Hawaii: The Big Island – Christmas Day 2021

Going to Hawaii for Christmas had been on my bucket list for a long time. I’ve had no qualms stating repeatedly that Christmas is not my thing. I’ve never found it magical; it’s been more of a thing-you-have-to-get-through-before-starting-a-new-year obligation. Too much cooking, too much eating, too much spending, too much wrapping, too much socializing, too much of everything that stressed me out and make me tired. I was the only person I knew whose favorite Christmas song was Mele Kalikimaka and not something like White Christmas. After yesterday, I don’t expect that preference will change any time soon.

I started my day by stepping out onto the deck outside our room and just inhaling the sunrise in full and present awareness that the day represented a long-time wish achieved. I knew we had zero plans for the day. Anything we wanted to do would occur within a tenth of a mile from rental house. As a person who is nearly perpetually in motion, the concept of having nowhere to go and nothing to do was freeing.

Sunrise over Hualalai

Luke had offered to make a big American breakfast for everyone, so he and Steve got to work on hashbrowns, eggs, english muffins, and bacon while I sat sipping Kona-grown coffee with oatmilk and honey.

Men in the kitchen

From breakfast at 10 until dinner at 4, nothing of consequence occurred. The day was a free-for-all of hammock time, exploring tide pools, swimming, snorkeling, and sitting in the shade listening to the palm trees sway in the breeze. It was exactly what I had hoped for and imagined. The boys spotted a sea turtle near the house. I swam with some Moorish Idols and Kikakapu Threadfin Butterflyfish. Steve went with my sister-in-law, Linda, to a local fish market to acquire our dinner. The rest of the day was spent searching the sea for whales and splashing in the pool. Joe found a coconut, which he decided to break open and sample because why not?

Creative island activity

Linda had graciously agreed to prepare Christmas dinner for us all. Steve made us our annual holiday cocktail, Brazilian Caipirinhas (vodka, lime juice, and sugar) and then we enjoyed grilled blue marlin with papaya salsa, salad, and white rice, all accompanied by a lovely Hawaiian sunset.

Living our best lives

After dinner, the boys enjoyed the spa and the pool before we eventually got around to unwrapping stocking stuffers and having fruit with yogurt for dessert before calling it a wrap on the most chill Christmas Day ever. It had been perfection. And, sadly, instead of feeling I had achieved my goal and could, therefore, move on, I decided there will have to be more Hawaiian Christmases in my future. I think these photos of the boys best sum up both the peace and joy of our very Mele Kalikimaka.

Mele Kalikimaka Meditation

My morning meditation spot

I christened my day with a meditation. Sitting on a lava boulder, facing the indomitable Pacific, with the actual ocean as my ambient noise and guide. When I meditate, I prefer to do so through mantras. That seems to be the only way my writer’s mind can focus, through words. I start my mediation with an intention, something on which I wish to focus, and I pick a phrase. From there, I let that phrase morph until I land on an organic one that sticks. Then I let that one settle in and carry my intention with it.

Today’s intention was to focus on being curious rather than judgmental, ala Ted Lasso’s advice. I settled upon a Hawaiian image. I imagined myself as a lava rock, washed by the sea, but not changed by it, an immovable object not reacting to the forces before me but simply noticing them. It seemed the ideal way to practice observing other people’s comments and reactions with curiosity without allowing them to affect my calmness and stability.

After a few breaths, my mantra settled in. As I inhaled, my mind asserted “I am a rock,” and as I exhaled, it reminded me “Nothing can disturb my peace.” I focused on that for ten minutes, mentally acknowledging only the sea breeze, the sounds of breaking surf and birds, the hardness of the rock beneath me. (Perhaps next time I will bring a blanket for my rock meditation?)

Any skill comes through practice, which is why meditation is a practice. It’s not something you perfect. Not unlike the ocean tides, it has ebbs and flows. One day, your focus is legendary. The next it is complete horse shit. And the good news is that is exactly as it should be. Sometimes your mind is calm, quiet, and peaceful. Other times, it is rough, cloudy, and choppy. It is what it is to be human. For a long time, I, like many others, thought meditation was a place you arrive at, a destination which only few are allowed to inhabit. Not so. Meditation is a commitment to quieting your mind. That is all. It’s the practice through which you can begin to control your thoughts rather than be controlled by them. It’s available to everyone who endeavors to take the journey. It costs nothing, but yields great things.

So, my Christmas wish for all of you is the strength and perseverance to find inner calm in the chaos of this holiday. I hope you take a moment to be a rock, to pause to observe what is happening around you without allowing it to move you, to be present in the presence of presents. Let the insanity of your crazy uncle’s comments wash over you rather than shake you from the peace that this day represents. You are a rock. Nothing need disturb your inner peace.

With that thought in mind and with any luck, perhaps you won’t have to swill spiked eggnog to enjoy your day with your natural or chosen family. Be strong. Be curious. Inhabit stillness in the midst of noise and wrapping paper and requests and obligations.

Mele Kalikimaka from Hawaii, my fellow travelers through this life!

Can The Grinch Be Tamed By Mele Kalikimaka?

Picturing myself here

The worst part about vacation is the getting ready. The worst part about taking a vacation during the holiday season is that you have to do all the work for the holidays that you normally do, but you have to do it in less time, and you have to add all the vacation prep to your already tightened schedule. I’ve been a stressed out nightmare the past couple weeks. My days packed, my list of things to do seemingly insurmountable, trying only to get from one event to the next, never being able to get ahead. I’ve been testy and tired, anxious and annoyed. I’ve not been my best self. Some days, I wasn’t sure who I was. Today, it hit me that I have been the Grinch.

My goal for vacation is to toss off my grinch mindset and embrace the present with peace in my head. That will be achieved through some meditation, some fresh, salty air, and some sand under my feet. And maybe a piña colada or mai tai or two. Maybe without all the traditional trappings of the holidays, without the obligations and the busy work, the peace that is meant to consume this season will consume me and allow my grinch heart to grow three sizes.

Can the Grinch be tamed by a Mele Kalikimaka? I will let you know if Hawaii is able to work her magic. Stay tuned.

Bucket List Item No. 8 – Mele Kalikimaka

Wouldn’t you love this view every day?

For many, many years, one item on my bucket list has been to spend Christmas in Hawaii. I’m not sure where this idea originated, but I’ve been bugging Steve about it for a while. In early January of 2020, we were able to plan and book a family trip to Hawaii for Christmas with Steve’s family, courtesy of my exceedingly generous mother-in-law, Marlene. Then, all hell broke loose in China and it spread to Iran and Italy, and Steve and I suspected our trip might be doomed. Early on during lockdown, we kind of held out hope that maybe things might be okay if everyone banded together to fight this common enemy. We might still be able to make Hawaii for Christmas. But the country didn’t band together, Covid kept surging, and Hawaii said a polite “No, mahalo” to incoming visitors. Our airline reservations were cancelled. The VRBO gave us our rental money back. And we spent the holiday in new, matching, family flannel pajamas in snowy Colorado instead.

This year, we threw caution to the wind and tried booking our Hawaiian Christmas again. We found a different VRBO. Booked flights and a rental van. And then we waited. We were encouraged in March and April when people were gobbling up the vaccination appointments. Then the rate of vaccinations slowed substantially, and we went back to our waiting game. I didn’t even look for a dog sitter until September because I was that certain we would not be going. But here we are now, a little less than six weeks from our departure date, and things are looking like we just might make it.

The State of Hawaii is allowing visitors with proof of vaccination (meaning we don’t have to have Covid tests before our flight), and all seven of us have been vaccinated and will have had our boosters too by the end of this month. We’re a little late to the game now, but we’ve begun booking activities. Steve, the boys, and I have a helicopter tour booked. We’ve also got seats at a luau on Christmas Eve. We’re working to secure a reservation for a dinner cruise. We hired a photographer to take some family photos too. There are a couple more activities we’re interested in, but the point of the trip was to hang out as a family so that is what we will spend most of our time doing. To that end, after researching and hemming and hawing over five different homes big enough to accommodate our group, we ended up reserving one that is right in Kona and on the ocean. It even has some sand and a hammock. There were newer homes. There were flashier homes. This one looks a bit over-the-top with island decor, but the location, though, am I right?

With just six weeks to go before our flight to the Big Island, all I have to do is about thirty five days on the Peloton, four million sit ups, and some dreaded swimsuit shopping. As National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a family tradition each year, I already know the lyrics to Mele Kalikimaka. I will be singing them to myself every day between now and December 25th, when I will cross this Hawaiian Christmas dream off my bucket list.

fingers crossed

Ocean front hammocks at our VRBO