Counting my blessings

Among the wonderful blessing of  simply living in Hawaii is that there are a lot of  rainbows. It gives me even more joy that there is a special blessing in Hebrew just for the rainbow. I love it that I get to combine the two on a regular basis.

I have gotten into the habit of snapping a photo of them with my iPhone. Here are few of my recent favorites.

I saw this rainbow on Sunday evening when I was leaving the Kukui Center after a Kids Hurt Too Hawaii Board of Directors meeting.

This rainbow graced our presence last month when I was waiting on the top-level of the parking lot at the Neal Blaisdell Center to go to the Kamehameha Schools 92nd Annual Song Contest–and our first.

This is the double rainbow I saw outside our hotel room window in December when we were at Turtle Bay Resort celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary.

I can’t help but count in my blessings the opportunity to count these blessings every day.

Chag Sameach from the North Shore

We tell our kids all the time, “Chanukkah is not a major holiday in the Jewish tradition. It’s only a festival.” It is a wonderful celebration of bravery and miracles and light, but it has nothing to do with presents. Americans added on that part because of Christmas.

Then we spend 8 nights lighting candles, playing dreidle, eating more than our share of fried food and giving them too many presents. I can’t help it. I love picking out presents for them.

This year we ended up sort of practicing what we preach. We were not together as a family for the first few nights. We have celebrated from different shores. We haven’t given them any presents…. yet.

Not only is this the holiday season, but it is also our wedding anniversary and my birthday. Yes, we got married on my birthday, December 26.

When Chanukkah falls during the later part of December, all of these celebrations converge. My husband and I like to celebrate what we call our “Birthaversary” each year by getting away alone together for a few days. Since we were expecting his mother to arrive next week, we celebrated early, thus missing the first few nights of Chanukkah with our daughters.

The younger girl has spent 5 glorious days at Camp Erdman in Mokuleia. We packed her and some dreidles and some chocolate coins and dropped her off last Sunday. Our teenager stayed with her  grandmother on the West Side enjoying family and going back and forth to wrestling practice in Kapalama.

Husband and I packed our own bags, plus an extra one filled with snacks and drinks and hit the road for the North Shore of Oahu to our favorite getaway destination, Turtle Bay Resort.

It has become a tradition for us to celebrate together in this beautiful vacation spot. Before we were married, he was deployed in Iraq from 2004-2006. He came to Hawaii to spend a week of his R & R leave with me at this very place. We have come back every year since that romantic week in 2005.

It was just as romantic this year. What I love about the Turtle Bay Resort is that it really feels like being away on an outer island without the hassle or expense of getting on a plane or renting a car.

We only spent a few days on the North Shore, but it was enough to relax, disconnect from the demands of daily life and reconnect with each other. I consider that a great way to celebrate a holiday and a minor miracle in and of itself.

We enjoyed the secluded beaches to the North of the resort, walking for a few miles along the coastline, dipping our feet in the water, picking up sea glass and coral and embracing the sun and salt air.

Wednesday morning greeted us with a double rainbow right outside our hotel room window. Talk about a blessing.

Add to that some time for my husband to surf in the challenging waves that side of the island has to offer, while I embraced a relaxing moment in the jaccuzzi, then topping it all off with a dazzling and romantic sunset moment, I have to say that it made for a wonderful holiday celebration.

We returned to Kapolei relaxed and refreshed and began to gather our children back at home for a family Chanukkah weekend (and a few presents.)

Tonight we will join some of the local Jewish community at Pearl Harbor’s Aloha  Jewish Chapel for Erev Shabbat and Chanukkah services, latkes and song. Others will celebrate at Honolulu’s Temple Emanu-El, but we can’t be at two places at once tonight.

Chag Sameach to you and your family and may it’s light and miracles brighten each of our lives on this 4th night of Chanukkah.

Local snow bunnies hit the slopes

Until recently, my kids had never really seen the snow. Once or twice we were on a vacation at a  mainland destination where a few flakes came down, but melted as soon as they hit the ground. One spring break trip to Kansas City offered enough  for my older girl to make a sort of muddy snow man, kind of like the one Jem made in “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

When it comes to good old-fashioned, winter snow, neither of them ever had the chance to romp and play in piles of that soft white cold stuff, or to slide down a hill in it or to freeze their little tushes off. My kids complain that it is cold when the temperature drops dangerously below 71º. That’s why I took them on “ski” trip to Heavenly in Lake Tahoe last month. They needed to get their inner snow bunnies on!

I have heard that local kids are naturals at the sport and that proved true for mine. My older girl was snowboarding like a pro by the second day. The younger one was sliding around on intermediate slopes long before I made it successfully down “The Big Easy.”

While they were surprised at the cold, they were not uncomfortable. We took the advice of my expert sister and “layered.” Add to that the boxes of snow pants and gloves and hats and long underwear that she sent from her East Coast collection, we were well prepared in that department.

We did it all, from skiing and snowboarding, to old-fashioned tubing and snow ball fights.  My family embraced the opportunity and relished every minute in this foreign environment.

While the thrill of the ride was certainly exciting for all of us, for me, the magnificent backdrop of beautiful Lake Tahoe made it sublime. Heavenly is aptly named.

Just as I am filled with awe and excitement every time I glimpse the ocean from Farrington Highway as I round  Kahe point, the minute I stepped outside in the bracing cold, I had to catch my breath. Not because my lungs were constricted, because I was filled with the power and strength of this amazing place that dumped piles of snow in perfect little flakes on us from the minute we got off the plane until the day we returned to the airport for our flight home.

I know that there is a blessing when you see a rainbow. That  comes in quite handy in Hawaii where we see them on a regular basis–but are still excited every time. I kept wondering what specific blessing I would say for this place. Even though I did not know the words, it was certainly in my heart. I have come to learn that Shehecheyanu would have been perfect–especially for this Hawaii family’s first time.

Blessed are You, Lord our God,  Ruler of the universe, who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.