Paradise Found

If you have to take a business trip during the dreariest part of early spring, Hawaii is just about the best place on the planet to do that.

 

John and I flew to Oahu April 12 to attend events surrounding the premiere of the movie The Islands, which I co-wrote. This was our first trip to Hawaii and we instantly fell in love with this beautiful state and the beautiful people who live there.

 

We stayed at the Ambassador Hotel which was a five-minute walk from the beach. The hotel has seen better days but with its location a bit off of the main drag, it was really relaxing. We were able to sleep at night with the patio door open (no screens) to catch the ocean breeze. For some reason, there seems to be very few bugs on the island. We had the sweetest older Filipino cleaning lady who brightened our day every time we saw her. (Traveling tip: If you give a tip to your housekeeper at the beginning of your stay, rather than the end, they will be your BFF the entire time you’re staying at their property!)

 

Our first evening in Hawaii we were treated to an awesome dinner at Orchids at Halekulani, courtesy of Tim Chey, the director of The Islands. About a dozen people connected with the film were there and we enjoyed outstanding food and a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean.

 

Escaping the cold Wisconsin weather (and a record-setting blizzard that struck while we were gone), we made a point to walk to the beach every day. After our beach walk Friday we took The Waikiki Trolley Pink Line over to Ala Moana, the largest open air shopping center in the world. We enjoyed window shopping and a lunch there at a Japanese restaurant and we topped off our visit with a tasty bubble tea.

 

That evening we were invited to a cast party for The Islands in Aiea. We met so many wonderful people who were either actors or extras in the film, a part of the crew, or on the production team. Being in the mountain area, we got to witness a torrential downpour which caused some mudslides. We waited out the storm to head back to Waikiki but did experience delays on the trip back as the roads were being cleared from debris.

 

Saturday morning we were treated to a home-cooked breakfast by our friends Cynthia Briganti and her partner Dr. Dale. Cynthia is the top of the top in Enagic Corporation (the company we are distributors for, check out KangenWisconsin.com), so it was quite an honor for them to host us at their hotel. John and I spent the day after that exploring Waikiki Beach on foot. Waikiki is a bustling city with countless places to shop and eat. It’s probably the cleanest city I can remember visiting and it felt very safe to walk around. People refer to it as Las Vegas on an island — the fun keeps going until about 4:00 every morning.

 

That evening was the premiere of The Islands. It was a thrill to walk the red carpet, have our picture taken in front of The Islands banner, and be presented with gorgeous leis. We got to experience this beautiful film with about 1,000 other people. The movie got tremendous feedback from the audience. The Islands is the story of a real life Wonder Woman, Chiefess Kapi’olani, who reigned in Hawaii in the 1800s and performed a legendary act of bravery that ushered in religious freedom to her kingdom. The movie opens nationwide on November 9, 2018. Go see it!

 

Sunday started out for us with 7:00 a.m. Mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Honolulu. Then we got to spend a memorable day with Cynthia and Dale exploring Oahu by car. We drove to the North Shore and had numerous stops on the way there and back including Waimea Falls, Old Sugar Mill Waialua Coffee, Valley of the Temples, a hole-in-the-wall open air diner that had delicious pesto Eggs Benedict (best ever!), and a roadside market where we got to enjoy fresh coconut juice served in the shell, homemade banana bread, and fresh fruit native to the island. We finished the afternoon at Max’s Restaurant in Honolulu where we enjoyed a taste of the Philippines, including crispy pata (crispy pork hock), fried rice, pork sinigana soup, and a yummy dessert called halo-halo.

 

Monday morning Cynthia and Dale put their culinary skills to work again on the leftovers and made us another filling breakfast. Afterwards we went with them to the Honolulu Enagic office where they did a presentation on Kangen Water and team building. It was an amazing opportunity to learn from the masters. Cynthia lives her life by the ACTS prayer (adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication) and is one of the most successful, motivated and dynamic people we’ve ever met. To top it off she is a servant leader, generous, and genuine. It was truly a pleasure to spend as much time with her and Dr. Dale as we did.

 

We spent the rest of Monday walking around the beach area and indulged in a manicure and pedicure (for me), a couple’s massage and some excellent gelato at Café Glace. Tuesday and Wednesday we toured Honolulu and spent time absorbing as much of Hawaii and its culture that we could. The highlight was visiting Pearl Harbor. What a moving and memorable site. It made us so grateful for the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedom and lifestyle that we live today.

 

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a luau. They are somewhat commercial but we enjoyed our trip to Paradise Cove. We were greeted with shell necklaces and Mai Tais, enjoyed a hula show before dinner, played some traditional Hawaiian games, watched some demonstrations, had a feast fit for a chief or chiefess, and ended the night with the main hula performance including male and female hula dancers performing dances from various islands, plus a fire dance. I even got to try my hula skills on stage (no video available).

 

Our last night in Waikiki we made the trek to Leonard’s Bakery for malasada — Portuguese donuts, otherwise known as Hawaii’s favorite fried treat. It was totally worth the walk. Other memorable food places on the island were Teddy’s Bigger Burgers, GOOFY Café & Dine (where I got to experience my first ahi tuna poke bowl), and Eggs ‘n Things, where we actually ate twice (the guava and coconut syrups were the perfect topping for waffles and pancakes). We had Dole Whip at the Galleria which was so light and refreshing. I should also mention the Honolulu Cookie Company where we stopped for samples on almost a daily basis before finally buying a box of cookies to take home.

 

One last farewell from Waikiki Beach was a beautiful round of fireworks Wednesday night. I don’t know how they knew I was such a big fan, but thank you! We had prime seating on the balcony of our hotel!

 

Our trip to Hawaii was something we’ll never forget! Even the flights were bearable with all the great movies we finally had time to watch… The Darkest Hour, Casablanca, Wonder, 27 Dresses, The Disaster Artist, and Breathe. The weather in Hawaii is perfect (70-80 degrees every day), I loved all the open air shops and restaurants (with no freezing air conditioning), we got to hear Somewhere Over the Rainbow by IZ Kamakawiw’ole multiple times, I got to ditch my cool-weather wear for sundresses and sandals, we got to see countless tourist families from Japan, China and Australia with their adorable children, had the chance to do earthing by walking barefoot most anywhere and anytime we wanted, we were greeted with the shaka (hang loose) sign more times than we could count, saw the most brilliant rainbows ever, got to experience liquid sunshine several times every day, and most importantly felt welcomed by the friendly and laid back Hawaiian natives.

 

We came home to Wisconsin to see our yard covered in two feet of snow. My day was brightened by the 100 copies of my newest novel, A Life Such as Heaven Intended, which arrived while we were gone.

 

As a gift to our friends and family at home we brought back sunshine and warm temperatures and have been enjoying them ever since. It’s finally spring!

 

We had always heard of the wonders of Hawaii but now that John and I have experienced it for ourselves, we appreciate Hawaii so much more. Aloha Hawaii and mahalo for making us feel so welcome. We look forward to visiting you again!

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‘Til the Season Comes Round Again

 

Watching Amy Grant perform “Til the Season Comes ‘Round Again” live with Michael W. Smith and Jordan Smith this past December 15 left tears running down my cheeks. I felt so blessed to be watching that performance in Columbus, Ohio with our three daughters, our son-in-law and our grandson and granddaughter.

 

Normally I may not have had that much of an emotional reaction to a song but that concert represented the beginning of the precious Christmas season with our family and the start of wrapping up 2017 — which was one of the most stressful years of my life.

 

Mind you, there’s good stress and there’s not good stress and I had my share of both of them this past year. On the good side there were the travels John and I took together — Mexico, L.A., San Diego, Columbus, Ohio (multiple times), San Antonio and Austin, Texas, Spring Green, Wisconsin and the birth of our beautiful fourth grandchild, Evelyn on September 7.

 

Then there was the huge updating project on our house which lasted the whole summer and entailed moving the entire household into our basement in June and then back into the main two stories in September. It took countless hours of work and shopping to make the house the industrial country home of my Pinterest dreams.

 

My career had challenges which led to growth and expansion into new endeavors. I had the opportunity to copy edit a movie script and eventually earned billing as the co-writer (check out The Islands when it comes to a theater near you in November, 2018). I copy edited a business book by Cheri Tree called Why They Buy that has turned out to be a best seller. In November I wrote the third book in my Heaven Intended Civil War series (Book #2, A Life Such as Heaven Intended, comes out April 2, 2018).

 

The biggest news in my career is that my first novel, A World Such as Heaven Intended, is under contract to make it into a movie. It’s exciting and surreal to enter the film business as a movie producer. The director, Michael Sajbel, and I are in the process of securing investors for production of the movie and once we hit a certain threshold, everything begins. (If you have an interest in investing — or learning about investing— in a movie that will be engaging, entertaining and profitable, contact me.)

 

On the less-than-stellar stress side, for the past five months we’ve been dealing with physical and mental health issues with my mom. She went from a healthy, active 80-year-old to incapacitated overnight. On August 15 her colon ruptured which led to emergency surgery. The trauma of the surgery, combined with medication and other factors brought on a form of PTSD called hospital delirium. She has been either hospitalized or under 24/7 rehab care for five months.

 

Those months were traumatic not only for her but for me, her primary caregiver, as well. The good news is she is regaining her health, strength and mind. It’s not a quick or easy process. The next step will be bringing her back to her home. We have no idea how that will turn out but we’re very grateful to still have her with us.

 

We’re starting out 2018 with a clean slate and are looking forward to what the year holds for us. We know the highlights will be the time spent with our children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and friends. We’ll have adventures and trials and tribulations (or growth opportunities as we like to say) as well but we’ll take each day one at a time and enjoy the highs and do our best to learn from the lows.

 

For our family and friends, new and old, we can’t really say it any better than Amy Grant did…

“May the New Year be blessed with good tidings, ‘til the next time I see you again. If we must say goodbye, let the spirit go with you, And we’ll love and we’ll laugh in the time that we had, ‘Til the season comes round again.”