Monday, June 6, 2016

Today was one of those days that so tempted me to crawl back in bed and pull the covers over my head and it was finally drawing to a close. I was relieved, but not because the dawning of another day, with an opportunity to begin anew just hours away, but because I had three deep, dark, bittersweet, chocolate bars in my cart and I was headed for the checkout line. Yes, I had made a chocolate run to the health food store. On those rare days when things consistently go awry to the point where I believe that Murphy's law should be renamed Ima's law, a hunk of organic, dark chocolate makes me feel yummy again.

My morning began with me stumbling over the shoes I had left in the middle of the floor last night. While I was still chastising myself for not putting them in the closet I knocked over my cup of coffee and shortly after that a bottle of my favorite essential oil! I let loose a string of curse words that would make a sailor blush. That prompted Bobby to make a well intentioned, yet grossly misguided attempt to make me laugh, by asking if I needed help beating myself up. I was not amused! When a friend dropped by needing a ride to town I considered it divine intervention. I would get a respite from what was sure to be ongoing attempts from Bobby the cheerleader, to make me laugh at myself and I could pick up my own feel better prescription...chocolate!

I got in line behind a woman who only had one item, a small, clear, plastic bag of chocolate chips from the bulk bin. Another chocolate lover! She looked rather disheveled and as she limped forward to check out I noticed her wince slightly. Apparently I wasn't the only one overwhelmed with challenges today. The woman mumbled that it should only be around sixty cents while the cashier tried to make out the product code scribbled on the twist tie. She weighed the bag of chocolate chips and told her that the total was $3.46. The woman looked disappointed, opened her handful of change and said "Never mind, I don't have that much."

I heard myself say to the cashier, "I'll pay for it. Just ring it up with my stuff and let her take it."

"Thank you! Are you sure?" the woman asked

"Absolutely!" I reassured her "A girl's gotta have her chocolate!" I laughed pointing to my three bars of deliciousness on the conveyor belt.

"Thank you so much!" she said. "A few nibbles of chocolate is what's keeping me sane after that wind storm Saturday. I just got my electricity back on." she shared.

The cashier smiled and handed her the bag of chocolate chips. I waved and wished her a blessed day. My eyes teared up as I remembered my Dad paying it forward. He'd pay for people's gas and coffee then run out to sit in his car watching their faces light up with surprise when the cashier told them that their purchase had been paid for.

The cashier interrupted my nostalgic moment by asking me for my rewards card. "Mana is my last name, first name Ima." I told her

"Thanks" she said, then smiled. "You have a $5 reward with today's purchase, would you like to use it?"

"Talk about serendipitous!" I smiled back. "Yes indeed!"

I am so glad that I didn't crawl back in bed today!  I feel great satisfaction in adding a bunch of tiny, sweet morsels of joy to someone else's life.

Ima's law..."When anything that can go wrong, does go chocolate!"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pinocchio’s Conscience

The sound stopped me in my tracks. I heard it in the hallway outside our bedroom door.  I slowly looked over my left shoulder, but didn't see anything. “Did you hear that?” I asked my sweetheart Bobby.  

“Hear what?”    

“A  cricket!” I whispered. “Shh, don't move!” Within seconds I heard it again. “Where are you, you son of a bitch?” I muttered opening the laundry room door opposite our bedroom. I waited. The sound got louder. “I know you're in here, and if you know what's good for you, you'll stay in here.” I warned.

“Why all the hostility towards an innocent cricket?” Bobby asked. He apparently had no recollection of the little bugger that had kept me awake all night a few weeks before. I remember looking in utter amazement and envy at Bobby while he slept through the cricket serenade that had almost driven me insane. 

“Because,” I said rather defensively, “the last time a freaking cricket got in our room, I got no sleep. Zip, zero, nada! No sleep makes me grumpy. You don't like it when I'm grumpy.” I could tell by the way his eyes glazed over that he understood. I turned off the laundry room light and slammed the door hoping that distant cousin of Pinocchio's conscience would follow my advice and stay put.

At 3:29 the next morning, it was obvious that he hadn't. I thought I had heard some chirping in the bedroom earlier, but the windows were open and I had assumed it was coming from outside. Crickets sound different outside. Outside they do chirp, inside it sounds like they're screaming.

A chronic insomniac even without the help of a screaming cricket, I was up writing when I heard it again. The windows had long since been closed so I knew the little rebel had ignored my warning and had somehow found his way into our room.

It was that same nocturnal aria that had rudely awakened me weeks before, different soloist, same song. That night I had been too exhausted to move and decided instead to lie in bed and meditate. Meditate I did. Sleep? Not so much. 

This time because I was already up, I scratched the meditation idea and decided to hunt him down, not to kill him though. I can't kill a cricket regardless of how nuts it makes me. My mamma taught me that crickets in the house were good luck. While I'm not convinced of the good luck part, just in case there could be some karmic repercussion, I catch and release.

Catching a cricket is no easy task because the clever little noise makers clam up when they hear you coming. I slowly got up from the computer, opened a drawer gently, got my headlamp and tiptoed towards the screaming.

I swear I heard Elmer Fudd's voice whispering “SHHHHHH, be vewy, vewy quiet, we are hunting wabbits.”

“Cwickets, Elmer” I corrected aloud. “We are hunting cwickets.” 

The cwicket must've heard me talking to the cartoon character in my head because he shut up. I froze. When he finally started up again I was able to narrow down his probable hideout to the left corner of the room.

As I meticulously and quietly sifted through the stuff in the left corner, I chuckled thinking that this was what my sister-in-law Kimberly must've looked like the night I slept on her sofa and she heard crickets in her house. She despises them and will not rest until the little trespassers are apprehended and executed.

After tearing the room apart while I slept, Kimberly finally discovered that the chirping was coming from my iPhone laying on the end table, next to the sofa. More specifically, it was coming from the White Noise app on my iPhone. Sorry about that sis!, I listen to virtual crickets chirping on an app to lull me to sleep and the real one in the bedroom was keeping me awake? I sat down on the floor and laughed out loud, shaking my head in disbelief. I grabbed my iPhone, opened up the app, which I hadn't used for months, and sure enough, heard chirping crickets. Chirping, mind you, not screaming.

That's when I canceled the cricket hunt and crawled into bed, with the Jiminy Cricket wanna be still screaming in the corner.  Because the chirping cricket chorus trumps the screaming solo serenade, I turned up the volume on my iPhone, put it on the nightstand next to my bed, closed my eyes and listened. I thought about how fascinating it was that crickets produced sounds that lulled me to sleep and ones that drove me crazy.

All creatures gifted with a voice are capable of creating soothing sounds or ones that’ll induce insanity, depending on what they need to communicate to the world. So, why does a group of horny crickets chirping out their version of “Hey baby, your place or mine?” make my eyelids so heavy? 

Like a cradle rocking a baby, there's a relaxing, rhythmic consistency from the chorus of crickets. Their gentle, slow, continuous tempo sent me straight to the Land of Nod and the best night’s sleep I’d had in months. And it all began with that screaming cricket in the corner of the bedroom.

I smile when I think about that cricket's ancestor, Jiminy Cricket and the enchanted place he lived, where wooden puppets awaken to find they are real people and where the strings controlled by puppet masters have magically disappeared, courtesy of a blue fairy's wand. 

In that transcendent world as in this one, being a real person means being inspired by our conscience, in ways we cannot even imagine, to do more than simply be conscious, but to live that consciousness.  It's where stars twinkling in the heavens patiently await the silent sharing of our deepest desires and where dreams really do come true.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


I watch you as you flitter by 
Sunlight on your wing
Rays of warmth that rest upon
The wonder that you bring

Caress my eyes with splendor
Find a silken perch
The undulating summer breeze
Now leads you in your search

Sweet blossoms, they all summon you 
Why would you resist
When they have what you need within
Just waiting for your kiss

You choose the most ambrosial bloom
Your velvet wings alight
Sweet nectar now you gently sip
Then rise to your next flight

My soul sees your serenity
Your freedom and your grace
You try to teach me patiently 
That life is not a race

Now wrapped within a chrysalis
At first I do not see
When I can't move, I figure out
That stillness is the key

The time is right, I now break free
To find I’m not the same
I spread my wings and fly away
And now know why you came

The lesson that you have for me 
As you come flutter by...
Without a metamorphosis
There is no butterfly


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Boogeyman!

The first time I saw your glowing green eyes staring at me through the window I froze. I couldn’t breathe, my heart began to race, my stomach twisted and I could feel the blood drain from my face. A scream got stuck in my throat on it’s way up to my mouth. It seemed like I stood there for hours as you jerked me from the reality of a 53 year old grandmother back to that of a frightened 8 year old little girl…

Mom and Dad had gone out to the N.C.O. club that night to play bingo and left Helen, our 15 year old neighbor to babysit me, my sister and two brothers. I had always liked her when she had watched us before during the day, but this was the first night our parents had left us with her. The four of us ranging in age from eight down to five were a handful but Helen knew how to keep us entertained. I can still see her red hair bobbing as she played the newest rock and roll hit records and taught us how to do the latest dances. She wore us out and then had us racing to see who could get their pajamas on the fastest. “The winner gets an extra graham cracker with their milk.” she promised.

My sister won but only because she kept her clothes organized and was the first to find her PJ’s. After the rest of us greedily gobbled up our graham crackers, my sister took great delight in dipping her extra one in her milk slowly, savoring every bite. My brothers and I sat there staring at her, our eyes following every movement of that last cinnamon sprinkled graham cracker. Helen must’ve sensed the envy because she whisked my brothers and I off to the bathroom to wash our hands. Within seconds after we left, my sister joined us.

To complete our bedtime routine, my sister and I knelt down and said our prayers while Helen tucked the boys in, then I climbed into the top bunk and covered up. “Great!” she said when she came in “You girls are already in bed.” She turned off the light and said “Good night.”

“My mom always leaves the door open and the hall light on.” I anxiously informed her as she pulled the door like she was going to shut it. 

“You’re a big girl, you don’t need the light.” she said impatiently.

“But I’m scared of the dark!” I whined 

“Which are you more afraid of the dark or the boogeyman?” she asked, obviously annoyed with me. 

“Who’s the boogeyman?”

“He’s who’s gonna come get you if you don’t lay down and go to sleep!” She warned. “He’s got green glowing eyes and he’s right outside your window!” she yelled and shut the door. I instinctively looked out our second story window and I swear I saw two green glowing eyes staring back at me through the opening in the yellow gingham curtains! I yanked the covers over my head and trembled. I couldn’t bring myself to come out from under those covers. 

A few minutes later I heard the front door open and listened intently for my mom and dad’s voices before I even considered venturing out from under the safety of my covers. What I heard was a strange male voice followed by a loud “Shhh!” and barely audible steps down the hallway on our wooden floors. Had she let the boogeyman in?! The living room door closed and I heard no more. 

I lie there for what seemed like an eternity, too frightened to come out from under the thin yellow blanket that was my refuge. I couldn’t even conceive of calming down while believing that you, some green eyed monster was in my house and that you would come after me if I didn’t go to sleep. How could I possibly sleep? I got more and more frightened lying there imagining you coming in after me. 

Every noise I heard startled me, the wind howling, my sister moving around below my bunk. I wanted to call out to her but when I opened my mouth no sound came out. It wasn’t until I heard the front door open and my mom laughing followed by my dad warning her not to wake us, that I remember breathing again. Seconds later light streamed in from the hallway and I pulled the covers off my head when I smelled my mom’s White Shoulders perfume mingled with cigarette smoke.

“What are you doing still awake?” she asked me taking a drag of her Salem menthol. “Your sister is sound asleep.”

“I was scared and couldn’t sleep with the door closed.”

She blew the smoke towards the open door, kissed my forehead and reassured me that she’d leave the door open and the hall light on. “Thanks Mom.” I said relieved. She walked over to the window and pulled the curtains completely shut. It was as if she somehow instinctively knew what I needed. When I finally looked toward the window all I saw was the lit end of her cigarette glowing red in the darkness and the smile on her face in the light from the hallway. I smiled back and rested my weary head on my pillow. I took a deep breath in, welcomed the familiar smell of her and finally slept.

What I had no way of knowing then was that Helen had wanted the door closed because her boyfriend was coming over. I was already afraid of the dark. Helen throwing you, Mr. Green Eyed Boogeyman, the mythical embodiment of terror, into the mix so she could swap spit with her beau was thoughtless and bordered on cruel. 

Forty-five years, two grown children and one grandchild later I came around the corner toward the kitchen in my new place and saw your two green glowing eyes peering at me through a window again. The legacy of fright that Helen had left with me had awakened after lying dormant for over four decades. Standing there frozen with fear and no yellow satin edged blanket to pull over my head I just stared back.

My logical adult mind pushed aside my vivid childhood memories in an attempt to find an explanation. After all, I reassured myself, the boogeyman isn’t real and no person  has eyes that glow green in the the clock on the kitchen microwave.

It's amazing to me that at my height, in that one spot, at night, the double paned kitchen window reflects the green microwave clock lights in a way that makes them look exactly like the two green glowing eyes I saw almost a half century ago.  As the logic set in and my body attempted to recover from the fear, I rubbed my eyes, took a deep breath, exhaled and then laughed with relief.

I had imagined you often over the years lurking in the shadows, but I had never seen your eyes again until that night over a year ago.  I’ve made my peace with you now.  Every night when I venture from my bedroom I see those green glowing eyes and if not aloud then in my mind I bid you “Aloha.”  I know, I know…it’s the kitchen appliances. Tell that to the frightened little eight year old girl inside of me, and bring her a blanket. There were no appliances in her bedroom.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What Was...What Is...

On the 6th day post hurricane Iselle, without electricity for seven days, living in an all electric house, I'm allowing myself to mourn the loss of what has been so that I'm able to find joy and peace in what is. 

What was once a faucet with water flowing in from the 8,000 gallon, rain water, catchment tank in our backyard has been replaced by 2 ½ gallon sun tea jar with a spigot, filled with spring water brought in five gallon buckets from seven miles away. 

What was once a freezer is now a still slightly smelly makeshift cooler filled with ice from daily runs to the convenience store (that may or may not be out of ice) three to six miles away (depending on road detours); or from Great Samaritans pulling up to the door yelling "Need ice?" (which they've frozen in their home freezers); or from runs to the unused during the week farmer's market where ice is the complimentary side to a free beef stew dinner from 4-6pm

What was once an electric stove is now an extra countertop space. What was once a charcoal starter now sits on the lanai between two, five gallon buckets topped with stepping stones and a grill grate with a broiler pan turned upside creating a rocket stove that lights quickly, burns big sticks instead of logs, has to be constantly fed to stay hot, smokes like crazy, cooks our food and heats water for coffee, bathing and washing dishes. Whew! 

What was once a plant watering can is now an awesome warm, albeit short, backyard shower when filled with boiling water from the rocket stove and cool water from the spring...we have no neighbors except the trees still standing. I imagine they delight in our joining their nakedness. 

What was once a warm, occasionally muggy house with ceiling fans running almost 24/7 is now a sauna unless I'm sitting right in front of the open french doors when a breeze decides to grace me with its presence.

What was once a brightly lit dining room in the evening is now candle lit so I can barely see my food and wonder where the flies are that I saw come in during the day through the open, unscreened french doors. 

What was once a brightly lit living room at night where lights were purposely dimmed for movie watching is now un-purposely dimmed with no movies to watch and where looking like a coal miner, I blind my honey with my five LED headlamp, when I look up from reading a book.

What was once a ritual of accessing the Internet anytime for any and everything from recipe Googling to Facebook posting to Netflix watching is now a twice a day walk to the road to check for vital emails on my cell phone (which only gets a spotty signal in my house) while I pray it doesn't run out of power...again. 

What was once a simple plug into the wall to power up my cell phone, laptop and iPad is now..."I must remember to plug my cell into the cigarette lighter/cell phone charger while I'm driving to get water or ice so that I can get a 26% charge to send 3 texts, 2 emails and make a phone call."

What was once a flick of the wrist to flush the toilet is now a gallon bucket dip & dump from the bathtub of water, filled before the storm, refilled two gallons at a time with water lugged in from the catchment tank on day three and refilled again today with five gallon buckets of catchment water siphoned out and hand trucked in by my honey. 

What was once a dishwasher is now a drying rack full of dishes that have been washed & rinsed in water lugged in from the catchment and boiled on the rocket stove.

What was once a 17 gallon bucket and a brand new, never seen the inside of a toilet plunger is now filled with siphoned, catchment water creating a hand powered outdoor washing machine.

What was once a long piece of braided rope is now a outdoor, clothes dryer stretched between two trees in the sunshine.

What was once an Internet addicted princess who was afraid to sleep with the windows open is now a humbled, grateful, wiser, woman.  After a long day of lugging water, chopping sticks, cooking over an open flame, plunging clothes and hanging them on the line to dry, she is exhausted and peacefully slumbers while the breeze wafting in through her open windows cools her perspiring body.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Silent Jump

Driving down what is known affectionately as, and literally was "The Red Road" on the southeastern side of the big island of Hawaii, I was, as always, struck with awe at the magnificence of its surroundings.  Originally formed from red cinder asphalt, it drew a brick red crayon line along the coast of the ocean it bordered. It rose and fell in undulations that seemed to mimic the waves that at some points almost kissed its charcoal shoulders.  

It was along those shoulders about a quarter mile ahead of me that my awe was interrupted by the all too familiar Puna hitchhiker's thumb begging for a ride. This particular thumb, the color of deep, dark, semi sweet chocolate was attached to a man with the bottom half of his face shadowed by his kinky, black, scruffy beard. As I passed him I took my foot off the gas while simultaneously accessing the facial recognition software in my brain. 

I've been really trusting my intuition lately and felt completely safe as I pulled over and stopped in the gray gravel. He had to run about thirty yards to catch up to my car and I watched in the rear view mirror as he approached.  He was the same man I had passed two days before with my girlfriend Riox in the car. "He's deaf." I remembered her mumbling. She was quite disappointed because the shoulder he was walking on was too narrow for us to pull over and pick him up.

I pressed the button on my armrest to unlock the passenger door and his tobacco stained, snaggletoothed smile lit up his entire face as he opened it. Before getting into the seat he put his calloused hands together as if in prayer, closed his bloodshot eyes and bowed his gratitude to me. I bowed my head in response then asked "Pahoa?" making certain he could see my mouth speaking the name of the nearest town. He shook his head yes and climbed in.

The moment he closed the door I smelled the alcohol. It oozed from his pores and explained the red lines crisscrossing the whites of his eyes. He lowered his window and I mine.  The breeze blew in and as if Mother Nature had turned on an air freshener the smell of day old vodka and gin blew out the window. 

He reached over his right shoulder and fastened his seatbelt as I put the car in gear. I smiled and signed "Thank you." He looked surprised, then pointed to himself and signed "Jump." He repeated the gestures until he saw the confused look on my face transform into one of understanding. His name was Jump! I smiled, pointed at him and signed "Jump." He clapped his hands together in delight then pointed to me. I hand spelled "Ima," put my hand over my heart, then gave him a thumbs up before pulling back onto the road. 

Like starting a conversation with someone who is a native Spanish speaker when you’ve only completed Spanish 101, I was worried because my sign language vocabulary was very limited. I knew I wouldn’t be expected to sign while driving so, I tried to relax. I would soon discover that the anxiety I was feeling had nothing to do with my sign language fluency.

A former hitchhiker myself, I've picked up many a hitchhiker here in Puna and yet didn't realize until that day that I have developed a hitchhiker protocol somewhere along the way. It usually begins with "So, where you headed?" and ends with aloha, mahalo or namaste. In between there's usually anything from light conversation about weather to deep discussions about spirituality and the intensity of the Big Island's energy. Jump was my first silent hitchhiker.

A lifelong chatter box, certified even, thanks to my first grade teacher's report card comment that I would not keep my mouth shut in class, being quiet has never been my forte. I've even been known to talk in my sleep. 

So then, how was I, a bonafide breeze shooter to converse with this silent traveler and why did I feel the need to?  Although Jump and I had connected briefly during our introductions, I realized that the rising anxiety I was feeling was because I believed that I needed continued conversation to confirm my intuition’s initial judgment that I was safe.

My heart is not a court of law needing testimony and character witnesses, to determine guilt or innocence, safety or danger. It simply needs space to love, trust and breathe...silent space. 

In the car that afternoon, in the space of our human silence I heard the world speaking. Birds chirped, wind blew, leaves rustled, tires rolled. In that vocal silence I heard my breath flowing in and out carrying the anxiety with it up and out of my body. Not the kind of anxiety warning of impending danger, the anxiety borne from my logical mind trying to make sense of my heart's truth. The truth that I was safe. 

Within that safety and tranquility time disappeared and that twenty minute ride felt like mere seconds. I was surprised to find us quickly approaching the single traffic light in Pahoa.

I pulled over and stopped the car just past the intersection. Jump, the conveyor of quietude with the bittersweet chocolate thumb, climbed out of the car, turned toward me and bowed once again with gratitude. I watched him turn and walk away and remembered the first line of the poem Desiderata. “Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sticks and Stones

As the cold steel doors to the coal bin were heaved open we watched in awe. Most of us gathered around the twice a week ritual like morbid curiosity seekers surrounding a satanic ritual, simultaneously frightened and fascinated. The well-known sound of the coal laden dump truck rumbling closer was an invitation for me to edge my way through the other children up to the front of the crowd.

To us this was not about heating. Our young minds conjured up images of untold evils taking place in the bowels of our apartment building, led by …the coal men. Blackened with coal dust, they scurried about the underground corridors filling us with unfounded fear whenever they approached. Nearing the front row of the mob, my nose caught the faint but familiar odor of the black dust mingling with their sweat. Looking up, I stopped. Behind a boy half my size, I was now close enough to reach out and graze the shovel in one of the coal men’s hands. I took comfort in the fact that however small, that little boy was a barrier between me and the soot covered workers as they unhooked the chains and began raising the truck bed.

We covered our ears during the thunderous roar of the rusty truck bestowing its gift of gleaming, ebony rocks. Within seconds the gaping mouth of the coal bin had swallowed every last morsel, save a few scattered crumbs, which one of the men quickly shoveled into the opening. As the doors were sealed the empty truck seemed to heave a sigh of relief as it left. The other children raced back to their interrupted playing and I ran to reclaim my throne atop the coal bin doors, whereupon I had ruled my kingdom prior to the invasion of the coal men.

It was then that I was overtaken by a boy obviously intent upon overthrowing my reign. Beaten to the throne, I indignantly demanded that he get up, after all I had been there first. At which point he began chanting something about moving feet and losing seats.

“Shut up!” I interrupted

“Make me!” he dared.

“I don’t make trash, I burn it.” I retorted

“No wonder you’re so black!” he yelled, “At least the coal men can wash off the black.”

“I’m not black,” I gasped, insulted at the thought of being compared to the much maligned coal men.

“You’re colored.” He challenged, holding his pale white hand up to mine in contrast. With those words his coup was complete as I ran crying home to Mama.

It was ironic that my first conscious encounter with prejudice happened in the midst of my own unconscious bias, arising out of my fear and ignorance of the coal men. Wrapped up in the rude awakening that I was different from so many of the children in our military complex were lessons in the pain of bigotry, the acceptance of self and others regardless of our differences and in the futility of the childhood adage “Sticks and stones will break my bones…” you know the rest.