Archive for October 2015

Make green spaces edible

October 27, 2015

Edible Gardens

Growing up, my grandmother cared for mango trees, a lychee tree, fruit trees, and vegetables growing in her garden, and she loved growing orchids. She shared fruits and vegetables with neighbors and friends, and even passers-by who asked if they could pick mangoes. She gave away potted plants as gifts or donated them to her church.

A few years ago, all of my grandmother’s trees and plants were cut down. The new homeowners built a massive new house surrounded by a hollow tile wall.

This is happening more and more in Hawaii. My grandmother would have been heart-broken to see what has become of her yard. The fruit trees and vegetable gardens we used to have are being replaced with concrete, gravel, and “decorative” plants.

I miss the fresh fruits (though not the onions), the bright greenery, the garden air, and the chance to share with family, friends, and neighbors.

A big challenge is geography. Many Hawaii neighborhoods are built along slopes and hills. And because land is scarce in Hawaii, homes are becoming larger, with smaller green spaces. So we plant fewer fruit trees and vegetable gardens.

Another hurdle is water. Living on an island, we should all be concerned about fresh drinking water. We are encouraged to plant drought-resistant, “unthirsty” plants. There are workshops about xeriscaping, drip irrigation, and rain barrels. Since fruits and vegetables need a lot of water to grow, they are being pushed out of our lawns and balconies.

However small or young we are, we can start by adopting a fruit tree, herb planter, or vegetable garden.

* Grow a container garden. A balcony or patio makes a great “starter” garden. Growing things in a pot or a raised garden bed lets you start small, without a lot of expense or green-thumb pressure. You could even drop it off with friends or relatives when you go on vacation, or take it with you if you move.

* Hang up an herb garden. Though I’ve never tried it, I love the idea of growing tomatoes and plants upside-down.

* Plant a dwarf fruit tree. There are many dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties out there – lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, and more. A few years ago we planted a dwarf longon (dragon eye) tree. It was quick to give us fruit (small fruit, big seeds), and today I can still reach the top of the tree.

* Start an aquaponics garden. A friend has an aquaponics system to raise tilapia and grow taro, lettuce, and green onions. It actually doesn’t take up too much space (the taro planter sits above the tilapia pool to provide shade) and it’s fairly quiet. It would make a fun, ambitious family project.

So far I’ve planted one fruit tree in our garden, and I hope it is there for my son and grandchildren.

What is growing on your balcony or in your yard? What will you plant in your garden?

Together we can make a difference

October 20, 2015

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~Anne Frank

Neighbors helping neighbors. That’s what Make a Difference Day is all about. On October 24, a national day of community service, volunteers across the country will join together to improve the lives of others.

What can you do? On Saturday, October 24, 2015, here are some of the Make a Difference Day events taking place in Hawaii:

* Ewa Beach, Oahu, 8 am to noon: Join the Honolulu Police Department for Project Clean at Ewa Mahiko Park. Help paint over graffiti and pick up trash. Call 723-8456 for details.

* Mililani, Oahu, 8 am to noon: Make a Difference Day at the Mililani Rec 7. There will be pet adoptions, a pet supply drive, e-cycling, toy and school supply collections, tunnel painting, sign waving, and more.

* Kaneohe, Oahu, 9 am to noon: Join the Kawa Adopt-a-Stream cleanup at Kawa Stream, along with the City and College for Every Student Club at Castle High School. Call 233-5600 ext. 2279 for details.

* Kaneohe, Oahu, 8 am to noon: Sign up for a Make a Difference Workday at Castle High School to clean the imu pit, clear out the Hydroponic House, and build planter boxes, sponsored by Kupu Hawaii.

* Hilo, Hawaii, 7:30 am: 20th Annual Make a Difference Day at the UH Hilo Campus. Join this campus beautification event and help out with gardening, weeding, and general maintenance.

* Kamalani, Kauai, 7:30 to noon: Community Work Day at the main pavilion at Kamalani Playground and Lydgate Park. Please bring a water bottle, work gloves, sunscreen, shoes, and smiles!

We can also choose to Make a Difference for a cause:

* Aiea, Oahu, 7 am to 8 am: Join the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k Walk to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer. Walk the walk or volunteer at the event.

* Honolulu, Oahu, 11 am to 3 pm: Learn about how you can make a difference about bullying with Bye-Bye Bullies Hawaii at Iolani School, SCIL Third Floor.

Inspired by Make a Difference Day? Next year or right now, you can plan a service project or coordinate one with an existing organization. Start with the free downloadable “Volunteer Leader Toolkit” with information and checklists for organizing a service project. Remember to choose a project that your community needs and that you feel passionate about.

We all have busy lives, but we don’t need to choose one day a year to make a difference. Kindness, a smile, and small courtesies make a difference every day. How can you make a difference in your community and in someone’s life?

The language of learners

October 13, 2015

Learner Profiiles

You know that school has crept into your home life when you start to classify what your kids do in terms of “learner profiles.”

Hawaii public school report cards reflect a shift to building character, in addition to schoolwork. There are six “General Learner Outcomes” (GLOs): Self-Directed Learner, Community Contributor, Complex Thinker, Quality Producer, Effective Communicator, and Effective and Ethical User of Technology.

In addition, my son’s elementary school focuses on 10 “learner profiles” throughout the year: Inquirer, Thinker, Communicator, Risk-taker, Knowledgeable, Principled, Caring, Open-Minded, Well-Balanced, and Reflective. They are based on the International Baccalaureate program to develop active, compassionate, and life-long learners.

Building character is important, and I am happy that his school makes it part of everyday school life. At first, I was a little doubtful, because I wasn’t sure that elementary students could understand some of the attributes they were supposed to demonstrate.

Somehow those “learner profiles” slipped into our everyday conversations. When my 9-year old son decided on his own to sign up for a science fair project, I told him that he had “good initiative” and was an “inquirer.” When we played a game of “Monopoly” and he congratulated me on winning – and then helped me put away the game pieces, I congratulated him on his “good sportsmanship.” When he challenged himself to a 3K run instead of a 1k run (after picking up his running bib), I called him a “risk-taker.”

Those learner attributes have given me a new vocabulary to recognize my son’s good behaviors and actions. Instead of a generic “Good job!” I point out exactly what he has done that deserves praise. I commend his hard work and effort, as well as good grades. I am able to reinforce the study habits and values that he is learning at school.

The way I talk to my son has changed. I pay more attention when he makes good decisions, instead of only noticing his bad decisions. By focusing on good behaviors, he is less frustrated and I am less stressed about small misbehaviors.

Beyond that, using the language of learners, I have changed. I have become a little more positive and optimistic at home and work.

If you have school-age children, do you find the GLOs on report cards helpful? Do you use “learner profiles” in everyday conversations?

Celebrate Star Wars Reads Day 2015

October 6, 2015

Star Wars Reads Day 2015

On October 10, 2015, celebrate reading and all things Star Wars with Star Wars Reads Day! Immerse yourself in dramatic battles of good vs. evil and space opera storytelling. This year, Star Wars Reads Day is even more compelling as we anticipate “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Star Wars VII), which will be released in theatres in December.

Do you realize that Hawaii would make a fantastic Jedi training camp? It’s one of the most remote places on Earth, making it easily defensible and far from distractions. It has a wide variety of terrains on Earth (the Big Island alone has 11 of Earth’s 13 climate zones) – and Mars too (in the 1970s, Apollo astronauts trained on the Big Island’s lunar landscapes). And except for the Sith, it has no large predators to threaten young padawans (Jedi trainees).

Here are some ideas to celebrate Star Wars Reads Day in Hawaii:

* Drop in on a local Star Wars Reads Day event. In Hawaii, stop by select public libraries for give-aways, activities, contests, and special guests at Aiea, Aina Haina, Hawaii Kai, Kahuku, Kailua, Kapolei, Manoa, Waikiki-Kapahulu, and Waimanalo Public Libraries! On Oahu, register for special Star Wars Reads Day activities and a make-and-take Lego build activity at Barnes and Noble in Honolulu (limited seating). On Maui, dress up as your favorite Star Wars character and visit Barnes and Noble in Lahaina for a special storytime, parade, and activity.

* Host your own Star Wars-themed party. Disney Family has some fun Star Wars party ideas, including invitations (a Jawa pop-up card), crafts (a Chewbacca utensil holder), and foods (an R2-D2 Berry Parfait and Darth Vader lightsaber sugar cookies).

* Exercise your imagination. Kids can download a free Star Wars Reads Day activity packet, with word searches, coloring pages, drawing pages, a mission report, quizzes, a matching game, a maze, and puppets.

* For “Star Wars Rebels” fans… Just for fun, find out which “Star Wars Rebels” character you are by answering 10 short questions. (For some reason, I’m Hera Syndulla.)

* Can’t wait for “The Force Awakens”? Kids can download free “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” activity pages, full of coloring pages and a maze.

What is your favorite Star Wars movie, TV series, book, or graphic novel? Which Star Wars character do you wish you could meet?

“The Islands at the End of the World” by Austin Aslan

October 3, 2015

Islands at the End of the World

“You need to avoid any adventures for a couple of weeks,” a doctor warns 16-year old hapa-haole Leilani Milton. But adventure is exactly what she can’t avoid.


Lei, who has epilepsy and is struggling to fit in, recently moved with her family from California to her mother’s home in Hilo, Hawaii. On a clinical trial visit to Honolulu with her dad Mike, there is a worldwide “Emerald Orchid” phenomenon that disrupts satellites and electronics, causes tsunamis, and results in mass panic – and causes Lei to have strange dreams during her seizures.


Lei and her dad try to get home to Hilo, three islands away, as Honolulu enacts martial law. At first, they end up at the Marine Corps Base in Kailua. Packed into refugee camps, they escape the military complex, steal a boat, and get shipwrecked on Kalaupapa, Molokai. There, they meet Uncle Akoni, a priest who tells them about nuclear meltdowns around the world and an inexplicable lack of radiation, which he believes has been soaked up by the “Emerald Orchid.” They still have to survive a sheriff’s posse on Maui, passage to Hilo, and the effects of the “Emerald Orchid” – and the part that Lei must play in saving them all.


Written in the first person, “The Islands at the End of the World” (2014) by Austin Aslan is a young adult disaster thriller about wanting to belong, how humans react to catastrophes, reliance on unsustainable resources, events that challenge our faith in God, fighting to go home, accepting who you are, and family. The story is packed with action, danger, philosophical questions about God, and how humans react during a crisis. Lei is a courageous girl who deals realistically with epilepsy. She shows courage in helping her father keep them alive and self-confidence in standing up for her beliefs, despite skepticism. In a fantastic way, Lei’s “disability” turns into an unexpected and unique strength. And her father Mike shows incredible trust and belief in her.


Aslan creates a distinct contrast between Honolulu, a modern city descending into lawlessness; and Kalaupapa, a place of exile that has turned into a sanctuary. He also highlights the philosophical divide among Native Hawaiians, contrasting Akoni, who wants to create a sanctuary, and Kana’ina, who wants to conquer the islands.


As I read, my heart was pounding and I felt a little anxious – this crisis takes place here in Hawaii, and it could be me or someone I know trying to get home to our families.


Could you survive a natural disaster? How far would you go to get home?