Her Voice

Happy Mother’s Day.

A couple of years ago, I took a work trip that brought me back to the west coast. I decided it would be a good time to catch up with my mom doing one of the things I absolutely love, visiting a national park. She met me at our car rental, we fueled up and headed off to Joshua Tree. It was the middle of July so triple-digit temperatures were expected. The nights were not much cooler. To me, I booked a unique “off the grid” rental and did not consider my mom’s thoughts on showering outside. We spent the car ride catching up. Me complaining about the things I’m not satisfied with, while simultaneously bragging about the things I am proud to be part of. She caught me up on the happenings at home. Lots of deep conversation coupled with hilarious anecdotes and small talk, “so how’s the weather been?” And of course her Del Taco experience. Simply put, it was nice.

After arriving, very late, to our rental we unloaded the car and both took wonder at the sparkling night sky. Once we got the AC working and mom discovered the shower was outside (oops) we sat in the living room talking. I was beyond tired barely coherent but I do remember her neat trick about how to catch pesky bugs inside (a lamp and a bowl of water – it worked). I can’t and never will forget one of the best things of all, her obsession with trying to capture on video the bats flying around outside. As I tirelessly mumbled away about my new job, she sat in a chair at the big picture window tablet in hand bifocals positioned just right, snapping away. I fell asleep to the sound of her on the job wildlife photography training and woke the next morning to her excitement that somewhere in the 200 plus photos and videos of the small fruit and bug-eating bats she “got one”.

I kid you not, I sat through her rifling through an endless digital archive of reflections of her self off the big picture window, “Oh I figured out, turn the light off, yeah.” Then more photos of the flash off the big picture window, “oh yeah forget to turn that off.” Then finally photo 200 whatever, “here watch this. I’m going to go get ready.”

A 5-minute video until I finally saw a light-colored flint across the screen and moms voice say, “GOTCHA!”

“Ohhh that’s what you took 200 plus photos for!” I said.

It makes me laugh, it made my sister laugh as she drove my mom home after the trip and was subjected to the same show and tell presentation. I am sure it made my bother think, “where the hell were you staying?”

While I love our national parks and love spending time with my mom, what I didn’t at all expect to take from this trip, was to miss her. It was a truly strange feeling for me and not because my heart is made of ice. I missed her for the first time in a very long time because I knew things I had going for me 3000 miles away were going to keep me away for a long time. I actually still don’t know exactly why. It may be easy for some to reckon with but for me it’s different. My mom raised her children to feel secure in their decisions to never let place hold them back, to never let anything or anyone, especially ourselves hold us back from the goals we’ve set. She has always and always will be our support system. It what moms do, it’s what parents do. It’s what people that work hard to see something through do.

I don’t think, actually I know, I did not fully appreciate this until I only had a few stifling hot days and bat photo nights with her in the desert.

Today as I still work on figuring myself out. Figuring out what keeps me going, what gets me down, and how I will reach my new goals, I can pick up the phone and get to know my mom a little better. I can get to know the person that was also a kid dreaming of other places in the world. An artistic person with so much love to give. I can listen to the voice that once told me I could move mountains and chuckle at the amateur bat photographer voice that says, “GOTCHA!”

The importance of listening to Her voice has taken me farther than I could have imagined. Over this last year, built up over a lifetime of wins and losses, I’ve learned from the first voice I heard in my life the importance of listening to her. Of trusting that voice.

Thanks for being a mom. Thank you for being my mom!

Love you.

©CLKeahi | Mom at Joshua Tree National Park



Orwa​iian, what is that?

Where are you from?

The name Orwaiian was born from partial humor and partial reality. Having moved so often I have to constantly answer the inevitable question; where are you from?  It’s become an important habit of mine to answer respectfully by answering accurately. To be honest, when you’ve moved several states and experienced varying cultures where do you draw the line when establishing the “from”?

Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to answer that question if I responded with a country. “I’m from the United States.” Sure if I wanted to be sarcastic or cheeky or really turn people off, I could answer this way. I doubt anyone within their own home country would. So we tend to get a little more specific. “I grew up moving around the northwest.” Or, “…mostly the SoCal area.” Or, “Washington.” By the way, having lived in Virginia for a year, if someone from the east coast is responding like this and “Washington” isn’t followed by “State”, the odds favor they are from DC.

My current situation: I’m an Orwaiian living in the south. I promise I will explain the meaning of this strange name I call myself, but for now, hang on. The American south has a deep history of its own with well established varying cultural groups, but a very recognizable accent. As someone having absolutely no cultural roots in the south I certainly have an accent that contrasts those with a southern drawl. Full disclosure, I do live in a place of many transplants. The Charleston area is beautiful and attractive to so many that’s it’s been a heavily moved-to place within the U.S. for many years. In any social interaction the tendency to ask the common question, where are you from, is inevitable and natural here. We all want to get to know each other without being too invasive. Or at least that should be the intent. If you are looking to ask the question with the intent to judge and not get to you, well you are doing it wrong. It can be a great starting point. “Tell me about that place.” Or, “I’ve always wanted to go there.” Or, “Wow why the hell did you move here!” All very natural reactions.

So again, why?

Why Orwaiian? I was born in Hawaii raised there for 11 years. Part Hawaiian by ethnicity as well as statehood. Oregon is where I lived for most of my life, about 15 years in fact. How do I pick between two important and distinct places of where in my life? In response to someone’s “where” question I humorously said, “Orwaiian.” Naturally and appropriately. It was also around this time I decided to take the dive back into the blogging world. The name seemed to fit.

Where are the other Orwaiian’s?

I’m not the only one. In fact, I have siblings with exact or similar upbringings. Many family and friends from the islands no longer live there. I find it beyond interesting to see how their new familial roots look outside of the place they lived and possibly still love. My family has branched into a new generation and maybe a new generation of Orwaiian’s. Sure they’ve been to Hawaii, they eat the food, and they know the family and friends that still live there, but I wonder what their view on culturally important things looks like. Some of them are entirely too young to think about such things but I still wonder.

©CLKeahi | High School Graduation. A mild version of what you might get at graduation in Hawaii. Still a tradition none the less.

Well, that’s the what, why and where of Orwaiian. Partial humor partial reality. Probably more reality at this point.


One-way Epic Road Trip

Hitting the Road

Bags, upon bags, upon bags were packed. Plastic tubs filled and taped shut. Every inch of room in the truck was stuffed and the trailer was full. While water and caffeinated beverages filled all available cupholders, one hand was on the wheel the other was stuffing my face with all natural jerky. We headed one-way toward the east coast with plans to stop in: Burns Oregon, Las Vegas Nevada, Grand Canyon National Park, Albequercy New Mexico, and Charleston SC.

Yes, you read that correctly. We spent a night in Albequercy then hauled ass to Charleston. By hauling ass I have to say we had a top speed of 55 miles per hour. We took to switching drivers ever 2-4 hours and drove through terrifying epic downpours in Arkansas. It’s the road trip that rivals all road trips for us. I’ve tried and failed in my attempts to add up the number of miles we’ve driven over various road trips. Let’s just say it’s an ass-ton (keeping a theme going here). This one wasn’t the most scenic at times. We spent the second half of the trip on interstates. Smelling cow pies before we could even see the cows. Navigated our fair share of poorly placed construction cones, detours and one eager Texas Trooper that took a 5-minute interest in our trucks temporary tags. Why was this “the most epic”? Because it’s the mode of travel we chose to move across the United States.

©CLKeahi | Moving out of town with one last look at Mt. Hood.


Rural southwestern Oregon is a true wild west. It can feel as if time has stood entirely still. An entire day can pass without ever encountering another soul. Harney County was the place on a map of Oregon where you were more likely to find a legend than a useful geographic fact. It’s not because Harney County isn’t special. Harney County doesn’t need a large city skyline to make it beautiful; it’s lit up by the night sky. It’s weathered and rough due to its natural geography, not its poor politics. This place wasn’t somewhere I frequented. Actually, it’s somewhere I had really never been until we planned this road trip. My husband spent most of his time in the area as a volunteer archaeologist just outside Burns. Every summer for about a week he would pack up and set out to the dig site. He purposely planned this part of the trip so he could show me where he stayed. I had a first-hand view of this place he spent one-week every year for four years.

It’s what he had always described. A high elevation plateau, sparsely vegetated, sagebrush-covered landscape. The night-life was meant for none human life. Naturally beautiful and barren. The secrets of what this place holds lie with its locals, outdoor enthusiast, and road trip junkies. Driving through, I caught quick glimpses of the dilapidated buildings dotting a harsh landscape. At it’s highest elevation just under 10,000 feet the Steens Mountains stood sharply. Jetting out of the earth they stood in the distance as a farewell reminder. Driving down Hwy 205, I watched the last bit of this landscape fade in the distance; the exit from Oregon was official.

No Stopping ’til Charleston

Exhausted doesn’t begin to describe what it feels like to sleep in Albuquerque New Mexico one night then sleep again (officially) in Charleston South Carolina. After doing the classic Route 66 and Grand Canyon stop offs we headed to Albuquerque. If we were to repeat one part of this trip it would certainly be the southwestern portion. Like another world, it was without a doubt absolutely beautiful. Probably the most beautiful part.

The trip through the dry red-rocked southwest was too fast, but we had an agenda to maintain. After spending three nights in three different states we just wanted to make it to the east coast. Our surroundings didn’t go unnoticed. Texas smelled more then we thought – at least along I-40. Oklahoma City was bigger than we imagined. Arkansas was greener and wilder then we would have ever known. If not for this road trip, despite how slow and fast in parts it may have been, I may have never seen these parts of the country. Seeing it from the point of view of a passerby or tourist is, of course, a much different perspective then settling down and getting to know a place. But for me, this opportunity to “see” other parts of this country was just that – an opportunity.

From the small towns we blinked through to the larger cities we sat in traffic with, it was an introduction to a different perspective. A precursor to living a bit different. Why epic? Because I gained (we gained) so much more. A move, a road trip, opportunities, and a different perspective. Having been on my fair share of road trips, none gave me as much insight into how to think bigger than the one that propelled me into a new place.

Finding Polynesia

“The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean.” – Mark Twain, Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii)

I have these vague, but very real memories dreaming of being somewhere else. I was a kid in search of adventure, discovery, new people and new things. I would look through National Geographics whenever I could and drool over the intriguing photos accompanying the articles I barely (if at all) understood. I remember sitting at my desk; it was white and had this vintage romantic look. It was shiny, but a little distressed. I would stare at these photos. I would crank my tiny radio up hoping for a favorite song so I could live in a trance beyond my desk.

There came a day for me to finally see the world, and it came a bit unexpectedly. It took a lot of self-growth, but I eventually figured out that looking back shouldn’t be about recreating the past. Looking back should be done admirably, to be proud of my where’s.

I’m reminded of how I felt when I was eleven. The new kid in school and it felt so foreign. Not only was the place different, but the school was. The weather certainly was. I had never seen so many kids that didn’t look like me. At that time I didn’t know too many other kids in my school of Hawaiian or any Polynesian ethnicity. There was one girl, but it felt like she filled that token Hawaiian slot for so many of kids. Like their dashboards already had a hula girl and I wasn’t it. I made friends anyway.

The friends I made helped me move forward. We were all awkward. We all ate rice with every meal. We took our shoes off before stepping into any house and we liked talking about where our families came from. I was fascinated with my friends’ cultures and I would share mine with them as often as I could. I still do it…here in the south. It’s important to understand each other. To accept our differences, respect and appreciate one another.

I find myself making spam musubis and enjoying them with new friends even farther away from Polynesia. What I am saying here is that Polynesia, whatever that is to you, can be where you want it to be. Maybe you aren’t physically there, but it doesn’t have to be gone. Live in it in someway despite geographic boundaries.