Category Archives: Hawaiian Island Adventures

If Only I Could Fly Like a Bird!

While Alan attended the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists  meeting in Honolulu recently, I spent my days writing, and from our balcony, I could see three snowy white pigeons far below, roosting in the park just across from Waikiki Beach.  They rose and dived with grace and apparent ease, flitting and fluttering on the breezes.  I watched them soar joyously in the bright morning sunshine and thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fly like a bird?!”  In Hawaii, it’s warm and humid, so people practically live outside. They also keep their doors open as much as possible, and we were no exception. The sliding glass doors on our balcony were open almost all the time, bringing in balmy air until our entire hotel room felt like a bit of private, outdoor paradise…literally 50° warmer than the freezing air had been in Michigan when we left!  Having a six-hour EST (Eastern Standard Time) advantage, we woke up well before sunrise every morning and sipped tea while enjoying leisurely devotional times together.  After prayer and Bible reading, we enjoyed breakfast. Most mornings it was granola and bananas, but this particular morning we had garnered some legendary malasadas (Portuguese, custard-filled donuts) from Honolulu’s most famous bakery: Leonard’s. We relished the rosy sunrise, and then Alan began washing up before leaving for his conference. I made a cup of Jasmine tea in preparation for settling down to write.   To my delight and surprise, I found that not only had I been admiring the birds, they had apparently been admiring us too…or at least our breakfasts!  Apparently a crumb or two had fallen under the table, which one pigeon quickly devoured,                           and another pigeon came inside to check us out!

I wonder, do pigeons watch humans and think about they way we sit down with apparent ease and feast on a lovely breakfast just the way I admire their ability to flutter on the breezes?  It’s all too natural to see and long for the advantages of others while not considering the difficulties of their lives.  The pigeons on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach scavenge hard to find enough to eat, and they coo contentedly when they discover a few drops of fresh water in the cracks of sidewalks!  Is it possible they say to themselves, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to eat like a human?!”   It’s perfectly normal to notice and admire what others do well—great writers, artists, scientists, orators, doctors, lawyers…Indian chiefs. Do you find yourself admiring some wonderful ability that another person possesses? I certainly do. And yet, would I really like to be the person I admire?  My guess is that if I knew everything about that person, the difficulties in his life and the challenges he faces, I would be content to be myself. On the other hand, if we admire someone else enough, perhaps it will motivate us to work harder to become the best we can be!  What do you think? Ready to be content, or are you ready to make the sacrifices to be something more? I gather from the scripture that God wants us to be content with the outward circumstances which are beyond our control: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content”  (Philippians 4:11), but I think He wants us never to be content with where we are spiritually: I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do,  forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus(Philippians 3:8-14, emphasis mine).

Tips for Climbing Diamond Head…and One Strange Sign

I’ve read that Oahu’s Diamond Head is the world’s most climbed and photographed extinct volcano.  This iconic landmark of Hawaiian splendor lures over a million tourists to climb up its verdant crown each year, and although we’ve been to Hawaii many times (mostly for conferences, babies and graduations), we never had the leisure to climb Diamond Head until this last trip.  The forecast was for rain, but our mantra is “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” when it comes to weather. Frankly, I can’t remember any time we’ve been disappointed for forging ahead (particularly since most of the time it’s a do-now-or-forever-miss-your-chance sort of situation), so we went anyway. We were rewarded with a cool morning trek and only misty rain from time to time. Although I wouldn’t recommend trying to climb in a thunderstorm, I was pleased to note that there are sturdy guard rails along most of the difficult parts, and the paved path is as artfully rugged as any mountain trail, forcing you to watch your step or sprain your ankle at all times while still providing quite a manageable, fairly skid-proof walking surface.  I saw a few strollers hiding in the bushes awaiting the return of their owners, and very few small children. Two of our sons carried their kids up on their backs about six years ago, but that’s not a particularly easy way to do it either, since my cell phone recorded our ascent as 36 flights of stairs, 82 of which are steep and narrow.  Furthermore, there weren’t too many grey-haired folks among the crowds, and those who were, were pretty trim.  Finally: When you climb up through the last tunnel and see a sign that looks like this, go left!  Both routes take you to the top, but the trail to the right is extremely steep and narrow, so you slow down anybody coming up behind you who thinks they need to be running. Those steep stairs are much easier to handle on your descent! The trail to the left is open and ever upward but lovely, with areas where you can rest and enjoy the panoramic views (or Facetime with you son, as we did with ours!)  The entire trail is crowded, particularly at the top, but the views make up for the traffic jams!   To the south and west you overlook the lush crater and dazzle of Honolulu,  and to the east and north you’re met with soothing vistas of the Pacific Ocean’s turquoise waters and the Diamond Head Lighthouse far below.  There are several methods for tourists to get to the base of the mountain besides walking: Taxi, rental car, trolley, or bus. For $5.50, you can get a day pass for the entire island’s public bus system, which is an amazing deal!  There is a bus stop right at the base of Diamond Head Monument, and it’s a bit of a climb up to the toll booth (just $1 per person), but just past this entrance there are restrooms, drinking fountains, and options for refreshments. The wind was so strong that my wide-brimmed hat kept taking flight, so Alan bought me a baseball cap (which I will always cherish!)  There are no restroom facilities at the top, so take advantage of what they provide at this way station, and think about saving your water for drinking on your descent!  We also stopped for some passion fruit juice and a rainbow shaved ice upon our return, which revived us until we could make our way to the South Side Grill                                                 for an amazing (and cheap!)  lunch of Ono fish’n’chips. (We also took advantage of our day bus pass by ending at the Leonard Street Bakery’s for some of their famous malasadas for dessert.) All in all, it was a perfect day with only unexpected sight: A blue stop sign. Truly! I have never seen a blue stop sign in my entire life…not even in Disney World. Have you? However, after the surprise of seeing a bright blue stop sign, it occurred to me that it really doesn’t matter what color a sign is. It was the normal size and shape, and bore the same message: STOP. I had to think twice about whether or not it was real, but it was at a juncture where it would be totally appropriate to stop.  Moral of my meditation? We can be taken off guard by a warning that doesn’t fit our normal expectations, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Red or blue, “Stop” means “Stop!” If I (or you) have come face to face with a surprising warning, let’s not disregard it just because there’s something different about it (maybe an unusual source or given by someone whom we don’t automatically believe). If we should stop, let’s stop. On Diamond Head or our own back yard!The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12, ESV).

The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psalm 107:42-43).

 

Pineapple Pancakes with Creamy Coconut Syrup

          In Honolulu, we ended up eating at several really fun restaurants,  and my favorite breakfast was at Hatsuhana’s Japanese Restaurant at the Waikiki Hilton Village Resort, which consisted of pancakes, bacon, tossed salad, papaya, hard-boiled egg, and green tea, all for $9.99, which is an incredible deal in Hawaii! Not only was it one of the most unusual breakfast combinations I’ve eaten (outside Asia), it was truly delicious, and one of the highlights was their unique coconut syrup. If you’ve been following along with my recipe blogs, I hope that you—like me—are starting to say, “I could make this!” when you find something you really like. I’ve been making home made and berry syrups from childhood  (https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/blackberry-syrup-reminiscent-of-the-cracker-barrel/ ) so it wasn’t hard to  adapt what I already knew in order to make a very refreshing coconut syrup:

Creamy Coconut Syrup
(serves 6-8)

Add together in a pan:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup water.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-6 minutes until it just barely reaches the soft-ball stage (about 115°F if you’re using a candy thermometer, although I just go by the look; it starts looking thicker than water).
Add:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 15 oz. can coconut milk
Light sprinkle of salt
Keep simmering and use a whisk to stir until it’s all milky white and uniform in consistency. Let it cool. It doesn’t need to be warm so can be prepared a little bit ahead, although warm is always nice. It should thicken slightly when it’s sufficiently cool.

Another item I saw advertised at a different restaurant but never tried was pineapple pancakes, which also sounded good, so I worked out a recipe that met with high approval from both husband and son last weekend. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. It made us all feel a little like we were back in Hawaii! 🙂

Pineapple Pancakes
(serves about 3…at least we ate them all!)

Mix together:
1 cup pancake mix (I use Aunt Jemima’s Buttermilk, but suit yourself!)
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil (or melted butter, or bacon fat)
1 cup milk
1 cup crushed pineapple

That’s really all there is to it! Fry on a well-buttered skillet at about 325° (medium heat…not as hot as regular pancakes, because they take a little longer to bake through). If you really want Asian fusion, I guess you could serve it with hard-boiled eggs, papaya, and tossed salad, but we opted for a more traditional American flair, and even stuck with black tea rather than green.                            However you like it, I hope you’ll try it…and like it!

Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (Ezekiel 3:3-4).

Baby Boomers Learning to Surf

Not long ago, Alan and I spent week in Hawaii on Waikiki Beach, but we weren’t really surfing those 30-foot waves that were rolling in on the North Shore. Alan attended the annual meeting for the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists. As part of his prep, he had to take a self-assessment to see how well informed he is concerning current trends in America, and he shared some of the interesting statistics with me. Those of us in our sixties (as Alan and I are) are surfing, but not on waves of water! We’re riding the crest of the tidal wave of Baby Boomers about to crash as a beach head here in America.   Did you know that some 10,000 Baby Boomers are passing age 65 every day now? Did you know that America now holds the record for the most centenarians in the world: 53,000 and counting?! America is producing sixty-one geriatric psychiatrists per year, which only fills 40% of the need. Who’s going to take care of us when we’re all demented?   Well, for one thing, we can be more pro-active in trying to take care of ourselves! According to current research, the most positive psychological predictors of successful aging include: “Resilience, optimism, personal mastery, coping self-efficacy, social engagement, spirituality and religiousity, and wisdom.” The single most valuable predictor of satisfaction is retirement is adequate social engagement (even trumping cognitive and financial issues).   A couple of psychiatrists at the meetings, who had retired after highly successful careers, were taken off guard by how quickly they went from being highly esteemed to feeling no longer valued by their professional colleagues. I’ve heard this so many times! I think it would be extremely wise for each of us, as we approach retirement (or even if you’ve already retired), to find a compelling avocation to pursue that will require us to continue being fruitful….giving, growing, and engaging with others socially and spiritually. Maybe, if we can continue working on areas of personal growth such as those listed above, and if we’re willing to pursue productivity even after we’ve retired, we’ll find that we can surf into old age with grace rather than being dashed to pieces under the crushing waves!

They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Psalm 92:14).

Poems from Friends for NaPoMo 2017

“We never have to hold our feelings inside. Whether we express ourselves through speech, poetry, or photography, every one of us has a voice with something of value to say. Now, we can be heard.”~ Brandon Fernandez, who as a teenager founded “Expressions,” a program designed to teach young children how to express themselves through poetry and photography.

So, today I want to share two poems submitted by friends, one original, and the other by the famous poet, Ogden Nash. It’s not too late to send me a poem! There are still three weeks left in April!  🙂

Title: “When Grey Clouds Gather”

Author: John Tobasco
Date Written: 7/16/2016

“When grey clouds gather and cover your sky,Just put on your wings and fly up real high. Above those grey clouds you’ll find brilliant blue, So lift up your head and look for a clueOf things not yet here and others gone by.

And when you look down to those on the groundRemember the times when you weren’t found, And think of the times when you couldn’t find Anything that resembled real peace of mind,And all the people that helped you touch down.

And, here’s a poem to make you smile (or wince):Author: Ogden Nash  (but shared with us by Linda Davis)
THIS IS GOING TO HURT JUST A LITTLE BIT

“One thing I like less than most things is sitting in a dentist chair with my mouth wide open.
And that I will never have to do it again is a hope that I am against hope hoping.
Because some tortures are physical and some are mental,
But the one that is both is dental.
It is hard to be self possessed
With your jaw digging into your chest,
so hard to remain calm
When your fingernails are making serious alterations in your life line or love line or some other important line in your palm,
So hard to give your usual cheerful effect of benignity,
When you know your position is one of the two or three in life most lacking in dignity
And your mouth is like a section of road that is being worked on
And it is cluttered up with stone crushers and concrete mixers and drills and steam rollers and there isn’t a nerve in your head that isn’t being jerked on.
Oh, some people are unfortunate to be worked on by all thumbs,
And others have things done to their gums,
And your teeth are supposed to be polished
But you have reason to believe they are being demolished.
And the circumstances that add to your terror
Is that it’s all done with a mirror,
Because the dentist may be a bear, or as the Romans used to say, only they were referring to a feminine bear when they said it, an ursa,
But all the same how can you be sure, when he takes his crowbar in one hand and mirror in the other, that he won’t get mixed up, the way you do when you try to tie a bow tie with the aid of a mirror, and forget that left is right and vice versa.
And then at last he says, “That will be all”, but it isn’t because he then coats your mouth from cellar to roof
With something I suspect is generally used to put a shine on a horse’s hoof.
And you totter to your feet and think, Well it’s over now, and after all it was only this once,
And he says, “Please come back in three months.”
And this, O Fate, is I think the most vicious woe that thou ever sentest,
That Man has to go continually to the dentist to keep his teeth in good condition,
When the chief reason he wants his teeth to be in good condition is:  so that he won’t have to go the dentist.”

      Finally, here’s a little poetry from the Bible’s book of Psalms:1  “I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121, selected verses, ESV)

(Thank you to my son, Daniel, and his dental team for the last photo. The others were taken on my last trip to Hawaii.)

Song of Solomon (227): Fish Eyes? Fishy Eyes?

Song of Solomon 7:4 “Thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim…” Although we have probably all been privileged at some point in our lives to enjoy an oriental fish pool and catch the glimmer of goldfish darting about in the clear, green waters, there is much in the imagery of this praise which the western mind would miss without studying the ancient city of Heshbon and the culture of the times.   Heshbon was located about fifty miles east of Jerusalem. It is mentioned thirty-seven times in Scripture and was a powerful city in ancient Palestine. In Numbers 21:25-30 we learn that Heshbon was originally a Moabite city but was conquered by Sihon, the king of the Amorites, who made it his capital. Later (Numbers 32:37) it became part of the inheritance of the tribe of Rueben, and although it eventually reverted back to Moabite rule (and both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied of coming judgment because of its evil), during the reign of King Solomon it was part of the inheritance given to the Levites as a city of peaceful refuge for the families of the priests. It was a beautiful city, a powerful city, and a city of peace.   The name Heshbon means “he that hastens to understand or build.”1  Already we find rich ore for the mining! For the bride to have her eyes compared to the fishpools in Heshbon would have brought to the ancient eastern mind thoughts of beauty, power, peace, and a heart to understand and build. Oh, that in our eyes our Lord might see beautiful spirits…peaceful spirits, but spirits with a passion to eagerly pursue wisdom and growth!   Recent excavations of Heshbon (now in Jordan) have uncovered the remains of large reservoirs near the city. The word for “fishpools” is the Hebrew berekot, which does not refer to springs or fountains, “but the deep reservoirs which the springs supply. The sense here is one of still, deep calmness rather than the sparkle and shimmer of flowing springs”(2).   The translation “fish pools” followed the Latin Vulgate rendering piscinae, referring to pools for fish, but there is no actual intimation from the Hebrew text that the pools were so used (3). Fish pools were typically shallow, and the deep reservoirs near the gate of Bath-rabbim were more likely used for the city’s water supply, particularly in light of the name Bath-rabbim, which means literally “the daughter of multitudes.” Ah, and here is another resting spot for meditation!  How often the names in Scripture tell a story in themselves. The deep reservoirs supplied life-giving water for multitudes. The task of carrying water from the city well to the family dwelling place was one of the housekeeping responsibilities of the women and was normally assigned to daughters (if there were any) who were old enough and strong enough for such work. (For examples, Rachel, Rebekah, and the woman at the well in Sychar.)   So, the reservoirs supplied water for the “daughter(s) of multitudes…” and through them, the entire city. Anyone who came to the wells could drink. Everyone who came could drink. It didn’t matter if the person was a beautiful and virtuous young virgin like Rebekah or a five-time has been with no real family of her own like the woman Jesus redeemed by the well of Sychar… everyone who came was allowed to drink. Oh, to be a woman whose eyes are deep, peaceful, reservoirs of life-giving spirit, open in compassion to the poor and prepared to minister to the needs of all the daughters of this earth!

(1) Lockyer, Dr. Herbert. Love Is Better Than Wine. Harrison: New Leaf Press, 1981, p. 113.
(2) Carr, G. Lloyd. The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984, p. 158.
(3) Patterson, Paige.  Song of Solomon. Chicago:  Moody, 1986, p. 105.

 

Get Me to the Church On Time…or On Line!

I have devout friends who never travel on the Sabbath in order to keep it holy and make sure they’re worshiping with their congregation at the appointed hour. I admire that, although Alan and I do not have such a firm conviction in that area. However, I strongly believe in “a day of rest” and the principle of consistency in corporate worship, so we often visit new churches wherever we are on Sunday. In Kauai, we enjoyed a church recommended to us by a friend who’d spent a summer there. It’s always enriching and a joy to share in new (and old) worship music, hear fresh perspectives on the scripture, and fellowship with believers we’ve never met before.* In South Africa, Alan and I had no clue where a good church might be, and so (thanks to the internet) we tuned in to our own church service at  http://calvarygr.org/sermons-resources/livestream-current-service/ . It’s not quite the same as singing along with thousands of other believers, but it’s still a great blessing! Last week was spring break, and we enjoyed some vacation time together combined with a medical meeting for Alan and a little family visiting time for me.  Our flight home was Sunday morning, but the timing worked out so that we could share a set of headphones at the airport and hear the best message I can ever remember on Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Pastor Jim told us that we have a moral obligation to bear patiently with the failings of those who are weak in faith and the sins they commit which cause us pain. Strong words and very challenging! I needed to hear that message.  So, may I share a simple encouragement? Whenever you’re on vacation (or at home!), don’t miss the opportunity for corporate worship, spiritual growth and communion with other believers. People need people! If you can’t make it to a church for some reason, try participating with some faithful church online. If your church doesn’t provide online services, I can heartily recommend ours—not as a “perfect” church, but as a church that does try to stay true to the teachings found in the Bible.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

(*I didn’t take any photos at the church in Kauai, but this is a photo of flowers and the handmade leis they gave us [and all visitors]!)