Sundog –noun 1. parhelion. 2. a small or incomplete rainbow.

Hawaii

Surprise and Surprise Again!

Last night I eluded to plans that were very exciting and which I thought might take a few days to resolve. Turns out, the whole thing was incredibly easier than I had believed possible and I find myself here this morning, with this big mystery being even better than I had hoped.

What is it??

On Tuesday of next week, I will begin a precalculus class at the local community college! Yay! I won’t have to learn all this harder math on my own. It has left me with a greatly renewed sense of possibility, because I have a great deal of faith in myself and my abilities to tackle this coursework and succeed.

As I’d said last post, these past two days I have been thinking outside of the aforementioned box. Being on CSU’s campus yesterday really helped put things into perspective for me as well as talking with a few of the other students. With my mind in a highly open state last night, the thought popped into it to go and look at what courses are offered at the community college this summer, even though I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work due to their cost.

I was thrilled to find precalculus listed, but ouch! What a large price tag! I will not have any residency status until I begin at CSU in August, so I’ll be paying full price. Thankfully, that’s full price at a community college and not at a university; it makes a huge difference.

It looked like I would need to take yet another math placement exam (bane of my existence this summer!) in order to be allowed to jump right into the precalculus. Turns out, they were willing to accept my original math classes from 1995 and I could register without taking the test. It’s highly exciting, because by taking this class I won’t need to take the math placement exam at CSU for calculus either.

No more math placement exams for anything! HOORAY!

My goodness, this is all an incredible relief. By passing this precalculus class, I can walk right into calculus at CSU in the fall. When I pass that class as well, and I will, I can join the mechanical engineering program in spring 2015. Amazing.

It feels as though my future has just laid itself out before me in a highly manageable way.

This is not all my good news. The next came as a big surprise to me as well today. It seems that I will likely qualify for financial aid for this summer school class, but only if I take one more credit worth of classes. Luckily, part of the financial aid package will be a small scholarship from the college itself, which actually fully covers the extra class.

Essentially, if I take one more class, the college will make it a free class and I’ll then also qualify for federal grants and loans for the math class.

It gets even weirder. I had to ask, what do you take for only one credit over the summer?

Apparently, you take scuba diving!

Ok, I did have a choice between a few other classes, including a temping course about hiking, but after my time in Hawaii, scuba diving is the one for me. Sitting on my desk, looking at me right now, is one of my favorite pictures – Jeremy and me snorkeling. I look at that picture all the time and when I’m feeling low, it reminds me of how far I have come in life.

I’ve dreamed of learning to scuba dive, I just had no idea that dream would take the shape of a community college in Colorado giving me a free scuba diving course so I could have financial help with the class I really need.

What a strange, yet beautiful, turn of events!

I’m off to go buy my new textbook and begin preparing to start school in four days – not the four months I had been planning! Wow, I really can hardly believe this excellent turn of events. It’s going to be a great summer!

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Nude Beach

Have you ever been to a nude beach? I went to my first one today!

Little Beach, Maui – Hawaii

Little Beach is part of the Makena State Park and known for being clothing optional, as well as it’s Sunday night drum parties. It’s a very nice little cove at the end of a quarter mile hike. The snorkeling wasn’t spectacular, however we saw some fish we’ve never seen before – including a small school of fish probably each the size of a large dog. As well, several sea turtles made the whole trip very worthwhile.

Yet, we didn’t go to Little Beach for the snorkeling – we went for the whales. Humpback whales migrate here each winter from December through April. According to my research, Little Beach would be just about the best place from shore to watch them passing by. Shortly after we arrived we were greeted with an amazing site. Two adult humpback whales only a few hundred feet off the shore, swimming along and doing their own thing. Though we didn’t see much more than their back spines each time they came to the surface, it was a fantastic site that brought tears to my eyes.

I mean, how fantastic is it to have seen something like that so close in the wild?

I wasn’t on a boat with dozens of other tourists or some other modern means to be out on the water with them. No, I was just standing on the shore of a beach I’d hiked out to and seeing them as I am, a human on land, and as they are, majestic beauty in the ocean. Absolutely one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my life.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen whales, not even here on Maui – just something about them being so close I felt like I could nearly touch them… wonderful.

Have you ever wondered what whale songs are like in the wild?

Sometimes when you snorkel here during the winter you can hear them signing to each other underwater. This is the second time I’ve been lucky to hear them. Today they were loud enough to be easily heard, even over the white noise of the choppy waves we were snorkeling in. It was very magical, especially the times when we’d find a turtle to swim with. Whales whistling and calling to one another, following a sea turtle as it wandered the reef, scores of brightly colored fish swimming below us – I’ll always remember this.

I found myself at one point being struck by how diametrically different my life is now compared to March in Washington while living in a tent. Almost every year the last snow of the season would be sometime in the next two weeks. We’d be completely and totally exhausted from surviving another freezing and snowy winter only to look forward to a ridiculous amount of rain for the next two months, praying this summer would be warm and sunny. Often times it would be a wet summer too with nary a good, hot day to burn off winter’s chill before turning into Autumn and starting the cycle all over.

Instead, here I was snorkeling nude in the ocean, warm sunshine on my backside, while swimming with whales and turtles!

If life can change so dramatically for me in such a short period of time, just think of what else I can do. I am getting healthy again, there is no doubt about that, and sometimes like today I can really feel just how possible it is to change my situation for the better. It has taken an enormous amount of hard work and tenacity, but just look at where I am now!

I used to feel like I could inspire others to follow their dreams, grow as individuals, and reach places they thought were too distant – but sadly, I couldn’t do that for myself. Now I look at how life has changed me…I can be my own inspiration and reach my own dreams.

If I were to be able to speak to the illness that has stolen so many years of my life, I would have to quote one of my favorite movies – “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the (life) that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great — You have no power over me.”


UNTAMED Photography

It seems I have finally accomplished another dream today. For the last year I have wanted to open my own etsy store just as Jeremy had done for his steampunk jewelry business. I’ve seen him excitedly checking his email and finding that he’s sold something, it looked like a lot of fun! Problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to sell…

Then last March I bought a nice DSLR camera and started taking pictures. It seemed pretty obvious what type of etsy store I would be opening up, it was now just a matter of time. In less than a week we found out had to move out of our apartment and the rental search began. As mentioned in previous posts, life with moderate MCS can be difficult – having to find safe housing that didn’t make us ill only made this more so.

As the months went by and we still were unsuccessful at our rental search, my ability for photography greatly declined as every bit of energy went into finding us a safe place to live. I would take my camera out for a trip perhaps once or twice a month, but anything more was beyond my physical abilities.

Then we moved! This is a wonderful apartment we have lived in these past 3 months and I often find myself thinking about how much I love it here. My energy came up a bit and again I began my day dreams of an etsy store of my own.

My last post told of winning a prize in a photography contest, it was the first step I took towards my store. Before preparing that photo for the contest, I still hadn’t readied a single photograph for printing. Many show how much I have left to learn about controlling my camera and setting up the shot – which means most photos need a lot of post processing work in Lightroom. However I didn’t let this deter me from my goal of starting up a store, just means I have opened it with less photographs than I had originally planned.

Which brings me to my grand opening of UNTAMED Photography! 😀

I hope to add to my store over the next few weeks and am very happy to have finally gotten through the steep learning curve to finish opening today. I hope you all enjoy the couple of pictures I have put up there already and I will be writing about new ones as they are listed.

yay! 😀


A Photo Contest Adventure!

Yesterday was a small, but enjoyable adventure at the Maui County Fair. When I saw the tents and rides last year I remember thinking – hmm, maybe next year… turns out it was! While not a very big fair, nor a very interesting one, it did hold one thing no other fair had for me in the past – a photo contest I had entered.

I found out about the contest four weeks before the deadline for entry. After our arduous rental search, my photography had found itself pushed to the wayside these last few months and so I was unsure I even had a photo to submit to the contest. Luckily I had a couple promising shots taken earlier this year and so starting editing from scratch with learning how to use Adobe Lightroom, I began my journey.

There were many problems which cropped up over the next few weeks, some no doubt due to my inexperience with photo editing and matting, but many due to the printshop themselves – leading me to resolve never to use them again. In the end, I had two submissions ready for the contest and entered them on in the ‘open’ division on the last possible day; one for the color category and one in the black and white. All along I kept telling myself and others that I was only entering them so I could see them hanging finished on the wall at the fair – not to win. No, that would be silly to enter to win a prize since I’d only just picked up photography again, it’s my first contest, heck – it’s even the first 2 pictures I have finished printed and matted in over 15 years!

Still… there was this small hope whispering to me that it would like to win a place in the winners circle.

It was a small local fair and I was a bit disappointed they didn’t even have an animal display since there is a lot of ranching and farming on the island. There were the usual rides and greasy fried foods, we walked right past these. Next there was a large tent with a cheerleading exhibition of the high school and younger girls. Past this was two more large tents which held many commercial vendors selling everything from car insurance to coffee. Looking around, there didn’t seem to be much else to the fair… but where was the photo competition?

Finally we spotted where they had set up the exhibits which received judging and headed to the only solid building in the area. Inside we found vegetables, bonsai trees, various handi-crafts, orchids, and finally I noticed the photos lining the far wall. Apparently we started at the end of the display and I wasn’t too surprised to see my color photo tucked in with all the others. Under the florescent lights, high heat and humidity for the orchids, and the matting/printing troubles I’d had – frankly it only looked ok, nothing special.

We kept looking along the wall and got to the section where they had hung the winners for the expert level entries. It was about this time I began wondering if I’d missed seeing my black and white picture in with all the others – I had actually missed the color one at first so it was a good possibility. Still… maybe I would wait and see if it was hung up elsewhere, there did seem to be another group of photos on display without prize ribbons past all the winners.

Then my eyes drifted along the wall of their own accord and caught sight of a familiar looking photo – with a ribbon by it. I quickly grabbed Jeremy’s sleeve, tugging him to come with me past the expert color winners, straight to the ‘open’ division black and white winners where my photo now hung with a 3rd place ribbon!

There was an older Asian couple who were walking past just as I arrived at my photo. Looking at the gentleman, I happily exclaimed that it was my photo, right there, which won 3rd place!! He nodded and hesitantly smiled at me, so I kept up my happy exclamations until his wife caught up with us, nodded at me and said congratulations, then hurried him past us to the safer expert winner’s area. With nobody else around to brag to, I had Jeremy take my picture to remember the moment. It took a couple tries before I lost yet another goofy grin, but here is me and my 3rd place winner – “Windswept Dryad.”

After viewing the other exhibits, like the monstera and dragon fruit, we decided to be done with the fair and instead go on a small road adventure up Ioa Valley for the first time. We walked around a little at the first park we came to, opting to save the state park for another trip. All in all, it was a fun day out.

**Update! I’ve just gotten home from picking up my contest entries. Imagine my surprise when unwrapping them and finding an envelope with them that says, “Maui Camera Club congratulates you! 3rd place” and $30 tucked inside. Woo! Amazing! Even better for having had zero clue there was prize money. Definitely doing a happy dance today! 😀

Monstera fruit and leaves:
Monstera Fruit

Dragon fruit still on cactus branch:

“Windswept Dryad” and ribbon:


Assistant Chiefs for an Afternoon

When you are open to life, you never know what adventure might lie around the corner. Today saw us getting paid for the first time in 10 years by helping our landlady and neighbor, GiGi. She runs a designer cake business at home and when we popped by to see if a package was delivered for us in the mail this morning, we were recruited to help her in the kitchen!

First we helped prepare some locally grown lilikoi (passion fruit) which I think was to be turned into a spread for cake topping. Next GiGi was talking about the strawberries she would be using for various parts of the cake – until she noticed nearly the whole carton was moldy.

Quickly Jeremy and I are off to the local market to buy new strawberries, these ones also locally grown and much fresher looking than the moldy ones bought yesterday from the chain grocery store. Here’s where we received our first paycheck in a decade – $10 to help fill the gas tank! We were also given a large quantity of fruits (bananas, grapefruit, star fruit) which are always appreciated since fruit is far too pricey to buy from even the farmer’s markets we frequent for our produce.

As we left the market laden with strawberries from our successfully completed mission, I couldn’t help but feel like we had just finished a Detour task on The Amazing Race. “You must fill the gas tank and return with 6 cartons of fresh strawberries before you may continue with the race. You have $30 to complete this task.” Go!

Back at GiGi’s, we donned aprons and began to slice 4 cartons of strawberries. We have started a new healing program based on neural retraining and though I found the work difficult at times due to anxiety boiling up and fatigue, I was able to successfully calm my nervous system down again. GiGi took our picture after we finished…

… and wouldn’t you know it, I get caught with the goofy grin when it’s picture time!


Garage Sale – Win!

Welcome to my poorly photographed Hawaiian lanai – aka my porch!

Good lesson to be learned here – never try for a picture during mid-morning sun. I didn’t even think about the bright sunshine lines when taking the photo, I was just excited to share my garage sale findings this morning. So on with the show!

Here is my lanai at our new apartment. On the other side of the green fabric is the main house’s lania which is used by our landlady, Gigi. It’s mostly a private area with only occasional use of the hose or trimming of the plants by the landlady sending her over this way.

As you can see, it gets a lot of nice sunshine throughout the day. We are currently growing cilantro, dill, and hot peppers – along with a pulmeria tree and several orchids. In the background are banana trees and several other native plants.

LP-120908-0003-Garage Sale2

But what I really wanted to share is the stuff in the foreground of the photo – today’s garage sale finds. Gosh, these tables are hard to see with all the bright sunshine lines in the background. Anyways! You are looking at 3 tables we found at a yard sale this morning – one end table which oddly is from the same design as a kitchen table/chair set we already had, one folding plastic topped table for Jeremy to use for selling jewelry at the farmer’s market at some point soon, and one sort of coffee table that is exactly the size table we really needed right now.

There is also a three tier wire shelving unit for the kitchen, two nice table lamps with light bulbs included, a small backpack for my camera equipment on beach or hiking trips, and a set of weights to get Jeremy going on regaining his strength after so many years of illness.

You might think to yourself, wow – that’s a lot of stuff, I wonder what they paid for it? I got us a good bargain and love the negotiating part of any garage sale. Twenty dollars, for everything! I really enjoy the days I can feel like we found a good deal.

Maui is fantastic for garage sales. They run year round, every Saturday – usually several dozen on the island. We stick to a 20 minute drive radius most of the time and have found the best bargains at moving sales. When you consider people moving back to the mainland, or even a different island, can’t simply rent a truck and move their belongings – it makes for lots of good condition things at cheap prices! I love it, I really do.

It is now an hour later than in the picture and the clouds have rolled in, making for much better lighting on my lanai. I suppose I could go retake the picture… but who wants to move all those weights back again! Enjoy the sunshine!


Home has been Found!

Aloha! I am thrilled to say we have found a new apartment to rent! Hooray!! A week after finding it, we were moved out of the old and into the new. It has been an incredibly busy three weeks as we accomplished all of this.

Our new place has had it’s ups and downs for our health, for example we had to clean off old cleanser and soap residues from past cleaning, making it more MCS safe for us. We still can’t use the cupboards as they need the most work, but that is something that will become better with time and they do not cause trouble unless opened.

There is still much hard work ahead of us and it will take time to regain our energy and health back to where it was even four months ago, but I am feeling highly positive it is already happening.

It has been one heck of a road which led us here, with a huge learning curve about finding an MCS safe apartment. Had I known four months ago what I know now about finding a safe rental, I’ve no doubt it would have taken half the time. Thankfully, I had the forethought to write myself notes on how to make our rental search easier in the future, since the whole process is already becoming a foggy memory.

Already we are feeling the stress of our rental journey slowly lifting from our hearts and our minds, freeing us for a much more positive and brighter future. It feels wonderful to have found a place that holds so much promise of being a safe healing environment.

Our apartment is more of a ‘mother-in-law’ style unit, fully detached from the main house where our new landlord lives with 3 other family members. They have all made us feel extremely welcome and like we belong here. It is an amazing feeling to be around such kind hearts and positive energy.

In just the last two weeks we have expanded from the survival mode of finding a rental to living again. Jeremy has begun making jewelry for the first time in a couple of months. We’ve been swimming in the healing ocean 3-5 times each week (up from once every 10 days or so). Also we’re having fun planting a few seeds for a small garden with more seeds ready soon as the energy is there.

In other words – life has once more started to bloom for us.