Manoa Falls: Birding for the Win!

After my successful hike to Diamond Head, I was totally ready to tackle the Manoa Falls hike. It sounded do-able, but the trail was way harder than I expected.

Ready to go!

It all started out just fine. I had brought my trusty hiking poles, and was enjoying the tropical rainforest around us. We heard many birds but didn’t see any yet.

Tropical rainforest

The scenery reminded me of the tree walk in Singapore, which I attempted and couldn’t do, so that should have forewarned me 🙂


For now I was still optimistic about my capabilities and enjoying the hike, expecting to reach the water fall at the end.

We met some other hikers who told us that some of the scenes in Jurassic Park were filmed here. Very cool! The trail was getting harder though, but I was in no way or shape ready to give up.

Until I was. My energy and my walking ability was rapidly decreasing and I started questioning people who were on the way down. Hoping for a ‘sure, you’re almost there!’ but instead getting mostly ‘it’s getting steeper and harder and you’re not even halfway and there be dragons!’

Darn! I was so convinced I would make it up. But MS reality convinced me otherwise. Convinced me that it’s not about the destination but about the journey. That not even trying would be the real failure. But still, darn!

At least there were big trees.

Deep breath, Carpe Diem, and admit that reality not always matches with ability. So I told Tom he should go up to the waterfall, while I slowly started making my way down.

Manoa Falls! Not the Niagara Falls, but would have liked to see them.

I took my time. Waiting for my body to catch up with my desires. Waiting for no spectators to be around when I got down stairs sitting down, because I ‘knew’ people would think I was weird. And a loser. Which might be true, but I didn’t want ‘people’ to know 🙂

Red-whiskered Bulbul. Just who I needed.

After a while I made it to a more open part of the trail where I decided to switch from hiking and beating myself up to bird watching. I sat, I meditated, I was, I observed, I became a living breathing part of the tropical rainforest. My frustrations melted away to nothingness, and instead I became a bird watcher, a nature observer, a go-with-the-flow person.

Common Waxbill.

I rested, relaxed, took pictures, and relished the reality of being in the rain forest. In Hawaii! How much better can life get?

Another bulbul?

Tom came back down and confirmed that I had made the right decision. The hike was hard and slippery, even for him. We watched birds together for a bit and then made our way back down.

No idea what this is, but they are pretty.

We called an Uber, even although Tom’s phone ran out of battery immediately after calling it, but everything worked out anyway. It was a good hike, even if much harder than expected. I am glad we did it and that I got to watch many birds 🙂


And I might or might not have another MS challenge to beat one day. Or not 🙂

Hiking Diamond Head!

Diamond Head is a vulcanic cone, which was home to the first military presence on Hawaii, called Fort Roger. Nowadays it is a popular hike, not too hard if you are in shape, and it has a spectacular panoramic view from the top.

Red-crested Cardinal, my new favourite bird.

After failing our Mount Cardigan hike a few months ago, I knew that there was a real possibility of failure, but I didn’t care. Ok, maybe I did care because I am competitive, even with myself, but I didn’t care in the big picture.

Carpe Diem at Diamond Head!

Since I don’t have my cooling vest yet, to help me hike with MS, I constructed my DIY cooling vest by saturating my t-shirt in the sink at the bath rooms. You know, like a wet t-shirt contest 🙂 Figuring that the evaporation would help to keep my core cool 🙂 And I had my trusty hiking poles. Which I had been able to get through TSA.

Diamond Head

We hiked, we rested, we hiked, we rested, we hiked, I wet my t-shirt anew in a random puddle, we hiked some more, I hung unto the hand rail throughout the hike, we stumbled through a tunnel, but eventually emerged in the light and at the top!!! I did it! We did it!

Diamond Head MS Challenge Beat!!!!!!

It took me two and a half

The Diamond Head hike has beautiful views.

hours just to get up, as opposed to the half hour that ‘normal’ people would take. Another hour and a half to get down, but it so was worth it. I enjoyed the magnificent views, being out in nature, the many human contacts we made, the feeling of being part of history, and how I challenged myself. Even if it took me eight times as long as the average bear 🙂

First Travel with MS

Technically I have been traveling with MS for many years, just had no clue I had it. Yesterday was the first time I had to manage travel in my new MS reality.

Insulated kit to carry copaxone medication

I had contacted Shared Solutions for a travel kit for my Copaxone, so I felt confident about that. But I hit a snatch when I found out my hiking poles didn’t fit in my suitcase. Oops. Desperate web surfing disclosed that I might be able to get them through TSA if they were needed for mobility aides. I decided to go for that, but still was worried.

We started out trying to get an Uber or a cab from our home, and found out yet again that we live in the sticks. Eventually we did find an Uber, but then found out that he couldn’t make it up our icy driveway. Twice. Which means we had to slide and slither down our driveway. Not fun .

We arrived at the airport and I held my breath while going through the TSA checkpoint. I took my Copaxone kit out and said this is medication. The TSA guy asked whether it had any needles. Yup. He opened it, looked at it, closed it again and that was it. The other two TSA checkpoints this trip so far no one opened anything, they just accepted my medication explanation.

The hiking poles were no problem at all, they had to go through x-ray but no one gave me a hard time about them. Phew.

Carpe Diem, even with meds!

Today I gave myself a copaxone injection in Los Angeles in our hotel. Maybe I should keep track of all the locations where I used my Copaxone, just to show that MS does not need to limit travel opportunities 🙂

The flights to Hawai’i were long, more than six hours yesterday, more than six hours today. But we finally are in our hotel, and I am happy that we arrived and will be ready to explore tomorrow. My goal this vacation is learning to surf, since I have so many balance issues. I will either succeed and help my balance or fail gloriously and have great stories to tell.

When we arrived at Honolulu airport and I was all tired and cranky and we had to hike 5,000 miles to the Uber pickup spot, I saw a majestic egret fly over. Welcoming us to her island with her aloha. Telling me ‘you are ok’ . And I felt calm and reassured .

Later we saw sparrows, rock pigeons and birds I still have to identify. Looking forward to getting to know the local bird species. But first I will sleep. I can already tell that I will feel the five hours time difference.

Becoming a One Car Family

We had been discussing ways to save money, and one of the obvious ways would be to become a one-car family. It saves on car maintenance, gas, insurance, registration fees, lots of money not spent. But as is often the case, we suffered from inertia and never really did anything about it.

One of our daughters helped us out by getting into a car accident due to pea soup dense fog. She was ok, the car wasn’t. Heck, the car got hit TWICE before the other driver realized she should put it into park :p Anyway to make a long story short, the damage was extensive enough (or the car repair place charged enough) to get the car totaled. Ouch.

Our trusted Mazda being towed away

The good thing is that we were already contemplating getting rid of a car, so the universe helped us out there.
The bad thing is that we had two cars, a 2002 one and a 2010 one and the 2010 one got totaled.
The good thing is that Tom is more comfortable in the 2002 car.
The bad thing is that we just got new winter tires and a rim on the 2010 Mazda.
The good thing is that it is cheaper to insure an old car.
The bad thing is that the 2010 car heated up much faster in the winter and had better a/c in the summer.
The good thing is that the deductible was waved, so we get a reasonably nice chunk of money, more than we would have gotten selling it.
The summary is: it is all good.

Olympic Tower in Montreal with some of our children

I am a bit nostalgic about it, since this is the first car I got all for myself after my divorce, my first ever car loan 🙂
The car drove us many places. I took the kids to Montreal a number of times and we had lots of fun. I took the kids to Washington DC, visiting friends on the way.
I drove my kids and their friends all over New England chasing geocache after geocache.
I took eleven kids to the Boston Zoo and had a blast.
We traveled to Washington DC and enjoyed our country’s history.
Tom and I took four teens to New York City and watched Les Miserables.
All the memories remain!

We had a blast!

Carpe Diem and let go of the car 🙂

Very Early Robins!

robins way early in new Hampshire!

Last Sunday (Feb 4th!) I was driving home from my caregiving job when magic happened. I saw birds, a whole group of them. And as always I tried to identify who they were.

The mystery soon was solved when one of them was a very clear robin and I realized that this whole group must be robins.


Never seen robins here in New Hampshire that early. It makes me wonder whether they ever left.

Meanwhile I am happy that spring must be on its way if robins are already here.

Time to Back Up

I started this blog about a month ago. I feel like I am still in the starting phase, not happy yet with the way it looks, not enough content, but I do feel strongly about the need to back up the blog before I get too attached to it. Losing it now would be a pain, losing it when I am actually ‘live’ and actively making money would be more than a pain. As a computer science engineer I know the importance of backing up. So my sole goal today was getting my blog backed up.

It took longer than it should have. First I read about the best wordpress backup plugins and the pros and cons of each. I do not want to spend money yet, so I was looking for  a free solution. I decided that UpdraftPlus was the best solution for now. It is free for the basic version, later you can ask more features by paying. Next I needed a place to back up to. I know google drive and dropbox were two of the options. I didn’t really want to mix my blog backup with my normal google account, and found out that ourcarpediem at gmail already was taking. The best solution was claiming Good enough for my purposes.

While I was at it, I made a dropbox account for this also, although now I am wondering why I even bothered since google drive should be sufficient. While I was waking up my old dropbox, I found old family pictures which distracted me from my backup goal, but was able to get back on track 🙂

Installed the plugin, and set the options to backup to google drive

BINGO! My very first site backup was done! Feeling a lot better now and will figure out the settings to do maybe a daily backup. I feel much safer now and can work on more content and a better organization.


I had my VIPKID interview on Saturday and flunked it for no clear reason. I was nervous, but I had  practiced and think I hit most of the things they look for. Of course it could be my wicked accent, but I would like to know what the problem was. So I appealed to their Recruitment Team and asked for the detailed assessment of my interview.

When Tom did his interview, he got an extensive email, showing how many points he scored on each aspect that they are measuring.

  • Introduction and Class Pacing
  • Engaging Class and Interactivity
  • Attempted to the Lesson Objectives
  • Use of Tools
  • Speaking Speed and Language
  • TPR (Total Physical Response language teaching method)
  • Teacher Demonstration
  • Encourages full sentence output
  • Correct student’s mistakes

In addition they look at aspects like do you look presentable, how do the audio and mouse work, how is the lighting, are you visible at all times and what does your background look like.

Tom is busy preparing for his mock interview, so for now helping him to get that done, while I wait for the results of my appeal. I have heard you can re-apply under a different email, but not ready for that yet.

New Income Possibility: VIPKID

I have been reading a lot of articles about how to make extra income, and VIPKID keeps coming up over and over. It is a Chinese company which connects Chinese kids to teachers to help them learn English. All the work is done on line, from the comfort of your own home, or from wherever you have a good internet connection.

You have to pass a pretty extensive interview process and give mock lessons, and my husband passed his first interview today! He will now have to review some teacher materials and then pretend to teach a class. When he passes, he will get his official contract. I decided I will try it also, no idea whether I will succeed, but I have my first interview tomorrow, so keep your fingers crossed!

The hours are totally flexible, although the weekday ones could be early in the morning, or early at night, so that you work during daytime hours in China.

I will keep you posted! If you are curious and you are considering signing up for a trial, click here to visit them.

Jazzy at Road Affair has a really good article about teaching VIPKID while traveling the world. It sure convinced me!

Disclaimer: if you click on any of these signup links, I might get financial compensation at no cost to you. 

Earning Report I: January 2018

Before I started this blog, I did some reading on how to make money online and I stumbled upon Making Sense of Cents. She makes a lot of money with her financial blog, and she has great financial tips to help manage money and pay off debt. But what I really liked was that she posts a monthly income report, showing how much money she made from her different income sources. It is fascinating to see the high numbers she is making now, but also be able to see the low numbers she started out with.

I will share my numbers from the beginning, which are still low numbers, and hope that I will be able to post higher numbers as time goes by.

This month I only have two side income sources, my caregiver work, and some peanuts from Ibotta. I will add more over time.

I worked 17.5 hours as a caregiver, at $20 / hour, so I earned $350. This is before taxes.

‘Free’ money!

I made $25.25 on ibotta. If you use this link to share, you will get $10 after you redeem your first $10 of coupons/offers.  And I will get $5 for successfully referring you. Not a lot of money, but it is fun to see whether I can make this grow.

I am not going to count this as income, but I want to mention that we exchanged credit card rewards points for $300 worth of Amazon gift cards.

And technically, I found one penny, but I don’t think I will count that either 🙂 Thank you, Iliana!

Grand total this month is $375, most of it from my caregiver work. Which is a nice side hustle, not taking too many hours, but very rewarding.


Blue Moon

Yesterday we marveled at the size of the super moon which also happened to be a blue moon. We dropped off a kid somewhere and on the way back stopped to take a picture, since we all know that reality doesn’t happen unless you record it 🙂

Blue Moon Behind Church


It was beautiful, but it also was cold. We were freezing, so we didn’t stay long before heading back to our warm home. We knew there would be a lunar eclipse this morning and I actually went outside to try to watch it, but it was cold, the moon was behind the trees, it wasn’t much of an eclipse at the East coast and did I mention it was cold? So we didn’t witness the eclipse, oh well.

It did make me all nostalgic for past full moons. The one when I had my third date with Tom and I brought my mother and four kids to the Dartmouth bonfire (it’s a long story and it ended with a marriage nine months later, so it is all good). The one when we visited Italy for the first time together and it was a brilliant full moon behind the leaning tower of Pisa.

Full moon behind the leaning tower of Pisa

Another great one was in Rome last year, when I wasn’t diagnosed with my MS yet, but I surely was suffering the related fatigue and heat intolerance. Just before we left on this vacation I had gotten the bad news that there was lots of demyelination in my brain, and I was worried about it. On the other hand I was on vacation and enjoying every moment and telling myself that whatever I had was slow moving and hadn’t killed me yet, so I should just take a deep breath and keep going. Carpe diem. Meanwhile I was exhausted after walking a relatively short distance and I needed to sit, so we had a bite to eat and a glass of wine right next to the Pantheon.

Every single time we are in Rome I am blown away by the sheer amount of history everywhere. I felt very happy to be sitting right next to this building that had been there for thousands of years, and over which I could see the full moon. Where so many thousands of people had gone before me and seen the same view. It made me more at peace with the uncertainty of my medical issues.

Full moon over the Pantheon

When I changed my name after my divorce, I decided to add a middle name and chose Artemis, the moon goddess, to signify how important the moon has been to me many times in my life.