by Gregory Field
Because of other commitments, Sunny Sanchez will not be able to create Sunny's Puzzle on a regular basis. "I enjoy doing the puzzle," Sunny said, but she and her husband Gil have moved to the North Shore and things are taking off for her right now and she needs to devote some time to her other ventures--like the `Ohana Bears.
The `Ohana Bears are small stuffed animals, about four inches high, that Sunny makes. You can carry them around, or use them as tree ornaments. Some have hula skirts, or muumuu, or football helmets. She's made punk rock bears with spiked hair and an electric guitar, and personalized bears with a banner with the person's name. It started as a little hobby, something that she made for friends and relatives. But on a trip to the mainland, she came back with orders for 600 of the little critters, and it turned into a mail order and catalog business.
She is also working on getting her novel published. Naked With Pearls is a mystery novel, set in Hawai'i, with Sunny cast as the detective. It's semi-autobiographical and has lots of local flavor. "I wrote a lot in college, then ran off and got married and had two kids." After 30 years, Sunny has found the time to write again. "I haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up," Sunny said. She's been a professional belly dancer, a chef on a river boat, and a law librarian. "I like to stay challenged," she said. "I like doing something new and exciting."
Sunny has faced challenges in her life. About fifteen years ago, while a single mother with two children, she had a bout with cancer, and underwent chemotherapy. At other times, she and the two kids slept on the floor of the pizza parlor where she worked until she could make ends meet. The tough times forged a tight bond with her children that continues now that they're grown. Sunny's daughter Rani is now 27 and her son Shane is 22 and has a nine month old boy. "The way they grew up, they're adaptable," she said. "They can think on their feet."
"My family is the most important thing in my life. Everything else comes and goes. Everything else is fleeting."
A couple of years ago she met Gil. "I first saw Gil playing in a band in a bar," Sunny tells the tale of meeting her husband. "But since I had made so many bad calls in the past, I decided not to date anyone who wasn't connected to my church. A couple of weeks later Gil started playing music at my church. I just followed him around until he had to ask me out. Two weeks later we were married."
"Its wonderful, he's the greatest guy in the world. He makes me laugh, keeps me happy, and gets me through the hard times." In June Sunny and Gil moved to the North Shore to be closer to his job.
Last year Sunny suffered from fainting spells. The doctors diagnosed the cause as a faulty heart valve, a congenital defect that had just begun to show up. She quit her job and took up less stressful pursuits--like writing and creating the crossword puzzles for the Waimanalo News. She enjoys getting involved in the community in which she lives and has written for other small town papers.
"My hope for Waimanalo is that it will have increased awareness of the issues facing it," Sunny said, "and always remain country and not become a tourist trap."