Archive for August 2019

Coping with the stress of back to school

August 27, 2019

During the summer, many of us get a little spoiled by more sleep in the morning and a smoother commute to work.

During the fall, many of us wake up earlier – and wake up sleepy kids – to deal with more traffic, tricky school schedules, and homework (when we thought we were done with school).

Children and teenagers face their own stress about school – making new friends, finishing homework, studying for tests, getting good grades, and their own changing bodies.

Mental Health America has an “Are You Stressed Out?” handout that reminds us that stress is normal and can even help us by giving us more energy to handle tense situations. But it can become a bad thing when you feel it all the time.

The key thing to remember is that “You might not be able to change what is stressing you out, but you can control how you react and respond to stress.”

Here are three things we can all do to cope with stress:

Exercise. One of the best ways to handle built-up stress is to physically release it. My 12-year old son still tumbles on the bed and jumps around with a yardstick-turned-lightsaber when he needs a break. (Don’t tell him I said that).

Write down things we are grateful for. Showing gratitude can improve our mood and help us better handle adversity. In a similar way, I encourage my son to focus on positive things, such as the best part of his day. And before I go to sleep, I jot down some good things about each day.

Watch something funny. Laughter can reduce stress hormones, improve our mood, and make us feel more relaxed. One of my co-workers always has a joke to share. Sometimes, my son and I watch bad movies just so we can laugh at them.

We can also try to view the stress of back to school as opportunities to learn. The earlier wake-up time can teach us discipline. The longer commute can teach us patience. The longer work day can teach us to set boundaries between work, school, and home life.

How well do you handle stress at home and work? What stress-reduction methods work for you? What are you teaching your children or grandchildren about managing stress?

Poetry: Climbing the Mountain

August 20, 2019

Climbing the Mountain
by Rachelle Chang

High upon the mountain, winds
Breathe cold and chill. The night
Climbs slowly to the top of heaven.
We follow the road unwavering,
Winding our way up the mountain,
Walking in hushed expectation.
I keep turning back, looking down
To the city we left behind,
Glittering like scattered jewels.
We leave the road at some odd angle,
Climb higher in the solemn dark.
We listen to the echoes of the night.
We walk a path of gleaming,
And laugh to see our steps
Have found the road again.
And so we follow where the road leads.
Higher still the air is clear.
We reach up to touch the sky.
Our souls release their burdens.
Comforting and calm, the night
Soothes the harshness of the day.
We return with quiet contemplation,
Refreshed, renewed, excited.
Our eyes are full of hope,
Our hearts are clear and light.

Why I found a personal mission at work

August 13, 2019

This week I’m sharing something a little more personal than usual.

I work at a small nonprofit counseling center in Hawaii. My job involves a little bit of everything on the administration side, from client intake and billing to operations and marketing. Some days I feel exhausted by the routine tasks and overwhelmed by the things that need to be done.

Last year, I watched Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk, “Start with Why.” He emphasized that “People buy WHY do you it, not WHAT you do.” That was a turning point for me. I knew that to keep working with energy and enthusiasm, I needed to know WHY I was working.

Most businesses and organizations have a mission, and I needed a mission of my own – something that would reflect my values, goals, and priorities.

The organization’s mission is to serve clients. I serve more than just our clients – I also serve our counselors, board members, and donors, and I help them in different ways.

For clients, my goal is to make them feel welcome and find the right counselor for them. For counselors, my goal is to support them clinically and help them have a good work-life balance. For board members, my goal is to provide the information and support they need to make good decisions for the organization. And for donors and partners, my goal is to share how our mission is an extension of their mission.

At first, I didn’t know how to pull all of these needs together.

Then I realized that the common thread is people – and the connections between people.

My first personal mission was something like this: I connect clients with a counselor who fits their needs, so they feel accepted and supported. I help our counselors connect with each other and their families, so they feel supported and have a good work-life balance. I connect board members with the organization, so they can make good decisions to serve the community. I connect the organization with the community, so we can help where the need is greatest.

As the months went by, I distilled my personal mission into this: At heart, I help people make connections with each other and the community.

Having a personal mission really helped me clarify the reasons I go to work every day (and it’s not just for a paycheck). It helps me make decisions, prioritize my time, and keeps me going through setbacks.

It even extends to my family, helping me focus on family connections when work spills over into evenings and weekends.

Do you have a personal mission at work? How did you find your WHY? Has it changed over the years?

Painting reflections of calm

August 6, 2019

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” – Bob Ross

Somehow my 12-year old son discovered Bob Ross (1942-1995), who hosted “The Joy of Painting” on PBS between 1983 and 1994. He enjoyed learning about Bob Ross and watching him paint live on camera. When I suggested that we create our own painting from one of the shows, he readily agreed – and surprisingly, so did my husband.

I didn’t want them to change their minds, so that weekend we prepared to paint. I bought 11”x14” canvas panels, acrylic paints, and art brushes. I asked my son what he wanted to paint, and his only request was that the painting would include a lake or ocean. I found four possible paintings, and he chose “Reflections of Calm” from season 31, episode 1.

Did you know that Bob Ross actually painting three versions of each painting – the first painting, the on-camera painting, and a more detailed painting for his book? How amazing!

Before getting started, I reminded them that we would take inspiration from the painting, but we wouldn’t have to follow it exactly. We could change the colors and textures. We could change the shape or placement of mountains, trees, and rocks. We could make it our own.

Here are versions of “Reflections of Calm” by my son B and myself. You’ll notice that our mountains are greener and neither of us attempted the reflection on the water or the distant mountains. B’s style is more Impressionist and he added waterfalls. My brush strokes are sharper and my tree is grounded on a shoreline.

I have to admit that even Bob Ross’ soothing voice couldn’t prevent us from feeling anxious while we painted, but we finished our paintings, in our unique styles.

Here are four things I learned from our afternoon of painting:

  1. Be prepared and keep some water handy, so you can thin the paint and clean your brush.
  2. Take your time and be ready to press the “pause” button, because Bob Ross makes it look easy.
  3. Keep calm and finish the painting, even if things aren’t turning out the way you want them to.
  4. Paint your scene and don’t compare it with anyone else’s painting.

Have you watched “The Joy of Painting”? How do you express your creativity? What “happy little accidents” have you experienced in your life?


“Reflections on Calm” is copyright by Bob Ross Inc. If you’re interested in books, DVDs, classes, and swag, visit

“Kapunahou” by James Koshiba

August 3, 2019

“Kapunahou: In Celebration of the One Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the 1841 Founding of Punahou School” (2016) by James Koshiba et al. is a commemorative coffee table book about the founding and legacy of Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. It features beautiful photographs of the Punahou campus by Linny Morris, as well as historic paintings and illustrations, essays, and reflections.

The book celebrates Punahou’s early history as “an adobe-and-thatch school house” in 1841 to the largest single-campus independent K-12 school in the United States. There is a strong sense of history, accomplishments, and an enduring loyalty to the school.

Punahou’s achievements are built on two historic gifts, president James Scott (class of 1970) writes: “the gift of land from Hawaiian ali‘i and the gift of an educational vision from Protestant missionaries.”

Here’s a fun fact: In those early years, tuition was $12 per semester (3 semesters in a school year).

There are five sections: leadership, public purpose, a school of the islands, global learning, and inventing the future.  But I believe that public purpose is at the core of Punahou.

Public service is woven throughout Punahou’s curriculum and instruction. “This approach is not only about instilling caring and compassion in students,” writes Mary Vorsino, “it’s about urgently seeking for solutions to society’s biggest challenges.”

From this public purpose, all other aspects of the school become clear.

Punahou’s leaders are committed to professional development and believe that “renewal is essential to excellence.” Teachers have the opportunity to take sabbaticals to develop their knowledge and improve their skills. Leaders and teachers have “opportunities to learn both with and from those served,” says James Koshiba (1991).

For students, textbook-learning is just the starting point – “global awareness is an attitude – it’s about how you think,” declares Sara Lin (1999). The Wo International Center and Luke Center for Chinese Studies reinforce connections and responsibility to the global community.

Graduates serve as leaders in government, business, technology, athletics, and exploration, from US Representative Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana‘ole (1889) to US President Barack Obama (1979)… from Alexander & Baldwin co-founder Samuel Alexander (1842-1860) to eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (1984)… from LPGA tournament champion Michelle Wie (2007) to world champion surfer Carissa Moore (2010)… from explorer Hiram Bingham III (1892) to astronaut Lacy Veach (1962) and navigator Nainoa Thompson (1972).

The weight of Punahou School’s legacy is inspiring and a little intimidating.