Archive for November 2014

Practice thankfulness

November 25, 2014

Practice Thankfulness

“When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others.” – Dalai Lama

During the holidays our thoughts are often filled with turkey, pumpkin pie, and Black Friday sales. Let’s also fill our thoughts with thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation.

During the holiday weekend and every day, here are some simple ways we can practice thankfulness:

* Give thanks. Say “thank you” to the people you meet – bank tellers, store clerks. Leave “thank you” sticky notes for people in lunch bags, lockers, or on desks. Write a “thank you” letter to someone you haven’t seen in a while, like a former teacher, a fire station, or your family doctor.

* Daily 5-minute thankfulness. Set aside 5 minutes every day to stop, breath deeply, and appreciate the good things in your life.

* List the ABCs of gratitude. has an interesting activity for the whole family: for each letter of the alphabet, take turns contributing something for which you are thankful – from apples and April showers to zebras and zucchini.

* Start a gratitude journal. Look for things in your life to be grateful for, and write them down in a journal or online diary. Oprah Winfrey writes down five things she is grateful for ever day, from simple pleasures like “eating cold melon on a bench in the sun” to big achievements. Greater Good suggests writing in your gratitude journal just once or twice a week to boost your happiness, and offers more tips for keeping a gratitude journal.

* Create a thankful book. Add drawings, photos, magazine pictures, doodles, receipts, and other memorabilia to a blank journal. Ask family and friends to create their own gratitude pages and hang them on the wall. For kids, the Scholastic website has a free “I Am Thankful” printable booklet that lets them add their own drawings and photos.

* Begin a gratitude jar. Any glass, plastic, or aluminum jar can become a gratitude jar. Fill the container with gratitude notes on slips of paper. The Somewhat Simple blog has a beautiful “Give Thanks” gratitude jar, with printable Thanksgiving writing prompts. You can even give a gratitude jar as a gift.

Thankful pumpkin patch

* Share your thankfulness. Last Thanksgiving, I created a colorful “Thankful Pumpkin Patch” poster. I gave everyone a pumpkin cut-out, asked them to write something they are thankful for, and taped it to our thankful patch. Another year, I painted a simple “Thankful Tree” poster and passed out autumn leaves for people to write the things they were thankful for.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions? What are you thankful for this year?

Thoughts on the Oahu Islandwide Housing Strategy

November 18, 2014

Housing Oahu 2014 Draft Plan

In September 2014, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell released a draft plan, “Housing Oahu: Islandwide Housing Strategy.” The draft plan outlines a housing strategy that promises to add over 4,000 affordable housing units over five years; or over 8,000 affordable housing units with the State of Hawaii’s help. Over a 15-year period, the plan hopes to meet the need for 24,000 additional housing units.

The housing strategy is based on several housing principles, including longer-term affordable housing (to help keep people in their homes), healthy and age-friendly communities (walkable and accessible neighborhoods with good transit service), and affordable housing integrated within all communities (to avoid neighborhoods segregated by income). While this plan is designed for Honolulu, it can be a test-case for neighbor islands and other cities as well.

There are five basic components to Honolulu’s Strategic Action Plan:

1. To develop affordable housing, we could develop our own projects along the transit corridor and rehabilitate existing housing. The city would have to become a developer and landlord, or partner with development and property management companies. There are approximately 224 parcels of city-owned property within the ½ mile transit corridor, and another 519 parcels of state-owned property – but no estimates about how many parcels are under-utilized or undeveloped. Note: We would need to create a Strategic Development Office, almost 20 years after Honolulu disbanded the Housing Development Office; and possibly a Community Land Trust or Land Acquisition Fund, both of which would mean bigger government, more bureaucracy, and possible duplication of services.

2. To integrate affordable housing into new developments, we could change the affordable housing requirements for developments over 10 units. The city would reduce the minimum number of affordable units, but set lower income levels (80% of AMI [area median income] instead of 120% of AMI); and longer periods of affordability (30-60 years instead of 10 years).

3. To promote affordable housing, walkable cities, and urban living along the rail transit line, we could support transit-oriented development. The city would encourage affordable housing near rail stations with financial and zoning incentives, as well as city investments.

4. To encourage affordable housing in existing neighborhoods, we could expand zoning for multi-family, ohana, and accessory dwellings. The city would update zoning codes to allow for 17,000-22,000 accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to be added on existing single-family lots. These rental units could be small cottages, additions, or converted garages.

5. To aid the homeless, we could implement Housing First. The city would find homes for the long-term homeless immediately, without first requiring enrollment in a treatment program. There would be protections in place for landlords against damage to the unit. Note: I haven’t heard anything about public safety protections (physical safety and peace of mind) for neighborhood residents.

In my opinion, three things are missing from the draft Islandwide Housing Strategy:

1. There are no cost estimates or funding sources. We have a starting price tag: the Honolulu City Council has allocated over $47 million in FY2015 for housing and homeless services, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $2 million in initial funding for the Equitable TOD Fund (to be matched by banks’ Community Reinvestment Act funding), and over $10 million has been allocated towards homeless-directed programs and services. What is the value of tax credits and incentives for developers? How much money will be allocated for Housing First and additional social services? Will approving more building permits require more permitting staff and building inspectors? How will we pay for these programs and services?

2. The plan does not address infrastructure and utilities. With no answers for where rail will get its electricity, how can we plan for more housing units? What is the status of our water supply and sewer lines? What will we do with all our trash? Will we need to build, maintain, or widen roads to accommodate more traffic? Will we need to build more schools and parks? What about parking (even if residents along the rail line don’t have cars, visiting family and friends need to park somewhere)?

3. The plan lacks an education component. With many young adults deferring home purchases or requiring downpayment assistance “due to lifestyle choices in early adulthood” (page 6), we may want to start practical homeownership classes in high school, focusing on financial management, credit, and tenant’s rights. And I think we should state that it’s okay to rent. Home ownership is not for everyone; not all of us want to deal with the stress of a mortgage and home maintenance, or being tied to one place for long periods of time.

I would also like to share three ideas to help promote ohana units, accessory dwellings, and home ownership:

* The property tax rate for accessory dwellings could be lowered for 1-5 years. This would encourage homeowners to build ohana units and accessory dwellings on existing single-family home lots. Also, the additional property tax revenues could be funneled back into the affordable housing fund for that same period of time, adding to the 0.5% of property tax revenue (approximately $4 million per year) that is dedicated to the Affordable Housing Fund. The Action Plan proposes property tax exemptions or credits only for transit-oriented developments, not for individual homeowners. I don’t know how much this would cost the city – I consider it additional revenue, not “lost” revenue.

* The general excise tax (GET) could be waived for 1-5 years for accessory dwelling rentals. This would encourage homeowners to build and rent an ohana unit or accessory dwelling – and make filing GET taxes easier, and it would give renters a break from paying the GET on rent. For a $750 per month unit, this would save renters $400 per year. Alternatively, the money from the GET could be deposited into a Home Savings Account, which could be used for a downpayment on a home.

* Hawaii could create Home Savings Accounts, similar to a health savings account, college savings plan, or retirement fund. The money could only be used for a downpayment on a home. Deposits would be made with after-tax money, and interest would be tax-free. Family members would be able to “pool” the money, as long as account holders were also named on the homeowner title; or “gift” the money to a beneficiary whose name would be on the homeowner title.

Do you have any comments, suggestions, or concerns about Honolulu’s proposed housing strategy? If live in another city, what affordable housing programs have worked in your area?

What we can learn from Kamehameha’s life

November 11, 2014

Kamehameha I

Kamehameha I is a legendary figure, heroic and larger-than-life. David Kāwika Eyre’s “Kamehameha: The Rise of a King” (2013) is a fictional account of Kamehameha’s life that portrays him as a warrior, philosopher, and leader who can be a role model for Hawaii’s children. I enjoyed reading about Kamehameha as a child, warrior, and king.

Here are 5 lessons that we can learn from his life:

1. Believe that you can accomplish great things. Alapa’inui, the chief of Hawai’i, sent a man to kill him when he was born. A kahuna spoke a death chant during his birth. He spent his first five years raised in obscurity, away from his parents. Kamehameha could have chosen to be angry, resentful, and vengeful. Yet Kamehameha didn’t let the circumstances of his birth dictate his life.

2. Commit to a purpose in life. When his mentors and kahuna told him that he had a destiny, Kamehameha prepared for it. He trained for battle. He combated a niuhi shark and ate its eye. He pitted his strength against the Naha Stone. To win in battle, he built Pu’ukohalā Heiau.

3. Be open to new ideas. When Kāpena Kuke (Captain Cook) arrived in Hawai’i, he did not automatically accept that Kuke was a god; he observed and formed his own opinion. After almost dying from a confrontation with a fisherman, Kamehameha did not seek revenge; he went beyond forgiveness and declared the Law of the Splintered Paddle to protect commoners. When foreign weapons (cannons and muskets) were introduced, he did not ban them; he used them in warfare and even trained a group of women to use muskets, including his favorite wife, Ka’ahumanu.

4. Dream big. Kamehameha could have remained a warrior. He could have been content as the chief of Hawai’i. He could have rested after he conquered Maui. Instead, he extended his reach to all the islands, though war and compromise.

5. Listen to your teachers and mentors. Kamehameha learned lessons about leadership and responsibility from his foster father Nae’ole, chief of Hālawa. He learned about warfare and tactics from the famous warrior-chief of Ke’ei, Kekūhaupi’o and about foreign weapons and strategy from his haole advisors, Isaac ‘Aikake Davis and John ‘Olohana Young. He listened to kahuna, his spiritual advisors, and built Pu’ukohalā Heiau to win the war god’s favor in battle.

Which historical figures do you admire and why? What will people learn from your life?

Plant a tree on Arbor Day 2014

November 4, 2014

Arbor Day 2014

When I was a kid, I took trees for granted. We had a beautiful pirie mango tree in the front yard, and a haden mango tree and lychee tree in the back yard. I remember climbing on the lower branches. I enjoyed spotting golden ripe mangoes through the leaves and helping to pick them. Today, those trees are gone, cut down to make way for a larger house. I miss those trees.

So I think it’s wonderful that we celebrate Arbor Day by planting more trees. Arbor Day has been celebrated in Hawaii for over 100 years. Ever since 1905, we’ve celebrated by planting trees and shrubs, and giving away seedlings. Let’s try to plant another tree in our yards or raise another shrub on our lanais. We can all do a little bit to help clean the air, provide oxygen and food, and cool our homes.

This weekend, on Saturday, November 8, 3,200 trees will be given away on Oahu and the Big Island. (Kauai and Maui already celebrated Arbor Day by giving away over 2,000 trees on November 1).

* On Oahu: On November 8, Hawaiian Electric and its partners will give away 2,700 trees and shrubs, one per family, at six locations around the island: the Hawaiian Electric Kahe Power Plant in Wai‘anae at 7 am, the Urban Garden Center in Pearl City at 7 am, McKinley High School in Honolulu from 7 am, the Hawaiian Electric Koolau Base Yard in Kailua from 7 am, the Wahiawā Botanical Garden in Wahiawā from 9 am, and Waimea Valley in Hale‘iwa from 9 am.

On the Big Island: On November 7, 8, and 9, join the three-day Arbor Day celebration at the Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Captain Cook. 500 native trees will be given away, one per person, from 9 am to 1 pm, on all three days, while supplies last. There will also be guided tours (with paid admission) and woodworking demonstrations.

Here are a few more ideas to celebrate trees this Arbor Day weekend:

* Choose the right tree for your home. Read “The Right Tree for the Right Place” for tips on choosing, placing, planting, and caring for trees.

* Talk about why trees are important. TreePeople shares 22 benefits of trees, besides climbing trees or hanging on tire swings.

* Trees are works of art. DLTK’s Crafts for Kids has a series of worksheets about tree-themed famous works of art. Kids can learn about famous artists, color their own artwork, and compare paintings with Venn diagrams.

* Imagine that you are a tree. What kind of tree would you be? Kids and adults can let their imaginations grow with this creative writing prompt from (click on “Print this worksheet” for an add-free version).

* Tell a tree joke. The Morton Arboretum has some tree jokes that you can tell children. Just be prepared to hear their favorite joke over and over.

What trees and shrubs do you have in your lawn or lanai? What are your favorite memories of trees?

“Kamehameha” by David Kāwika Eyre

November 1, 2014


Kamehameha I, the first king of Hawai’i, is a heroic figure, legendary for his power and strength. In “Kamehameha: The Rise of a King” (2013) is a fictional account of the life of Kamehameha (1758-1819), David Kāwika Eyre brings to life a Kamehameha who is thoughtful, reflective, innovative, and open to new ideas, and artist Brook Kapūkuniahi Parker illustrates historical people and events. Note: “Kamehameha: The Rise of a King” was previously published as separate books, but his entire life’s story is collected here.

Kamehameha was born at Kokoiki at Kohala in 1758, while Alapa’inui, the high chief of Hawai’i, prepared for war, a bright star streaked across the sky, and a kahuna chanted a death curse on him Alapa’inui ordered his death, for he was prophesied to conquer others, but Nae’ole, chief of Hālawa spirited him away. “It is the work of our people that the land feeds us. We all must work. Even the ali’i. We are ali’i because of the aloha of our people,” Nae’ole taught him. In his fifth year, Kamehameha was summoned to the court of Alapa’inui in Hilo, met his mother Keku’iapoiwa, and trained with the famous warrior-chief of Ke’ei, Kekūhaupi’o.

In 1778, he met and observed Kāpena Kuke (Captain Cook), decided that he was not the god Lono, and watched as Kuke was killed by vengeful warriors. After the death of Kalani’ōpu’u, he went to war against the chief Kīwala’ō over unfair land divisions; decreed the Law of the Splintered Paddle to protect commoners; and befriended foreign advisors, Isaac ‘Aikake Davis and John ‘Olohana Young.

Kamehameha used cannons for the first time in Hawaii at the battle of Kepaniwai (the Scraping of the Cliffs). He strengthened his rule; trained his warriors, including a group of women (among them, his favorite wife, Ka’ahumanu) with muskets; and befriended Captain George Vancouver, who gifted him with cattle, seeds, and the British ship Britannia. Kahekili, chief of O’ahu, gave his land into Kamehameha’s keeping; but betrayal from Kahekili’s son Kalanikūpule forced Kamehameha to go to war.

Despite betrayal from one of his advisors, Ka’iana, Kamehameha used foreign cannons and drove the O’ahu defenders in the cliffs at the Battle of the Leaping Mullet. After the battle, he dedicated himself and his chiefs to rebuilding and replanting. He married the sacred chiefess Keōpūolani and taught his son and heir Liholiho. In 1810, Kaua’i and Ni’ihau peacefully joined Kamehameha’s kingdom. Kamehameha ruled a united kingdom for just 9 years and died at age 61, with the admonition to teach the children well continue his good works.

The narrative is poetic, lyrical, and descriptive, with Hawaiian phrases and chants. “Then, as if in swirling response, Pele shook out her hair. Streams of red and orange light blazed around her, as lightning streaked the air, the sky brightening and blackening, thunder cursing from cloud to cloud” (page 145), Eyre writes, describing a volcanic eruption.

Eyre offers glimpses of Hawaiian history and genealogy, food preparation, philosophy, rituals (a black boar, black ‘awa, and a black niu honor Lono), and burial customs. While reading about a feast, we can almost taste the flavors of the food and smell the salty limu and roasted pork: “They ate of the delicacies of the land, the women in one hale and the men in another. They ate the sweet poi lehua of Hilo, the raw crab, the crisp limu that smelled of salt and the fresh sea. They ate the twice-fattened pig and the plump mullet of the rippling pond at Waiākea. A sweetness filled their mouths and they smacked their lips” (page 56-57).

There is a balanced account of the interactions with Captain Cook, and the cultural misunderstands that led to his death. We see the Hawaiians’ confusion (Cook challenges their belief in Lono) and the Europeans’ desperation (they were in poor health and needed supplies). We also see the Europeans entering into unequal trades, such as a canoe full of supplies for a single nail! And few of us may remember that Cook attempted to take the elderly chief Kalaniōpu’u hostage.

Eyre imagines that Kamehameha feels some regret over the use of cannons: “When warrior met warrior in equal combat, we celebrated the victor, his courage, his skill with spear and dagger… with the cannons, we win a victory, but we lose our honor” (page 137).  I was surprised to learn that Kamehameha allowed women, including his favorite wife Ka’ahumanu, to train with muskets and fight in battle. I also learned about hē: “The men made poi called hē. It was from the core of the taro, which had never touched dirt. Hē was for the feasting of chiefs” (page 99).

Eyre depicts a humble and philosophical Kamehameha who is caught between chiefly law and godly kapu, one who reveals, “The sacred purpose of my life is to care for my people.” (page 141). He teaches his Liholiho, “Have courage, my son. There is always fear. Without fear there can be no courage. Without courage there can be no great deeds” (page 183).

“Kamehameha” shows us a warrior, philosopher, and leader who can be a role model for Hawaii’s children.