Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Love Story Begins in Honolulu 1969

It was nearly fifty years ago on the sandy shoreline of Waimea Bay, Oahu where Carter fell in “love at first sight” with Pauline.  Pauline is from Hawai’i and Carter was stationed in Pearl Harbor at the time.  He caught his first glimpse of Pauline when she was resting in a tree!  She climbed up there to overlook the waves that would someday make Waimea Bay a legendary surf spot.  That night in 1969, Carter went home to his military platoon where he told his friends, “I’m going to marry that girl.” 

And if you ask Pauline about that day at Waimea Bay, she will say the same, “It was love at first sight.”  They are still married.  They moved to Maui, raised children together, worked long careers and then retired. Pauline was a school teacher and Carter retired from the military and worked for the Postal Service. The last thing they expected after retirement, was to become parents for a second time around in life.  There was a tragic and fatal car accident and suddenly they became full time guardians to their two-year old grandchild.

“It really wasn’t easy at all.  Financially and emotionally. But with support it got easier,” Pauline said, “We didn’t know any other families like us, but we found community resources and support groups.”

In their search for answers, they stumbled upon the GRANDcares program that launched educational interventions on Maui and Big Island, Hawaii in 2016.  Pauline and Carter were among the first group of grandparents raising their grandchildren who graduated from the seven-week pilot of “Powerful Tools for Caregivers-Grandparents.”   The classes in the GRANDcares’ program focus on reducing stress, strengthening communication skills, dealing with difficult emotions, and goal setting strategies. 
The next GRANDcares seven-week program begins on Thursday April 5- May 24th 2018, 5pm-7pm.  The classes are 90 minutes and prior to this, the grandfamilies are invited to talk story and enjoy a free light meal together.  On the Big Island, the grandparent seven week classes will begin on Saturday February 17th-March 31st 2018, 10am-12:30pm.  Additionally, this spring the GRANDcares program will introduce Youth Club for children 8- 12 years old who are being raised by a grandparent.  The seven-week program offers a complementary curriculum to what the grandparents will learn.  Also beginning on Maui April 5th 2018, the classes in Youth Club are designed to build leadership skills, encourage self-confidence, practice communication skills, and learn how to set goals.   Registration for both grandparents and grandchildren are now open until April 1, 2018.  For more information or to sign up, email

“I loved getting to know the other grandparents, that was my favorite part about coming to the classes,” Pauline stated, “One of the most important things that Carter and I learned, is not to be afraid to ask for help.”

Since 2016, Pauline and Carter have been advocates for grandparents raising grandchildren in their community.  They have continued to attend GRANDcares’ classes and have used their personal experiences to teach other grandfamilies in the program.  Their impact has been immeasurable, very much like their love. 

Photos and story by Christine Spencer, GRANDcares Site Facilitator, Maui County

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Year's Resolutions for the Family

By Gloria Sanchez, Adams County Site Coordinator

As we step into 2018, many of us use this time as an opportunity to “start fresh” or on a “clean slate,” setting goals that we wish to accomplish in the new year.  Often times these New Year’s resolutions are set around better finances, health and weight management, personal accomplishments, and educational milestones.  However, rarely goals are set around bettering and strengthening relationships with family and friends.

So, how do we set new goals to make our relationships stronger in the New Year?

In a research study of 2,000 people conducted by Family & Children’s Services of Minnesota, participants shared their thoughts and views of what their family did well.  The researchers concluded that there were nine important factors to keeping a family strong.  Read over the following nine factors and see if any of them might be positive to implement in your own family this new year.

Families agreed that communication was key to staying connected. Ideas for this included setting aside a regular time to talk free of technology, leaving notes for each other, and designating a “safe zone” or space to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. 

Physical, emotional, and financial health were also seen as important.  Families reported staying physically healthy by exercising and staying active as a family, including things like bike rides, walking, and raking yards together.  The stayed emotionally healthy by expressing their feelings, being mindful, and forgiving each other.  Financial welfare was maintained by budgeting, planning, and talking about finances. 

Another important piece mentioned was spending time together. Families did this by preparing or eating meals together, reading to each other, or creating family time once a week.   

Spirituality was the fourth strongest factor for strong and cohesive families.  This was defined and understood in various ways including talking about and practicing beliefs, traditions, faith, charity, sacrifice, hope, and love. 

Having a strong support system, respecting each other, and having a sense of unity were also important factors for keeping a family strong.  Support was understood by these families as listening, understanding, asking questions, showing affection, giving hugs, cooperating, sharing responsibilities, being honest, saying “I love you”.  Respect was practiced by recognizing each family member’s strengths, believing in and accepting each other, showing appreciation, following rules, setting boundaries, and being patient, gentle and honest.  The sense of unity meant pulling together and rallying around each other, especially in times of need.

Celebrating cultural traditions that are unique to each family also creates strength.  Families build this strength by preserving their identity, sharing stories, teaching traditions, and passing on their cultural heritage. 

The final strength is having an extended sense of “family.”  For many, “family” went far beyond those living within their home, rather extending to include blood relatives, in-laws, close friends, and neighbors. As an extended family, they keep each other informed of important events, build circles of support, love, encouragement, and care, provide a space for members to seek and trust advice from others.

This study provides a great deal of great information about building and maintaining a strong family.  Which ones do you feel like you most connect with? Are there any that you already do well?  Which ones might be great to add to your family’s New Year’s goals for 2018?

For more information about this article, go to

Friday, December 22, 2017

Practice the Gratitude Attitude over the Holidays

By: Ellen O’Kelley, GRANDcares Site Coordinator, Big Island, Hawai’i

I have always loved this time of year.  Even in Hawaii you see and feel the signs of the Holiday season all around.  We may not have snow, but we do have beautifully lit homes, glistening oceans in every shade of blue you can imagine, stores filled to the brim with all the greatest toys and oh those tech gadgets.  Families (“ohana” in Hawai’ian) start to gather, the cooking and baking begins, children practice for their holiday pageants, the party invitations start coming, presents to mail, cards to send, perfect cookies for Santa and the list keeps growing.

For 0ver 15 years I would get bronchitis and laryngitis sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas lasting until January.  Any way you look at it the holidays can be stressful leading us to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, sometimes causing illness and depression.   A very special Doctor shared with me the concept of Attitude of Gratitude and I haven’t had bronchitis for 20 years.   Go figure.

Robert Emmons, PHD defines gratitude as “a sense of wonder, thoughtfulness and appreciation for life,” Recent research indicates that gratitude is good for the giver.  For some, gratitude is a way of life, for others it can be learned.  To boost gratitude focus on the positive, write your thoughts down in a gratitude journal and make a gratitude visit to those you care about.

The idea that gratitude can be healing is not new.  Dr. Whaley, Kaiser Psychiatrist, has found,” people who are more grateful exercise more, sleep better and have better immune function.  Practicing gratitude strengthens relationships, and protects against envy, materialism, depression and substance abuse.  Gratitude is also a source of resilience in the face of our daily stresses as well as a source of healing after personal tragedies.

This week I had the pleasure of meeting a very special Grandmother who despite very challenging circumstances embodied this concept.  I’m sure she didn’t realize it but I was reminded that an Attitude of Gratitude can be better than any medication you can try.  I think I will have a bronchitis free Christmas for at least another 20 years.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Opioids and Grandfamilies

Jana Carson, GRANDcares Site Coordinator, Larimer County

Cities across the United States have been greatly affected by what is being called the "opioid epidemic."  This national crisis many times ropes grandparents into the issue, as they become the primary caregiver for grandchildren whose parents have succumbed to these drugs. Grandparents then work to balance this new caregiving role while also struggling to watch their own child go through the ravages of an opioid addiction.  (Read this AARP article for more accounts about how opiods are affecting grandfamilies:

If you are a grandparent raising a grandchild in Colorado as a result of opioid use, you may be interested in attending an upcoming meeting being hosted in Denver on December 28th from 11:30 am - 1:30 pm by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.  This meeting will discuss potential updates to the Policy for Prescribing and Dispensing Opioids and is designed to help the Colorado healthcare licensing boards understand more about the opinions, needs, and recommendations of Coloradans affected by opioid use.

There are three ways to provide your input:

1) You can attend the meeting in person at 1560 Broadway, Conference Room 110D, Denver, CO 80202 

2) You can register to participate in the online webinar by going to this link:

3) You can provide written comments before or after the meeting by sending them to

Click this link to view the full meeting announcement:

If you or your family is somehow affected by opiod use, make your voice heard!

Added Note on 2/15/18: We later found this video where Senetor Baldwin recounts her own story about being raised by her grandparents as a result of opioids.