Noho'ana Hau'ole: Life is Good

reducing, retiring & relocating to Hawai'i


Bad Feelings

article-2087161-0F79C6E200000578-616_468x286As a veteran of many moves, thanks to The Big Kahuna’s career in the navy, I know the pre-departure routine all too well. People, even friends, start to distance themselves from you, and you occasionally find yourself being left out of things, or not invited or included. I get it  - for some it makes saying farewell easier in many cases to create a distance.

You often find out who your real friends are when you’re getting ready to leave, and sometimes those  friends aren’t the ones you expected. Rather than stay away, these are the friends that fix you meals or take you out to eat when you’ve cleaned out your refrigerator, help you pack and clean, or go out with you for coffee and sit while you cry and/or laugh over memories you’ve shared.

But, as much as I understand what’s going on, it’s still hard when other friends don’t come around much or want to get together, and seem eager to move on when you want to spend and savor time with them before you depart.

TBK and I have been experiencing all of this lately, but we knew it was coming. What we didn’t expect was some of the negativity and snide remarks we’ve heard, both about being retired and about our move to Hawai’i. From some, not only is it bad enough that we had the nerve to retire, but then to move to Hawai’i? Who in the heck do we think we are leaving Portland for Hawai’i when everyone else here has to not only stay, but continue to work at their lousy jobs?

When I come up against these people I just have to keep reminding myself that they have no idea that TBK had been working non-stop for 47 years (except when briefly unemployed or going to school) and was ready to retire. Just because his hair isn’t gray (lucky!) doesn’t mean he isn’t old enough to retire. I remind myself that these people have no idea that TBK spent 22 years in the navy before we ever came to Portland, and was often deployed for long periods of time, and I had to function as a single parent. They forget (or don’t know) that we had already raised a son that had graduated from college and was living and working in Japan when we met them. They have no idea how hard we have worked these past few years to pay off our debt and downsize, so we could afford to move to Hawai’i. They don’t know how much planning has gone into our move, that this isn’t just a whim on our part and we just whipped out our checkbook. And, I have to remind myself that they have no idea that our income has always been much, much less than many of theirs, and that we have always begged off taking part in all the destination travel and other activities with them because we just couldn’t afford it, and/or had other priorities.

When TBK was in the navy, even with the distancing that could occur, we never experienced or personally had any bad feelings when someone was moving on. Everyone knew the reason why someone was leaving or retiring, and knew that their time would come as well. So, the bad vibes and negative comments that we have gotten this time are something completely new for us. No, I don’t expect everyone to be jumping for joy over our move, but I honestly still don’t get the occasional bursts of negativity. Thankfully (or at least as far as they’re telling us), the girls haven’t experienced any of this, but for TBK and I it’s something new and unwelcome.

Not everyone is negative, of course. Looking on the bright side too, the bad feelings we’ve experienced have made us even more grateful and thankful for our true Portland friends. We will miss them more than we can ever express or let them know.




Sunday Night Chit Chat

photoI’m trying to decide if I’m glad it’s Sunday evening or not. We’ve had a lovely weekend, and I’ve enjoyed having the whole family together again. On the other hand, with YaYu’s return home the cottage has gotten quite crowded once again, so I am honestly looking forward to tomorrow when all three girls head back to school and our little house empties out for a while.

We celebrated both Easter Sunday and TBK’s birthday this morning with a dim sum brunch at a local Chinese restaurant. This place is big, but when we arrived there were lines to get in wrapped around the restaurant! We decided to wait, a good decision because the wait turned out to be not all that long, and the dim sum was fantastic. We ate enough that no one felt hungry again until nearly 7:00 this evening! We all realized it might be our last dim sum for a long time (there are two Chinese restaurants on Kaua’i, but no dim sum).

Anyway, this evening I am:

  • Reading: The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina. It’s a mystery set in Scotland, and so far, so good!
  • Listening to: The washing machine. I was so hoping not to have to do any laundry today, but we got the tablecloth dirty at dinner so in it went. The cottage has a just a small stacking washer & dryer, so I’m having to do laundry almost every day now. I miss my big old washer!
  • Watching: WenYu and I may watch another episode of Bates Motel later this evening, but she has a lot of homework and it will depend on whether she can get it all done or not. We finished Dexter last week and will miss it – it was a great series.
  • Cooking/baking: I made hot turkey sandwiches tonight to use up a box of stuffing mix and some celery, and also finished off some gravy and frozen peas. There’s not a whole lot of baking going on these days.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I’ve taken several good walks this past week and have been eating less. I need to get my weight back under control again.
  • Looking forward to next week: We are all heading over to Bend on Saturday to spend the afternoon with my mom, who will turn 90 years old week after next, and is visiting from Colorado. She wanted to come over here to Portland, but there is no room for her to stay, so we will get up early and make the drive over there, take her to lunch (we’re bringing along a birthday cake), and then visit with her in the afternoon before heading back to Portland. It will be a bittersweet day, most likely the last time the girls will see their grandmother, and maybe the last time for TBK and me to see my mom as well.
  • Thankful for: I am so glad YaYu is home from China and that she had such a great trip. She is our resident “ninny,” and has been afraid of just about everything as long as I can remember. She can always imagine the worst-case scenario for any situation and then work herself up from there. Throughout the trip though we kept hearing from her, “well, I did xxx today and now I’m not afraid of it any more.” Her chaperone on the trip was the school vice-principal, and she stopped TBK and I as we were leaving the airport to tell us that YaYu had been the heart and soul of their group, and their leader throughout the trip. She said that YaYu had been fearless about trying things, eating things, talking to people and so forth, and always got them where they needed to be without getting lost. Both TBK and I are so thankful that she got so much more than expected out of the trip.

Happy Easter to all that celebrate! Here’s wishing that the upcoming week be a wonderful one for all!


Friday Odds and Ends

odds_and_ends4An assortment of small stuff:

  • And then there were five: YaYu arrived home yesterday from a fantastic two-week trip to China with her Mandarin Immersion class. It was worth every penny we saved, and all the volunteer hours we have put into fundraising over the past nine years. We are all happy she is home, but once again we are crowded into our tiny cottage. It really is a good fit for four, but five people truly stretch the space’s caring capacity. Same for the new car. It fits four of us just fine; for five the Civic is a tight fit. We will manage though – we always do.
  • Can we do it? Menus have been planned out to the end of the month, which is when TBK and I leave for our house-hunting trip to Kaua’i. The menus are planned to use up as much of everything here as we possibly can. Some items (like cooking oil) will be kept by friends while we’re gone, but pretty much everything else must go. The biggest issue we’ve been having lately is Meiling deciding at the last minute to have dinner over at her boyfriend’s home, but we have told her that these last couple of weeks she is limited to eating over there to just once a week, and she has to let us know well in advance so that I can adjust what I’m cooking here. This is one of the things about moving that I really don’t like – trying to use up every last bit of food so as not to waste it, and having to eat out more than usual when you do use everything up.
  • A confession, since we’re talking about food: My weight has been creeping up again, and not just by a few pounds. It’s all my fault too and I accept full responsibility for my back-sliding. I’ve been eating a lot since last fall, when the stress of selling our home started me down the path of overeating. I wish I were one of those who didn’t eat when they get stressed, but I am unfortunately just the opposite. I instead become constantly hungry and crave all sorts of the wrong stuff, like gooey sticky buns and other high-fat and/or sweet dishes. Combined with my usual “winter funk” (as TBK calls it), the pounds started coming right back on, and faster than usual this time. I’m nowhere near where I was when I started my last weight loss journey, but I have some work to do to get back in shape again.
  • Finally, the most dreaded task of the entire move has been completed: In spite of my weight gain, I bought a bathing suit. Actually, I bought two of them! The Big Kahuna and I headed up to Popina earlier this week and each tried on a variety of suits. Every one of suits the sales person helped me pick out was a winner and I could have gone with any of them, but in the end I chose a simple maillot, which was also affordable enough that I could buy two. So, I now have a purple suit and a turquoise suit, both look great with my pareo/sarong (that I picked up at a yard sale a few years ago for a couple of dollars), and all should last me a good long while. TBK enjoyed a complimentary glass of one of his favorite beers while he shopped, and got a very Hawai’i-appropriate suit as well. We’re all suited up now except for YaYu, but I am taking her shopping this weekend.


I’m a Bit Worried

00303_kPCcsncsx4b_600x450The rental market on Kaua’i is currently tight. Very tight, as a matter of fact. I have to admit to being a bit worried about whether we will be able to find a suitable rental during The Big Kahuna and my upcoming house-hunting trip.

The 500 square-foot, one-bedroom house in the picture was posted on Kaua’i Craigslist a couple of days ago. It’s clean and cute, and in a nice location in the southern part of the island. The owners received 60 responses to the ad in one day (they nicely posted a note to Craigslist that the house had been rented and they mentioned the demand)!! Not only did I note how many people were interested in renting this tiny house, but also realized that 59 parties were still out there looking for a place to rent. Yikes!

“Good” rentals appear on Craigslist for no more than a day, sometimes no more than a few hours. In fact, after following the Kaua’i listings on Craigslist for nearly two years now, I know that if a house does appear more than once there’s most likely something quite undesirable about it, something that might not be apparent from the either the pictures (if there even are pictures) or write-up. Maybe the pictures are old and the house is now dirty or in disrepair; the neighborhood might be “iffy;” the rent might be way out of line for the property in question; or the landlord could be a real kook. One beautiful, newly remodeled place, a second floor duplex unit with drop-dead views, sat in the listings for a few weeks, and I could not figure out what could possibly be wrong with the place. It looked to have everything one could want in a rental, and the price was right, so what could be so wrong that no one snapped up the place? It was not until I did a bit more investigation that I found that the tenant would be required to pay 60% of the utility bills for the entire building!! No wonder no one had jumped at the “opportunity” to rent the place (although it has since been rented).

The Big Kahuna and I have already contacted a few property management offices to let them know we will be arriving in early May and to let them know what our needs are and what our price range is. We’ve heard back from a couple of them that have encouraged us to stop in once we’re on the island and they will see if they can help. We’ve decided not to limit ourselves to just one high school boundary area so that we have a larger area to find a potential home. We are thinking of posting a small ad about our family and what we are looking for to the Craigslist “Housing Wanted” section right before we go – we have heard both positives and negatives on doing this, but we don’t want to leave any stone unturned in our search for a house. We have assembled loads of paperwork and references to show what kind of tenants we will be (our task will be a bit more difficult because we are new to the island and therefore an unknown quantity).

In the end though, I think the best TBK and I can do is relax about it (for now) and just let the process unfold. I used to get very uptight whenever I entered a crowded parking lot, thinking it was going to be a struggle to find a parking space, and my negative attitude usually defeated me. I have learned however, that if I just relax, take a deep breath and tell myself I will find a place to park, somehow a parking spot shows up pretty quickly, and usually without too much effort. We need to apply the same mindset to finding a rental. There is a place for us on Kaua’i, and we will find a place to live, someplace that will work for us and that we can call home.

So yes, I am a bit worried right now about finding a rental. But, I keep reminding myself that even if TBK and I don’t find oneduring our May trip, we will at least have gotten a lovely Kaua’i vacation out of the deal!


Sunday Night Chit Chat

Our Portland view this morning!

Our Portland view this morning!

It’s been a perfectly lovely day today here in Portland, almost like summer. I know this gorgeous weather is not supposed to last (it will be cold and rainy again by mid-week), but it gives me hope that I did not act hastily in putting my winter coat into the Goodwill box this past week. I was so sick of that coat I could have screamed (it’s nearly 12 years old!), but once we made up our mind to move to Hawai’i I decided I would see it through until the bitter end and I did. If it gets too cold from here on out I will just double up with the two hoodies that I am keeping and taking along to Hawai’i.

The Big Kahuna and I enjoyed a belated 35th anniversary brunch at the Portland City Grill this morning, and boy, was it worth waiting for! We had a spectacular view of Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown from our window-side table, as well as Mt. St. Helens and a couple of the other Cascade peaks in the distance. The food was wonderful too, and it all came courtesy of our former neighbors, who gave us gift cards last Christmas.

Since Carla hasn’t posted the Chit-Chat questions at the time I sat down to write tonight, I’m just going to revert back to the old questions. Tonight I am:

  • Reading: Nothing, really. I have the new Amy Tan book sitting by my bedside, but haven’t started it yet. Maybe tonight’s the night!
  • Listening to: The wind chimes gently playing outside. Meiling is over at her boyfriend’s for dinner, YaYu is still in China, so it’s just TBK, WenYu and me around right now, and we’re all either reading, doing homework or blogging. So, it’s pretty quiet here right now. No laundry today either!
  • Watching: WenYu and I have been watching Dexter: Season 8, and we’ll watch another episode this evening. One episode at a time is about all we can stand – it’s been pretty intense so far.
  • Cooking/baking: I was still full from this morning’s brunch and didn’t feel much like cooking, so TBK made dinner: Thai red curry chicken, rice and coleslaw. Yum!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting the minivan finally sold and off to its new owners. And, getting that winter coat into the Goodwill box! The whole family has also done a great job eating up the food we brought along with us – there will be very little left when we head over to Kaua’i at the end of the month.
  • Looking forward to: YaYu coming home this week! I know she is having a wonderful time on the trip of a lifetime, but I sure miss that girl and can’t wait until she’s back home with us. No matter the reason any  of my kids (or TBK) go away for – whether it’s an afternoon, a day, a week, a month – there always comes a point where I’ve had enough of them being gone and want them back right now!
  • Thankful for: That we were able to find and rent this cottage as a temporary place to stay until we permanently depart Portland. It’s very cozy and has been a great fit for our family. Our other option would have been some sterile, executive extended-stay apartment which would not only have been more expensive, but in a terrible location for us and with none of the charm of where we are now.

Happy Sunday everyone – I hope you have all had a lovely, relaxing day!


Time To Execute Plan B

school_photo_PortlandStateUniversity-1000000027_1-48_original_resized1Meiling has always known that she would be paying for the majority of her college costs, through her own savings, scholarships and other financial aid. She has worked hard these past four years in high school including pursuing a full International Baccalaureate diploma, has saved some, and earned a scholarship. But, as she discovered this past week, it still won’t be enough to go to the college of her choice.

The annual cost for attending the University of Oregon for the 2014-2015 year is estimated to be a little more than $24,000. Yes, it’s less than it would be to attend a private college, but honestly still way more than any of us were expecting. According to our FAFSA, The Big Kahuna and I are expected to come up with 67% of that amount. The rest has to come from scholarships and Meiling taking out both subsidized and unsubsidized loans; she was not awarded any work-study or any grants. Yes, she could work off campus while she went to college, but it’s not something we wanted her to have to do her first year while she is adjusting to college coursework, a new social life, a new environment as well as living so far from home.

Neither TBK nor I can afford nor are willing to take out a parent loan, so that source of funds (which the university recommended) is out of the question. And, we have drilled into Meiling that if she borrows money it should only be from subsidized loans, and she should borrow no more over her entire college career than $10,000, a reasonable figure to pay back after she graduates.

Meiling has applied for loads of scholarships, but has so far only received one, and it was from the university. She will receive no extra benefit from earning the IB diploma other than some college credit. Friends of hers in the IB program received not only the scholarship Meiling did but an additional one that she did not receive even though she has the same or higher GPA (nearly 4.0), same coursework, etc. When we asked the financial aid office about it they seemed surprised Meiling did not received the second scholarship, but then said sorry, there will be no review of her status. She has not heard back on any of the other scholarships she has applied for, but realizes at this point that she would have to “run the table” and earn them all in order to make attendance at UO affordable.

The financial aid representative said we could file an appeal based on the reduction of our income due to retirement, but added that the FAFSA powers-that-be does not look favorably on retirees when it comes to awarding aid “since we are no longer paying any FICA tax.” So, that’s a long shot as well.

However, Meiling has always had a Plan B, and she is now putting that plan into action. She has applied to Portland State University, where she only needs to take eight credit hours to qualify for housing and a meal plan, which is affordable. She will receive 45 hours of credit for her IB diploma, and enter as a second-year student. The PSU dorm is much more affordable as is the meal plan. Taking only eight credits means she can afford to get a part-time job. Plus, she knows Portland like the back of her hand and how to get around by bus, tram, train and bike. We also have loads of friends in the city for support if she needs it. The only thing PSU doesn’t have is the exact major she wants, but she said she is willing to change and adapt.

It still isn’t going to be cheap, but it is doable if she works hard this summer and saves every dime that comes to her. She still may earn more scholarships too, but she’s planning as if she won’t. Eight credits per term this coming year will allow her to “catch her breath,” adjust to college life in a familiar place and eventually transfer to UO if that’s what she still wants in the future.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed.



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