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Watercolor class

January 21st, 2013

Mangoes, June 2006

I’m not sure exactly what possessed me to take a watercolor class. I’m not an artist – I don’t draw – but I’d been curious about the medium and fascinated by amazing art I’d been seeing around me on Maui. In particular, the work of Connie J. Adams. How could watercolor look so detailed, controlled, and specific? At the same time, I thought maybe I could be vague and abstract enough with it that it wouldn’t matter that I couldn’t draw. I was fascinated and needed to fill some creative need in me, and when I saw that Connie was teaching a beginners class at the local college, I signed up.

There was so much to learn, and so many techniques covered in those six weeks, yet Connie was able to break down the info and present it in a way that wasn’t too overwhelming or confusing. I don’t really ‘get’ how to ‘do’ art, and I tend to need a structured assignment more than time and freedom to play, but I had fun putting color to paper and experiencing water as a variable in the whole process. Connie would show us examples from her own work, or that of other artists, to see how different techniques could be incorporated, and while it seemed a long way from my practice sheet to that masterful art, it was inspiring to see how it starts.

These are two little paintings I created in that class. I still can’t draw, and they’re not worth showing off other than to demonstrate that even for a non-artist like me, Connie could coax out something recognizable and allowed me to feel like I wasn’t a total loser. I took this class in June 2006, and was pleased in the next few years to get to know Connie even better when we served together on the Art Maui board of directors, and when she asked me to make updates to her web site.

Sadly and suddenly, we lost Connie this month. I attended a celebration of her life yesterday, whose standing room only attendance and joyful stories reminded me that I had known someone truly special. I brought home two strong thoughts about my own life – that I hope people to say nice things about me when I’m gone, and that I need live life more – see more, play more, get out and create more. I know that not everyone can be an artist and leave behind that kind of body of work, but I’d like to believe I will leave behind something worthwhile.

9 year Mauiversary

October 17th, 2012
Mai Tai 10/17/2012

Mai Tai 10/17/2012


Nine years ago today I took a one-way trip to Maui. It’s certainly been an adventure, and that day seems so long ago now. Once in a while, I will turn to my boyfriend and say, “We live on freakin’ Maui, baby!” It still seems incredible when I think about it.

Not every day includes a Mai Tai and sunset walk on the beach, but it’s always a possibility. Going to the store means a scenic drive alongside the best beaches in the world, or a view of mountains and palm trees toward more beaches on another side of the island. When it rains, it’s glorious! And when it doesn’t, it’s another fine day for a drive in the convertible.

Life moves at a different pace here, with no freeways, no sense of urgency, and an easy-going lifestyle. While I never have missed the season changes everyone on the mainland is experiencing, I’m sometimes caught by surprise to find it’s winter there, or that we’ve come upon a holiday. It’s all just summer to me – my favorite time of year, all year long.

And it’s been an amazing feeling to become part of a community. To go from knowing no one to running into people I now know whenever I’m out and about – it’s not something I ever felt on the mainland. Here it has been easy to get involved with groups and organizations that are interesting to me, to volunteer, participate, and meet fun, creative, and kind people. I feel like I belong here.

Today I celebrate making a major life change that has been everything I could have hoped it would be.

Deteriorating shoes

September 18th, 2012
Shoes in a box

Shoes in a box


Of all the challenges I expected to face, one I had not anticipated was that my shoes would fall apart by simply sitting in the closet. On no less than three occasions, I’ve gone out in public and had a sandal heel fall off, strap come unglued, and wedge heel crumble on shoes I’ve bought and hardly worn during the past five years. The first was the wedge heel, and as chunks of it fell off,  I wondered if my cats had somehow gotten to it. But when the other two pairs of shoes failed, and I started noticing the leather on the insides of my shoes flaking off and sticking to my feet, I realized that my shoes were actually deteriorating in my closet.

I had heard that people who live on the North Shore have issues with mold from the ocean spray, and that it’s not uncommon to find your shoes turn green if kept in a closed closet. In Kihei it’s dry – maybe too dry. Or perhaps a combination of the proximity to the salt water and dry desert-like air are sucking the life out of my shoes.

A friend suggested plastic shoe boxes, so I’ve just received a dozen of them from Amazon. I hope it’s not too late to save my favorites!

Where do you vacation when you live on Maui?

September 4th, 2012
Honolulu from the air

Honolulu from the air


I’ve been asked this numerous times. When I lived in Seattle, I only ever wanted to go to Maui. Well, that’s not true – I wanted to go to many places, but when it came down to it I always chose Maui. Not going there would be like going to a great restaurant that you only go to on very special occasions and not ordering your favorite dish. Once I decided to move to Maui, I told myself that finally I’d get to visit all of those other places on my list.

Ironically, now that I live here, the only place I’ve been outside of the state is back to Seattle (and one trip each to Tucson and San Francisco for conferences). The first few years after moving to Maui, I made annual visits back to Seattle to see family and friends, with a large suitcase for bringing back shopping purchases. That first trip off-island was the hardest, though. I remember having anxiety about leaving for fear I wouldn’t make it back. I’d waited so long and gone to such lengths to get here, I was afraid it would be stripped away somehow if I left. Fortunately, I always made it back, to the only place that I was ever happy to return to and call “home.”

The longer I’ve lived here, the less I’ve felt the need to make an annual trek back. I’m happy with an occasional day trip to Honolulu. It has now been three years since my last visit to the Northwest, and it’s feeling like it’s time to go again. A week always feels like it’s too long, with two cats and work waiting at home, but with a day of travel on either end, a six day trip becomes four, so I’m preparing for a quick four days. I create a daily calendar and set up time in advance with everyone I want to see, where I want to eat, and which stores and events to cover. It becomes a jam-packed, non-stop, whirlwind visit until the plane ride home. But it always feels good to catch up with friends, family, and colleagues, and to re-experience freeways, businesses that stay open late, buildings higher than 3 stories, and my old favorite restaurants.

I’ve asked around, and some people like to spend their vacations skiing on the mainland in winter; others travel the world. Many simply go back to where they moved from and where their families live. It’s so much further to Europe, but I hope to get back there again – maybe for the next vacation. In the meantime, stay-cations on Maui, day trips to Honolulu, and quick visits to Seattle have kept me content.

Autumn melancholy

August 25th, 2012

I’m starting to get those retail catalogs and emails about autumn colors and cool-weather products now available – all the deep jewel and earth tones, a sign that summer is nearly over. I got one today, and my stomach went “thump.” It’s an old pattern from living in Seattle, where summers are too short. The first brown leaf falling off a tree, the first crisp morning that comes along in September, and my brain would yell, “Noooooooooooo, not yet!” That impending sense of doom, that soon there would be no sun; the march toward those dark winter days when I’d leave for work in the dark and come home at dark, and if I didn’t get out at lunch, I’d never see daylight. Even after living on Maui for almost 9 years, I still get that feeling when I think of autumn. For a few moments this morning, I felt that sense of dread before remembering it’s not like that here.

It took living here for a good 6 months before I relaxed and realized I didn’t have to spend every possible moment outside on a clear day because the sun would actually shine again tomorrow. Here it’s ok to go to a movie when it’s sunny outside – it’s not a waste of the sun! And in Kihei, on those few days when it’s gray and rains, I run outside and dance around in the cool drops. How wonderful to feel love and not hate for the rain!

If it weren’t for those emails and retail sales, most of the time I wouldn’t know what month it was. It’s really easy to forget holidays and seasons here when the weather varies so little during the year. So I won’t turn my thoughts to winter coats and boots and earth tones. It’s always summer here!

We don’t have to try harder

August 19th, 2012

Flamingo anthurium


I still find myself mystified by principles of small businesses here. I’m used to businesses producing as much as they can sell, and making those sales as easy as possible for consumers. On Maui, many small business owners have other priorities aside from making money, and they only want to put in a certain amount of effort.

There’s a bakery in Makawao whose cream puffs are a local favorite. They make a certain amount each morning, and they sell out early. I read an interview in the paper with the owner a number of years ago, and the popularity of those cream puffs came up and how hard they are to get. Couldn’t they make more? The owner said, “if have, have; if no have, no have.” That is the way with many local businesses. No, we don’t need to work harder or do more. If no have today, come back tomorrow.

And forget about most small businesses being open on weekends, or even after work. If you want what they have, you come when they’re open.

I had to run to the plant nursery on Saturday to grab a sprinkler part. They close at noon, so you have to get there early. The nursery in Kihei is convenient and has a lot of plants and sprinkler supplies, and I love plant nurseries, but I don’t like to go there. The guys who work there are very grumpy; if you want help outside with the plants, it’s a huge inconvenience. I took the part with me I needed to replace to make it easy. Once I got there, I decided to see if they had a plant for my shady lanai. I have learned that you can’t expect anything to be labeled, no prices, no plant names. If something is not blooming, the bloom color is unknown (well, you could ask…). But I found a cute anthurium plant and took that inside with me. The sprinkler part? Yeah, we don’t sell that brand. We have this one, but it takes a different head. Wait, I bought some like this last time. I pointed some out to the guy that were the type I wanted. Oh, yeah, we only have those in 6″ size, you need 3″.  Fine, I just bought what he picked out.

He starts writing it up and asks another guy what the price is for the plant. The guys says $20. $20?! Yeah, the other ones next to it in the same 4″ size pot are $10. These are $20. No thanks, I’ll just take the sprinkler part.

I do like to support the local businesses as much as possible, but they don’t always make it easy to do so.

Work, work, work

August 14th, 2012
Window office

Window office


There are many people on Maui who don’t have to work – retirees, .com millionaires, “trust fund babies,” celebrities, pro surfers. For the rest of us, the high cost of living on Maui means working hard, sometimes with multiple jobs.

I actually came to Maui with no job. I knew in my bones I needed to move here, and that somehow it would all work out. I bought a house (with a good sized mortgage) and committed to moving here permanently with maybe a year’s worth of funds as a backup. My employer was not in a position to keep me on as a full-time employee from afar, but suggested that if there was budget available, I may be able to take on subcontracting projects. So I ended my career with Microsoft with very mixed feelings. I joked with my friends that maybe I’d become a valet parker – I’d never had a job that earned tips before!

Once I got here, I looked around and found very little in the way of ‘career’ jobs. A quality assurance engineer position opened up at the tech park in Kihei, but it seemed like it and any other tech jobs I found required strong UNIX skills. I briefly considered starting with a Learning UNIX book to see if I could get far enough fast enough, but it didn’t seem realistic. My background was with PC software, and that’s where I hoped to stay.

After four months of reading the Maui News classifieds from A-Z every week and looking for online job postings, I finally decided I should pick up an application from Starbucks, just to bring in some money and take the edge off of the stress of being unemployed. Now I don’t actually drink coffee (never acquired a taste for it), but I’d heard they were a good company to work for and a barista looked like a fun job. I got an application, came home, sat down and started to fill it out. After filling in the basics, they wanted you to write about why you love coffee. Hmm, I was going to have to get creative, maybe even dramatic. I put it aside to think about it.

Fortunately, the next day I got the call that there was budget available for some part-time subcontracting work with my former team at Microsoft. I’d been building occasional websites on the side for friends and other clients they recommended by word of mouth, so the additional computer work was perfect. And amazingly, and for which I am eternally grateful, in the subsequent eight years there has continued to be plenty of subcontracting work and websites to keep me busy full-time.

As a subcontractor and freelancer, you work when there is work, so I have worked hard since that day. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve taken more than 5 days off in the past 8 years that I did not make up on evenings and weekends to keep the money coming in. I’m a little jealous of my friends who have a sense of job security and get paid holidays, sick leave, and vacation, but I have a window office – on Maui – and I can wear shorts year-round to work.

Smoked out of bed

August 11th, 2012
Cane smoke visible from my house

Cane smoke visible from my house – 6/7/10


For the past three mornings, I’ve been rudely awakened between 4-5am by the suffocating stench of sugar cane smoke. One down side to living on Maui which the Visitor’s Bureau won’t tell you about is the cane burning. Although I live probably 5 miles from the nearest sugar cane field, when there’s no breeze to corral the smoke out to sea, it wafts through the air and into open windows, burning throats and noses. And the bonus icing on the cake is a layer of black dust on top of the usual fine red dirt layer that covers everything.

Some call it black snow, the remants of burnt cane grass and flexible irrigation line that fall from the sky. Usually twice a year there’s some back and forth in the Maui News letters to the editor between people who want HC&S to switch to “green harvest” methods which are more environmentally friendly, and those who declare that, “we’ve been doing it this way long before you got here; if you don’t like it, go back to the mainland.” The latest report on asthma control on the State of Hawaii Department of Health website states that childhood asthma in Hawaii is higher than the national average and is rising. And sadly, the demographics show it is the Native Hawaiians who are most affected. Some blame vog (pollution from the volcano on the Big Island) and sugar cane burns and speculate on the toxins put into the air by burning temporary plastic irrigation lines. Whether it causes asthma or not, no one can say it’s pleasant.

Research is (or was) being conducted to replace the sugar cane fields with biofuel crops to assist Maui in becoming more self-sustaining in energy production, meaning the end of sugar cane burning. Hawaii has the highest electricity rate in the nation (my latest bill shows I paid $0.39/KWH), so more definitely needs to be done to reduce our dependence on oil, with a side benefit of stopping the cane burning. A petition and blog have been started called Stop Cane Burning to raise awareness and try to get HC&S to stop burning cane – they have excellent photos there of how this effects those who live near the cane fields.

There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is the price of electricity, I choose not to run my air conditioniong on a regular basis. The alternative is a very dusty house the stench of smoke when it floats this direction. Maybe if tourists start complaining and taking their money elsewhere, something will change. So far public outcry from residents has fallen on deaf ears.

People don’t move from Kula to Kihei

August 8th, 2012

Double rainbow over cow pasture
That’s what I’m told – you’d have to be crazy to move from Kula to Kihei. I’m sure it’s not the first time I’ve been called crazy. When I came to Maui to shop for a house, August 2003, it was blistering hot in Kihei, and I had in my head that growing protea, and gardening in general, was a major priority. I decided I could not garden in Kihei weather, so upcountry I went. I found a quirky house at about 3200 feet in Kula, with bi-coastal views and an organic garden that the owner said produced the maximum $5,000 in annual sales to local markets. Bananas, oranges, lemons, avocados, pomegranates, flowers. It was heaven!

I was into it – within weeks, I had my first banana harvest. Good thing I was in shape, as the garden was downhill to the bananas, and at high altitude I was hauling up a 60-80 lb. bunch of bananas to cut apart. I found I could grow anything there, edible or not. It was amazing. The only problem was that this was not the Hawai’i I had in mind when I dreamt of moving here.

One-third of the way up Mt. Haleakala, it’s not exactly beach weather. In winter, the nights would get down into the 40’s, and the house had (I’m sure) no insulation, so the inside temperature was about the same. There was a fireplace that heated up just the living room, and in-wall space heaters in the bedrooms. I was cold a lot. Even in summer, it wasn’t really tank top weather most days. At about 10-11am, I could watch clouds materialize out of thin air in the clear blue sky above the mountain, and it would remain overcast until around 3pm. And while it didn’t rain as much as other parts of the island, it rained more than I expected. I moved from Seattle to get away from the rain and cold, and this was starting to feel a little too much like the Northwest.

I was also doing freelance work at a computer in my home, and my window overlooked a pasture with some cows. Most days, I didn’t see any people unless I drove somewhere. Kula turned out to be a lonely place to be for a newcomer without friends, co-workers, or a family. Not really walkable (at least, not on the steep, narrow road where I lived), and not much to do socially.

One day I met some friends for brunch in Kihei, and it was glorious! I wanted all of my mornings to be like that, so sunny and perfect, palm trees everywhere, walkable, and near the beach. So after just less than 2 years upcountry, I sold my Kula house and I moved to Kihei. I remember the grumpy French chef at La Provence said to me, “Say ‘hi’ to the tourists for me!” And yes, there are lots of tourists down here. It’s a little strange living in a tourist destination town, but this is much closer to the Hawai’i I had in mind.

Dating on an Island

August 5th, 2012

Some of you will remember that a few years ago I started this blog about my dating adventures. Dating on a fairly small island is challenging, and I figured that, if nothing else, it might make for good writing material. When I recently decided to start blogging again, I archived off all of the old posts with a memory of them being fairly negative. Now that I’ve gone back and re-read them, they’re actually mildly entertaining, and some of you might find them amusing. So they are back, but isolated in their own “Dating on an Island” category, which you’ll find in the side bar of my blog. If nothing else, you might want to check out the Online Dating Guide for Men, written by a guy on an online dating site – it’s hilarious. Fortunately, I did find a guy who did not need to be told any of these things.