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Q&A | Hawaii, podcasts, what I’m reading, & birthday freebies

I’m curious about how you feel about Hawaii. I mean it’s super exciting for Lisey but Hawaii is terribly expensive. Everything is vastly more expensive. That and it’s sooo far away. I have three grown children and they live their own lives, but I would be a little concerned if one wanted to move to Hawaii. Just curious about your thoughts, financially anyway. You don’t have to elaborate on the distance because I’m sure I know, as a mother, how you feel about that. Thanks.


I am actually not worried, for a few reasons.

For starters, I know Lisey.

She is extremely debt-averse and very financially savvy. When she was little, she was pondering a purchase and she decided it was too much money. “I don’t want to be bank-robbed (bankrupt).”, she said!

Lisey holding a sparkler at night.

A smaller Lisey

And that gives you a sense of how she relates to money. 😉

Kristen and Lisey

Lisey and me in 2003

She’s worked so hard to put herself through school with almost no debt; she’s worked crazy hours, and she’s applied for scads of scholarships.

So I know she’s going to be careful with her money.

Teen Lisey and Tate the penguin. He’s not as big as Pachick, but on the upside, his political views are less problematic. 😉

Secondly, she’s going to be making pretty decent money right out of the gate as an aircraft mechanic.

She won’t have a car payment (her company is shipping her current car and motorcycle over for her), her rent is not crazy high (she’s renting a house with one other woman roomate), and she doesn’t live an expensive lifestyle in other ways, so I know her income is going to be fine for her needs.

Lisey taking off her car brakes.

Thirdly, it’s not like she’s stuck there forever.

If she eventually decides she wants to live somewhere cheaper, she can always pivot. Nothing is permanent about this.

Fourthly, even IF I did have hesitations about this idea of hers, my attitude is that she’s entitled to a full human experience, which includes making mistakes and trying lots of different things.

Maybe she and I are both wrong, and this will end up being a not-great experience for her. Who knows?

In that case, I still think, “Ok, no biggie!”. Every experience in life, positive or negative, provides data…she will learn a lot about herself through this process, regardless of how it goes.

Kristen and Lisey

No harm, no foul, and I trust that she will figure out the best path for herself.

And as far as the distance goes: yep, Hawaii IS really far away. And OF COURSE we will miss her terribly!!

But it’s not impossibly far to visit occasionally, and thanks to the internet and cell phones, we can still text and call and video chat.

Kristen and Lisey on a train.

Also: when she lived with my aunt and uncle, I saw her pretty infrequently, even though she was only about two hours away.

Lisey and Kristen's aunt.

To some degree, once you’re not local, it sort of doesn’t matter if you are 2 hours away or 15 hours away; you still don’t see each other all the time.

So in some ways, it will not be so terribly different than her being away at school.

In conclusion, I am not losing any sleep at night over this Hawaii move of hers. I think it’s gonna be fine. 🙂

Which podcasts do you listen to?

-lots of readers

Let’s see; some of them I don’t want to share at this point, because if I do, that will be me inadvertently sharing a little too much about what was wrong in my marriage.

The ones that don’t fall into that category:

  • Before Breakfast (Laura Vanderkam): a super short daily podcast about productivity
  • Dr. Matt and Dr. Mike’s Medical podcast: an anatomy podcast done by two Australian Anatomy and Physiology professors
  • How Not to Suck at Divorce: a new addition (!!) because I want to learn how to navigate this as well as possible
  • How to Money: the only finance-related podcast I listen to! I had dinner with Joel and Matt, the hosts, at FinCon and they are lovely people!

Kristen with Joel and Matt from How to Money.

  • Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine: a mostly funny show about the bad medical practices throughout history and also into modern times. The hosts are overtly politically liberal, but that mostly doesn’t crop up except when they get into more modern-day medical dilemmas. The shows that focus on past history are more a-political.
  • Passionately Married: I started listening to this one long ago, and I’ve kept it in my playlist because hey, one day I hope to be remarried.
  • You are Not Broken: a show hosted by a female urologist, mostly focusing on menopause and women’s health. I know menopause is in my not-so-distant future so I figured it would be helpful to learn about it in advance!

How in the world do you fit in classes, studying, or volunteering?? Looked to me as if you went non-stop all day with just living life, “keeping the homefires burning”. I commend you on not wasting time, not making excuses, continuing to process the difficult emotions, fitting in learning (Duolingo), making time to share bread and visit with Donna, eating regular balanced meals, keeping that law of thermodynamics from wrecking order in your home.


Haha, well, this latest day in the life is kind of an odd one because I am currently in my gap semester while I wait for nursing school to start. So yeah, my days are less packed right now than usual.

Last semester when I was in school with multiple classes, my days looked different; mainly there was way more studying! And of course, there was class time too.

Kristen walking to school.

I did still walk almost every day while I was in school, but I don’t think I did much in the way of weight-lifting. And I probably wouldn’t have had time to redeem a birthday freebie or help Lisey with things like getting rid of her old phones.

But right now, I do have the time, so I’m taking advantage of it.

Since you took a request for a Day-in-the-Life post, would you consider taking a request for a What-I-am-Reading post?


Sure! Currently I’m reading two books related to Zoe and her English class. She read Sense and Sensibility and then she and I also watched the two-part miniseries, so then I thought I should maybe reread the book!

I relate most to Elinor, largely because:

  • I have always been a very responsible, sensible person
  • I have had so many times in life where I have been quietly dealing with pain that I couldn’t share with others

I hope things will eventually turn out for me as well as they did for Elinor! 😉

I’m also reading Give and Take, another book that Zoe read in English class. She said, “Mom, I really think you would like this book!” I’m not super far into it, but I think Zoe is right. It basically delves into how being a giving person actually does often end up benefitting the giver.

I don’t think that’s a good reason to show love to others, but it IS nice to hear that being kind has some serious practical benefits.

Thank you for sharing your day with us. Do you plan your day or do things as it comes?


This really depends on the day. Some days I just take things as they come, but other times I go into my day with a good list of things I want to get done.

The latter usually results in a more productive day, because I don’t have to waste time thinking, “Hmm, what should I do next?”

I’m curious… what companies you are signed up with to get your freebies? It could be a fun thread to see what places you and others have found that offer birthday treats. Thanks!


birthday balloons

Some of my birthday freebies were from local places, but quite a few were from national chains, like:

  • DSW
  • Starbucks
  • Panera Bread
  • Potbelly
  • Ace Hardware
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Kohl’s

Basically, my strategy is to always sign up for a loyalty/rewards program with a company, and most of the time, that results in a birthday freebie.

Kristen with a starbucks coffee.

In April, I poked through my shopping/restaurant apps to check and see what birthday rewards were there, and I also went into my email and searched the word “birthday” to find all the emailed birthday offers.

Obviously, this works best if you live in an area with lots of stores nearby; driving a long way to get a free coffee doesn’t make sense. I live in an area that is heavily populated with stores, though, so it’s very easy for me to stop in and pick something up when I am already in the area.

Kristen eating pizza in her van.

If you are very concerned about privacy, you probably don’t want to do this whole birthday thing! But I figure the privacy ship has already sailed with me, so I might as well get freebies and live large every April. 🙂


If you have birthday freebie suggestions, leave them in the comments.

And of course, feel free to share your thoughts on any of the other topics in today’s Q&A. 🙂

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Caitlin “thehapamommy”

Saturday 5th of August 2023

Hi! Just recently found your blog and FB group. I’m from Hawaii and I think she will love it. I moved away almost 6 years ago but our families are all still there, we miss it so much. As long as she respects the culture and history of Hawaii and takes care of the land she will be fine. I hope she enjoys every minute it. It is very expensive though!

Maria Martoral

Saturday 13th of May 2023

My daughter graduated from the university with a masters in physical therapy and headed to Hawaii after landing a well paying job in Hawaii. She rented a small studio apartment with utilities included in Maui and after work each day she took surfing lessons. Her only expenses were food , gas and rent. After learning how to surf she spent her time at different beaches having free fun. We visited her the following summer and spent two weeks in her studio so we didn’t need hotels just food -! The experience was absolutely invaluable for her! She came home after two years but had the best time in Hawaii. Lisey is going to Love it! Best sushi and shrimp tacos in the world!!!


Saturday 13th of May 2023

I was somewhat hesitant to come in here with a lengthy post, but hopefully this will add value to the discussion. I thought I'd first mention that I happen to be Kristen's cousin. I've never met Lisey but she sounds like someone I'd enjoy talking to. More importantly, I lived on the island of Oahu from 2000 to 2018. My wife Tessa was born and raised there, and she was the reason for my moving there. I had expected that we would likely live out the rest of our lives there.

It was Tessa who first expressed a desire to leave, and the reasons were mostly financial. We had a decent townhouse in a nice area, and God had blessed us in many ways. Nevertheless, it was dispiriting knowing we would never be able to afford a "nice" house anywhere close to Honolulu (more on that later). By that I simply mean the kind of house most people live in - no shared walls with neighbors, a yard, a garage, and no maintenance fees. The maintenance fee *alone* for our townhouse complex was close to $700 per month the year we left, and had gone up $30-50 every year. Admittedly, that did give us access to tennis courts (which we never used), a pool (we did use that once in a while), and all the hot water we could ever use. Tessa loves long showers - but it's hard to argue we got our money's worth. Housing is the worst offender, but everyday items like gasoline and groceries are much more expensive too. Electricity costs around 45¢/kWH (compared to 15¢ for most places on the mainland)

Before anyone tries to argue that wages are correspondingly high to compensate - that is flat-out wrong. If anything, wages are depressed in Hawaii compared to what you could earn elsewhere. I had a job that I absolutely loved, but after moving to Oregon I started a new job earning 50% more, in the same field. That is not an exaggeration.

Beyond living expenses, there are some other considerations too. Above, I used the phrase "close to Honolulu". That's important because my workplace was in Honolulu, and indeed, the vast majority of Oahu residents work in Honolulu. Towns like Kaneohe, Waipahu, and even Kapolei are basically bedroom communities. And what you rarely hear is that a 60-90 minute commute is considered normal. My own commute was right about at the 60 minute mark. The newer, nicer houses are mostly in communities far to the west of Honolulu, where it would take even longer to get to and from work. But as I used to say to Tessa, "what's the point of having a nice house if you're never there except to sleep?"

While some may disagree with me, I didn't like the lack of variation in the weather. Sure, warm temperatures are nice, but 9 months out of the year being sticky and sweaty gets to be a drag. And then there are cockroaches. I grew up thinking that the presence of cockroaches in your house is a sign of slovenly living. Not in Hawaii. It doesn't matter if you live in a shack or in the governor's mansion. Cockroaches WILL get in. And they are huge. Squishing them leaves a really gross mess. The best way to deal with them is to get some sticky traps. Geckoes are another thing. I happen to think they're really cute and endearing, and they're even considered a sign of good luck in many Asian cultures. However, you'll be constantly cleaning up their poop.

Lastly on the negative side, it's a really isolated place. You'll run out of road trip options pretty quickly. Getting anywhere else beside the neighbor islands takes a 5-hour plane ride (or more). That makes travel to the east coast time and cost-prohibitive enough that you won't do it often enough. I felt like I missed a lot of family events like weddings and funerals. Nobody has ever held it against me (at least that they said so) but it's something I regret.

Now, I don't want to leave the impression that Hawaii is a wretched place. There's a lot to like about it. For one, the people really are as warm and friendly as everyone says. I felt immediately accepted when I arrived there, and many great relationships. The intersection of Polynesian, Asian, and Western cultures has created something really unique and special. I would counsel Lisey to embrace that wholeheartedly.

Despite my complaint about the weather, it was really nice to be able to go everywhere except work and church wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and slippers. ("Slippers" in Hawaii are what anyone else would call flip-flops. They are ubiquitous. The drug stores have entire racks of them for sale.)

Lastly, it's just a visually beautiful place. The ocean is a lovely shade of blue (many shades actually) and the mountains are a lush green. There's a lot of great hiking if you're into that. And of course I have to mention the beaches. Kailua Beach Park was our favorite.

After saying all of that, I think this is a great opportunity for Lisey with great potential for personal enrichment. But like anything in life, it's good to proceed with level expectations.


Saturday 13th of May 2023

Hey, hey cousin! Thanks for your comment. :) A lot of the reasons you disliked Hawaii are some of the same reason I don't think I'd like living there!

But Lisey really does adore hot weather and she doesn't mind humidity like I do. And like you said, it's a great opportunity; if she eventually decides she wants to switch it up and live somewhere else like you, she always can do that!


Thursday 11th of May 2023

Lisey is very independent and confident. She went into an industry that is not female oriented. I hope she does well in Hawaii. It's an opportunity for her, even if she decides she needs to come back to the mainland somewhere. My best wishes for her.

This line hit me "I have had so many times in life where I have been quietly dealing with pain that I couldn’t share with others" Many people, I find, are too open and say too much on facebook. There are things that we need to keep to ourselves, even if we would like to have someone to talk to about them.


Thursday 11th of May 2023

She IS so brave to do this! And I am so proud.

Elaine N

Thursday 11th of May 2023

Everything I am thinking has already been written by the earlier commenters except -- I love the Smart Money Happy Hour podcast. It is done by two millenials and they help me understand my children better. Plus it's fun.

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