I’m in love with the library

Posted October 17, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Books, Humor

Tags: , , ,

I appreciate everything that the Friends of Hawaii’s Public Libraries does for the community – buying books, supporting children’s events, sponsoring performances. In honor of National Friends of Libraries Week, we’re singing “Library” to the tune of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”

The club isn’t the best place to find a novel
So the library is where I go (mmmm)
Me and my Friends at the shelves choosing books
Reading fast and then we talk slow (mmmm)
And you come over with a book recommendation just for me
And trust I’ll give it a glance now (mmmm)
Hold that book, stop, get that novel from the bookshelf
And then we start to read
And now I’m singing like

[Chorus 1]
Library, I want your books
Your books are written for somebody like me
Come on now, just let me read
I will be reading, don’t mind me
Shh, Friends, let’s not talk too much
Pick up a book and read that book to me
Come on now, just let me read
Come, come on now, just let me read (mmmm)

[Chorus 2]
I’m in love with the library
We browse and borrow books we see
Although I like Amazon too
I’m in love with the library
Last night I was up too late
And now I can’t wait to debate
Every day I’m reading something brand new
I’m in love with the library

Oh I oh I oh I oh I
I’m in love with the library
Oh I oh I oh I oh I
I’m in love with the library
Oh I oh I oh I oh I
I’m in love with the library
Every day I’m reading something brand new
I’m in love with the library

One week in we let the story begin
We’re starting in our first book (mmmm)
You and me are carefree, so read all you can read
Settle your mind and settle in a Nook (mmmm)
We read for hours and hours about the sweet and the sour
Flights of fantasy, conflict and courtship (mmmm)
And pause and pick up a new book, the cover got you hooked
Libraries take you on the best trips
And I’m singing like

[Chorus 1]

[Chorus 2]

Every day I’m reading something brand new
I’m in love with the library


My best friends from high school is a librarian. Who is your favorite librarian? Why do you visit your favorite library?


Success and the well-balanced student

Posted October 10, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Education

Tags: , , ,

I’ve been thinking a lot about education recently – choosing the right school, the right amount of homework, the right number of extracurricular activities.

Recently, I attended an Education Fair and listened to guest speaker Dr. Denise Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success, who lectured about “A Balanced Approach to Success: K through Life.” I appreciate the invitation to join other interested parents, and I offer a big mahalo to Dr. Pope, the event organizers, and welcoming volunteers.

The morning began with reflection: how do we define success? How does the community define success? There seemed to be a general consensus that families tend to prioritize intrinsic values like character and resilience, while the community tends to prioritize extrinsic values like high grades/test scores and college admissions.

Dr. Pope declared that our values about education should match our community’s values, because we are the community. So why do families and the community define success differently? What message are we sending our children? What can we do to reinforce the idea that character, kindness, and problem solving are equally or more important than grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities? Take a few minutes to consider what success means to you.

From Dr. Pope’s keynote, here are three take-aways I learned about success and the well-balanced student:

1. It’s the kid, not the school. Success is not a straight line, from grade school to college to a good job to happiness, Dr. Pope declared. Attending a “good” school and getting a “good” job will not guarantee happiness or success. Rather, success is a meandering path, with unexpected turns and setbacks, and there is no one path to success that fits everyone. So we need to redefine what success means.

2. Every family needs a family mission statement. Businesses and organizations write mission statements that keep them on-target with their values and goals. Families need mission statements, too, that show how we value play time, down time, and family time – and so that we don’t overschedule ourselves. Play time is unstructured play. Down time is relaxing, sleep, and time to dream – remember, it’s okay for kids to be bored. Family time, at least 25 minutes a day, five days a week, lets us connect with each other and form strong bonds. Then, once we agree on a family mission statement, we need to align our values with our actions.

3. Help schools create SPACE. In addition to curriculum, teachers, and learning resources, schools also need to create SPACE for students: Schedule and use of time (revising student schedules and homework policies), Project and problem-based learning (relevant assignments with a community service component), Alternative and authentic assessment (multiple forms of assessment), C Climate of care (social and emotional learning), E Educating parents, students, and faculty (facilitating dialog and professional development).

Dr. Pope’s discussion of the “Alternative and authentic assessment” really resonated with me. In the workplace, we don’t have just one chance to turn in an assignment and we don’t get a letter grade for our presentation. We can revise presentations, proposals, and projects as we go along. In fact, we can build on the questions and comments we receive to create better presentations.

Note: The SPACE framework is a lot to take in, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all plan for every school. You can read examples of the types of changes on the Challenge Success website under “School Resources.”

Do your children or grandchildren have a good school-life balance? Do you have a good work-life balance? What one thing can you do to have a more well-balanced life?

“Spark Joy” by Marie Kondo

Posted October 7, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Book Reviews

Tags: , , ,

Two years ago, I read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (2014). I tackled the clutter at home, donating 12 bags of gently-used clothes and 70 books; shredding 8 bags of old papers; and getting rid of 28 bags of trash. Tidying-up was only partly a success, because I could only tidy my things – everyone has to choose the things that make them happy.

Last year, I started a new job and I felt the need for some decluttering inspiration. I was happy to find that organization consultant and author Marie “KonMarie” Kondo wrote a follow-up book, “Spark Joy: Al Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up” (2016), translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano.

“Spark Joy” is “a comprehensive and wonderfully simple compilation of the KonMarie Method. It is based on the idea that we should choose those things in your home and life that spark joy.

According to Kondo, “Only two skills are necessary to successfully put your house in order: the ability to keep what sparks joy and chuck the rest, and the ability to decide where to keep each thing you choose and always put it back in its place.” There are six basic rules of tidying up: 1. Commit yourself to tidying up. 2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle. 3. Finish discarding first. 4. Tidy by category, not location. 5. Follow the right order: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), then sentimental items. 6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy. “It might come in handy” is taboo.

Kondo takes us step-by-step to organizing our home, from the philosophical (tidying up is about facing ourselves) and the essential (fill your home with the things you love) to the basic (put everything in its place) and the practical (all clothes can be folded into squares). There are neat line drawings in calming pale blue (and cute white rabbits!) that illustrate tidying basics, like folding clothes and drawer organization. The graphics really help us visualize what an orderly space can look like. Kondo also shares her personal experiences and what she has learned from her clients.

Here are some “Spark Joy” tips for the rooms in your home:

* Personal space: Fill your personal space with the things you love.  “If it makes you happy, then the right choice is to keep it confidently, regardless of what anyone else says.” For small miscellany: place them on something, frame them, hang them somewhere unexpected, use them as wraps or covers. For posters or pictures: decorate storage spaces, closets, and cabinets.

* Closets: Fill your drawers to 90% full so you won’t feel compelled to fill up the space. Follow the four principles of storage: fold it, stand it upright, store in one spot, and divide your storage space into square compartments. Minimize storage furniture!

* Kitchen: Focus on the ease of cleaning, not the ease of use. Put nothing in the counters or around the sink and stove top. Put kitchen scraps for composting in the freezer. Sort kitchen komono into implements for eating, cooking tools, and food. Fill your refrigerator to about 70% full.

* Bathroom: “Store everything inside it in such a way that you won’t feel embarrassed if someone else happens to open it.”

* Entryway: Keep your entryway as clear as possible.

Kondo also offers sensible advice about living with others – and their stuff: “You don’t have to make yourself like someone else’s things. It’s enough just to be able to accept them.”

Slowly, between daily tasks and projects, I started to apply some of the tips and ideas in “Spark Joy” to my workspace and the office. I cleared the desktops and countertops, putting folders away before I go home. I learned to file papers right away, so that paperwork doesn’t accumulate. I added pictures of my family to remind me about why I work. Sparking joy at the office makes me I feel calmer and more in control.

How cluttered are your home and office? Do you surround yourself with the things that make you happy?

Expos for introverts

Posted October 3, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Business

Tags: , , ,

It’s been a while since attended a trade show or expo as an exhibitor, so when my company signed up for a local expo in Honolulu, I was both excited and nervous. Excited, because I sit in an office all day and it’s nice to meet new people. Nervous, because I’d have to meet new people.

I’m a shy person, and it’s hard for me to talk to new people. Sometimes it’s even hard for me to talk to people I know! I’m comfortable with quiet on my own, but in a social setting, the quiet can become loud and tense.

I did everything I was supposed to do to setup and plan our booth. I confirmed the budget, checked on furniture, wrote a press release, printed brochures, designed a poster, found a banner in storage, and organized booth shifts.

Faced with long hours of talking with people, introverts like me have to do more. So here are three tips for introverts and one idea that I wish we had done.

* Give something away. Introverts won’t usually stand in the aisle and bring people to their booth, so we need an inexpensive way to draw them in. A prize wheel was too expensive and a small game (a bean bag toss or mini golf) didn’t seem appropriate, so we chose peppermints. I even put stickers on them that said, “Take a mental health mo-mint” and our logo. Most people came just for the mints, but they smiled at me and made me feel less invisible.

* Ask a question. Someone stopped by our booth and took a mint. They don’t look particularly interested, and they’re ready to walk away. What do I say? Could I get them to stay a little while? To avoid this awkwardness, I created a poster with an easy question and brought a stack of sticky notes and pens. Since everyone is an expert in their own lives, I chose a question that anyone could answer: “How do you keep young?” People actually stopped and wrote advice, like “Exercise” and “Keep young friends” and “Stay away from toxic people.” Other people stopped to read the notes on the board. And I had a reason to talk to people.

* Meet the neighbors. Who works the same hours at the expo and is a captive audience? The staff at the nearby booths. When there are lulls in expo traffic but you can’t leave your booth, talk to your neighbors. I met a man who built a treehouse in his backyard and a woman who used to do pottery and a few people who “crossed the aisle” to meet us. “Did you come to the expo last year?” and “Do you think it’s busier than last year?” are good introductory questions, if you’re not sure what to say.

* Make a meeting. There are times when staff are alone at the booth, and the booth looked empty. At the next expo, I would ask staff and coworkers to make appointments with clients, partners, vendors, and donors – and meet them at our booth. We could have short meet-and-greets in an informal setting, and even meet their family. Longer conversations could move outdoors or to the concession area. Admission was free at this particular expo, so it wouldn’t cost anything.

Which trade shows or expos do you attend? Do you find expos exhilarating or exhausting?

More joyful, less stress homework

Posted September 26, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Education, Family

Tags: , , ,

My son started sixth grade this year. Though I don’t think he has more assignments than in fifth grade, he is convinced that he has more homework – and he feels more stress about it.

I’ve heard about the education achievements in Finland. Their high school students scored the highest on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. So I was curious to read “Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms” (2017) by Timothy D. Walker, written by an American teacher living in Finland.

I liked the fact that Walker taught at both American and Finnish schools, and could compare his teaching experiences firsthand. But I wasn’t looking to improve my son’s classroom; I was looking for ways I could make his homework less stressful.

Walker, an Arlington, Massachusetts teacher, admits that he was burning out on lesson plans, teaching guides, and classroom prep. In 2013, he and his wife Johanna moved to Helsinki, Finland. Walker was shocked that Finnish students have fewer hours of classroom instruction and more frequent breaks, and that teachers spend fewer hours on lesson prep and more time creating a peaceful environment. Based on his experiences, school visits, and research, Walker proposes that American schools need prioritize happiness in the classrooms.

Walker offers 33 strategies to prioritize happiness in the classrooms, focusing on things that teachers can do today to make a positive difference, without changing school policy. The strategies are organized around 5 ingredients of happiness: well-being, belonging, autonomy, mastery, and mind-set.

While the book is written for teachers, I read the book with an eye towards what parents can do to make learning more joyful.

Here are three ways to reduce some of the stress of homework.

* Schedule brain breaks. Take a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of instruction. Attention begins to lag after 45 minutes, and taking a break means that students return refreshed and more focused. The brain breaks could be free play, reading, writing, drawing, game time, or a mindfulness exercise; but it should be enjoyable, independent, and new. At home, we can offer children a 15 minute break for every 45 minutes of homework. I tried this with my son – so far, he seems to procrastinate less, because he wants that brain break!

* Mindfulness. Take 5 minute mindfulness breaks to create a sense of calm. Students might pay attention to their breathing, listen to the sound of a bell until it stops ringing, or pay attention to how they walk. At home, we can encourage students to do mindful exercises to reduce stress about homework.

* Pursue a family dream. The teacher and students jointly decide on a dream together, discuss roles, and learn to compromise. The dream should be shared and realistic, and promote a sense of belonging, teach work, and responsibility. At home, we could decide on a family dream that takes place during a school break, such as a community service, neighborhood awareness campaign, or project. It’s a way to make learning fun, especially if we tie it in with something they learned in school. I’m really excited about this idea, and want to start a “family dream” this summer.

Do you know a student who feels stressed by homework? How can we make homework more joyful? Do you take work home (homework for grown-ups)?

Surf a book, live a museum

Posted September 19, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Books, Community

Tags: , , ,

This Saturday, September 23, 2017 there two awesome events that you won’t want to miss: the Surf-a-Book Festival and Museum Day Live!

If you read with children or have ever thought about writing a children’s book, you’ll want to catch the Surf-a-Book Festival, a celebration of children’s literature in Hawaii at the Hawaii State Library in Honolulu, 10 am to 1:30 pm. There will be free presentations, children’s activities, read-alouds, book signings, a book exhibit, and panel discussions, with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Beginning authors and illustrators can dive into their own story and meet local authors and illustrators: Joy Au, Chris Caravalho, Kirsten Carlson, Ellie Crowe, David Estes, Leslie Hayashi, Dani Hickman, Lavonne Leong, Christin Lozano, Alina Niemi, Elizabeth Oh, Jessica Orfe, Tammy Yee, and more.

One of the best projects I’ve ever done with my son has been writing a book together. For a second grade recycling project, he created Mr. Roboto out of recycled materials (tissue boxes, plastic bowls, bottle caps) and started writing stories about him. That summer, he wrote and illustrated “The Story of SuperPoliceboto!” The best part of it was opening that bright orange Shutterfly box and seeing his book for the first time.

Another great way to spend your Saturday is by bringing the past to life at Museum Day Live!, an annual celebration of boundless curiosity hosted by Smithsonian magazine. Each Museum Day Live! ticket provides free admission for two people. Just find a participating museum or cultural institution, print your ticket or download it to your smartphone, and head to the museum.

In Hawaii, there are 7 participating museums:

* Honolulu, Oahu: Hawaii State Art Museum, which features contemporary artwork by artists with a connection to Hawaii (the current exhibit is “Hawaii: Change and Continuity”); Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy; Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii Historical Gallery, which exhibits Okage Sama De: I Am What I Am Because of You (displaying the Japanese immigration experience from 1868 to modern times) and the Honouliuli National Monument Education Center (highlighting Oahu’s World War II internment camp); and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, which exhibits aircraft and tells the stories of aviation in the Pacific.

* Lahaina, Maui: Baldwin Home, the oldest house still standing on Maui; and Wo Hing Museum, a restored social meeting hall for Chinese laborers who helped build tunnels and irrigation systems through the mountains.

* Lihue, Kauai: Grove Farm Museum, with authentic sugar plantation buildings and homes, orchards and pasture lands, and operating sugar plantation steam locomotives.

The Okage Sama De exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is a wonderful experience. Walking through the gallery is like stepping into the past. If you haven’t already visited the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, I encourage you to take your family this weekend!

Share your Museum Day Live experience @MuseumDay  #BoundlessCuriosity  #MuseumDayLive

What are your favorite children’s books? Have you ever thought about writing a children’s book? Where will your curiosity lead you?

Driving electric

Posted September 12, 2017 by Rachelle Chang
Categories: Community

Tags: , , ,

Hawaii is good place for electric vehicles, with its year-round sunshine, high gasoline prices, and limited driving distance. As of July 2017, there were 6,084 electric vehicles and 24,378 passenger hybrid vehicles registered statewide, according to the “Monthly Energy Trend Highlights,” July 2017. That’s 2.88% of the 1,056,103 registered passenger vehicles in the state – and growing.

The electric car I drive reflects who I am – or rather, who I want to be. I try to be environmentally conscious, and reducing, recycling, and reusing are slowly becoming second-nature. I try to be positive, driving with aloha to reduce the stress of traffic. I try to be plan ahead and be prepared – though this hasn’t worked out as well, as just the other week I forgot to charge the car and drove around on my lunch break, desperately looking for an open charging station.

For those of you who are thinking about an electric vehicle, and those of you who already drive one, this week, September 9-17, 2017, is National Drive Electric Week – a nationwide celebration of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Plug-in vehicles are better for the environment, more affordable than ever, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil – and the drive is surprisingly peppy.

Check out one of these upcoming three National Drive Electric Events in Hawaii:

* Hilo, Hawaii Island. On Saturday, September 16, 9 am to noon at the Home Depot, to meet other EV owners and families.

* Honolulu, Oahu. On Sunday, September 17, 9 am to noon at Kapiolani Community College, with specified staging locations for the Electric Island Drive and an Electric Vehicle Fair.

* Lihue, Kauai. On Saturday, September 16, 9 am to 1 pm at KCC Kauai Community College, with the opportunity to test-drive electric vehicles.

On a related note… As part of October’s National Energy Action Month, mark your calendars for the Clean Energy Fair on Saturday, October 7 at Kahala Mall in Honolulu, 10 am to 3 pm, with interactive displays, live entertainment, keiki games, and a show by Mad Science of Hawaii at 10:15 am.

Do you drive an electric car? If yes, what made you go electric? If not, what holds you back? What does your car say about you?