Caregiver Tapaita Salakielu dedicates life to helping others

April 20th, 2015
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When 59-year-old Tapaita Salakielu started her adult life, she never imagined she would be a professional caregiver. "I liked retail sales, and I had jobs, some as a manager, at Hartfield's, Woolworths, and 7-Eleven," she recounts.

That was two decades ago, when she had first moved to Hawaii in 1980 from her native Tonga. Her husband, William, relocated them here because he was finishing his education.

In 1993, however, her mother's health declined from diabetes, and she was needed at home. She left her three children and husband on Oahu, and flew back to Tonga to care for her mother for three months. Salakielu has siblings, but all but one of them lived outside of Tonga, and her father had died years before.

After her mother's health stabilized, Salakielu returned to Oahu to be with her immediate family, but always with intentions of splitting her time between the two islands, so she could be with her mother.

That was not to be; the day Salakielu arrived on Oahu, she got a phone call that her mother had passed. "I didn't think she would die that soon," she recalls with tears in her eyes, "but I was happy that I had that time with her."

Her mother's death came with a revelation, though. "I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to helping others in need," she says.   "The first time I ever had to clean my mother's incontinence, I felt uncomfortable. I had never done that for anyone but a child, but now here I was wiping my mother's bottom after she soiled herself. Then I realized, if I wasn't here to do this, who would? How much could I trust outside help? Would they really care for my loved one the way I would?"

It sparked her desire to open her own care home. "I didn't realize this kind of work was needed, until I needed it," she says. Salakielu started by training as a certified nursing assistant and working at a large Kaneohe care home, then after four years, left that job to work at an agency that placed caregivers. Finally, she felt she had enough experience and a network to strike out on her own.

In 1999, Salakielu opened Salafina Adult Residential Care Home, a licensed adult residential care home on a quiet street in Kailua, directly across Castle Medical Center. Even the business name honors her parents: Sala is half of her last name. Fina is part of her maiden name, which is Finau. "This is dedicated to my heritage," she explains.

She and her family live in one house, and her care home is located next door on another house on the lot. The work is round-the-clock, as one might imagine. Her days are nonstop and full.

She rises early to prepare breakfast for her clients, makes sure all medications are properly administered, drives her clients around town to various medical appointments, and will even pick up drugs at the store for the clients.

She or her small staff prepare lunch and dinner. One day a week, she takes her patients on a social outing for some variety and stimulation. She stays up all night with clients if necessary. She's even literally run a patient across the street to the hospital's emergency room because it would be faster than calling for the ambulance.

On top of all this, for five years, she cared for her ailing husband as his health declined from diabetes. He was blind, incontinent, and could not walk. She cries as she tells me William died on June 20, 2014. "That was the single hardest thing I've ever faced in my life," she says. "We were married for 32 years. I miss him every day."

Salakielu has a big heart, though, and her compassion is not only for the elderly and disabled. She has three biological children and five more hanai kids she cares for. The eight children in her house range in age from 14 to 19.

The foster children are all relatives, and the task is not always easy. One boy, she says, came to her from a troubled home. "He just needed love. So we love him, and he's changed since he moved in," Salakielu says with characteristic patience. "You can turn lives around with love."

This is her life. She says she is happy. The work is not always easy, but she is constantly rewarded knowing she is helping the patients. "It can be something as simple as taking a shower. I know how I feel when I have a nice, hot shower. If someone can't do that for themselves, and I can provide that, then I feel good," she expresses. "I care for all my clients as if they are my parents."

She balances her life by attending the First Tongan United Methodist Church every Sunday. "It's the one thing I do for me," she smiles.

Salafina Adult Residential Care Home
(808) 261-8732
665 A Ulukahiki Street
Kailua HI 96734

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At work with Mommy

April 17th, 2015
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This is why my daughter likes coming to work with me. Here is a pictorial essay of a day we spent at KHON when there was no school due to a holiday.

We very quietly watch Uncle Taizo and Auntie Trini at work on Living 808.

We very quietly watch Uncle Taizo and Auntie Trini at work on Living 808.

We help greet the Living 808 guests.

We help greet the Living 808 guests.

After Mommy's work, we swing on banyan tree roots at Ala Moana Beach Park across KHON.

After Mommy's work, we swing on banyan tree roots at Ala Moana Beach Park across KHON.

We watch a boy catch tilapia and squeal when it comes too close.

We watch a boy catch tilapia and squeal when it comes too close.

We impress Mommy by getting easily across the monkey bars. Then again, someone is a little monkey.

We impress Mommy by getting easily across the monkey bars. Then again, someone is a little monkey.

Now that I think about it, this is why I like Olivia to visit me at work!

Sheraton Waikiki staycation

April 15th, 2015
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For spring break, my family decided to stay the weekend at Sheraton Waikiki. I've stayed at hotels all around it, but I haven't stayed there before, and it has a fantastic kid-friendly pool. You see where my priorities are?

View from our room.

View from our room.

We stayed for two nights, the perfect amount of time to enjoy Waikiki and unwind. One night would have been too short. We were upgraded to a one bedroom suite, which was so kind and luxurious.

Olivia has grown up around privilege. When I worked at Waikiki's top luxury hotel, we regularly stayed there. Rack rates started at $500 and went up to $7,000 a night, and we stayed across all categories.

For years, that was her favorite hotel. Kid has taste. Her standard against which all other hotel rooms were measured was if the room had a chromatherapy hot tub and came with its own butler.

I'm saying all this because it means a lot when she now deems Sheraton Waikiki her favorite hotel. Factors: the pool has a slide;  the same pool has a waterfall; the infinity pool looks cool even though she was not old enough to be allowed in; the view from the room overlooked the pool so we had the best seats for the nightly 3D pool light show.

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Secret to the seven-year-old: Win her over with cool water features. What the kid likes, the mommy likes.

So we passed the time alternating between the pool and the beach. We dug holes in the sand. We all used the slide and liked it. We warmed up in the hot tub and made a new friend for the weekend, a ten-year-old from Texas. We fell asleep in the red-awning pool cabanas.

One afternoon, we walked around Waikiki, and found a little restaurant called Heavenly in the Shoreline Waikiki. We stopped in for a bite and were pleasantly surprised. It's fun to discover new things.

Sea asparagus ice cream.

Sea asparagus ice cream.

Heavenly offered the oddest dessert: sea asparagus ice cream. I like to try new things so I ordered it. It was mildly salty at first and then mellowed out to a sweetness. It was just OK - not horrible, not amazing. I wouldn't order it again, but I liked trying it.

It's fun to be a tourist in my own town. We'll have to do this again soon.

Where's your favorite place to staycation?

“Oh What A Night!” FUNdraiser

April 14th, 2015
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“Oh What a Night!,” a special FUNdraiser for the Manoa Valley Church Preschool and after school care programs, will be presented on Saturday, April 18 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Gym.

Adults ages 18 and older are invited to dress-up and relive (or re-do) their prom night in good fun and for a good cause.  Participants can either bring a date or come alone to enjoy dinner, dancing, a silent auction, and a photo booth.  The cost is $15 per person and payable at the door.

Donations for the silent auction are now being accepted.  Free child care will be provided.

Proceeds for the fundraiser will help pay for the recently-installed  after school care fence, the upcoming resurfacing of the preschool playground padding, and painting of the exterior walls.

Manoa Valley Church (United Church of Christ) is located at 2728 Huapala Street, across from Manoa Marketplace and behind Starbucks.  Visit www.manoavalleychurch.org or call the church office at 988-3271 for more information.

Crystal bowls and restorative yoga in Kailua

April 13th, 2015
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Guest written by Emi Aiko

Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”  When the music of the crystal singing bowls hits you, meditative melodies will hit your soul.

Massage therapist and musician Bryan Jordan plays the crystal singing bowls in a restorative yoga class every third Saturday of the month in the heart of Kailua town.

Bryan Jordan at the bowls

Bryan Jordan at the bowls

The crystal bowls, a type of bell made from silica sand used for making glass, creates ineffable sounds and music that enhances the healing process in the yoga session. The pure tones of the bowls are magical and very powerful.

The yoga session begins with a tranquil melody produced by one of the translucent white crystal bowls. When Jordan gently hits the bowl with a wooden stick, it creates a soft but powerful tone that resonates across a dimmed, candle-lit room.

As the instructor, Tania, proceeds with a yoga pose, Jordan changes his stick movements into a circular motion around the bowl.  As he repeats this circular movement, the sounds become stronger and stronger, bouncing faster and faster across the room. That’s when the crystal bowls will start to "sing."

A loud vibrational harmony starts to sound like trance music, not only stimulating brain waves but also altering one's state of consciousness. It’s ethereal. Yet, this resonating harmony creates a sanctuary of sound for deep relaxation and meditation while you’re in a yoga position.

Jordan says there are no music notes to the healing resonance of the singing crystal bowls. These original sacred sounds are created on the spot so every session will be unique and different.

Practicing yoga with a relaxing music CD is one option. But this restorative yoga session with the crystal singing bowls will surely let you know how sound and music can be powerful tools. It definitely helps you get in touch with the deepest aspect of your spirit and emotions.

Interested in a journey of bliss and healing? “Restorative Yoga & Crystal Singing Bowls with Bryan Jordan & Tania” is held every third Saturday of the month, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Kailua Medical Arts Building. It is located on 407 Uluniu Street, Room #412. A session is $20 if you register in advance and $25 for walk-ins.

Jordan also performs regular concerts at the Kailua Shambhala Meditation Center every second and fourth Friday. It is located at 25 Kaneohe Bay Drive in Kailua.  Concerts begin at 8 p.m., doors open at 7:45 p.m.  $10 suggested donation.

Call Bryan Jordan at (808) 782-9595 or email him at Bryan@SacredBreathHealing.com to confirm time and location.

More details at http://sacredbreathhealing.com/events.