Hearing Test: 15 Years Later...

As some may know, on July 6, 2002, I experienced the phenomenon called (spontaneous) Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss, which left me profoundly and instantly deaf in my left ear. Approximately 4,000 new cases of sudden hearing loss (SHL) occur annually in the United States, and 15,000 annually worldwide. Most cases, like mine, have no identifiable cause.

Being as I was going in for my 55 year check up, I thought I'd add hearing to my list since it had been so long since I saw a specialist. Someone asked me if I was "scared". I said that I was hopeful. Who knows, maybe there was new knowledge/technology out there to bring my hearing back.

After having my hearing tested and meeting with the ENT doctor, the answer is that there is nothing new that can be done for me. But, there was actually some good news, too. My right ear is as good as it was 15 years ago, which is a fantastic thing. I'm not certain I could say that about any other part of my body!

So I will continue to do the little dance I do, when I walk with people, to get on their left side. I will ask to sit in the backseat of cars, where my 'good' ear is situated to hear better. I will struggle in loud restaurants or in big groups and I will possibly answer questions inappropriately (due to not hearing correctly). But most importantly, I will continue to be thankful for the hearing I do have.

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Wine Tasting at Cline Family Cellars

Spending the weekend with one son and daughter-in-law helped ease us out of Island Time and back into reality... a really happy reality.

Come visit us and enjoy a true Sonoma experience. Breathtaking landscapes, the California Mission Museum, adorable animals, wonderful people, and complimentary tastings of some of the best wines California has offer will make this an adventure you'll remember.
Tasting occurred on the porch of a beautifully restored farmhouse built in 1853! Nestled on 350 acres, this was a truly peaceful place that we all plan to return to again (with a picnic basket).

It was rather unique to get a history lesson at a winery, but Cline Cellars is that kind of place. The land, itself, has a place in history (read below). And located on the property is the California Missions Museum, a historic display of all 21 California missions, built to scale in 1939 for the California Pacific Exhibition. The building was designed and constructed specifically to house these models. Wild stuff.
About the property, in 1991 Fred (Jacuzzi) Cline and his wife Nancy, relocated their original winery to this area that was the site of a Miwok village and was the original site of Mission San Francisco de Solano. In the 1850s, the property was owned by German immigrants who operated a dairy and supplied the majority of San Francisco with carp, which they kept in six spring-fed ponds that remain on the property. We delighted in feeling these interesting creatures.
And how cute are these miniature Sicilian donkeys? There certainly was enough things to see and do at Cline Cellars, in addition to sipping their fine wines on the porch. Yes, this was the perfect end to our perfect holidays!

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Hawaii: The End

Engraved in the walkways of  Waikīkī are Hawaiian words, defined. I thought this one was the fitting word for today...

As we were driving to the airport, we wrote a list of the things we liked the most about our third trip to O'ahu. The list is in no specific order and certainly not complete:
  1. Palm Cottage and the amazing owners Norm & Millie. Every need was met. They exemplify Aloha. For ten days we were 'home'.
  2. Waking to the sound of birdsong. With the time change, we had no idea when to get up. We knew it was morning when the sweet sounds of birds told us so.
  3. Plumeria everywhere, in a variety of colors, just waiting to be picked and placed behind one's ear.
  4. Balmy breezes, warm clear waters, spectacular beaches.
  5. Skakas- sometimes known as "hang loose", given so freely whenever something nice happens. The most special was from an octogenarian+ after we patiently waited for her to cross the street.
  6. The welcomed contrast between the hustle of Waikīkī and the tranquility of Kailua.
  7. Agnes' Portuguese Bakery's massive $2 pastries.
  8. Kalapawai Market's turkey cranberry wraps served with a great deal of Aloha.
  9. Every moment spent on our lanai, overlooking the lush garden of our Cottage.
  10. Wearing less clothes than we typically do in April.
  11. Spending ten days on an island we have been to twice before and doing all new and unique activities while making magical memories.
“Hawaii is still the single most frequent fantasy destination,
not because of political stability or conveniences,
but because Hawaii seduces the imagination.
It's the perfect postcard, no props, no fillers.”
― Robert Wintner

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Gardens & Temples...

We began our day at one of the five botanical gardens on O'ahu- Ho'omaluhia.

This 400-acre park side lives up to its name which means Peaceful refuge and is the island's largest botanical garden.
Plants at Ho'omaluhia include palms and aroids, heliconias, native Hawaiian plants, and a variety of ethnobotany exhibits (yes, we don't know what those words mean either but they were beautiful, all of them).
And this sweet face belongs to a mongoose. Here in Hawaii, the pest of choice has been the this guy. The 1800s were big for sugar cane. The sugar cane attracted rats, and the rats caused serious crop destruction and loss. In 1883, the plantation owners brought 72 mongooses to the Big Island. These were carefully raised and their offspring were shipped to plantations on other islands. It didn’t take long for the mongooses to take over. The experiment didn’t exactly work for two reasons: 1. Mongooses consider rats just an okay thing to eat, 2. Rats are nocturnal and mongoose aren't. BUT they certainly are cute and everywhere!

We couldn't think of a better place to spend our last day on O'ahu... until the torrential rains came and sent us home to change into dry clothes.
We concluded our day at the Byodo-In Temple, established in 1968 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. This peaceful place is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site, in Uji, Japan.
Before entering the temple, it is customary to ring the bon-sho (sacred bell). It is said that this helps to spread the eternal teachings of Buddha and that it will purify the mind of evil spirits and temptation. It is also said that doing so will bring you happiness, blessings, and a long life. Oh man, it can't hurt!

Once we entered the temple, we were greeted by Amida, a golden Buddha. It  is thought to be the largest of these figures carved outside of Japan. Towering more than 9 feet, the immense figure is an original work of art carved by the famous Japanese sculptor, Masuzo Inui. So very cool.

“Coming to Hawai'i is like
going from black and white to color.”
― John Richard Stephens

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Volunteering, Learning & Exploring...

One of my most favorite quotes is, "Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer." We like to apply this saying even when we are on vacation. During my trip research I found Ho'oulu 'Āina, a welcoming place of refuge where people of all cultures sustain and propagate the connections between the health of the land and the health of the people.

Through four interwoven program areas, the community comes together to create a 100 acre upland resource of forest, food, knowledge, spirituality, and health activity. As we restore this land to health and productivity, we learn that healing is reciprocal. To accomplish this admirable goal, thousands of committed volunteers help through organic reforestation practices, pā pōhaku builds, garden beds and many other mālama 'āina (land) endeavors. Once laden with conflict and hurt, volunteers help to heal this ‘āina and together we breath life back into our ahupua'a (narrow wedge-shaped land sections that ran from the mountains to the sea).
We began the day in a circle sharing three names: ours; where we came from; and someone we would like to honor by having them there with us. The third name was an emotional one for both Steve and me.
The morning was mostly rainy, so we huddled under a tent together to clean pili grass. We were guided by Uncle Scotty who also spent the morning sharing history lessons with us. Wow!
Early Hawaiians developed several uses for pili grass, which was once plentiful on all of the Hawaiian Islands. It was the primary grass used to thatch roofs for its brown color, neat appearance and pleasant odor. The thatching was replaced every four or five years. Bunches were harvested and trimmed then tied close together with ukiuki grass in rows with stems up starting at the bottom of the frame and working upwards. The grass also lent itself to use for flooring, in mattresses and other padding. The English name “grass shack” probably referred to the grass-covered structures that colonists found here.
Our very relaxing, peaceful job was to prep the pili grass to become replacements for the roof of the hale. Oh the stories Scotty could tell. We sat at the right spots.

Every Wednesday morning, the people of Ho'oulu 'Āina in Pasifika, where we learn from and with one another about Pacific Island traditions in agroforestry. Working together in the forest, we grow food and medicine in the traditions of our ancestors from Hawai'i to Chuuk, Japan to Ilocos Norte. We both agreed we would return again, to this magical place, next time we are on O'ahu. To grow the land. To grow because of the land.

Lunch was at The Shrimp Shack in Hauula. Yum!

We then paused briefly at a Macadamia Nut Farm. It is Hawaii's very special treat.

Our final history lesson was found at He'eia Fishpond.
Hawaiian fishponds are unique and advanced forms of aquaculture found nowhere else in the world.  The techniques of herding or trapping adult fish with rocks in shallow tidal areas is found elsewhere but the six styles of Hawaiian fishponds, especially large walled ponds, were technologically advanced and efficient as their purpose was to cultivate pua, baby fish, to maturity.  Their invention was a result of the Hawaiians deep understanding of the environmental processes specific to our islands as well as their connection and observation of the food resources on the `āina and in the kai.
He’eia Fishpond is a walled (kuapā) style fishpond enclosing 88 acres of brackish water. Built approximately 600-800 years ago, it is possibly the longest in the island chain measuring about 1.3 miles long and took hundreds, if not thousands, of committed residents to pass and stack rocks and coral for approximately 2-3 years to complete the massive wall. Interesting, right? We are loving the uniqueness we have found on this, our third trip to O'ahu. Day #9 was pretty dang fine!

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Kayaking Kailua Beach Adventures...

For those who know us, we love a deal. Before I go anywhere, I look on Groupon for what might be available. So for Kailua I found: Full-Day Double-Kayak and Snorkel Rental for Two at Kailua Beach Adventures ($122 Value) for only $62. Sweet deal! Included was:

Full-day double-kayak rental ($79 value)
Back rests for two ($6 value)
Full-day snorkel rental for two ($32 value)
Dry bag ($5 value)
Finding the perfect weather and scheduling is always tough, but today worked out perfectly!
Our first destination was to the beaches of Lanikai, which means "heavenly sea" in the Hawaiian language. This was a pristine beach and a favorite of many Kailuans and visitors alike. Its mile long beach, of fine white sand and surfless turquoise water, was perfect for a beach day, snorkeling and for enjoying the view of the world famous Mokulua Islands, about a mile off shore.
Since the gear was included in the rental, Steve was totally up for cruising the reef with me.

Our final stop was Flat Island (Popoi'a) for an explore. We paid an extra $3, each, in order to land our kayak here. Popoi'a is a bird sanctuary that is home to nesting seabirds. The Bulwer's Petrel and Christmas Shearwater come here to breed. We strolled the small island and enjoyed all it had to offer.

As the crazy weather reports come to us from Tahoe, the Island Life continues to call. It is really going to be hard to leave here. In the meantime, we'll continue to delight in all O'ahu has to offer. "You had me at Aloha!"

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