Category Archives: life

December: Two funerals and a Wedding.

Thirteen days ago, we boarded an early morning flight to Las Vegas.  Sounds like a fun way to spend a Friday and Saturday night, right?  The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas:  five-star restaurants, A-list nightclubs, first class casinos, that all sounds like a decadent way to pass the time with loved ones.  But no, our trip to Las Vegas was all about family.  We travelled there to support our hula ‘ohana who had lost a family member.  And we planned to take time out to visit our dear friend and Uncle who were in the hospital.  Needless to say, I didn’t pack the red stilettos and body con dress.

We arrived before 9am on Friday and were greeted at the airport by our Aunty.  She brought us to the house to pick up our Uncle who had just been released from the hospital.  His health has been shaky for a few months and he was admitted to the hospital for MRIs and other tests.  Uncle felt frustrated about being in the hospital again but the doctors feared that he had been experiencing strokes because he was passing out at work and falling down while on duty.  He is getting up in age and definitely needs to slow down but trying to tell a Grand Master in martial arts is not an easy feat.  This time, it seemed that slowing down was no longer an option, Uncle understood and had accepting it as his new reality.

Because we arrived so early, Uncle was sleeping when we walked in the house.  It took some time for him to completely wake up and his speech was slurred.  When we offered to take him and Aunty to their favorite casino for a buffet breakfast, that woke him up!  We all piled into the van and drove to Arizona Charlie’s, a local casino.  The breakfast buffet was simple but Uncle got his fill and more.  We caught up on our lives to date and shared plans for Christmas.  I was happy to share that Kanoe and I visited with Uncle Joe in Seattle and that he sent his love to them.  It is always nice to have time alone with the elders in the family.  They always share so many stories of training and tournaments in the past, we have to hold on to the values that they founded our martial arts schools upon.  Dojos aren’t supposed to be money machines.  We have a duty to teach our art to students and hopefully grow students who will continue to pass along the knowledge.  Tournaments and belt ranks are fun and somewhat flashy but we need to hold fast to our core values.  The martial arts are about Respect, Humility, Discipline, Leadership, Confidence, Self-Defense and Family.  Family is our foundation.  We are obliged to support our family in everything we teach.

And family was the main reason why we arrived so early.  After breakfast, we brought Uncle with us to the hospital so we could visit our dear friend and her husband.  She had been in the hospital since November because she needed to have a heart valve replaced.  The surgery went well but there were unexpected complications.  We wanted to visit her to show her that we love her and to see if there was anything we could do to support her husband, who is a lifelong friend of Butch’s.  It was such a nice visit, her husband’s daughter was there and Uncle stayed with us while we chatted.  She looked beautiful, the nurses had just washed her long, gorgeous black hair and she was sitting up in the hospital bed listening to music and chatting.  The men, except for Uncle, went for a walk to bond.  Apparently, that is code for going outside to smoke a cigarette.  We stayed in the room to talk.  Uncle shared that he had just gotten out of the hospital and that he just knew that she was going to going home soon.  Our friend’s daughter cracked jokes as she attentively tended to her needs – water, suction, all the little details and needs that pop up when one is recovering from surgery and a long hospital stay.  The nurses came in to check on medications, fluids, etc.  The doctor came in to make an adjustment to one medication and follow-up on tests that were being scheduled.  Everything seemed to be in order and we left to check into our hotel after a couple of hours.

That night, we just had a big dinner and hung out near the hotel.  The funeral was the next morning across town.  We definitely didn’t have a “what happens in Vegas” kind of Friday night that evening.

Saturday morning we grabbed a cab to the LDS church across town.  We made it just in time for to see Uncle S before they closed the casket before the memorial.   His students had travelled from Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, all over the country to say their good-byes.  A few of my hula sisters from California travelled to the memorial because we had learned Maori songs and hula from Uncle S over the last twenty years or so.  We also wanted to support our Kumu Hula, his older brother, who was devastated by the loss.  The memorial was beautiful, filled with music and singing and testimony.  The family is blessed with God-given talent for music, especially singing and their dedication to their Church was evident throughout the memorial.  We went to the cemetery for a final good-bye and a few songs.  It was a lovely memorial for a very special man.

A week later, my niece/second cousin (as if Filipinos care about second or third cousin categories) married her longtime boyfriend.  They have a beautiful daughter together and they are truly dedicated to one another and their family.  I couldn’t attend the wedding but I felt comforted by the idea that life goes on, despite the loss that we had recently experienced.  Marriage and babies show us that life is indeed to be lived all in, every moment of every day.

And today, as we putted around the house this morning, we received a message from our friend in Vegas.  He said he had appreciated our visit when we were in town and that his wife had passed on to her next life that morning.  I called out to Butch, who was just sitting down to have breakfast.  I asked him if he had his phone.  He walked toward me and could tell I was about to share some shocking news.  I read the message to him as the tears welled up in my eyes and my voice cracked with each word.  I broke down and sobbed in his arms, it was not the sort of news I expected to hear about her.  He quickly called our friend and received a cliff note version of what had transpired.  She had passed away just a few hours before and we were all reeling from the shock.

I didn’t have a purpose for writing any of this down.  There are no breakthrough words of comfort that I have to share.  My heart is aching for her, for her husband and for her family.  She and I were talking in the hospital about how important it is for all of us to be committed to a healthy lifestyle.  She said to me, “Sis, after my husband being in the hospital for heart surgery last year, I never thought I would be here one year later.  This is no bullshit.  We have to be healthy and take care of ourselves.  Take care of your man.  You stay healthy.  Take care of your beautiful daughter because this hospital shit is no joke.”   She and her husband had a fierce love that no one could refute.  All she wanted was to be home with him.  We talked about how she would be home soon to recover and how great it would be for her to sleep in her own bed.  How much easier her recovery would be when she was surrounded by her own stuff and nurses and doctors weren’t coming in every hour to poke her and prod her and wake her up.  She just wanted to go home and be surrounded by her family, that became her goal.  We all need to think about what we really need to be happy and healthy.  The foundation of it all has to be family and at the core of the family it must be love.  Rest in Love, Sweet Pam.  We know you’re up in heaven watching over all of us.

My Special Olympics World Games 2015 #worldgames #volunteer Experience

I feel very fortunate to live in Southern California. We have plenty of sunshine and warm weather. When I moved from the Central Coast to Los Angeles for college, I remember feeling like I would never need to buy another jacket or coat because the temperatures rarely dropped below 68.  Now that I’ve been here for 25 years (am I that old???) 68 degrees makes me run for my favorite fleece hoodie.

Another fabulous thing about Southern California is all the options we have for hobbies and work.  I have friends who work at large companies, small companies, in retail, as personal trainers, in “the business” above the line and below the line jobs or who are entrepreneurs.  We all zip around this city in our cars and meet at places like the beach for surfing or the LA Phil for classical music or an indie comic book shop for reading material or a taco truck for Ono grinds. The diversity of activities and people in So Cal keeps my easily distracted brain stimulated and prepped for new life experiences.

Today, I’m thumb typing this post from a large charter bus that is taking me to the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown.  The Special Olympics World Games kicked off on Saturday and my company is a major sponsor. We have been given the opportunity to volunteer for two and half days, with pay. I feel like this is truly a once in a lifetime experience and have been looking forward to it for months.   Ok, we just reached the venue and I am going to stash my phone in my very stylish fannt pack and just breathe in the experience.

My assignment?  Motor pool driver. (Insert joke about Asian driver here…) Unfortunately, driving in Los Angeles is not an easy task.  Thankfully, each vehicle would be equipped with a phone pre-programmed with GPS coordinates for each of our drop locations. In addition, the vehicles that have navigation system would have  that as a backup. We received strict instructions to not use our personal phones with GPS apps to avoid dropping off distinguished guests at the wrong side of the LA Coliseum, UCLA or USC campus, or the LA Convention Center. Another location on our lists were both LAX and Long Beach airports.  The way traffic runs in LA, these runs could take anywhere from 10 minutes to 120 minutes.

I spent several months of my life driving around Los Angeles when I worked as a production assistant on TV shows like “Vicki” and “Bill Nye the Science Guy”.  Keep in mind that my days as a PA occurred pre-GPS in cars and pre-smart phone. I had to use a Thomas Guide to get around Los Angeles County.  Because of that work experience, driving in LA is not my favorite pastime.  However, this assignment was not my choice and as a volunteer, I just wanted to be helpful and support the Special Olympics where they needed it.

Let me go back to the beginning of the day because the experience ended in an unexpected way for me. My morning began boarding the second chartered bus from work. I shared it with three other employees, one who I had known for over 10 years and the other two I just met that morning. Three of us wandered through the LA Convention Center together, checked in, bought coffee and looked for our assigned area, “Motorpool”.  We took escalators down in search of Kentia Hall. Although the walls and signs featured prominent labels pointed us toward Kentia Hall, it was not easy to find. We also picked up other stragglers who were searching for the hall, as well.

After several minutes, my new friend Daron found the correct door for us to exit.  We walked out to a huge garage area that had been used for one of the “Batman” franchise movies Batcave scenes.  There I saw a sea of shiny Camrys and Siennas.  Our next set of instructions were to sign our names on a sheet of paper and hurry up and wait.  I hung out with my new friend, a new employee who had been with the company for about six months. She introduced me to a colleague from her department, a young English guy who has been working at our company for about three years.  Color me a bit superficial but not only was he tall, intelligent and charming, but his accent was like chopped almonds and whipped cream on top of a caramel fudge vanilla bean ice cream sundae!  What is it about accents?  But I digress, this was a work event.

It always surprises me when I meet people who I have never interacted with at work.  We proceeded to spend the next four and half hours in lively conversation together. Topics ranged from work, the move, TV, movies, podcasts, on-line dating, worst dates of our lives, best restaurants for first dates, first date attire for men and women, on-line dating strategies for men and women, generational differences in on-line dating perspectives, books, gay marriage, running half marathons, and moving to another state for the company.   The conversation made me laugh and think and laugh some more.  My cheeks were in a perpetual smile.

Honestly, we talked for four hours and a half hours, which included a weak brown bag sandwich consisting of a Tarragon chicken sandwich and potato chips with all we could drink bottles of water, soda, orange juice and iced tea. I despise sandwiches and elected not to eat it. Luckily, the conversation sustained me through the morning.  None of us had been called to make a run with any distinguished guests at all.

So, we realized that we moved into hour five of talking and decided to go upstairs to watch some of the events.  A handball game between India and Egypt was on one court.  The English guy asked if I was familiar with the game and proceeded to announce that I may enjoy watching it because it is similar to basketball.  At some point in our four and a half hour long conversation, I must have mentioned playing basketball in high school.  We had covered so much ground I had forgotten that I had mentioned that!  Handball looked like a combination of soccer and basketball, the objective was to throw a rubber ball into a goal that was similar to one from soccer.  Rules appeared to be similar, each team member had to dribble and pass.  But I counted five players on the court and one goalie.  It was definitely heart-warming to see the game and to hear the fans cheering for each team.

We moved on to watch roller skating warm-ups.  These athletes wore in-line skates and were warming up in a circle.  I still don’t know what the competition actually would be, perhaps speed skating?  Badminton was happening when we first arrived at 9:00am, power weight lifting was in a hall that we couldn’t find.  The activities were happening everywhere and we had fun wandering around and cheering.

However, when we returned to the holding area for Motorpool, we saw no evidence that we would be called to transport any distinguished guests.  Instead, we realized that a shuttle would be returning volunteers to our place of employment in 30 minutes and elected to return home early.  We boarded together, English guy asked to sit next to me, even though the bus was only ¼ full.  He proceeded to talk about an interesting book he was reading, “The Third Chimpanzee” or something about a chimpanzee.  During the bus ride back, he also mentioned a bottomless mimosas brunch place that he had recommended during a funny story about the last time he went to work with a hangover and said, “Let’s pick a date and make that happen.”  When he had mentioned it six hours earlier, I didn’t think he meant he wanted to go with ME.  But I think somewhere between hour one and hour six, he did.  So although I didn’t have an opportunity to actually drive one of the distinguished guests anywhere, I did make a couple of new friends and will be enjoying bottomless mimosas with the English guy soon.