halfway across the span, I lost my balance and a young man literally grabbed me at the right time and helped me regain my footing (and my composure). On our way back down, we learned there was a trail on the side for those not willing to cross the ravine—when we were halfway across. Emery and I both let out an audible “Are you kidding me???”

With the treacherous part out of the way, I told Emery to fly to the top. It’s practically vertical from that point. She summited 6 minutes before me.


The view at the top is amazing and worth the sore quads I have today. From the top you get a beautiful view of Diamond Head, Hawaii Kai, Haunama Bay, Moloka’i and Lana’i in the distance.


We FaceTimed Easton, explored the graffiti covered bunkers and enjoyed the wind. As we stood looking at Haunama Bay, I was overcome with emotion for a moment. We have been battling a mean case of homesickness this week. Choking back tears, I said, “We live in a beautiful place.”

“We do, Mom. We do.”

When we were getting ready to head back down, a woman with a strong British accent approached us as we stood at the base of the Hawaiian flag flying at the top.

“Excuse me, would you mind taking a picture of me weakly holding the flag?”

“If you’ve made it to the top, I think you need to hold that flag proudly!”

Turns out she was visiting Haumana Bay,  wandered across the street and decided to tackle the trail in a dress…and sandals.

You’d think the descent would be easier, but it’s just as challenging. I was doing fine keeping up with Ems and once we both crossed the ravine I realized my knee was throbbing—just like it did at mile 10 of my last half marathon. She went ahead and I took my sweet time.


When I finally made it to the bottom, she fist bumped me. “We did it, Mom!”

Yes, we did. We struggled (or at least I did), but along the way I got to experience her determination, the beauty of her heart and the beauty of the ʻaina.


Geckos are the new Xanax

I am over-the-top, give-me-a-bucket-of-Xanax terrified of roaches. And I live in Hawai’i. [sigh] Doesn’t matter how clean your house is, at some point you’re going to find a roach.  I found one in a kitchen drawer. I’ve ducked as one has flown into the garage. The first one I killed was walking slowly by Maka’s kennel like he owned the place. I smashed him with Emery’s size 10 Birkenstocks sandal and immediately posted my victory on Facebook.

Roaches come in several different varieties. And all of those varieties make me run screaming and hyperventilating until Ric scoops the offender up in his hand and throws it outside. He refuses to smash them, no matter how much the girls and I beg. As far as I’m concerned, the only good roach is a dead one.

That’s where geckos come in handy.

Having geckos in the house is a good thing. Geckos eat roaches. More snacks for them, less Xanax for me. Ric says they make a particular sound when they’re banging a big roach against the wall in a Godzilla vs. Rodan battle to the death. I haven’t heard that sound yet, but they are welcomed to pummel their prey however they see fit if that means another roach bites the dust. I have heard their “chirp”, though. It sounds more like a “clicking” sound, and for the first couple of weeks after my arrival I had attributed it to the local birds. Imagine my surprise when I found out the noise was coming from my roach-slaying buddies. Ric swears they can throw their voices and make you think they are on the other side of the room.

When we first moved into our home, I was fascinated by each gecko and lizard that we found in an around the house. Our first visitor was a lizard, whom the girls promptly named “Leo” (ironically, that was the name of their great-grandfather). We’d watch him sneak out to soak up the morning sun and then run back into the hole at the bottom of the front door jamb. The only non-humans that I’ve ever willingly shared a space with have been cats, a suicidal beta fish and most recently, our two dogs, Maka and Bella. Clearly, these reptiles lived in and around the house long before we did, so I was thankful that they let us inhabit the larger living areas of their home.  I took pictures of them, and stared at them in fascination. Then I realized that they aren’t house-broken and discovered that they crap everywhere. Including the ceiling.

We have two house geckos that the girls have named Gigi and Geo. Gigi is the more “full-figured” of the pair and so is fast that I can never get a picture of her.  Geo is smaller, and freezes when he sees people. We think he freezes because he might be slightly tame. He let Ric pet him for a few seconds before the kids came rushing into the room, scaring him back into his hiding place. Geo lives the girls’ bathroom. Gigi lives behind the refrigerator. How do I know? Gecko crap.


Kahea used to be terrified of all animals, but since moving to Hawai’i has become “The Gecko Whisperer”. This little baby gecko was content to stay on her hand.

There is one word in the Hawaiian language for “lizard”–mo’o–even though there are several species of lizards/geckos on the island. The mo’o is thought to be ‘aumakua or a spirit guardian “who protects their descendants from danger or sorcery, heals sickness or wounds, and forgives transgressions.” Other ‘aumakua reveal themselves often in the forms of pueo (owl), mano (shark), honu (turtle) or puhi (eel). Although the mo’o of Hawaiian legend was black and between 12 and 30 feet long, the more diminutive house gecko will often reveal itself as an ‘aumakua in a Hawaiian household. If it does, it needs to be protected. That means if Gigi and Geo are the ‘aumakua of our household, Maka can’t eat them.

My sister-in-law is as terrified of geckos and lizards as I am of roaches. Last week she flew to the Philippines to spend time with family, and to her surprise, she discovered a gecko in her luggage. She was too freaked out to unpack for a couple of days for fear of coming face to face with her little stowaway. I said, “Maybe geckos are your ‘aumakua?” Knowing we had house geckos that we had named she said, “Yours, too!” And then I wondered what it would be like to have an ‘aumakua that terrifies me? Would that be my ancestors telling me to push past my fears?

What if a roach was my ‘aumakua?

I think I would die.

And it probably wouldn’t be a good thing that I smashed one to smithereens last night while Gigi and Geo were out on a bathroom break.



Kawaharada, Dennis. “‘Aumakua of Kona, O’ahu”. Traditions of O’ahu: Stories of an Ancient Island. September 2010. Asia-Pacific Digital Library.

ku’u home

“You’re so lucky to live in Hawai’i!”

I hear that a lot from my friends on the Mainland. And yes, I am grateful to be living here. In my iPhone, I have our house in Washington listed as “Home” and our new address as “Ku’u Home” (my home). And while I love it, I will admit that there are days that I cry because I just want to go Home.

This is one of those days.

I miss my son. I hate not knowing when I’ll see him next. His 21st birthday is in two weeks. Can someone please give him a huge hug and take him out for a drink for me?

I miss my hula ‘ohana. My Monday nights and Saturdays aren’t the same without them. And I hate that I’m too intimidated to find a hālau here.

I miss my village: my hānai daughters, my besties, my awesome friends/neighbors, my church…heck, I even miss my nail lady.

I am confident in the fact that this is where God has called us to be, and as we continue our journey, the homesickness won’t be as painful. But for today, it is overwhelming.




The problem with stuff

Moving is a daunting task, especially if you’re moving from a home that you’ve been living in for over 10 years and you like stuff. I blame part of my quick 10 pound weight loss on the move. Why?

Because I have a lot of stuff.

Because we didn’t have the money to move all my stuff.

Because we didn’t have house until the day before the girls and I arrived.

That stressed me out.

I wasn’t too terribly public about the real reason that we moved, and I still won’t divulge too much except to say that there was a family health situation that necessitated a very quick move. Ric was offered a job with his old company in the beginning of this health crisis, which we took as a sign from God that He would provide if we put our faith in Him. So we did, and we moved in shifts.

To be perfectly honest, it couldn’t have come at a worse time financially and I knew that we would have to leave much of our stuff behind. Ric was already working in O’ahu and it was up to me to pack up the entire house. I’m always up for a challenge, so when he asked, “Can you do it?” my answer was, “Of course I can!”

I had great plans of sending off bags to Goodwill, and packing in a super-organized fashion with numbered boxes and Excel spreadsheets. Then, the father of my youngest daughter decided to involve me in family court antics (and trust me, “antics” is the best word to describe what he put me through) just a few weeks before we were set to leave. I was so busy dealing with his circus/monkeys that packing got delayed.  Really delayed.

I’m a stress starver, not a stress eater. When I’m stressed, I run on adrenaline and I don’t sleep. I lost 10 pounds and gained Hefty bags under my eyes in a matter of days. It wasn’t pretty.

I think I started to pack about two weeks before we left, with the majority being done just a few days before. People would come to visit and I’d put them to work. My saving grace was one of my best friends, Allison. She came over during the day to help me pack, would go home to feed her family, and then come back and pack with me late into the wee hours of the morning. If it wasn’t for Allison, there’s no way I would have survived. Her humor, “let’s get it done” attitude, a few bottles of wine and six-packs of beer, and a bloody toe (that’s a story for another day) kept me going when I really just wanted to lay down and cry myself to sleep

My plan for the girls and me was one big suitcase, one big box, one carry-on suitcase and a backpack each. That seems like a lot space for your things, but when you’re picking up your entire life and moving to the middle of the ocean, it’s really not much space at all. We knew that we would probably be living in less than half the space that we had in Washington, so the challenge was to learn to live SIMPLY and only bring the necessities.


Checking in at SeaTac with just the bare necessities and two boxes of Ric’s tools.


It a perfect world, I would have taken the time to KonMari everything in the house, but when you realize you only have a week to pack up a 2500 sq ft house that you’ve lived in for 11 years, you just want to punch Marie Kondo in the face.

“Does this item bring me joy?”

No! It’s stressing me the hell out!!

I came up with my own questions for determining what to keep and what to toss, which needed to be answered in  5 seconds or less per item:

  1. “Do I really need this?” No? Put it in the Goodwill box. Yes? Go to question #2.
  2.  “Can I live without this for a year?” Yes? Pack it up for storage. You can grab it when you come back to visit or if we get a Pod, whichever comes first. No? Go to question #3.
  3. “Am I willing to bring it across the ocean?” Yes? Put it in your suitcase. No? Put it in the damn Goodwill box already or give it to a friend.

The girls packed their things up quite nicely, gave away quite a bit to friends and sent the rest off to Goodwill. A couple of days before we were set to leave, I was a train wreck, and Allison and I put together several “desperation boxes”. Just what is a “desperation box”? A box full of random stuff that you just don’t have the time to go through. I’m sure I’ll regret it when/if those boxes ever arrive here.

I’m happy to report that we are enjoying living in much smaller space and the girls are doing GREAT living with less stuff. They really don’t miss all the things that filled every corner of their rooms. Their days are spent outside playing volleyball or basketball with friends, riding bikes, catching geckos, marveling at the daily rainbows, and collecting the best plumerias that have fallen off the neighbor’s tree.

 I’m the one that’s having issues. There are things out of my kitchen in Seattle that I could really use, there are clothes that I packed away that I could use for my new office job (I’m sure they’re getting sick of seeing the same 7 outfits), and I could really use my art supplies to keep me busy on the nights that I can’t sleep. We’ve had a few boxes sent over with little items (thank God for Flat Rate Priority boxes) like Ric’s favorite wooden spoon and my hand mixer, but I find myself longing for my Kitchen Aid, my Elie Tahari dress that found at Goodwill for $19.99, the kids’ scrapbooks, and my canvases and paper and paint and Mod Podge. Seems that I’m the one with the major attachment to stuff. While I could go buy more art supplies and take a trip to Savers for a dress equally as cute, I just can’t bring myself to spend the money, ’cause I want MY stuff.

Those things bring me joy.

Damn you, Marie Kondo.






Seafood, Hep A and the reason I should have a steak

I don’t like seafood.

Well, generally I don’t like seafood. My list of acceptable seafood is short: canned tuna, fish and chips, lobster, ‘opihi and maybe one bite of shoyu poke (hold the limu). That’s it.

Ric often says, “You’re the only Japanese/Okinawan/Filipino I’ve ever met that doesn’t like seafood.”  He’s wrong, our daughter Kahea doesn’t like anything that swims in the ocean, and she even has a little bit of Swedish blood.

Since I don’t like seafood, I don’t like sushi either. And because I don’t like sushi, we don’t eat at sushi restaurants. And because we don’t eat at sushi restaurants, I may have saved my whole family from getting Hepatitis A. In case you haven’t heard, there’s been an outbreak of Hep A on O’ahu: 206 confirmed cases. The cause? Contaminated scallops from the Philippines that were served at Genki Sushi Restaurants on O’ahu and Maui. The entire chain has been shut down on both islands and ordered to sanitize and sterilize.

So, since my seafood-hating palate kept us out of Genki Sushi, I think I deserve a trip to The Outback Steakhouse for a Bloomin’ Onion and Victoria’s Filet. See how nicely that worked out?

NOTE: Yes, I know you can contract Hep A from any type of restaurant. I’m just trying to get a steak dinner out of my husband.

Rush hour = Hell on wheels 

Oh. My. Gosh.

The traffic on this island is horrendous.

My job is 11 miles away from our home and it took me 50 minutes to get home today. And my AC is broken. Imagine my happiness. No, really. Picture this: Squished lanes in my big Yukon with the windows down, in my black dress, sweating my butt off, country music blaring, and cursing Waze for lying to me about the alternate route not adding any time (it added 10 miserable minutes in my car).

At every stop light, I texted Ric.

There were so many people on the road, I thought the Zombie Apocalypse was at hand. But no, it’s just O’ahu rush hour. If you live on this island and work in Town, then this is your daily reality. Want to live in Ewa where the housing is more affordable? It’s about 25 miles away from Honolulu and a 1.5-2 hour commute…ONE WAY. This traffic rivals LA and NYC any day of the week. And just so you know that this isn’t me being fussy because my AC isn’t working (although it is a total drag):

Most days, my commute is pretty smooth. But the commute going home has been hell for the last two nights. I’m hoping Friday will be smooth sailing. It’s Statehood Day, so I’m thinking there will be less commuters on the road.

One last thought: if the Zombie Apocalypse happens, where the heck would everyone go? It would be better to run to safety than try to get on the highway. Guess I better start marathon training soon.


I live on a rock.

We moved to Hawai’i on June 28th.  Just last week, I looked up at the stars and the clouds drifting across the sky and I thought, “I live on a rock in the middle of the ocean.”

That thought is overwhelming, terrifying and delicious, all at once.

Ever since the moment I discovered that my father was born and raised on The Big Island, I’ve wanted to live in Hawai’i. It didn’t matter if it was for a month, or a year or a lifetime. I wanted to be HERE, and discover what it was that made his whole demeanor change when he talked about Home.

Soon after we met, my Hawaiian/Portuguese/Filipino/Puerto Rican/with a touch of Chinese boyfriend (now husband) said, “I’m going to marry you and move you back home.” Three years later, here we are on the island of O’ahu.

This is the diary of my adventure.

E komo mai.