A Cup of Tea

March 4th, 2015

One weekend, I took Olivia and her best friend Meya to a fancy afternoon tea at A Cup of Tea in Kailua. What a fun Girls' Date!


We made a production out of picking out outfits and sparkly accessories, and then headed over. I even let Olivia wear some high heels that I gave her to play with at home, that she has been dying to actually wear in public.


I also let her pick out my outfit, and she insisted I wear what she calls a "fireworks" top - it has gold sequins sewn in a starburst pattern. I think of it as a nighttime shirt, but she pleaded with me to use what is her favorite top of mine.

When we were seated, the girls were excited by all the flowery linens and china, and the three-tiered plate stand that the food comes out on. We of course had stuffed animals to accompany us.


The most unexpected moment for me came when the waitress told us jokingly that we have to finish the bottom two plates before we can eat the top tier with the cupcakes and chocolate dipped strawberries. The waitress said when we're ready, call her and she'll bring the ice cream, too.

I knew she was kidding about eating everything, but I guess when you are seven, you are used to adults bossing you around.

We were all hungry so we dug in happily to the finger sandwiches and scones. When there were about three sandwiches left, Meya asked if we had finished enough food on our plates so that we could get to dessert. That's when I realized she took the waitress seriously.


I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to have my child and her friend fill up on nutritious food rather than refined sugar as they are wont to do every hour on the hour, especially on weekends. "No, I think we need to eat it all up, just a little more."

Meya looked at Olivia with determination and strategized, "Hurry, Olivia. You take that orange slice and I'll eat this one." They actually divided up the remaining food for maximum efficiency.

I rarely see my child eat that fast. I'm not exaggerating; only 15 minutes lapsed from the time we sat down to the time the sandwiches and scones were gone. I was amused and surprised.


Other times I've been to tea, it's taken one to two hours. I didn't anticipate tea going by so quickly today. I had even put in nearly two hours on the parking meter.

In record time, the bottom two plates were clean and there were two pairs of extremely eager eyes staring up at the top tier of dessert. "Yes, I think you can have it now," I nodded, and offered them the plate of treats that went quickly into happy hands.

We left after half an hour. Though short, it made a big impression on Olivia, who asked if we can have her birthday party there this summer. That will be cute; a half dozen eight-year-olds at high tea.

Meanwhile, I think I should get a three tier stand for serving Olivia all her meals at home. It worked so well at A Cup of Tea, that I wonder if I can get her to eat her food if I present it like they do!


The short, sacrificial life of a pet fish

March 2nd, 2015

We would have a memorial service for Olivia's three pet goldfish, but we can't find them. They died sometime in the last month, and there is nothing in the tank that even resembles fish carcass.

There might be corpses on the floor around the tank, but her room is a mess and a cursory look yielded nothing so far. One day, I'll be startled by a desiccated fish or two among the piles of crud on the floor.

These fish lasted three whole months. I'm surprised. The last time she had fish, she overfed them, and they polluted to death. This time, she ignored them, and they starved or committed piscine suicide.

I know trusting a seven-year-old with the care of another life is a faulty proposition, but you know that whole thing about teaching responsibility, yadda yadda. To her credit, she was very responsible for weeks.

It's not totally her fault, though. Her grandparents came for their annual snowbird visit from Denmark, and for six weeks, she was kicked out of her room. Since I wasn't entering her room either, I forgot to remind her to feed the fish.

After five weeks, it occurred to me that nobody's been feeding the fish. I know one might assume the residents of the room would oversee the task, but one would assume wrong. They didn't offer and we forgot to ask, so the fish suffered.

I went to check and found one lonely guppy, kind of pale, still hanging in there. Those guppies! Darwinism at its finest!

"Are you done with having fish now? Can I put this guppy in the outside pond?" I asked Olivia. She said yes.

These kid phases are so brief. The poor goldfish who sacrificed their lives so Olivia could satiate her "pet fish" phase.

The next day, I made sure to scoop him out and release him into our yard fishpond. It's a much, much nicer environment for him, with dozens of brethren, partial sun, and lots of hapless bugs to eat. "You deserve this, Buddy," I told the guppy as he swam out of the net.

Of course, my kid's always on a mission to get another pet, and lately the request has been for a puppy or kitten (despite the fact that we have a dog and cat.) If the former fish are any indicator: NO.

The Faith of Leadership Shares Useful Insights from Hawai‘i’s Leaders

February 27th, 2015

As a well-respected executive at some of Hawai‘i’s top companies, Robbie Alm has had plenty of opportunity to observe and document the best practices of great leaders. From the story of the “Live Aloha” program—which he helped launch—to instructive anecdotes of humility and integrity in business, he now shares what he has learned in a new book, The Faith of Leadership: Insights from Hawai‘i’s Leaders released by Watermark Publishing.


Currently president of the Collaborative Leaders Network, a problem-solving initiative of The Omidyar Group, Alm offers a thoughtful—and useful—study of just what makes an effective leader. Engaging and straightforward, The Faith of Leadership is a distillation of Alm’s eight keys to great leadership: listening, humility, working with resistance to change, remembering whose change we are talking about, walking the talk and integrity, making certain we always hear independent voices, understanding how others see the world and, finally, the faith that underlies leadership.

Alm views himself as both a student and practitioner of leadership. During more than three decades spent with the Hawai‘i State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, First Hawaiian Bank and the Hawaiian Electric Company, he has come to see that leadership boils down to three basic fundamentals: “First, work as hard or harder than anyone else. Second, live right in your relationships with others. And finally, remember that for all our planning and working and living right, some of it seems to come down to pure luck.”

Robbie Alm. Courtesy: Watermark Publishing

Robbie Alm. Courtesy: Watermark Publishing

Real-life lessons and key examples from local companies and individuals provide a simple foundation for Alm’s discussion of the qualities of excellent leadership. “With Robbie, it’s not about understanding systems or complicated layers of this or that,” observes PBS Hawai‘i’s Leslie Wilcox. “It’s just, ‘What’s the right thing to do here, and how do we do it?’”

Alm puts it another way. “This is not a cookbook on leadership,” he says. “There really is no such thing.” Rather, The Faith of Leadership offers a series of guideposts for mapping a life path to becoming a good leader. Excellence in leadership, Alm believes, is less about wealth and power and more about positivity and serving as a good model.

The faith of leadership lies in setting a course that will accomplish what is right—and accepting the challenge of working on a problem that may not be solved in the near future. “I’ve always found it important to believe that while I may not be there to see it, things I do will ultimately make a difference,” he says.

Robbie Alm is a University of Hawai‘i and University of Iowa College of Law graduate with degrees in political science and administrative law. Following a ten-year stint at the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Alm ran the Financial Management Group of First Hawaiian Bank and worked in senior management at the Hawaiian Electric Company from 2001 to 2013, finally as the utility’s Executive Vice President.

A book signing with Alm will be held on Saturday, February 28 at Barnes & Noble, Ala Moana, from 1 PM to 2 PM. A portion of the day’s sales will benefit PBS Hawai‘i.

The Faith of Leadership: Insights from Hawai‘i’s Leaders (ISBN 978-1-935690-62-7), priced at $15.95, is available at bookstores, other retail outlets and online booksellers, and can be ordered direct from the publisher at www.bookshawaii.net. Contact Watermark Publishing, 1000 Bishop St., Suite 806, Honolulu, HI 96813; (808) 587-7766; toll-free (866) 900-BOOK; fax (808) 521-3461; sales@bookshawaii.net.

More on this

February 25th, 2015

I should really listen before I speak. Recently, I faux-offended my coworker Jai Cunningham because I was only half-listening to his question and commentary to me, and I misheard him.

There was an email thread circulating, and Jai came over to my desk to ask me for clarification. Important part of the set up: I was clearly listening to my phone messages because I pointed to the speaker and said, "Hang on a minute."

He started talking to Ron Mizutani while he was waiting, and I overheard Jai saying something about "...more on this..." I hung up the phone and chimed in, "Yeah, I know."

Jai, offended.

Jai, offended.

He and Ron stopped in their conversation and looked at me in shock. "Did you just agree with Jai that he's a moron?" gasped Ron.

"Dude! She didn't even let me finish the sentence!" huffed Jai.

"What are you talking about?" I said, confused.

Apparently, Jai said, "I know I'm a moron about these things..." but as I said earlier, I heard he needed to know "more on this."

I apologized and corrected myself, to which they say they didn't believe me. "Right, good save," they said in their most patronizing tone. Hey, how did this go from offending one guy to apologizing to two guys?

I want you to know that the other week on the morning show when I was chatting up Jai in his live shot, I did mention how exceedingly brilliant he is; for example, he skipped two grades and graduated from high school at age 16! I weakly protested this in my defense but was strongly overridden by snorts of derision and pseudo-hurt.

So I don't know if Jai's talking to me this week. Stay tuned. I'll have moron this.

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Chalkboard paint

February 23rd, 2015

When you walk into my house, there is absolutely no question a child lives there. Other than the fact that most of the time, Olivia's toys are scattered throughout all the common areas and several rooms and bathrooms, we now have a big chalkboard painted on the wall at the entrance.


It's something I've seen on restaurants, offices, and stores, and have been meaning to do... for three years. I got the can of paint immediately after hatching this brilliant idea. It just took me some 1,000 days to crack it open. Ha!

Meya and Olivia breaking in the new chalkboard.

Meya and Olivia breaking in the new chalkboard.

It happened one weekend when my friend Kalei came to visit and then got bored sitting around. Kalei is Type A, needs constant motion, but hates the outdoors.

"Do you want to do some craft project? We can go down to Ben Franklin and find something to make," I suggested.

"Crafts? No!" she rejected.

"Do you want to walk or hike?" I offered.

"No!" she said.

"Do you want to go to the beach or pool?" I said because I was getting desperate.

"Diane. Do you even know me?" she asked.

Then I remembered about the chalkboard wall. "Do you want to help me paint my entrance way with chalkboard paint?" I asked.

Kalei got excited, and that became our afternoon project. Claus supervised and mixed up the paint while we cleaned, taped, sanded, and painted the wall. We thought perhaps he assigned himself the good job as supervisor. I'm grateful to Kalei because if it wasn't for her, I know that we never would have done this.


I felt kind of guilty because Olivia would want to paint with us, but I've learned as a mom that my energy and time is unpredictable, so I have to strike while the iron is hot.

Olivia was out with the babysitter, so I texted the sitter: "The foyer paint is wet. Don't tell Olivia we did this without her. Tell her the Paint Fairy came."

Two coats later, it was done, and it works like a charm. It was covered with chalk drawings within five minutes of me declaring it dry and peeling the tape off.

I thought our family could use it as a little message board (one that doesn't get covered up with clutter or blown away in the breeze) but I see it's found a primary home as an art surface. And that works, too!