Saturday, January 14, 2012

Aloha and Maholo

Do you ever play that game where you try to figure out your friends' favorite characters from TV shows and movies? Who was your favorite Muppet? (Definitely Animal!) How about favorite Winnie the Pooh character? (Tigger, for sure!) When it came to Sesame Street, I was a dedicated fan of Mr. Snuffaluffagous as a child. This character resembled a friendly woolly mammoth. He had a steady smile, was both innocent & wise, and just looked like he would be fun to hug. Plus, even though Big Bird was his best friend, Mr. Snuffaluffagous had an independent streak.

Sesame Street dominated our household television when I was five (it's good to be an only child!). I can still sing many of the songs I learned on the show! And I clearly recall when Big Bird realized Mr. Snuffaluffagous was missing . . . I breathlessly followed along as Big Bird unearthed the clues Mr. Snuffaluffagous left behind. Finally, it was discovered that he had gone to Hawaii! The entire Sesame Street crew went with Big Bird to find their friend -- and engage in educational activities for their young viewers. Mr. Snuffaluffagous was -- of course -- found by his friends, and Hawaiian culture was presented to the watching children.

When Big Bird decided to follow Mr. Snuffaluffagous to Hawaii, I wanted to go as well. I can remember running and asking my mother if we could go to Hawaii to help find Mr. Snuffaluffagous. She readily agreed and went on with her day, expecting her five year old daughter would soon forget about that request . . . but I never did. It evolved into a running joke between us. Anytime I wanted to tease her, I would remind her that she had PROMISED to take me to Hawaii! As I became an adult, we talked about when we might take our trip, fully intending for it to be a fun mother-daughter jaunt. Humans make plans, and God laughs. He had a much better paradise in store for my mother, but Hawaii never lost its appeal to me as a place I wanted to see.

While not superstitious, I do believe in signs. In my childhood, my mother saved up Bicentennial Quarters for me. Those were the quarters from 1976 (the year of my birth) that had the special image of the Revolutionary drummer on the reverse of the picture of General George Washington. In my early years, they were fairly common. Of late, they are rarely seen. On the night before the election was to be held for Farm Bureau State Trustee from our district, I asked a friend of mine to run an errand to the store on my behalf. When he returned with my change, it included a Bicentennial Quarter. Seeing that quarter reminded me of my mum, which in turn helped to calm my nerves. I carried it in my pocket on the morning of the election . . . and it was still in my pocket later that day when I learned I would be representing Ohio Farm Bureau on a trip to the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting -- in HAWAII!

I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to this island paradise during a beautiful week on Waikiki Beach in January, which was a lovely break from wintertime in Ohio! The travel was long (3 flights there, with many unhappy infants & toddlers!), but it was well worth it. The weather was sunny and in the low 80s during my stay: perfect for visiting the beach! I had an amazing experience attending the convention! I met so many people, got to know my fellow state trustees better, and learned a LOT about policy making on the federal level for Farm Bureau. A highlight was the keynote address from humorist Dave Barry . . . one of my mother's personal favorites! I can remember her laughing uproariously when reading his books and then passing them on to me with high recommendations. I truly enjoyed his presentation; he has a gift for humor that is relevant without being offensive.

One of the best parts of the trip was that I got to see one of my dearest friends, Tonja. When we formed our Farm Bureau advisory council, Tonja was one of the original "Irish Pirates". We had fantastic adventures together before her work transferred her out of state. Tonja was my companion when the Pirates went to New Orleans for the American Farm Bureau convention in 2008, so I was delighted that she was able to coordinate some vacation time in Hawaii to coincide with the event this year. It was such a blessing to be able to celebrate this opportunity to represent Farm Bureau and fulfill a lifelong travel dream with one of my best girlfriends!

On a morning that I did not have any convention responsibilities, Tonja & I visited Pearl Harbor. For a history buff, this was a fantastic experience. Being there at 7am on a January morning had to be much like it was on 7 December 1941 prior to the Japanese planes hitting at 7:48am. We toured the museums, watched the National Park Service video, and took a boat out to the Arizona Memorial. As an American, it is hard to put into words the profound feelings in one's heart at seeing the USS Arizona. The sacrifice of the military members at Pearl Harbor that day directly inspired the victories achieved by America during World War II. Without those achievements, we would not enjoy the freedoms we do today in our country.

There was a Pearl Harbor survivor at the park that day, autographing copies of his memoir about the war. I was delighted to meet this gentleman and be able to personally express my gratitude! I am sincerely looking forward to reading his book. I should also mention that this gentleman had perfected the art of flirtation in his many years: in the short time we talked, he twice complimented my looks and didn't hesitate to throw his arm around me when we had our picture taken! I was grateful to have the opportunity to meet this gentleman, and I will always remember him!

The return trip from Hawaii was a bit tiring. I had breakfast on a patio over-looking the beach with my pirate sister, then headed to the airport. I left Honolulu at 2:20pm local time, flew to Los Angeles, took the red-eye to Cleveland, then transferred to Columbus . . . arriving at 9:30am the "next" day! I anticipated heading straight to bed after doing the chores, as I was working a catering job at Dr. Gee's Residence that evening. Alas, the goats decided I was needed in the barn: my two does that had been very pregnant for a couple weeks both decided to kid. Elizabeth of Hungary is fantastic: by the time I found her twins, they were standing and nursing. Angela Merkel the Goat proved to be incompetent: two of her triplets died & the third is now living in my kitchen. After working in the barn, I changed my clothes and went straight to work. While supervising the party at Dr. Gee's, a snowstorm started. At midnight, as I was driving home from the catering kitchen on very dangerous roads, it sank in just how tired I was! It was hard to believe I had started "that" day in Hawaii!

Before leaving the catering shop that night, I realized that I needed some fuel before the drive home. I stopped at the closest gas station and looked through my wallet to see how much cash was left from Hawaii. I don't normally carry coins, but I had received some in change from purchases in Honolulu. As I poured the change into my hand, there was a Bicentennial Quarter that had travelled with me all the way from Hawaii! I kept it as a wonderful reminder of Hawaii, of my adventures, of Mr. Snuffaluffagous, and of my most remarkable mother!