Category Archives: Family

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

Dogs. Crickets. One Moon. And One Sun.

What more can you ask for?!?

Three Sisters. <3



Airplane path

The Where & the What 4s

A friend commanded, “Blog!” And so I shall.

Mon ami, Pedrata, and I are travelling to Europe for the summer.

Yup, sure nuff we are!


Because we can. Yahoo!!!

And as long as this gal takes on teaching jobs, June and July is when we can get away for the longest time. I italicize the get away because leaving Kaua‘i isn’t about getting away. But that’s one of those expressions we use, and once we stop and think about what we’re really saying, we see it’s not really accurate.

So . . . rewind.

June and July is when I have a break from a real paying job.

Again, why italics?

Because we humans have some weird idea that a job is only real if we get a paycheck.

So again . . . rewind.

June and July is when I have a break. Period.

This gal’s life is about BE-ing, not doing or getting paid, or making money, or whatevahs.

It’s about Being me.

Who else could I be?

So I’m going to do it as passionately and with present moment awareness as possible.

Okay, I hear you all saying, “Get to the point, Sj!”

And so I shall.

WHO: Sj and her pal, Pedrata

WHAT: Traveling to Europe for a couple of months

WHERE: Paris for 2 nights then on to Lyon for 3 weeks of studying French at ESL (more on that later, this is where I studied in January 2009 btw).

THEN a week break when I’ll probably visit a family friend in Geneva (think CERN, Physics Professor, re-visit from shots from 2012), and THEN 4 weeks in San Sebastian, Spain to study Spanish. Yes, I know they speak Basque in that region. But I figured I was already going to *&%k with my mind, so why not go all the way.

And . . . here’s to hoping this Spanish teaching school does what it says. Teach Spanish. : )

Then on home by way of a Megabus ride! Yep! This gal and her pal rat are going to do an overnight trip on a Megabus. Yahoo! Here we come NYC and Pittsburgh.

WHEN: Right now! At the Philly airport ready to board. ;-)

WHY: Because I love learning languages, meeting people and being able to listen to Harry Potter in a couple of different languages. I’ve been itching to dive into Spanish, and before I do that, I want to make sure my French is up to speed. Locked in and pretty much “in the groove.”

HOW: Miles, miles, miles! Thank you airlines for the miles. Thank you, Sj, for the gumption. Thank you, Pedrata, for the companionship.

And now . . . it’s time to roll!

Roger over and out from Sj and little ‘ole Pedrata.

Our breath is the miracle.

Our BREATH is the Miracle

double nickles

On this day when I rise with double-nickles in my eyes . . .

I’ve felt so much already . . . and it’s not even 8 o’clock in the morn’.

Eyes wide awake at midnight, I smile.


It’s my birthday!


Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday dear Sj,

Happy Birthday to me.


Giggles in my warm bed.


Giggles of joy to be alive.


Happy Birthday me again, Sj!


And I do.

I sing yet again to myself.

I feel my Dad watching and laughing.

I hear my five year old self call out, “Happy Birthday me again, Daddy!”


And he did.


And again.

And again.

Until his last time seven years ago.



Quietly awake.

Peacefully awake.

And as I lay in my warm bed covered in quilts that my sister made for me,

I gave thanks

To be alive

To be alive

To be alive!


And then the pull of sleep called me to her breast,

until once again I awoke . . .


Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me,

Happy Birthday dear Sj, Happy Birthday to me.


And then fb called my name.

Yes, fb, lol.

I heeded the call.

Read the many loving messages.

Thank you.

Thank you.


I love YOU!

Happy face.

Hearts galore.

I love you.

I LOVE you.


Again I lay in silence,

Until once again, I awoke.


It’s my Birthday, my Birth



And as I rose, I saw another message.

One of concern

not for me

but for







and what called me instead was






All there is is love.


All there is is love.


On this day when I rise with double-nickles in my eyes . . .

I’ve felt so much already . . . and it’s not even 8 o’clock in the morn’.


. . .







And the greatest of these







lotus water pond

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

On this day, I marvel at how life has unfolded.

At the moment, I am alone.
Gratefully home alone in a clean cottage.
A home magically provided when needed.
So very grateful,
So very grateful,
I am.

And I give thanks for this time alone.
This time to simply BE.
For in simply being, I am shown all that life is.
The joy.
The sorrow.
The fear.
The love.
With love ever present.
The foundation.
The roof.
The contents.
Ever present even in the fear.
Or in the sadness
And joy.
LOVE is always there.

And on this day, I give thanks for YOU.
For the part we’ve played in each others’ lives.
For nothing is an accident.
Or coincidence.
But rather each bumping into
and seemingly chance smile,
is a nod from the Divine.
A reminder that we are
That we

And with this
I send
all the love
that I am

Fido Tomatoes

Life * Death * Life * Death * Life * Death * Life

Fido Remembered

Recently I experienced Ann Randolph’s performance of her most hilarious and inspiring one-woman play, LOVELAND. Afterwards, she invited the audience to stay and write. Ann is also a most dynamic teacher and encourager. She travels the country leading writing workshops. Improvisational acting and various movement activities are used to get everyone’s creative juices flowing. Another teaching technique of Ann’s is to give the participants a “prompt” which they are then to write about for 12 minutes. If you can’t think of what to write at any point during the 12 minutes, you’re to write “What to say, what to say, what to say” until something comes. The idea is to not edit yourself but rather to allow ideas to flow freely.

On this particular evening, after her most outstanding performance of LOVELAND (yup, hated it! Not. : ), she led a short meditation for those who chose to stay (around 15 to 20 people), asking us to think about a time of grief. I closed my eyes and focused on her guidance; nothing came, nothing came, nothing came.

Then she said, “Go.” And suddenly I knew what I was going to write about.

The prompt? A moment in time when we felt grief. And here’s what came (with some slight after-the-fact editing):

What I remember most about this moment is the grass under my feet, toes, and legs. It was damp and a bit sticky just having recently mowed. As I thought of him standing by my side, watching me, I wept.

Then I remembered him opening a coconut, leaving a trail of husks in his wake until he sat down chewing and slurping, coconut water running down his spotted tongue. I simply watched and laughed, enjoying his excitement, his pleasure at opening that coconut and watching me watch him — savoring the moment, the grass, the breeze, the smell. The smell of coconut all over his face running down his noes to his toes.

I remember. I remember. I remember.

And then I realized how I’d been waiting. How I’d been holding my breath waiting for him to turn. To change. To rise up and become a boy. My boy. My little boy. But it never happened. It never happened. And yet I loved him. Adored him. Cherished him as we sat together and watched the sunset. I placed his body on his bed and carried him to the rock wall just steps away from the van. Careful. Careful. Easy. Not to drop him. Not to slip. But to gently set him down so together we could watch the sun set — a fire-ball on the horizon laced with the gentle lap, lap, lap of the waves.


What to say? What to say?

This time with him as he was dying was a gift, and yet I didn’t realize then that he was also giving me a second gift. Cracking my heart wide open, so I could begin to see life for what it really was. Is. The gift it IS to be alive, to breath. The gift that it is now and forevermore. For life doesn’t end with death but simply transforms into another.

So, Fido, to you I give thanks. And always, I give my love, my appreciation that you chose me to be your *caretaker into death. To be there with you, for you, so that we could each cherish the moment as we sat together in silence and watched the tomatoes grow until their plump red bodies were juicy enough to bite into. Fido Tomatoes, I called them. Magical tomatoes born in grief and yet comforting all the same as the juice dripped down my chin, and the taste brought me back to that mid-summer day sitting together in the sun, dirt on my fingers, seeds in my hands, and you watching with complete focus, as these magical seeds spoke of hope and life continued.

Fido Tomatoes on the Vine

Fido Tomatoes on the Vine

*Fido’s Papa, Tony, was also his caretaker, but when writing this, I was thinking of the time Fido and I spent alone.

Monday, December 19th, we celebrated Susan's Mom's 80th Birthday by going to Krefeld, their ancestoral town.

The Mother Chronicles 3 of 3

To Krefeld we go, the Stadtarchivs we go . . . hi-ho the dairy oh, to Krefeld we go!

Then it was time to get serious!

With our armor on (in the form of head gear), we set forth to Krefeld . . .


After our strenuous search in the Krefeld archives . . .

ends up our ancestors left the year BEFORE the archives were started! LOL What the heck, we had fun poking around anyway!

. . . we buckled down to celebrate my Mom’s 80th birthday!!! Yahoo! Happy Birthday Mom!

And . . . Happy Mother’s Day Mom as well as all you other Mom’s out there!

(including those with furry children ;-)


***Footnote: I feel compelled to write of the Sinti and Roma people. They were gypsies who tracked down and killed by the National Socialist Party (or Nazi Party). There’s a detailed site in German which discusses the small bronze figure, “Ehra oder Kind mit Ball,” by Otto Pankok which was completed in 1955 to represent the Sinti and Roma; it’s located on the Rhine promenade in the old city near the Film museum.

+Sj out

References   [ + ]

1, 2, 3. see cute doggie photo
. . . where mom cleans us up in gin rummy! Stay tuned . . .

The Mother Chronicles 2 of 3

From Nürnberg to Düsseldorf — with a card shark !!!

After a couple of days wandering around in Nuremberg, it was time to head to our ancestors’ old stomping grounds near Düsseldorf: North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

We had the good fortune of arranging a home exchange in Düsseldorf’s hip MediaHarbor district (oder MedienHafen). Mom was a good sport about the apartment with a view being a walk-up.

First stop? The pad for a round of cards!

A final stroll down the Rhine.

The Mother Chronicles 1 of 3

Mom arrives at the Nuremberg airport !

(oder Nürnberg auf Deutsch : )

In honor of Mother’s Day 2014, I decided to post these three entries called “The Mother Chronicles.” From my preceding post, you can learn the why and what fors.

Looking back on this now, I realize (even more : ) how darn lucky we were to be able to take this trip together. That we had the time, the funds, the place to stay, the health, the gumption . . . I could go on and on (but I  won’t : ).

Danke, mahalo, merci, grazie, gracias, aw kohn . . . suffices for now.

So without further ado, here are shots from the first part of our trip together (after a brief visit to my sister’s for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh) in Nürnberg, Germany — home of the infamous Weihnachtsmarkt, as well as many other things . . .


Carnival southwestern Germany style!

Germany 2012 comes to a close . . .

Bringing Things Full Circle

Part of the impetus of this trip was to explore the tiny town of Krefeld, Germany with my Mother.

Why Krefeld?

In 1684, Paul Kuster, an ancestor on my maternal grandfather’s side, left that area of Germany (near the Rhine river) for the “free world.” One of thirteen families, the Kusters were part of the original emigrants to Pennsylviana, best known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Why Pennsylvania Dutch and not Pennsylvania German? Not sure. I googled it and found a site with a l o n g explanation of all the why and what-fores. All I DO know is that my grandfather fought for the United States in World War I and did not want to be associated with Germans at all!

How would he feel about his youngest granddaughter becoming enamored with the German language? No idea. He died when I was 6-months old.

My hostess during this final phase of my solo-trip found me through She wanted to visit Kauai and accessed the site through her girlfriend in Freiburg who was a member (and who btw has this lovely family you’ll see in the pix below : ).

“Krefeld?” my new friend thought, “Who wants to visit Krefeld????”

Incredulous that someone wanted to visit this tiny town near the border of the Netherlands, she contacted me anyway. One thing led to another, and in December 2011, my mother, husband, and I found ourselves in her COOL apartment in the Median district of Düsseldorf.

If you want to experience the Mother Chronicles, visit: the next couple of posts. : )))

So . . . at the end of my solo-trip, I found myself staying with and getting to know this incredible woman who I met through exchanging homes!!!  A woman who shared her apartment in Düsseldorf, just minutes away from our ancestors old stomping grounds, making it possible for my Mom to have an 80th birthday celebration full of dreams fulfilled.  Lucky us!

Thanks Christiane for your generosity and hospitality!!!

German Lessons Via Skype

Sj with her Mother making dreams come true. : )