Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Oh good! My dog found the chainsaw! " - Lilo

I love the movie Lilo & Stitch. I remember when it came out in 2002 and it was a (sort of) big deal that it was hand-drawn animation. At that point Pixar and such were taking over animated movies and many people had sounded the death knell for old-fashioned animation. For a while when I was younger I wanted to be an animator. Painting cells seemed like the coolest job out there. So the fact that Lilo & Stitch was hand-drawn appealed to me when I saw it advertised for the first time.

Most people that know me know that I can be very sentimental when watching kids' movies. I tend to cry. A lot. I don't care if it's Benji or Finding Nemo, I'm getting choked up. Lilo & Stitch was no different. There was something that just touched me about this little girl and her older sister, trying their best to make their family work. There's a scene at the beginning of the movie where Lilo's hand-stitched doll is made fun of by her "friends". After they leave she throws the doll to the ground in disgust and stomps off. But a couple seconds later she runs back to her doll, picks it up in a sad, tight hug and takes it home. It's not a good doll, but it's hers. That gets me. Every time. Lilo is tough and spunky, but she is also sensitive and dramatic. She's one of my favorite characters.

The story really takes off when a funny little alien falls from the sky and joins Lilo and her sister, Nani, who adopt the alien thinking it is a dog. After naming him Stitch, chaos and hijinks ensue. Along the way they all try their best to make things work, even though everything they touch seems to crumble. In the end they find that even though sometimes life is difficult their ohana is strong. As Stitch says, "This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good."

Lilo & Stitch is set in Hawaii. I remember seeing the movie and thinking how beautiful the watercolor backdrops were. Little did I know that I'd be living here one day. The sun and surfing and lingo was all pretty exotic to me then. Lilo & Stitch was where I first learned the word "ohana" - and it is so true that ohana means everything out here. Watching the movie again a few months ago I appreciated and enjoyed the Hawaiian setting even more than the first few times I watched it. The slang, the accents, the lifestyle. It's all very familiar now.

This is the background that you need to understand why I was so tickled the other night at the frozen yogurt stand. Zac and I were sitting outside, eating our frozen treats, when I caught sight of a little girl inside the shop. She was about four, maybe five years old, and looked exactly like Lilo. Pretty brown skin with long black hair and bangs. And she was dancing. Boy howdy was she dancing. Spinning and jumping and moving about, just having a grand time. She saw me through the window and gave me a thumbs-up. I busted out laughing. She smiled and continued to dance, now knowing that she had an audience.

Zac asked me what was so funny. I pointed at the little girl through the window. She had stopped dancing and had turned to her mom who was pouring her some yogurt. Zac looked at me like I was nuts but when he turned back to the window the little girl looked up and saw that she now had TWO people watching her. She started dancing all over again, throwing a thumbs-up to us every now and again, which we returned. I couldn't help but laugh. She clearly had personality to spare and I admired her youthful exuberance. She was a total and utter hoot to watch. When the yogurt was paid for, she stopped her performance and headed out with her mom. She smiled at us as she left. She had made my day and she was the closest thing to a real-live Lilo I think I'll ever see.

As I finished my yogurt I thought, life is good, and sometimes that means you've just got to dance.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas wrap-up

It was an odd Christmas this year. As the 25th approached neither Zac nor I were feeling much of the holiday spirit. This marks our third Christmas in Hawaii. The first year we had only been on the island for a couple of months and I was homesick, but decorating the house and technology made it easier to overcome the sadness. The second year (last year) we went out to California to spend the holiday at Zac's sister's home. From there I was able to continue on to Minnesota and celebrate a late Christmas with my family. This year we celebrated an early Christmas with parts of Zac's family in Nebraska and Colorado during our mainland visit but we found ourselves on the island for the actual holiday.

Though the house was decorated as usual, it just didn't feel like Christmas this year. I think it had to do with the flurry of activity that occurred in the two weeks between when we got back from the mainland and the big day. We got back, had to to clean the house for arriving guests, put together a Christmas card, write the accompanying year-end letter, cram in as many work hours as possible so I could have at least a couple of hours of paid work for the month, do the Christmas present shopping, spend time at the post office mailing said presents, and take care of a bunch of other little things that seemed to crop up. By the time Christmas weekend actually arrived I was tired, irritated and downright crabby and Zac's wasn't much different.

A couple of months ago some friends of ours invited us to go to a luau with them on Christmas day, per their tradition. Zac and I held off on making a decision until Dec. 24th. It has been raining here in Hawaii over the last couple of weeks, and not just the occasional, brief showers that pop up usually. I'd say that over the last 14 days, 11 of them have been totally overcast all day with consistent rain including bursts where we're getting 1.5-2 inches of rain per hour. It's wet and soggy out here with the ground so saturated that when the sun does pop out it gets incredibly muggy. I know most people on the mainland are dealing with lots of snow and cold temperatures, so maybe my gripes sound minor but day after day of rain (which traps you in your house) does take a toll.

Anyhow, Zac and I decided to wait until the last minute to get tickets to the luau because we were concerned that the weather might be bad on the 25th. We checked the forecast and as usual, it called for occasional showers. Luaus will take place even in gentle rain, despite the fact that almost the entire event takes place outside - include the seating for eating and the show which is uncovered. It takes a serious kind of weather to get them to cancel a luau. We decided that it was worth the risk (mostly because we were tired of sitting inside the house for the last week) and bought tickets. Our friends that are staying with us decided to come to, so between them, us, the other couple and a couple other people our group numbered eight as we lined up on Christmas Day outside the gate to Paradise Cove, one of the local luau establishments.

When the gates opened at 5pm, it was partly cloudy and muggy, but not bad. Paradise Cove is located on the Leeward side of Oahu and most often if there is one place on the island that isn't getting rained on, it's on that coast. I held out hope that the evening might work out. Our group walked around, drinking mai tais, enjoying the pre-dinner/show events. I dipped my toes in the ocean just so I could say that I was at the beach and in the water on Christmas at least once while I lived here. As the sun set the clouds started to fill in a little more. A few sprinkles started to fall. Pretty soon it was a pretty heavy sprinkle.

Around 7:00 it was time for supper. As they called everyone over to the buffet tents (at least they protected the food from the rain) the heavens opened and it started to POUR. It was the kind of rain where you were instantly soaked. Zac and I made it to the tent grabbed some food and ran over to the gift shop to try and eat in some relative dryness. On the way we heard from people that the luau had been canceled and that people were being escorted back to their buses to take them back to Waikiki. (Most attendees at a luau are tourists that are shuttled in from their hotels. Since we're "local" we drove ourselves.) Zac and I finished up some of our kalua pig and macaroni salad and headed out towards the entrance to meet up with the rest of our group.

We drove home, soaked, but pretty happy despite the sogginess. Once we got home we changed into drier clothes and headed out to a local bar where the guys threw darts and us gals played songs on the jukebox. It wasn't a perfect Christmas, but it was memorable. I am looking forward to the day when Zac and I can begin to develop consistent holiday traditions, but in the meantime I guess I'm content to accumulate these amusing how-I-spent-Christmas stories.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Back by popular request!

I've heard from a couple of people that I need to get a new blog post up. I agree.

Aside from the ice storm upon our arrival in Minneapolis, our trip to the mainland was fantastic. (And let's face it, the ice storm wasn't really a major detraction - it's a great part of the story.) We spent the first part of our trip in Minnesota visiting my family. We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family so Zac got to experience the chaos and noise of a holiday at my parent's house. We also got a chance to go back to the Como Conservatory where we got married almost three years ago.After our trip to Minneapolis, we flew to Denver, rented a car and drove to Zac's home in Nebraska. We happened to be traveling on a Husker football game day, so we ended up stopping in Ogallala for some food so we could watch at least part of the game. Once Zac was confident that a Husker win was pretty much guaranteed, we continued on to his parent's house. It was good to see Zac back on the farm in his work clothes, driving his pickup. He was very content.

Zac spent a number of days helping his dad put together a new corral for the cattle. This involved digging post holes, putting in the posts, tamping them to get them to stay put, and then attaching large metal panels. It was dirty, heavy work and Zac loved every minute of it. I "helped" too sometimes. And by "help" I mean that I stayed out of the way most of the time. I did get to add some buckets of water to concrete mix, so I contributed something to the project.

We played cards and marbles and watched football over the 10 days we were there. We were also able to visit Zac's uncles and aunts, grandpa and grandma. I think we did a pretty good job of seeing as many family as possible. Zac's mom fed us a ton of great food so I felt compelled to run a couple of times while I was out there. I ran through the cow pasture one time, making sure to check over my shoulder every now and again to see if I was being pursued by a herd of cattle or a coyote - a wee bit different than running in my neighborhood in Hawaii.

After our stay in Nebraska we drove back to Colorado and headed to Zac's brother's home in Colorado Springs. Zac and his brother went up to Winter Park to ski for a couple of days while my sister-in-law and I spent some quality time hanging out. I really like my sister-in-law and this was a great opportunity to get to know each other better. We talked about everything under the sun, and hanging out with their kids was a blast. When the guys got back from skiing we celebrated Christmas and had a fun time watching the kids playing with their new toys. We had a great time visiting everyone, but after three weeks of traveling I think Zac and I were both ready to get home.

So now we're back in Hawaii and I'm all out of sorts. A few days after we got back to our home, a friend of ours and his wife moved in with us. So I spent the first couple days back desperately trying to get the house up to guest-status. I was balancing cleaning with trying to get some work done. My invoice for December work is due on the 22nd because of all the end-of-the-year holidays, meaning that I only have about 10 days to get some hours in for the month. No hours worked = no pay. And not getting paid for the month of December is not okay.

So now that our friends are here I'm trying to balance entertaining, working and Christmas prep which leaves little time (or energy) for me to run. I'm not sure you all realize how much effort it takes for me to go run - it's like being forced to go to the dentist for fillings three times a week. I find running to be just awful. Some of my friends find that they do their best thinking while they run. My only thoughts are, "Am I done yet? How much further/longer do I have to go? I've heard this song on my mp3 player too many times. I'm really not any closer to being done??? Has time stopped?" I don't know how people find clarity when they run. I only find boredom and suffering. But I like to eat dessert, so run I must. Cheesecake is cruel mistress.

Anyhow, we're home. The dogs are happy to see us, we are happy to see them and we're looking forward to some rest and relaxation over the next couple of weeks. (Well, except for the work bit. I've still got five days to bust my butt on that. But then rest and relaxation.)