Tuesday, July 28, 2015


     Widespread recreational exercise is obviously a modern phenomenon, born of wealthy, idle societies.
     In the not-too-distant past (and in some parts of the underdeveloped world today), everyday living required tons of exercise working the fields, caring for livestock, hunting, fishing, transporting goods, carrying produce and water, and everything else needed just to survive.
     With the exception of professional athletes; farm, construction, mining laborers and the like; and others out in the field or walking the streets, few Americans today get anywhere near enough exercise from their jobs alone. Most, for good health (and perhaps happiness) require supplemental recreational exercise. Yet few Americans choose to get it.
     Not I. I love to exercise, walking to and from the bus stop, during lunch breaks, and after dinner on non-workout days. Workouts consist of three or so mile runs every third day. I feel so much more relaxed after exercise that I've even started walking on weekend mornings to give my mind and body an early release from excess energy (stress) I've been lately feeling.
     Conversely, none others in my family engage in voluntary exercise as a rule—they have to be told to go outside and get some exercise. Otherwise they stay all day indoors reading (all four), crocheting (Pene and Deanne), getting in trouble (Braden and Jaren), playing with toys (Jaren), or cooking or doing the laundry (Deanne).
     Upon being sent out, Jaren enjoys himself well enough by riding the scooter or bike, running around the house ten to fifteen times, kicking a soccer ball, or wandering about while engaging in imaginary play.
     Penelope tolerates it by riding scooter in the carport and driveway, jumping rope, or running around the house.
     Braden loathes it, usually doing only the minimum we demand of him (running around the house ten times or jumping rope a hundred times). If left to his own, he'll dribble a ball around or bounce a tennis ball on a racket until he tires in ten to fifteen minutes, then read, talk, or get in trouble with Jaren.
     Not that he's the only exercise cheat: they all sit around and read or talk after they tire of being active and thus fall way below the daily recommended minimal exercise levels—not even close most days for moderate exercise.
     But even so I know they get far more exercise than their peers who aren't enrolled in competitive sports or martial arts, swimming, or other such lessons. I know this because Pene's P.E. teacher once complimented her on her fitness level and asked her, “How do you stay fit?”
     “My dad makes us go outside and exercise,” she said.
     “And you do?” he asked incredulous.
     “Yeah,” she said.
     Just the fact that he asked “And you do?” tells me that parents rarely force their kids to get any real at-home exercise.
     This, to me, is sad. I taught all our kids to swim and ride bike because these, plus running, can be pursued with lifelong passion—the best individual athletic exercises there are: joyful, healthy, inexpensive, convenient, and fun. Doing them always improves my outlook. And I see how much calmer and yet more alert they, too, are after vigorous exercise. It's a joy to be alive after such effort, cool down, and recovery.
     Deanne's not into it. There's a one in seven chance she'll agree to an after-dinner walk and only after sighs and slammed books, chairs, or other objects acted out upon. And the walks themselves sometimes feel more like trips to a dentist than pleasure strolls.
     My mom was inactive like that when I was still living at home (and we didn't eat very healthy diets, either). Praise God her health held up and she took up golf in her sixties and her diet's improved substantially. At age eighty-three, she's still walking all eighteen holes at least twice a week at a hilly golf course (I've done it before; its tiring) so she's terrific healthy for her age.
     I pray that my immediate family maintains its token level of fitness and that God will protect us all, like Mom, until the day when all of us come to enjoy exercising voluntarily. And may that day come sooner rather than later for all our sakes.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


     Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books ever. In it, Solomon—one of history's wealthiest, wisest, and most successful and powerful rulers—laments the senselessness of life, mainly due to its brevity and the inconsequentiality of achievement compared to vast eternity, fore and aft. This comforts me, for if life is indeed a wisp and we're all racing for our graves and before we know it we'll be on our deathbeds wondering, “Where did all the time go?”, then this simplifies matters—no need to worry about any silly worldly nonsense, just focus on God today and obey him and his higher purpose to help others.
     Though I fail miserably at this at times and waste abhorrent amounts of time and effort, even Solomon stressed the importance of eating, drinking and enjoying life and work, so it's not as if all frivolity is bad.
     Upon graduating high school three years hence, Braden will (most probably) be leaving us to attend college or join the military—a lot depends on his academics both in regards to grades and attitude, but also on his behavior—getting his act together overall. He's progressed miles over the past several months but still has a ways to go... Until then, time will flit by in an instant. I look forward to his leaving—his growing independence, even while knowing I'll miss him terribly.
     My mom (in her eighties) has started to complain of the speediness of time and her desire to slow it down by not having too many interactions with outer-island relatives all in a row. “Spread them out!” she says, “Otherwise the weeks just fly by...”
     Andy Rooney once said that it doesn't seem fair that in the midst of fun and joy, time speeds up, whereas in the midst of boredom, misery, or sorrow, it slows to a crawl.
     John Steinbeck in East of Eden posited otherwise, saying that in the midst of unchanging sameness, decades can slip by unnoticed, whereas in the midst of change and variety, time slows because each event represents a signpost or landmark against which progress is marked and measured.
     I see their points but time to me as a parent always speeds by and I can't believe how much taller and larger the kids are now compared to just five years ago and am astonished whenever I look at such not-so-distant photos that happen to be posted in our kitchen by the phone.
     More relevant to me than the speed of time, however, is my tendency to live in, or more accuracy, get preoccupied with the future, even though it's impossible to live anywhere but in the present. So to counteract this sometimes unproductive tendency, I try to seize opportunities to make the most of the present while the kids are still around.
     On the Fourth of July weekend I took Jaren (Braden, and Pene rode and met us there on their bikes) to the nearby elementary school to ride bike, play croquette and mini putt-putt, play on the playground, and shag a practice golf ball. I brought along my sand wedge and putter, the only clubs I saved from an old set that I gave away long ago.
     Rainy weeknights after dinner when we can't go for walks, we've played Scrabble using Deanne's egg timer with one minute allowed per person per turn—speeds things up and makes it more fun.
     One recent weekend afternoon we hand washed and scrubbed our family car, a twice yearly activity since we're not car enthusiasts.
     On a day I took off from work to recuperate from a church overnight outing, the morning and early afternoon the kids were out at Summer Fun seemed to drag interminable. So partly to kill time, I cleaned a restroom, polished a pair of shoes, paid bills, cleaned a few dirty shelves in the refrigerator, vacuumed floors, and later cut my hair. It was a blessed relief to finally pick them up at the park and hear how their days went.
     In the midst of my sister's wedding, my mom fretted about some irrelevancy—this just before the ceremony proper began, so I told her (we were alone at the time) “Try to enjoy it while it lasts.” She settled after that and seemed to enjoy herself better.
     I suppose I should take my own advice by more often enjoying the here and now while it lasts, for like my sister's wedding twenty years ago, it will soon be over before I even realize it.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


     It's such a heavy topic: Integrity. What does it even mean? Staying true to one's self? Walking the talk? Doing right even when no one is watching?
     I fail in so many ways in each of the above, yet am drawn to pursue a life of integrity as it seems the basis of so much that is good, noble, admirable, and worthy. I felt so strongly about it that I recently wrote a poem titled The Key that got published (see http://www.metrohnl.com/the-key/) whereby a found key tempts a fictional narrator to exchange his soul for whatever he desires. For him it's untold earthly wealth and admiration, which, obtained, comes at the cost of lost conscience, innocence, integrity, family, and relationship with God: It's a dark parable warning against selling oneself.
     I let Braden and Penelope read it but not Jaren as he's too young, and explained how we're all given choices, temptations, and demands to sell our souls for money, companionship, fame—anything we want. And I described how I'd been asked to sign documents I knew were false. And how I'd witnessed coworkers sign off—no hesitation—these same documents they knew were false. And all for what? To please a supervisor? They weren't even up for promotion. Their integrities meant nothing to them, no more than worthless trash. And I warned against selling their souls to anyone or for anything: Nothing's worth it, I said.
     One of the costs of doing shameful deeds, I explained, is having to duck people—those you've wronged or who know what you've done. There are some higher-ups at my workplace who avoid being seen outside for this very reason, guys who duck people left and right. So what if they're supposedly rich or powerful (they're not) if they don't have the freedom to go where they want or do what they want for fear of being seen?
     And I told them a story I heard on NPR of a former drug user that chose to coach a local little league baseball team because by helping, getting to know, and befriending little kids he knew he'd never go back to doing drugs again. “How pathetic would that be, a big forty year old guy like me sneaking around in back alleys and ducking around corners to avoid being seen by a seven year old kid? I'd never allow myself to fall that low,” he said. Good for him, I said, that he had the courage to do what he had to to stay clean.
     Doctor Canivet in the novel Madame Bovary, called in to help fix a botched operation, strides in assured in the knowledge that his conduct has always been wholly irreproachable. That passage struck me. I have relatives like that—humble straight-talkers always out for the good of others. And to the contrary I've know hangdogs who show guilt in their every step. And others still who flaunt their selfish, hurtful intentions and ways. Not that a person can be judged by appearances alone or that anyone is perfect, but that passage made me evaluate which group I wished to belong to. And which group I'd like my kids and family to belong to.
     Although I'm guilty of countless sins and shameful deeds, I nevertheless strive to care and hold onto truth and hope. Benefits have included an easier conscience, freedom to be myself, and good nights' sleeps. I can't imagine living the life of the sell-out narrator in my poem.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


     All of the rentals we ever stayed at prohibited pets, so our kids never had that experience. Too bad for them (and us), but it made our jobs tons easier, especially since the prohibition was a done deal—no pets meant no pets. So they never bothered to beg.
     We fudged the rules a few times. Once, my wife's brother got Braden a fighting fish from Chinatown and we kept it in a glass jar for a couple of weeks or so, after which we passed it on to the building superintendent for adoption. Wasn't exactly cute or cuddly, but we had fun feeding it live roaches and worms. (It started out beautiful indigo blue, then turned reddish-brown apparently matching the color of its food.)
     Another time Braden caught a tiny lime-green praying mantis at church, so I told him to hold it in a cup until we got home, then we'd keep it in a box and feed it grasshoppers. I'd done the same as a kid to fantastic results: the pair of mantises gobbled down the grasshoppers I fed them one after another for a couple of weeks or so. Then I saw them one afternoon one on top of another, so I tried to separate them only to discover they were attached! Shocked, I left them alone and went in to watch T.V. I later came out and saw on the floor of the box the wings and legs of an otherwise missing mantis, a dead toppled over mantis beside it, and a white gummy-looking wad stuck in the crook of a branch. Never got to watch them hatch out, though, as a neighbor friend took my box, said he'd call me when they hatched, but never did.
     Sadly, my kids and I couldn't find any grasshoppers even in wild grassy areas nearby. Shocking! The vacant lots behind our house in Hilo had had tall pili and California grass that shimmered with springing throngs of grasshoppers any time we touched any of the tall stalks. I attributed the present desolate state to indiscriminate use of pesticides—no wonder native fauna doesn't thrive. And the mantis didn't take any of the assorted live roaches, beetles, and other insects we offered it and died within a week.
     The same thing happened to a lizard Braden kept in a large bottle.
     So as kids, they of course love the cat and dog pets of friends and family. We don't get many invitations to such households, though, so any neighborhood pet that happens to pass by our house or which we pass by during our walks are their main pet contacts.
     Now here's an area Deanne and I diverge: I love cats for their elegance and selectivity such that they only come to you if they trust and accept you. I'm patient and know how to wait and accept rejection—same as when I courted girls.
     Whereas Deanne loves dogs, her pet English Cocker Spaniel (pedigree!) being her first “true” love.
     So when I take the kids for walks, we call for cats to come in high falsetto: “Meow...Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” Only two come—one if she's close by, the other, a recent find, almost always. The second is a slender gray Siamese, with blue pupils that are almost round! I've always been attracted to cats with colored eyes because the two we'd own were both black with a white splotch and black eyes, and of the strays and mixed breeds we ever saw nearly all had black eyes.
     Deanne, by contrast, dives head first into a neighborhood dog's face and scruffs its ears and counts it blessing if she gets licked all over her face and lips, and tail-whipped as her new best friend circles her as the owner does pirouettes to prevent leash entanglement.  Most dog-owning neighbors tolerate our kids' attentions for a few minutes, I suppose because the dogs get too excited and that ruins a good walk, not that I've noticed a significant difference before and aft.
     I promised Deanne if we ever move to the mainland and buy a house, she can have her dog and maybe we'll get a cat—either or both kept outdoors. Both my childhood cats were kept outdoors, and that worked fine and made sense to me. (Our indoor parakeet was a wonder of affection, our first pet that eventually got eaten—out in our laundry room—by a neighborhood cat or mongoose late one night. We awoke to find the fallen cage and a few of his feathers, plus points of blood. The room's door hadn't been closed properly; my parents felt awful.)
     There's no rush for us as parents to acquire a pet, though for our kids to have that childhood experience, time is running out fast. I suppose no one can have it all. And our kids have plenty to compensate, including each other and us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


     I'm a five-hugs-a-day guy. I feel better, do better, and am better when I get this daily minimum allowance.
     When the kids were young, this was no problem, either because they wanted more (especially Braden) or they had no choice—we could hold them at will.
     But things changed fast, especially for Pene, and by the time she was a toddler, she made very clear when she wasn't in the hugging or cuddling mood by stiff-arming my chest with both her hands, leaning back, and turning her head away.
     I tease her now about her evading my hugs and say, “You hurt my feelings when you did that! It's as if you were saying, 'Stay away from me, I don't want any of that!'”
     She smiles to such remarks, of course not remembering a thing. Which brings me to today's standings:
  • Deanne will share a hug with me in mornings before I leave for work and usually in bed at night before I fall asleep at around eight-fifteen.
  • Jaren shares a close hug with me at bedtime and will happily share more when asked. At seven years old he's getting big for climbing aboard my lap at bedtime, but neither of us mind, so I'm not telling.
  • Pene, a grown reproductive-capable woman at age twelve now gives me air hugs (sans chest-to-chest contact) at bed time. I'm currently reading the Lord of the Rings to her, which we both enjoy so much, and we feel so close, that though I miss closer hugs, I'm not pressing it. When I was about her age, my parents (especially Mom 'cause Dad was never much of a hugger) stopped hugging me on a daily basis because I preferred it that way (with some later regreta). And it worked okay with us and I believe that that's where Pene's at with me now, needing her space. (On more than a couple occasions, I've asked Deanne to remind Pene to keep behind closed doors when changing and not bend over when wearing revealing tops. It's all lady-stuff she needs to be aware of, so now's as good a time as any to learn. I suspect this lady awareness also includes not pressing so close to Dad...)
  • Braden receives almost no hugs from us. This has been going on for years. I don't feel the desire to hug him, perhaps because we've had so many ugly fights, or perhaps because he's adopted sloppy dress and appearance as his default style, or perhaps because he often smells odoriferous, or perhaps because he doesn't want to be hugged because he values independence and autonomy above hugs, which he may consider mainly “for little kids.”
     Funny how at age fifty-three I'm far from being a little kid yet feel the need for hugs at least as often as Jaren. My closest and longest and most intimate hugs are now shared with Deanne. In the mornings, when we hug and Deanne prays for me while I stroke her hair, back, and arms—my way of saying bye to her—I allow myself to draw strength from her.
     Some may say it's not right to draw strength from her and that I should instead draw all my strength from God. But then the Bible makes clear it's good to be with another. For in the event one falls, the other may assist. And I so often these days feel as if I were falling-mostly due to assorted health maladies.
     It's too bad hugging isn't more widely accepted. Even elementary school teachers here in the Aloha State (or “Love” State), where hugging and adorning visitors with lei has so long been a cultural norm, and where hugs from “Aunties” and “Uncles” (adult friends, or acquaintances) are generally accepted, seem to restrict hugs to only the youngest keiki (kids), seemingly in fear of accusations of fondling or inappropriate touch.
     In church, too, it's all air hugs if any at all.
     And even in our extended ohana (family), only Mom still gives me close hugs. (My brother-in-law's sister touches her ear and/or cheek to mine while we air hug, which is nice, but interesting—first time I've experienced it, maybe a new way of doing it that I just didn't know about.)
     And at my workplace, hugging is virtually taboo due to sexual harassment fears and concerns. (In Japan, coworkers on company outings may relax at onsen (hot springs resorts), soaking together nude—same sex only, of course. Wonder how that would play in America? Although once, while working at a CPA firm we males all showered together after playing in a tennis tournament in preparation for our company banquet, but that was in Seattle where locker room etiquette is different from here...)
     On the flip side, while it's true that we don't want to open things up (especially for our kids) to potential abuse, I nonetheless believe that something is lost when people of any age don't receive ample hugs and that the world would be a far better place would everyone receive more than enough. It's simple. Easy. Free. And so healthy and beneficial. Why not indulge more?