Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Aloha is a greeting in the Hawaiian language that means affection, peace, compassion and mercy. What a jam-packed meaningful greeting! That's like "Hey, y'all" on steroids.

On our recent trip to Hawaii--a first for me--we found that the people embodied all those qualities. Peaceful and kind, they made us feel welcome. And they don't seem stressed like people on the mainland. They seem to live the sentiment of one of my favorite bumper stickers: "Slow down, this is not the mainland."

No wonder we met so many transplants who went there for a visit and never left.

Crystal blue water, giant waves and brilliant sunsets came to life there, just as they look in the photographs, only better. (I'm sharing my photos with you here.) Our friends (and traveling companions) who have visited Hawaii many times treated us to overlooks, gardens, and out-of-the-way places we would never have found on our own.  For us, that's the gem in going somewhere new: spend very little time on the tourist hype and much time on the real place.

Kaneohe  Bay
I enjoy comparing beaches and lifestyles on different shores. We had no problem settling down on Waikiki Beach or drinking tropical drinks with names like "Lava Flow," watching Hawaiian dancers, or climbing to the top of Diamond Head. The life was at once familiar yet different.  The beach was a little wider, the hill a little steeper and there were many more Japanese tourists than we have here. And I loved it all.

The respect shown for those who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor was chilling and awesome. Just knowing the sailors who went down in the USS Arizona are still there gave me goose bumps.

We happened to visit the USS Missouri on her birthday and came upon bands playing, flags flying and tours going on. It's the ship on which the surrender was signed in Tokyo Bay to end WWII. She is docked in Hawaii now with the documents and other historic markers there for all to see. And she has many stories to tell. For example, a kamikaze pilot who crashed into the ship was even given a proper military sea burial during WWII. The guys spent hours constructing a Japanese flag to cover him with. He was respected for doing his job, even though he was the enemy.
Sunset Beach

At Waimea Bay
But some of the best treats were the private beach at Waimea Bay, the dive-looking food truck court that served scrumptious fresh local shrimp, surfing competition that we happened upon at Sunset Beach in Haleiwa, the technicolor water of Kaneohe Bay, the dancing dragons on Chinese New Year, cacao beans drying at Old Sugar Mill in Waialua and getting kicked off the film set of Hawaii Five-O on Waikiki Beach. Sorry--I didn't realize what I'd wandered into--just wondering why a helicopter was on the beach.
Hawaii Five-O

Chinese New Year

Diamond Head

View from Diamond Head
Fresh shrimp from the food truck
From Diamond Head

So many shores and so little time. I'm glad I got to this one. Hope you do too.

All photos copyright Susan E. Hance

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mom Moved In

I've been under water lately--or it seems--we've been so busy. My 89 year old mother moved in with us (just after I returned from Grandparent Camp last summer) and it has been exhausting. Some of us in the sandwich generation are squarely between parents and children/grandchildren. It's a blessing.

I know that sounds odd to call it a blessing when I just said I was under water from all the activity, but I've seen people who have no one. Little ladies in nursing homes. Men on the streets. I'm blessed to be able to care for my mother and also be involved with my children and grandchildren.

Sure, it's a lot of work sometimes. We had to organize Mom's things, renovate the house to make it viable, sell the things she couldn't use, move her here and merge our ways of doing things. It was very difficult for her too. I've learned so many things about my mother as an adult that were not apparent from a child's perspective. Who knew she didn't like fuzzy blankets? Or floor lamps?

We'll try to manage holidays, attendance at weddings, vacations, illnesses, food, football weekends, heating, air conditioning and television volume. That's a good start and there will be more to come.

It's amazing how a drive to Kure Beach, where we look out at the waves, hear the gulls, watch the tourists and eat hand dipped ice cream is like a spa retreat for my mother--totally relaxing. That's not so difficult and a lot less expensive than a spa.

Our State Magazine asked clergy from around the state to submit a prayer for North Carolina in one issue. The ones they gathered are moving and more than a prayer--they are epistles to the good life here.

It made me think about asking family members to write a prayer for our family. What would yours say?

Not On Salt Water

I'm a coastal resident, but in all seasons I think of the mountains.

In the song, "Reno,"  Nic Cowan asks, "What drives you to create?" The song tells us, "I never had a choice to make. It chose me long before I wrote..." One man returns to create paintings in the place where he was born. I understand that.

The mountains wear a comforter of snow right now, but soon enough buds will peer out from the trees in preparation for spring. I found this photo from last April taken at Wildacres Retreat in Little Switzerland, NC.  It's a place where artists of all persuasions go to hone their crafts.
View from Wildacres Retreat, c. 2013 Susan E. Hance

It was a magical experience, driving higher and higher into the mountains on zigzagging roads ("sigogglin" in mountain talk) that almost let you look at the back of the car coming around.
Then suspending all reality to do nothing but write and commune with nature and other artists was a soul-nourishing experience. I hope I get that chance again.
Of course by summer, the mountain trees and flowers will flourish, just waiting to blaze into autumn.
Meanwhile, I'll enjoy the sound of seagulls, warm sun on my face and sand in my shoes.
The Grounds at Wildacres, April 2013