Archive for July 2018

Creating a healing workplace

July 31, 2018

Two years ago, I got lost on my way to a job interview. I saw the company sign, but the arrow pointed to a locked gate. I didn’t know how to find my way around, and there didn’t seem to be anyone I could ask. Even though I arrived early, I was a few minutes late to the interview.

I remembered this experience as I took a free online class on “Spirituality, Health, and Healing” through Gale Courses and the Hawaii Public Library, and reached a lesson titled “Sacred Spaces, Healing Places.”

Before I took this course, I knew that we change our homes and workplaces to make us feel more comfortable, to reflect our personality, or to create positive energy and balance (such as the Chinese practice of feng shui).

But I didn’t consider that our home and workplaces also have a strong impact on our health and can actually promote healing. “Healing environments play a vital role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and are just as important as eating properly, exercising regularly, practicing proper health care, and having meaningful relationships and support systems,” the instructors explain.

Here are a few of the elements in creating a healing environment:

Space clearing. Clearing the space removes clutter, purifies the energy and space, and ‘opens’ it to new possibilities and healthy interactions.” Common practices include clearing desks, organizing shelves, and removing old or unused objects. This is one of the first things I do when I start a new job: make sure that I know where things are, and remove things I don’t need.

Color. It’s one of the first things we notice in a room. “Color has the ability to influence our perception of the shape and size of a room, shape our emotions, influence our moods, and shape our spiritual receptivity.” Warmer colors (peach, soft yellows, color) can stimulate our appetites and encourage alertness, creativity, and socialization. Blues, greens, and violets can be restful and contemplative, and can help reduce fatigue. Most workplaces choose a neutral wall color and rely on furniture, pillows, art, and flowers as accent colors.

Lighting. We need light for both health and safety. Healthy lighting features include providing overhead and task lighting, keeping lighting levels consistent and adjustable, using natural light as often as possible, and preventing glare.

Furnishings. Furniture, flooring, accessories, art, and flowers can “contribute to comfort and a sense of safety.” Some examples are clocks and calendars to reduce a feeling of disorientation, break areas for visitors, and comfortable upholstery.

Wayfinding. Wayfinding is “knowing where you are, knowing your destination, following the best route, recognizing your destination, and finding your way back out.” It involves details like clear signage and maps, landmarks such as artwork or unique design features, and color-coded areas. Better wayfinding would have addressed the confusion I felt when I arrived for that job interview I mentioned earlier. In fact, it’s one of the things I’m still trying to improve.

Creating a healing workplace makes good business sense too. I think we can all agree that first impressions matter. “Well-designed, healing environments have also been shown to be cost-effective and improve staff retention,” the instructors declare. An office that is easy to find, safe, comfortable, and welcoming makes a good first impression on both visitors and employees. It can build trust and a sense of belonging.

Does your workplace promote healing? What could you do to make visitors and co-workers feel more welcome?

Advertisements

Online classes at the public library

July 24, 2018

To earn the “Turn Up the Techno” badge, one of the activities is to learn something new. You’re supposed to click on the ‘Learn’ tab of the library website to find online classes. So I did, and I ended up registering for a couple of online classes. Well played, Summer Reading Program!

I was impressed by the variety of online courses available, accounting, business, and technology to healthcare, languages, and writing. Some of them even offer certificates of completion.

There are a lot of free and paid online classes available, but the Gale Courses are free, have courses I want to take, and – most importantly – let me support the Hawaii State Public Library System. I’m sure that library funding is helped by the number of library users, borrowed books, and services used, so this is a small way to support our public libraries.

I signed up for a class in “Spirituality, Health, and Healing.” It is a six-week self-directed, reading-intensive course with a clear syllabus, twelve lessons, a 30-question test at the end of each lesson, and an open discussion area where you can talk with the instructor and other students. There are no assignments, other than some optional self-assessments within the lessons. Other classes may be set up differently.

The course covers topics such as the characteristics of spirituality, rituals, culture, assessment, grieving, and aging. It emphasizes that spiritual well-being is the ability to find meaning, value, and purpose in life and thus to feel content, fulfilled, and happy. It teaches students about different faiths in a respectful and inclusive way.

The conviction that one of the healthcare provider’s first duties is to inspire hope – not for a cure, but for healing – resonated with me. I work at a small healthcare office, and I am learning that healing is a continual process, a transformative process.

The instructors were responsive and encouraging. They also included some self-assessment questions that really made me thing about my own views about life, spirituality, and dying. I think that living in a multicultural state like Hawaii makes some of the material easier to absorb and more familiar.

I’ve already signed up for a few other classes over the next months (and I earned the “Turned Up!” badge). If anyone is in the “Leadership” class, maybe we’ll meet up in the Discussion Area.

Have you ever completed an online class? Do you think that online classrooms are effective? Which courses would you recommend?

Walking through a life in the Dominican Republic

July 17, 2018

I’m always on the look-out for family events that are educational, free or low-cost, and nearby. I had never heard about The Compassion Experience before, but I was immediately drawn to the idea of showing people what it is like to live in poverty in another country.

 

When I told my family that I registered us for The Compassion Experience, they were skeptical. As we were walking through Chinatown in Honolulu, my husband told me, “We don’t need to go to the Experience. We can see poverty right here.”

 

Hawaii struggles with poverty and homelessness, but we also have strong social support programs and public assistance. I wanted to show my son what poverty could be like in developing countries. I told them it would take just 15 minutes of our time.

 

We pulled into the parking lot in mid-afternoon, immediately drawn to the large draped container emblazed with the logo. The tent was hot, even with a portable air conditioning unit running, and well-lit, with uniformed staff and volunteers. The tent walls featured information, photos, and maps of the Philippines and the Dominican Republic, where the two experiences take place.

 

As we waited, we learned that over 700 million people in developing countries live on less than $1.90 per day. In the Dominican Republic, 41% of people live in extreme poverty.

 

We checked in, received clean headphones and an iPod, and walked up the steps to through the curtain-draped opening to experience Jonathan’s Story of living in the Dominican Republic.

 

As we entered each room, which has a scene from his life, we listened to Jonathan’s words. He talked about selling fruit juice to earn money for himself and his mother (opening the small money box was one of the first things my son did), getting an education through Compassion International, pressure from local gangs to steal, and coping with his father’s anger and rejection. He highlighted the support of a special mentor who helped him turn his life around. We watched a video that showed Jonathan as an adult who has become a mentor himself.

 

The rooms re-create Jonathan’s childhood. There are worn shoes with cardboard soles, Dominican pesos in a money box, plates of beans and rice, posters in Spanish, and photographs. What really struck me was seeing hanging wall pockets filled – not with pencils or ID cards – but toothbrushes. It has some serious themes that may not be appropriate for young children.

 

I knew when I signed up that the Compassion Experience is a Christian organization with a child sponsorship program, but I was taken aback by how much Experience emphasizes God. I expected a stronger focus on poverty. The website tells us a little more – half of the country doesn’t have access to clean water or sanitary toilets. In rural areas, five out of ten children are school drop-outs. The poverty rate has been improving in recent years

 

As we left, I was a little uncomfortable by the push to sponsor a child. I think it would have been better to let the photos of children speak for themselves.

 

The Compassion Experience will be in Hawaii for the next few weeks. I think it’s a valuable way to teach children and remind ourselves that poverty is a global problem. We face the same struggles, have the same fears, and feel the same need to give and receive compassion. And with help, people can make their lives better.

13 candidates, 3 hours, 1 night

July 10, 2018

Election signs are popping up along sidewalks, sign wavers are standing along the road during the morning commute, and political debates are underway.

On July 2, 2018 Hawaii News Now broadcast a “Super Debate” with the Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor, senator, and governor. It was sponsored by Kamehameha Schools and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).

I thought the Super Debate was a good idea at first – I could listen to candidates from the three major races. But I didn’t factor in fatigue; my attention span was around 120 minutes. By the time the gubernatorial debate was up, I was ready for a break.

That’s why I’m writing this post a week after the Super Debate – I needed some time to think about what the candidates said, and what I heard.

Notes about the lieutenant governor debate:

* What they said: Former state Senator Will Espero emphasized affordable housing and corrections reform (prisons). State Senator and Doctor Josh Green emphasized homelessness and the opioid epidemic (healthcare). Former school board member Kim Coco Iwamoto stressed government accountability. State Senator Jill Tokuda emphasized education. Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho was charming.

* What I heard is that all of the issues will require more spending and higher taxes. Only Iwamoto admitted that she supports higher taxes on corporations and nonresident homeowners.

* In the open forum, it was interesting to see which candidates jumped up to answer first.

* It was surprisingly civil, though candidates sometimes side-stepped the questions or spoke longer than their allotted time in the open forum.

Notes about the congressional debate:

* What they said: Former Congressmember Ed Case emphasized his experience and willingness to compromise. Lieutenant Governor and former Attorney General Doug Chin supports a single-payer healthcare system. State Representative Beth Fukumoto focused on free college, federal recognition of Native Hawaiians, and Medicare for all. State Representative Kaniela Ing emphasized free college, an anti-corporation stance, federal jobs for all, and Medicare for all. State Senator Donna Mercado Kim emphasized her experience. Councilmember Ernie Martin impressed me by stating that people should earn a free college education.

* What I heard is that many of the candidates support debt-free college and Medicare for all (a single-payer healthcare system), which means raising taxes.

* One of the candidates raised the issue of the Medicare and Social Security crisis. No one mentioned that this is a crisis that was created by government. Both public assistance programs were designed as pay-it-forward programs, in which younger generations support older generations.

* This was arguably the most exciting debate, with two verbal sparring matches: Ing vs. Fukumoto and Case vs. Kim.

Notes about the gubernatorial debate:

* What I heard: nothing really surprising. Congressmember Colleen Hanabusa asked about the false missile alert, challenging Governor David Ige’s leadership skills and aptitude; he answered that he was leaving the house for an event, and he turned around and went back inside to make phone calls. Governor David Ige asked about the Ko Olina tax credit, challenging Congressmember Colleen Hanabusa’s integrity; she answered by saying that the tax credit showed that Waianae is business-friendly, and the developer only used a small portion of the tax credit.

Some of the commercials were refreshing and positive, like messages from the Hawaii Community Foundation (giving to nonprofits), Legacy of Life Hawaii (organ donation), Hawaii Fido Service Dogs, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, and Catholic Charities; but I wish they had excluded all the political commercials.

What is your opinion of a three-hour Super Debate format? Which candidates surprised you or gained your support?

“The Productivity Project” by Chris Bailey

July 7, 2018

With so many distractions in life, we could probably be a little more productive.

Author and productivity blogger Chris Bailey embarked on “A Year of Productivity” (AYOP), 12 months of intense research, interviews, and experimentation, so that we can be more productive about being productive. Delegating tasks is Bailey’s productivity hack #14, so we’ve already become a little more efficient just by reading his book, “The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy” (2016).

The productivity tactics in this book can “help you accomplish everything you have to do in less time, so you can carve out more time for what’s actually important and meaningful in your life.” Each chapter begins with a takeaway and estimated reading time. There are 25 productivity hacks and productivity challenges so that you can see which ones work best for you.

Bailey redefines productivity as how much you accomplish – not how efficiently you work. That means managing your time, energy, and attention so that finish everything you intended to do. He reminds us that busyness is not productivity, even though you’re working hard!

Bailey’s writing is conversational and humorous (“This is the kind of stuff that goes on in my head all day long. Please send help.”). The chapters are short and bite-sized, so I could read a bit and then go back to work, or stop and do a productivity challenge.

If you want to take small steps to increase your productivity, I recommend these three productivity hacks: First, disconnect from the Internet when working on high-impact tasks. Next, limit attention-hog tasks like checking email and making phone calls. And finally, schedule a “maintenance day” to do all your routine chores and errands, such as laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Make these routine tasks a necessary part of your productivity.

There were three productivity challenges I stopped reading to do. They didn’t take a lot of time, and I felt a sense of control at organizing my tasks.

* The Values Challenge, which asks what you would do if you had two more hours in a day. I immediately thought of three things: reading more, writing more, and doing more art projects.

* The Impact Challenge, which asks you to write down all of your job responsibilities, big and small, and highlight the ones that have the most value.

* The Capture Challenge (the brain dump), which asks you to write down all of the things that you have to do, the things you are waiting for, and the things you are worrying about. This was

The most insightful productivity hack is to treat your “future self” with as much care as yourself today, being careful of your future self’s time and money.

As Bailey reminds us, “People are the reason for productivity.”

How do you keep on-task every day? What are your most effective productivity tips?

Looking back on sixth grade

July 3, 2018

My son finished sixth grade in May. Summer is half over, and I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on our sixth grade experience.

I knew that sixth grade would be a time of big changes for my son – and for us. He would be testing his independence and challenging us even more. It’s a year earlier than when I went to school, when sixth grade was still considered elementary school.

Here are some thoughts about our sixth grade experience:

More complicated schedules. My son’s schedule was different every day, with six different schedules A-F. At first, he didn’t like it and had a hard time adjusting. About five weeks into the school year, the schedule started to click. Ultimately, the six-day schedule let him participate in more classes than in a regular Monday to Friday week.

Earlier wake-up time. Since we had to drive farther to get to school and had to deal with more traffic, we both had to get up earlier than when he was in elementary school. Sometimes he used the time to go over vocabulary words. Sometimes he took naps on the way to school in the morning and on the way home in the afternoon. The earlier wake-up time really conflicted with his…

Changing sleeping habits. He stayed up later to do homework, study, and relax, and he had a harder time waking up in the morning. I read recently that if we want to improve educational results for teenagers, we should start the school day later. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “later sleep and wake patterns among adolescents are biologically determined; the natural tendency for teenagers is to stay up late at night and wake up later in the morning.”

More homework, less sleep. It seemed that he had a lot more homework than in fifth grade. Other students told him that his teacher was one of the stricter teachers in sixth grade (which should make seventh grade less stressful). He spent less time using his planner, which meant more last-minute work. He spent more time with his humanities and social studies work, which made his performance in math and science falter a little. We asked him to write a plan for improving next year.

First time away from home, alone. I’m sure it was more traumatic for us, than for him. The house was so quiet when he was gone. Even our yellow lab was more subdued. He wasn’t excited to go to camp, but he came back full of enthusiasm. He had a great group of camp counselors who made him feel welcome.

Chapel. He attended chapel every two weeks, but the focus was more on building character and promoting understanding. The highlight was a skit that each class had to perform. The class had only a limited time to learn songs and choreography, and then they performed in front of the rest of the sixth graders (and some curious parents).

In his words. “There were a lot [of] downsides to this year as I experienced inappropriate, enraging, and intriguing behavior and students. I have also been more exposed to kids’ nature and their games, such as Fortnite, learning about drama between both teenagers and other students such as ‘shipping’ [real people or fictional characters in a romantic relationship] … There were some awesome experiences I had! Camp was probably the best thing I can think of for this year, since I got to meet so many new people and make new friends.”

What do you remember about your sixth grade? If you have middle school children, how are expectations about student learning different from when you were in middle school?