Tuesday, December 26, 2017

You can't eat an IPhone

Copyright 2017 Austin Photography
Living on an island, you get a close-up view of how urban sprawl can affect the availability of good farmland. There needs to a balance. On a related note, there is a high need for farmers. In our tech-driven world, we are minimizing or forgetting about the value and honor that farmers deserve. They raise, grow and develop food for us. You can't eat an iPhone.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review: Small Great Things

Small Great Things Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was hard for me to read because I questioned the authenticity of a book written by a white woman about a black woman's experience in America. However, I have enjoyed one other book by her, so I started this one with a bit of hope.

I actually stopped reading it for awhile because I couldn't stop questioning the voice of the character as realistic. I picked it up again, much later on, and finished it, with a sad satisfaction that the book was indeed well-written and opened up thoughts about racism and how 'not seeing color' is an extension of ingrained racism.

I have to add that reading Picoult's afterword was a breath of relief as she herself admitted to the delicate difficulty the subject matter and characters presented in terms of the story being genuine.

I think Picoult did her best, and the story is both provocative and sadly believable.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Watt? Wattpad

IMAGE: By Wattpad Technology Inc. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A few years ago a student of mine introduced me to Wattpad, a reading/writing/share site. I joined but didn't do much with it. Now that I am working on my second fiction book, I thought, why not share the first one on Wattpad?

It helps to see that highly respected authors like Margaret Atwood are using Wattpad for that same purpose.

Also, this would be an easy way to share the first book with some of my students, so that they won't have to buy it. It's not that it's not worth buying; it's just not every person has the money to do so.

I am a little worried that I'll get those nasty troll comments that sometimes happen on some websites. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Review: Long After Midnight

Long After Midnight Long After Midnight by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if you thought that everything you ever wanted could be found inside a blue bottle? What if your first few weeks on the job as a policeman found you questioning your profession, and by extension, society? What if a woman frozen in ice offered you the perfect life, absolute love and immunity from everything painful, but the requirement was to marry her, sight unseen? What if the scent of chocolate in a confessional box reignited the passion of a grumpy priest, to save someone's soul, and thereby save a little bit of his own?

You almost can't go wrong with a book or story by Bradbury. He is truly an artist with words and the imagination. There were multiple flavors in this collection: science fiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, horror (Yes. There is a horror story). Each story had a unique message for the reader and you always came away a bit more thoughtful or curious about the world we live in. I also rediscovered the joy of the short story format.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review: The Diary of a Young Girl

The Diary of a Young Girl The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"... keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and what I could be, if... there weren't other people living in the world" is the lyrical ending to an engrossing account of teenaged Jewish girl, living in hiding, during World War II.

The book is surprisingly engaging. Anne's voice is distinct of her era, with idioms such as "get all het up", and frequent use of the word "darling" as a pet name for someone. Her emotions appear to be very truthful, and there is a blushingly honest recollection of her desire for 'something unknown' and wishing she could have a girlfriend or boyfriend to love. The story starts out sweetly enough, as a birthday present, in which she makes her diary her confidant. She is a faithful writer about the news of the war, as she hears it, and this makes for a very interesting component of the book. After the middle, the book kind of veers about, her teenaged angst and emotions over her developing but uncertain crush on Peter, a boy who is also in hiding with her family, and we get to see the inner workings of the teenaged girl's mind: does he love me? Do I love him? What is love? Will I love someone else one day?

Then it ends abruptly.

The Afterword is also extremely interesting. It fills in missing details such as the German invasion of Holland and actually sheds light on the origin of WWII, which stems from the Treaty of Versaille from WWI. I knew this prior to the book, but I thought, what a great way to truly enlighten anyone about the connection between those two wars.

Although very dated - in language and some ideas - Anne's struggle within, about herself becoming respected within her family, and the universality of the awkward and sometimes painful path toward adulthood may be an astonishingly insightful read for young people about her same age. The details, the history and the honesty in her account will draw sympathetic appreciation from readers of almost any age.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Review: Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Be warned that this is NOT my kind of book - I don't enjoy (that much) stories of women who recover from personal tragedy. Therefore, I gave it a modest score. I had to force myself to finish it because the story is sorrowful and draining.

However, for those who enjoy these types of personal journeys, this is a beautifully written memoir and has engaging, poetic language. The writing is what kept me going, as well as my incessant need to know, "Then what happened?". This is a very raw, very emotional, open and honest story about a widow who learns of her husband's affairs several months after his death. She is frank in her recount of her hatred toward the other women, she is unashamedly honest about her conflicted emotions. I was almost shy about how honest she was; kudos to her. I am certain she has blessed many readers with feelings of relief, community and opened doors toward an understanding of how we see ourselves and each other, and how we gauge our relationships.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: What the Moon Saw

What the Moon Saw What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quite an interesting read. Beautiful prose. Spirit animals, young love, coming of age, Mixteco language, north American indigenous cultures, Spanish language, immigrant families, ghostly waterfall.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: Ripper

Ripper Ripper by Stefan Petrucha
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Entertaining read, with a worthy, movie-of-the-week twist for the end. Orphan child strives to find his father, during the late 1800s, where a murderer runs afoot, killing winsome women from lofty social places. A disgraced? or humiliated once-crown-prince of respected detective skills now finds himself in need of the winsome and quick-thinking ally in our young protagonist to help accomplish his goals. If you allow yourself become completely engaged in this heady, steampunkish atmospheric ride, you will have a good time. Enjoy!

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review: Ripper

Ripper Ripper by Stefan Petrucha
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Entertaining read, with a worthy, movie-of-the-week twist for the end. Orphan child strives to find his father, during the late 1800s, where a murderer runs afoot, killing winsome women from lofty social places. A disgraced? or humiliated once-crown-prince of respected detective skills now finds himself in need of the winsome and quick-thinking ally in our young protagonist to help accomplish his goals. If you allow yourself become completely engaged in this heady, steampunkish atmospheric ride, you will have a good time. Enjoy!

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday, Good Day

     I have been wondering a lot about my faith. I have it. I believe in God. I know there's a powerful presence in the universe, and I believe it is sentient.

   I am a little disappointed in myself, as  I sit here, on Good Friday, with no plans of attending church with my family. I would love to, but I get tired of the arguments. Teenagers. I should just go by myself, and when I do, I feel good that I am there, but I feel sad that I am alone. So to speak. "We are never alone". 

   It is not enough to pray or to believe. I have to be stronger, to be tougher about this. I hope one day, I am.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Kristie Wolfe builds underground home & sets rural WA hamlet

 I have a fascination with living sustainably, greener living, eco-conscious lifestyle, whatever you want to call it: I think it is so important to take care of the earth, and each other. 

Woman Builds Breathtaking Sustainable Dome Home

 Can you imagine building with just earth? 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Review: Do Not Say We Have Nothing

Do Not Say We Have Nothing Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haunting. Not for the faint of heart or mind. It explores the complexities and veils of love, politics, and music in Communist China. The language is rich and layered. Each page is a thick slice of nuance. Be prepared to sink into a thick pool of metaphorical language and emerge, tired but triumphant.

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Review: Breath Of Earth

Breath Of Earth Breath Of Earth by Beth Cato
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Review: Between Friends

Between Friends Between Friends by Kristy Kiernan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How close are you, with your best friend? Close enough to lie? To betray? To die? This book about a deep, abiding friendship between two very different women is a multi-layered exploration of human emotion and ethical decisions.

Infertile Ali had a child with the egg of her best friend, Cora. Now, she wants to do it again, but time has passed, and Cora's health now may affect their future, and Ali's loving husband is troubled by some decisions of his own.
In the midst of all the adults rushing about, fourteen-year-old Letty, the "miracle child" embarrassed and pressured by her mom's near-mythic appreciation of her birth, wrestles with her own fateful decisions.

The alternating viewpoints make the story even more interesting as we enter the minds of the characters, chapter by chapter.

This story was very touching! Some unexpected turns and twists... grateful the author didn't take the easy, movie-of-the-week way out!

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Beloved Leis

Plumeria with Purple flower (Ribbon Lei) designed by Tracy Harada 
The following is a section, taken from Na Mele O Hawai'i Nei, 101 Hawaiian Songs, collected by Samuel H. Elbert and Noelani Mahoe, published by the University of Hawaii, Copyright 1970.

This is a name song composed by Mary Kawena Pukui for her grandson, La'akea, shortly after his birth on November 8, 1949. The "many birds" are admiring people.

'Ohu'phu wale au iku'i leo

[I wear my fragrant lei]
Ku'u lei oh;ohie o na kau a kau.

[My lei cherished in all seasons]
Au mai na maka o ka nui manu

[The eyes of many birds behold]

I ku'uy wehi nani e lei mai

[worn forever as a lei]

Please forgive any errors, as this is 1) a transcription to Blogger, which does not have a supporting font for Hawaiian and 2) I am not fluent in Hawaiian. I copied the symbols such as the 'okina and the macron (__ above the letter) as best as I could. I also added the bold and the brackets. The layout is slightly different than what you find in the original publication.

Why did I do this post? I needed to test some posting services, and I thought, do something interesting. SO... yeah, I naturally ended up doing something more challenging than probably what it is worth. At least I got a chance to read some beautiful Hawaiian songs, and it reminded me that one day, one day I should as least try to learn more.

If you come from a heritage which has a language other than English, I think you should try to reconnect or explore it. I encourage you. 

I regret not having encouraged my children earlier than now. They are both in high school, and they are, to me, a little disconnected with their grandmother's, and my, culture. My daughter is at least thinking about taking up hula. She would be beautiful at it. I can see her, in my mind's eye.

For now, they are both, still, my special leis, which I wear in my heart.

Bless Me, Rudolfo Anaya

Bless Me, UltimaBless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A sensual, graceful tale of memory, mysticism, mythology, and deep love, between a six-year-old boy and an elderly woman healer, who comes to stay with him and his family. Rich in imagery and magic, this tale will haunt you with its beauty, long after you turn the last page.

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

You are Not Wrong to Be You

The Good LionThe Good Lion by Beryl Markham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly beautiful, truly a miracle in picture books. It is the tale of "becoming" and "being". I read this aloud to my middle schoolers, and they loved it. It truly resonated with them, the idea of being considered wrong, but you are only being yourself.

I read the origin of the story, West with the Night, by Beryl Markham. She does write beautifully as well, but the lyrical, almost mystical flow of this picture book, I suspect, has to do something with the illustrator, Don Brown, or the editor, who is unnamed.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Playing Cards with Death

There has been a lot of talk in my life lately, these last few months, about death, and Death.

My mother has talked about her funeral arrangements. My husband and I are wondering about our last wishes and how we should prepare a last will and testament. My uncle passed away this year. I know a few people, some close, some not, who are sitting with Death, or playing cards with Him, bluffing for a longer round.

I do not enjoy speaking about the afterlife. I think some people see it as an opportunity to paint a future, where all their disappointments and resentments in life are avenged by the sorrow and grief of those left behind.

I think it may be possible by talking about It, that we will have some power over Death's timetable. If you can speak Its Name, comfortably and easily, then perhaps you are exorcising any inner fears about It.

There is nothing I can do about Death. He comes when he wants; he takes what he needs, and he leaves when he is fulfilled.

I do not think of death as a Gift; I do not think of death as a Punishment; I do not think of death as something to fear. I do not think of Death, Sam, I am.

I believe I am not afraid of the afterlife or of death or even dying. I am a little concerned about any pain; if there is pain involved, it is worrisome.

I accept the finality and futility of worrying about death. Therefore, I'd rather focus on the possibilities and the multiple eternities we can create, in Life.

Monday, February 27, 2017

We Do Not Know When We Are Called

My Uncle Henry was laid to rest today, amid songs and stories of how he has affected the lives of so many. His children, my loving cousins, did an amazing job, coordinating with other family members, to send Uncle Henry to heaven in the most thoughtful, loving way, filled with joy and laughter.
In fact, at the interment, songs he loved, like "The Rhinestone Cowboy", were played, with some chuckles and tears.
Some of the stories that were shared were so hilarious at the services, that, although I had prepared a statement about my own love for Uncle Henry, I thought the somber tone of my words would draw away from the much appreciated joy being shared. Therefore, now that the services are over, I thought I would share them here, for my cousins and family members.
"Henry Polohau Kahula, Jr. was a great man, in stature and spirit. He was father to six, but a father to many more. Throughout his life, he was known to welcome extended family into his home, and they worked equally as hard as his own children, with housework, yard work, and felt equally as loved. His majestic voice with its throaty timbre was accompanied by his skilled playing on the guitar. He was passionate about his family and about his community. He sought to right the wrongs he witnessed, and as an educated man, he wrote many eloquent letters to the local paper, as well as running for office himself. Although he did not win a seat, he won the hearts of many, and made his family proud. He brought music, cheer and life to his family and he would have wanted to have been remembered as a man of song, and a man of hope. "
Thank you, Uncle Henry, for reminding us of what true Aloha is about. We love you. Always.
Hug your loved ones often. As Uncle Henry would say, "Everyone is on the list. We just don't know when we will be called."

Monday, January 16, 2017


Enjoy every day you're alive. When you are dead, it won't matter.