Sunday Mālama: What Sunday should be

I’ve learned not to use the word ‘should’ that often, for the word has taken on a presumptuous and judgmental air to me (blame strengths coach Marcus Buckingham and his definition of should-ing). Yet there are still a few times, increasingly rare though they may be, that I’m willing to shoulder that risk — is it ironic or fitting that ‘shoulder’ has ‘should’ within it?

Well, I shall willingly stand tall to shoulder this as well as I have been taught to. This is one of those times for testament to what we ‘should’ do, for denying the rightness of Sunday Mālama would seem like borderline blasphemy.

I welcome you to take a stroll with me along three paths, each with different experiences to share:

Three Paths

Path One: Living With The Pope

When I was growing up, ours was a family that went to church every Sunday without fail. My dad was the one we thought of as “the holy one” and we’d all call him “the Pope” when we were sure he couldn’t hear us (my mom was the one who started it).

As early as I can remember, my mom was the one who did the flowers for the church every Saturday afternoon, and I honestly think that Sunday mornings were more of a vanity fix for her as the entire congregation “ooh”d and “aah”d over them. She deserved the accolades; Mom also had (still has) an extraordinary talent for fashioning any kind of flower a bride would choose into bouquets for weddings, and all was done in her volunteer time as a lush and fragrant hobby.

That’s me and my dad at my wedding, and yes, my mom did the bouquet.

Mom made it so the church was always beautiful, and feeling community-fresh to us instead of reverent-old. The greens and flowers she used came from others in the congregation, but they needed my mom to figure out what to do with them, and as bravely as she did:  Her exuberant arrangements would never be described as ‘modest.’ We had a good-sized yard of our own, but gardening was not in my parents’ life-crafting regimen; they simply didn’t have the time for it (though I never sensed they had the desire either.)

Dad was the one who made Sundays sacred as fitting complement to my mom’s crafty and decorative talents freely given to the church. Where my mom’s clever resourcefulness would shine in a tangible way — she never knew what the congregation would arrive with Saturday afternoons, freshly cut from their yards — my dad’s would radiate from an inner wellspring, a gardening inside him that Sunday framed equally well. And by extension, we were his ‘crops.’

We wouldn’t describe our Sundays as a reflective “day of rest” though; he kept us all busy, and it always felt like we were working on something. Dad kept it all too real, and very down-to-earth: He was not a touchy-feely kind of guy, and having a good work ethic regardless of the day of the week was the way you worked on living a worthy life. As we followed his lead, Sundays were sacred in that they were about our faith, our place in the world, and about ‘ohana, our family, and about generally being as good as we could possibly be for the entire day. In point of fact, we worked harder: Sunday was the day that you made up for any slip-ups or indiscretions in the week before, with my dad giving us a wealth of physical possibilities in doing so. In working through it all, with Dad affirming our contribution to the family’s well-being, you fortified your character for the week ahead.

We also thought of Sunday as a kind of neighborhood and community day, for that was when ho‘omāka‘ika‘i; we went visiting when the chosen work was light and quickly accomplished. It was the day we’d get lectures on things like citizenship, civic duty and social responsibility, or charity, patriotism and history as explanations on what we could learn from our neighbors and parents’ friends, and should. Back then, children were seen and not heard, but expected to listen, and anything another adult would say to us was gospel, as surely as what the priest had said in his sermon earlier that morning. A visit on Sunday seemed to be a kind of guarantee of an adult’s truthfulness.

Sunday then, was the day that we learned values from our parents, just as they had learned them from their parents. We had modest scoops of value-learning every day, but Sunday was the day it came in droves, and you better be able to take it all in.

Looking back, I also realize that Sunday was our entertainment day, with other people playing a starring role in what would amuse us. Technology hadn’t yet intruded in the way it does today, getting us to be more interested in a small screen over a person’s face or voice. It was a good way to grow up, within those early Sundays devoted to Mālama, caring for and about each other, and having our faith.

Path Two: ‘Ohana Mālama

In the last two years I worked at the Hualalai Resort at Ka‘Å«pÅ«lehu as their v.p. of operations, we were acutely aware of a shift in the preferences of our customers. We had been the darling of Kona’s Gold Coast in the five years since the resort had opened, and had enjoyed some global fame, however we couldn’t rest on our laurels; everyone we thought of as any competition was stepping it up because the customer demanded it, and frankly, it was getting really tough to please them.

I pulled my department heads together in a halawai (meeting) one afternoon, hoping we could achieve a meeting of the minds, a breakthrough of some kind, and about three hours later we felt we had, best we knew how. We came up with a campaign we’d use as our “language of leadership” as we rallied our staff together for the challenge, calling it exactly what it was and had to be, a Focus on the Customer; our focus as a newly caring signature on the work performance we delivered.

We laid out a strategy on the specifics we had to work on in the campaign, from service execution to problem solving, from new hire orientations to Ho‘ohana Reviews (commonly referred to as performance appraisals), and from pricing to new product evolutions we would explore. Ho‘okipa (exceptional hospitality) became our mantra for the campaign, and while we felt confident in the abilities of our staff as Mea Ho‘okipa (our hospitality givers) we still knew we had considerable work to do simply in making the shift happen; we had gotten too comfortable, and comfort was no longer a luxury we could afford.

There were a lot of details to be covered; our campaign was ambitious. Writer that I enjoy being (luckily in this case, for I had a big operation to cover), my ‘Ohana in Business was very accustomed to getting email coaching from me, and I soon started a daily message that every manager could read first thing each morning, and then print to cover with everyone in their shift line-ups. My message was more organizational than inspirational at first. It took our Focus on the Customer initiatives and strategies and broke them into bite-sized, action-for-today pieces, just enough to fill the preview pane in Outlook.

My message was called the Daily ‘Ohana Mālama. I would now describe it as an early version of the internal blog, using all we had at the time: The infancy of email, and the wonderful fact that we still talked to each other about it as ‘mail’ and little more. We were still a bit naive about how communication would change, and we deferred to conversations with each other as we always had done to actually effect the work of change: My email was simply a daily trigger. ‘Ohana because we were all in it together; we had to be as tightly connected and committed as family if it was to work. Mālama because caring about the program enough to follow through consistently would be critical to our success — and our persistent, day-by-day determination.

Mālama is the value of caring, empathy, and stewardship, and thus it was a wonderful director. The goal of the Daily ‘Ohana Mālama was twofold; strategy execution comprehensively throughout the entire organization, and an intention to take the utmost of care that no one was neglected in the responsibility we felt with Mālama. We were going to ask much more of our ‘Ohana in Business than we had been, and there could be no asking without equal doses of giving — or more. We weren’t paying more, but we were giving more, in our attention, in our leadership, and in our commitment to the values of ‘Ohana and Mālama.

Sunday was the only day I did not send out the Daily ‘Ohana Mālama email in the morning. It wasn’t a day of rest in our 24/7 operation though. It was a day to be sure.

Path Three: Sunday Mālama for each of us today

It is the combination of all these past experiences, these repeated efforts with worthwhile work and its ethics, which have affected my own personal values, helping me to both define and choose them. It never was about church, or about business, though those two things were there as framing and packaging. It was about human spirit and values-driven actions which felt like very meaningful work, in that it made a contribution of some kind. That’s what your work experiences do for you too.

Sunday was to be the day we sourced all our values, plugging into them so we could better practice them all week long. We would open ourselves up Palena ‘ole (to abundance, and limitless capacity) paying attention to whichever value may be calling us to it at the time, and we would fortify ourselves for the week to come. Nānā i ke kumu: We would look to our source of well being, and we would Mālama to refresh, recharge, and rejuvenate. My parents were right about those practices, for they do work!

Nevermind that technology and other factors have changed our world; we can still draw from within to feel healthier today, and build on our past lessons learned.

Ho‘omāka‘ika‘i; it may be that we’ll go visiting, meeting others and divining their truth as my dad had taught us. It may be that we get more resourceful no matter our surroundings, using whatever we are given as my mom had taught us, and seeing a kind of beauty in everything — brave, exuberantly showy beauty.

Lobby Lushness

It may be that we ignore the email, ignore the social media and just have more in-person conversations, relying on them to do the good work of collaborative synergy they have always achieved for us.

If we revisit these kind of practices, the ones that good experiences have deposited with us for safekeeping, within the kind of work that improves the basic quality of our lives, I am sure that Sunday will be a day for Mahalo, the value of appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness for all of the elements which make life so precious to us. Contentment comes from counting those blessings we should not be taking for granted, so we can continue to work on them.

We can make a difference in our world by taking care of our own well being first, living the value of Mālama so that we have more to give. I wish that for you on this Sunday and every Sunday to come.


This post, its intention intact but content substantially edited for new publication today, had originally appeared within another blog I loved dearly at the time, called Managing with Aloha Coaching (circa August 2007 through December 2008). The blog was dedicated to a more in-depth, Hawai‘i-connected study of the 18 values presented in my book, Managing with Aloha, and was written during the pre-recession height of my then-consulting business, an almost frenetic time where my coaching laboratory was flush with activity and new learning both for me and my clients, most of whom remain great friends. As I should have expected from that effort, integrally woven with my own Hawai‘i Sense of Place as it was, MWAC became more personal than I had intended it to be, but in my mana‘o, it was also an immensely pleasing Ho‘ohana blend. I plan to eventually retire the site, and so I am slowly bringing its content here for a co-evolution with Talking Story, where its honored spirit can continue to teach, and be added to, for Ka lā hiki ola, it will always be the dawning of a new day in some regard!

Tab it and mark it up!

See it, snap a photo of it, look up its story

In doing so, you are sure to practice the value of Mahalo — appreciating those elements which make your life most precious to you.

You’ll also learn about a wealth of different things in the process.

Good morning Portland
Hayden Island river houses along the Columbia River in Northeast Portland

I’m getting reminded of this as I upload photos to Flickr which I’d taken on a recent trip to Portland, Oregon.

As part of my trip, a mixture of business and pleasure, I treated myself to a full three days of self-guided walking tours throughout the streets of downtown Portland, heading out any time the rain let up, with just camera and a pocketful of change for food and coffee stops   — and my raincoat, for it’s Portland after all, and spring seems to be quite elusive for that part of our country this year. Can you find me anywhere in the photos below?

Pink Blossoms at The Commons
Dogwood in bloom at the University of Portland up on The Bluff

Had a great time, a very relaxing few days wherein I could let my book-in-progress simmer for a while, enjoy some terrific meetups, and just relish being in new, comfortable, yet unfamiliar surroundings. I had not been to Portland before (or anywhere in Oregon for that matter). That held a ton of promise for me.

‘See it, snap it, and learn its story’ has become one of my favorite things to do ever since getting newly familiar with easy-peasy point-and-shoot digital photography about three years ago (no film to process!). Three years and 6,165 Flickr uploads ago as of this writing to be precise, not including the many experimental and lousy shots that never made the upload cut.

Though my Portland uploads have re-triggered my practice, causing me to stop and share this posting about it with you, this is something you can do while at home, at work or play, or anywhere: All you need to do, is carry a camera with you wherever you go — or just use that camera on your smartphone more than you have been doing up to now:

From days gone by

See it: Look at your surroundings more deliberately. Take extra time and really see it. Look closer at the detail, or back away for a bigger picture. Look down toward your feet. Look up above your head. If people are caught in your view and they catch you staring, just smile at them.

Snap it: Take a photo. Take a couple of them. Move the camera around” move you around. Indulge your natural curiosity about things, and focus on color, on lines and angles, on something quirky or unusual, or on a feeling, and the simple fact that you like what you see — or even that you feel emotionally interrupted by it in some way. Consider the interruption an awakening of your attentions.

Bike, brick, stoop and paint

Learn its story: This is where the internet has made new explorations so incredibly easy: Just search. See what you can find out about the subjects of your photos. Are there stories to be learned? I’ll bet there are, for everything has some kind of story, including those just waiting to burst out and happen. You might even stumble on a legend.

Bonus points: Share what you’ve learned in the spirit of Aloha and value of Mahalo, for it’s learning in what we can better appreciate about the fascinating, complex, and beautiful lives we’ve been given on this very precious and amazing planet of ours.

I like doing so on Flickr where my uploading can be tagged in the weird way my mind works to organize things, by making sure I add detailed descriptions when I have them, and photo-blogging within the helpful and very supportive community there. Unless there are people in the shot, I leave copyright permission open with Creative Commons so others can use the photos too. At other times I’ll add something on Ho‘ohana Aloha, my Tumblr, or here on the blog.

Civic Responsibility

The learning part is what always blows my mind. I knew very little about Portland when I arrived there, just prepping enough to get a general lay of the land (several unique districts within downtown alone” Old Town, Chinatown, The Pearl and South Park Blocks to name a few) and could choose good hotels. Otherwise, my ignorance was bliss; I wanted to be surprised and romanced by the place itself.

I’m sure I snapped a lot of photos that many native Portlanders wouldn’t have bothered with. I simply felt they looked charming or interesting in some way, and I would take my snaps knowing I could easily find out more about my subjects later.

Walled Garden detail

Pointing toward the sky

My web searches will then take me on incredible journeys — I returned from my trip ten days ago, and I’m only about halfway done with my uploads! What Flickr forces you to do, (not the site itself, just my own obsessive habits with using it) is label your photo in some way, so to start, my searching is prompted by the simple desire to put the right name on locations I have visited, and not be careless.

Here are just three of the stories I discovered:
The first tells the story of an train watchman turned urban artist back when The Pearl was a rail yard. The second explains how Ecotrust is a steward of the Reliable Prosperity Project, relating to something I find I am increasingly interested in: Eco-business practices. The third will point you to a video which (I personally hope) will inspire more renewal in the district Portland calls Chinatown, for despite its rich history, the place seemed to be stopped in limbo to me.

  1. The Lovejoy Columns: Project story (with more links). Be sure to look at this Flickr set too, with photos taken back in 2008 where the columns originally stood (my photos are at a relocation project).
  2. The Ecotrust Building: On Tumblr (with more links). At Flickr.
  3. The Hung Far Low Chinatown Neon: Video. Story at my Flickr photo.

When you click over to Flickr, clicking the project tag (right side of the page) for the photo you land on will help you see all the photos I have for that particular story.

A Lovejoy Column saved as modern art
One of two Lovejoy Columns relocated to the Elizabeth Tower

A Chinatown without the bustle just isn’t the same
Chinatown icons on NW 4th

Next time I go to Portland I’ll have a wealth of choices with spending my time there, now knowing so much more as I do! There are several buildings I would love to revisit, and see the inside of, timing my visits for when they are open. Loved using their TriMet transportation (even to the airport!) and will have to get more snaps of their Public Art.

Flickr, and my searches for more labeling info, is getting me to feel like I am visiting these places a second time now, and that when I return, for I definitely will, it will have more of a 3rd-time connection for me.

I will leave you with one more story which made me smile, about John’s Cafe: You can find two story links in the photo description there.

So your turn now: See it, snap a photo of it, look up its story. You’ll be so very glad you did.

Book Review: The Botany of Desire

“We don’t give nearly enough credit to plants.
They’ve been working on us ”“ they’ve been using us ”“ for their own purposes.”
~ Michael Pollan

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the WorldThe Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Buy on Affiliate link.

The Botany of Desire was my trans-Pacific flight companion in good measure of the 5 hours it takes to fly from Hawai‘i to Portland: I read half of the book on the way there, covering Pollan’s first two stories of the botany of desire (the apple/sweetness and tulip/beauty), and then finished it on the trip back home (learning of his connection for marijuana/intoxication and the potato/control in the last two stories). Pollan’s coevolutionary premise, that plants have had a much greater influence and effect on us than we realize, especially given their need for rooting and apparent immobility, was fascinating to me, and the book did not disappoint — I loved it.

Synopsis from the publisher:

Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers’ genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires—sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control—with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. And just as we’ve benefited from these plants, we have also done well by them. So who is really domesticating whom?

This is a “Made you think!” kind of book, and Pollan stokes the reader’s curiosity very skillfully. I was intrigued with learning more of what botany can teach us, about plants yes, but mostly about ourselves in the coevolutionary connection Pollan explains so well, for there is simply no denying it. He writes well, and he’s woven good stories, all boosted with significant personal research, including that within his own garden, a wonderful personal touch. I wished the book was longer, to tell us of even more stories — the botanical connections certainly abound here at my own home in the Hawaiian tropics, and I am quite sure that the four desires he’s covered simply begin to peel back our complex layers.

Pollan was brilliant I think, in starting his book with the apple and largely untold story of Johnny Appleseed, for we’ve all heard of the legend without knowing the depth of the story, and it’s so easy to take the apple for granted. The fruit is not as common as we think!

We humans are so self-absorbed, and it’s quite impossible to read this book without changing the way one thinks of plants, and without continuing to wonder just how much more they have affected us. What Pollan has done, is awake the reader’s inquisitiveness and respect for botany in very successful way — we can continue our study on our own to a certain degree, the scientific calling unnecessary, and most notably with our own relationship to nature.

I would also recommend this book to someone wanting to stretch in their reading with more non-fiction, for it’s a compelling choice, entertaining, easy to read, and quite in a league of its own.

PBS has produced a two-hour documentary with Pollan as well; no surprise to me, for their partnership seems a perfect fit. Here is the Preview Trailer (if you’re reading via RSS, you may need to click directly into the blog to see this):

Watch the full episode. See more Botany of Desire.

More PBS Links:

  1. About the Program
  2. The Apple: Our desire of Sweetness
  3. The Tulip: Our desire of Beauty
  4. Cannabis: Our desire of Intoxication
  5. The Potato: Our desire of Control

View all my reviews

Why Goodreads? They have become an App Smart choice for me in 2011 for I want to return to more book reading, and have set a goal to read at least 36 books this year (this was book 15 for me). Read more about the Goodreads mission here, and let’s connect there if you decide to try it too! You can also follow them on Twitter.

Previous review: Do the Work by Steven Pressfield for The Domino Project

Hello? These are your values speaking.

Can you hear me now?

“Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies.
It happens when society adopts new behaviors.”
— Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody

The past few days represent a learning time in our personal history on the earth. It’s almost impossible not to notice, and somehow participate in, the aftermath of our receiving the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. wartime mission.

I used that word ‘receiving’ intentionally. We don’t just ‘hear’ news like this, we receive it somehow, each in our own way.

I’ve participated in the aftermath quietly too, for it’s been big enough to spill into the new book containment I’ve created for myself in recent days, despite the intensity of my concentration in wanting to finish that project soon, and finish it well. I’m not one to seek a public gathering somewhere, and frankly, those celebrations have concerned me greatly, especially to see their prevalent generational signature of receiving. I can’t help but wonder what parents have modeled for their children, and how current history has been taught in our schools, for most of the faces I see in those gatherings were so young when Osama Bin Laden’s notoriety in our collective consciousness began.

They’re still young now. One of the things so fascinating about all of this, is noticing how our world shifts and changes bit by bit, big by big while we are right in the center of it.

I’ve participated in two ways, primarily; watching way more broadcast news than I normally do (and reverting to old lurking habits on Twitter) and taking notice of the reactions within my own ‘Ohana, fully aware of how one’s closest family can affect each other. I was so grateful to know, even without having to ask them, that neither of my children wanted to be anywhere near those public gatherings either. Are we patriotic? Yes, we are. We just choose to be patriotic (and more) in a different way.

Then, when some of the noisiness of those two listenings abated, I sat down with my private journal, the one I handwrite in messily, for the very physical effort that particular writing process requires of me. Sometimes my hand skips lightly across the page in this notebook, with pen almost looking like pencil. At other times I’ve pressed so hard I skip writing on that page’s other side where the embossing has come through, making it bumpy. Both effects are the result of different degrees of intellectual honesty for me, where I’ve answered for myself, “Okay girlfriend, what do you really think about all of this, huh?” and allowed my emotional voices out too.

I won’t lie to you: I’m not always totally pleased with my answers to the question. But I’ve learned to accept my own truth at that point in time. I’ve learned not to beat myself up for it, nor overly celebrate it when it is pleasing. I just accept it as is, as the next point I’ll move forward from. That ability to move forward, and my resolution to do so with a measure of intentional diligence, is what I want to keep focused on most of all.

Daytime Thunder

We’re all in a perfect storm kind of time, but it’s one which comes with some quiet if you choose to step into it. It’s perfect for self-reflection and listening to your personal values talk to you. It’s a time to tell yourself the truth, and understand who you are at that particular moment in time. It’s a time to figure out what you’ll do about that knowledge.

I hope you do step into the quiet of your perfect storm too. Just do it for you.

You are probably getting bombarded with all kinds of opinions. Feelings are raw, and at times like these, people need to be heard, so they look for people like you, who they feel close to, and know will listen. You can be there for them, but be somewhere for yourself right now too.

How do you really feel?

When we talk about the values-based philosophy of Managing with Aloha, people will ask me, “Rosa, how do I truly know what my deepest values are in their pure me, at my own core state?” and all I can say is that, “You’ll know. Trust in your intuition, and you’ll know.” The best advice I can offer them is to learn to talk to themselves more, so they can hear themselves more too.

This is one of those times, I think, and I hope you take advantage of it. Listen to your own values, and receive them for what they are; you and your gifts.

Then, you can decide what you’d like to do about that.

No matter what they’ve been about, all these historical moments have that in common, don’t they: They become life markers we move forward from.

Ka lā hiki ola. Welcome the dawning of your new day, however you and your good values choose to define it.