Archive for August, 2015

Lack of Small Talk Could Lead to Poor Parent-Child Relationships

August 17th, 2015

My favorite time of day is when I get to cuddle with my daughter before bed. We can talk for the better part of an hour about nothing in particular - her day, her likes, her latest questions about life.

Sometimes I'm tired and I just let her chirp on because I love to hear her voice and her thoughts. The time is short, I know, for her to want to talk on and on with me.

While it doesn't feel like we're doing anything significant, a new study affirms this small talk is a big link in relationship-building. Dr. Stephanie Rollie Rodriguez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, conducted in-depth interviews with parents who do not live with their children to understand just what is missing from the relationship when they don’t have a chance to interact with them on a daily basis.

“Research on relationship maintenance shows that day-to-day small talk is important in sustaining relationships, however, not all relationships have opportunities to engage in regular interaction,” said Rodriguez. “Participants who have limited interactions struggle to ‘know’ their children while those with frequent interaction with their children have access to the mundane stories of their children’s lives, which helps to maintain the relationships.”

Rodriguez’s participants revealed several major issues regarding access to information about their children. The major issues dealt with parents feeling like they had to play “catch-up” in order to get information about their children’s daily activities. Often when talking on the phone, they reported their children would not provide information about themselves or only share weekly highlights. This caused parents to have to dig for information to learn details. She noted, too, that parents who have regular interaction with their children during their time apart find it easier to maintain those relationships.

Rodriguez said she first became interested in this topic during a Family Studies course she took as a graduate student at the University of Iowa where she earned her Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Communication Studies. As a student, she was exposed to research which revealed divorced dads were often the least satisfied parents.

This information led to want to understand what factors go into maintaining a good parent-child relationship when one of the parents does not live at home. Although Rodriguez’s study results focus on the parent-child relationship, the findings could be applied to any type of relationship.

“This has implications for all kinds of relationships,” Rodriguez said. “It reinforces the idea that a lot of relational maintenance and a sense of ‘knowing’ someone comes from daily interaction and small talk.”

Rodriguez is currently working with researchers at Kansas State-Salina on a study that looks at how separated parents and children connect through technology.  If you are a divorced/separated parent or teen aged 12-17 with divorced/separated parents and would like to participate, please contact Dr. Rodriguez at 361-825-5753 or

The great shrimp experiment

August 14th, 2015

Not much is known about the Hawaiian red shrimp, opae `ula, but I’m excited to say I’m taking part in a scientific study to learn more about these fascinating critters.

Annette and me

Annette and me

At work, I met a woman named Annette Tagawa, a state aquatic biologist. She co-authored a book about the shrimp and the anchialine ponds they live in. (Click here to read that blog.)

We discussed our mutual enjoyment of opae `ula, and she and her co-author Mike Yamamoto invited me to volunteer in their continuing study of the crustaceans. I’m so happy to be asked!

I already have two tanks – a ten gallon and a five gallon. My batch originates from Hawaii Island (the original shrimp were purchased from Fuku Bonsai, when David Fukumoto still sold them.)

My 10 gallon.

My 10 gallon.

A berried shrimp in my 10 gallon.

A berried shrimp in my 10 gallon.

Mike (the shrimp team leader) asked me to take home a batch he harvested out of a pool in Ewa. I am to separate them into different color strains and observe their reproductive cycles.

Ewa opae `ula

Ewa opae `ula

"We are curious about the different color variations found among opae `ula in Oahu sinkholes. We do know that Hawaii Island and Maui opae `ula are mostly red, while Oahu opae `ula are often clear or banded, with a few other color forms, such as red, white, yellow, and orange. We think that part of the reason is the habitat: the black lava substrate of the Maui and Hawaii Island anchialine pools vs. the light colored limestone of Oahu sinkholes. Diet could also be a factor," he explains.

"Finally, there is the question about the influence genetics plays on the inheritance of color in these shrimp. We know next to nothing about this. Will white opae `ula produce only white young? Will red and white banded opae `ula produce clear and red young? I'm sure it will turn out to be much more complex than this, but the only way we can find answers is start with these simple questions," he finishes.

The task is to make observations regarding the Kona and Oahu opae `ula, particularly differences in behavior, breeding, and feeding between these two groups.

Freshly caught Ewa shrimp, pale from stress.

Freshly caught Ewa shrimp, pale from stress.

Annette brought me the shrimp, and they were all clear from the stress. "Like many aquatic animals, when they are stressed, they lose their normal coloration. The process of being caught from their tank or pool, transported in small containers, and maintained in unfamiliar surroundings have no doubt stressed them. In a bare tank, or in a tank with light colored substrate, they can also appear faded," Mike says.

I’ve enlisted Olivia in my hobby. She likes it, and likes doing things with me. (It’s mutual.) We set up a shrimp home and we're excited about being amateur scientists.

New shrimp bucket for the experiment.

New shrimp bucket for the experiment.

While I think this whole study is cool, one of the really fun side benefits is that the team will include her name as a contributor when it files a report on this. Maybe she’ll be doing science experiments for homework at that point, and if so, I should hope she gets an A on it!

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Tapaita's makeover

August 12th, 2015

My friend Tapaita Salakiela, a full-time caregiver who runs a care home, takes very little time for herself. Church, as she told me in a previous blog (click here to read), is her sanctuary. The rest of the week is dedicated to her patients.

Her life recently suffered a setback with the death of her beloved husband just over a year ago, and she admitted to me it'd been a long time since she did anything really nice for herself. She's such a good woman that it made me sad for her.

When I mentioned this to my friend and hair stylist, Ryan Sales, he offered to give her a complete makeover. She was surprised when I offered it to her, and after many reschedulings around her client's changing appointments, she finally made it down to Salon 808 at Ala Moana.

Ryan made me over in his image. Fabulosity!

Ryan made me over in his image. Fabulosity!

It was nice that she had a wedding to attend so she could get made up for an occasion. "Thank you!" she beamed. "I feel so great! My friends didn't recognize me!"

She has never had a makeover before, and she loved it. "I couldn't stop looking at myself. My friends at church kept teasing me that they had a whole new member because I looked so different!"

Ryan's such a top-notch professional and such a kind person. I have been seeing him since 1999 and he's also a decades-long volunteer with the Miss Hawaii pageant, traveling to the mainland every year to accompany the Miss Hawaii candidate to the Miss America pageant.

I would never trust my hair to anyone less fabulous. Apparently, Paita says she won't, either. "I promised Ryan I'll come every six weeks for a color," she smiled.

Here's the before and after of his makeover on Paita. Gorgeous - inside and out!

Tapaita, before

Tapaita, before


Tapaita, after

Tapaita, after

Courtesy: Tapaita Salakielu. Dressed for the wedding!

Courtesy: Tapaita Salakielu. Dressed for the wedding!



August 10th, 2015

The day has come when my daughter was formally rejected from something she wanted to be a part of and was cognizant of it. Sure, she's been "regretted" (the politically correct term when you don't get in at some elite private schools) from some school applications, but she didn't know or care.

She has also been in tiffs with cliques at school which have hurt her feelings, but this is the first time she was officially declined acceptance to a group. Olivia was auditioning for a dance troupe and didn't make the cut.

We weren't even really sure she was that interested because her attention ebbs and flows, but I think it's the idea of someone else not choosing you. It's one thing if you decide you don't want to join the club, but it's another if they say they don't want you.

After two weeks of auditions, the teacher sent home a very nicely worded letter which follows a time-honored template of saying all the nice stuff about your kid first, then gently delivering the blow. As parents, we understand, and we aren't all that surprised because she seemed so ambivalent about it all.

Therefore, it caught me by surprise when we updated Olivia on the status of her auditions, and she started crying. And then my heart kind of broke.

Hugging sad people.

Hugging sad people.

I'm sure every parent's been through it. You want to protect your child from every hurt the world will bring and you can't. You feel helpless.

But we can't do it all for her. We can't make her pay attention in dance class. We can't force her to be consistently interested or cooperative.

We've tried. We constantly remind her she needs to do this or that to progress.

She hasn't. This is the natural consequence of her inability to focus.

I'm disappointed for her. But, I sucked it up and put on a positive face and hugged her.

I told her rejection is a part of life and if she really wants to succeed in the next activity, she needs to pay more attention to directions in class.

You may be wondering if persevering with next year's tryouts could be part of the teachable moment. No.

They actually disinvited her from trying again next year due to where it appears she is in her progress. This, we didn't tell her. We weren't sure how to navigate that, but the problem was solved when Olivia told us she was ready to be done with this club.

She's naturally athletic and seemed to do well when she applied herself, so I told her I know she can do whatever she sets her mind to. We said we believe in her.

I also told her I've been rejected a bunch of times from a bunch of things, and I just picked myself up and kept going until I got the result I wanted. When I was applying for my first few TV jobs, I was rejected at least five dozen times.

I saved all my rejection letters from those early years. The stack is about one inch thick. I labeled it Humility Check.

TV can be a tough business. Let me tell you about major rejection.

I had secured a meeting with a Hawaii news director (no longer working in Hawaii TV) to look at my resume. There was no job available, but I was trying to establish a connection and hopefully have him keep me in mind for any future openings.

After looking at my reel, he asked, "Where did you go to college?"

I answered. "You should get a refund," he flatly stated.

No joke, no exaggeration. This is exactly how the conversation went. I still remember it like it was last week.

I was flabbergasted. I have never had anyone before, or since, be that rude.

I conducted the rest of the meeting as if the remark didn't hurt me, and then decided he could __ himself.  I was not going to cry over that. I certainly wasn't going to curl up in a ball and quit because one guy said something mean.

I knew what I had to offer and I decided I would work hard and develop that for another station to appreciate. Which did, eventually, happen.

I didn't tell all that boring stuff to my kid, though. Maybe in another decade, when she's ready. What I did tell her, though, was:

"If Mommy gave up after the first dozen stations said no, she wouldn't be doing what she does today, which is a job she likes and has worked hard to be competent at. If there's something you really want, you need to work for it and you need to believe in yourself."

She is smart, beautiful, athletic, funny, and charming (when she wants to be!). We reminded her of this and said we'd always be in her corner, happy to guide her and help her succeed.

Olivia seemed to perk up a little with that. A bowl of ice cream with sprinkles probably did way more for her mood than my little pep talk, though. ... To be fair, I can totally relate!

How would you, or have you, handled your child's disappointment from rejection?

Roles Reversed

August 7th, 2015

It’s come to this: my eight-year-old is tucking me into bed now. Yes, I go to sleep at 6:30 p.m. and her bedtime is at 8 p.m.

15-6-3 Bed feet_wide

For months, she and her dad have actually been doing this, but it’s been informal and never stated out loud. When I head towards the bedroom to lie down, I say goodnight, and they usually follow me in to hang out for a few minutes as I wind down.

It’s a weird version of family time (which might also include an early family dinner, depending on the day.) We lie in my bed and we talk about our day for a little while before they leave me.

The other night, my husband went to a night class, so it was just Olivia and me. I headed to bed and she said she wanted to watch TV until 8.

I was having such a lovely time playing with her in her room that I asked her to keep me company for a little bit more. “Come tuck me in please,” I asked.

“But I want to watch TV,” she pushed back.

“Please? Tuck me in and cuddle with me for a few minutes,” I pleaded.

She said OK and tried to brush me off with a quick kiss. “No, can you lie with me for a while?” I insisted.

“Oh, OK,” she acquiesced, and came into bed to spoon with me. Oh, I love my little girl.

I love this time of day so much. She makes my heart full. She actually spent a decent amount of unhurried time with me before she kissed me again and excused herself to the television room.

I know the cycle of life means that eventually, the parent becomes the child and the child becomes the parent. I didn't expect it so soon!

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