Why I Hula

 P1010685 When I tell people that I’m taking hula lessons, their reaction normally is, “Hula?  Like hula hoops?”  Then I have to explain that it’s hula DANCE.  I don’t dance.  I’m way to structured and self-conscious for that.  I can speak in front of people, I will wear a bathing suit in public, I will make myself the subject of a comedian’s jokes, but I don’t dance!

So why am I taking lessons?  When I came back from my Hawaiian cruise in 2001, I decided that I can dance the hula.  After all, those other ladies dancing were larger than me, and the dance looks really slow, so I’m sure I can learn it.  In the summer of 2001, I signed up for eight lessons through the recreation center where I live.  Ten minutes into the first lesson, I couldn’t breathe, my legs were aching, and I was sure I was going to quit!  I didn’t just have to remember one or two things at the same time.  I had to be aware of what my fingers, wrists, hands, arms, hips, legs, and toes were doing all at the same time!  I also had to remember where to look at each move, AND I’m supposed to remember to smile!  For the Tahitian numbers, I had to really shake my hips – read the first paragraph, I’m self-conscious!  I also had to use implements in some of the dances, which meant I had to hold something, like a gourd, and use that while remembering everything else!  What did I get myself into?!  Needless to say, I finished the session.  At the end of each session, my instructor tells us to invite our family and friends for a recital and a potluck afterwards.  Several friends came along with my husband and daughter, but I have to admit, I was really bad!  Although the classes were year-round, I only took it in the summer time but stopped after 2004 when my work got very busy.

I signed up again this summer, and many of the women in my summer 2001 class were still there.  Of course, they danced really well and wore full costumes for the recital!  I took the Beginning/Intermediate class because my daughter was taking piano lessons in the same location, so it was more convenient.  We had to learn 5 numbers.  In the interest of not embarassing the rest of the class, I only performed the two I remembered well enough.  Plus, it looked like some of the other women knew the other songs from a previous class, so it was really a disadvantage for me to muddle through it. 

The first number was a Hawaiian dance but not in English.  It’s a little harder to dance when you can’t get your cue from the words, but I did fine.  Pictured above is me doing the second number, a Tahitian dance, with live drumming in the background.  We are using an implement called the i’i i’i (pronounced E E – long e sound). I’m not smiling because I’m too busy concentrating!  You’re supposed to follow the beat, but I can’t find the beat to start with, so this was a challenge!  After I was done, I was very tired… but I’m signing up again for September… I’m going back to the beginner’s class, and my goal will be to learn all the numbers… I’ve never done that in any of the classes because it was just too hard to remember all the moves.

So… my next recital is going to be in December.  I’ll let you know how that goes!

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It’s Almost Time for a New Car

BMW 135i Hatchback I drive a 1987 Acura Integra that I bought in 1986.  I love the car.  We bought a 2001 Acura TL to replace it, but after several months, I went back to driving the Integra.  I won’t go into the details because an article will be published in our local paper about my car in a couple of months.  However, because my car will be 21 years old, I’ve been thinking about replacing it.  Several years ago, I thought about getting the Mazda Protege 5, but I wasn’t ready to give up the Integra yet.  I love the flexibility of a hatchback with the rear wiper without the look of “your father’s station wagon.”  A few months ago, I thought it might be time for me to indulge in the Nissan 350Z; I’ve always loved all the Z cars.  However, research showed that mechanically it wasn’t as reliable as I had hoped (I’ve had an unreliable car before, but that’s another blog).

I had a 12 year subscription to Car and Driver but canceled it after my daughter was born because I had no time for reading magazines.  Yes, my husband is the car guy in the family, but I’m really not that far behind… except that I haven’t been keeping up for the past 10 years!  Last month, I was waiting to be seen at a doctor’s office and got the chance to glance through an entire issue of Car and Driver.  My immediate reaction was that reading the magazine was like watching a soap opera:  An hour later, I was all caught up with up-to-date car news as if I never stopped!  The most wonderful thing was that I found my new car!  It’s a hatchback.  It’s fast, looks great, and in my price range!  It’s the new 2008 BMW 135i!  I’ve included a photo, and here’s a link to the article I read:  http://www.caranddriver.com/carnews/13284/2008-bmw-128i-and-135i-coupes-official-photos-and-info.html.  Can’t wait!

Food Stamp Budget Experiment

Several months ago, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski participated in an experiment of eating on the food stamp budget of $3/day, which represents the average benefit of an Oregonian on food stamps.  Of course, realistically, food stamps aren’t meant to pay for all your food.  It is expected that the recipient has some of his/her own money to spend on food as well.  According to this website, http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodPlansCostofFood-CostOfFoodAtHome.htm, if I’m on the thrifty plan, I should be able to feed my family of three on $98.50/week.  I think that is totally doable, since I live in California where fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful (think supply and demand), where there is a Pak ‘n Save and Asian markets (less expensive places to shop at) within 1-3 miles away from my home, and I’m in a situation where I have the basic skills to do appropriate calculations and have some general nutrition training as oppose to about 44% of recipients have not completed high school (the assumption is that they lack some survival skills).

The most I can receive in food stamps for a family of three is $399/month which is $92.08/week.  Because this number is pretty close to the number I mentioned above as doable, I will declare one week in September my experimental week using $63/week to feed my family.  $63/week represents $1/meal/person/day, the same as Governor Kulongoski’s experiment.  This lower figure will be more of a challenge for me, but I’m still confident that it’s doable.  After all, it’s “only” for one week!  I’ll let you know it goes… if we survive!

Know Thyself

It’s summer again, that time of the year when you hear tragic stories of children left in cars by their caregivers and forgotten, leading to their untimely deaths.  I’m not talking about parents who purposely left their children in the car, like the mom in South Carolina whose babysitter was suddenly ill but had to go to work or risk getting fired and left them in the car while she went to work.  I’m talking about people who inadvertantly forgot they had a child in the car, a father like Danny Takemoto from Benicia who took his young son to the babysitter but went to work instead.  The boy, Ian Takemoto, was found dead later that afternoon.

On the average, there are about three dozen car-related heat exhaustion deaths of children in America, but that doesn’t account for the number of children, maybe numbering in the hundred, who survive from near deaths because they were left in the car.  Many of these caregivers are community leaders like members of the clergy and teachers, not the stereotypical irresponsible spaced out junkie.

When my daughter was a baby, I was always worried about type of accident.  I knew my temperment and personality and also what I called a lack of maternal instincts, especially as a first-time mother who had never been responsible for a child before.  I always put some reminder of her in the front passenger seat, whether it was her diaper bag or a stuff animal, because I knew there was always a possibility that I’d forget.

Many people are quick to judge the caregivers whose negligence caused the deaths, but I think living with the guilt for the rest of their lives is heartache enough.  They say people should be able to remember that there is a child in their car, that if you can’t even remember this simple fact that you must not be capable of anything esle.  But sometimes we get sidetracked, especially if it is not the norm for the driver to bring the child somewhere.  Sometime these deaths occur when the parent who seldom drives the child to the daycare drove on that fateful day.  People are very tired and busy nowadays and very distracted.  Sometimes these infants had already caused the parents to be up all night because of the crying, so they are deeply sleep-deprived.  These accidents can happen to the best of parents, grandparents, and caregivers. 

There are now products on the market that assist in reminding people about the child in the back seat.  Child Minder is an alarm that sounds if the driver is more than 10 feet away from the car.  NASA is working on a system that does something similar, spurred on because one of their own engineers left .  If forgeting a child in the car is such an anomoly, I doubt companies or organizations would spend the time, effort, and money to create products to prevent these deaths.  I didn’t have access to these gadgets when my daughter was born, but I knew enough about myself to have a reminder in place.  By the grace of God, I never did.  And I hope the number of these incidents will lower with each passing year with all the publicity each occurrence generates.

Next time when you are in a parking lot, take a moment to look into the vehicles, particulary vans or SUV’s with tinted windows, to ensure there’s not a child alone inside.  Lisa Sopko does this because she is trying to prevent a similar death.  Her father-in-law left her daughter, Kiana, in his vehicle, and she died from heat exhaustion.