Archive for the ‘child’ Category

The black cell phone case

November 23rd, 2015

My poor mom. The Alzheimers gets worse. She now doesn't remember my daughter Olivia's name. "Who is this pretty little girl? What's your name?" Popo asked Olivia upon first arriving.

We had a big family get together recently and my cousin and my dad have the same first name, Paul. Cousin Paul wanted a photo of my mother, me, and Olivia.

The three of us were standing there waiting for the photo and my mother kept getting distracted or confused. We kept saying, "Look there. Look at Paul."

Then I realized she was looking for my dad, who wasn't in the room at that moment. So I started pointing, "Look at that black phone. Look at that black thing." (She certainly has no idea what a cell phone is.)

"What?" she exclaimed at my manners. "That's not nice. He's our relative."

Huh? Then it dawned on me that she thought I was calling Paul a "black thing." I mean, he is deeply tanned, but no.

It's funny how the mind works with Alzheimers - what gets remembered and what doesn't. It's a grab bag.

So there's still room for humor in life, even in the sadness.

Christmas, I'm ready for you!

November 16th, 2015

Don't judge, but I put up the Christmas tree this weekend. It's just because I'm the self-appointed Minister of Emergency Situations at my house, and as such, I've averted an eleventh hour emergency by proactively erecting the holiday memorabilia now, while I have that rare drop of energy. Yay, me!


As soon as the Halloween stuff came down, I promised myself I'd replace it with Christmas, so here we are. We had a family moment on Sunday morning by assembling our new, fake tree and decorating it.

Now, I was never previously this punctual with Christmas, but having a child rearranged my priorities. One has to have their holiday stuff in order when small kids are involved. It's all for her.


This is a sign I'm getting old: it feels like just a few months ago we were doing this. Where did the time go??!!

I have to laugh because in years past, I really thought I'd be some environmental wonder and buy locally grown pine trees, or even use one I planted myself. Time and obligation wore me down.

Last year, the boxes of artificial trees sure looked appealing when compared to the energy of finding the time to drive out to Wahiawa, fighting with the tree holder to erect it at a straight angle, sweeping up fallen needles, watering it every other day, the making the time to take it down in January. Last year I think we even cut it up in pieces to fit into the green recycle bin, because we didn't want to drive it to wherever you can discard whole trees.

I just can't do that anymore. I enjoyed taking down the tree from the attic at my whim (it's so early, I don't even know that real trees are available yet) and setting it up my my schedule. I'm excited that it took ten minutes to piece together and will not require water and further fuss.

I hope this doesn't sound like bah humbug. Olivia doesn't seem to notice the difference. She has her big tree with lights and ornaments, and she'll be even more excited once the presents with her name start appearing underneath.

Here's wishing you some peace, calm, short lines, and easy parking stalls as we enter the Christmas season!

Ewa Beach man dedicates life to charity

November 13th, 2015

When 30 year old Michael Mendoza was growing up in Ewa Beach, he didn't see a future for himself. "My relatives were involved in an Oahu gang, with crimes so violent they were more than once the subject of news reports," he recalls.

"My brother eventually had to be sent to the Philippines because of his heavy involvement in gang activity. He even became very violent even to me. I was very sad and afraid for him," Mendoza details.

The pain of seeing relatives in and out of the legal system hurt deeply. "I remember being at a family party when I was about eight years old. Suddenly, a bunch of us kids were ushered into a car to keep us safe because a fight broke out. Someone brought out a knife and was threatening to stab people."

His parents' divorce compounded the suffering. "I witnessed so much fighting when I was in elementary school, I found myself alone crying mostly every night," he shares. Rather than bringing the remaining siblings together, the conflict drove them apart.

Music, he says, was his escape, and the only uniting element for his family. "Music was the only time when I barely saw any fighting. My mother and sisters sing. My brother dances. I spin records." He started seriously spinning when he was 16 years old, and hanging out with friends who were mobile DJs to learn more.

Michael Mendoza, aka DJ Kurious

Michael Mendoza, aka DJ Kurious

He eventually started his own DJ business, DJ Kurious Hawaii, to play at weddings, parties, and clubs. Music gives to him - but it also lets him give to others.

It was the force that kept him alive inside, he says, because the problems of his youth had grown into a major problem. "I felt very alone in life and had no purpose. When I graduated from high school in 2003, I went through a great depression and did nothing at all with my life. I stayed home a whole year."

Mendoza at the Y, 2006. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

Mendoza at the Y, 2006. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

In 2004, Mendoza got a job at the YMCA's Leeward branch. There, he befriended his coworkers, who were all active volunteers in the community. It changed him profoundly.

"The YMCA taught me important values that I was never shown in my youth. I credit Leeward YMCA's program director Eric Bautista for pushing and teaching me to grow professionally. He was a major reason I decided to take my schooling seriously," thanks Mendoza.


Bautista and Mendoza at YMCA, 2006. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

Bautista and Mendoza at YMCA, 2006. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

Bautista, who left the Y to start his own business, Party Pix Hawaii, remembers meeting Mendoza. "He was young and impressionable, lost and directionless. Yet I could tell he had a very good heart and needed someone to help mentor him."

Bautista gave Mendoza a position as his sports assistant to be nearer to him and help mentor him. It worked. "He excelled. His self-confidence grew, and expanded to other areas of his life."

The Y also gave him something else he didn't have: Family. This family inspired him to want to help others.

He enrolled at University of Phoenix pursuing a bachelor's degree in human services; he was graduated in 2012. At the same time, in order to support himself, Mendoza started working as a skills trainer for the Department of Education. Since 2007, he has been working with autistic children with violent and psychotic tendencies.

As helpful as working with autistic children was - "it brought out the best in me" - he still felt purposeless and drifting.

While on assignment at Makalapa Elementary School in 2010, he had another incredible experience that helped set his life's course. It came at a time when he characterizes his depression as being at an "all-time high."

The gift. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

The gift. Courtesy: Michael Mendoza

"I had sprained my knees really bad and couldn't afford metal knee braces. A teacher I barely knew asked what happened to me, so I told her. The next day she handed me an envelope with over $350 in cash. She told me, 'This means much more to me than you think.'"

"I will never forget what she did for me. She gave more than just money, she gave me a purpose. I have never spent it. That envelope reminds me everyday that there are people out there like me, suffering and alone- but a simple act of kindness can change that person forever," he concludes softly.

All this time, Mendoza had been working on the side as a DJ - both for supplemental income, as well as a way to offer his services at fundraisers and non-profit events. However, he now wanted to step up his efforts in giving.


Mendoza rarely turns down a request to help. Two of his biggest charity causes are the Alzheimers Association, which is where I met him - we both volunteered at the Walk To End Alzheimers, and Honolulu Theater for Youth.


Me and Mike

He also works on the weekends at Slam Hype, a clothing store in Pearlridge Shopping Center which hires a live DJ to play in-store. "I get paid in clothes, and I started giving the clothes to homeless youth." He estimates he's given away $1,500 in new clothing.

In 2014 came the third and most powerful incident to shape his life. "I was put in touch with a very sad case of a homeless orphan," remembers Mendoza.

"The boy's family had abandoned him and he was living on the streets. I wanted to give him my clothing trade, so his social worker brought him to the store one weekend to meet me. The boy, in his late teens, looked down, like he wasn't sure what to expect. I said, 'I don't know what happened with your life, but I just want to help you out. Go pick out $250 in new clothes.'"

When the boy was finished, "he seemed scared or ashamed to make eye contact with me. He looked down, thanked me, and left. His social worker and my friend Deni Araki told me he cried the minute he left the store. Nobody had done anything nice for him in his life," finishes Mendoza.

That's when it all came together. "It was in that moment I knew my purpose in life. Everything lined up. The hardship of my youth, the people who showed me the value of service, and the woman who taught me the power of kindness. I finally understood exactly how that woman felt when she gave me the $350. I've now been on both sides."

From that moment on, Mendoza committed to a life of service. "This is my life's mission. To give."

That is not to say Mendoza has it easy. He accumulated $80,000 in student loans while pursuing his undergraduate degree.

Admirably, he still strives for higher education. He began graduate coursework for a master's degree in counseling at Wayland Baptist University, but stopped this year "because I was frightened looking at my debt." He knows he needs to return soon because when you start a graduate program, you have a certain amount of time to finish it or lose the credits.

He admits it's hard for him financially. Social work doesn't pay much.

Why, I ask, doesn't he stop giving away his time for a few years while he sorts out his college issues? Mendoza makes some money as a DJ on the weekends, which helps him chip away at his student loans, but he donates so much of his time to charity.

"I struggle, but other people's suffering is greater. I may not have the best possessions, but I'm still lucky to be comfortable. I want to share my blessings. I get way more from helping people," he explains.

His friends aren't surprised by his selfless nature. "He has always thought of everyone but himself," recalls Bautista. I remember when his father needed a vehicle, he just paid off his truck and gave it to his dad. He was struggling, but he still put his dad first. And he was only about 24 years old!"

I'm struck by Mendoza's humility. During our calls, he repeatedly said he wasn't interested in having attention on himself. In fact, he wanted to make sure to share his spotlight with the good people who inspire him, including the staff at Makalapa Elementary and Red Hill Elementary.

"I can't do much," he sighs, "but whatever I can do, it's something. I want to be part of the solution."

It is we who are blessed to have a person like this in our community.

Reach Michael Mendoza via or (808) 381-6494 cell.

Kitchen catastrophes

November 9th, 2015

My poor kid. I know she's very smart and yet I don't always listen to her.

In my haste to get everything done I have sometimes almost fed her some messed up things: Hot dog tea and maple syrup juice.

Someone made her a hot dog. It could have been me or her dad, but at this point I forget. (Typical me.)

The water was sitting on the stove in the pot, and had gone cold. Background: every evening I prepare a saucepan of 40 oz. of water for my tea to take to work. I drink that during the show. Therefore, seeing a pot of water on the stove is common in our house.

Olivia asked me to make her hot water and honey for her store throat. I warmed the water and thought it smelled faintly odd, but I couldn't be sure because she had given me her cold and I couldn't smell.

I brought it over to her and asked her to check it. "Smells weird."

"Are you sure? Maybe it's because you've been eating menthol cough drops," I questioned.

Good thing her dad was home and emerged just then. "Claus, is this weird water?"

He smelled it. "This is hot dog water," he pronounced.

I don't know why I doubt my kid.

Second instance. We had breakfast out and she never can finish her waffles, so she requested a to-go box. The waiter brought it with a kid's plastic cup with a lid. I thought he kindly put her unfinished apple juice inside.

Later, she asked me for something to drink. "Here's your apple juice," I offered.

Once again, I was hurrying to get something or other accomplished and half focused.

"Mommy? This looks weird."

I peered inside the cup. It was dark, but maybe it was a shadow. "Just drink it. It'll be fine."

She sipped it. "Mommy. This is really thick."

*sigh* Can I have just one minute without interruptions?

"Let me see." I walk over and move the cup around to see what she is complaining about. She was right. It was very viscous.

Why would apple juice do that? Unless... oh... yeah... it's maple syrup.

"Oops. Sorry. I didn't realize the waiter gave us syrup, too. You were right."

So now I get a lot of heat around this kitchen when I serve people things that don't look quite right. I've lost my credibility for feeding people foods that are actually as advertised.

Maui and Kauai public library events in November

November 8th, 2015

Learn to Protect Yourself from Con Artists at Kapaa Library
* November 10   (Tuesday), 1:30 p.m.
"How to Protect Yourself and Your Money from Predatory Tactics," a free program for adults, will be offered at Kapaa Public Library.  Con artists will say or do anything to try and take your hard-earned money away from you.  Theresa Kong Kee, Investor Education Specialist for the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Office of the Securities Commissioner, will conduct an informational presentation with examples of predatory tactics, questions you can ask to protect yourself, and will discuss how the DCCA Office of the Securities Commissioner can help you.

The one-hour program will include a question-and-answer session. Contact the Library as soon as possible if a sign language interpreter or other special accommodation is needed.  This program is made possible by a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation through Smart Investing @ Your Library, a partnership with the American Library Association.

Kapaa Public Library is located at 1464 Kuhio Highway. For more information, please call the Library at (808) 821-4422.

Free children's programs at Kihei Public Library in November
* November 10 (Tuesday), 6 p.m. - "Remembering the Past: Tales of a Holocaust Survivor."

Meet Cornelis "Cor" Feenstra, 92, a World War II Holocaust concentration camp survivor. Feenstra, a Dutch native who became an American citizen and is now a Kihei resident, will share remembrances of his ten months spent in five different concentration camps. This one hour program is suitable for ages 12 and older.

* November 17 (Tuesday), 6 p.m. - "Family Movie Night: Charlotte's Web."

See Paramount Pictures' "Charlotte's Web," the heartwarming story of Wilbur the pig who is worried about his future on the farm.  Charlotte, a wise spider, befriends Wilbur and devises an ingenious plan.  Based on the classic book by E. B. White, and starring the voice talents of Debbie Reynolds, Paul Lynde, and Henry Gibson, this family-friendly movie is rated G.  Free refreshments will be provided by the Kay A. Edwards Memorial Fund.

* November 18, (Wednesday), 3 p.m. - "Discovering the Classics with Papa Lopaka."

Papa Lopaka. Courtesy: Jack Grace

Papa Lopaka. Courtesy: Jack Grace

Join Papa Lopaka (Robert DeVinck), a writer, English literature scholar, and long-time reader of classic books, who will present a dramatic reading of his "Classics Illustrated" comic book "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens projected on a large screen. There will be a brief discussion, question-and-answer session, and Lopaka will encourage children to read the original  book.  This one-hour program is recommended for ages six to 12 and will include light snacks.

*  November 25 (Wednesday), 3 p.m. - "Wonderful Wednesday: Fall into Winter Crafts!"

Children ages five and older are invited to celebrate the holiday season by creating fun crafts. All materials will be supplied. Younger children may benefit by having an accompanying adult help them. Call the library as soon as possible if a sign language interpreter or other special accommodation is needed for these programs.

All programs will be conducted in the Children's Area; young children must be accompanied by a parent or caregiver.

Kihei Public Library is located at 35 Waimahaihai Street.  For more information, call the Library at (808) 875-6833.