Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas in Hawaii - Excerpt from Beyond Demons and Protectors

Christmas in Hawaii is unique in many ways. I am often asked what it is like to celebrate the holidays here. I love Christmas here. I have spent Christmas in many places, but Hawaii is still my favorite. In my novels, I always planned on writing a Christmas scene that would be easily recognizable to locals here. I was very pleased to be able to do so in my second novel. 

Here is an excerpt from Beyond Demons and Protectors ©2014:

     We reappear in the middle of a grassy area. As I take in our surroundings, being extra
cautious to make sure we are in the right place, I can see colorful lights everywhere. The trees have Christmas-colored lanterns hanging from their boughs. Nearby, children are
riding a small train in circles. A light breeze carries the sound of old Christmas tunes in
our direction. Further ahead, I see a sidewalk, couples walking hand-in-hand, and smiling
families with excited children making their way up the street. I know where they are
going. I can see the bright lights off in the distance. Brief flashes of light tell me people
are taking pictures at the various displays along the way. If I remember correctly, some
extremely large Christmas decorations should be near the first group of people taking
pictures. We are definitely in the right place.
     Ash takes a hold of my hand and leans against my shoulder. She begins to weep,
though she doesn’t appear to be sad. Truth be told, I am more than a little surprised that
this is where she wanted to come. This time and place does not carry good memories for
her. The last time she was here at Christmastime was with her parents. Her entire life
changed that night. “We could go to the East coast,” I try. “I’ve never seen the big tree or
the ice skating rink out there.”
     “No, this is our home,” she says with a crooked smile.
     I give her a warm smile in return, “Shall we go, then?”
     She nods excitedly, “Let’s.”
     “I haven’t been here in ages,” I say while we walk over to the sidewalk. “Honolulu
Hale is up ahead, right?”
     “It is,” she says.
     “I think my phone has a camera. We should take pictures!”
     We take a leisurely stroll to Honolulu Hale. Along the way, we stop to take pictures at
several of the large Christmas displays. A little boy runs into Ash. She smiles at the boy.
He hugs her leg, and then takes off to find whoever he is supposed to be with. The
happiness in the air is contagious. Ash watches the boy leave. I’ve never seen the look
she has in her eyes as she watches him walk away. “What is it?” I ask.
     “Nothing,” she says without looking at me. “I just felt something I don’t think I have
before.”
     “This is our first Christmas together,” I remind her.
     Her attention snaps back to me, “I love this.”
     “Me too,” I say and kiss her romantically under the lights of the beautiful display,
though lightly, so we don’t accidentally set the dang thing on fire.
     Every year Honolulu Hale is transformed into a winter wonderland - island style, of
course. It really is spectacular. We pass by the fountain, wishing pool, and large
Christmas tree on our way toward the entrance. A mixture of Christmas smells drift out
of the doorway: cinnamon, citrus, and pine, at least I think the smells are coming from
inside. Now that I think about it, Ash smells very similar to me.
     Inside the building are a series of decorated Christmas trees. Each one has a different
theme, although all of them are fun. I have never seen a bad one. A thought occurs to me,
“I didn’t get you a gift.”
     “You are my gift,” she says, staring at a tree with colorful origami decorations all
over it. “Not to mention, my one of a kind engagement ring. I’m pretty sure no one in the
world has one like it. If anyone needs to worry about a gift, it’s me, not you.”
     “You don’t need to get me anything, Ash.”
     “When are you going to go,” she says, catching me off guard.
     “Go?” I try to play off.

     “To get Stana,” she says, finally looking at me again.
     “Not for a little while. I…”
     “No need to explain,” she says while leading me to a hallway on our right.
     “What’s over here?”
     “Contest wreaths.”
     Down the hallway, on both sides, Christmas wreaths of all kinds line the walls:
colorful ones, artistic ones, large ones, small ones, and some that don’t look like wreaths
at all. I’ve never noticed these before. I glance at a plaque next to one of the closest
wreaths. This one appears to be made out of recycled products. Ooh, this one was made
by a third grade class from a school I’ve never heard of. More than a few were made by
children. The more elaborate ones appear to have been made by professional artists or
clubs for adults. Hardly seems fair; adults competing with children. I read the plaque for
one of the funnier looking wreaths. A chill runs through my body, “Did we lose another
year?”
     “I’m afraid so, babe. Are you worried?”
     “Nah,” I resolve myself to enjoy this time with her. “This is the best Christmas ever!
Let’s take a picture out front.”
     “Okay,” she says cheerfully. “I like all these pictures. I think I want to start an album
or something. You know to keep all of our memories.”
     “I think that sounds awesome,” I say. I really do.
     We stand in front of the Mele Kalikimaka display and ask an elderly man to take our
picture. I’m amazed because he knows how to take the picture with my phone without
any hesitation. I don’t even know how to use my phone correctly. I thank him and hug
Ash. We stand hugging each other for a while, basking in the joy of the holiday season.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sometimes Christmas Sucks

Christmas is right around the corner. It's kind of hard to believe that Christmas is so close. This past year went by so fast.

This year I am attempting to turn myself into one of those crazy Christmas people that I have often talked poorly of. The house is decorated. The tree has been ready since the end of November. I've also been watching every single Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel. Seriously, I can rate and tell you about any of them. Feel free to ask.

This week, though, this is not what my post is about. I know this is the season for joy and giving. This is the season when we all try to be the best version of ourselves. I just want to take the time to acknowledge those that are struggling during this season. For many, Christmas just plain sucks, and I can understand that. I used to be one of them for many years.

Please keep in mind that there are folks that have lost loved ones this past year, and this is their first Christmas without their loved ones. There are folks who are struggling to pay their bills and can't afford to buy a single gift for anyone. I know quite a few people that suffer from depression, and for them, Christmas is miserable. Moreover, I know a number of people who are just plain struggling this year, and the thought of Christmas coming is not a reason for them to smile.

Please keep these folks in mind. Their lives matter, too. Say a prayer for them. Take the time to extend some kindness to someone who really needs it. I know it is an exciting time. A lot of us get caught up in the gift buying, parties, and other holiday events, but I really hope we can make Christmas special for some folks who could really use a break. Enjoy the holidays, everyone! Whenever possible, please do something to help someone, not because you want something in return, but because you could really make a difference in someone's life.