My beginnings in Hawaii
I was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii — on Kukaiau Ranch, on Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its base at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The ranch was a tiny, self-contained world operated by 14 families. My dad was a paniolo (cowboy), and my mom took care of the family. His family came from Japan, and hers came from Portugal — but, culturally, I’m Hawaiian through and through. I always refer to my childhood on the ranch as “a little piece of heaven.” After work at the ranch slowed down, our family moved to Hilo, a charming small town on the island’s east side.
Adulthood took me to Honolulu, where I began studying at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a resurgence of cultural identity known as the the Hawaiian Cultural Renaissance. The Islands blossomed with musicians, dancers, artists, and writers expressing pride in their heritage. It was an exciting time to be there! I spent many an evening in Waikiki listening to live music with my friends. I got a job in the advertising business, where I worked with brilliant, fun, creative people.
New beginnings in Oregon
I met a man, got married, and had two wonderful sons — but, one day, my husband announced that he was leaving me. After our divorce, I leaned even more into my Christian faith and began hosting a single-women’s ministry in my home. I was the sole bread-winner, and when the company I worked for started laying people off, I got scared. I didn’t know what I’d do if I lost my job, so I prayed for guidance. I started having recurring dreams of a place with tall pine trees and gray skies. I asked in prayer about the meaning behind these dreams and was answered with the word “Oregon.”
Oregon? I’d never been there, I didn’t know anyone who lived there, and I’d never considered leaving Hawaii. But the call was strong, and I received another message from the Lord: “Shine your light… Be a light for others… New beginnings…” I realized that moving to the Mainland would provide more opportunities for my sons and me than Hawaii could offer. I took a leap of faith, left behind everything that was familiar, and moved our small family to a suburb of Portland.
The blessings that followed
Needless to say, it was terrifying — but my life began to turn around in ways that I never could have imagined. I obtained a job as an executive administrative assistant at the Portland branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. I later got a similar job at Intel, where I eventually supported a director three levels below the CEO, along with a global team of over 300 employees. Finally, I was hired by the Portland Police Bureau, where I was chosen from out of over 500 applicants to work in the Chief’s Office, helping support the three assistant chiefs.
In my personal life, I fell in love with and married my “everything guy,” Bruce, who became my life partner and a role model for my sons. Although he was born and raised on the Mainland, he developed an inexplicable fascination with Hawaii and its culture when he was 11 years old. We met on an Internet dating site, back when Internet dating still had a dubious reputation. (Friends: “But you could meet a psycho there!” Me: “Um, I could meet a psycho anywhere.”) In addition to being my biggest supporter, he handles the business and technical responsibilities of Koa Leaf.
Last but not least, at age 57, I finished my college education, which I had been forced to abandon in my twenties due to a personal tragedy. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Linfield College, while working full time and raising two teenage sons.
Learning to deal with culture shock
It wasn’t all blessings, though. Mainland culture turned out to be harsher than what I was used to in Hawaii. In particular, business culture was a shark tank — the polar opposite of “living aloha.” I was shocked to find that many people at work and elsewhere viewed me with suspicion: surely I must want something from them, because “nobody is that nice.” Some took my “niceness” for weakness and tried to take advantage of me. Over several years, I saw a counselor and a life coach, who taught me skills to deal with the sharks while still remaining true to my values.
Becoming a light for others
In 2017, I began to think about what I wanted to do after I retired from the Portland Police Bureau. I never saw myself spending my golden years watching daytime TV and playing shuffleboard and bingo. Because of how life coaching had helped me, and because many people told me that I have a gift for empathizing with others and would make a great coach myself, I decided to do just that. My prayer is that I can be a light for others.
So there you have it! I marvel at how far I’ve come from that little ranch community on the most remote group of islands in the world — a place that will always be home to me. I’ve never thought of myself as being any better or more special than anyone else — but it took a long time and many struggles to accept that I’m not any less special than anyone else.
And neither are you! If what I’ve shared resonates with you, and you feel you need help becoming the best version of yourself that you can be, I’d be honored if you’d sign up for a complimentary session to see if we might be a good fit for each other. In any case, I wish you love and aloha, and that you achieve your wildest dreams — because you deserve it!