Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Nina's latest misadventure - this time at 14,000 feet.

As anyone who friends me on Facebook has already heard - I took my Beloved (Ron) skydiving for his 70th birthday. Yes, I went with him - me, the girl who gets woozy standing on a 3 foot step ladder. Shocking, right?????

So why did I go?

Because, it was Beloved's birthday, of course. I knew that skydiving, in and of itself, was a minor issue. I knew that the true gift would be my going with him, and you see - I love him that much. He stretches me. Without him, I would be an old broad sitting in front of the television watching "House Hunters International" (okay, fine - I already DO watch House Hunters International...but definitely in smaller increments.)

Anyway, I made a promise to myself that I would do one scary thing a year. This will definitely fit the bill for this year - and maybe it will be leveraged as good for a few years to come...haha.

So, it was truly a crazy idea. Beloved has actually has never had the desire to skydive. Hard to believe, I know - I mean what WON'T the man do? Well, for many years, it turns out that jumping out of a plane was one of them....but a few months ago he said to me "I'm turning 70. Seems like I ought to go skydiving to mark the occasion." I thought that was an invitation to arrange it, so I decided 'what the heck." In the meantime Ron immediately forgot he had even said such a crazy thing outloud....so I knew it would be a GREAT......BIG.......SURPRISE.

I thought it a great plan - until I came up with the further thought of "oh, oh - its almost time for me to do a new 'scary'....which means I had better go too."

Last Saturday was the day! I found a local company that actually has what they call 'sunset' dives. Awesome! What could be more perfect?

Still didn't tell Ron. I just told him to "get in the car" as I grabbed a prepared bag consisting of long pants, real shoes (as opposed to the flip flops that we normally wear) and socks.

It took about 40 minutes to get there. He said he figured it out as we started approaching the airport.

At that point he figured I'd give him a kiss and wave bye-bye - so he was really surprised when I started suiting up with him. His eyes got really big, but he said nothing. Ron usually says nothing when he's surprised.

For the next hour we were run through the process of preparing. We watched one of those 'you could die in these 1,000s of ways' movie; handed a form that literally required around 25 signatures stating that 'yes' we knew we could die, 'yes' we know it's dangerous, 'no' we will not sue, 'no' neither will our children, 'no' neither would our attorney, 'yes' if we do we're going to lose because we signed 25 times saying we knew we couldn't, 'yes' we know that we're going to be strapped to another human being who would really prefer to live through the experience also so we agree to follow what they tell us to do to the letter, etc., etc., etc.

Then we waited. There were enough crazy people ... errrr..... divers to require two flights. They decided that the birthday boy should go last, which means I was going 2nd to last....so they pointed to some chairs by the landing strip and invited us to make ourselves at home.

Ron promptly fell asleep.

I worked at thinking happy thoughts.

After 30 minutes, our plane landed from the first group and swung to a stop in front of us. From there everything went rather quickly. We loaded up into an old propeller plane. There were two benches. Each person straddled the bench. There were 3 free divers, and 3 sets of tandem divers.

It took about 5 - 7 minutes to reach altitude. Our instructors then started attaching us to them and cinching up the straps.

It felt like this:

I remember thinking to myself "well, THIS is uncomfortable ..... in so many ways. Talk about up close and personal!

Oh well, who had time to worry about it? Pretty soon crazy people started jumping out of the plane and falling through the sky like dead chickens. Sorry, that's what I thought. Maybe I shouldn't share.

My guy, Joe said "time to go" and we slid to the door. "Dangle your toes out over the edge" says Joe.

"REALLY?????" says I? I was positive my brain would never let my feet do it, but it did! I crouched down as low as a old broad can go and 1.....2.....3...... I was flying! With a big guy strapped to my back.....and immediately after I started breathing again, the thought that hit me was very simply......."OUCH!!!!!!"""

It was FREEZING! I mean really, really freezing!.

Second thought....."OUCH"!!!!!  It turns out that those straps hurt in really uncomfortable places. Whoa! What the heck?

Third thought......"holy crud, my eardrums are going to burst". Hadn't factored in that those little eardrums had gone though a whole lot in their lives, including a week of being sick just prior to the big day, and they clearly were not too thrilled with the startling change of air pressure.

I knew that I needed to equalize them as quickly as possible. Turns out, falling through the sky at the rate of speed we were going, as well as being strapped body and soul to some 'duuuuude' who clearly didn't understand that such extreme strapping might limit my range of motion in ways that would not be convenient, made it very challenging to even get my hand over to my nose so that I could clear my exploding ears.

It took a few seconds, therefore - but once I did - SWEET RELIEF! For a few more seconds. All in all, I had to repeat the action about 6 times - but I was good with that, because it felt wonderful when I did.

In the meantime, the freefall experience was due to end and the floating under a canopy experience was due to commence. One.....two.......three......PLUNK, and........then ."Yeeee-----OUCH".

If I thought the strap was uncomfortable before, that was nothing compared to now - as I was literally hanging off of it.

"Put your knees up and you'll feel much better', Joe yelled.


Okay, okay - it looks like I wasn't having a very good time, but interspersed with all of these physical challenges was the fact that I was being treated visually to one of the most spectacular scenes I have ever witnessed.....I was literally 2.5 miles (and descending rather quickly) over a gorgeous lush green tropical island surrounded by the sparkling ocean that practically glows at sunset (well - 20 minutes BEFORE sunset - but timing wise, it was pretty crazy perfect) so I worked really hard to keep looking around and paying attention.

Ron will have to demonstrate the view as he is the one who got the picture package - pretty awesome, yes?

Even when the biggest challenge hit around 2 seconds after the yank of the ripcord....

......and I became immediately airsick....I mean my stomach looped-de-looped like a circus performer. I've always been blessed with the fact that I rarely get physically sick - and this was no different (much to Joe's relief) but MAN, I am 100% positive I turned the deepest shade of green, let me tell ya.

So the remaining 4 minutes of our descent went like this:

Yell "ouch", pinch nose to clear my ears, blow out of my mouth 3 times (to reduce the nausea), look around and say "woo hoo", yell "ouch",  try to lift my knees, pinch, blow......repeat - over and over again.

Until we started circling down to the landing field.

"Okay," Joe yelled. "We're going in! LIFT YOUR KNEES REALLY HIGH"!

"I'll try," I replied weakly.

Didn't happen. I mean, literally it didn't happen.....and I definitely did try. I mean, I run 3 times a week. I go to the gym. I do crunches and back lifts and I really work out - but those knees weren't going ANYWHERE.

And so when we hit the ground, my feet went immediately behind me, the ground came towards me and I went flat on my face - and because there was no other choice, Joe landed right on top of me - like SMACKO, as if I was hit by a gigantic flyswatter.

"Are you okay," he yelled? And may I just mention, he sounded REAAAAALY ANNOYED.

"I'm still breathing. I'm going to live", I said - but what I WANTED to say was "though what does it matter, Joe, because obviously I'm not gonna sue you....riiiiiight?"

He unclipped as quickly as he could, uncovered us both, and then hauled my sad butt up off the ground.

"Thank you Joe," I said sincerely and headed somewhat sideways for the fence, which I used to pull myself back towards the office because Holy Hannah was I one sick puppy!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am now even 2 days later feeling like a smushed bug. I mean, EVERYTHING hurts and my stomach is still doing loop-de-loops. But I've told Ron, as soon as all these aches and pains leave, I am going to be really glad I did this.

I really, really am!

Oh, I should share Ron's adventure. His guy had them flip their way out of the plane (see?) and when they banked and turned, it was more of a roller coaster ride - zoom, zippy, flippy. And when they landed, they landed on their feet - picture perfect - of course.

"Did you like it," I asked?

"It was 'cool'," he replied. Except his safety googles were too tight.

There ya go. So very Ron.

Monday, January 29, 2018

How I responded to the attack that wasn't and why I'm okay with that


To say that the errant nuclear bomb warning the other weekend was frustrating would be an understatement. Quite honestly, I think we’re all sick of the subject. So, of course, here I am writing about it. But since we’re all sharing our feelings, I have some strong ones (that, by the way, have taken a beating – but we’ll discuss that later)

Here’s what I know. An emergency warning was sent out at 8:07 a.m. on Saturday, January 13. The message was extremely simple. It read “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL’.  For me, I heard nothing. No warnings, no blaring alarm on my phone. Uncharacteristically of me, because I’m an early riser, I slept through almost all of it.

It wasn’t until I rolled out of bed at 8:30, shuffled out to the living room and looked at my phone that I even saw the alert. Now, admittedly, the correct response with such a notification is to SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. I’m not denying that in any way. But I'm going to add, there were in my case extenuating circumstances.

First and foremost, I had no idea what that would entail. I mean, I know what to do in a tsunami (seek higher ground). I even know which higher ground is preferable. I know what to do in a hurricane (I’m assigned to help out at the Cannon Activity Center). For both of these situations I have informational handouts posted in my home and I would follow them to the letter. But I had nothing about a nuclear attack. So, there I stood, blankly staring at a screen. "Huh", I thought. "This is random. What to do? Well, gee....I have no idea what to do."

Image result for nuclear attack warning cartoon

My second thought was ‘I need to figure out what to do.’ I don’t believe running out the door in hysterics would be the right course of action. I have no safe place in this tiny little apartment full of humongous single pane windows with gaps so wide, Ron floods our bedroom when washing the windows. I may not know much, but I know enough that I would be toast if I stayed here and guess what? Most buildings in beautiful Laie  are in the same condition. Being air tight here appears to be neither necessary nor achievable. So....literally I was a bit stumped.

My third thought, and this all came into my head in breakneck speed, was….. "You know….I don’t think this is real". 

Now it could be because my mind didn’t want to wrap around the reality of my eminent demise, but I don’t think so. As I was standing there – lost as to what I SHOULD do, my mind focused on the possibility that this wasn’t real for the following reasons:

1.       No siren. Where was the siren? We drill and drill and drill in Laie. The first day of every month, we have a siren. Because we are plugged into the emergency preparedness program at BYUH, we get alerts with clear instructions. Every missionary is assigned to participate in alerting and assisting the families assigned to them. Because Laie is so far away from Honolulu, and the State of Hawaii has made it crystal clear that during an emergency their resources and rescue efforts will go where the largest number of people are, we know that we are on our own, and because we be a ‘Mormon’ entity, we've accepted this inevitability and are probably far more prepared than most residents of the island.

Now I’ve been greatly chastised for this opinion that the lack of a siren is a sign that something isn't quite straight. "You don’t have time to worry about a siren' I've been told. Okay, fine. So I should be seeking shelter. But the truth of the situation still frustrates me. Why, I want to know, WAS THERE WAS NO SIREN? I’ve been researching this, rather endlessly because I feel deep inside my soul that I might be on to something (and because I'm obsessive,) and here is what I found out  - all FROM OFFICIAL SOURCES (by-the-way): 

From the FAQ section of the Hawaii Emergency Management System (EMS)

So, if there had been a real missile rocketing towards our tiny island in the middle of the ocean, it would have been detected by some very sophisticated tracking programs owned and operated by our highly trained US Government. The first alert, therefore, would come directly from the US Pacific Command, and this is how it would go:

"In the event of a genuine alarm, the US Pacific Command would issue a warning about five minutes after a missile is launched from North Korea. (That means they would alert local authorities)

About two minutes later, Hawaii's State Warning Point would activate an "Attack-Warning" signal on all outdoor sirens and transmit a warning advisory on radio, television and mobile phones (that means a siren would be sounded and THEN the phones and televisions would start broadcasting the alert warning.)

That would give Hawaiian residents and visitors "less than 12 to 15 minutes before missile impact".

US Pacific Command government website

So, to make sure this point is clear, as official sources confirm, the FIRST THING THAT HAPPENS IS THAT THEY ACTIVATE THE SIREN, and THEN they send out the notices. And by the way, they just changed the siren this last year. They wanted it to be taken seriously, so the siren is now a loud, wailing, and extremely insistent and constant noise. It wouldn’t just sound off a few times and then stop. It has been built to be noticed….well, except for Ron. The man has literally proven that he could sleep through ANYTHING.

Seriously though, this doesn’t mean everyone will hear it. It sure doesn’t mean that everyone would believe it. But it would have been very unlikely that it simply wouldn’t have happened. So, I stand by my contention that the reason there was no alarm was BECAUSE IT WAS A FALSE ALARM.

But there’s more:

2.       There were no instructions. Nothing, nada.

So, for those of us who have lived a few decades....I ask you: Do you remember those old Emergency Broadcast System warnings which said:

Image result for cartoon emergency warning notification

This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. Had this been an actual emergency, the signal you just heard would have been followed by emergency information, news or instructions. THIS IS ONLY A TEST.

Of course, this old alert system is no longer in service, but the purpose of the current system is still the same. Clearly outlined procedures prepared by official government agencies are already prepared and a system is set up for their distribution. They will be everywhere - television, radio, and phone. 

Yet nothing was provided that Saturday morning except by, I gather, one television station which broadcast actual information of what to do (brownie points for them!) Why? Because a person sitting at a computer sent out a message that would have come as Step 2 or 3. 

Meanwhile, Step 1, which was that official alert from the US Pacific Command Center, did not happen, so the procedures for both the pre-discussed siren and available information for what to do DID NOT HAPPEN. And the reason we never received it is undeniable.....BECAUSE THIS WAS A FALSE ALARM! 

When I became aware of the alert, it was already 20 minutes into it. I flipped on the tv.....nothing. My phone, which usually won't stop screeching and buzzing when emergency messages are being shared, was silent. Radio? No. Internet? NO. Under the circumstance, I surprisingly made the conclusion that it was a mistake. And I was calm. And I did nothing....because I had nothing to tell me what to do and because it simply did not add up.

Image result for cartoon emergency warning notification

I’ve been greatly chastised for this opinion also. I gather I should not even consider taking the time, like I did, to seek information. Clearly I was wasting precious time seeking such information and questioning possibilities. I should have sought some unspecified shelter, like the terrified parents who tried to stuff their children down a manhole that would have placed these helpless children right in the middle of the methane gas filled sewer. Or driven down the street yelling for others to “take shelter because a bomb is coming". Or grab what I could - but didn't have - and climb in my bathtub, covering myself in radioactive proof blankets because the gaps around my bathroom window would clearly make any protection questionable. Forgive me for thinking that would not be helpful (not, mind you, that I'm mocking anyone who DID do that....but I would have been surrounded by glass sure to blow out...so for me, no option. 

Yep....the poor guy in the top right-hand corner....that would be me

With the information I wish I had then, I now recognize that fact that I should have gone into the house attached to our apartment where I could have gathered blankets, food and medical supplies and my handy dandy hand-crank flashlight and radio (which I actually do have) and hunker down in the only room with no window that is low to the ground----the laundry room. 

But wait, it would have done me almost no good. I live in a wood frame house, and that wonderful indoor laundry room? It isn't even close to airtight. In fact, it has major holes in the wall where previous repairs have been made on water pipes - BIG GAPING HOLES.

In actuality a brick building with no windows is the only appropriate place to live out a nuclear attack for the expected 14 days. But it would have to be close enough to get to in 10 minutes. Now let's see, That is probably the Cannon Activity Center at BYUH campus or the Hawaiian Journey Theater at the PCC or maybe Laie Palms Movie Theater - but only if the doors are open, which might or might not be the case early on a Saturday morning. 

Let alone that this was already 20 minutes into the ‘attack’. It was a little late to do anything at that moment. But yes, I absolutely should have run for cover. Everyone should run for cover. But to do so mindfully, they NEED information in order to do so correctly.

Here's the bottom line for me: I’ve worked in public health for years and this much I've learned from experience: A government entity is not inclined to send out a wide spread message sure to instill mass panic without also sending clear instructions on what to do next through every available form of communication channels.....unless, of course, they screw up. When they screw up, you hear......NOTHING until they figure out the best butt-covering move they can come up with. 

By the way - many people received an "all-clear" via their phone about 40 minutes later. I did not. Nor did Ron. I guess we should still be hunkered down, eh?

I do have one regret, and its a big one. I have a list of people Ron and I are assigned to call when a community emergency is happening. I should have called them. No doubt about it. It was my duty and responsibility. But I had no idea what to tell them. So I froze, because - and this is the contention that keeps getting me into trouble - I was right in figuring out that this was a false alarm. I can live with that. I should never assume I'm right when it comes to life or death. BUT what I can't settle out in my little brain is the fact that I'm irresponsible for pointing out the reasons in which I came to these conclusions but I would not have been wrong in heading out without a clue as to what to do, jumping into the fray of panic or trying to figure out with no information what 'take cover' would mean if such an attack was real.

Image result for vintage woman on telephone

Here's what I think was clearly wrong. I think it was inexcusable that the system was so easily screwed up. I think it was wrong that terrified tourists in Honolulu ran into the streets in mass confusion causing further hysteria. I think it was incredibly heartless that stores refused entrance and closed and locked their doors rather than let frightened and lost souls come in to probably some of the most protected (and lets admit it - prepared) places on the island. I mean, if I was 10 minutes away from a good ol' Costco, that's EXACTLY where I'd head.....let me tell ya!

Image result for image angry mob

4. I just want to talk a minute about the poor guy (1-20-18 edit, we'll respectfully call him the mentally ill guy now that the story has been clarified) who by personal and programmed short-comings sent this message out. People are demanding he be fired rather than reassigned. Some people want him jailed. Some particularly heartless people are saying 'kill him'. SERIOUSLY? What are we accomplishing here? Retribution? Justice? Really? We don’t know the full story. 

.......Okay, change that - we do at least THINK we know the story now....this man has some issues - so are we going kill the crazy guy? Hmmmmm? Well fine, I'm going to strike all of my previous thoughts about whether he deserved to be fired or not but I'd also like to remind people that mental illness is not a joke. If he had problems and employees were concerned about them for many years then the problem clearly lies with the management, don't you think? The rest of this fits, however - so I'm keeping it:

We don’t make a better world by pointing fingers and making demands in a situation we don’t even understand.

We make a better world by researching what happened and being willing to learn and make changes from those mistakes.


As far as I’m concerned, we should count ourselves blessed that we found out all of these errors BEFORE something actually happens.

I can tell you one thing. I’ve got the information now. Lots and lots of it. 2 weeks too late for ‘the test that wasn’t meant to be a test,’ but definitely something I can pay attention to and do something about. So, whether I made the right assumptions or the wrong assumptions – whether I should have run screaming down the street banging on doors begging SOMEONE to SAVE ME or should have gotten on the Internet to figure out ‘what the heck’, I’m in a better position now. That seems like good news to me.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Moana blessing for us all

This little girl is River

And this is her daddy

Back in September I received a Facebook message from her mom. It became quite the conversation. I’d like to share it with you:

My young daughter wants to be Moana for Halloween and wants her daddy to be Maui. She has epilepsy and has suffered through so much. Now we are having trouble making her dream of daddy being Maui come true because of controversy. Please advise.

Polynesian Cultural Center
Mahalo for reaching out. We hope your beautiful daughter's wish can come true! What controversy are you facing? We do not market any Disney costumes, so cannot help you there, but if you have any questions regarding Polynesia and the legend of Maui, we would be most happy to assist you.

People are pulling the Maui costumes saying its cultural appropriation and offensive.
Her dad can't find a costume because of this. Is this truly offensive to Polynesians? We love Maui.

Polynesian Cultural Center
I was afraid you were going to say this. It is not to most Polynesians here on the island. They also love Maui. But the Polynesian community is very proud, and very reverent towards their Gods, and Maui has always been one of their favorites. You can understand that the cartoonization of Maui puts some Polynesians on edge. They work hard to be taken seriously. 

In our little town of Laie, where The Polynesian Cultural Center stands, most of our little children and their parents have been absolutely thrilled with the movie and the characters, but we have also faced some concern by some of our citizens. I hope that explains the situation.

I then pointed her to a long sleeved shirt on Amazon that actually had some Polynesian patterns on it

Thank you for sharing with me. We love the movie and are going make a point of learning more about Polynesia and all of your wonderful culture and beautiful people. I will look at this shirt right away. Thank you ♡♡♡

And then she promised to send pictures afterwards….

In the meantime, I learned a little more about River.

River, her mom and her brother live in Colorado. Her daddy lives in California, but he flies out every month to be with the children. Life has been very difficult for River and her family. As mentioned earlier, River has epilepsy. She has been plagued with seizures for the past two years and only recently has been getting better. She had lost the ability to walk and was in a wheelchair. Luckily now she can walk and even run.

Childhood disabilities can be extremely difficult on a marriage. In fact the divorce rate of parents of disabled children more than double, which means at least 75%.

But this family is working hard to make sure that their children receive the attention and care they need. You can tell that they are really trying hard to be the best parents possible.

Mom moved the children to Denver so that River could receive treatment, and it literally saved her life.

Everyone is so happy and excited that River is getting better. They really wanted to make Halloween special – and to River, it’s all about Moana!

Today Mom wrote back and sent some pictures.

This was the happiest day she’s had in a long time. Her daddy made her dream come true, THANK YOU ♡♡♡

Her service dog was Pua and I was Hay Hay ♡

(Oh my gosh, I didn't even NOTICE! How cute is THAT? Also, special shout out to Ninja brother who is also portraying one of his favorite characters)

Polynesian Cultural Center
Stop! You're making me a blubbery mess here! Lol

Aw ....her dad and I cried too 

I then asked if I could share her story with our staff at PCC and beyond. She responded:

Share, share, share.....epilepsy desperately needs awareness and also (we all) need to understand a respectful way to dress up for Halloween when there are controversial issues. We have nothing but respect for Polynesia ♡ We are so thankful to you!

Our Mission statement says:

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a unique treasure created to share with the world the cultures, diversity, and spirit of the nations of Polynesia.

How blessed are we that in sharing and being open to the simplest of questions, we also get to be a part some amazing experiences by people we may never get to meet, but still look to us for help, information and a little bit of pixie dust!

President Thomas S. Monson has counseled:

“The needs of others are ever present, and each of us can do something to help someone.

“… Unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives”

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Turning 60??!!!???

Well, my 60th birthday has been low key, to say the least. No rest for the weary when the house is being turned over, a family has gone and a new group of owners are on their way. The place looks FABULOUS! That always brings a smile to my face.
And me? I'm now at the Honolulu Airport about to take off for San Francisco and a conference that I'm REALLY EXCITED about. I think this one is a game changer for me - all about writing copy for a website. Not that I haven't been holding my own most of the time at the PCC, but one can always use a little help.
But let's talk about turning 60. I can't believe it! I think most of the time, maybe.....I feel about 40. But 60? I’m serious. I find myself lying in bed at 2 in the morning trying to refigure the math over and over.
I remember when my grandma turned 60. I cried and cried and cried because I knew she was going to die, like ANY MINUTE NOW. (She didn't. She lived 31 more years, actually) I've got some awesome genes in my family.
That said, I am definitely slowing down. And my tummy area is definitely getting ROUND-er. THAT's disconcerting. But I still have great health and a blessed life.
I'm just going to have to work on the attitude. I actually removed my birthday from my Facebook profile to stop all of the messages I knew I would get, not because I'm embarrassed or disappointed about my age. Just - I'm at the age where I want to stop making such a big deal out of my birthday in my own mind. My family plays low key on the birthday front, and I've spent waaaay to many years pouting and hurting because I wasn't the center of attention. What's the use of THAT? Is my worth really dependent on gifts and attention and CHOCOLATE CAKE? NO! (Well, maybe the chocolate cake......)
But Facebook did an end run, and my birthday was up for everyone to see anyway. How grateful I am for all my friends who wrote. I truly appreciate you all in my life.
So, 60 years down.....and statistically, a few more decades left to live the dream. How grateful I am for all of you. And for second (and third and fourth) chances to become humble and more open to others, less to me. Some will argue that I shouldn't strive for that, but I know that the times I waste wanting something very - uhmmmmm - 'worldly' (yeah, that's it) and temporary also - gives me no real pleasure. My joy comes from eternal goals.
I may not be Mother Teresa - but I am a woman of faith and I am going for more than 'enduring' this next stage of life. I'm going to knock it on it's rear!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Home is a heaven on earth

My husband and I are asked on a daily basis, “how much longer are you going to stay in Hawaii”?

When we first arrived for our mission, we had a definite answer. As most of you know, we made the decision to sell our home and all of our possessions in order to go on a mission. We were really happy with this decision, realizing that those possessions were literally weighing us down.

So we took the council in John literally to:  “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor … and come and follow me.” (Matt. 19:21.)

So, when people asked, as they always do “what will your plans be after your mission is over, we happily answered that we were heading to Uruguay for a year.
And then we were going to explore other communities around the world, just to see if there would be that ‘perfect little place for us’.

But something happened along the way. An opportunity opened up that made it impossible to move away from lovely La’ie after our mission ended.

We enjoyed our mission here so much, and my husband definitely found himself to be right where he wanted to be doing exactly what he wanted to do.

But I am a planner. And this was not the plan. I found myself feeling displaced. Lost. Homeless. And Alone.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people sitting

Alone because my family is so far away. Alone because poor Ron couldn’t’ figure out why his wife was weepy every Sunday. Alone because the plan that I had researched and written out was not happening.

It takes a while to let go of some dreams. It is especially hard for someone as driven as I am.

Ron and I are currently reading the New Testament. This last week we came across the following verses in Matthew:

Matthew 8: 19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

It struck me that this is what I felt like. I had a bed, to be sure – but it wasn’t MY bed and it certainly wasn’t MY house. It wasn’t MY decision to be here.

And that’s why I’ve been crying every Sunday. I wanted to make the decision. I forgot that at the start of this adventure that I had made a far more important decision to be a disciple of Christ. And being a disciple of Christ is not meant to be comfortable or easy. But it always ALWAYS comes with blessings.

I mean, look at me, stuck in a sweet little apartment on one of the best beaches in the world only a 5 minute walk to a magnificent temple of the Lord and spending my days at The Polynesian Cultural Center.

Poor, poor Nina.

And you know when I had my light bulb moment? Yesterday, attending Sacrament meeting. We have been assigned to a student ward, but a couple of months ago the bishop of my home ward, Laie North 4th called me in and asked me to serve as their Sunbeam teacher.

Now earlier that month Bishop had stood up in Sacrament meeting and clearly and firmly said to the congregation “stop saying no to callings. Stop it!” So when the call was extended, I said….’yes sir’.

And yesterday, after a particularly weepy sacrament I realized that these tears were tears of joy. I love my ward. I love the members, I love the bishop, I love my adorable little squirmy class of Sunbeams. People here know my name….my real name… Not that being Sister Jones isn’t an honor, but somehow being called Nina makes me know that I am finally HOME.

Christ’s invitation to become his disciple is universal. He extends it to everyone. His call and promise is “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

La’ie is my place of rest….. How long, I have no idea. But home is definitely where the heart is, and my heart is here.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Changes ahead - but probably not what you think!

Everyday we hear the question "when will you be leaving Hawaii? What next?"

Our answer is always the same. We shrug our shoulders and say "Lord knows". And we mean that literally, because every time we even start making plans, the Lord steps in and reminds us who is in charge.

Is that changing soon? Nope. 

Ron is back among the employed. After building the work tracking and energy management systems here at the PCC, Ron has accepted a job offer which actually puts the tools back into his hands and perform the preventative maintenance in one of the most beautiful, magical places on earth. Happy day for Ron!

This is the second time my retired hubby 'un-retired'. I think I'm beginning to see a trend.

What this means:

  • We are staying at the Hukilau House and performing as Caretakers on the side - which means still living on the beach, still living in beautiful La'ie. Still enjoying the blessings of the amazing Polynesian Cultural Center.

  • We still get to travel - so expect to see more posts from exotic (and not so exotic) lands.

  • I am NOT employed, and will be remaining a Service Missionary, which allows me lots of freedom.....so I will be visiting the states (specifically this December I will be at Audras helping her and her family welcome baby #3!) Ron will be here, holding down the fort. Anyone looking for a great Christmas vacation spot? We have an extra bedroom. Rent will be spending 24 hours helping Ron clean a great big house......

What this does NOT mean:

  • That we have any plans - nay - even any clue whats next.

Ron loves it this way. 

I am learning not to hyperventilate. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Aloha Means Hello, Good-bye and We Love You: The Ainu'us

It’s that time again when the bulk of our graduates are heading off. I’ve grown to hate this time of year passionately. Saying goodbye is never easy for me. Having to say goodbye to buckets of people who have become so dear to me is pure torture. My saving grace both last June and this is that we ended up being on vacation both times. I can only do the ugly cry so many times. Coward that I am, this is far easier.

Mind you, I’m happy for our graduates. They have the whole world ahead of them they’ve worked hard for their degrees and now it’s time to fly! I'm thrilled for the senior missionaries returning to their loving families. For those who simply feel that their times to move on is the best decision for their family, I support their decision 100%.

But I'm sure going to miss you....every single one.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and wedding

With all these comings and goings, however, I cannot let the opportunity pass without telling you all about two people very dear to Ron and me. How I wish you could all know them….they are a marvel, both separately and together. So, may I please introduce you to Tupua and Jacosa Ainu’u?

The quick and fast way to give you the quick rundown would be to use a bio sketch I put together this last winter when this powerhouse couple came to share their musical talents at one of our Senior Missionary Family Home Evenings:

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing
Family Home Evening

Jacosa Limutau Ainu’u is the 2nd of 5 children. She is of Samoan and English/Irish descent. She was raised in Sacramento, California. She earned an AA in Jazz Studies, a BA in Professional Music and an MA in Music Education. She has taught music education, along with voice and piano for many years, including bringing the Kahuku Local Motion choir to Nationals last year. Where they earned first place. This year she was the Choir Director at Kahuku Elementary School.

Tupua is 100% Samoan born and raised. He spent much of his childhood in American Samoa. He later moved to Las Vegas, where much of his family is. He went on his mission to Argentina, and speaks Spanish, Samoan and English. He gained his AA in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, and graduated from BYUH with a degree in Communications with a focus on Peace Building. He is our lead MC at the daily canoe pageant and our evening luaus. Tupua hopes to expand his activing career.

Both Tupua and Jacosa love musical theater, jazz, gospel music and exploring the beautiful island of Oahu.

These are the facts about Tupua and Jacosa. But there is so much more. Those of us who volunteer at the luaus understand that Tupua gives his whole heart to our guests, night after night. His talent and exuberance lifts us. His faith inspires us. His energy, quite honestly, wears us out!

But I know that Tupua is the first to tell you that his greatest joy is in finding the love of his life. Jacosa will hate hearing this, because she is such a humble soul, but this woman is the whole package….beautiful, intelligent, a true woman of God with the voice of an angel. I just love them both so much.

They honor me just by being my friend.

So, no pressure, dear friends, but the podium is now yours.

And for you, brothers and sisters, sit back and relax. It’s going to be a lovely evening.

And we did have an extremely wonderful evening. In fact, we had two! The first time they sang gospel songs. Then, because we all enjoyed ourselves so much, they came back a couple of months later and sang Broadway tunes.

Click here to hear the Ainu'us sing "My Hands" at the 2017 PCC Samoan Devotional:

How we became friends is fairly typical of what happens here. When you live in a small town and work for the largest employer in that town, you are just bound to run into each other….a lot.

I remember the first time Ron and I met Tupua. We help at the luaus at the PCC regularly. One night, we noticed a new Master of Ceremonies. 

Being 6’ 6, he’s a little hard to miss, actually.

Tupua working the luau at The Polynesian Cultural Center

I heard his voice over the loud speaker before I saw him…. that big, smooth voice is as much of a show stopper as his size. But the biggest thing about Tupua is his heart. He loves everyone and everything. I tease him that he's like a big ol' Labrador puppy. He lives life with absolute gusto. It reflects in his presentations, in leisure time and even in his texts and Facebook posts (he loves to write everything in CAPITAL LETTERS...lol).

Click here to read a blog on Polynesia.com about Tupua and his work at the PCC

Tupua brings such joy to the luaus. I love walking by in the evening and hearing the laughter and applause. It's impossible not to love this dear and tender man.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling
The funniest picture ever - that man looks like a floating head!
That's how tall he is, he's actually leaning over and his feet
are conveniently placed behind each of us.

We knew Tupua for quite a while before we ever met Jacosa. Oh, we heard a lot about her...as I shared before, he loves her beyond measure. But she was busy in her own right teaching choir at Kahuku High School, and later Laie Elementary.

So our first meeting was when Tupua sang Elvis tunes at our Marketplace. Tupua is a big fan of Elvis and Michael Jackson. It's lots of fun to watch.

Anyway, I was a little worried. I thought "it's going to be difficult for this wife of his to live up to expectations". Well, Tupua, I've gotta tell you, you might have fallen short.

Jacosa is ... well, it's difficult to describe accurately. She's like the cool breeze that soothes you on a hot day, or the best friend you wish you had. She is kindness, generosity and talent. Spending time with her makes the whole day brighter.

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling

He brought Jacosa on stage to sing a duet, and I'm telling you, she has this incredible, melodic, professionally trained voice. I could listen to her sing for hours 
We soon became fast friends. We even went to see the movie Florence Foster Jenkins for date night together. You might remember it's about a woman so rich that her husband paid for her to perform a concert in New York City. Of course, her singing is just horrible.

Apparently, this was a sign of things to come......

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people sitting, people eating and indoor
Dinner before our movie.

Last year Jacosa decided to take on some students for private singing lessons. I wanted to see what she could do for me. Oh, she tried so hard. I don't know how she kept humoring me, honestly, but she hung in there for all these long months. It was great fun, mixed with lots of humbling experiences, and I'm so grateful for it.

And now it's time to say goodbye...and we are in North Carolina. Go ahead and call me chicken, I won't deny it. But isn't this so much better? No tears, at least that you can see. No stumbling over words.

But coming back home to a town with no Ainu'us is going to take some of the shine off. Luckily, there is Facebook, and believe me, I will be searching for updates and pictures.

Get ready, Atlanta! Your city is about to get a whole lot more fun!!!!

ALOHA, Ainu'us! (Hello, good-bye, and WE LOVE YOU)