Giving Tuesday

Please remember this donation link: http://www.familyprogramshawaii.org.  Clicking and donating here will help the hundreds of keiki in Hawaii’s foster care system.

Since 2012, I have been aware of the wonderful organization that is Family Programs Hawaii.  I learned about the organization while I was in CASA training, and a representative came to speak with us.  We were left with a flyer about the Holiday Party being held in December, and opportunities for sponsorship.

I went home that afternoon, showed the flyer to Wayne, and told him that we would be donating.  Later in the fall, when the website was open for donations, we sponsored a $500 table, never knowing what precisely we accomplished. 

Little did I know that my attorney (my mentor) on two of my CASA cases was a member of the Board of Directors.  When we were at a hearing in January, she turned to me to thank me for sponsoring the table, and asked about how I found out about Family Programs.  And then we resumed business as usual. 

Fast forward to fall 2013, my first year of law school.  I think the entire faculty and my fellow students knew why I was in law school - to give a better voice to children in foster care.  Mei was still my attorney, and I donated again to Family Programs Holiday Party.  Come January, she turned to thank me again. 

Later in 2014, we went through two extremely stressful placement and termination of parental rights trials.  It was exhausting, and I withdrew for a month from the CASA program, only to return more determined to help the children in foster care.  And again, Wayne and I continued to sponsor a table at the Holiday Party. 

In the New Year, Mei invited me to the Family Programs rebranding party, where the courtship to join the board began.  Several iterations of my resume and months later, I was voted onto the board of directors.  I was overwhelmed and ecstatic at the same time. 

We sponsored another holiday party, and I attended for the first time with Wayne.  It was amazing!  I don’t think that I have ever seen so many children with looks of joy on their faces.  For one child in particular, this was the first time she had ever received a wrapped gift.  It tugged the heart strings. 

Why do you give? 

Why do you give? 

Fast forward now to 2016.  I have graduated law school, passed the bar exam, and was treading water while waiting to take the MPRE.  I was approached by our then CEO/President, Paulette Bethel, and our existing Chair, Jeff Case, to take on the reins of Board Chair.  After a bit of conversation back and forth, I agreed.  I was nominated and confirmed in November 2016, with the Chair position to begin January 1, 2017.   Wayne and I became Elf sponsors, and we attended again.  This time, we got their early enough to do setup, and Wayne had the assignment to hand out stuffed animals to children and foster parents who filled out their commentaries.  I should have taken pictures of some of the testimonials.  We brought joy to over 1200 foster children that day, which is the one day a year many siblings get to see one another, as they are placed in different resource homes.

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So here it is, giving Tuesday.  Everyone is bombarding you with requests to donate money - Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Hawaii Children’s Action Network.  As am I.  I have given small amounts to the other programs, but Family Programs Hawaii, and foster children, remain my passion in life.  We have sponsorship levels for the holiday party ranging from tables to larger sponsorships.  You can even click on the “other amount” section, and give a smaller amount.  The money being brought in will be used next year to help these children and their families.  And every penny counts.

The prep team

The prep team

So, on this giving Tuesday, I give because every child deserves a happy, healthy home.  If this resonates with you, if you are able, please donate at http://www.familyprogramshawaii.org.  The donate button is at the bottom of the page.

Some of the loot

Some of the loot

Mahalo nui loa. 

Aloha, 

Stephanie

Family Programs Hawaii Holiday Party

Our holiday party - which benefits foster children and resource caregivers - is officially set for December 3, 2017.  We will have a Hawaiian holiday theme, and a new menu for the dinner!  We are still on to host as many people as possible - but we need your help. 

There are different tiers of sponsorship, and any donation helps.  Wayne and I are “Elf” level sponsors, which feeds approximately two tables of ten.  Again, any small amount donated helps.  The link for sponsorship is here:  https://family-programs-hawaii.networkforgood.com/projects/21206-donate.  All donations in support of the Holiday Party are tax deductible.

Family Programs helps Hawaii’s children stay in healthy homes.  Our focus areas are prevention, support and transition.  We not only work with children in foster care, we help at risk families identified before the state steps in.  Our partnership with Argosy University, and Dr. Steve Choy, is fundamental in building stronger, safer families.  Our end goal is to put ourselves out of business through education and, when necessary, intervention.  We have supported the State of Hawai`i as the foster care program evolved, and we continue to work for the benefit of Hawaii’s families.  We also mentor children in the foster care system as they “age out” of the system, and prepare for their adulthood.

Our temporary foster home, Ho’omalu O Na Kamali’i provides temporary shelter to children who may need special placement.  Our Family Strengthening Center (located in several places) helps families remain together.  Nau E Koho helps Hawaiian youth entering college, Project Visitation enables siblings to see one another when placed in different resource caregiver homes.  And we provide training and support to resource caregivers as well.  To do this, we need your help. 

As we move forward to the end of 2017, and the beginning of a new year, I ask that you consider donating to help Hawaii’s families at https://family-programs-hawaii.networkforgood.com/projects/21206-donate.  They will be empowered by your support. 

Mahalo.

Loving Las Vegas

So what can I say?  When I was downsized from Booz Allen, and in my final year of the MSW program, Wayne and I went to iMac/iWorld in San Francisco.  However, prior to that, we decided to jump back to Las Vegas for the first time since 2007 (so, 6 years later).  We decided that we would approach the city from the surface view only - taking nothing for real, and expecting nothing.

To our surprise, we really enjoyed ourselves!  Great food, inexpensive prices, NY shows.  Really a wonderful time.  I have an earlier blog post regarding that trip earlier in your reading material :)

When I started law school, the pressure was super intense.  Not just on me, but also on Wayne.  He started having those school related dreams where you've skipped class the entire semester, and then were headed into the final.

Not good.

The first real respite we had was Thanksgiving in Las Vegas.  We did it on a whim, and had a wonderful time.  Then it was back for first semester finals.  We spent the holidays in Palau (diving, what else) that year, but Palau is a little far for a three day weekend.

Thus was born our red eye flight in/red eye flight out of Las Vegas.  We were flummoxed by the casino resorts.  Smoke, lights, bells and whistles.  Too much.  Then we were advised to go to the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to eat at the Wicked Spoon buffet.  Immediately we were hooked - you can almost completely avoid the casino floor, and the noise is fairly contained.  The second floor can get a bit jammed, but you can circumvent the noise in several manners.

We love Las Vegas, and although they often get the front desk wrong, we really enjoy the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

With that in mind, on October 24th, Wayne and I joined Mom and Dad on our first ever Southwest flight and went from SAN to LAS.

I originally had fabulous ideas about going to a dinner theater the first night, but to be honest, I slept so poorly in the Home Away vacation rental, I had no energy.  So we checked in, and went to the Todd English P.U.B. for lunch.  While at lunch (they have the most magnificent brown butter lobster roll), our waitress informed us that Todd English is parting ways with MGM, and the restaurant is about to be renamed "The Pub."  Sad day.  Ah, well, we shall see what happens.

We all agreed that there was no room for dinner, and met up in Mom and Dad's hotel room to watch the sun set and see the colors of Las Vegas.  And have a little scotch.

The next morning we met at The Henry for breakfast before heading off to the Valley of Fire.  The Valley of Fire is famous for its 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray and tan limestone, and it contains ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years.  There are a number of hiking trails (not accessible in the summer unless you are part camel and withstand the heat), and because of the play of light off of the sandstone, it is our favorite park for photography.

We took Mom & Dad down Mouse's Tank Trail, which contains petroglyphs.  Mouse’s Tank is named for a Southern Paiute Indian renegade (“Little Mouse”) who used Valley of Fire as a hideout in the 1890’s after he was accused of killing two prospectors and other crimes in the area.  

And then it was back to the Cosmopolitan for lunch at China Poblano - a Chinese/Mexican tapas restaurant that is quite good!

Dinner was with an old friend of Dad's, Bruce Homis, with whom he used to officiate basketball and umpire.  Much as I expected, Bruce did not remember me, but that's ok.  He and Dad reminisced and enjoyed themselves (we ate at the Italian American Club), and we met Bruce's lovely lady, Judy.

From there, home to the Cosmopolitan again for the final scotch and a trip to slumberland.  We all left our respective ways the following morning after breakfast at The Henry again, and all arrived at our houses at relatively the same time.  

We still love Las Vegas.

Thank you to my family for helping me to share 50 - the 40s were fantastic, the 50s can only get better!

Aloha

Leaving for the (relative) calm of Las Vegas

Part one of the trip is done - the convergence of the Spengler/Batzer/Jaffee clan into a Home Away vacation home in La Jolla (the number of people this strangely laid out house can hold is amazing).  As you know, Wayne and I arrived on Friday and spent the morning hitting the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, which opened in 1991.  The Garden is an expression of friendship between San Diego and its sister city, Yokohama. The Garden’s design, which sits on 12 acres, is based on centuries-old Japanese techniques adapted to San Diego’s climate and florae and seeks to foster a relationship between humans and nature, providing a respite attuned to Japanese simplicity, serenity, and aestheticism.  While the stone arrangements, koi ponds, bonsai, and water features are breathtaking, perhaps the most poignant feature to me was the peace tree from Hiroshima, a cutting of one of the trees that survived “Little Boy.”  We spent several days in Hiroshima with Eliot this year, one of the more solemn places I have visited.  I thought that the infrared media captured hope against the stark reality of life in wartime.

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Then it was off to the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.  I had been here many years before, during a business trip when I worked for Booz Allen.  There is a lot of construction going on, so the parking situation was a bit confusing, but Wayne and I navigated through and made it.  The air was dotted with multiple hang gliders that swooped close as we made our way to the aquarium.  

Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Birch Aquarium features more than 60 habitats of fishes and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and beyond. An oceanographic museum showcases research discoveries by Scripps Oceanography scientists on climate, earth, and ocean science and includes interactive elements. So, needless to say, lots of happy children running around in an aquarium filled with Halloween decorations.  The exhibits are small, but representative of the Pacific Ocean stretching from California to Micronesia.  A pleasant way to spend 1 1/2 hours. 

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If you couldn’t tell, I’m really enjoying infrared photography.

And then on to vacation rental.  My parents had dropped off their luggage earlier, but the house cleaner was still going strong when we arrived.  We did a short walk down the block where the house is located, came back, and were able to come in.  After scoping out the house, we chose a room, and awaited the parental, sister and nephew’s arrival.  Following a communal dinner, it was time for bed.

Saturday morning came, and our days diverged.  For Wayne and me, it was a post brekky trek to Chico’s (it is bloody hot here, I packed the wrong clothes), where I took advantage of sale prices on summer wear, and to Patagonia for Wayne - new shirt and shorts.  Pam and Will took off to get Scott and Kate (the bro-in-law and niece), and they spent the afternoon at the Embarcadero touring the USS Midway.  Apparently quite difficult to get the kids out of the simulation chambers.  Mom and Dad went to the Mission District on a Dia de la Morte mission.  Photo cred to my dad.

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From there, regrouping at the home.  It was the Yankees’ last chance game, no chance of eating out with bro-in-law here.  He’s a season ticket holder and quite the supporter.  So, for Batzer dinner night, we ordered in pizza and Greek salad from a local establishment to be delivered.  Passable thanks to the spicy sauce and premium mozzarella.  

Sunday was our last day together as a large group.   First stop was the breathtakingly amazing brunch at the Hotel del Coronado.  I don’t think that Wayne and I made it past the seafood/sushi tables.  If you haven’t been, it’s a must.  The Del (as it is affectionately known) is a historic beachfront hotel in the city and island of Coronado, just across the Bay from San Diego. It is one of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre: the wooden Victorian beach resort. It is the second largest wooden structure in the United States, and was designated a California Historical Landmark in 1970 and a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

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Again, the Crown Room Sunday brunch is not to be missed!

From there, it was a change of clothing and a trip to the San Diego Zoo.  While the zoo is often touted as the best in the United States, largely I think to its preservation work, there are still a lot of rare animals in cages and behind glass that do not get to roam freely.  We prefer the Safari Zoo Park (Wayne and I) and the Bronx Zoo, where the animals have more of a chance to roam freely. 

We spit into two groups, Jaffees going to the left and the Spengler/Batzer quartet to the right.  Mom, Dad, Wayne and I took the bus after the obligatory photo op.  Oh, and screw Storipass, we bought the hard copies and were supposed to be able to download the photos as well.  Guess you have to read the fine print a little more closely.  Which would imply bringing your reading glasses to the zoo...

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It was still bloody hot, so we traversed only a small portion of the zoo after our bus ride, and then we headed to see Ice Age 4D, which was fun, and then to ride the SkySafari back to the entrance.  By the time we made it there, it was about 4 pm, so we headed back to the ranch to a left-over plus roasted chicken dinner.  Jaffees made it back a wee bit after us, and we all made a night of it.

Monday was Jaffee return day.  Pam, Scott and Kate did spin class in the morning overlooking Child’s Beach, where the sea lions were out.  I woke up Will, we fed him, and all got ready to go down to La Jolla Shore Drive.  When we arrived, the Sea Lions were still out, and we had a lovely time visiting with them.  Will was quite pleased, and definitely into some camera work. 

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Wayne and I headed to the post office to mail my too warm clothing back home, and then got back to the house in time to say farewell to the Jaffees.  Then Mom, Dad, Wayne and I checked in for our flights to Vegas, and headed off to Temecula wine country. 

Our first stop was a recommendation made by an umpiring friend of my father’s (and I used to work with him, too).  The winery was Bel Vino.  My advice, don’t go.  The staff was completely unprofessional, the wines nondescript.  There were no notes or discussion of the characteristics of the wine outside of “Yeah, it’s sweet, you probably wouldn’t like it), and our server was approached in the midst of our tasting and told to move the tasting area to a different location.  Recommendation = 0. 

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Next was the winery for which Dad secured a Groupon - Mount Palomar.  The staff was wonderful (in one of the ratings, a customer said that as soon as you walked in the door you were treated like family), knowledgeable of the product, and actively engaged.  We enjoyed ourselves so much that we joined the club and bought several bottles to be shipped home.  Lunch was at their adjacent eatery, and it was marvelous.  Super high marks for Mount Palomar.

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The back to the casa for a final night of leftovers. 

This morning we leave at 8 am, headed for Sin City.  Looking forward to a little peace and quiet! 

Redhead turns 50

Traveling to the mainland is never super easy - red eye flights, minimal sleep, and then trying to hang out until it’s time to check into your Home Away rental.  We had the nice fully reclining seats between HNL and SFO, but 4 1/2 hours is just too little time for rest.  We had a brief layover, and then got our connecting flight to SAN. 

We hung out in the United lounge and got a little breakfast, and then headed out to MWR to pick up tickets to the zoo (for Sunday) and for the La Jolla aquarium.   

We went to Balboa Park after getting the MWR tickets, and then went through the Japanese Friendship Garden.  Lots of beautiful bonsai trees, flowers, and a cutting from a tree that survived the bombing in Hiroshima, a gift to the garden after the founding of the garden.   You can find out more about the garden at http://www.niwa.org/.  Tours run twice daily, once of the upper garden, one of the lower garden.

From there, it was on to the Scripps Aquarium in La Jolla.  It’s a small aquarium, with a small petting cove out back overlooking the Pacific Ocean and La Jolla town.  At about the same time, Mom, Dad, Pam and Will were touring around in La Jolla looking for sea lions. 

Yep, family trip sandwiched between a 75th and 50th birthday. 

We made it to our rental house, which wasn’t ready yet, so Wayne and I walked around the neighborhood a bit. 

I’m looking forward to editing and uploading shots taken yesterday with the infrared camera - my latest passion - and sharing.

Then it was family reunion time, we gathered and had dinner in the rental.  Hopefully, on to bigger and better things tomorrow :) 

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Coloring with Monkey Boy to make sure he stays out of trouble.

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At the Japanese Friendship Garden.