Sharing Mana‘o

To be honest, this new retail trend of getting a jump on Black Friday doesn’t bother me as much as it does most people I know. I’m more annoyed by the in-store appearance of Christmas decorations before Halloween. I’m a traditionalist; I still consider Thanksgiving Day to be the official start of the holiday season.

This year, I’m looking forward to adding a new tradition to my Thanksgiving weekend. No, it’s not shopping at 6 a.m. Thursday – although I must admit, I am tempted to join the madness later that evening. After I’ve had my fill of turkey and pumpkin pie. Come to think of it, frenzy shopping would be a great way to burn off the calories from that second serving of stuffing.

Regardless of whether I spend Thanksgiving night as a couch potato or a shopping animal, I do plan to begin my holiday gift-buying this weekend, at the annual Bailey House benefit concert. Last year, I did most of my shopping there, and will probably do the same this year. Over a dozen vendors will offer handcrafted goodies and original artwork; everything from feather lei and jewelry to fabric bags and household items. Bren Bailey will bring a wide assortment of vintage Hawaiian treasures, and author Jill Engledow will be there with her wonderful “Haleakala: A History of the Maui Mountain,” which is a perfect gift for anyone who loves the mountain or loves Maui. The museum gift shop will be open, too, with its usual bounty of made-in-Hawaii goodies. It’s also one of the few places you can still buy books and CDs by local authors and artists.

The theme this year is “E Pulama Mau ‘O Maui-Cherish Maui’s History” – which is really the essence of the Maui Historical Society’s mission. Besides operating the Bailey House Museum and the Chas Fisher Memorial Gardens, which feature native Hawaiian plants and missionary-era non-native species, the MHS maintains an Archival Resource Center that includes some 2,000 artifacts and over 8,000 historic photos, along with maps and manuscripts and all sorts of documents. Proceeds from Saturday’s event will help fund museum operations. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

Besides the shopping opportunities listed above, the celebration from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will also feature Hawaiian games and crafts, a silent auction, free admission to the museum and food, glorious food! – including the Ho’opi’i ‘ohana’s famous Hawaiian plate, Sumo Dogs, kettle popcorn and more.

We’ll enjoy a full day of Hawaiian entertainment by Halau Na Hanona Kulike o Pi’ilani with Kumu Kapono’ai Molitau and Kumu Sissy Lake-Farm, Uncle George Kahumoku Jr., Kumu Iola Balubar and Halau Hula o Keola Ali’i o ke Kai, the Hawaiian Serenaders, and ‘Ahahui ‘O Ka’ahumanu. Celtic harpist Bobbie Jo Curley will open the program, and the Maui Madrigal singers will be caroling on the museum balcony, looking like 19th-century missionaries in their gorgeous period costumes. I have the honor of emceeing, and I plan to bring my alter ego, Tita, along to perform her pidgin version of “Da Night Befo’ Christmas.”

It will be a lovely day, and the perfect follow-up will take place the next afternoon in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater. Tita and I will share emcee duties with Tim Wolfe at the Harps and Horns concert. Bobbie Jo and the Maui Madrigal will be there as well, as the Festival of Harps and the Maui Community Band take the stage together in the first concert of its kind on the Valley Isle. It’s a fundraiser for the band, and who knows, perhaps it will become a local holiday tradition.

So never mind that the stores are already playing Christmas music and some have even sold out of ornaments and fancy wrap; my holiday season starts tomorrow, with traditions old and new. I’ll feast with family tomorrow and celebrate with the community on Saturday and Sunday. And maybe see you at the mall in between.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

Recently, I enjoyed a wonderfully refreshing week off from work. Actually, it was less than 24 hours; just an overnighter. But it was an overnighter in Hana.

My late husband used to say that spending a couple of nights in Hana was like taking a weeklong vacation. After each visit, we’d vow to go back more often, at least a couple of times a year. We never did, of course, and in the six and a half years since his passing, I’ve only been out there three times.

I spent the night in the ‘Ohana Suite at the beautiful Bamboo Inn, exquisitely furnished and extremely comfortable. Hardwood flooring, kapa wall hangings, a bouquet of freshly cut red ginger, croissants and guava jelly in my breakfast basket; local-style luxury at its finest. I slept better that night than I have in weeks, with sweet, simple dreams of rain forests and waterfalls. And children, lots of happy children.

Oh, wait . . . that part was real. Earlier in the evening, I was in the Hana School cafeteria with over 200 Hana folks for the fifth of six sessions presented by Read Aloud America. Facilitators Joanne and Larry Laird had invited me to be a guest reader at the Read Aloud Program (RAP).

I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of doing several RAP sessions over the past few years, at Paia, Wailuku and Makawao elementary schools. This was the first series held in Hana; hopefully, it won’t be the last.

The program focuses on family fun, encouraging folks to turn off technology and turn on to reading. After a high-energy opening segment with dance music, Frisbees and rapid-fire literary quizzes, the children break off into age-level groups to hear stories read by volunteers. Usually the readers are from the business community; in Hana, the high schoolers read to the younger students.

The adults remain in the suddenly silenced cafeteria for a brief lesson on how to create family time and encourage their children to read. Then they get to savor the joy of being read to themselves. On this night, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s Maui liaison, Karey Kapoi, delivered a delightful reading of a chapter from “Always Wear Clean Underwear!” by Marc Gellman. I read “The Shark Man of Hana” by Auntie U’i Goldsberry, a captivating story presented in both English and ‘olelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian translation by David Kahikina Del Rocco). Even Tita, my wisecracking, pidgin-speaking alter ego, got in the mix with a night marchers story of her own.

After the guest readers, the children are reunited with their parents and grandparents for dinner, usually pizza, but in Hana, the school’s cafeteria manager, Steve Sinenci, volunteers his culinary services. Student and adult volunteers dished out bowl after bowl of pasta with turkey and veggies, and we all settled in for more fun and prizes. Many books are given away; Karey and I got to keep the ones we read aloud.

Every RAP session I’ve attended has been thoroughly delightful; this Hana session was even more rewarding. The Lairds work tirelessly to fulfill the Read Aloud mission of promoting literacy, bonding families and building communities of lifelong readers through the fun of reading aloud and being read to. They go further, tailoring the successful RAP format to each community they serve, as evidenced by their choice of presented readings (previous Hana guest readers included Maui playwright/author Wayne Moniz and Hawaiian renaissance man George Kahumoku Jr.).

The evaluations tell the story. Children who never before showed interest in books are now visiting the library and reading at home daily. Grateful parents wrote about the positive effects of RAP on their entire families. “This program has brought many families together. . . . When you live in isolated and remote communities, we are so limited as to the resources. Having this program come out to Hana has been a true blessing for both the keiki and adults.”

Hana School principal Rick Paul was ecstatic. With a grade school enrollment of only 270, the average RAP session attendance was 265. Rick said he’d never seen anything like it.

Sadly, state funding has dwindled to the point where only one school per semester can take part, and even that is a struggle. The next lucky school is Lihikai, where Mayor Alan Arakawa will be a guest reader on March 13. Maybe the RAPpers can convince the mayor to help find some county money to keep the program alive.

I hope so, and I hope RAP returns to Hana next school year. I’ll be ready for another week off by then.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

You readers are so cool. And sweet. You responded to last week’s column with delightful comments, thoughtful and whimsical. Some of you shared lovely personal sentiments as well, and you know what a sucker I am for sweetness and sentimentality. Thank you all for a wonderful week of bear emotion.

To recap: Last week I announced that, after six and a half years of widowhood, I had fallen in love at first sight and moved the big guy into my home that very afternoon. It’s not as crazy as it sounds – he’s a gigantic stuffed bear – but the impulse purchase did seem a bit weird, even to me, because I’ve never been particularly fond of teddy bears. As I explained last week, I’ve had a lifelong love-hate relationship with bears, being born in Chicago and an alumna of Baldwin High School, but traumatized by childhood teasing over my maiden name, Yogi.

Here I must confess, this wasn’t my first bear buy. In recent years, while traveling for storytelling gigs, I started collecting those miniature bears you find in airport sundry shops, bearing the name of the local city. I would have preferred plush cats, but bears were all they had. I’ve got seven of them now, and the sentimental fool in me has a fond memory attached to each one. Strangely, I’ve been to Chicago twice since starting my collection, but never got myself a Chicago bear.

Back to last week’s column. I asked for help in naming my new furry friend, and you did not disappoint. Your suggestions ranged from the traditional (Cuddles or Cuddly, Papa, Teddy) to the exotic (Balbear – a variation of Balbir, a Sanskrit name meaning “strong man”). Balbear could also be interpreted as a short version of Baldwin Bear. Extra points.

Several people suggested Hawaiian or Japanese names, including Hau’oli (happy), Ku’uipo (sweetheart), Aloha, and Kuma-chan, a familiarization of the Japanese word for “bear.” My mom pointed out that I could call him Ma-chan in honor of both my father and my son, who share the Japanese name Masayoshi.

There were some funny, punny submissions too. One wit, after reading my description of writing my column while lying in bed with my bear as a backrest, ventured forth with Bear Behind. And a couple of clever readers came up with sweet little tributes to my late husband, Barry Shannon: Very Beary and Shannon Barry (or Beary).

Some folks focused on the Chicago Bears connection and submitted names like Ditka, The Fridge, or DA Bear, as in the “Saturday Night Live” skits. One reader proposed giving the bear my last name and calling him Chicago Collins, which sounds like a blues musician or 1930s gangster, don’t you think?

Still others cast their votes for names I’d already considered and mentioned last week. A few thought I should confront my childhood stigma and name him Yogi Bear. Another suggested Yogi Berra, which actually was another grade school nickname I resented. One person, probably an old classmate, pointed out that my new housemate should be called Boo Boo, because I’M Yogi.

Surprisingly, the majority of votes were for Stephen Colbear. Seems there are a lot of Colbert Nation citizens living here on Maui. As one of them, I’m conflicted over using this name. According to the Colbert Nation’s Wikiality website, bears are godless killing machines and the dreaded Colbear is the leader of them all. If you don’t watch “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, this paragraph probably sounds ludicrous. I should explain that Stephen T. Colbert, like yours truly, was saddled with a despised bear-related childhood nickname, simply because of his last name. Obviously, he was more deeply scarred than I, and it might seem disrespectful to use the Colbear name. On the other hand, it’s funny. Colbert would understand.

The best email I received was from Travis Thompson, who donated the bear to the Habitat for Humanity silent auction where I found my new love. Travis revealed the bear’s former name, Orphan Bear, and his back story:

“Believe it or not, he came to Maui from Chicago, where he grew up. He arrived on a United Airlines flight, as checked baggage (Travis’ nephew is a United pilot). Ali & I found him sitting in the passenger seat of my car when we returned from a recent trip. Unfortunately, I already had a companion bear, much, much smaller, who accompanies me everywhere I drive. There was no bear love between the two, so we put the Orphan up for adoption.”

So I finally have my Chicago bear. I’m naming him Stephen P. Colbear. The “P” stands for Payton, in a nod to my favorite Chicago Bear. I’ve nicknamed him Sweetness, of course. Grin and bear it, Colbert.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

It is with great pleasure – and a tiny bit of embarrassment – that I announce the arrival of a new addition to my household. I’d introduce you, but I don’t know his name yet.

Until my husband passed away in April 2007, I had never lived alone. When Barry died, I was surprised to discover that, apart from missing him, I actually enjoyed having the house to myself. Six and a half years later, I still do. And it still surprises me.

Growing up as an only child, I spent many happy hours amusing myself with games, books, daydreams and playacting. But at night, I was a scaredy-cat. The vivid imagination that served me so well in the daytime became my enemy at bedtime. I’d try not to think about the demon-possessed dolls in my closet and monsters lurking under my bed, but they always won. I couldn’t fall asleep without my mother lying next to me. I’m not going to tell you how old I was when my parents finally broke me of that habit.

In my “Death Comedy Jam,” written and performed a year and a half into widowhood, I talked about the unexpected pleasures of a solo household: Everything is where I left it, the toilet seat is always down, and no one complains of the smell when I eat cuttlefish and mochi crunch. At the time, I conceded that I might feel differently after a few years, once the novelty wore off.

Well, it’s been five, and I don’t. Friends have started suggesting that I get a pet, since I am clearly not interested in acquiring a human housemate. But even the most low-maintenance pet would require more time and effort than I’m able to give. I really like living alone.

Then I saw him. It was love at first sight. I was emceeing the Habitat for Humanity golf tournament luncheon and saw him sitting alone against the wall. I’m not usually attracted to his type, but something about him drew me to his side. Maybe it was the vintage aloha shirt he wore, too small to button across his enormous belly. Once I stroked his fuzzy cheek, I just had to have him.

He’s irresistibly huggable and never stops smiling. He’s 6 inches shorter than I, and more than twice as wide, a giant, cuddly teddy bear. Literally. He’s the best silent auction purchase I’ve ever made. And the perfect housemate.

Teddy bears were never my thing, though I’ve kept two very special ones that were given to my son when he was a baby. And I do have a small collection of miniature souvenir bears bought in the airports I’ve passed through on storytelling tours.

But I do seem to have a lifelong association with bears. I was born in Chicago, so I’ve always cheered for the NFL Bears. As an alumna of H.P. Baldwin High School, I am a proud Baldwin Bear. My maiden name is Yogi, so my grade school classmates used to call me Yogi Bear. When I complained to my father, he told me, “Just tell them you’re ‘smaaarter than the average bear!’ “

I didn’t appreciate his advice at the time. In fact, I think the relentless teasing caused my childhood aversion to stuffed bears. But now I am embracing my bear connection. And my bear. As I write this column, we are together in bed, with my back propped against his tummy and his legs serving as armrests. He’s actually looking over my shoulder at my notebook.

Now I just need to name him. I’ve considered Yogi, H.P., and Daddy Bear, but none of those seems quite right. Your suggestions are welcome, but please hurry, as I feel I must decide soon.

Right now I’m leaning toward Stephen Colbear, in honor of comedian Colbert and his hilarious obsession with “BEARS!” Apparently he, too, suffered merciless schoolyard teasing about his name, pronounced in the French way. Perhaps, if I Facebook this, we’ll get a mention on “The Colbert Report” or, better yet, an invitation to appear. I think that even Stephen would have to admit that my new roomie is adorable, almost unbearably so.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is