Work days in Hawaii can be so hard…

Yes, it’s a struggle to work in Hawaii, especially when your day is spent attending a training session on another island and the only place to eat lunch is on the waterfront watching the cruise ships glide smoothly by as you enjoy your fresh salad.

I say this a bit tongue in cheek, as I know I am enormously blessed this week to be working in Hawaii while my family members on the mainland are in a real struggle, emotionally and physically to stay warm and safe from the ravages of winter storms they have been experiencing. As I snapped photos of Aloha Tower and coconut trees with my iPhone before my training session began, I felt some sense of guilt that my family may find my photos irritating, as if I have no empathy for their winter blues.

But all is not paradisaical in Paradise! The morning of this trip to Oahu, I set my alarm for 4:10 am., my back-up alarm for 4:15 am. and my true, throw- myself- off- the- bed time was 4:20 am. I am not a morning person and this proved irritatingly difficult. It was cold and dark; cold for Hawaii at about 62 degrees. I showered and scrambled to find my work outfit for the day in the dark, not wanting to wake up too completely. I threw a banana and bottle of water into my purse just in case, hoped for a hairdo, and headed out the door. After driving for 35 minutes to the airport and finding a parking stall under a tree to improve my ability to locate my car later that day, I was off to check in for departure.

Hawaiian Airlines is wonderfully Hawaiian. I can count on smiling customer service agents to indulge me in my half-witted attempts at humor at 5:30 in the morning. I scored a “Pre-Check” on my boarding pass so I enjoyed my “don’t have to remove your shoes” status as I moved quickly through security (laughing at the things we consider status symbols these days). My agent asked if I had a miles number since I might as well get the miles for the First Class ticket my company paid for which will give me double the miles. Friendly, smiling and thinking of me at 5:30 in the morning! That is Aloha.

Hilo, Hawaii is humid. Humidity and acres of carpet and “aloha print” fabric covered sofas create the fragrance of mildew; setting off my sneezing and asthma reactions I get every time I enter this airport. But it is home, and I am always grateful for it’s small size and ease of starting or ending my travel. My first time ever on a First Class flight proved to be entertaining. I was assigned row 1, a window seat. Lots of legroom and a long seat belt, one thing Hawaiian Airlines is wonderful at, taking into consideration the girth of some of our local citizens so we don’t have to “be shame” and have to ask for a seat belt extender. My neighbor seat was occupied by a jovial local male who promptly ordered a couple of Miller Lights, mind you this was a 6:30 a.m. flight. I ordered a diet-coke, and knowing it was only a couple swallows, hoped it would help me wake up. By our arrival 50 minutes later in Honolulu I was first to exit the plane, chuckling to myself at the antics of my seatmate and his buddies who were already “hanging loose” and commenting about being ready for a nap!

My day was full of learning about laws and best practices but the lunch hour of dining on a tasty Cobb salad at Gordon Biersch Brewery on the waterfront of Aloha Tower Marketplace filled me with relaxation and appreciation for the Hawaii life that I live. As I enjoyed my salad and gazed at the water and the cruise ship gliding past us on to an adventure I forgot for a moment that this was a work day and I was getting paid for this. As I returned to our little Hilo airport in the dark of evening and successfully located my car under the tree, I felt a sense of gratitude for where I live, what I do, and for my Ohana on the mainland that I hope are staying warm and safe while they await Spring.

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Five ways to beat the Winter blues

Christmas is over, the New Year will soon be upon us and the season many dread begins; the season of Winter Blues. This is particularly true if you live in the Northern latitudes and have decreased sun light during Winter. Some may feel a little down after the holidays just because the excitement and activities are over, but for many, it is a real condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

SAD is thought to result from decreased sun light during Winter months but can also be brought on by too much indoor time and not enough natural light. It is not the heat from the sun that is missing, it is the amount of light entering the person’s eyes. Symptoms of SAD often include feeling better in the Summer months then having a noticeable shift in mood and or energy in Winter months. Many experience SAD as feelings of depressed mood, low energy, loss of motivation or desire to do activities once experienced as pleasurable. Others experience sleeping too much or not enough, and having food cravings, especially for carbs or a loss of appetite. Aches and pains are often more noticeable in SAD.

Fortunately there are steps you can take to beat the blues!
1. Check with your doctor or mental health professional about your symptoms. Tell him/her about your Winter cycle of symptoms. Rule out other causes of your low mood and discomfort. Anti-depressants may be considered if all other steps to improve mood are not enough. There is no reason to suffer needlessly for months each year with today’s medications or alternatives such as botanical products and essential oils that some find helpful.

2. Look into purchasing a Full Spectrum Light for home use. This light box imitates the natural light of the sun and can be used at your convenience. Many find sitting in front of a light box in the mornings for up to 30 minutes a day to be effective.

3. Open up the drapes! Try to increase natural light in your home and office. Spend time daily in the sunniest parts of your home.

4. Get Outside! Even if you are struggling to want to go out. If you want to feel better you will do what it takes. Bundle up if you live in a cold climate and get outside, especially on sunny days and allow the sun to work it’s magic. Some sufferers of SAD, including this writer, report that after as little as ten minutes in the sun they feel their “batteries have been recharged”. I often remark that I have solar batteries because the improvement in mood and energy is real for me. I live in Hawaii, but live in a rainy area with less days of sunlight than other areas. I also work in an office long hours daily so the possibility of aggravating my SAD is real, even in Hawaii!.

5. Get Support! There are others battling the same symptoms of SAD. There are online support groups and forums available to help you feel connected. Family and friends may not always understand SAD or even believe it is a real condition, but fellow sufferers understand and can offer support and hope.

I have empty nest syndrome…..

What does one do when they have Empty Nest Syndrome? They refill the nest. Healthy? Depends….

Source: I have empty nest syndrome…..

Bugs. ( I need therapy for this phobia)

We have bugs in Paradise! Not your average big city USA bugs, but Plus- size bugs, large enough to thrill any entomologist. (that is a bug scientist, isn’t it? )

Here in Paradise we have the infamous cockroach, also known as B-52 bombers, 747’s, roaches, and by common profanity. You haven’t seen bigger roaches unless you have possibly been to Samoa, where I have seen the largest  in my life. Our roaches live outside for the most part but sneak in to your house and procreate inside dark cupboards, in cardboard boxes, almost anywhere they can. You may think you don’t have roaches in you home, but the true test to find out is to wake up in the middle of the night, turn on the kitchen light, and if you see anything moving, you’ve likely got them. If you interrupt their snacking on your crumbs they quickly scurry off to darkness such as under the baseboards until it is safe to reappear.

I hate roaches! Hate them with a passion!  My dream has been to make money off of them in revenge for all the nightmares they have put me through. I have thought of selling the huge devils encased in resin as paperweights, writing best-selling books showcasing their evil ways, and other entrepreneurial risk-taking in the hopes of carrying out my revenge. Instead, I have reached a point of calling a cease-fire. Maybe it’s my age, I am tired of swearing bloody murder while whacking an evil roach with a broom, the only way I can squash one in earnest. People think locals in Paradise just love rubber slippers, “slippahs”. No, they are our roach killing secret weapon!  That we wear them daily is just a side benefit.

I have been fortunate in the house I now live in. No roaches!  If there are any making babies inside my cupboards, I have not seen them. I think I have found the anti-dote to roach populations. My house exterior is infested instead with African Snails!  These are not your average USA snails, but Plus-size snails, large enough to thrill any snail-ologist. God bless their big appetites!

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What is a road trip?

A road trip on the Big Island is an all day journey from Hilo to Kona or if you have a lot of time on your hands it is around the island in one day. Hilo is about a two hour drive from Kona over Saddle Road, now called Daniel K. Inouye Highway. Saddle Road lies  between two huge volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. If you haven’t been across it for awhile there are new improvements at the “rest stop” called Mauna Kea Park, including remodeled bathrooms and a new climbing structure for kids. The air is still fresh and invigorating, often in the mid 50’s compared to in the 80’s down at sea level.

I drove over to Kona on Saddle Road last week, first road trip in a couple months! I usually refer to this trip as my “Costco Run”. There is only one Costco on this island and it is located in Kona. A must is to bring a cooler, as anything cold will be spoiled by the time I reach home. Have you tried “Island Lava”, a baker’s brittle with Lilikoi flavor? It is so ono (delicious) that I polished off a bag in three days!  Anyone have a recipe for this treat to make at home, please share!

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Don’t jump!

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Life is funny but you have to look for the humor. Laughter is a great stress buster so find something funny in your life!  When I can’t sleep I often watch reruns of I Love Lucy or Mike and Molly.  Just listening to the dialog for a few minutes usually has me chuckling over Lucy’s antics, or Mike’s mother’s hateful comments.

Feeling down or depressed is normal for most of us at times. If you feel “too low” and your world seems dark, as if the sun has hid itself, it’s time to reach out for help from your family, friends or physician. Most communities have a Crisis Hotline you can call and someone will come visit you in person within a few hours. In Hawaii the phone number to Crisis Line of Hawaii is 1-800-753-6879.  I used to work as a Crisis Therapist and this service can help if you are on the edge. If you call, now is not the time to say you are feeling OK. Remember your worst feelings and let all that out on the phone to the Crisis Line. They can’t help you if you are feeling fine.

The main point is Suicide is a long term solution to a short term problem, so take action before all the lights go out. You mean the world to your loved ones and turning the lights out will pain them for the rest of their lives.  Life is good and you are only a few days or weeks from feeling better!

But Why?

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Aloha,  my name is Caryn or Kalena depending on  what you choose. I am a middle age family therapist living and working on the Big Island of Hawaii.  But Why?  Because maybe I can.  We have a saying here……”If can, can. If No can, No can.”   I moved back to Hawaii from the mainland twenty three years ago to see ” if can”, and I’m still here, so yes, can.

Paradise you say.   Yes, Hawaii is beautiful and there is so much to love. Hawaii is my home and has been for most of my life. I have normal challenges daily like you. The cost of living in Paradise is high, although the Big Island is less expensive than Oahu. We have bugs, rain, humidity, yearly hurricane threats, lava flows, earthquakes……the list goes on. Did I say bugs?  Yes, but I’ll save that for another post.

I have a twelve pound dog named Chico. He is half Chihuahua and half “poi dog”, meaning undetermined paternal parentage. He threw up today on the carpet after I fed him cottage cheese. I let Chico out one night to pee then forgot about him while I was on the phone with my mother for forty five minutes. The result? Poor little dog was gored by a wild pig and had to undergo two surgeries. Paradise yes, but also normal life. img_0057img_0149