Archive for the ‘Community’ category

I left my sole at the charity walk

May 22, 2018

I left my sole at the Charity Walk.

We woke up early Saturday morning, packed our water bottles and sunblock, and joined the Visitor Industry Charity Walk at Ala Moana Beach Park. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies and a cool breeze. Ala Moana was filling with people leisurely converging on McCoy Pavilion.

This walk was a perfect event for our family. It gave us a chance to talk and enjoy the morning without television, smart phones, or computers. My husband could sample snacks and treats from hotels and restaurants. My son would be rewarded for reaching each checkpoint. And I could support an even that raises money for Hawaii nonprofits.

We picked up our walk bracelets and stamp cards, and listened to the music and welcome speeches. We were in the first “wave” of walkers, and strolled casually down Ala Moana Blvd., down Kalakaua Avenue, and back through Kalia Road to Ala Moana Blvd. No one was in a hurry.

“Be prepared to gain weight,” they warned us. They weren’t kidding. Along the 5.25 mile course, there were 17 stations with food and drinks. Hotels, restaurants, and businesses offered everything from water, POG, and cantaloupe tapioca to granola bars, fruit, cookies, SPAM musubi, and kalua pork tacos.

The most beautifully-presented treat was a paper tray with a crab salad slider and sweet pineapple cornbread dessert from the Halekulani and Waikiki Park Hotel.  The most elaborate offering was a small Chinese take-out box with fried rice from the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

There were some unexpected joys along the way: cold towels at the turn-around point from the Waikiki Resort Hotel, a plumeria flower from the Royal Hawaiian Center, and a Cool Zone that sprayed misty water from the Prince Waikiki.

Though they served us snacks along the way, they also offered us breakfast from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki before the walk (we went straight to the starting line) and lunch from Kyo-ya – sausage hotdogs with chili, salad, fruit, and a shortbread cookie or energy bar.

Mahalo to all the course marshals and volunteers, who prepared and served food, gave us directions and encouragement, handed out water and snacks, and entertained us along the way – live music, hula dancers, Kamehameha High School cheerleaders and the McKinley High School Band – and the police who looked out for us. I am so thankful to the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association for organizing this event every year to give back to the community.

I really enjoyed my first Visitor Industry Charity Walk. It was lively, entertaining, and very delicious, and I plan to make this an annual family event! Next year, I’ll remember to bring a plastic bag or container – and I hope to see recycle bins along the course.

So, how did I lose my sole? Not far from the starting line, before we even reached the first checkpoint, the sole of my shoe started to detach. By the time we reached the Ala Wai Promenade, it came off completely. I walked gingerly, with a slight limp, for the rest of the walk. But I made it through the checkpoints and to the finish line.

What is your favorite local race or walk? What other activities do you do as a family?


Talking about teen anxiety and depression

May 8, 2018

I work for a nonprofit mental health counseling center, and I was happy to realize that the Hawaii Book and Music Festival expanded their program to include Wellness in Hawaii. Books and music strengthen our mind and spirit, and it seems natural to include to mental and physical health.

Because my son is entering the teen years, I was drawn to a panel discussion on “Anxiety, Depression, Teenage Suicide.” It was moderated by University of Hawaii professor Maya Soetoro-Ng, who began the discussion by revealing how teen suicide has touched her personally.

There were five panel participants: psychologist and director at Waimanalo Health Center Sid Hermosura; child and adolescent psychiatrist Sonia Patel; author, professor, and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic Jon Kabat-Zinn; psychologist Julie Takashima-Lacasa; and professor Thao Le, who called for a sense of joy and excitement even when talking about serious issues.

Maya began the discussion by asking, “In a time of great connectedness, why are we so lonely?” Aside from genetic reasons, family situations, and financial circumstances, there was a general consensus that screen time and social media contribute to a sense of loneliness and disconnectedness.

With screen time, “[teens] get caught in their heads,” Sonia said, and parents don’t want to upset kids by limiting it. Julie added that screen time is highly associated with depression, and teens who use over five hours of screen time are 71% more likely to be depressed.

We need to teach teens tools to manage social media, Sid urged, because “likes” and number of followers can become tied to self-esteem. Thao added that we can become addicted to immediate responses and “likes,” and social media makes it too easy to compare and judge ourselves against others.

What solutions are out there? asked Maya. We need to teach mindfulness in schools, Jon recommended, “we need to cultivate emotional intelligence.” Julie agreed, saying that we need to “cultivate self-awareness” and teach emotional regulation so that we can make better decisions. “Anxiety and depression are not individual problems, it’s a collective problem,” Thao stated. She advocated aina-based learning, where we can connect to nature and each other.

Sonia offered three everyday suggestions: sleep, meals with family, and less screen time. Sid suggested that primary care physicians and pediatricians can screen for anxiety and depression.

There wasn’t much time for questions from the audience, but a family court judge asked about ways we can address trauma in teens. Sonia said that in her practice, she helps teens identify trauma, separate trauma from their self, re-write the way they respond to danger to make better choices, and learn what triggers will trick your brain into making poor choices.

The panel discussion opened and closed with performances by singer/songwriter PraiseJesus Artis.

I wish we had more time to discuss the programs that are already in place to help teens, and perhaps even hear from young adults who experienced teen anxiety and depression.

On this day, to the sounds of music and the murmur of readers, the conversation was just beginning.

Read more, go screen-free, and a book and music festival

May 1, 2018

When my son was young, I read to him every day, took him to storytime at libraries and bookstores, and signed him up for summer reading programs. In elementary school, he loved reading the “My Weird School” books. I thought he was well on his way to being a reader.

And then in middle school, things changed. A tablet, a smartphone, and YouTube began to overtake his reading time. One day I realized he hadn’t read a book in a few weeks. I casually suggested that he find a book to read, but inside I was at DEFCON 3.

This week, April 30-May 6, 2018, Children’s Book Week, the annual celebration of books and reading, is partnering with Screen Free Week, when children, families, schools, and communities rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen.

The theme of Children’s Book Week is “One World, Many Stories,” there’s a free downloadable Resources Kit with posters, bookmarks, activities, and more, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.

Books become even more important when you realize that, including multitasking, children ages 8-18 spend an average of 4.5 hours per day watching TV, 1.5 hours using computers, and more than 1 hour playing video games, according to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study. These hours spent with screens can have a negative impact on learning.

Screen Free Week, sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, put together a persuasive and helpful Organizer’s Kit. I highly recommend the media literacy activities. One lesson is about needs vs. wants, in which kids count how many of the ads they see that are trying to get you to buy things that you really need. Another lesson is about being a product placement detective, challenging kids to spot the ads hidden inside television shows and electronic games. There’s also a pledge card, a certificate of achievement, and a list of 101 screen-free activities.

Crowning the week is the Hawaii Book and Music Festival, May 5-6, 2018, on the Frank F. Fasi Civic Grounds and Honolulu Hale. It’s a gathering that honors books, music, and story-telling, and promotes literacy and life-long learning. Beyond books, and music, there’s also a “Wellness in Hawaii” track with panel discussions about issues that affect our physical and mental health in the islands.

What was the last children’s book you read? Will you go screen-free this week?

Communicating is critical to first aid

February 13, 2018

One afternoon, a client came into the office. He said he just wanted to rest. He sat in a chair, and then did a controlled slide to the floor. He stretched out on the carpet and fell asleep. I could see and hear that he was breathing easily, and he didn’t seem to be in any distress. I thought I might let him sleep, because I didn’t feel unsafe, but after a while I decided I needed help. The pastor at the church came to wake him up and escort him out of the office.

That experience stayed with me. I didn’t know what to do, and eventually I went to get help. But I wanted to know what I could do, as well as what it’s okay not to do. So I signed up for an American Red Cross CPR/AED/First Aid class.

The class was a combination of videos, discussion, and practical skills. We had an experienced instructor who gave us practical advice. The steps we are asked to take are simpler and less intimidating. Instead of worrying, How will I remember those steps? I found myself thinking, I could do that.

The most important thing I learned is communication.

ASK someone in distress if they need help. ASK if they are in pain, have allergies, or take medication. ASK if it’s okay for you to help them – get their consent – or, if it’s a child, ASK if a parent or guardian is present and get their consent.

Next, INFORM them about what you are doing. INFORM them that you are going to apply pressure to a cut or check their head for a wound. If they are choking, INFORM them that you are putting your arm around the front of their shoulder to support them as they lean over, so you can do back blows. It can be scary for someone who doesn’t realize that you are trying to help.

Then, TELL bystanders exactly what they can do to help. TELL them to call 911 and why –there’s a leg injury from a bicycle accident or a head injury or an unresponsive person. TELL them to find an AED (automated external defibrillator) — and if they can’t find one, to come back quickly. TELL them to look for an ambulance and escort them to the patient, or keep the crowd back.

I am so glad that I took the class, because just reading a first aid manual can be overwhelming. It may tell you what to do, but not how to act. Even if I never use the things I learned, I feel a little more confident about handling myself in an emergency.

You, me, all of us are often the first responders in a crisis. It’s up to us to evaluate a scene, offer aid or comfort, and call 911.

Have you ever taken a CPR/First Aid class? Have you ever helped someone or been helped in an emergency? How do you react in a crisis?

Envisioning Ala Moana Beach Park

January 30, 2018

This may not be what the City envisions, or what you envision for Ala Moana Beach Park, but take a walk with me. This is the Ala Moana Beach Park that I can envision…

We walk through the tall white pillars at the central Pi‘ikoi Street entrance to Ala Moana Beach Park. We stop to read the display board that highlights the activities going on at the park: swimming lessons, surfing and paddleboard classes, canoe-making workshops, Saturday under the Stars, a craft fair, and food truck offerings. There is also a two-panel display board with a short history and historical photos of Ala Moana Beach Park over the years.

We pass by a group of visitors and residents who are taking a walking tour of the park, learning about the park’s history, unique design, and beach safety. Local high school students and Lions Club volunteers ask if we want to join the group. We smile and say, another time.

Along the sidewalk, we look down and see pavers engraved with people’s names, alternating with engraved floral designs. These are the people who helped renovate and maintain the park, by donating money or volunteering their time.

We admire the comfort stations, which are enlivened with painted murals and ceramic tile murals created by local artists. Each comfort station has a different theme, so it’s easy to tell people to meet near the “rain forest” or “undersea life” or “surfing legends” station. They look clean and inviting, with well-designed drainage for the outdoor showers, and people take pride in them.

In the great lawn, there are people playing tennis an exercising at the exercise stations. There’s a shaded playground where toddlers and young children are jumping on the padded climbing structures – turtle, shark, canoe, hale. There are people picnicking at the park tables, which are painted with designs of flowers, birds, and ocean life. There are people relaxing on park benches – the one that we sit on was donated to the park in memory of a loved one and has a small plaque on the back rest.

Near McCoy Pavilion, which now has a rooftop garden, and between the ponds, there are food truck sites. The food trucks offer food and drinks that are not regularly available at the permanent concession stands, so we try something different – maybe a new dish by a KCC Culinary Arts Program graduate trying out new recipes and the restaurant business.

There are no stores, but there are small Sun Safety stands where people can buy ocean-friendly sunscreen and hats with UV-protection, and refill their flasks with filtered water. We also see discrete pet waste stations to encourage people to pick up after their pets.

We walk down the beach boardwalk and stop in the middle of the park, facing the ocean. At both ends of the beach, we see floating docks where people can launch their canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards. The docks can be pulled in closer to shore when they are not in use. Behind us, on the boardwalk, we hear a beach park ranger stopping to talk with a family.

The two ponds on the east side have been transformed with running salt water, flowing from a rocky waterfall along Ala Moana Blvd, with salt water conveyed inland through an underground pump. The pond on the west side has a smaller waterfall, with salt water pumped in from Kewalo Basin.

Over the parking lots, there are roofs covered in solar panels, which power the well-light walking paths and picnic areas. There are Biki racks so that people can bike around the park. Beach park rangers are also testing out a solar-powered tram to take people from Magic Island to the ponds at each end of the park, and back again.

Near one of the canoe hales, there is a small group of people who are learning how to hand-build a canoe or surfboard, as part of a joint class offered by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the University of Hawaii. Children are learning about tying knots. We see a poster inviting people to a monthly star-gazing class run by Bishop Museum and the UH Astronomy and Astrophysics Department.

At Magic Island, we see a small tide pool built into one end of the lagoon. High school students show younger children the tide pool creatures and teach them about coral reefs, as part of a community service project in partnership with Waikiki Aquarium.

What do you envision for Ala Moana Beach Park in the next 20 years? What improvements would encourage you to use the park more?

Thoughts about Honolulu’s complete streets

January 23, 2018

Last November, the Honolulu Urban Core Complete Streets Program invited community input during a series of public workshops and pop-up events. Urban Honolulu continues to grow and change, with increasing densification (high-rise apartment buildings) and transit-oriented development. The goals of the Complete Streets plan are to improve safety, accessibility, and comfort for all users, encourage physical activity, and reflect community needs and character.

The Honolulu Urban Core includes about 16 miles of roadways within downtown Honolulu, from North King Street and Downtown, through Kaka‘ako, Lower Makiki, and Moiliili,  that are planned for rehabilitation, repaving, or restriping.

I work in the Ward/Ala Moana area, and my son goes to school nearby, so the Complete Streets proposals will affect us almost every day. Our commute is about 10 hours during the weekday, and while it’s a big chunk of time, I know that it could be a lot worse. I try to see our commute as personal time with my son, asking him about school, going over homework, or letting him take a power nap.

I wasn’t able to attend the public workshops or pop-up events, but I decided that it’s not too late to share some of my thoughts, and answer the four questions they are using to plan our streets:

How do you move around the area? I drive to urban Honolulu every weekday morning, dropping my son off at school and picking him up after work. I rarely drive during the day – I am fortunate that I can walk to many of the places I need to go to (the bank, the post office, the grocery store). I appreciate the clean, uncluttered streets.

What streetscape features make your neighborhood unique? In my neighborhood, I appreciate wide and well-lit streets, and trees planted between lanes of traffic (though I understand that there are issues of tree maintenance and road upkeep). We have neighborhood entrance signs that make street corners more attractive and give us a sense of place and pride.

What obstacles do you encounter while traveling through the area? In downtown Honolulu, I feel anxiety about one-way streets and finding parking. In urban Honolulu, I feel stress from the lack of dedicated left-turn lanes along Kapiolani Avenue. At Neil Blaisdell Center, traffic often gets backed up on King Street when there are trade shows or events, because there are limited parking entrances.

How could better transportation options improve your everyday life? I would like to have more convenient access to downtown Honolulu somehow, without worrying about parking. Near my workplace, we do have transportation options — we are near a bus route (though it doesn’t take me to places that I need to go) and Biki stands (though I would not like to ride a bike in “work clothes”).

3 small, inexpensive improvements that work.

  1. Wider striped crosswalk areas create a safer zone between vehicles and pedestrians.
  2. A longer delay in traffic signals between “red” on one street and “green” on the cross-street allows a “grace period” for vehicles to complete turns and pedestrians to cross the street.
  3. Buffered bike lanes with a designated space separating the bike lane from regular traffic.

3 costly, confusing changes that don’t work.

  1. Sidewalk corner bulb-outs and midblock bulb-outs are less safe for vehicles and pedestrians crossing the street.
  2. Urban roundabouts are more confusing than “stop” or “yield” signs, because there is no clear right-of-way.
  3. Bike boxes that put bikes at the front of the lane.

Do you live or work in urban Honolulu? What do you think of the Complete Streets plan?

Reacting to an emergency alert

January 16, 2018

It could have been the last 13 minutes in Hawaii. On January 13, 2018 at 8:07 am, I was away from home, preparing for our company retreat, when received an emergency text alert about a ballistic missile inbound to Hawaii.

It was quiet, with normal Saturday morning street traffic – no warning sirens, no aircraft overhead, no urgent radio broadcasts. I couldn’t believe the alert. Maybe I was in denial. Mainly I felt confused.

My son was still sleeping; I gave him a goodbye hug before I left. My husband was driving home, and he didn’t stop driving; he called to tell me that according to Facebook posts, it was a false alarm.

So we knew we were safe before the official word.

We had already started our company retreat. Ironically, we were planning for the future, reviewing last year’s accomplishments and updating our strategic plan.

Later, I met my family and we ate lunch, did errands, went to the library, ate dinner, and watched the local news with some disbelief.

I wondered whether it’s better to know, so we can prepare and say goodbye; or better not to know, so we can minimize fear, anxiety, and stress if the threat is averted.

I wondered whether I was able stay calm because there were so few people around me. We stood around feeling confused because there were no warning sirens. In other parts of the Hawaii, stores and hotels went into lock-down; and people in larger groups panicked.

When we got home, I did laundry. Even though the threat was over, it seemed important to have clean clothes.

I woke up Sunday morning and felt like doing something creative, so I painted.

Where were you when you heard Hawaii’s emergency alert? How did you react – and what would you do differently if we receive a second alert?