Archive for September 2016

Celebrating Hawaii’s children and youth

September 27, 2016

Hawaii CYD 2016

Exciting news! The annual Hawai’i Children and Youth Day is back, kicking off a month-long series of family-friendly events. On Sunday, October 2, the day kicks off in Honolulu with a CYD Sunrise at Mauna’ala Royal Mausoleum and a CYD Fun Run at Kaka’ako Park. The main event starts at 10 am at the State Capitol.

It’s a day to celebrate Hawai’i’s children and youth, and spend time together as a family. Best of all – there’s free entertainment, games, and educational activities for children and youth of all ages (and free parking in the municipal parking lots too).

When my son was younger, the highlight of the event was the McDonald’s tent – he loved winning a prize and taking a picture with Ronald McDonald. The large, colorful tent always had the longest line and was always packed with people.

For the past two years, the event that motivates and challenges him is the early morning CYD Fun Run at Kaka’ako Park. He is not normally a “runner” but he enjoys challenging himself to the 3k run. High school student Jordan Jones did a fantastic job organizing it last year, and she’s coordinating it again this year. It’s free to register and runners receive a cool medal at the finish line.

Now that he is older, we’ll skip the Children’s Zone and go straight to the Teen Zone, with fun, educational, and career-oriented activities. He’ll probably head for the sports demonstrations, like soccer and golf. We’ll encourage him to check out the Financial Zone, which features a hands-on, interactive Financial Reality Fair.

There’s so much to do, we really need more than just one day. We could tour ‘Iolani Palace, take a guided tour of the King Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center, walk through the Hawai’i State Art Museum, browse Space Exploration exhibits, and watch the Team Magma Robotics demonstration.

Just as important as learning, is the opportunity to help the community – Children and Youth Day is also accepting gently-used clothes donations to help support Children and Youth Day, United Cerebral Palsy of Hawai’i, and National Kidney Foundation of Hawai’i.

For a complete list of the month-long events, visit the CYD website.

Taxes and tracking your odometer

September 20, 2016

Hawaii Road Usage Charge Demo

The Hawaii State Highway Fund is funded by fuel taxes, vehicle registration fees, vehicle weight tax, and rental motor vehicle and tour vehicle surcharge taxes. Drivers pay 17¢ to the State of Hawaii, plus up to 17¢ to county governments per gallon of gasoline. The fuel tax currently funds 33% of the State Highway Fund.

Recently, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) revealed that it is considering a mileage-based user fee for highway maintenance, which would potentially replace the fuel tax. The DOT is planning a statewide pilot “road usage charge” (RUC) test in early 2017.

On the surface, this seems like a good idea. It seems fair. Like fuel taxes, the more you drive, the more taxes you pay. It taxes all vehicles equally, though it does not reward or encourage fuel-efficient vehicles.

But first, there are 5 critical questions that need to be answered:

  1. Do we need it? In fiscal year 2015, the State Highway Fund collected $86.8 million in fuel taxes, $76 million in vehicle weight taxes, $49 million in vehicle registration fees, and $51.9 million in rental/tour vehicle surcharge taxes, according to the Fiscal Year 2017 State Receipt and Revenue Plans (page 21). The DOT’s budget was $316 million to build and maintain highways, according to the Fiscal Year 2017 Executive Supplemental Budget (page 116). How much additional revenue does the Department of Transportation project to raise from mileage-based user fees?
  1. Can we afford it? The three-year pilot project is estimated to cost $19 million, which will be paid by Hawaii taxpayers (at least $12.5 million) and federal funds (approx. $6.5 million). Will the additional revenue collected from usage fees cover the cost to administer the program and increase revenues for the State Highway Fund?
  1. How will mileage-based use taxes affect tax collection? The DOT currently requires annual safety checks, in which odometer readings are collected. Would the mileage-based usage fee be collected at the time of the safety check? Will the DOT need to step-up enforcement of safety checks? How will an annual fee affect tax collection, compared with fuel taxes, which are collected at the time fuel is purchased? What kind of burden would this place on taxpayers, who would pay a lump-sum tax once a year? How would tax collection be affected if the proposal to create bi-annual safety checks (due to improved car manufacturing and safety standards) gains support in the legislature?
  1. How will odometer readings be used? Odometer readers are already collected during annual safety inspections, but will the DOT share this data with other agencies – such as insurance companies or employers? How will the DOT protect drivers’ privacy?
  1. Will the usage fee truly replace fuel taxes? This is the most significant concern. There is no guarantee that a mileage-based fee will replace the fuel tax, or add another level of fees. A new administration, new Congress-members, new department heads, and economic downturns are all opportunities to “extend” fees and taxes indefinitely.

I usually support user-based fees, because it places more of the burden for maintenance on those who make the most use of a service or facility. But when it comes to government, I am concerned that replacement taxes, like “temporary” taxes, never go away.

To review the grant proposal, visit http://hidot.hawaii.gov/administration/library/publications/.

How many miles to you drive in an average year? Do you support a mileage-based user fee? Would it make you change your driving habits?

Organized desk, organized life

September 13, 2016

Organized Desk

Recently I started a new job. On my first day, I walked into the office and found a desk covered in stacks of paper and an inches-thick inbox. Some stacks had sticky notes. Some stacks contained folders. Others contained loose papers. I felt overwhelmed.

I appreciated that these stacks of paper were things that I needed to do immediately – urgent tasks were not hidden away or filed. But they made me feel stressed when I came into work. In those first few days, my main goal was to clear the desk.

It took me a few weeks to work through those stacks and organize the office to where I knew where things went. I set up a desk calendar where I could write daily reminders. I got caught up in filing, and then vowed not to let the filing pile up again. I try to set aside 10 minutes to file papers every day.

I’ve read a lot of organizing advice, and it all boils down to these 3 tips that really work:

Handle each item only once – follow up, file it, or discard it. I’ve come across this advice many times, and it works for cleaning your home, your office, and your email. In practice, it’s really difficult to do, because not everything can be done right away, and we need to prioritize tasks. But I do file things in “pending” folders so that I can get to them later.

Write daily lists. Take 5 minutes at the start of the day to write down the things you need to accomplish. If you’re in the middle of a big project, you may want to take 5 minutes at the end of the day to write your task list for tomorrow.

This is easy for me to follow, because I’m a list-maker – I make lists for practically everything, from tasks to appointments to shopping to books I want to read. I’m addicted to the sense of accomplishment I feel when I cross something off the list.

Surround yourself with things that make you happy. I added a small ceramics piece that I use as a candy dish. I added a photo of my family to remind myself of why I work.

Once I organized my desk, I decided that I needed to organize my home office desk too. It was cluttered with binders, folders, office supplies, and other miscellany. I set out to clear off my desk and organize. I even cleared off a space so that my son can sit at my desk and do his homework.

Now I feel more relaxed. I can focus on my work, instead of being overwhelmed by work. An organized desk has helped me feel more in control of my life.

What does your desk look like? Is it a struggle to keep it organized?

Fiction: Memories of the Shore

September 6, 2016

Memories of the Shore

Memories of the Shore
By Rachelle Chang

Come sit with me a while beside the shore;
We’ll catch a thing or two before we’re done,
And meanwhile sit with the sun bright overhead.
I haven’t come for years, since I was young
And liked to sit beside the shore and fish.
My dad would take me on a rare weekend,
Carrying our bamboo fishing poles
Strung with chord, and at the end, a hook
To which we’d fasten bread crumbs or some crust…
I never cared if I caught anything,
But I loved to sit beside my dad and fish
In the shade, in the quiet, sitting side by side.
And afterwards we’d drive for lunch someplace,
And I could walk with my dad as if I belonged.
But the fishing was better, I had him to myself
By shore or stream for half a day or more.
I don’t go fishing now, but when I do
I like to sit and not catch anything.
Keep company with me a little while;
I don’t often get the chance to be with you.

“Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness” by Deborah Schoeberlein David

September 3, 2016

Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness

“Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness: A Guide for Anyone Who Teaches Anything” (2009) by education consultant and mindfulness trainer Deborah Schorberlein David with Suki Sheth, PhdD is a handbook for applying mindfulness to education. The goal is to teach kids how “to notice what they were doing in the moment so they could decide what to do next” (page xv).

“Mindfulness is a conscious, purposeful way of tuning in to what’s happening in and around us,” Schoeberlein states. It’s about how we experience things that we have little control over. She offers some quick and fun ideas to help us calm our minds, help us pay attention, and create a positive outlook for the day.

For teachers, mindfulness can promote emotional balance, focus and awareness. Here are 3 mindful activities for teachers:

  1. Take 5 Minutes. Sit still, turn off distractions, and focus on breathing (the experience of noticing your breath fill your lungs and flow out of your body).
  2. Mindful Greeting. In the morning, greet the day by noticing and appreciating the morning, like “Here I am” or “It’s morning.” Then set a positive intention for the day, like “I aspire to express more patience during [this activity] today.” Keep intensions specific, modest, and achievable.
  3. Mindful Beginnings. Stop what you’re doing slightly before the schedule requires you to. Stop pre-class tasks before students arrive and stop preparations before class begins, so that you can greet people with your full attention. Choose a method to get students’ attention so that they will want to pay attention, not because you tell them to pay attention. Try ringing a chime, clapping in a pattern, or asking a riddle. Make eye contact during roll call.

For students, mindfulness can promote attention and concentration, and provides tools to reduce stress. Here are just 4 of the mindful activities that Schoeberlein suggests for students:

  1. Mindful Memory. Assemble a dozen distinct objects on a table. Cover them with a cloth. Gather students and give them one minute to observe the objects before covering them again. Then ask students to write down as many objects as possible. This teaches them to pay attention to what they see.
  2. Field of Vision. Outdoors, select a 3” twig from the ground and explain that you are going to place it somewhere in the designated space. Tell them to look at you silently when they have found the twig. While their eyes are closed, pretend the place the twig – and then put it behind your ear. This teaches them that what you expect to see will affect what you notice.
  3. Walk with Awareness. Ask students to walk slowly and normally. Walk as if your ankle hurts. Walk as if you think everyone is watching. Walk as if you want to delay arriving. Walk as if you want to be unnoticed. Walk as if you don’t know where you are or where you are going. Walk while paying attention to every movement you make. This helps students notice their body and how their body expresses what they feel.
  4. Journaling Kindness. Write in the present tense about your experiences. Discuss what kindness means. Record an act of kindness you observe, an act of kindness you initiated, and a situation in which an act of kindness could have been helpful.

These mindful activities are engaging and clever, but I would have liked to see more suggestions for disruptive students – and ways teachers can persuade skeptical students. Some of the mindful activities are so clever that I want to try them with my son!

For me, the most positive advice is the acknowledgement that it’s okay to get distracted (you don’t have to be mindful all the time) and the reminder to be kind to yourself. The step-by-step instructions for teachers and students and the summary at the end of the book are very helpful, and many mindful activities can also be adapted for parents and coaches. For example, Mindful Greeting and Mindful Beginnings could be used by parents when they wake up children in the morning and get ready for school, and when they come home after work.

What small change could you make to become more mindful? If you try any of these mindful activities in the classroom or at home, please write back and tell us about it!