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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A Miracle in My Life

Miracles are all around us if we are open to seeing them. Here’s something that happened in my life this past May.

Two years ago when Lent was approaching, I wanted to do something that required more effort on my part than just giving something up. So I decided to go to Mass one extra day per week. I chose to go on Wednesday mornings at 8:00 at our parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Mass is sparsely attended, at most maybe 20 people or so attend, and I noticed I was usually one of the youngest in the crowd.

After Mass is over each week, a handful of people stay and gather near each other to pray the rosary together. Three different older ladies are the leaders and if the primary leader isn’t available the next lady takes over and if she’s not there then the third in line takes charge.

Once Easter arrived in 2014, I continued to attend the weekly Mass. It felt comfortable, I was starting to get to know the other regulars, and it was a great way to disengage from my busy life and reconnect with my faith in a quiet atmosphere in the middle of the week. Since that time I was asked to be the lector (I read the first reading and the responsorial psalm) on Wednesdays, so now I have more of a commitment to be there as well.

This past spring we got the joyous news that both our daughter and our daughter-in-law were expecting and their babies were due two-and-a-half weeks apart, November 27 and December 15, respectively. My husband and I couldn’t have been any happier but we definitely had concerns because of some previous pregnancy issues.

One Wednesday last May, I was sitting in the pew behind the woman who was second in line to do the rosary, a lovely woman who was born in Europe and has a wonderful accent. Her part, as the leader, was to start the prayers represented by each bead in the rosary and we would join in. For the Hail Mary prayer, she would begin with, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” and then the rest of us would join in, “Blessed are thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

For some reason our leader that day was turned sideways in her seat and directly facing the statue of the Blessed Mother that is on the far right wall of the church. All the other ladies were following suit and I did as well so I was looking right at that statue as we prayed the rosary. Part way through one of the decades, as I was  following along, when we got to the part in the prayer, “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,” I thought of my daughter and daughter-in-law and our prayers for them.

At that very moment, Mary looked right at me and she said, “Everything will turn out fine.”

I was stunned. I stopped reciting the prayer and looked at the other four or five ladies to see what their reaction was. I clearly heard the Blessed Mother speak out loud yet none of the other women seemed to have heard it. I was shaking and could hardly believe what I had witnessed yet I was overjoyed and felt this sense of peace come over me.

After the rosary was done, I went over to the statue and looked at is closer and once again it seemed inanimate. I lit a candle and thought about all the issues in our lives that we had been praying for and asked Mary for her intercession on our behalf, that she would offer prayers up for us to her son, Jesus. I took one last look at her as I left church that day and thanked her for praying for us.

Ever since that time when concerns come up in my life and our family’s life, I repeat the words that the Blessed Mother said to me in church that day, “Everything will turn out fine.” Having that constant reminder and reassurance has been such a calming factor in my life.

So, any time a worry comes to mind, I repeat what has now become my mantra, “Everything will turn out fine.” And, truthfully, it has. Life has been a series of beautiful experiences since then. I’ve grown more devoted to the Blessed Mother as I look to her as my role model in how I interact with my family and friends, how I run my living water mission, and how I live my life day in and day out.

Our beautiful granddaughter Katherine and handsome grandson Declan arrived safe and sound on Dec. 1 and Dec. 4! Our blessings are overflowing!

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