Muted Colors


I used to live on an island vibrant with color, vivacious with life, and tucked safely in a watery cocoon of blue serenity and green bliss. I used to stare out at the greenish blues of the ocean all around me and feel comfort and peace, safety in remoteness, and a certain removal from the cliche mundane-ness of the daily grind. I was happy here. I felt safe from both petty crimes and “normal” life. I was comfortable.

Until Saturday….

The day started as many of our Saturdays do. Our children awoke first and played in their room, occasionally bringing us pretend coffee or plastic eggs from their little kitchen. The dogs paced by the door, waiting to be let out. HPR came on with the Saturday morning lineup. Me ignoring the Emergency Broadcast Alert on my phone because it usually meant high waves or flash floods, neither of which affect us much. After buzzing consistently and annoyingly, I finally reached over to check the alert, scanning it before closing it down. When I didn’t see what I expected to see, I bolted up, grabbed my glasses, and read the message again, this time out loud for my husband to hear.

Emergency Alert

I read that over and over, still not believing it was real. My husband jumped up and immediately went into action, filling the bath tubs and gathering our stockpile of emergency supplies. I jumped up too, threw on clothes, and started shutting windows and doors, screaming for the girls to come to me. They sensed our panic and cooperated, asking questions while I dressed them in leggings and shirts. I gathered them and the dogs into our designated safe space and started contacting people to get more information. I texted “Is this real???” to a few friends, and one responded “Yes,” because they were on one of the bases. The base shut down and they were told to leave and go north. I couldn’t believe this was happening. It was actually happening. We were being attacked…on a beautiful, Saturday morning.


We waited, trying not to panic, in our space, pacing. The girls kept asking why would anyone want to fire bomb us and why were there bad people in the world. I knew we only had about 15 minutes before the missile would hit. I waited for it. I mentally and emotionally braced for the destruction that I believed in earnest was coming. After 15 minutes, no boom. I still waited, very much on edge, but now wondering. Nothing. I was screaming inside, thinking of my children, of all the families downtown, terrified. Would the missile miss and hit us on the hillside? Would it hit into the ocean, causing a tsunami? The journalist in me made a lousy attempt to persuade me to go outside and look down the hill towards Diamond Head, but the mother in me won without any real contest, and I stayed put in the safe place with my family.


We continued to text friends to try to get real information. After 30 minutes of nothing, including no Big Voice siren and nothing on national news (we still had HPR playing), we were hopefully suspicious that it wasn’t real. Soon, Twitter confirmed our suspicions, but we waited in our safe place until we had official confirmation from local authorities.

As I stared out at the ocean during dinner that night, it didn’t look the same to me. The colors were off…not as vibrant as they used to be. It was like a thin, gauzy film danced delicately between my window and my view. Instead of feeling calmed by the seclusion, I felt trapped. The afternoon chirp of birds and geckos sounded mumbled, as if they too had shifted slightly in their comfort level. The once zesty oranges, fuchsias, and mauve of the sunset reminded more of detonating explosions and my heart lurched just remembering how I felt when I read THIS IS NOT A DRILL, having ignored it for precious, life-saving minutes. The romance of the island was quickly dying for me, morphing into a bewitching cage.

If someone had really launched a missile at us, we would have had no where to go, especially not in 15 minutes. All those people…so many people. Some people save their whole lives to take a vacation here. Honeymooners. Weddings. 50-year anniversary. Birthdays. People from all over the world come here to celebrate life. And that celebration of life was stolen from them, from all of us, on Saturday, by a careless mistake.

I’m afraid, though, that much more was stolen from me. I’m not sure I will be able to recover from this. Losing my family is one of my greatest fears, and I was not prepared. How can you ever be prepared for that? Some people say that this was a good “wake-up call” for people to get their emergency supplies together, but in reality, was it? We had our emergency supplies together along with a solid plan that we immediately activated. But our plan was for tsunamis or hurricanes, not ballistic missiles.

This was a wake-up call, though. It was a wake-up call that being attacked is not out of the realm of possibility, and if it happened, we would be entirely cut off from the rest of the country and the world. Isolated in our devastation. I thought I could live here forever, but now the gauzy veil of anticipated destruction is muting the colors. The Spirit of Aloha…is it still here? I can’t feel it. I only feel like I’ve been a fool to think that I could keep my family safe and out of international problems by living here. I try not to think about all the families, hard-working people, good, honest people, who were collateral damage in world conflicts. But I do think about them. I thought my family was special, different…but truly, what makes us exempt from being collateral damage? Saturday’s false alarm has provided me with one of the most consequential perspective shifts I’ve ever encountered, and I can’t predict how this will influence the rest of my life.

Crazy Women Drivers!

Ladies, I’m so very sorry.  wallpaper-car

I honestly don’t know what came over me.  I have no answer for what I did, and I can’t explain it, but I definitely, and quite accidentally, fed the misconception of women being horrible drivers.   Normally, I’m a great driver.  When I worked at a private daycare long ago, I picked up the after-school kids and brought them back to the center, and in order to do that, I had to take safe driving lessons and be certified to drive the van.  Ever since then, I have been an overly alert driver and super cognizant of my surroundings.

So I really can’t explain the other day.

Baby girl and I had just left a kid’s birthday party and were headed home when I decided to stop for gas.   The area we were in was not completely foreign to me, but it was under construction.  The gas station was tucked within the shopping plaza and kind of back to the left.  As I approached it, I saw the ONEWAY signs pointing in to the gas station area.  No problem.  I followed the signs, pulled up to a pump, and got my gas.  When it was time to leave, I couldn’t see any ONEWAY signs showing me how to get out of the gas station.  Just chain-linked fences  surrounded the station keeping the large construction beast machines at bay. I waited for another car to exit so I could follow, but none did.  (Maybe they were waiting for me?)  So I drove towards the fence to the left and followed it back towards the entrance.  It actually led to a brand new roundabout.  When I got to the roundabout, I could see a small street to my immediate right that led back out to the main road, and I could see the shopping plaza, full of ONEWAYS, none of which pointed out.  Hmmm…I took the small street.

As I was driving my huge, white, SUV down the little two lane road, things started to feel weird like when you’re not sure which way a shirt goes, but you put it on anyway and find out later that it WAS on backwards.  I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a STOP sign.  Wait.  I can see the STOP sign.   That was my first clue, but, for unknown reasons, I kept driving.  As I continued slowly along, I glanced in my right side mirror and saw an arrow on the ground behind me pointing straight back.  Oh no.  This can’t be.  Next, the inevitable: a car came down the little street towards me.  The driver gave me a non-smile, put his left index finger up and made circles.  It had been confirmed.  I, the ever-careful, super-safe carrier of children, was driving the wrong way down a one-way street.  At that point, I couldn’t go back.  The street was smallish and it curved, and my car was too big to make that trip backwards so I continued on.  I got to the main road, my destination, just as the light turned. and four lanes of traffic headed in my direction.  Everyone could see me right in the midst of my dumbness.  I sat there, waiting for a break in the traffic so I could make a hard right onto the street when a small car pulled into the turn lane…and sat there.  The little car with its little driver just sat there, and soon another and another and another car was in line, waiting to turn down the ONEWAY street that I was blocking.  I looked at the driver and he didn’t even frown.  He didn’t yell at me.  He didn’t flick me off or lay on his horn.  He just sat there giving me the saddest, most pitiful look while shaking his head:  Crazy women drivers.  I could hear it in his eyes and in the way his head tilted as he slowly shook it back and forth.  It would have been better if he was angry, but the pity was almost too much to bear.  The light never changed to release me from his condemning gaze.  Instead, all four lanes of traffic stopped so I could turn and flee from my humility.  It didn’t even matter that the lane I turned into was an expressway on ramp headed in the wrong direction.  ::sigh::  At least it wasn’t an expressway exit ramp.

Ladies, I’m so sorry.

New Year’s Day Reflections

It’s New Year’s Day, and we’ve been pretty chill.  Hubby has been on his computer all day, and baby girl has been strapped to me in the Baby K’tan while I played Words With Friends, caught up on Facebook posts, and watched movies with  the in-laws.

We first watched the newest Madea – Witness Protection – and now we’re on a Harry Potter marathon.  Both movies make me think about my daughter and how she would fit in.  Would she be a fish out of water at Madea’s house like that family was?  If something happened to us and she had to go live with someone else, would she be deprived of one whole side of her heritage, like Harry was before the big shaggy dude rescued him?

running fish from aquarium

Will we be able to give her fair and balanced doses of both cultures, or does it not even matter?  I mean, it IS 2013…I would hope that she has no trouble finding her place.  It isn’t illegal for her to exist or for her father and I to be together, but she looks different (and kids are still cruel).  Is it possible for her to be confidently secure in both parts of herself and fit in both worlds?