Tuesday, October 30, 2007


A squirrel just knocked on the back clear glass door. No, squirrel, this is a people-house; no nuts for you.

That is all.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Attention: Too Much of a Good Thing?

All humans need attention, and those who don't are certainly suffering from a psychological disorder. From our first screams as a newborn, we require attention, at first for food, clothing, and shelter; as we grow and mature we desire acknowledgment of our accomplishments. This validation helps us continue to set and achieve goals and, on a large scale, makes society a better place. We must encourage our fellow humans in their lives and vocations and appreciate the positive contributions to our lives of those around us. Some people, however, need more than the average amount of attention; they seem to constantly crave, even require, the spotlight. Have you ever known someone who walks into a crowded room and yells, "Look at me! I'm special!"? Perhaps in not so many words, but he can say it in his actions and by the basic way he presents himself. Such tactics usually lead to discomfort in the people around him as well as a general reticence to give in to the attention-seeker's emotional demands. Most of us don't expect special acknowledgment unless we've actually achieved something of worth, and we especially don't want to see anyone else get anything unearned, be it a good grade in a challenging course or merely verbal praise for doing nothing more than simply existing. In the worst of circumstances, this leads the attention-seeker to resort to negative actions to achieve his goal. He may pick a fight and become a bully or make dramatic displays of emotion. What he will never do is admit that attention, and attention alone, is the only motivation for such actions.

When I encounter the attention-seeker (or anyone who really annoys me, for that matter), I usually immediately turn the spotlight on myself to see if either I do the same thing without realizing it or I in some way instigated that behavior. I might mull it over for a while and do my best to decide whether the person deserves my disapproval. If the person in question is one I don't know and am unlikely to ever meet again, I can drop it pretty easily. However, I find it much more difficult to reconcile my emotional responses when the perpetrator is within my circle of friends or, even worse, a family member. One cannot choose one's family and therefore does not have the option to sever communication. An annoying co-worker can easily be avoided over the holidays, for example, when one most wishes to be at peace and cheerful. But holidays, while relaxing, are also a time to spend time with family, and these times are often more stressful than intended.

The attention-seeker is most difficult to deal with in a family setting for a variety of reasons. He may seek validation and praise from his parents in a veiled competition with his siblings. The particularly narcissistic attention-seeker will make long speeches and expect rapt attention to his narratives of his many and various activities and will make obvious attempts to deflect attention away from other family members. A happy, healthy family finds difficulty in accommodating this attention-seeker, wishing to give equal time and attention to all members, about whom it cares equally. This point is where I have the most trouble dealing with situations like I've described: family members cannot be chosen, but they are to be loved unconditionally, and above all, their needs should be attended to. But what if their needs involve selfishly requiring undue attention? Quite the quandary.

Allow me to digress into a discussion on nutrition. I believe I have a slight intolerance to dairy and refined carbohydrates. Logically, I want to stay away from those foods, right? No--I find that when I eat too much cheese or ice cream and bread (and candies and cookies and salty crunchy delicious corn chips), I crave them even more when I've gone a few hours without them. Instead of avoiding foods my body cannot use, I believe I want more. Only when I purposefully change my habits and eat more fruits, vegetables, and proteins do I find I didn't need all those carbs in the first place. I can't explain my body's desire for that which is unhealthful beyond the obvious state of humanity's sinful nature. The fact remains that I cannot fill a specific void with the wrong material.

And that is how I make sense of petty attention-seeking behaviors. Due to a lack of self-esteem and a low feeling of self-worth, the attention-seeker believes he needs approval from others. As most acknowledgment has to be asked for in the first place, it does not satisfy. His situation worsens as he tries newer tactics to win the esteem he cannot supply for himself. Until the attention-seeker learns to gain satisfaction from himself and, perhaps more importantly, begins to appreciate others' contributions to his success, his void will never be filled. I realize, upon reflection, that I cannot reconcile my mixed feelings toward the attention-seeking type. I must simply be grateful that I find satisfaction in my own work and life; I have a wonderful husband, family, church family members, and many more people in my life who acknowledge my accomplishments without solicitation. I am blessed that the Lord has equipped me with the ability to fill in the self-esteem void on my own, though it can be difficult at times. I choose not to feel guilty for my reticence to give undue attention to others just as I do not feel guilty for avoiding that plate of nachos when all I really need is a carrot.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hawai'i, Part 3: The Big Island (Day 1)

I know you've all been on pins and needles waiting for the next installment of our Hawai'ian adventure. Here it is.

Early Friday morning, we took a short flight from Honolulu to Hilo, the largest city on the Big Island (which is, of course, Hawai'i, but called "The Big Island" to eliminate confusion with the state of Hawai'i, which includes all the islands). We picked up our rental SUV and drove to Volcanoes National Park, where we had a room for the night at the famous Volcano House. We were all settled and ready for a tour of the park by late morning. Robin, our tour guide (in the hat to the left), showed us key plant life in the rain forest which inhabits the park, except for the parts that have been covered in lava in the last 50 years. It was my first time in an actual rain forest, which was pretty cool, and it was especially convenient that it was a beautifully sunny day.

This particular fern has soft, fuzzy hair near the base, and is named after a pig somehow (botanist and Hawai'ian folklorist, I am not).

This is a type of ginger plant that produces a beautiful blossom but is invasive and damaging to the native plant life.

This tree, the name of which I can't remember, grows all over the park and is pretty blah-looking. That is, until you spot one of its bright red blossoms.

Our short nature tour concluded with a stunning view of the Kilauea Caldera, which we could also see from our room in Volcano House. Kilauea is the volcano which is currently active, though this crater (called a caldera because it is more than one square mile) stopped flowing lava years ago. However, when Volcano House was very popular many years ago, it was filled with glowing lava, which must have been very breathtaking at night.

After the tour, we piled into our SUV and drove around the park. First stop: steam vents, where water seeps down into cracks in the mountain and is heated by the magma and mixes with the volcanic fumes. They smell pretty bad.

Some people throw coins down there. Not sure why; seems like a waste to me.

This is how excited Erich, the amateur volcanologist, was to be experiencing volcanoes first-hand.

This was a lava-flow site from the 1970s, I believe. I find it so fascinating to see the plants that insist on growing in such a stark environment. See the fern growing in a crack slightly right of center in this photo.

Closer view of the caldera (and my dreamy husband).

This was a flow site from the 80s or 90s called Devastation Trail, in part because it destroyed an ancient temple. To see these places--what was once civilization turned to rock--is indescribable.

I did appreciate what we were seeing very much and I have wonderful memories of the Big Island, but truth be told, I was not in a very good mood that day. The main reason I was not in a good mood is linked to the proof that there's no honeymoon baby.* I tried to smile, sometimes. A forced smile is worse than no smile.

This is a hike through the rain forest to a lava tube (minus the lava, obviously).

There was water dripping from the ceiling I obviously loved. I also loved the crowds and crowds of Japanese tourists. Wait, is "loved" the right word?

This crater looks pretty big, right? In the next photo, I zoomed in toward the cliffs in the distance, a little right of center.

Click on this picture and see if you can find two hikers. Yes, this crater is HUGE.

We returned to Volcano House and I needed a rest. Erich, the amateur volcanologist, wanted to continue the adventure. He decided to drive up Mauna Loa, the Big Island's tallest volcano and the world's most massive mountain (and the world's tallest, if you measure from the ocean floor, where it begins).

Pretty road with a lot of those trees whose name I cannot recall.

The Mauna Loa view of Kilauea, the smaller but currently much more active volcano.

This is an example of a'a lava, which is cooler (temperature-wise at the time of formation) and more jagged than pahoe'hoe lava, which is cooler (awesomeness-wise) and will be pictured a lot in the next installment.

Just after sunset over the caldera.

The view out of our window in Volcano House. Notice the cloud formation. Next came some much-needed rest before our next adventure-filled day on the Big Island!


Friday, October 19, 2007

Seven True Things About Me

I've been tagged! I feel so honored! By Cheryl in this post. And then I saw that jessica did the same meme in this post, so it must be making its way around the blog circuit.

Seven true things about me:

1. I'm a clutterbug. It's a disease, inherited primarily from my mother. But on the other hand, nothing makes me feel calm and content like a tidy living space, which is an echo of my father's genes. I often feel like I embody many differences between my parents, which makes me feel like I have a dual nature. I'm a clutterbug who likes things clean; I'm a procrastinator who likes to get tasks completed early; I'm weird.

2. Speaking of diseases inherited from my parents, I have acquired two new risk factors for heart disease in this year alone. First, my mom had a heart attack in January. She eats quite healthfully and exercises regularly, so it can't be explained by lifestyle alone. I will have to have my cholesterol checked as soon as I have health insurance. Second, my dad was recently diagnosed with diabetes. I feel blessed that I know about these risk factors already and that both my parents are still otherwise healthy and in control of their conditions.

3. I've always wanted to be a mom. It's the only job I've never not wanted since I was little. No, this is not an announcement; I only just got married! ;)

4. I like spending time alone. Erich was out of town this past week, and while I missed him, it's nice to have time to myself every now and then.

5. I believe that J.S. Bach wrote the most beautiful music that has ever been written.

6. I'm very picky when it comes to character, which makes me less than stellar at making friends, and ensured that I never had a boyfriend before Erich.

7. I'm a compulsive eater.

I'm supposed to tag seven people, but I don't know seven bloggers, so I'll tag Anne, because she just started a personal blog, and Erin, who hasn't blogged in way too long--so long, in fact, her blog may not still exist. Make a new one, Erin! Also, Tim has a blog that he doesn't post in any more. Go! Tag, you're it!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hawai'i, Part 2: The Polynesian Cultural Center

On the first Wednesday of our trip, Erich and I drove to the North Shore (famous for surfing--also where "Lost" is filmed) to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center, run by Brigham Young University-Hawaii (aka Mormons). It was a very interesting place, but not quite as awesome as we had hoped. It was a very pretty setting, though largely man-made, and featured different islands of Polynesia, as well as Easter Island, pictured here. We weren't much in the mood for a lot of "presentations," where someone would stand and talk about different cultural things in a hut, so we pretty much just wandered around for the whole day.

But we did several cool things, the first of which was to take ukulele lessons from this man, Earl, a retired Vietnam veteran who volunteers at the PCC. Erich and I were the only ones there at the time, and since we are both musical, we picked up "You Are My Sunshine" pretty easily. After we mentioned to Earl that we were on our honeymoon, he congratulated us and spouted all the marriage-related wisdom he could think of. He especially stressed "communication" (we're practicing!). Anyway, now I want to get my own ukulele. :) It's like the guitar, only easier because it's smaller and has only four strings.

The main event during the day was a canoe show featuring dancers representing each major island, dancing on a double-rigged canoe-turned-stage. It was interesting but mostly entertaining.

Btw, we saw this duck with a groovy hair-do (feather-do?).

This one is from our canoe-ride tour of the park:
The best part of the day at the PCC was the lu'au. There were hundreds and hundreds of people packed into a large space where we saw traditional Hawai'ian dances with live music.

The food was quite good, though at least half of the buffet was boring "American" food, which I skipped for salmon lomi lomi, poke (delicious marinated raw tuna), roast pig, and poi. Poi is... interesting. It's like sour baby food. It was okay as a dip for meat. :) There was no alcohol at this lu'au, since the PCC is run by the Mormons, though they did try to sell us a smoothie in a pineapple for $10. (I jokingly remarked under my breath that I would bite if it were soaked in rum.) Actually, they tried to sell us a LOT that day, which felt like a lot to ask for when we had already paid $80 a head to get in. By the end of the lu'au we were pretty tired, but there was still an hour and a half before the big, spectacular show... which we decided to skip in favor of driving all the way back to Waianae (the area that includes Makaha Valley, see "Part 1") and getting to bed at a decent time (we were still getting over jet lag).

Side note: the weirdest part of the day was when Erich and I were puttering around a little souvenir hut when we heard someone in the distance: "Erich Keller?!?" That's definitely not something we expected to hear at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the island of O'ahu in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at the end of September. But it was a couple that Erich knew from high school; they, too, were on their honeymoon and had gotten married the same day as us in Evansville. Crazy! We saw them again after dinner and took each other's picture:

And that wraps up the PCC! Here are some other random pictures from the day:

Monday, October 8, 2007

Hawai'i, Part 1: "Home" on O'ahu

Hawai'i is very, very far away. We left in the early afternoon on September 24th and didn't get to our condo until about 14 hours later, which was 11pm Hawai'i time (ugh). I had a lot of trouble with the jet lag going there, though I suspect a lot of that was also let-down from the wedding. On Tuesday morning (which felt like evening--again, ugh), we woke up to the beauty of Makaha Valley, on the west side of O'ahu.

Our condo was a small but spacious-feeling one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit that we found to be very comfortable. The picture above is the only one I got of the interior because it was pretty messy for most of the two weeks. :)

Between our adventures, Erich and I enjoyed relaxing, reading, and sipping mimosas on our narrow balcony, soaking up O'ahu's beauty.

This is my hair which dried after swimming in the ocean. I wish there was some way I could easily recreate this look:

Around our building we saw many peacocks strutting around. Here's one example:

Another animal of which we saw many around the parking lot were cats. Lots and lots of cats, which I can only assume are feral. We didn't see as much during the day, but they'd hang around a few cars at night:

Despite the fact that our home-base was in an out-of-the-way corner of O'ahu, necessitating long drives through pretty bad traffic to get to any other sights on the island, we liked Makaha Valley. It suited us far better than, say, Waikiki, and we expecially appreciated the very reasonable price we paid to stay there. And the condo included a Prius, which was cool to drive and saved a lot of gas. I leave you now with pictures of sunset, taken near the end of our trip, from the Makaha beach. I took about three times as many as you see here: