Fifteen Hawaiian Words You Need To Learn Before Visiting Hawaii

Fifteen Hawaiian Words You Need To Learn Before Visiting Hawaii

Kiahuna Plantation Poipu Beach Kauai ReginaMaeWritesVisiting the islands of Hawaii is like visiting a foreign country.  Hawaii became a territory of the United States in 1898, and became the fiftieth state in 1959, but has managed to maintain its charming language and unique character.

The Hawaiian language is recognized as the second official state language of the State of Hawaii.  It is impossible to fully appreciate a visit to the Hawaiian islands without learning some of the Hawaiian language.

Here are the fifteen Hawaiian words or phrases which will help you most appreciate your visit to Hawaii.

Fifteen Hawaiian Words You Must Learn Regina Mae Writes.PNG

1. Ohana

Everyone who has watched Disney’s Lilo and Stitch has heard the word ohana, which means family.  In Hawaiian culture, family is everything.

Last fall, my beau and I spent two weeks on Kauai, the Garden Isle.  While we were shopping at The Koa Store in Old Koloa Town, Jon and I struck up a conversation with the clerk, a friendly Hawaiian woman in her fifties.  She and Jon recognized each other’s faces, but couldn’t figure out why. Small town life is the same all over the world, and it turns out she worked at the Kuk (pronounced “kook”) or the Kukui’ula Market, the local grocery/convenience story twenty years ago when Jon lived on Kauai.

We spent an hour talking about family, from her sister, who had moved to the mainland and longed to return to her ohana, to Jon and his sister, who were back on the island for the first time in over fifteen years.

“It’s not good to stay away from the island,” she told us.  “Family is everything, and Kauai is family.”

2. Aloha

Aloha is probably the most commonly used, but least understood, Hawaiian word.  It is used to say hello and goodbye, but its message goes much deeper than that.    

Aloha encompasses love, peace and affection. Aloha is a way of life.  To do something with aloha means to do it with your whole heart and soul.

As our Auntie Aloha explained it to us, ha is the breath of life, and Aloha means I give to you the breath of life.

3. ’Aina

‘Aina (pronounced “eye-nah”) is the land or literally, that which feeds us.  Hawaiians live outside, whether they are farming or surfing, fishing or hiking.  For most Hawaiians, there is little differentiation between themselves and the land.  The love of land, or aloha ‘aina, is a driving force in the Hawaiian culture.   Hawaiians believe that you must treat the ‘aina with respect and dignity, because it sustains you.

4.  Kama’aina

Kama’aina refers to a long-time resident or native of Hawaii, and is seen most often in the context of the kama’aina discount given to locals.  As a visitor, you don’t qualify for the kama’aina discount unless, like us, you have an Auntie Aloha on the island with you.

5. Mahalo (Mahalo Nui Loa)

Mahalo is a word you will here everywhere in Hawaii.  It means thank you, and everyone from the desk clerk at your hotel, to your server at the many yummy restaurants you will eat in, to the crew on the helicopter or catamaran tour end conversations with mahalo.  Mahalo nui loa means thank you very much, and is a phrase you will want to use often as the Hawaiians treat you with aloha love.

6.  E Como Mai

E como mai means welcome, or come on in.  It is used to invite visitors to come into your home or business.  Most businesses have a sign over their doors telling you e como mai.

7.  Pau Hana

Pau hana means done working.  You will see pau hana specials in many of the restaurants and bars you visit on the islands to celebrate happy hours.  It’s also what the locals say when they are done working for the day.

Fifteen Hawaiian Words ReginaMaeWrites

8 & 9.  Mauka and Makai

Mauka is the mountain and makai is the ocean, and both are equally majestic and equally dangerous.   Any direction you look in Hawaii will be dominated by the mauka or the makai.   Directions are often given by referring to either the mauka or the makai.

10.  No Ka ‘Oi

No ka ‘oi means nothing finer or the best. Or as my beau would say, “Nothing bettah, brah.”  On the islands, you most often see this in phrases like “Maui no ka ‘oi” or “Kauai no ka ‘oi.

11.  Menehune

Menehune are a legendary race of small people who are believed to have worked during the night building roads, fish ponds and temples.  The Menehune Fish Pond in Kauai is believed to have been built by the Menehunes thousands of years ago to act as a dam and to catch fish to feed the royal family.

12 & 13. Kapu and Heiau

Kapu means sacred or to be revered.  It is most often seen in burial grounds and sacred places.  If an area is marked kapu, you should stay out unless you have permission to enter.

A heiau (pronounced “hey-ow”) is a shrine or place of worship, or a sacred place.  Heiaus are all over the islands, and sometimes the signs are old and hard to read.  If you come across a heiau in your wanderings, please assume it is kapu and stay out of it.

14.  Pono

Pono refers to righteousness.  Living a life of pono means making correct, self-less choices every day.

The concept of pono is so important to Hawaiians that it has been incorporated into the State motto:  Ua Mau Ea o ka ‘Ana I ka Pono which means that the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.

Jon was raised on the island of Kauai.  The way he explains it to me, if people make the right choices, pono, about the land, the ‘aina, then the righteousness of land will be perpetuated by the righteousness of the people to insure its protection for future generations.

The Hawaiian artist Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, or Braddah Iz, sang about pono in the song Hawaii 78.  Iz sang about the Hawaiian ancesters, and imagining what they would think about the changes to the ‘aina.  It’s a hauntingly beautiful song that encourages everyone to treat the land of Hawaii with pono.

15. A Hui Hou

A hui hou means until we meet again, and so a hui hou, keep your minds and hearts,

Ever upward,

Regina Mae

Five Things Every Beginning Writer Needs to Know

Five Things Every Beginning Writer Needs to Know

An Interview with L.K. McCall

L.K. McCall - Photo Two

L.K. McCall is an Indie Author whose debut novel, Sway of the Siren, was released in December 2015. Recently, she filled me in on the five things every beginning writer needs to know over margaritas and guacamole.

Pay Attention to Strong Images

McCall’s love of writing began as a coping mechanism after her family moved when she was in high school and she was mistaken for a narc at her new high school.  With a twinkle in her eye and in her thick upstate South Carolina accent, she explains denying being a narc doesn’t do any good, because that’s exactly what narcs say.  

Beautiful Piece of Humanity Regina Mae Writes.PNGShe imagined herself becoming a writer, but when it was time to go to college, her dad steered her toward safer careers like teaching and nursing.  They compromised on an English degree, and after graduating from Clemson University, McCall became an English teacher. 

Her love of writing never wained, and she eventually took a six-hour graduate-level class at Clemson University called the Upstate Writing Project.  One of the speakers was Ron Rash, the Southern Appalachian author of numerous poems, short stories and novels including Serena and Above the Waterfall.  During his lecture, Rash told the students that his stories always start with a strong image that he can’t get away from.  He doesn’t know the story in the beginning, but lets it grow from that image in his mind.

It was in that same way that McCall’s idea for Sway of the Siren started with a strong image that came to her one day and wouldn’t go away.  That image became the ending of the story, and the beginning of her journey as a published author.

Find An Encourager

For the last few years, McCall has taught in an alternative school for troubled students.  Her classroom was in a two-room portable that she shared with an older teacher, Elijah Heyward, Jr.  Heyward, a gifted poet who published Stories and Poems of a Gullah Native in 2012, would tease her with mocking poems he’d jot down on scrap paper in the time it would take her to use the restroom, which was on his side of the portable.  Then, when she struggled to write a retort, he’d mock her further, asking if he had to write the retort for her as well.

Determined to impress him, she brought him a few things she’d written in the past, and he told her, “You’re pretty good, maybe you should write.”

During this time, while the image of her novel was swirling around in her mind, becoming bigger and more insistent, Heyward called her to his room and told her that he’d had a dream about her the night before.  Heyward is Gullah and in the Gullah culture, dreams are very important.  They can tell who’s going to be born and who’s going to die.  They can predict the future.  Although McCall isn’t Gullah, she has tremendous respect for the Gullah culture and community, and listened intently to his dream.  Heyward’s dream turned out to be, in essence, the image she had for her novel.

That day, she thanked him, told him she knew what the dream meant, and walked away.  It was another eight months before she confessed that she was writing a novel.  The last day before Thanksgiving break, she brought Heyward half of the manuscript and asked him to read it and tell her what he thought.  Because he’d been critical of her writing in the past, she trusted him to be honest.  Because he is Gullah and the story contains a lot of the Gullah culture, she valued his input. 

On Monday morning when she came back from Thanksgiving break, he was waiting outside for her.  She asked if he liked it.  

“What, that crappy novel you’re writing?” 

But then he followed her to her room to tell her how good it was. 

From that day on, he encouraged her, bringing her handwritten cards to let her know she’d been on his mind and he believed in her story.  He spoke to her every day.  He gave her honest feedback.  And then proceeded to mentor her through the entire process, from writing, to editing, to publishing and promoting the finished novel.

Ass in Seat Time

Writing a novel requires discipline, especially if, like McCall, you have a family and a full-time job.  If you want to write, you have to stop talking about it and just do it.  McCall calls it Ass in Seat Time.  

For McCall, that meant getting up at 4:00 a.m. every day to write for two hours before showering and going to work.  After dinner, while her husband and their two sons were watching television or movies, she was at her desk writing until midnight.  Every weekend was heavy on Ass in Seat Time and light on fun, or housework to the chagrin of her oldest son.

She maintained this schedule for two years.  Her May River neighborhood has bonfires, oyster roasts and get togethers every weekend, and she skipped most of those to devote time to writing for two years.

The one break she gave herself from Ass in Seat Time was when she joined a writing group, Write to be Heard, a chapter of the South Carolina Writers Workshop, which meets twice a month.  Those meetings gave her an opportunity to have fun, get encouragement from fellow writers, and be held accountable for her writing.

Find Beta Readers

Early in the writing process, McCall gave her manuscript to a published author who noticed that McCall used the same sentence structure over and over again. Even though she was teaching her students to use six different sentence structures, she didn’t realize that in her own writing, she wasn’t using them.  Thankfully, this author brought it to her attention after three chapters and she was able to avoid that mistake for the rest of the manuscript.

During this time, find people who will tell you the truth about your writing.  There are people who will always tell you how great your writing is, and that isn’t helpful during the writing process.  McCall says these are the people you need after you’ve published your novel, so figure out early who they are and save them for the time when the book is published and it’s too late to change.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Anyone Else

The last piece of advice McCall has for the beginning novelist is to avoid comparing yourself to anyone else.  This is your story, and nobody else can write it like you can.  And in that same vein, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks about your story.  There will be people it resonates with, but if you try to write a story that resonates with everyone, you’ll end up with a story that resonates with no one.

Since publishing Sway of the Siren in December 2015, McCall has donated over $1,000 from the proceeds of the novel to the Pan African Family Empowerment & Land Preservation Network which, in part, helps the descendants of freed slaves save their ancestral lands by providing funds for taxes.

L.K. McCall - Photo 1You can learn more about L.K. McCall at her Website, Facebook and Twitter.

Sign up for my mailing list for a chance to win one of two autographed copies of Sway of the Siren.  (And if you’re already signed up, you’re already in!)

Ever upward,

Regina Mae

The Three Best Ways to See Kauai

The Three Best Ways to See Kauai

Growing up, most of my adventures were neatly contained within the pages of the books I loved so desperately.  I easily devoured a book a day during summer vacations, loading up my little wagon with fourteen books from the mobile library to make sure I had enough to last me until its next visit to the local grocery store parking lot.

And when I ran out of books, my imagination easily took over where the books left off.

I grew up a military brat, so every couple of years we had a new home in a new state.  This constant state of flux birthed a wanderlust deep in my soul.  As an adult, I chose to grow deep roots in my beloved adopted hometown, and satisfy my wanderlust by traveling as often as I can.

Most of our trips are little weekenders to places we can get to in a few hours.  But last September, I spent two gloriously exhausting weeks on Kauai, Hawaii with my beau. He was raised on Kauai, and gave me the kind of insider’s view that most tourists, (or haoles,) never get to experience.

Plumeria ReginaMaeWrites.jpgKauai is aptly named the Garden Island.  I discovered that plumeria isn’t just a lotion sold at Bath and Body Works, but beautiful trees loaded with bright, cheery blossoms.  Awapuhi isn’t just a shampoo, but glorious white or pink flowers that grow wild along winding, dirt roads.  Driving around Kauai feels like driving around a movie set, as if the trees, bushes and flowers had been arranged just perfectly for the next scene.

Four-Wheel Drive

Many of Kauai’s exquisitely pristine locations are most easily accessible by four-wheel drive.

Kauai Mahaulepu Beach ReginaMaeWritesOne of those places is Mahaulepu Beach.  The road to Mahaulepu is a bumpy, minimally-maintained dirt cane field road that had historically been used by the sugar plantations.  After the sugar plantations stopped operations, there was little economic benefit to maintaining the road to Mahaulepu beyond the last golf course.  Even with four-wheel drive,  it is a slow, harrowing trek.

Hawaiian Monk Seal ReginaMaeWrites.jpgBut once you get there?  Then it’s just you, a local Hawaiian family picnicking and fishing, and a couple of kite surfers.  Oh, and if you’re lucky, you might see a baby Hawaiian monk seal taking a nap on the beach. 

One of my favorite spots on the island is Queen’s Pond in the Polihali State Park on the Na Poli Coast.  Queen’s Pond is a shallow, sandy-bottomed pool surrounded by a reef.  The reef makes it the only calm spot on the insanely wild Polihali beach.  Like Mahaulepu, it is located at the end of a bumpy, dirt road (about five miles long), and then down the sandy Polihali beach. 

Although the dirt road is in better condition than the road to Mahaulepu, because of the recent rainy season, the four-wheel drive made taking on the dirt road much more realistic.  It also allowed us the flexibility of driving across the sand to Queen’s Pond, after consulting with a local bruddah about how much air to take out of our tires.  (About half, if you’re curious.)

Catamaran Tour

My second favorite way to see Kauai is on a catamaran tour.  Capt. Andy’s has been providing catamaran tours of the exquisite Na Pali Coast since 1980, and was a natural choice for us because my beau’s sister, (who met us on Kauai), worked for Capt. Andy’s in the days before she had a husband and babies.

Na Pali Coast ReginaMaeWrites.jpgThe catamaran tours cover either the Na Pali coast on the north side of the island or Poipu Beach on the south side of the island, depending on the season.  We were lucky enough to hit the end of the summer season before the ferocity of the winter waves shut down the Na Pali coast tours.  There are no roads that lead to the Na Pali coast.  The only way to get there is on foot by way of the Kalalau Trail, which was named by as one of America’s ten most dangerous trails.  For the average tourist like me, that just isn’t a possibility.  But, a catamaran tour is a most excellent way of witnessing the untouched beauty of the Na Pali coast.

Helicopter Tour

Waterfall Kauai ReginaMaeWritesMy favorite way to experience the vast lushness of the island of Kauai is a helicopter tour.  Although I spent the last thirty years swearing I would never go up in a helicopter, we decided that my birthday present would be just that.

Uncle John, the barefoot pilot with Sunshine Helicopter Tours, flies a helicopter like he was born in one, and his buttery-smooth voice filled our ears with stories of Kauai for the entire tour.  They call him the Hawaiian Morgan Freeman.

My beau is the ultimate outdoorsman who walked the length and depth of the island when he lived there. And he still saw parts of Kauai that he had never seen before.  One of the most amazing sites on the tour is the Manawaiopuna Falls, which most people would recognize from the movie Jurassic Park.  Our trip was right after a particularly rainy season, and we saw more waterfalls than I could count. 

I quite literally held my cell phone under my arm, pointed it out the window, and sporadically snapped the shutter to take pictures.  And somehow ended up with the most incredible pictures of our entire two-week trip.

Our time on Kauai was simply magical, and we are already planning our next trip and new ways to experience its majesty. 

Horseback riding? 

Kayaking with the whales? 


I can’t wait to find out!

Ever Upward Regina Mae

My Fairy Daemon

My Fairy Daemon

The first time I read about the concept of a daemon or genius was in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic Ms. Gilbert, (or my BFF Liz, as I like to think of her), originally spoke about the concept of a daemon or genius in her TED Talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius”, way back in 2009. (Watch it here.  Seriously, it’s required watching for any creative.)  But in the synchronous nature of the universe, lessons don’t come to us until we are both ready for them and actually need them.  I wasn’t writing back in 2009.  I was just getting divorced, running my law practice, raising my children and trying to survive, truthfully.  Thinking back to that time, I don’t think I’d even heard of TED, and didn’t have the time or energy to write anything that wasn’t required for my day job.

My BFF Liz shares with us that in ancient Greece and Rome, people didn’t believe that they were geniuses.  Instead, they believed that they had a genius, as it was called in Latin, or a daemon, as it was called in Greece.  Their daemon or genius was an entity completely separate from the artist.  Muse is the word that I was more familiar with before reading Big Magic or listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk.

Since reading Big Magic and watching “Your Elusive Creative Genius”, I’ve also heard my girl-crush Danielle LaPorte talk about daemons in session one of the Fire Starter Sessions, which I have now listened to an embarrassing number of times because I keep making other people listen to it with me.

In the way of the Law of Attraction, now that I’ve been opened up to the concept of a daemon or genius, they seem to be everywhere.

As I sit in my front yard, in front of my fire pit with my She Shed behind me and my water fountain burbling in the yard, I am obsessing about my daemon today.

My daemon or genius is a fairy-like creature who flitters about on glittering, gem-colored wings.  When I listen carefully, she fills my head with fantastical thoughts and stories.  She is generously visual, creating entire worlds of sparkling blue water and white sandy beaches or lush mountain streams and roaring waterfalls, all in my head.  If nothing distracts me between the time she draws these scenes until my fingers can reach a keyboard, the pictures flow into words until they cover the screen. 

I find her in the stillness of a walk along the causeway, or in front of the fire pit with the water fountain burbling and birds twittering, or sitting in the sun room with my little Yorkie snuggled by my thigh.

She likes Hawaiian musicians like Olomana and Hapa. But she adores classical piano music, which I found out quite by accident one weekend when I told my beau that I really, truly needed to write.  He put classical piano music on Pandora, left me in peace, and the words flowed.  The next day, he did it again with the same generous results.

My fairy genius will show up in a thunder storm or on a sunshiney day, as long as I am warm and dry.  She loves moving water in all its forms:  rivers and streams, water fountains, rain storms.

When I am trying to lure her out to play with me, I turn Pandora on the Classical Solo Piano Radio station. If I’m sitting outside, I freshen the water in the water fountain and turn it on.  If I’m inside, I turn on the diffuser with lavender essential oil.

My-Fairy-Daemon-ReginaMaeWrites.PNGAnd then I sit in front of my computer and type.  Sometimes, I type the words, “I don’t know what to type.”  Sometimes, I type those words over and over again.  Always, eventually, if I sit still long enough and lose myself in the magic of the music and the scent of wood smoke in the fire pit or lavender oil in the diffuser, the words will come.  My fairy daemon has something to say, and once she is sure I am serious, she tells me the message of the day.

Peace is necessary for my fairy genius to show up.  But solitude isn’t.  She’s delivered some of her best work with my beau sitting next to me, either watching a movie or playing on his fancy “computer phone” or chatting away to me about something I can’t hear because I’m listening to my fairy genius.

My fairy genius is even more skittish than I am, and discord chases her away.  Discordant classical music full of minor keys that sound like funereal tomes cause her to skitter away as quickly and efficiently as sharp words  thrown like knives between my beau and me.

The more I get to know my fairy genius, and the more she gets to know me, the more elegantly we work together.  I know now that when I am depressed, she won’t come visiting.  When I am angry or stressed, she stays away.  But when I sit with my face lifted toward the sun, close my eyes and sink into Beethovan’s Piano Sonata No. 14, she sits next to me, her head on my shoulder, and whispers fantasies into my ear.

She is instrumental in my Year of Big Magic, and is busy spinning the stories which are slowly becoming the Kirk’s Bluff Trilogy.  I am busy listening to her, listening for her, and creating conditions that will draw her closer to me.

Since I wrote my memoir, I’ve had friends and family members ask me, “How do you write a book?”  The simplest answer is you write.  As the author L.K. McCall told me, it’s all about “Ass in Chair Time.  You sit at the computer screen, or grab a pen and a pad of paper, and put words down.  But, of course, if it were really that simple, everybody would have written a book by now.

My-Fairy-Genius-ReginaMaeWrites.PNGSo maybe the advice should be get to know your daemon or genius.  Talk to him.  Lure her to you.  And when he talks back, when she whispers in your ear, listen.

One author I know says his guardian angel, (which is how he thinks of his muse), smells like strawberries.  Another says hers smells like lavender.  She asked me what mine smells like, and I’m not really sure.  But, incense seems like a good guess since it’s always burning when I’m creating.

If you are a creative, do you believe in a genius or daemon?  If you do, how do you nurture your genius?  How do you feed your daemon?

I’d love to hear your stories, my friend.  Tell me how you create.

Until next time, keep your hearts and eyes,

Ever Upward,

Regina Mae


What Will It Take For You To Stay

My darling, has anyone ever asked you what would it take for you to leave?

What would it take for you to leave your job?  Or your relationship?  What would it take for you to leave life as you know it?  Your career, your marriage, your house of worship?  What would it take for you to leave…fill in the blank.

It’s a viable question.  Knowing the answer can be an important step in deciding when to transition to the next place in your life.

But, my darling, maybe the better question isn’t what would it take for you to leave, but what will it take for you to stay.  What do you have to feel to stay where you are today?





How do you want to be treated in order to stay where you are?

With respect?  Kindness?

You are the only one who gets to decide your right answer, because you are the only one who has to live your one  and only, true and precious, life.

Do you like the challenge of an uphill, mountainous climb?  Or prefer a smooth, easy walk on the beach?

Do you want to be joyful and happy?  Or do you thrive on conflict?

When you get up in the morning, what propels you forward?

reframe-the-questionsMaybe it’s time to reframe the questions we ask ourselves and each other.  

Believers of the Law of Attraction posit that what you think is what you attract.  If you focus on negative thoughts or beliefs, Law of Attraction says you will attract negative events to your life. Conversely, if you focus on positive thoughts or beliefs, that is what will manifest in your life.

If you don’t necessarily believe in the Law of Attraction, then consider the concept of self-fulfilling prophecies.  This concept, which dates back to Ancient Greece and Ancient India, states that belief in a statement changes our behavior in ways that we make the statement come true.

Let that sink in for a moment.  If we believe a statement, we will subconsciously change our behavior in ways that will make the statement come true.

Have you ever known someone who says things like, “I always get the short end of the stick,” or “Nothing ever goes my way.”

Have you ever known them to be wrong?

Have you ever known someone who says things like, “I always get good parking spots,” and sure enough, they always do?

Open your mind, my darling, and consider this. If you say, out loud or even only to yourself, “I’m leaving this job if my boss yells at me one more time,” then you might just be inviting your boss to yell at you.

If you say, out loud or even just to yourself, “I’m leaving the next time my lover insults me,” maybe that’s exactly the self-fulfilling prophecy that will bring it about.

But maybe if you align your thoughts with what you want to happen, as opposed to what you want to avoid, just maybe that is what you will attract to yourself.

Try saying this, “I will stay at my job as long as I am treated with respect and fairly compensated.”

“I will stay at my job as long as I am mentally stimulated.”

“I will stay at my job if I get promoted within the next six months.”

Or how about these mantras.

“I will stay with my lover as long as I feel cherished and adored.”

“I will stay in my marriage as long as I feel loved and respected.”

One of two things are bound to happen.  Either what you have stated will happen, thus proving the law of attraction.

Or those things won’t happen, and you will know that it is time to move along, to the next job or the next lover.

If you get fixed in your mind exactly how you want to feel, or how you want to be treated; if you settle on how you want to vibrate in this glorious universe we call home, then you will know what you need to do if you don’t feel that way.

What will it take for you to stay?

For me, it is joy and contentment, respect and love, with a generous dollop of excitement and adventure.  If those things fade away, then it’s time for a new career, or a new hobby, new friends or a new relationship.

But that’s just my answer.  Tell me about yours.  What will it take for you to stay?

Ever Upward Regina Mae