Monday, April 21, 2014

Take That! Are You a Cheerful Giver?

This giver of God is always smiling. He makes others smile, too.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.  
2 Corinthians 9:7 (KJV)

Give, give, give. Seems like there are always opportunities to give. Sometimes it can be overwhelming and exhausting. Who should I give to? How much can I give? Why am I even giving at all?  In today's techy world, there are posts, tweets, emails and articles daily about how much more we need to give and why; to our communities, families, friends, and others we may not even know.

 Think about it, do you give because you feel like you have to or because you want to? How can we be cheerful about giving?   Let me introduce you to someone who inspires this exact charge.

It's always intriguing and refreshing to me when you meet a genuinely cheerful person.It reminds me of the quote from Amigos for Christ, "....what the world needs is people who come alive." When you first meet Danny, you think, "Wow, this young man has it right!" He's the kind of guy you want to be your brother, friend, role model and mentor for kids of all ages.  If it weren't for Danny I would not have had the opportunity to serve in Nicaragua with Amigos for Christ (read my post about the experience), this past January. I would love to share his story with you. 

During Danny’s first trip to Nicaragua, in July 2010, he came to understand a new way of life, a life based in bold and raw love. He describes this raw love as a simple love where people value not the worth of the clothes on his back, the language he spoke or the material things he has, rather they value the worth of him: his soul, his personality, his joy, and all that comes with life in general. 

He describes his experience as one that left him zealous for a change in his life in mind, soul and body. This change also influenced Danny to start running and eating healthier to be more readily available to help in any capacity causing him to lose almost 100 pounds. This new zeal for life is what brought about his return to contribute to the progression of life in Nicaragua with Amigos for Christ.

Danny during his transformation: physically and spiritually.

Danny didn't let his passion for Nicaragua diminish: rather he sought out the opportunity to share the story of Amigos for Christ and his experience in Nicaragua with faculty at Rockhurst University once he became a student, which influenced the University to begin taking a trip to Chinandega, Nicaragua alongside of Amigos for Christ. Because of his passion, several groups of us have had the amazing opportunity to give in Nicaragua.

Danny’s journey has continued over the past 4 years as he spent 3 weeks in the summer of 2011 and 2 full summers in 2012 & 2013 serving as an intern with Amigos. Reflecting on his time working in Nicaragua and looking ahead to the future Danny says,

What has captivated my heart is just what is written in 1 John 4:19 [We though are going to love- love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love]. I have experienced a crazy amount of love from the people of Nicaragua and I now see that I can put that love back into action through my work with the students in the Scholarship Program.

Be a cheerful giver. I AM!

Danny’s position on staff with Amigos for Christ will primarily work alongside the students receiving scholarship who are each sponsored by a donor here in the States. He is going to facilitate relationships between students and sponsors through Skype meetings, letters and other updates throughout the year. He is also going to support the students socially and academically by overseeing their requirements for maintaining scholarship, organizing retreats and serving as a mentor for these Nicaragua teenagers. With his support as a mentor he hopes to offer each student the opportunity to discover and seek after his or her dreams.

Let me end by giving you this: you don't have to go to Nicaragua to serve or give, you can serve and give to others in your own home! But, our world needs brothers and sisters in Christ to go out there and be cheerful givers in remote places. Danny, is one of these people. Even though you cannot go with him, you can be there for him and those he will serve; by educating yourself, passing this message on and/or donating to this cause. 

Sometimes we need a little help from our friends...our amigos.

Click here:Learn more and/or donate now

Sing it Joe!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Go Shorty...It's Your Birthday: 5 Techy Shortcuts for You

Don't let your tech device send you into maze mode.
(Photo taken from Labyrinth, the movie.)

It may not be your birthday, but I have some presents for you. Ever feel as though you are in a labyrinth trying to figure out how to wind your way around what should be a simple task on your tech device? You need a shortcut! We all could use tips to provide us more time for other things. I hope you have find many of these new and helpful.


1. Storage Wars: Every week it seems like one of my friends is laughing or complaining they don't have any room left on their phone, usually because of photos. So do this:

    • Dropbox (FREE)--allows you to instantly upload to this cloud based app and you can download it to your PC. I have my account synced on all my devices so I can get to any of my files, pictures on any device, anywhere, anytime. After you download this free app, open it up and go to > settings > Camera Upload > swipe 'on'. Anytime you take a pic it will upload into your private account. It's really easy to make folders and delete any photos you do not want there. While it's private and secure, in two steps you can share a link to any of your folders (individually or grouped) with anyone outside of Dropbox. Plus, when you invite others to dropbox, you get more storage. FREE
    • Open space: Wondering where all your space is going on your phone? Click settings > usage > then it will give you a list of what is taking up the most space (usually photos and music). You can decide if you want to delete an app or two or you will see how important it is to upload those pics somewhere else so you have more space for more fun.
2. Talk to me: Do NOT text and drive, ever, ever, ever. It's the 21st century. You can talk to your phone and it will text for you. Obviously Siri is the easiest, but there are other apps other there as well:
    • Dragon Dictation (FREE): you can talk and it will dictate any thing you say. Students use this quite a bit for typing papers, etc.  Very simple and easy to use. It's a lifesaver for me when I have long emails to type or papers to write.
    • Speak It! (1.99): This is the flip side of text to speech. Have some files you need to read, but short on time? Just copy and paste the text and this app will read it to you. Genius!

3. You're in Ctrl: It still amazes me how many people do not know these easy control key shortcuts. Learn this alphabet, saves a lot of time.

    • Zoom: If you cannot read the screen, don't squint. Just hold down the Ctrl key and then either + or - depending on if you want to zoom in or out of the image.

4. Your wish is my command: Much like the control key for PC keyboards, Mac has the command key. Check out Dan Rodney, an instructor, designer and "all around nice guy." He goes beyond the keystrokes and menu symbols.  Do yourself a favor and take just one minute to scan over all these shortcuts, pick a few to get started and instantly save your self time.

Battery Life

5. Jump start: You really can't save time on your mobile device if the battery is drained. Opt out of these features to save the juice, which will save you time.

  • Face to Face: You might want to get closer to Siri but it's not necessary. Holding down the home button will save time and battery as opposed to holding the phone up to automatically speak with Siri. Go to Settings > General > Siri > then disable "raise to speak.:
  • Getting jiggy with it:Turn off "parallax" motion on your interface. Every time you move or jiggle your phone you will see 3D icons sitting on your wallpaper. Looks cool but drains your battery. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Reduce Motion. 
  • Keep the lights lowTurn off "auto brightness" adjust manually. Go to Settings > Wallpapers & Brightness > then you can turn off  "auto brightness" and manually reduce the brightness.

All this info for 50 cent...obviously, you could have more time to work out and rap like him. ;)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Just Do It: Because No One Should Do It For You

Why is this slogan so popular?
Because it's true.

You know what I am talking about. We have all been guilty of just doing something for someone else, instead of them doing it. Sometimes, it's just easier...quicker.
What about you? What do you want to do? What do you want to achieve?

Why don't YOU just do it?


Do you know how special you are? Number one goal in the courses I teach, increase the confidence level of each student in that content area. Why? We can't achieve and sustain success without self-confidence. What's on your "just do it" list? Find a way to boost your confidence in an area you want to excel in--start small then build off of that. Everyone has a gift. Everyone can do something, every matter how big, no matter how small. Never underestimate yourself. Many times you are planting seeds, seeds you may not see sprout right away. Take care of them and you will see growth. Or if you are like me and don't have a green thumb, plant more! Keep trying, eventually you will sow great things.


There is the need for encouragement. It's true, we all need to feel loved. I don't care who you are, we are human.  We need to feel as though there is someone out there who's got our back. If you see someone struggling to achieve, give 'em a boost. Send a text, share a motivational website, give them a hug, or sincerely say, "you've got this."  If you are the one struggling, find that someone who can will be your cheerleader.  No one achieves success alone. It's those supportive ones along the way that get us to where we need to be.


Some tips people have shared with me when I was ready to throw in the towel:

  • Enough with the excuses.  If you need help, ask. It doesn't mean you expect anyone to do the work for you, but often times you need some good advice on how to get through, over, and beyond that roadblock keeping you from achieving your goal. And stop saying, "I don't have time." No one has time. We live in a world where everyone seems to be overextended and in a rush. I have to constantly work on "slowing it down." Stop and do it!  Whatever 'it' is: new hobby, new skill,  new job, new way to be healthy, new idea you want to try.

  • I'll start on Monday. If you have a bad day, commit yourself to tomorrow: Don't be that person, "I'll try again on Monday (when it's Wednesday)." Nope. You have tomorrow, make it happen. Do you have a student, child, friend, or maybe yourself who is having a hard time getting it done? Give yourself a positive pep talk (see video below to get started). Keep your goal(s) specific and attainable, otherwise it can be overwhelming. Blaming and feeling sorry for yourself is sometimes necessary, but you gotta get it together and get going.

  • Don't do things for others,  have them do it themselves.   Helping someone does not mean you have to take over whatever it is that they need or want to accomplish. For example,  teaching technology lends itself for the helper to become the doer. Therefore, we do a lot of role playing in my tech courses. If someone is helping someone else, the helper sits to the side and the doer sits with the technology device in front of them. The helper is encouraged to use their words and not take over the device. We talk about the importance of  encouraging others to listen when someone is helping them. I actually have some of my students sit on their hands when helping others so they don't take over the mouse or iPad! Remember- It's their deal, their journey, their 'it'. Encourage them to see it as a way to grow as a person, keep life interesting and enjoy what happens along the way. 

  • Inspire others: One reason why should you go for it? Because people are watching.  Big people and little people. The big people that care wanna see you achieve (your boss, your friends, your family). But I want to talk about the little people. They are watching you, whether you want them to or not. Whether you are a parent or not.  We want to avoid raising kids who are enabled and a new generation that gives up when the going gets tough. We want to show them that risk-taking is part of life, failure is part of life, hard work is part of life, trying again is part of life. It's not easy, but you can do it and they need to see you do it.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” 

 Make your "it" yours and just do it.
Do it and do it well.

Pep talk time from Kid President, he knows what I'm talking about.
(one of my fav videos, take 3 min and watch it--DO IT!)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The 808: How Headphones/Earbuds Are Causing Hearing Loss

"Alright stop. Collaborate and listen."
Wait...what did you say?

Earphones and earbuds are the rage right now and have been for a few years. 
Seems like the bigger (the headphones) the better and louder is in. 
Are we back in the 1990's? Cue Vanilla Ice...

I frequently get asked about the effects of technology use on our bodies. One of the biggest effects is neck and eye strain, but another concern which is growing with each decibel is hearing loss. Out of the 36 million people suffering from hearing loss, about 1 in 3 can be attributed to Noise Induced Hearing Loss. Today, 1 in 5 teens has some sort of hearing loss which is significantly higher than the 1990s, many experts believe it is because of the increased headphone use. 

Here are some "Ice Ice Baby" lyrics to help remind you to tone it down:
  • 808: In case you didn't know, the term "808" typically refers to the penal code for disturbing the peace. It can also refer to the drum machine process used in rap songs in the 1990s to increase decibel levels for the bass sound to have a deeper vibe. But, here's the 808 for you: use your etiquette and manners: lower the volume. Not everyone shares your taste in music. Respect those around you. Don't disturb someone else's peace. Plus, it is better for your ears.
  • "I go crazy when I hear a cymbal": Bells or other types of ringing in your ears are a sign of hearing loss. Known as tinnitus, it can be caused by exposure to loud music, most commonly through mobile devices, especially if played for long periods of time.
  • "Yo! I'll solve it":  Your volume level is recommended to be under 85 decibels. If it reaches above that point, it can cause permanent damage. Most headphones have a maximum volume set at 100 decibels. Beware! Listening to music on max volume with stock headphones at 100 decibels can damage your ears in less than 15 minutes/day. Your ears will naturally readjust to the lower volume after about a week. 
    Check yourself.
  • "The kid don't play": Setting limits to how often and how long you are listening to your music is important. Take OFF those headphones or earbuds and take IN those natural sounds around you. Talk to people, face to face. Get active, go play (whatever that means to you).
  • "Word to your mother": Parents typically know best when it comes to taking care of their children's health, however their kids don't always think so. Buy headphones that fit over your ears (not earbuds) as those are the best for protecting your ears from hearing loss. There are headphones and earbuds available specifically designed to avoid hearing loss. Parents: helpful to talk to your kids about the importance of taking care of their ears.  Kids: listen to your parents now, otherwise you won't be able to listen at all later.

Play your favorite music...jam out. 
Everyone deserves to listen to tunes that free their mind and soothe their soul. 
Just keep it on the down low.

Let's kick it. (No headphones required).

Information to share and discuss:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Welcome Back, Kotter: Why High School Classrooms Need A Makeover

A typical high school classroom today. Having a flashback?

Raise your hand if you thought some of your classes in High School were boring. 

Now be quiet (as you stare at the back of the person's head in front of you), stay in your seat (in that uncomfortable desk) and wait until I call on you (now start daydreaming)

Sound familiar? Well, if you visited your old high school classroom, you would most likely see the same seating arrangement that was there when you were dozing off in class.

Why do we continue setting up high school classrooms like this picture above? We enable students to be consumers of content and technology instead of producers of knowledge using technology. We enable them to sit and get instead of being motivated to make and take what they are learning.

There are teachers out there taking the initiative to move their students around by engaging them in meaningful activities, and I applaud them.   Unfortunately, teachers do not always have the support and resources to design their classrooms the way they know their students will learn best. We know that teachers have little if no say about which classroom they teach in. Sure, they can rearrange their wooden or metal desks, maybe even put some pictures on the walls. But, often times, that is about it. It is not uncommon for high school teachers to have to share rooms, schlep their "classroom" around on a cart wherever there is space to teach their students for that period.  Honestly, the most charismatic and interesting teacher doesn't have a chance to completely engage all their students if their learners are sitting in uncomfortable desks, unable to move around because there is not enough space to go anywhere.

And what about 21st century mobile technology? Isn't the point to allow users to be mobile: digitally and physically? Students don't have to be tethered down with a device, yet their bodies are tethered to their desks and chairs.

Why do High School classrooms require students to sit in rows and be quiet over and over all day long?
Do you know of any job out there that requires you to sit in a row and be quiet for long periods of time each day?

What if? Let's inspire creativity and collaboration with a balance of individual work space and room to move.

My Two Cents (actually, 5 cents...)
  1. Get with the 21st century: Do you live in a home that looks like it did in 1937? Your office? Your car? Your furniture resemble 1930's decor? How about your kitchen? Your bathroom (never mind)? Do you still use a manual typewriter? We need to remodel, develop, create and change these high school classrooms. They look extremely similar to this one from 1937. Thank goodness fashion has changed!
  2. Balance of traditional and new teaching and learning methods: Teachers need support, and by that I mean progressive professional development, opportunities to go out and see places where the set up is there or at least images, sharing of ideas. Let them have time to talk about what arrangements they have tried and talk to other professional teachers about what has worked or not worked in their classrooms.  Then they can take their traditional methods (yes, lecture and whole group teaching still has its place) and mix in the new methods of delivering curriculum in a classroom which is set up to engage students.
  3. Developing hard skills:  The content needs to be taught, but it can be and should be taught in a multitude of ways to a wide variety of learners. Requiring students to sit in rows hour after hour because the furniture impedes active listening and movement is only going to make the skills gap wider. How are they going to retain any information when they aren't paying attention?
  4. Acknowledging the importance of soft skills: This is a huge issue right now with our youth. We keep hearing from employers that many of  high schools students are unemployable, mainly because of their soft skills. They struggle with manners, ethics, responsibility, social interaction, time management...the list goes on. What better way to practice the soft skills required to function as a successful citizen then in the high school classroom?  It doesn't have to be separated from the classroom activities, in fact, it shouldn't be. Acknowledge there needs to be interactive dialogue among the students. Timeliness and your best work is expected. How do HS teachers do this, especially with students who are not motivated? It's challenging, but having an open, movable environment can expose them to more experiences of teamwork, responsibility, independent activities, and following through with projects then "sitting and getting" the content all day.
  5. Include students in the designing and collaborative process: You want students to buy into what you are teaching? You want students to enjoy school? Show them the school is built for them. Let them give input on how the furniture should be placed for different activities. If possible, let them vote on furniture being purchased. If safety allows, have them rearrange the furniture themselves. Encourage student ownership of their work space. That's real world.
Our bodies were made to move and our minds were made to be used. 
Here's your hall pass to support active, not passive, learning.

Now you can have this song running through your head all day, too:

Be sure to check out this guy: 
Geoff Mulgan:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lent (Part 2): How YOU Doin'?

We all enjoy our "Friends" who can help us laugh, support us and keep us stress free.

Who doesn't love Joey? He makes everyone laugh! Laughter is good for the soul. In fact, the Bible reads that "A glad heart makes a cheerful face," Proverbs 15:13. Have you laughed this past week during Lent? Speaking of you doin'? How's your Lenten promise going? 

I hope this first part of Lent has found you free of stress, full of life,laughter and love for this season of renewal and growth, and above all, closer to God. But, we all know that springtime can also bring about some stress: busy schedules with Spring Break, Easter, new sports seasons, new interests and the end of school in clear view with summer in a blink of eye. Not to mention the daily texts, emails, phone calls, posts, and other mobile device distractions which can impede our Lent promise. 

Sorry, if I just stressed you out.

"So, no one told you that life was gonna be this way..."  

Stress. We all have it. Some more than others. How can we cope and avoid it?  Dr. Amanda Chaney,  a licensed, board-certified naturopathic physician who owns, Chaney Integrative Family Medicine and is the Wellness Director at Woodside Heath and Tennis Club, recently published an article about stress management. When I contacted her to ask for permission to publish her talented insight, she was thrilled to share her words of wisdom about this foe of ours.

Dr. Chaney explains, "Stress is an internal state, not an external one. There is no stress 'out there' in the world. Stress is in our thoughts about the world out there. If we ever hope to actually reduce our experience of stress in a lasting way, it can only be by changing how we think about our world."

Dr. Chaney's Tips to Manage Stress:

  1. Talk about it, or write it out, what's worrying you: One way to become more aware of your thoughts is to observe your stream of consciousness as you think about a stressful situation. Do not suppress any thoughts: instead just let them run their course while you watch them and write them down when they occur.
  2. Speak a stress-free language: People who handle stress well tend to employ what stress experts call an "optimistic explanatory style." They don't beat themselves up when things don't work out in their favor. Replace the word "expect" with "hope." Expectations can only be used for those things over which you have the greatest personal control. You can expect to quench your thirst with a drink of water. You cannot expect to get the job you just interviewed for. You can hope to get it.
  3. Don't be so serious: There's nothing like anxiety to annihilate your sense of humor. Remember that it's impossible to feel stressed when you're hunched over with the giggles.
  4. Once a day, get away: When you're having a hell of a day--good or bad--checking out for 10-15 minutes can be revitalizing. Find a place where you can be alone (definitely ditch the cell phone) and wipe the slate clean for a few minutes.
  5. Identify at least one good thing that happened today: It's a scenario played out every evening all over the country: come home from work and start venting to your spouse or roommate about your day. Instead of creating a negative atmosphere the minute you walk in the door, try starting off the evening with your family or friends exchanging good news. Something good happens every day!

My friend Rana, shared this the other day, It ties well into Dr. Chaney's third tip.

This Lent season and beyond: Don't stress, find a reason to laugh
It's free medicine. 

  • Three journal apps that can help with Dr. Chaney's first and last tips.
    • iMoodJournal-  This cool app is an ultimate mood journal, personal diary and charting too; It will help you discover the cause of your ups and downs and help you see insightful info into yourself.
    • Step Journal- Want to know yourself better? You can customize your dashboard and record events of your life. Choose activities you want to keep track on and Step Journal will keep it private. Or if you want to share excerpts from your journal you can easily do so through Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare.
    • Everyday TimelineThis app is a smart personal journal with photos, videos, maps calendar, checkins, tagging, search, etc. It can import your activities from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare. It backs up to Dropbox, Evernote or Email. It can work offline and sych automatically. It has a great feature “Blast from the Past” which allows you to remember what you were doing a year ago. Other details included in description and reviews.

SPECIAL THANKS to Dr. Amanda Chaney for sharing her wisdom about stress management and keeping us healthy: mind, body and spirit!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lent (Part 1): Breaking Bad [Habits]

You think you have some bad habits? 
Probably don't even compare to these boys.

What are you giving up for Lent?  How did you choose? Gotta plan?

Did you know that the word Lent literally means springtime? An obvious time for growth and renewal. As Catholics, we view Lent as a time of breaking bad habits and giving up something. What if we started something new? Perhaps starting a good habit? A way to better ourselves and reconnect with God?

We are all human. We make mistakes. We try to correct them, then get discouraged by our own failures at doing so.  During Lent we are encouraged to: break bad habits as we decide to give up something in our life which is not healthy (spiritually or physically), this then enables us to sacrifice ourselves to God.

It's difficult to give something up, especially something you have really enjoyed and loved. This has a different meaning for everyone. Reflecting on our lives and taking a deeper look inside, we know what we must give up.  Many times it's right there in front of us and there's not even a reason to over analyze it. Yet, there's that voice inside our heads which reminds us the importance of 'live and learn'.  Allowing ourselves the freedom to live life, live in the moment, live and appreciate those around us. So are bad habits bad or can we use them to teach us something good?

When you give up something, there is the feeling of loss. Replacing it with something positive seems the most logical, but can be overlooked.  I think too often we overextend what we can promise and sacrifice to God and others. He is a loving God and he wants us to be our best. So, think about what you want to sacrifice, be realistic. How do you want to grow as person? Change is difficult, so focus more on forming good habits instead of the bad habits that drive you crazy. And you know what? If you mess up, there's a new day tomorrow.

The journey of life.

Perhaps you are this Christian who believes, personally, it is better to focus on forming good habits rather than breaking bad ones. Huh? Isn't that what happens when you break a bad habit, you transform it into a good habit? Not necessarily. It's all how you approach the issue.  Lean towards taking a positive spin on the whole experience. I saw this quote awhile back and it's stuck with me.

Sacrifice doesn't have to mean giving up something we must have, but a way of bringing more goodness to our lives. Perhaps spending more time reflecting alone, or focusing on having more quality time with your family, thinking about volunteering with those in need.  You will have to sacrifice what you would normally spend your time doing if you want to spend more time with your family or volunteering. For example, you might sacrifice your favorite TV show so you could play a family game once a week or sacrifice extra sleep to get up early and volunteer at a soup kitchen.

This notion of forming a good habit or two has always made more sense to me.  After reflecting about it, I have decided to form a good habit of reading an inspirational quote via The Lent App. from the Bible each morning or at dinner with my kids. I'm hoping to spark some great convo with them about God and what the Bible can teach us.

Growing up, my mom and dad would read "Our Daily Bread" at breakfast or dinner. I remember this little booklet filled with short personal stories from Christians and Bible verses for each day.  Sometimes my parents would read the whole short story, sometimes just read the scripture verse.  Some days we would talk about it, other days nothing was said, I'm assuming to let me think about it on my own. Which, looking back, I did more often than I realized.  I'm inspired by quotes and short stories of other people's lives. The good, the bad and the ugly. I think it's fascinating how some people will let you in, even for a snapshot of their life journey as they share how they have grown as a person... as a Christian. 

Share your story, help those around you, especially during Lent. It might just turn into a habit, a good one!  I think we forget how a simple smile, a genuine pep talk or even a warm hug can make all the difference. 

There is a great deal we can learn from each other about God.  I wish you all the best on your journey this Lent season. Whatever path you choose: to sacrifice in breaking a bad habit or focusing on forming a good one, remember it is all about feeling God's love and sharing that love with others.

The Lord has your back! Be a light for others and let them be a light for you.

Some helpful apps and websites for Lent: