Archive for July, 2010

Trip packing

July 30th, 2010
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I have taught Olivia well. I overheard her playing in her room with the sitter. She was packing for a trip.

"What shall we pack for you?" he asked.

photo

She pulled out her fabulous, special princess high heels that her godmother Joann gave to her. She dug around the room for her "treasure box," a little makeup kit that Joann also gave her.

"Anything else?" he asked.

"Extra panty and extra shorts. Maybe an extra t-shirt," and then she got some out of her closet and stuffed that in her backpack.

I laughed. What three year old thinks about such practical matters? That's when I knew Olivia will be just fine in this life.

***
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When Facebook friends die

July 28th, 2010
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I got a big shock last week while internet surfing. I was researching a blog I was writing (not yet published) and I came across the fact that an old friend died - in January! Nobody told me! My gosh. Has this ever happened to you?

His name was Samm Conn (and yes, he spelled Samm with two m's) and I worked with him at KOBR in New Mexico. We stayed friends even though I moved away, and remained friends all these years.

KOBR promo 001

(Yes, I know, I know, I look really different.)

I think the last time I talked to him was sometime last year, because I remember us discussing my daughter. However, he continued to send cards every holiday season, although he was pagan.

Samm was quite a character (as you may have picked up even in these short paragraphs) and when the Wikipedia article came up that he had died, I didn't believe it. I thought maybe it was his prank.

Samm, his purple truck, and his chew

Samm, his purple truck, and his chew. Hey, it's cowboy town.

I went on Facebook to search for him and his page came up, still current. I thought, See, he's not dead. We really only have one friend in common left over from my Roswell days, so I send her a message to get the details, and am still waiting.

I looked again and more links from New Mexico newspapers talked about his death, so I realized it must be true, and that his family or his partner just hadn't deactivated his Facebook account. It is kind of weird to think I could still ask him to be my friend.

sam

By chance, a recent newspaper article talks about dead Facebook friends. Should I write to Facebook to alert a staffer to Samm's page? Is that for his family and closer friends to do?

In the meantime, I don't even know why Samm died, except for "a lengthy illness." His death sat on my mind for several days.

I didn't really know him all that well anymore- the particulars of his life, who he saw, what he did - but I knew him well enough to know the essence of his character, and to have a thin photo album in my head of memories of things we did together. I'm grateful for that moment in our lives where we intersected in the Land of Enchantment.

***
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Mrs. Hawaii America 2010

July 27th, 2010
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For someone who's long intersected with the pageant world, I have never been involved in it. I got my first chance this month, when asked to judge a pageant.

Most of my association is with the queens. Many intern in newsrooms, and some go on to work in them. We cover pageants on TV, so queens make morning show guest appearances, or reporters go out to cover a big pageant. I covered the Miss Universe when it was in the Hawaii Convention Center.

Miss Universe badge

KHNL News8 televised the Miss Hawaii America pageant for years, and my co-anchor Howard Dashefsky was always the emcee. I then, for years and years, would be the one to report the pageant recap the next day. I was very aware of who was Miss Hawaii for that reason.

2010 contestants and judges

2010 contestants and judges

Oddly, while in news, I was never asked to judge a pageant. Not that I minded. It never crossed my mind. It only occurred to me when I was asked to judge Mrs. Hawaii this year. Now that I think about it, the only pageant I've ever really wanted to judge or attend was Miss Universal ShowQueen, but I never went because the hours conflicted with my work.

There were five judges this year, and five contestants. I'm told there are usually double, but the economy affected turnout. We had two nights: the preliminary, and the final.

During the preliminary, we only did the interview phase. Each judge met with each contestant individually, for a five minute interview. We read their bio and then asked them questions based on that.

I'm not supposed to reveal too much about the judging process, but I think it's OK to say that I myself was surprisingly nervous when the event started. Why? I think I was picking up the vibe from all the contestants, and then I got nervous for them.

3 Ms. Hawaii contestants on left; 5 Mrs. Hawaii contestants on right

3 Ms. Hawaii contestants on left; 5 Mrs. Hawaii contestants on right

I think everyone did very well under pressure, though it does become clear within seconds who is comfortable with and/or experienced at this form of public speaking/formal interviewing, and who isn't. It's probably like the way news directors can pop in a resume tape and tell within ten seconds which reporter candidate has "it" and who doesn't. This phase was pretty fast; just an hour.

On the second night, for the finals, the organizers put on a show. This night was not an hour. It was about four hours (prep + the event itself). It was pretty much as you envision any pageant: music, singing, dancing, and the swimsuit/ ballgown phases.

Judges with 2010 Mrs. Hawaii America Alicia Jones

Judges with 2010 Mrs. Hawaii America Alicia Jones

My friend Cindy insisted I should run in next year's pageant. As flattering as that is, I'm just not sure I'm cut out for the stage stuff; specifically, feeling comfortable walking in heels and a swim suit down a catwalk. I totally give those ladies props!

Though, it's a tempting idea, because I looooove the sparkly crown. I'm like a bird. I like shiny stuff.

I modeled in a wedding dress show once and I tripped on the stage (at the seam where the stage is pieced together) and that was totally embarrassing. I can't imagine if I was getting judged on that, on top of being looked at by hundreds of people. Gack!

To that end, congratulations to all the contestants who put so much time and energy into training for the event. I tip my hat to you ladies!

My experience as a judge gave me greater appreciation for the poise and grace these women need to have. They have to speak well, look good, walk elegantly (in heels!!), and project confidence and charisma. A lot of people don't realize how hard it is to own ALL those skills; it's probably because the ones that make it to the stage make it look easy.

And big congratulations to Alicia Jones, who won this year's contest. She'll represent Hawaii well in the Mrs. Hawaii America contest this summer in Tuscon, Arizona. It's August 31st through September 7th.

I enjoyed meeting the other judges, too. It's a nice way to get to know people I otherwise wouldn't have met. And it was a very interesting look into the world of beauty pageants!

What's your experience with pageants? Have you run? Has your friend or family run? What do you think of it?

***

Also reach me via DianeAko.com

Chinese restaurants, and a tribute to Sam Conn

July 26th, 2010
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Please don't read right before or after a meal.

My parents are third generation Chinese-American. (Well, my dad is actually a quarter Native Hawaiian, but his Chinese ancestry is third generation.) They looooove to eat at Chinese restaurants.

I have grown up eating my way across Chinatowns in Hawaii, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, and Quebec. For cities with not enough Chinese to have a Chinatown, we had to make sure to ferret out even the crappiest Chinese restaurant.

In Roswell, New Mexico, the only thing Chinese about Kwan Den was the owner, Jack Chew, a very nice Chinese immigrant. By the time it was modified to appeal to southwestern tastebuds, it was no more a Chinese restaurant than Sizzlers represents Thai food.

You have to love it, though. It's just so... kitchy. I remember there was fried chicken in brown gravy with mashed potatoes on the menu. If memory serves, the chow mein was really just spaghetti with chicken. I remember my KOBR coworker and friend, Samm Conn, taking me there the first time and telling me how great it was.

Great is a relative word. Authentic Chinese, no. Great for cowboy palates, sure. The restaurant survived for decades in New Mexico, so it's gotta be doing something right.

THE TRIBUTE PART

Backing up a few steps, I searched for "Chinese restaurants" and "Roswell, New Mexico" to find the name of that hole in the wall restaurant. The name escaped me after all these years. One link led to another and pretty soon I was reading that the aforementioned Samm had died.

Died! Wow. I'm shocked! Saddened!

The last time I talked to Sam was right after I had a child. He laughed at the idea of me as a mom.

I always liked him. After I moved, we drifted, but we exchanged yearly holiday cards and updates. I was going to e mail him this blog so we could laugh about old times, and I'm really sorry that I can't. Still can't believe it.

Samm, I'll miss you.

Back on track, to where I intended to take this blog in the first place before I got sidetracked then blindsided: the chaos of Chinese restaurants, and how it's strangely addictive.

Chinese people have this strange tolerance of oddities and inappropriateness. I was at Chinese restaurant last week, with my parents and Olivia, when the weirdest thing happened.

Olivia had an upset stomach. She had just received a TB shot and finally by the time we sat down to eat, she told me her stomach hurt. I thought she needed water, because it had been a long day. I gave her water.

When the food came, she ate a char siu bao (the small size that comes in the dim sum trio) and half a har gao. She put her head on the table and looked sleepy.

The adults had finished our food and my parents were busy pre-ordering food off a menu for a party later in the week. Olivia wanted to sit on my lap. Then she wanted to stand in front of me, facing me.

My mother and father were talking to the waiter in Chinglish. I understand restaurant Chinese, up to a certain point.

I understand (in Cantonese only) "Do you have--" and then whatever the food item is, although I only know it if it's something my family has always ordered. I understand some other assorted noises like, "Good" or quantities of items.

So the point is, I zoned out on their conversation because I only knew half of it. My mother then turned her attention to me and was asking me to help make a decision: should we get this item or that?

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a white flash and felt a wet plop in my lap. I looked down. Olivia had lost her lunch. On me. (White, because she ate a bao.)

I exclaimed, "Oh! She's throwing up on me!" and then she heaved once again. I grabbed more napkins and held it in front of her mouth.They looked at me and then kept talking.

I was trying to avoid not getting vomited on any more, and nobody was helping me. My parents and the waiter were totally going about their business like nothing else was happening.

This reminds me of the scene in Ghostbusters when the guy slams up against the glass wall and the diners stop for a second, regard him, and keep eating.

"Hello?! I'm being vomited on??!!" I said loudly. My mother told my dad, who was sitting next to me, "Help her." I'm not sure what he did because I was staring at throw-up, but there was a pause and then she prodded, "Give her these." More napkins handed my way.

Olivia heaved a third time and now my hands are full. I asked the waiter, "Is there a garbage can here?" He stuck his hand out automatically, to take the customer's trash, then pulled the hand back and pointed to a nearby busboy cart. Like, I'm supposed to walk there with vomit dripping down my shorts and legs.

More talking and ordering of food. I was getting annoyed. Fourth (and final) heave, overflowing out of my napkin-hand, and onto the floor. I said even louder, "VOMIT??!" That got me more napkins and ignoring.

It was finally clear to me that Chinese restaurants are like the twilight zone of propriety, and that whatever weirdness happens in them is tolerated or ignored. It's like the space bar in Star Wars where anything goes.

I was more surprised than anything else. I stood up and cleaned up the rest of the mess myself.

I kind of wanted to dry heave when picking up the vomit off the floor (big, gooey, warm, porridgey chunks). But then I reminded myself I gave a dog - a LARGE DOG - an enema once, and this wasn't worse than that.

You can safely assume that I was as invisible as the janitor in Goodwill Hunting.

I actually told a second, newer waitress that there was some vomit on the floor that I cleaned up as best as possible, but that's why the red carpet was whitish. I apologized. She was really nice, but she didn't even seem to care.

(Later, I asked my mother what the heck happened. She said she didn't realize the full extent of the situation.)

GROSSNESS, PART TWO

Lunch was over, party meals pre-ordered, bills paid. I wanted to take Olivia to the bathroom first before we got in the car.

Her panties and shorts fall down her legs when she's sitting on the toilet. She likes to kick them off, which I don't encourage, but she does anyway. What happened next is exactly why I discourage complete disrobing.

She finished, and when I pulled up the panties, there was something wet and mushy on my thumb. I looked at the panty. There was a tan smudge on the waistband. Upon closer inspection, there was another piece, further in the undergarment.

I looked at the bottom of her shoe. There was a fat chunk of vomit stuck to the underside. She was wearing Mary Jane sandals with a small heel, so there was a quarter inch of space for vomit to really work up under there.

SUPER GROSS.

I took her out of the stall, cleaned the shoe as best as I could, and started to put her bottoms back on. I was going to take her shoes off before putting her garments on, but that would have her standing in a dirty restroom floor of a Chinese restaurant. Ugh.

I threw all decorum out the window and let her walk out of the restaurant half naked. And yeah, nobody cared.

This whole episode really seems like something I'd find on a Tina Fey comedy.

This isn't going to stop me from eating at Chinese restaurants, but next time I'll bring a bag of wet wipes to help my own self.

Samm, if you're somehow reading this, I hope you're laughing, too.

***

Also reach me via DianeAko.com

Swimming lessons

July 23rd, 2010
By



Three has been such a liberating age for this mommy. Three seems to be the minimum age at which a lot of facilities start offering children's lessons.

I signed Olivia up for the free Red Cross swimming lessons in June. It's the Keiki Learn to Swim program, for ages 3-13, offered on Saturday mornings from 8:45- 9:45 a.m.

Popo and Olivia

Popo and Olivia

I remember my mom signed me up for that when I was a child. Then, as now, it was at Ala Moana Beach Park. However, back then there were only a dozen people.

On this day, when we walked up, there were about 100 people - out of the water! And maybe 50 or 70 more people in the water? It looks like how all the people mill around the shore before the gun sounds for the triathlon race.

In the water, there was a main instructor, assisted by a bunch of junior helpers (that seemed like college students). Parent-child pairs were assembled in circles around the instructor.

The main instructor would issue a command, and the parents would all do it with their children. The assistants would come around and make sure we were doing it properly.

The first class consisted of learning to kick, put their face in the water, blow bubbles, and move their arms. We also practiced putting some elements of that together. The parent would hold the child and we'd all walk our children around in a circle.

The other kids seemed to be having a nice time, but Olivia did not like it. She did not like the cold water, because it hadn't yet warmed up in the sun. She didn't like the salt. And she doesn't ever like when strangers talk to her, so she refused to do what the teachers said.

She kept asking to go, so after 45 minutes, I gave in and left a little early. I remember not liking the same things about the class when I was a kid, so for those reasons, I decided not to come back for the other three Saturdays.

Plus, there were a handful of e mail updates from the organizers about this or that parade or festival that was going to impact parking and traffic.

I hope I don't give the wrong impression. The Red Cross people are super nice, very helpful, and best of all, it's free. I just think maybe Olivia needs to be a few years older to like it.

Learning to swim is important and, especially if this is your only chance to have lessons, you should sign up!

YMCA

I signed her up for swimming lessons at a pool. My cousin went through the city's Parks and Rec program, so hers was free, but I think if you don't sign up the first day, you miss out because the spaces fill up fast. So I decided to just pay for lessons at the Y.

goggle

You join the Y, then members get a discount on classes, so it works out to about ten bucks a class. Pretty standard for kid's lessons.

I also took lessons at Nu'uanu YMCA when I was a kid, and I loved it. I loved the pool. I still love the pool. I joined a swim team when I was in sixth grade. I stayed with it through high school. It's a good form of exercise, but I just love the feeling of being in the water.

The Y structures it differently from the Red Cross. It's a half hour, every weekday, for two weeks. The parent has to stick around the pool area while the kid swims, but unlike the Red Cross, they don't want the parents to assist.

This was great. For me, at least. I got to swim laps for a half hour each day while she took lessons. I also got to know all the retirees hanging out on noodles and chatting at the deep end, namely Roy, Roy, and Ron.

Olivia, on the other hand. Hmm... She screamed her head off for the first four days of class! Every single day, the entire class (or most of it), screaming and crying for mommy. Remember how I said she doesn't like strangers?

When I was swimming laps, I'd hear alternately the silence of the water, and then when I turned my head to the side to breathe, I'd hear her screaming. It was: silence - WAAAH! - silence - WAAAAAH! - silence - MOOOMMMMMY!!!!!

When I finished my laps, I'd go talk to the retirees. She would look for me across the pool and yell for me to come get her. Came to a point where I was hiding behind Roy's head so she wouldn't see me.

She didn't want to do what the teacher requested, she didn't want the teacher to touch her. She screamed so loud I could hear her in the locker room. Only a little embarrassing... yeah, that's my kid making all the noise.

Finally, on the fifth day, she whimpered only a little and participated in class. Fantastic. For the rest of her time there, she did well and ended up really liking Miss Molly.

Couple moms and I compared notes. We all ended up having the same opinions. We like that it's a little bit, every day. It reinforces the lesson much quicker than having one long lesson, once a week.

We didn't love that it was scheduled right in the middle of the day. Olivia's lesson was at 1:20 p.m., but another mom had her two kids back to back, at the 2 p.m. and the 2:30 p.m. We agreed that it means you have to schedule your entire day around the lessons.

I blacked out my calendar for the entire two weeks for that reason. That's also why I didn't sign Olivia up for the next series of lessons. I need a little break.

I know it's probably really hard to understand why anyone would turn down what sounds like a nice day at the pool, but I have other things that I need to or want to do (some of them with Olivia). I would definitely sign her up for swimming at the Y again, though.

YMCA lessons Pike

She passed the class, and got a little badge, though she was far more excited about the lollipops Miss Molly gave out. I'm very proud to say she can actually swim five feet! I'm even more excited to note that swimming makes for a looong nap.

***

Also reach me via DianeAko.com