Archive for the ‘Family’ category

Being thankful and sharing thanks

November 20, 2018

She had tears in her eyes as she listened to my son read a letter to her. It was part of a seventh grade “gratitude letter” project. My son chose to write to his fourth grade teacher, telling her how much he appreciated her and how she had a positive impact on him.

Sitting at a nearby table to give them privacy, I witnessed first-hand the power of expressing gratitude.

It took trust for his teacher to meet him, without knowing why they were meeting. It took courage for my son to read a gratitude letter out loud to his teacher, not knowing how she would react. He didn’t even let me read it before setting up the meeting with her.

Later, she came up to me and told me that she had recently been feeling a little down about teaching, and my son reminded her that teaching is so worthwhile.

This experience reminded me that while we have many people and things to feel grateful for, we also need to share thankfulness with other people.

A gratitude letter is both simple and powerful.

  1. Reflect on someone who helped you or did something for you, someone you are grateful for but to whom you may not have expressed your gratitude. It could be a relative, friend, teacher, mentor, neighbor, or colleague – anyone who has touched your life.
  2. Write a letter to that person, describing what they did, why are you are grateful, and how their actions affected your life.
  3. Ask to meet with them, without telling them why you want to meet, and read your letter to them in person.

In our everyday lives, we can also take time to reflect on who we are grateful for and what we are grateful for. But the biggest impact comes from sharing our thankfulness with others.

This is the kind of experience that Thanksgiving creates for us. It’s a time to both feel thankful and show our thankfulness. (And maybe it’s a little about food, pie, and football).

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Thankfulness.

Who are you thankful for right now? How will you show your thankfulness and thanksgiving?

Advertisements

DNA and a culture of diversity

October 9, 2018

In Hawaii, 24% of residents are a mix of two or more races (nearly one in four people), compared to 6.9% of the US adult population, according to a 2015 Pew Research report, “Multiracial in America.”

 

My family is a blend of heritages. Growing up in Hawaii, all of my friends were from mixed ethnic backgrounds too. I learned to focus on who people are, not what they look like.

 

I came to realize that, depending on who I was with, or whether I had a tan, people would perceive me in different ways. Walking with a Japan friend, some visitors have greeted in me in Japanese. Waiting with a Chinese friend, some people have talked to me in Chinese. (I don’t speak either language).

 

It gave me a kind of freedom in who I wanted to be, and which cultural traditions I choose to draw on.

 

In the past, my parents and I would sometimes speculate about our grandparents and great-grandparents, and try to do the math with percentages and blood quantum. It was like discussing sports statistics and betting odds (but a lot less intense).

 

Speculating about our heritage didn’t affect our family. I’m comfortable with who I am and I don’t need proof of where I came from. But one day, I found myself ordering a DNA kit from AncestryDNA.com. I was curious to see the results, and whether our idle speculation was on target.

 

One Sunday morning, I received the results of the DNA test. The results didn’t surprise me; the regional breakdown was about what I expected, though I hoped for more country-specific identification.

 

I didn’t feel any different about myself or my family.

 

A few days later, there was an update to my DNA results, based on more reference samples and addition regions. The regions were refined into estimated countries. This time, the refinement surprised me.

 

But I still didn’t feel any different about myself or my family.

 

Within a few generations from today, I think that most of the people living in urban areas will have mixed ethnic backgrounds. I don’t see it as losing a heritage; I see it as being connected to multiple heritages, and embracing a new culture of diversity.

 

If you have done a DNA test, how did you react to the results? Did it affect your self-identity? And for those who haven’t done a DNA test, what would make you consider it? What would you want to know about your ancestors?

Seniors and the next 20 years

October 2, 2018

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a telephone survey about the needs of seniors, conducted by Honolulu’s Elderly Affairs Division.

My responses were spontaneous, and after thinking about it a little more, I wouldn’t respond any differently. But I did think of more things I wish I could have said, so I decided to share my thoughts with you.

Here are the top three challenges that I think seniors face today:

Affordable housing. Oahu is addressing the lack of affordable housing, but we need even more affordable housing units that are built with seniors in mind – such as wider elevators, hallways, and doorways; walk-in showers; and clear signage in buildings.

I also think we need to change our expectations for senior living. One idea is to create ohana apartments, modeled on university dormitories. Two or three seniors or senior couples could live together in multi-bedroom units with a shared kitchen and living room. This could strengthen friendships, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and foster relationships where seniors give and receive care.

Affordable healthcare. In the two years I’ve worked in healthcare administration, I’ve seen big increases in co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles. Some clients have a co-pay of $40 or $45 per office visit (my own copayment is $50). We need more resources in place to help make healthcare affordable. I am strongly opposed to making our tax code more complicated; but, working with the tax system we have today, we could create a tax credit for healthcare providers who waive copayments for low-income seniors.

At some point, we simply need more reasonable limits on annual healthcare premium and copayment increases. The limits could be tied to the rate of inflation or Medicare benefits. In 2018, Affordable Care Act (ACA) rates increased by 19.8% for HMSA members and 24.1% for Kaiser Permanente Hawaii members, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In comparison, consumer prices rose 2.7% over the twelve months from August 2017 to August 2018, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mobility and transportation issues. Hawaii has a variety of services to help seniors with mobility and transportation issues, from TheHandi-Van and Uber rides, to Meals on Wheels and Project DANA, which provide services to the homebound.

I think we can do more a little more. We can encourage more healthcare providers to offer home visits for seniors. We can create a “technology in the home” program to help seniors set up computers, tablets, or phones for web conferencing.

And in the next 20 years? I think the biggest challenge will be keeping physically and mentally active. We need to keep fit, work longer, and volunteer more. There are so many ways to be active in the community, and we need better ways to share those opportunities with people of all ages.

For example, I recently learned about Senior Corps RSVP, a network for seniors who want to volunteer in the community. At the Hawaii Seniors’ Fair, I learned about a foster grandparents program to mentor children with special needs in schools. Volunteerism and maintaining strong connections to the community can help keep us healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

What challenges do you or the seniors in your life face today? How do you envision your life in 20 years?

 

Artwork courtesy of All-Free-Download.com.

Indulge your curiosity on Museum Day

September 18, 2018

Museum Day is an annual celebration of boundless curiosity hosted by Smithsonian magazine. It’s a day we can learn about where we come from, who we are, and the shape of our future.

On Saturday, September 22, 2018 participating museums and cultural institutions are opening their doors with free admission to anyone presenting a Museum Day ticket.

There are 10 museums to choose from in Hawaii. Choose a museum wisely – you can download one ticket per email address.

On Oahu:

* Enjoy contemporary artwork by artists with a connection to Hawaii at the Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM), 250 S. Hotel Street, Honolulu, 10 am to 4 pm.

* Immerse yourself in Hawaii’s royal heritage at the only royal residence in the United States, Iolani Palace, 364 S. King Street, Honolulu, 9 am to 3:30 pm.

* Walk in the shoes of Japanese immigrants who sought better lives for themselves  in Hawaii and celebrate the legacy of Hawaii’s own astronaut, Ellison Onizuka, at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, 2454 S. Beretania Street, Honolulu, 9 am to 2 pm.

* Hear stories of Pearl Harbor and see bullet-scarred hangars, historic aircraft, modern jets and helicopters at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, 319 Lexington Blvd, Honolulu, 9 am to 5 pm.

On Hawaii Island:

* See life as it was 150 years ago in a restored Mission House built for New England missionaries David and Sarah Lyman in 1939 at Lyman Museum, 276 Haili Street, Hilo, 10 am to 4:30 pm.

On Kauai:

* Stroll through one of Hawaii’s earliest surviving sugar plantations, with a special exhibit about “Women Making History” and PAULO, the oldest surviving plantation locomotive, at Grove Farm Museum, 4050 Nawiliwili Road, Lihue, 10 am to 2 pm.

* Experience missionary life in Hawaii at Waioli Mission House, 05-5373 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, 9 am to 3 pm.

On Maui:

* Explore the rise of the sugar industry in Hawaii and its impact on Maui’s water resources and multi-ethnic culture at the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, 3957 Hansen Road, Puunene, 9:30 am to 4 pm.

* Step into the past at the oldest still-standing home on Maui, a “missionary compound” built by Reverend Ephraim Spaulding at Baldwin Home, 120 Dickenson Street, Lahaina, 10 am to 4 pm.

* Learn about the impact of Chinese laborers who built tunnels and irrigation systems and worked in sugar plantations and mills at the Wo Hing Museum, 858 Front Street, Lahaina, 10 am to 4 pm.

Which Hawaii museum will you visit on Museum Day? What connections do you have with Hawaii’s history?

Growing up ALICE in Hawaii

June 26, 2018

Aloha United Way recently released the ALICE Report for Hawai‘i to raise awareness about the economic challenges faced by hardworking Hawai‘i families and individuals. ALICE households – an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – are employed, but can’t afford the cost of living in Hawaii, and lack a safety net for emergencies. Their income may be higher than the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but their income falls short of basic necessities.

In Hawai‘i, 49% of households are ALICE or live below the poverty level. They are in every community, women and men, young and old, all races and ethnicities. They could be our neighbors. They could be us.

I grew up ALICE, but I didn’t know it.

We were three generations living in a house in Hawai’i, with three-and-a-half incomes contributing to the household – and me. And a scrappy dog.

We had four adults contributing to the household, and one child who didn’t know that there was anything unusual about it. For financial reasons, for childcare, for convenience, it made sense to live together, ALICE.

We were lucky that we inherited a home from my great-grandmother, so we just had to worry about property taxes and maintenance. We added security bars after our house was burglarized, and one year we all got together to paint the outside of the house, but we couldn’t afford major upgrades.

We didn’t go to farmer’s markets, but we had fruit trees in the yard. We didn’t buy organic food, but we stocked up on canned goods (and toilet paper). We didn’t go to a lot of restaurants, concerts, or plays, but we saved money to splurge on vacations a few times when I got older.

ALICE households are not new in Hawai‘i. What’s new is the spotlight we are shining on them. We’re acknowledging that we sometimes can’t live comfortably on a single or even dual income. We’re acknowledging that as childhood extends into the late teens (or early twenties), and people live longer, multi-generational families are a better solution than living and struggling alone.

In 2016, 8% of all family households in Hawaii were multi-generational (three or more generations), according to the US Census Bureau 2016 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.

The ALICE Report reminds us that it’s hard to thrive on our own.

Growing up, did you live in an ALICE household? Do you live in an ALICE household today, or do you have friends and family who live ALICE?

Fishing and the art of compromise

June 12, 2018

My husband loves fishing (and poke), and he really looks forward to sharing his love of fishing with our now 11-year old son. They leave early in the morning, before sunrise, and return in the early evening. I am happy that they can spend time together – and I can have a relaxing day.

My son doesn’t love fishing. During spring break, when my son was facing another fishing trip, he came to me and asked me to intercede.

Instead of being a mediator, I thought this was a good opportunity for my son to practice his negotiation skills.

“Suggest a compromise,” I advised him.

I helped him come up with a series of compromises to convince my husband to put off a fishing trip (my husband was going fishing, with or without him). Then I gave him a few tips, like “speak calmly” and “don’t whine,” and I sent him to negotiate.

Here are the compromises my son proposed:

First, he offered to go fishing on another day without complaining. I wasn’t encouraging my son to procrastinate, because this solution would benefit both of them. My son would stay at home today, and my husband would not have to deal with a sullen fishing buddy. Offer: declined.

Then, he offered to limit his “screen time” on the iPad and not watch YouTube all day. I know that we shouldn’t have to bribe our son to turn off the computer and TV, but this reinforced the idea that limiting screen time is important to us. Offer: declined.

Finally, he offered to go fishing on another day without complaining, limit his “screen time” and YouTube, and help unload any fish that my husband catches without complaining. This was a big concession, because my son doesn’t enjoy carrying fish from cooler to fish bag. Offer: accepted.

I think the compromise worked out well – my son stayed home, he practiced his negotiation skills, and my husband will appreciate an uncomplaining fishing buddy the next time.

What kinds of “deals” did you make with your parents? Do you negotiate with your children – and what kinds of compromises worked best?

Summer reading programs that rock!

May 29, 2018

Reading rocks! If you think reading is boring, you’re probably reading the wrong books. There are books, comic books, graphic novels, ebooks, illustrated guides, and even cookbooks for everyone.

Don’t let the summer by pass by without joining a summer reading program and immersing yourself in new worlds, new ideas, and new adventures – while getting rewarded for reading.

Join a summer reading program in Hawaii:

* Libraries Rock! Hawaii Public Libraries Summer Reading Program, June 2 to July 14, 2018. Children, teens, and adults can join a free reading program, earn rewards, and attend fun programs throughout the summer. Register online and keep an online reading log at librarieshawaii.org. This year, there’s a chance to win a Flyaway Trip for Four from Alaska Airlines.

Stop by the Hawaii State Library on Saturday, June 2 and join the Summer Reading Kick-Off, featuring books, fun activities, refreshments, and music by The Tongan Sisters!

If you want to share your opinions and ideas with other readers, join a book club at your local library. Hawaii public libraries in Aiea, Hawaii State (main branch), Kailua, Kaimuki, Kapolei, Makawao, North Kohala, and Waianae meet monthly – check their website for a complete list of book clubs and eBook clubs.

* The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading program, May 15 to September 3, 2018. Elementary students in grades 1-6 can read 8 books, record them in the Reading Journal, and turn it in at Barnes and Noble for a free book from the book list – to keep, share with a friend, or donate to their classroom library. Download a free printable Reading Journal to help kids keep track of the books they read and their favorite parts. There are stores in Honolulu, Oahu and Lahaina, Maui.

What books will you read this summer? Which books are on your “want to read” list?