Getting Schooled by Little People


April 1 was my sixth day of kindergarten substitute teaching. I’m ready for some petulant teen angst, BRING IT.

Kinder Microfashion statements.

Kinder Microfashion statements.

Kindergarteners are interesting little humans. Still young enough to be clingy and demanding, they’re also testing their mettle when it comes to socializing and seeing how they fit in. If I’m just substituting for a day, I really cannot tell who is trying to get away with all they can from who is not having a good day. As the dawn of my sixth day with this particular class approached, I had an idea of:

  • Who is dying.
  • Who is lying.
  • Who is crying (for real).
  • Who is trying.
  • Who is sighing.
Let us pause for the dramatic arts.

Let us pause for the dramatic arts.

I can also tell you which delightful child will run for student council in a few years and city council in a few decades. There are a couple of boys destined for the NFL. I am quite certain one young lady will be an actress or a pop singer. There’s a free spirit who chooses to engage or not. I do my best to give solid one-on-one time, but sometimes there’s no there there and we don’t connect. The modern classroom is a mix of special needs students, those who excel, and everyone in between. The strong ones look out for the weak, they show each other how to write their numbers and letters, they stick up for each other, and sometimes they can be a little mean. Filters aren’t quite in place, but they’re getting there. At the start of each week in kindergarten, the students are given new jobs:

  • Office messengers.
  • Lights, doors and windows.
  • Plants.
  • Paper passer outters.
  • Library organizers.
  • etc.

There’s a smart board at the front of the class where the students touch the screen to sign in first thing and indicate whether they are eating school lunch or home lunch and getting milk. The smart board is connected to a laptop computer and a projector, making it very easy to read books or teach lessons to the students while they sit together on the carpet (in their designated spots). You cannot put 18 children together on a carpet, or in groups of four or five at little tables and expect things to go swimmingly all the time. It doesn’t. Sometimes it does, but most of the time it doesn’t. Yesterday, for instance, it was challenging to get all of the students to write their journal entries. Some can finish the writing of the weather and their name and complete a sentence prompt such as “There is a big spot on …”, and draw an illustration about it in less than 15 minutes. Others take longer. How to keep everyone engaged, from being distracted, from picking on each other or spacing out? That is the question to which there is no one answer.

When I’m substituting a class of K-3 graders, I usually get a few hugs at the end of the day. It’s sweet and it keeps me motivated. But sometimes I struggle as I try to stay positive. Like when I have to get them lined up for the cafeteria or music class, for a fire drill or to the playground, the children don’t exactly move as a single centipede toward our destination despite my prodding. Sometimes they walk backwards, sometimes they walk into posts, sometimes they clump up here and there, sometimes one or two is way far ahead and one or two are way far behind. At any given time this week while towing the line I heard:

  • Mrs. Bender, he said he was going to kill me.
  • Mrs. Ender, can I change my pants?
  • Mrs. Vendor, he is sharing his snack and he’s not allowed to share his snack.
  • Mrs. Uhm, I need to go to the health room.
  • Mrs. Hey, did you have your baby yet?

Kindergarteners don’t have their filters firmly in place, and that can be rather refreshing. On the other hand, I’ve learned to keep my filters firmly engaged, and I suppress quite a few chuckles, too. One of the highlights of substitute teaching is returning to a school and getting shout outs from the students you had worked with before. And another one is remembering names. I’m actually quite excited about remembering names. It’s important to the students, and it’s an indication that I’m not losing all my marbles.

Finding my Zen Zone while Running


My journey to be a decent triathlete is no one else’s. Sometimes I think a fast runner or a fast triathlete never gives it any thought to how difficult it can be for regular people, for mere mortals, to get past the pain and self consciousness of competition. I know that they have personal lives, jobs, families, heartaches and problems, but the shell of their perfect bodies disguises so well whatever pain they hide inside.

Last night I ran with the Boca Hawaii group and as usual I ended up alone for most of the run. I could see my teammates in the distance. Then the dots of their heads blended into the crowds along the beach in Waikiki at sunset. I just kept my head in my run, thought about my form, and counted on blending back in with the others as we approached the shop at the designated time.

Running isn’t easy for me. I have a favorite T-shirt of a rhino on a treadmill inspired by a unicorn on a poster beside her. Not that I would ever want to be a unicorn. I just think the shirt is funny and it points out how silly it is for us to dream to be something that doesn’t even exist.

So far, my bike and swim are improving immensely. I’m excited at the prospect of beating last year’s time of 08:12 for the Honu 70.3 Ironman. My run hasn’t been quite there yet, but I am making strides in that area, too.

Before we took off for our run from Kakaako, the coaches gave us all a pep talk and Raul explained the route. While some runners asked about going as far as Kapiolani Park, I knew that would never be a problem for me. My turn around would not occur as far as theirs. At the half-way point, I turned back toward the shop. I ran down Kalakaua Avenue toward the Convention Center, and turned to run down the dark tree-lined mall that is now home to many homeless people. I was a little worried. I figured my teammates might find my body if something were to happen to me. I picked up my pace, I kept my focus, I ran over the herringboned bricks in the dark toward busy Ala Moana Boulevard, the heavy vehicular traffic, the pedestrians, the stoplights and the street lamps.

I pushed through. I felt pretty good, but I worried that I’d get all smug and cocky and then fall on my face the darker it got. By the time I got back to the shop, there was still time to keep running, so I ran around the area for another few minutes. I was the third runner back and way before the others. I should have run a little longer. I realized that my run back was faster than my run out. The stats on my Garmin indicated I kept a faster pace than I have ever had before. I wasn’t in pain. My heart and lungs were OK! That’s so encouraging. I woke up and my legs were a little stiff this morning, but we were able to take a short bike ride.

Tonight I roasted salmon and made linguine for The Benderettes. I ate half of what I put on my plate. Something is happening. A switch, a feeling, a drive.

The Curly Peg in a Straight and Square World


It has always been the case, and at this stage in my life, I’ve accepted it better than anyone else in the world — I don’t quite fit here, there, just about everywhere. My husband gets it, so that makes me one of the luckiest and happiest women alive.

Do not marry a man who does not get you.

Because. Because the rest of the world doesn’t. I’m OK with it. I’m at peace with it. I do not need the world to get me. I do not need to fit into anyone’s mold. I do not fit in a cube nor a corporate mold. I question authority and sometimes in the past I’ve actually suspected my bosses to be as dumb as boxes of rocks. Sucking up embarrasses me and it embarrasses me to witness sucking up  by others. The people being sucked up to? How do they live with themselves?

So there’s that thing called Hell. It’s either here on earth or somewhere after you die. Mine is here. Thanks. Because when I die it won’t be there. Love that.

This week I tried my best to complete an article but it required massive sucking up and as you might know by now, by this paragraph, by knowing me in real life or virtually, that I am not one for kissing ass. It felt absolutely liberating to walk away. Anything that requires me to be something or experience something that I cannot embrace is just not worth it. Rediculous. Principles, people. Have principles.

Your zone is golden and I need a secret password to enter?

Did it ever occur to you that it doesn’t matter?

Be yourself. I’m living proof that you’ll survive. It’s a bumpy life, but it’s living.

Back to School


Taking the substitute teacher course offered by the Hawaii Department of Education was one of the smartest moves I have ever made. It took more than a month before I started getting calls to work, but now I’m turning down assignments. It’s great to wake up and decide between hanging out with my husband, writing an article that’s due or going for a bike ride instead of heading to class. But most of the time I agree to substitute. Bills to pay and triathlons to train for. It all costs money!

Substitute teaching is not always smooth sailing. I mostly substitute at schools where my daughters attend so sometimes kids who are familiar with me think they can act up. There are few perfect days of perfect classes with all perfect children (there was one), and it is true that trouble makers comprise less than five percent of the whole room. What I love is when students come up to me to say hello, to reassure me, and to commiserate because of one or two high-maintenance classmates. Teachers are happy to pay attention to students, but positive behavior trumps punk every time.

Times have changed. Kids have smart phones, tablets and laptops. Today I introduced students to the My Fitness Pal app so they could get it on their phones to track their nutritional intake for a week. I told them that the free app also has a website that retains everything they input from their phones so they could easily copy repeat items and then print the log when ready. Those who wanted to were welcome to write in food journals instead. I also showed them to find local food items such as chicken long rice, Spam musubi, beef teriyaki and pork lau lau.

Most of the students downloaded the app and got busy. A few played cross-platform video games with each other on their phones. Like that’s cute.

When it comes to substituting at high school my main goal is to keep students in the room. They can choose to do the work or not. If they misbehave I write it down. Pushing a friend in the teacher’s beat-up old leather wheeled chair at top speed across the classroom merits a mention.

More and more classes I encounter now have sofas in them. Students hurl themselves at the sofas or at each other on the sofas and have a blast. Maybe they do that at home, but I doubt it. Apparently, the teacher says it’s OK.

I know this because the students tell me. It usually goes like this: One giant boy does a full body slam onto the sofa. A second and third giant boy throws himself onto the first boy, ala tag-team-caged-fighting-squads. Then they look at me and say, “We’re allowed. The teacher says it’s OK.”

Of course I believe them. Wouldn’t you?

Haleiwa Triathlon, HPH 10k


Third place, winners' circle. Age group: 50-54, Women Who Refuse To Act Their Age.

Third place, winners’ circle. Age group: 50-54, Women Who Refuse To Act Their Age.

On Saturday I completed my first triathlon of 2013. On Sunday I completed my first and probably only 10k of 2013. In about two weeks Try Fitness training for the June 1 Honu 70.3  begins.

Finishing the bike leg.

Finishing the bike leg.

While doing these events I thought about getting in shape for Honu. When I plunged into the ocean for the 500+ meter swim at Puena Point, the anxiety hit as I was thrashed and tried to get by the crazy confusion of other swimmers. At this distance, the swimmers don’t get a chance to thin out and you’re shoulder to shoulder with others no matter how hard you try to break away. I got to the end and lost my balance trying to get out on the beach. Gotta work on all that. The transition from swim to bike was a long run across the beach and through a park to the T1 transition area to get on the bike. My T1 took a long time. My right leg was bleeding. Scratched by another swimmer or a cut on the rocks?

Finishing the run, coming from the beach. Haleiwa is a pretty little town.

Finishing the run, coming from the beach. Haleiwa is a pretty little town.

I made up for the slow T1 on the bike, which is where I can get a sense of accomplishment, I can really crank the watts, and I take advantage of the right gears up and down the hills. When I saw John’s photos of me on the bike I got upset about holiday weight gain, months after Xmas and New Years. A few weeks ago I gave up white flour and I’ve been very good about eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and drinking water every day. If I hadn’t I’d probably have looked worse.

Colleagues Val Yamamoto and Dara Hubin and I were part of the 1,440 finishers in the HPH Women's 10k run. They both did great!

Colleagues Val Yamamoto and Dara Hubin and I were part of the 1,440 finishers in the HPH Women’s 10k run. They both did great!

My transition to the run was fairly easy, and I wasn’t too disoriented as I started. However, the Haleiwa tri takes you down a beach, around the bend, along an abandoned and overgrown airport runway to a turnaround, back along the runway to a wooded area and another turnaround, and back to the beach into the sand and dunes and debris along the tide line.

Queen Kapiolani. Many events begin and end at her park between Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Queen Kapiolani. Many events begin and end at her park between Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Some how I managed to get third place, a little award, and a sense of accomplishment.

Next was the Hawaii Pacific Health Women’s 10k. Out of 1,440 women, I came in 867 place at 01:25:34. Compared to my triathlon stats, my run was considerably better, probably because it was all pavement, and a course with which I am familiar. If it weren’t for my good TryFitness and HPH friends, I probably wouldn’t have found it in me to finish strong.

I cannot say I was thrilled with my results or how I looked this weekend as I took part in my first 2013 events, but I guess these, and last week’s bicycle time trial, are good benchmarks to start from.

Results from both of these events are at the Pacific Sport Events & Timing website: The Haleiwa Triathlon photos are by my husband John. A friend took the picture of Val, Dara, and me. And I took the photos of the roses with the statue.

Yes, I’m a BEFORE again. Next week, the Hapalua Half Marathon. Gotta figure out this plantar fasciitis before then.

Roses for the Queen. Each finisher of the HPH Women's 10k was given a rose. Mine was a pretty yellow one.

Roses for the Queen. Each finisher of the HPH Women’s 10k was given a rose. Mine was a pretty yellow one.

Mentally, I hope these small accomplishments can help me in other areas of my life.

My First Bicycle Time Trial


TryFitness. Hotness!

TryFitness. Hotness! What a fun bunch of broads!

On Sunday, I participated in my first time trial and won my age group. I try not to think of it as a big deal, but I am very happy about it. I wish we had stuck around so I could have gotten my medal and my picture taken with the women who came in second and third place, and so I could glow all the way home with my favorite roadie and photographer and consultant, my husband John. My division? Golden Master Women’s. What does that mean? 50 and older. I like to think of it as “Women Who Refuse to Act Their Age,” because clearly when I’m out there riding my bike, I am a 16-year-girl who went exploring on her Schwinn Varsity 10-speed for hours and hours through the country roads of Burlington County, N.J. Clearly.

Launching. I prefer you have this view of me if we are riding bikes together.

Launching. I prefer you have this view of me if we are riding bikes together.

When I was queued up for the time trial, I was behind a tall young man who was a Kamehameha High School student who was participating because it was a school requirement. He was on a bright yellow Specialized bike, wore a skateboard helmet and a mesh neon-orange vest, and sneakers. I took off 20 seconds behind him and then chased his teenage butt until it was mine. “On your left,” I quietly said as I passed him. He was sweet. I passed a few more of his classmates, high schoolers who have yet to taste the joy of competitive bicycling and are really out there because their school requires it. I love that they find these obscure events and get involved. There were probably about a dozen Kamehameha students with us. I was really proud of them.

Share the road. Farrington Highway from Wailua High School to Camp Erdman. Great ride.

Share the road. Farrington Highway from Waialua High to Camp Erdman and back. Great ride.

My bicycle is the faithful Scattante, bright red with red wheels, and when I am on her we are one. She is dubbed the Red Firecracker because she’s red and because when we are together it can be explosive. I launched into my time trial with all I had, and my bronco didn’t buck, she read my mind and together we navigated the bumps and hills of Farrington Highway for 39:54 minutes. Sub-40, FTW. I worked so hard. My lungs needed a full 24 hours to recover. Asthma.

The Red Firecracker. Such a sweet ride.

The Red Firecracker. Such a sweet ride.

Next week I’m waking John up early again for the Haleiwa Triathlon that starts at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 2. The next day I’m doing the Hawaii Pacific Health 10K for Women because the T-shirt is always awesome and the schwag rocks. Oh, and because I run like crap (thank you burst Achille’s tendon (2010), wacked knee, plantar fasciitis. Just thanks. My friend Carrie sent me an email today telling me she did the same thing last year and it was fun, she was able to do both and it was OK. I don’t feel adequately trained, but, I’m certain that I’ll do it and I’ll be alright. While I impress everyone with my mad bike skills, and maybe my swim, I’m bringing up the rear with my run. I need the practice. Maybe I might even get better at it! After all, there is this little thing called Honu on June 1, 2013, that has my investment of an entry fee sealed and paid for.

White whole wheat flour and traditional whole wheat flour. Pizza dough rising.

White whole wheat flour and traditional whole wheat flour. Pizza dough rising.

And if you’re wondering, I’m succeeding on this no-white-flour mission. Over the last three weeks I’ve had a bowl of pho with rice vermicelli, and I’ve had some chicken katsu. But I’ve made whole wheat pizzas and the gang loves them. This is a change I think my family can handle. Cutting out sugar? Not so sure.

March 12, 2013 is the start of Try Fitness Hawaii’s Honu Triathlon training program. My kids will be so psyched that mom is working out on Tuesdays and Thursdays again, and that they’ll have to fend for themselves for dinner (and do the dishes). I’m excited. It’s ME time with a CAPITAL M AND A CAPITAL E.

Guest Post Queries


Only I can be Me.

Only I can be Me.

Take a look at my blog. How many words do you see written by guest bloggers? None. Not  one. And yet, I get these queries from strangers who want me to let them guest blog on

The Lavagal blogger writes alone.

Most of the time I ignore the requests because I believe they are phishing attempts. But some people persist. As much as I’d like to be rude, I politely tell them, “No thank you. I am sure when you researched my blog that you noticed there were no guest posts.”

I’ve also told people to get their own blogs. When I got started here on WordPress, I got the freebie package. I’ve since upgraded to have my own domain, and it didn’t break the bank. I don’t get ad revenue, however, I’d love to find a way to monetize my words or at least generate enough interest to get picked up by a wire service and paid a handsome sum by Huffington Post, News Corp., Google, Yahoo!, etc. Don’t we all?

I blog because I enjoy writing and I’m a journalist. I blog because it releases a personal pressure valve, I slip into soliloquy, I polish a nugget of thought into something I hope makes sense to somebody beyond myself. Sometimes I editorialize or analyze current events, and it feels good to contribute to the world as we wonder what went right or wrong. When I write for my employer, it’s mostly technical, with a little bit of creativity and fun here and there.

I guess I’ll edit my ABOUT page to indicate that is 100 percent me. Those who phish with a request to guest can take their bait to someone less guarded. But if they truly want to be a blogger, then they should sign up for a free and basic service like I did.

I guess I should be flattered that some people think guest blogging on could be their entry to fame and fortune. Me first.


Good Morning, Pueo!


In those darkest moments before the dawn, I take my bags out to the van and go back inside to make my coffee and grab something to eat. When I first step outside of the house, the cats mew and purr and slip in between my legs, sibling cats that move like koi toward their bowls of food in the kitchen.

This morning when I stepped outside the gate I noticed something flying toward me from across the street. A Hawaiian owl, pueo, silently flew over me. It was magnificently glowing under the street lamp, and for a few seconds we connected. I quietly said, “good morning!” So gentle and comforting. It was as though a soft and feathery blanket embraced my soul and whooshed away all the doubts that dig into my psyche so much these days.

I’m not Hawaiian, but I’ve lived in Hawaii since 1981. I know about ‘aumakua, ancestral guardians of Hawaiian families, embodied in owls, sharks, turtles, and other creatures great and small. I don’t claim to have a protector, but I will always appreciate the special place and value these creatures have in Hawaiian culture.

The pueo is often attributed as a protector or guardian, and was specifically skilled in battle. In legends and stories, the pueo is credited with providing guidance and direction, and is recognized as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge in many cultures. Here’s a lovely reference to it on the website aboutmauinui.comThis photo shows a pueo flying on the Big Island during the day, but I saw mine in darkness. I just wanted you to get an idea.

My heart and soul were overjoyed for the gift of this rare sighting in the dark and quiet morning. Mahalo, sweet pueo, for your quiet assurance and comfort. Maybe you were just a barn owl, but for me, it was still a treat.

A Daily Top 10 List of Gratitude


Happy Valentine’s Day, Luvs! Each morning I’m to write down 10 things I’m grateful for as part of my personal self-improvement program to adjust my outlook on life. I’m to say thank you for each of them three times. It’s supposed to set the tone for my day. Wake with gratitude, appreciate what you have, and keep that attitude going throughout the day. I won’t always post it here, but today I feel like it. Plus, well, you know, it’s my blog. I’ve read The Secret, so that’s what this is all about.

By Kid2: A mountain, a feather, a heart in an ocean, which is in a bigger ocean. Luv it!

By Kid2: A mountain, a feather, a heart in an ocean, which is in a bigger ocean. Luv it!

I do not wake up grateful every day. I do not go to bed thankful for all that happened throughout my day. Some days I feel like driving straight through the guard rail between Hanauma Bay and Lanai Lookout instead of taking that awesome curve with finesse. But you know what? I take the curve, and I do love driving along there. I love seeing the ocean, the deep blue sea kissing the light blue sky with Molokai, Maui, and sometimes Lanai in sight. I have a lot to live for, three people who endlessly love me, and many friends with whom I wish to discover more about. I also have a lot to give. A lot to give.

Today, February 14, 2013: Thank you times 30.

  • I’m grateful the best guy ever realized we were supposed to be a team, and gave me a huge bouquet of roses, popped open the bubbly, made Salad Niçoise ala Julia Child, and got down on one knee to propose way back in 1991. He could have handed me an Almond Joy.
  • I’m grateful I have two beautiful and brilliant daughters. What a hard road it was to become a mom.
  • I’m grateful for my home, garden, and kitties. It is the place where I can fully relax.
  • I’m grateful for this job. I love to write, I enjoy my colleagues, I struggle with some aspects, but I have the support of my management who are helping me obtain my goals.
  • I’m grateful for my health and the sense to realize that working out should be fun and enjoyed.
  • I’m grateful for my friends with whom I work and work out. I’m grateful for my friends on Facebook and Twitter. Some are old from small-kid time days, and others are new, many of whom I’ve never met. It is always, always, always a joy to connect with them (you!).
  • I’m grateful for the Internet and my iPhone with a camera that lets me capture moments to share with the universe. I love that I can frame something beautifully within a few bytes.
  • I’m grateful for my bicycles because every time I get on one (almost daily now that one is set up on a trainer at home), my body and mind are transported to that girl who rode her Schwinn Varsity 10-speed everywhere, all over Burlington County, New Jersey, exploring back roads and always returning home safely.
  • I’m grateful for the tough moments that mark my day and my life because of the introspection and growth they generate within. The life’s lessons shape us.
  • I’m grateful for having realized at this half-way point of my life that it’s important to be quiet, to hold back when I feel the need to shield someone, to instead write the things I have learned and hope that my words seep into hearts unknown forever.

TryFitness Overnighter at Camp Erdman


My chair on the beach, cabins in the background.

My chair on the beach, cabins in the background.

I finally belong to the club of kids who stayed at Camp Erdman, on Oahu’s North Shore in Mokuleia. Beautiful. Our group of 14-15 women stayed in two cabins connected by a sweeping lanai, that slept eight each. We were steps from the ocean, so after our first ride on Saturday morning, you can bet I grabbed my beach chair for some sun, sand, surf, honu (sea turtle), humpbacks, and sea bird action. In the sky above me, airplanes launched gliders that surfed air waves, nose dived, and danced with angels.

Can you see the white glider?

Can you see the white glider?

The bike rides were the main reason Kristin “KC” Carlberg’s TryFitness group met so far from home (for me). We were to launch at 7ish on Saturday, but we didn’t launch until 8ish. I knew we were going to climb Pineapple Hill, so I had my head wrapped around that, but I didn’t know until minutes before we took off that we were also going to get on Schofield Barracks to ride up to Kolekole Pass. We didn’t get to go as far as we went in 2009, but it was a great ride.

At the bus stop across from Dole Plantation, after our climb up Pineapple Hill. Boo-Yah!

At the bus stop across from Dole Plantation, after our climb up Pineapple Hill. Boo-Yah!

Despite my horrific backsliding over the holidays (I expect today, Fat Tuesday, to be especially challenging), I didn’t die going up Pineapple Hill. Check the stats. I also was worried about climbing the short Wilikina Drive to Schofield, but it was so steep at first that it gave us enough momentum to get up and onto the base. Let me wax sentimental about my military days. One of the nice things about being on a military base is that it’s quite relaxed. People pay attention to speed limits. You might hear lots of gunfire from the ranges, but it’s comforting to know that they’re training to protect us. I prefer the term peacekeepers when I think of our military.

The end of the road for us toward Kolekole Pass on Schofield Barracks.

The end of the road for us toward Kolekole Pass on Schofield Barracks.

When we returned from Kolekole we took Kaukonahua “Snake” Road back to Waialua to Camp Erdman. I’m not gonna say who was suckin’ my wheel the whole time, but I didn’t care as it was all about fun and flying and working hard and hollering all the way down the road. I found myself alone on Farrington Highway and because it was so beautiful, I was enjoying it soooo much, saying hi to the polo ponies and all the walkers, doggies, and runners. I said to one of my teammates while I was out there, “I guess you can figure out why I’m in PR and communications!”

An Oahu beach to myself?! Camp Erdman on the North Shore. High surf advisory, so all the action was east of Haleiwa.

An Oahu beach to myself?! Camp Erdman on the North Shore. High surf advisory, so all the action was east of Haleiwa.

The second day was a lot easier. When we turned down Mahinaai Street, a blonde at the gate of a hidden estate gave us her version of Haole Aloha: “We got speed bumps.” I said a cheery thanks.

Party gals watching the sunset before dinner.

Party gals watching the sunset before dinner.

We wrapped that ride up going to the end of the road at Ka‘ena Point. So this was a weekend of a lot of firsts for me, and a great weekend to kick start my fitness efforts because my first triathlon of the year is March 2 in Hale‘iwa. Maybe it’s a good thing it’s Fat Tuesday. This former Catholic just might do something worthwhile for Lent. I’m thinking about giving up white flour. It will be very hard, which I think is the point.

Denise, the creator of the delicious Bitter Lime Coconut cocktail.

Denise, the creator of the delicious Bitter Lime Coconut cocktail.

Ya can't camp without a fire.

Ya can’t camp without a fire.



A Quiet Place


Kid2 is drawing with a calligraphy pen now. Fimo snails.

Kid2 is drawing with a calligraphy pen now. Fimo snails in the tall grass.

On another of my blogs, one that isn’t public, my entries are story ideas. They are bursts of inspiration lingering in the wings of my life, ripening in the background, waiting for their chance to be fleshed out and to breathe. I am more impatient than those ideas. I am tugged in many directions from the moment I wake until the iPhone hits me in the face at night when I’m trying to make my last Words With Friends moves. I visit the site and stare. Brain locked, fingers frozen.

I see this in Kid2, MiniMe. The kid goes great guns when she is first starting a project. Numerous times I’ve uncovered incomplete and late assignments while mining her chaotic room. Each time I do this, I am given a free lesson in what I was and how I need to always be vigilant about the clutter spots I have at home and in my brain. That’s why I have that blog. It helps me make sense of the ideas I have, it is that place I can go when I can finally be a wild writer.

Kid2 is creating an inventory of Fimo swirls for jewelry. One of the many endeavors she launches into.

Kid2 is creating an inventory of Fimo swirls for jewelry. One of the many endeavors she launches into.

When I was a newspaper reporter, writing was done on the fly in a crowded and noisy newsroom. I loved it, and it really taught me how to turn inward, to find that quiet place within my brain, and to focus on the tight deadline writing. I bet if I turned that kind of pressure on myself, I could march those stories out, one by one, and give them the spotlight they deserve.





Turkey schiacciatina with baby kale, tricolor fingerling poatoes, and broccoli.

Turkey schiacciatina with baby kale, tricolor fingerling poatoes, and broccoli.

Had I known, I would have made these outside on the burner on my grill. At the end of this meal, I’ve got an oil slick to clean off the ceramic stove top, but I’ve also got two happy kids who asked for MORE. FTW.

I just discovered schiacciatina today on Pinterest. And then, as I often do, I repinned it to my Culinary Delights board and commented on the original blog that I was going to give it a go with ground turkey. So I did. Four thumbs up from the Benderettes.

Credit where credit is due. This recipe is from Manuela. AWESOME, Girlfriend!

Here’s the deal: This is as messy as making chicken piccata. If you can grill outside like me,

The ingredients.

The ingredients.

I suggest that’s what you do. I mean, if your grill has a side burner like mine does, I suggest you fry these up out there. If I know I’ve got a big splattering session ahead of me, I’ll set up the outdoor kitchen and go for it. If you’re on the East Coast or other frigid parts of the U.S. Mainland, maybe wait until the cold snap is over before you do this. But then again, maybe this is NO BIG DEAL to many of my friends.

How is it that a girl like me from New Jersey — with many Italian friends — never knew about this dish before today? HOW? The Fucco’s lived up the street! The Petti’s let me hang out with them! Sue Constantini was my Mom’s BFF! The Tartaglias, the LoPrestis, the D’Ascendis, Dimero, Giardineli, Manzano, and

In the skillet.

In the skillet.

Datalilio kids were our playmates! And I never knew about SHE A CHIA TINA? TINA DEFELICE! HAVE I FINALLY CRACKED THE CODE? In the name of the Father…

Flattened and dusted.

Flattened and dusted.

Recipe: Schiacciatina

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup fresh and finely grated Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Flour for dredging (my buddy Wondra)

With your hand, mix meat with cheese, salt and pepper and smoosh, smoosh, smoosh, until it’s well homogenized. Divide into 4-6 balls. Sprinkle some Wondra or fine flour on parchment paper and flatten the balls one at a time, even pounding them till they’re about 1/4 inch thick. Lightly dust the patties with the flour, careful not to have too much. These are hard to pick up so use the parchment to help. Melt butter and olive oil on hot skillet and gently place patty into the sizzling oil and butter. It’ll sizzle. Give them a few minutes on each side, and remove them to a plate covered with foil to keep warm.

Ready for my closeup.

Ready for its closeup.

I served mine with sautéed tricolored fingerling potatoes, broccoli, and baby kale quickly fried in the pan where the meat fried.

Expect admiration for the rest of the night.

Recipe: Kale Chips


Raw dinosaur kale ready to roast..

Raw dinosaur kale ready to roast.

Kale chips taste really good and they are easy to make. Personally, I feel a little guilty about them. Roast kale has the consistency of ash. To me, I think the real joy of kale is best raw in a salad or wilted in a nice minestrone or an Italian wedding soup. But because people like kale chips, I thought I’d show some pictures and put up my recipe. Easier than easy.

Kale Chips

  • Kale leaves, washed, dried, ribbed, and torn into mouth-sized pieces.
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Place the torn kale on the parchment, sprinkle fresh, cracked Hawaiian (or other big chunky salt), and drizzle with olive oil. Toss around a little bit. Spread out kale bits to so they get crispy. I used two cookie sheets for this batch. Roast for 12 minutes. Serve immediately. Wrap leftovers in the parchment and place in a plastic bag. This was stil crispy the next day.

The crunchy finish.

The crunchy finish. 

These photos are of the dinosaur kale I had last night. It works with any kind of kale. Just be sure to remove the ribs because you can’t chew them. Some folks save them for the juicer.

My Kitchen Garden


Sun dappled raphis.

Sun dappled raphis.



Something new. Chocolate mint.

Something new: Chocolate mint.











This weekend I got to work in the front yard and cut back the raphis, pulled weeds, dumped out old pots, and bagged green waste. Then I planted seedlings of round eggplant, kale, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, basil, mint, and Italian parsley. I’m so pleased. I’m so excited, I’m eager to plant a few more things. I also have Baer lime, kafir lime, and a new Meyer lemon saplings. We’re just not sure where to put them , but our other trees have given up their spirits. Our orange tree is still going strong.

Sweet Genovese basil.

Sweet Genovese basil. 

Pretty potted plants.

Pretty potted plants.

It’s now avocado season and there are six on the counter. Like Pavlov’s dog, I jump every time I hear our tree drop one to the ground. Sometimes the giant agave catch them, sometimes their landings are softened by the mulch of dead leaves beneath the tree. They’re not always easy to find, and it takes some sleuthing. And if I find one partially eaten, the decision has been made to remove it and not nourish the local rodents.

Tonight will be taco salads with avocado. These days it’s everything with avocado. This is why I don’t like to buy avocado the rest of the year. Nothing can compare to our Sharwills. That’s how I feel about vegetables, too. I prefer to grow my own than to pay full retail for zucchini, it’s just that zucchini take a lot of real estate. And if I could grow broccoli raab, I would. In fact, I’m going to see if I can. Just keep a box of Cory’s slug bait close by.


Alone Time

I’m a little disappointed that no school needed me to sub today. However, I can get to work on the next three story assignments I have, and that’s a good thing. But before I do, I thought I’d do some writer calisthenics here on It’s been a while. Alone time.

My SIL1 is waiting for my blog about our trip to Volcano on the Big Island a few weeks ago. I looked back at my pictures and realized that I had not taken any photos of my four sisters-in-law and the lone fellow out-law husband of SIL4. Instead, I took photos of the volcano, the darling bungalow we stayed in, the flora, the fauna. There are a few photos of us on top of Mauna Kea, but the best ones are in my husband’s camera. I’ll ask. What I loved about our trip was how chilly the volcano area is. We spent very little time in Hilo, so most of the time we were bundled up in socks and sweaters. For those of us who live in Hawaii, that is always a joy. I cooked breakfast one morning, recruited by SIL1, and I made egg McBobs, named after her late husband. I brought along some hashbrowns and served those on the side. That night I made linguine with caramelized onions and yogurt sauce, a dish that is out of this world. I plan to cook the onions on our grill the next time I make this dish — that’s how many onions are in it.

While on the Big Island, a Costco Hawaii Kai manager called me with hours for the following week. I got 32 hours and Sunday, January 19, was my last day. I’m now waiting until February 19 to see if I get a permanent part-time gig. I had also been scheduled for a job interview for a full-time communications administration position, but I declined it. It felt too much like the soul-sucking experience I’m still recovering from. Stepping away from all that is a good idea. I’ll stick to the freelance writing, and, in the meantime, taking all the substitute teaching assignments I can.

Yesterday I taught 7th grade Social Studies, which focused on the Hawaiian Overthrow. How embarrassed I am at the behavior and arrogance of the men who dethroned Queen Liliuokalani. Many of these public school children are not white, many are of mixed race, and some are of Hawaiian descent. I’m not quite sure how much any of the students cared about the lesson, but they need to learn. Such lessons will hopefully create a better world. That’s why we need to learn our lessons.

Last Friday I taught kindergarten and it was the 100th day of school. So there was all kinds of 100 Day things to talk about. I felt a little bad for the teacher as 100 day is pretty special. The kids counted out 100 fruity o cereals and then strung them on red silk cords that I tied when they were done. I then put them in a plastic bag and ordered them to put them in their backpack (as instructed). Kindergartners are a trip. I was grateful that the school provided two helpers for the first hour (they spend the day taking turns in the K classes). I sometimes feel like I’m flying blind, but the day went well. I slept well that night!

Gearing up now for the start of triathlon training in about two weeks since I’m returning to Kona for the Ironman 70.3 on May 31. I’m actually resisting the urge to enter a lot of events this year. I think I might enter two or three before the 70.3. Staying low, invisible, unnoticed.

So this should do it for now.

BTW, I can’t figure out how to get photos off my MotoX with the WP app and onto the blog. Soon.



How best to begin a new year

I wrote my first check for 2014 without making a mistake. I thought that was pretty good. I waited a few days to let 2014 sink in, just to see what would happen if I held back. I have finally concluded that there is no point in making any pronouncements about what a new year will be for me. After 2013, how could I?

Yesterday I was herding carts in the best Hawaii weather: Breezy, low humidity and cool. I couldn’t ask for a better last day on carts as a seasonal Costco Hawaii Kai employee. While I was working I noticed a big woman running across the parking lot. Because I am a triathlete, I notice people who run and wonder if I’ve ever seen them while training or in a race. But I didn’t recognize her, and I realized she wasn’t running for exercise. She wore black capris and a T-shirt, her long, wavy brown hair blowing in the wind and she was carrying a backpack or something. She kept looking back, and then she ran to the Kiss and Ride, where I stopped paying attention. I then noticed a manager, phone to his ear, looking in the same direction.

Soon there were police cars in our lot. One blue-and-white stayed at the front door for what seemed like an hour. I guess that’s how long it takes to file a report. And maybe, because it was Saturday and the craziest day ever, the other officers hung out as a calming measure. You’d think it was the day before Christmas the way people poured into Costco to spend their money. The lot was crowded and tense, and for a handful of times, I heard conflicts and horns beeping over parking spaces.

I don’t know if we can say that she got away. In conversations with other cart crew members, I learned that teams of thieves come in with stolen bags they fill with stolen goods. If they get caught they can say it’s not their bag, so it’s not their crime. It can’t be that easy. I wondered if they give the things they steal as gifts or if they try to sell them. I wonder if they are stealing to fill the voids in their life.

New merchandise for 2014 includes luxuries, organic foods, gourmet goods and fancy libations. It’s all so very tempting. I often remark at the restraint of members who come in for milk and eggs and leave with milk, eggs, a bag of fresh spinach and a bottle of wine. Every day something new and interesting shows up at Costco. With my reduced income, it is easy to tune out the fancies and focus on the essentials.There are things I wish for, but I could never take them. When I sweep the floor I pop the dimes and pennies I find on a register counter, they wobble and spin and ring until they are silent, standing by, waiting to be slipped into a cash drawer. They are not mine, not even for a second.

For a minute I had empathy for an overweight woman running as fast as she could. When I realized what was going on, I thought how much better it is to run toward an honest goal than to run from a crime. Honey, that ain’t no way to begin a new year.

What 2013 has taught me

I knew a year ago, back in December, my birthday month and the month of holiday cheer, that those I found so very uninspiring were plotting to end my corporate-within-the-cube-writing career. It was OK as I had already left in my mind at least more than 1,735 times. In April of 2013 the footprint was on my ass and it was the first time I left an employer without feeling sad. It was more a wave of relief. I had been dismantling my personality from the cube over the months until it looked like a sterile, cold and gray space without personality, exactly what it was supposed to be.

I am grateful that finally I was free to be me. 

I applied for at least three jobs a week — sometimes three jobs a day — until my unemployment ran out in November. I completed the substitute teaching course for the DOE in October. I started my seasonal position at Costco Hawaii Kai in November, too, so I have been able to step off the ice floe. 

I am supposed to be grateful for the more than 80 jobs I applied for and didn’t get, but it’s hard. I got a few interviews and I am sure those humiliating experiences have made me a better person. Radio silence gives you a lot to think about. It was hard not to think about rejection, it was hard to see the silver lining. I know I’m a survivor and I’ve got the most amazing support person at my side. He gets the most gratitude of all. 

What good was there from 2013? I got to spend a lot of time with my husband and we really enjoyed it. There are new gardens in the yard. While things like tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant don’t do so well, our kale, Swiss chard, chili peppers and herbs are bountiful. We have a beautiful area in the backyard where I can write or where we can sit even when it’s raining, with our Kitty Girl. The avocados drop before me, a compost bin settles without stinking, and there’s always gas in the grill. 

In 2013 I trained for triathlons and did alright. I went to the Big Island and participated in my first half Ironman in Kona. I rode my bike, ran and swam several times a week. I did the Honolulu Tinman, the Na Wahine Festival’s swim and spin, the North Shore Swim Series and the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. I love doing all those things. This year I was able to participate without the mental and emotional cave in I had the year before just as the swims were starting. I’m pleased that I can remain calm during those first crazy minutes of an ocean swim with hundreds of arms and legs flailing at me and around me. 

In 2013 I found an editor who gave me a shot at writing for his magazine and I have been writing for him steadily since the summer. I hope to continue. 

During 2013 I applied at Costco four times and finally got a call for this seasonal job that is quite demanding. As a shopper I always thought how fun it must be to work there. Yes, it is fun, but it’s the hardest job I ever had. There’s a chance that I may get picked up as a permanent part-time worker after January 7 when the gig is up, and I’m hopeful that I do. How can that happen? Go. Spend. Your. Money. Thank you!

I am optimistic about 2014. I’d like to weave a work life of substitute teaching, freelancing and customer service at Costco. Once 2014 kicks in and I’m no longer working 48 hours a week at the big box, I’ll start focusing on my triathlon training again, focusing on the May 31, 2014, Kona Half Ironman with a few other triathlons to help me gauge my progress.

I am grateful for my husband and my daughters for their confidence and love. I can’t imagine having a better family. 

One of my strong suits has always been empathy. For that reason I often wondered why I had to have this year of humility to reflect on other intangible qualities generated by my heart and soul. I’m still not sure why, but I am confident that I will put it all to good use. 

Please keep me in your thoughts so that my 2014 is much better. Mahalo.