Saturday, December 31, 2011

Banishing Regrets Before the New Year

I forgive me for not saving more money.

I forgive me for not losing more weight.

I forgive me for not going to the gym as often as I intended.

I also forgive me for spending time playing Scrabble on line, watching “Mad Men” reruns and staring at coral, burnt orange and purple sunsets over the water instead of lobbying to cure cancer, reading important books and occupying anything much more than my apartment.

That feels good! 

I am ushering in the new year in the spirit of forgiveness. Instead of burdening myself with prissy promises that I may or may not keep in 2012, I have decided to banish all regrets, past and present.

You know that song, “Let It Snow?” I’m singing, “Let It Go.” This is not a new song. In water aerobics class, for years my friend Bernice and I used to grouse first and then call out, “Let It Go,” stirring up a froth of highly chlorinated water at the same time. Our displeasures, our disappointments, our regrets -- out with all of them, all at once. Gone, down the pool drain.

Regrets keep us stuck in the past, wishing we could rewrite bad behavior, or at least edit it enough to make it look better when we remember it. Just as there is no broom big enough to sweep up debris accumulating in the future, there is no way to redo, undo or whoop-de-doo the past, so what’s the point?

This New Year’s Eve, I plan to forgive myself for all the unwise decisions I have made in the past – many of which I have forgotten -- and I plan to forgive myself for all the unwise decisions I made not that long ago, those that I remember clearly. Among them:

·      Bought a beautiful woven jacket that hardly ever makes it out of the closet because I rarely go anywhere that calls for beautiful jackets.

·      Ate not one but TWO malasadas (Portuguese stuffed doughnuts) in Hawaii and two days later I devoured a piece of passion fruit cheesecake on a crust made from macadamia nuts and dark chocolate.

·      Aimed to go the gym at least three days a week and then – often after putting on my gym clothes – still didn’t get there much more than twice a week.

I committed other transgressions as well, some of which had nothing to do with money or food or exercise, yet these are the ones that loom largest for many of us on the last day of the year.

It’s okay. I forgive me.

In 2012, I will recognize my standards of personal perfection as goals rather than realities. Then I will work toward those goals at my usual well-intentioned (if sometimes unsteady) pace, and carry on.

Knowing me, I will also buy an item or two that I don’t need but do want, eat the occasional outstanding dessert, play Scrabble, watch “Mad Men” (the new season starts in March!) and stare at breathtaking sunsets. And that’s okay.

You can play too. Forgive yourself -- and let it go. Then welcome 2012!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Highlights from a Whirlwind Hawaiian Trip

Swimming with spinner dolphins. Sipping a lilikoi (passionfruit) margarita. Relaxing in an immense lava rock pond filled with warm seawater. Falling asleep to the sounds of the coqui frogs and rain on the roof. Getting another look at the mesmerizing Kilauea, the most active volcano on the planet. Tasting guacamole made from avocados grown on the farm where the restaurant sits. Speaking with a green sea turtle on a black sand beach.

All that made my vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii spectacular – that and laughing every day with Peggy, an old friend from high school who works as a doctor in Pahoa, a small town south of Hilo. Every day was an adventure full of scenic vistas, wildlife sightings, terrific food and a chance to see the Big Island through the eyes of a local. This blog post hits the highlights, categorized for your reading convenience.

FAUNA. On a snorkeling trip with Sunlight on Water (, we saw one “early arrival” humpback whale that breached by way of greeting and then moved on. We also snorkeled with spinner dolphins and manta rays, and got a close look at five endangered pygmy killer whales. Later in the week, two nene geese (the state bird of Hawaii) showed up exactly 750 yards from a roadside sign that promised just that. We also saw wild turkeys, that huge green sea turtle, one lone mongoose, northern cardinals (though no sign of expat Pujols), Brazilian cardinals with bright red heads and peahens likely of some quail species. We didn't see but certainly heard the coquis, small frogs that live in clusters of up to 20,000 per acre.

FLORA. Gorgeous flowers are abundant on parts of the island, and Peggy’s yard is full of tropical fruit trees. We also visited the Akatsu Orchid Gardens (, which sells 50 natural species and 1,500 hybrids – and yet that accounts for less than half of one percent of all the orchids in the world! At the Hawaiian Vanilla Company ( -- the only commercial vanilla farm in the U.S. – we learned that the orchid that produces vanilla blooms just once a year for four hours and must be hand-pollinated. A single bean goes for $11, and no wonder! The flowers are epiphytic, or in the words of a farmer, “They just lie there and live.”

WATER. My favorite place to be is below sea level – well, usually. The snorkeling trip involved lots of popping in and out of the water, but a couple days later Peggy and I spent over 90 minutes languishing at the Hot Pond near her home. (See This was a relief after a visit to a beach on Waialea Bay on the Kohala Coast, where the waves knocked me over and dumped me unceremoniously on the beach. Unfortunately, Peggy has photos…

OTHER NATURAL ATTRACTIONS. Volcanoes National Park -- home to Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess – is one of my favorite places on Earth, and our visit did not disappoint. (See One day, we spotted snow at the summit of Mauna Kea, some 14,000 feet above sea level. We also admired great views from a ridge overlooking Na’alehu, we saw a rainbow that ramped up into a double rainbow after leaving the rowdy waves and many birds at Waialea Beach, and the lava fields on the island are remarkable any time of day.

FOOD. Peggy’s hometown is known for great food, and we visited numerous other areas for island specialties as well, some recommended by my friend Joe, who visits the Big Island often. Highlights included taro “pancrepes” (one savory, one sweet) at U-Top-It, Big Myke’s blackened mahi BLT at Kaleo’s in Pahoa, malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts, filled or frosted) at Punalu’u Bake Shop in Na’alehu, POG juice (passionfruit, orange and guava) at Ken’s in Hilo, pulled pork at the Maku’u Farmers Market, a veggie stir fry at Sukothai in Pahoa, a fresh ginger cookie from the coffee shop in Haw’i and (last but nowhere near least) the lilikoi cheesecake on a macadamia and chocolate crust at CafĂ© Pesto in Hilo. We also popped in at Big Island Candies ( to pick up some macadamia nut shortbread dipped in dark chocolate. Breakfasts of fresh papaya topped with yogurt and vanilla-flavored granola on Peggy’s lanai (it runs the length of her house) also rocked, as did my first tastes of rambutans and persimmons.

DRINK. That lilkoi margarita (Peggy calls it an “alcoholic slushie”) at Kaleo’s was outstanding, as was the aromatic vanilla lemonade at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. Another great treat was the frozen Pacific Passion smoothie at What’s Shakin’ in Pepeekeo, north of Hilo overlooking Oleamu Bay. The drink is made from fruit grown on the farm – banana, papaya, guava – plus apple and pineapple juice. To go with that smoothie, we feasted on the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted. The macadamia nut honey wine at the Volcano Winery ( went down easily, and we enjoyed a sip of Volcano Red, made from pinot grapes blended with jaboticaba berries. (What a fun word!)

SHOPPING. Did you know that Macy’s in Hilo sells muumuus? So does Sears! Shopping was not on the agenda for this trip, but we did stop at Hawaiian Arts in Hilo, where three years ago I bought a beautiful tie-dyed shirt. This time, I bought two shirts – one with Hawaiian petroglyphs ($5!) and one with a great octopus graphic that wraps around the shirt.

Home just three days now, most of all I miss the tantalizing aromas at the vanilla farm and the malasada bakery – and of course, Peggy’s terrific company and that of her cat, Pahoehoe, named for a form of smooth lava. What a great trip!