Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Helping Others: No Need To Go Out Of Your Way

We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone.
Ronald Reagan

We've all been in a time of need.  Maybe you just needed a ride somewhere, some extra cash, a piece of advice, a place to crash or a supportive hug. Every single soul out there has needed something at sometime from someone who didn't have to give you anything.

But he or she did. Why?

The other day I was on campus outside grading (one of my favorite things to do...not really). It was such a beautiful day so there were students everywhere soaking it all in. Such a positive buzz all around.  I overheard a student shout out to a friend, "hey! I need your help, can I get a ride to Ashley's house?" To which the other student replied, "I can't right now." I saw the desperation in the requester's face, but then the another girl standing there said, "I can! It's on my way."

For some reason it got me thinking about helping others and volunteering. I feel as though sometimes there seems to be two extremes when being asked for help: overwhelmed or excited.  It's hard to say no, but on the other hand we need to say no at times. Generally speaking, we want to pay it forward, go out of our way, do what's right for the greater good.

What if we were just honest. Instead of indirectly, or directly making someone else feel like we are going out of our way, we just responded with: "you're on my way" or "I can't right now".

If you think about it in the big picture, no one should volunteer or help others out of guilt or pressure. You do it because it makes you feel good, and it should!

What? Isn't that selfish?

Nope, ask yourself, "where am I going?"  When you think of where you are with your life and you think about ways to add a positive energy to that, where do you see yourself? Helping others because you want to grow, learn something new, connect with someone, and want to increase your chance of happiness as you help someone else find happiness results in a win-win for both parties. It's not selfish. It goes beyond being nice, it's seeing the bigger picture.

It makes sense then to serve someone  or an organization who in return serves you in some psychological, emotional, or spiritual way. They can teach you about a different aspect of life or maybe open your eyes to seeing something a different way. It can be a one time shot, or long term commitment. The choice is yours. There's nothing wrong with picking a time or place based on an area of yourself hat is lacking.  Life is short, spend your time wisely!

If someone feels as though they are "going out of their way" to help someone else, than maybe they should just stay where they are.  Keep opening your mind to new avenues of volunteering, serving others and let others help/serve you. It leads to a healthier life, happiness and higher self- esteem.

"There is no separation between inner and outer, self and other. Tending to ourselves, we tend to the world. Tending the world, we tend to ourselves.
The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield.

At the STEAM Studio, we rely on different types of volunteers. As a non profit with a mission of inspiring kids of all ages to be interesting and engaged in the area of STEAM, that can sometimes be challenging. It amazes me at the flow of people we have helping. We always can use more (so please jump in if you wish!) but we have volunteers who return consistently without anyone requiring them to do so. These same volunteers also serve others outside of the STEAM Studio.  Here's what some of these RU college students had to say about just that...

Alli W. on volunteering with a wild group of first grade girls' soccer team, "I am thankful for the opportunity to work these girls. It's been amazing experience getting to know them. Each one is different which makes it so fun to be around them and watch them interact."

Mitch F. on serving others from Uganda to the STEAM Studio, "I learn an immense amounts of things from working with different kinds of kids and people. I also learn more about myself and how to be more understanding of others lives and the some struggles people go through." 
Jamison W. on also volunteering at the STEAM Studio and coaching young girls in soccer, "I help because I enjoy being there for them and helping the little ones. It's what I love to do!"

Laine E., our new STEAM Studio Coach/Volunteer Coordinator on what she enjoys about helping others," Supporting creativity and inspriing students to explore new areas is what I love doing. We have support from professionals and STEAM coaches which helps us all achieve."
Next time you volunteer or help someone and they respond with,  
"thanks for going out of your way", 
why don't you say, 
"thank you for getting me on my way."

We all need somebody to lean on...


Wednesday, August 19, 2015


I have loved hip hop music, my whole life. Well, maybe not my whole life, pretty sure I wasn't shouting out "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugar Hill Gang in preschool. However, I have always been intrigued by the beat and the artists' portrayal of their life experiences delivered in a unique lyrical way. In high school and college, there was the mix tape marathons of  2Pac, Beastie Boys, Biggie Smalls, Biz Markie, Dr. Dre, Ghetto Boys, Ice Cube, L.L. Cool, J, Missy Elliot, NWA, Snoop Dogg, TLC,  just to name a few. My friends would laugh because I could recite every single word to every single song, but couldn't remember where I put my keys. I enjoy learning about that "world", their experiences, their quest for understanding what life is about to them and I'm impressed at how raw they are about it all.

Naturally, I went and saw the movie "Straight Outta Compton", which has already made $60 million (and only took $29  million to make). It's based on the rap group, N.W.A. from the late 80's which was comprised of five musicians from the most dangerous streets in the country at that time. I couldn't help but think about how wise these group of young men were when they first came into the limelight.

Wise? These "thugs", "gangstas", "police haters", pretty much the opposite of what many would consider role models. Yep. Let's be clear, I respect the law and feel everyone else should to. That's not what the focus is here. I agree, they did not go about voicing their opinions in the most gentle way. What they did do was courageously share their experiences; crude and debatable, without worrying about how others were going to judge them. I'm sure there are some embellishments to what and how things went down, but they were on a mission to uncover and reflect on some real and uncomfortable situations. It forced people to discover the truth.

Discovery of truth. How often do we take to time really discover the truth? Social media, sources via Google, continuous gossip,  endless generalizations and so on provide us with many "masked" truths, as I would call them.  These perceptions lead us to believe any information we hear or see, which somehow convinces us that we are the wise ones.

Not true.

This year's core value focus at Rockhurst University is wisdom. Have you ever googled wisdom? These are images you will see pop up and what I think about them.

Nope: Acquiring all kinds of information from digital devices
(or knowing how to use technology) does not make you wise.

Think again: Being the smartest person in the room
(or the one with the most academic degrees) does not make you wise.
Not true: Experiencing a spiritual movement or seeing a dove from Heaven
(although that would be really cool) does not make you wise.

According to Jesuit Priest,  Father Dean Brackley, one should focus on the big questions. He says,

Wisdom, not mere information, is the goal of education. 

Discovering truth requires reason, rooted in experience and practice nourished by contemplation...and imagination. 

Only such, engages the whole person which produces wisdom.

At Rockhurst U, we are trained, we reflect, we teach, and we reflect (yes, reflect and reflect and reflect) on the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm which seeks to produce wisdom, it flows like this:

Let's face it, our world complicates things.   It's up to us to simply search for the truth and focus on how it can help us solve important questions.  Father Brackley explains those important questions as, "... the drama around us, injustice and liberation, good and evil, grace and sin..."

Someone once told me truth can cause controversy, but controversy isn't always the truth. At first, I was like, "what?!" As I have thought about that over the years, I think it boils down to this: information comes at us and people react by instantly raising questions, making judgments and either expressing feelings of happiness or anger. It's how we react to these pieces of information that makes us wise, not smart. Take the time, if you really care, to find the truth in it all.

Everyone has a story, everyone is on a journey. Sing (or rap) your song and be thoughtful how you respond to what you see or hear. Thanks to technology, we live in a fishbowl. But, sometimes that fishbowl is is there to make you think:  a) the fish is dying because of some purposely placed contaminated water, or b)it is happily living in Utopia surrounded by perfect plastic trees and colored rocks. Which is true? It's for you to discover, which makes YOU all the wiser.

Maybe this was the song that triggered my love for hip hop?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It's Not You, It's Me...Actually It's Technology

We are born with a brain not a power cord.

It's so easy to blame others...other things. Yes, I'm guilty too.

Everyday I read a post, hear a comment, analyze research or engage in some sort of debate about how technology is impacting (ruining) our society. The good, the bad and the ugly. You want the truth? It's OUR fault. We are to blame.

Don't shoot the messenger.

When I was a teacher some parents would say, well you don't have kids so you don't understand. Now I have kids and some parents say, well, you don't have teenagers so you don't understand. As a professor, I sometimes hear, you're not in college you don't know how hard it is to unplug. Here's what I do understand and always believe. Humans, not technology have the real power. 

We say things like, "If it weren't for technology, I wouldn't have ____________ (insert something you did that you now regret)." That's like saying, if I didn't have a car I wouldn't have gotten a speeding ticket, if I didn't have a mouth I wouldn't have made that mean comment. Technology is a THING, it's not human. You own technology, it doesn't own you.  Now that we have all these great gadgets and devices, it is so easy to let it overcome our lives. I get it! Teaching technology courses and striving to inspire others to use technology effectively opens your eyes, wide.

Here are five helpful tips I have found through my teaching experiences and research:

1. Turn it OFF: Honestly for health and happiness reasons, it should enhance your life. There are certainly health concerns and connections to depression when it comes to using technology. Regarding solutions on how to scale back the use of technology from kids to adults: check out these three great websites with essential, intelligent info.

No more digital dinners.

2. Don't hurry me: Really the only question you should  ask yourself: "Does it save me time or waste my time?" Sure, there is always a learning curve, but in the end it should make you more efficient, not looking for a new job, a new friend, a new family...a new life. I also know that people expect an immediate response. I learned a great strategy at a workshop awhile back that if you are just upfront with people about the fact that you cannot always illicit a quick response, they will get it. Instead of constantly apologizing, "I'm sorry it took so long to get back with you." Try letting them know it will take you a day or two to respond (if that's feasible). Unless you are an emergency vehicle or coffee maker, you don't have to be instant. What will your response time be?

3. Have fun with it: Truth is, technology is amazing! It's only getting "smarter". Smart audio, smart video, smart wearables, smart connections...the list goes on. We have seen things already in our short life span that others have only dreamed about. Enjoy it, find ways to use it to keep that positive platform progressing. It is also imperative we know how to use technology. Our world depends on it. We need to be skilled on how to effectively use it and communicate with it.

4. Find the balance: We all have this balance scale deep inside us, our soul. If we listen closely, we know what's really important and we will seek ways to make time for that.

Find what really is meaningful to you. You can't Google that.

5.  Watch out for broken glass: Would you ever just walk on broken glass? No, you know it's going to damage your feet, or make the mess worse. Just as simple as you know that there are situations you need to avoid when using technology. Help someone else avoid that digital broken glass. It could be a tip, a helpful link, a website, an app, a piece of advice that has helped you with technology use. Our lives are cycles of learning and growing. We make mistakes, we learn from them. If we don't, hopefully we have someone who calls us out on them. If not, you have to help yourself.  We need technology to live, sometimes as much as we need food to live, a job to live. BUT, we don't let food run our lives, we try not to let our jobs run our lives and we certainly shouldn't let technology run our lives.

Someday, probably in our lifetime, there will be a digital blackout. It shouldn't worry you, it should give you peace, hope or at least excitement. A day (or week) without technology perhaps would give us more time to to look up and out at all the amazing people and things right in front of us.
Maybe you don't love wine or smooching but everyone loves dancing in the moonlight.

Enjoy Toploader's rendition of  King Harvest's "Dancing in the Moonlight". It's a supernatural delight.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why Today Will NOT Be "Burn the American Flag" For Me

My flag flying outside my house symbolizing my gratitude to be an American citizen.
Despite all of the hatred and hardships, we are given much freedom and many choices.

Lots of talk about different types of flags in America lately.  People taking them down, putting them up, burning them, stomping on them, selling them, buying them, or just ignoring them. There's no doubt about the injustice many Americans face on a daily basis. As we work through these important issues, I feel we need to be reminded that we still live in a great country which gives us many freedoms. Our American flag is a symbol of these freedoms.

In case you haven't heard...today is "Burn the American Flag"...in America .

Declared by a group of  activists (American citizens at that) who apparently think by burning the American flag they can disarm the NYPD.  I'm not going to talk about their reasoning or try to rationalize their motives. If you really care to give them more attention, Google it. I learned a long time ago that changing people's minds is impossible. People change their own minds, usually by calmly listening to or reading about a different perspective explained through simple reasoning.

Here is a short, simple, yet powerful list of reasons for not burning the American flag today (or ever) which are connected to the freedoms we all have, no matter what race, gender or socio-economic class you are labeled:

The freedom to love.

The freedom to have children or not.

The freedom to raise our children the way we feel is the best way to raise them.

The freedom to love our children and others as much as we wish.

The freedom to choose who we want to be friends with and who we do not.

The freedom to sit on a friends' back patio and talk about something that we are sad about, or better yet, laugh all night long.

The freedom to keep our bodies healthy and our minds open.

The freedom to rock out to our favorite tunes.

The freedom to earn a free education.

The freedom to have a job.

The freedom buy something, to own something.

The freedom to dance.

The freedom to be wild, weird, quiet, loud, calm, crazy, unique, funny, classy, sassy, strong, weak, proud, humble...whoever you are.

The freedom to play.

The freedom to make mistakes.

The freedom to get outta town.

The freedom to practice any religion we choose.

The freedom to kick back and have a few beers.

The freedom to vote for any political party we decide at every election.

The freedom to dress anyway we desire.

The freedom to call our loved ones and catch up.

The freedom to celebrate.

The freedom to marry anyone, anywhere.

The freedom to help a stranger or a stranger help you.

The freedom to change our minds about what we think.

These all come with sacrifice, made by each and every one of us. They also come with great service to our nation: made by my grandpa, my dad, my uncle, my friends and people who don't even have a clue who I am, but care enough to protect me. 

America is not perfect. We live here by choice, understanding that while we have the freedom to confront oppression, we are responsible for honoring our country. Burning a symbol of our freedom extinguishes the respect for our freedom.

So if a group of activists want to declare today 
"Burn The American Flag" day... 
then I declare it 
"Don't Burn the American Flag" day!

Happy July 4th--Fly your flag high and proud!

 "You might have to walk the fine line, you might take the hard line…and somewhere on the way, you might find out who you are.  I live in America, help me out."

Friday, June 12, 2015

Kick That Cookie Cutter Kit To the Curb!

Think outside the box, or just throw the box away!

Sometimes it's difficult as a parent or teacher to come up with ways for kids to be creative. Even Pinterest can either be overwhelming or annoying. So, we default to buying kits for our kids to open up the box, follow the directions on the box (or in the box) and build something from the materials in the box...anything to keep them learning and having fun.

But is this really the way to go? Is this helping them be creative and thinking outside the box?

These days kids have endless energy and seemed to be endlessly consumed with technology and/or sports. How can we channel that energy into something meaningful that can give their mind a break from their normal schedules? Excite them to try something new, or to look at something a different way?

The writing is on the wall when we think of what the future holds for our kids, the digital natives. Going green, inspiring the entrepreneur, balancing the use of technology, fixing or improving the way things are manufactured; ultimately, finding ways for them to think outside the box to improve our world. Obviously, this doesn't happen over night. Honestly, at the end of the day, we want our kids to be happy, to be confident, to be good citizens, right?

Well, this summer, my intern, Thomas Holmes (a junior high student at Pembroke Hill School) and I have been researching solar robotic kits. We started with this because they are important to our future, they are very trendy right now with schools and clubs, and the buzz around town is that they don't work!

Three kits we reviewed:

1. Eco Science- opened this box and found that we were missing the solar panel. Kinda hard to make a solar panel robot with out, um, the solar panel!
Including the solar panel in the solar panel kit would have been helpful!

2. OWI/Solar Kit- this kit was bought with the intention of exciting kids to be creative in that they could build "6 in 1" different solar robotics. Well, thanks to the plastic "break off" pieces, we couldn't use the wheels for any of the projects, AT ALL. When you break off the pieces, you are left with jagged edges. Wheels don't roll that well with jagged, edges, in case you couldn't figure that out.
Had to tape together the wires to make them work
and doesn't look anything like the picture on the box.

In case you didn't know,
jagged wheels don't roll.

3. Green Science- a little better... actually not. We got further along with building the robot, because we had all the parts and the parts were individual (no breaking apart plastic pieces), but, there are still issues with each of the two kits.

This is what it is suppose to look like.
This is what it really looked like and needed
extra materials not listed on the box.

Here is Thomas' critique of both:
  • Rover 
    Motor works well in lamplight and sunlight instantly but wheels do not have enough traction to run on anything but the desk. The rover shuts down as soon as it exits the lamplight. Does not have a very high speed and is unstable. The can serves no purpose but seems to slow it down because of weight and aerodynamics. There is an optional body shell but it is only a waste of time. Children would enjoy building this but would be disappointed in the results and need at least one older person helping. Over all I would keep looking for a better product. However if the wheels could be given some traction it would more than likely work outside and go on until it wasn't under direct light. I tried rubber bands over the wheels a possible solution to adding traction, but do not work. Perhaps glue could be applied around the wheels? One plus about this kit is that there is an engine cover which the robot does not have. This will help to keep any dirt, water, etc out of the engine to maintain it's functionality.
Again, not even close to what it really looks like.

Not exactly a dinosaur robot.

  • Robot: Highly difficult to build even for an older child. It does not work very well and the engine is not protected from dust and other such things. More durable than the rover but overall not better. Very slow and arms are dead weight on the almost over encumbered

These kits are just examples of a bigger issue: QUALITY. There seems to be a lack in the quality of materials, the quality of marketing, the quality of instructions and the overall quality of inspiring creativity.

If you do buy kits for your kids, keep these three things in mind:
  1. Research the kit before you buy it or at least read all the fine print on the box. Many times there will be (in the smallest font possible) a list of materials you need to purchase in addition to the kit to get the project going. False advertising and misleading pictures are popular with kits that don't work
  2. Prep your kid for what may happen with the kit. It may not work.  If it does work as planned ask them how they could improve it.
  3. Have them put the project together in a different way. Inspire them to think outside the box and add more materials to the kit or avoid the useless materials included. 

At the STEAM Studio this summer and fall Thomas and his team of kids will build our own Solar Energy Robotic products to test and then sell. They won't be kits but bundled activities in which kids will have the basic pieces they need (motor with wire, solar panel, screws, pieces to build the frame) then ideas for them to build out their own robot, rover, or something new from there. We have partnered with Brightergy, they are providing us with the 3D printer (to create the needed parts) and solar panels.

It's always been our vision for kids who come to our STEAM Studio to: research, design, create, build, and manufacture QUALITY ideas which then become a reality. This is just one project which is moving us in that direction.
Think of ways to avoid raising cookie cutter kids,
instead encourage them to be their own individual selves!

Sing it girl! You don't have to always follow the written instructions...think about the unwritten.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Running Out Of Gas? Tesla Takes Charge

Are you along for the ride?

I just love road trips. Get some good tunes on, roll down the windows and enjoy the ride. Probably has more to do with my fear of flying than anything else, but I'm one of many that spend quite a bit of time in my car. Ever think about how much time you spend driving around?According to Social Security, the average life expectancy overall is about 85 years old, do you know how much of your life you spend in your car?

4.3 years. If you do the math on distance and time, you could literally drive to the moon and back THREE times during that span.

When we think about how much time we all spend in our cars, we can't avoid the conversation of what it is doing to our environment.  Oil spills, gasoline prices,  off shore drilling, painful politics, air pollution from exhaust fumes, overall destruction to our Mother Nature...just a few of the consequences related to driving an automobile. Sure, we share rides, carpool, utilize public transportation, walk or ride more bikes when we can, but the bottom line is: most people rely on their cars to get them where they need to go.

How is the car being creatively crafted to combat these consequences?

Two years ago I was invited to mentor one of the Rockhurst University Helzeburg School of Management capstone projects. The topic was conquering the digital divide and looking at the future classroom space. This semester long project with over a dozen undergraduate students had a profound impact on the development and opening of the STEAM Studio. One of lead students on the project, Hunter Johnston, and I have kept in touch discussing that capstone project and the importance of it. Now that Hunter is back in KC opening up the Tesla store, he reached out to me about forming a partnership.

I asked "why Tesla Motors? His reply, "we build from the ground up."

This instantly caught my attention. How often are we concerned that our youth are not building or improving products?  

Hunter went onto further explain, "kids should have the opportunity to explore what really excites them, that is something I had to do on my own. The STEAM Studio provides this opportunity and I want to support that endeavor. From a STEAM aspect, there is a part of our company that has every single element of that acronym. There are tons of innovative science, technology, engineering, art and math going into what we do at Tesla." 

Specific activities which will be implemented at the STEAM Studio would include (but not be limited to) a challenging car project through 3D printing and designing of future models.Improving the design studio options available through Tesla while thinking outside the box.There is a quite a bit which goes into interior design of the car, picking out which fabrics and colors go together from the dashboard to the trunk. I've always wished there was an easy accessible places to put my purse, aside from the floor or passenger eat. Guess what? Tesla's got it!  With more women in the software area of motor designing, Tesla's done an incredible job of hiring and engaging women in different areas of the company. In fact, Hunter's, counterpart who taught him everything he knows thus far about the the business, is a woman.

Hunter contributes his involvement with Tesla to his Jesuit Education. He explains that his Rockhurst University courses taught him over and over to take a problem, observe it from a different angle and uncover a different way to improve it. He said that there is "no book" for what they are doing and through Rockhurst University, he learned to take risks, become a leader, and because of his diverse courses, he learned to approach challenges head on.  He says he "preaches service leadership" throughout his interactions with everyone he meets and works with at Tesla. Service leadership meaning, looking for ways to be innovative, to serve others by finding ways this car cannot only help the environment but those actually driving the car. Choosing to serve the community, the regions, the nation over self-interest. Tesla cars are built to last, not built to break down. The engineers and designers must never sleep because many, in the media, are coining this car as "tomorrow's car, today." This doesn't just happen overnight, it takes drive and constant evolution from what our world thinks of the automobile industry.

And that's not all folks...
Not only is Tesla CEO Elon Musk finding ways to free our world of gasoline guzzling cars through the electric eccentric driving machines, he's sharing how he's doing it. Get on the bandwagon!

Here are some basic highlights for owning a Tesla, coming straight at you:

1. The right-of-way: There are no cars on the car lot, no wasted materials, no one trying to talk you into a deal. What you see is what you get. Since each clean energy car is made from your direct order, you get it your way. You get to pick out which model, and every aspect that matters to you; paint, roof, mirrors, interior, exterior, extra gear, and other options that catch your eye. How is this different from other dealerships where you order cars? This one (as Hunter said prior) is built from the ground up, just like when someone makes you something from scratch. It's made especially with you mind, only you.

2. On the road again: When was the last time you drove a car that you really enjoyed? Not only will you be supporting the zero emissions movement and lower air pollution, you can find free charging stations and Tesla is known for it's low depreciation, federal tax credits,  and little maintenance needed on all its models. Plus, the 17 inch touch screen  allows for easy access and is safe as you can give voice commands for what you are looking for as you drive. Think of a big iPad that can find just about anything you need in and out of the car. Plus, you get updates to keep your car current,  AND it comes with amazing autopilot features! Who wouldn't want to take this for a spin?

Tesla motors takes the fear out of being a driver and passenger and returns us to the joy of the ride.

3. Life without a dipstick: No need to change the oil or pump up, so less stress on you, as the Tesla owner. USA Today reports that it costs about $10,000 a year to own a car. Yep. Why? Increased gas prices and maintenance are the main reasons. Not your problems when you own a Telsa. It all seems perfect, right? Well, there is the issue of keeping your electric car, well, energized. Aside from your own charging station and battery, you need to charge your ride after about 300 miles. But no reason to apply the brakes, Telsa just announced that they have over 2,000 supercharger stations across the country and are constantly adding more.

4. Yield sign ahead: As with any new product, machine, or invention, there is some controversy. Tesla has been in the news and courts over the issue of selling cars which, some feel do not follow the state requirements for selling cars. Since Tesla is not franchised and sells direct to the consumer, there have been lawsuits from several states citing franchise laws. Obviously dealerships feel the best way to serve customers is through a showroom with an adjacent service and maintenance facility, rather than factory direct. You can read more about this issue driving motor companies to court here.  The bottom line is, they are an American company, selling American cars with more American parts than any other vehicle out there. You decide.

5. You've got the green light:  Tesla is not some overnight company who just popped up with this incredible machine.  Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 and has received a 5 star safety ranking while being the fastest car out there (0 to 60 in just over 3 seconds). Not to mention, the motor is named after Nikola Tesla, the first engineer who pioneered this invention 100 years ago. While the initial sticker price may be holding you back, after you have done your own research you will realize that this car practically pays for itself over the long haul.

I've only scratched the surface on some of the amazing parts of this new set of wheels, find out more yourself at: http://www.teslamotors.com/

At the STEAM Studio, we are looking forward to what this forward thinking, futuristic company can teach us and what our kids can learn from the revolutionary way to approach car sales and new model of auto design. But, more importantly, be inspired to find exciting ways to be green and grow.

###Special thanks to Tesla Motors and Hunter Johnston for sharing your expertise and igniting projects and passion for learning and building for a better tomorrow with STEAM Studio.

"Like a true nature's child...get your motor running...head out on the highway... " Go a little wild and check out Tesla.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Am I Wrong? A Mom's Promise To Get It Right

The writing is on the wall.

I hate working out. Ok, hate is a strong word, I do not like to workout. But, I try to everyday. Why would I want to do something almost everyday I don't like?  Because I need to. Lately I have been going to Health House and I feel as though I am going to die during the class! It never seems to get any easier. However, after, I benefit from a boost in my spirit, release of frustration and peace of mind that I am doing something healthy. I feel a little less guilty about chugging a Starbucks latte, eating some peanut M & M's and having an occasional glass of wine.

This will be the only blog about my workout. :)

Another way I like to treat myself is to pop over to T.Loft for a protein smoothie. The other day I ran over sweaty and became a little annoyed as there was a line (and of course I was in a hurry). I had left my phone in the car, so I started looking around and noticed a gigantic scripture hanging on the wall. It's weird how you can see something over and over or pass by it several times and never really notice it. I decided to read it while I was waiting...

...and my heart skipped a beat.

Rewind back to when my youngest was born. This baby did not sleep through the night for the first year of her existence. At around 10 pm, it was party central in her crib. I had just returned to work, had a 3 & 2 year old at home and was trying hard to keep up with life. Mike and I would try to split up the night time duties, but that was taking a toll on us as well.  I had experienced a miscarriage before I became pregnant with her, so I was thankful for this little bundle and that she was healthy. But, I was really struggling in my daily life and being a happy healthy mommy.

My nocturnal baby, too cool to sleep at night.
Not really a self-help gal, but one night when Janie and I were hanging out watching an Oprah rerun at around 2 am, there was a segment about positive thinking.  This motivational quote from Christian Larson was mentioned and after I read it, I was touched. It soon became a mantra for me. I carried it around with me for almost two years and then one day it got misplaced.

Until this week. The enormous hanging on the wall at T. Loft was staring at me. Almost yelling at me in black and white bold letters... Larson's words. The ones that got me through sleepless nights and crabby days. It was if God was reminding me about a promise we can make ourselves.

Reflecting about Mother's Day and Larson's words prompts these ideas: sometimes waiting in line is a good thing. It forces me to take a few minutes and be still. Working out is very important to my body and mind. I need to be thankful that I am able to do so.  Bonding late nights with my daughter taught me patience and that finding ways to restore my soul in difficult times is imperative.

So here it is (I have bolded my favorite lines):

Promise Yourself 
by Christian Larson (1922)

To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them

To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

This pretty much sums it up for me.  I hope you find a piece of it that touches you, please feel free to share with a mom on Mother's Day. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Mr. Larson nailed it. Moms are very busy people, but spiritual beings who should promise to take care of themselves not only physically, but mentally. 

Thanks so all the incredible mommies out there who strive to get it right!

One of my fav songs by Nico & Vinz. I think they are right on: “Am I wrong for thinking out the box from where I stay? If one thing I know, I'll fall but I'll grow. I'm walking down this road of mine, this road that I call home…”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Letting Go: A Dead End or A New Route?

Sometimes you need to get there on your own, without GPS.

End of a game, end of a book, end of the day, end of the spring, end of the semester, end of the school year, end of a good time...

As they say, all good things must come to an end. Why is that? 

Yesterday, the STEAM Studio held an educator round table - principals, teachers, directors and other educators came to learn more about what we do at the studio and we learned more about what their students need.

One point that was made is that it's hard to let go. Letting go of the comfortable curriculum, the usual routine, old resources,  and the traditional teaching we've used in our schools for the last century. Sure, new methods and practices are being implemented all over our great city. However, when you walk into a typical classroom, it looks very similar to what most of us sat through in our schooling.

When thinking about the bigger picture, outside of education, what are we preparing this next generation for if we cannot expect them to move forward and try new things. How is this possible if we, their teachers, their mentors, cannot move on?  

In our world this last week,  there has been an earthquake, riots, drama, and disaster. When does the day end and the healing begin? When do we stop grasping onto a situation and start walking away? When something ends, how do we move onto a new beginning?

Your brain has a lot to do with it.

  • New Pathways: Do you take the road less traveled, or the same street to the same place everyday?  For example, you might decide to pick up a new sport that you've been meaning to for the last 5 years. As you study and practice the new sport, neurons housed in that area of your brain would send electrical messengers to the cell's center (soma) where ultimately new neural pathways begin to be formed to acquire and store the understandings of the sport.  The more we repeat something and use that portion of the brain in a focused way, the more new neural pathways might develop in your brain. These new pathways become stronger the more they are used, causing the likelihood of new long-term connections and memories. It is possible to teach an old dog new tricks!

  • Your Mindset: Again, it really comes down to a science. One of my favorite researchers and authors, Dr. Carol S. Dweck, penned the book, "Mindset, The New Psychology of Success." I love this quote from her book:
"I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves — in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. Our research has shown when we teach people the growth mindset, with its focus on development, these ideas about challenge and effort follow."

  • No Regrets: According to Dr. Stefanie Brassen, a researcher at University Medical Center in Germany, letting go of regret helps us live a longer and healthier life. By not looking back and wondering "what might have been", we are able to look forward and make better choices as we live our lives. She noted that a common trait in older healthy adults was their positive outlook on life and being relaxed regarding their past. It's common to make mistakes in life, so the moral of the story here is to go easy on yourself and keep on!
  • Changing Habits: Obviously if you want to move forward you will have to form a new habit to replace the old. Quitting cold turkey is hard, and sometimes it's more of not letting go quickly but making that transition slowly. I recently read the Pulitzer award winning, New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg's book, "Power of Habit". He writes about how habits are formed and how they can be changed:

"First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. To change a habit, there's a framework to follow: identify the routine, experiment with rewards, isolate the cue, and have a plan."

It doesn't happen overnight, it's a process. So whether you are trying a new way of teaching, picking up a new sport, or trying to see things in a new light; know that creating new habits and breaking old ones require some thought and time.

It's hard to let go, especially of someone, something who holds a very special
place in your heart and/ or mind.  Hopefully realizing the science behind it can help you move on. 

One way to look at it, I guess, is that it is 
not the end of the road, but the beginning of a new journey.

As Coldplay sings, "Nobody said it was easy..." a great song to add to your playlist. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

High Speed Sleuth: Quick To Judge or Just the Facts?

You may think you are a cool digital detective, but  Magnum P. I. was on fire!
This time of year brings new hires, retirement announcements, rounds of interviews and updated placements. Some are surprising, others are needed, many are bittersweet. When someone is being replaced in a company, school, organization or church, sparks of interest ignite with the need to find out more. Who is this person coming in? Why is another leaving? What impact will that leave on me?  In our world of light speed access to all kinds of information, we have a wide open portal filled with endless virtual file cabinets.  

Is Googling a person the most effective way to get the facts you need? Are they fact or fiction? 

What's the first thing you do when you want to know more about someone? Be honest!
1. Ask that person
2. Ask someone who knows them?
3. Google it.

This isn't confession, so keep your answer to yourself. However, if we were completely honest, we would say that we first Google a question we have. It makes sense. Easy, usually reliable, you get to see a pic, find out other things about them that maybe you weren't even searching for. We have created a society of digital detectives.  Move over Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Cagney & Lacey, Dick Tracy, and Kojack...everyone with a Wi-Fi signal has a P.I. badge.

So, we Google, then we make (often times, jump) to conclusions about what we see, hear or read. It's human nature, we are curious people! Here are some points to consider when you are sleuthing:

1. Is there a logical fallacy?  We know now there are some "facts" which are not true, even if at the time they seem completely logical. The Earth is not flat, Pluto is not a planet, dropping a penny from the Empire State Building is not deadly, you cannot get warts from toads, and Bruce Jenner is no longer a man (actually, that one is still under debate, I can't keep up). Everyday new information is uncovered and people are sometimes wrong. Don't believe every fact you find.

2. Who's your eyewitness? Nothing seems to get past Google or does it? How amazing that we have this free, quick and exciting research assistant at our fingertips? A recent study found that about 50% of medical information searchers googled was inaccurate. I don't know about you, but that doesn't make me feel comfortable when it comes to my health and other topics I'm asking Siri about. There are many different "people search engines" out there for you to find (for free) information, obviously some are going to have misleading material.  Have you ever Googled yourself? I do from time to time, and I have all kinds of aliases because I have a nickname and a married name, so sometimes it will state that I am either 29, 40 or 51 (I'll take age 29).  According to Spokeo,  there are 46 different females named "Mandi Sonnenberg" in the US today. I guess I am not so unique or original after all!  

3. The third degree? If you want to know something about about someone, how about just asking them? Are they approachable or near you to do so? There's always email, Facetime, texting or old-school talking on the phone. The best way to get to know someone is to spend time with them.  Using social media doesn't count as getting to know someone. I remember a few years ago during the spring season, one of our students was graduating to be a teacher and she was job searching.The principal from one of the potential schools she was interviewing looked up her Facebook page and quickly made some negative assumptions about her. When she wasn't asked back for an interview, she asked the principal why and he explained that her Facebook page was not a representation of the type of teacher they wanted at their school. After some more conversation with our student, the principal realized he had looked up the wrong girl with the same name!

4. Testimonial evidence?  We all live in this fishbowl, swimming around, hoping to get a little privacy by hiding behind our plastic plant ornament or hiding under a rock here and there. Yet, our business is not always our own business. Life happens. Kids get in trouble, couples get divorced, someone's financial situation changes, pictures are posted on Bragbook (I mean Facebook) and people start talking. Documents located via the intetnet and social media can be deceiving and misrepresent anyone or anything. Here is a good read about why social media has a credibility problem. This doesn't mean that social media and internet searches can't be helpful, they can!  It can be a great starting point to diving deeper into what you need to find. The point is, a picture doesn't always mean a thousand words.

5. What's your motive?  When it comes to hiring and firing, out with old and in with the new, we tend to get a little nervous. Change is HARD. Really hard. When children are involved, or if your job is at jeopardy, or there is a new hire as a boss, educator, leader, or whatever change agent is coming, this naturally raises a level of concern.  It's understandable to find out what you can about someone who is entering your life in some personal or professional capacity. Here are some tips for finding anyone, anything online and Google search tips. You wanna make sure your reasons for gathering more information are solid and you have others around you who can help you go through the material to see different angles . 

Everyone has the right to their own opinions and, thanks to our technological advancements, we have the right to search for important information. Being cautiously concerned sometimes is imperative when it involves the safety of our children and families and/or the prosperity of an organization or company we are invested. But, the process doesn't begin and end there; using our brains and reflecting on the accuracy of the information takes time. How about less interrogation and more interest in the whole person. 

Let's slow down, reflect on what we are searching and 
hopefully we will find what we are really looking for.

Two of my favorite detectives were Tubbs and Crockett, who can forget Miami Vice!? Here's the theme song you can play while you are searching for clues.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Apple's New Wearable: Watch Out!

What do you really want at your fingertips?

I remember when I was in junior high and I got my first Swatch watch, equipped with a guard, and inter-changeable bands to mix and match any outfit. I thought I was so big time. However, I'll never forget my dad saying, "It's rude to keep looking at your watch when you're with others."

Um, whaaat? Obviously, he had not seen THIS watch. This watch was trendy, the latest and greatest. Even though I couldn't really see the actual time through the overlapping rubber guards, I enjoyed looking at it on my wrist and was beyond excited to wear it at all times. It wasn't even digital!

Now we have the Apple Watch.

Anytime, literally, any... time you want to be up and up on what is happening, there it is.

Here is what I can share through recent research and little bit of common sense on why you may want to pass on this arm candy, well, ok, wrist candy...

  • Price: Let's just get down to the question everyone wants to know, how much is this gonna cost me? The prices range from $349 to over $15,000 (that's right not $1,500, but $15K!) Is style that important to you?
  • Style: There are three main styles to choose from, Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition. Obviously the Apple Watch Sport is least expensive. Available in 10 different models with a variety of band colors (white, blue, green, pink and black). The Apple Watch is middle of the road; available in 20 different models including a stainless steel face with options of a sports band, leather or buckle loop, link bracelet or milanese link option in a variety of colors. Lastly, the Apple Watch Edition, the more Rolex version including 8 models with 18 karat gold  also including different choices for band colors which stylishly gives you limitless access.  
  • Access: The options are timeless here. You have 24/7 access to apps. It works very much like your Apple phone. All you have to do is move your wrist and it comes alive. It gives you a small tap when you receive a notification.  Directly on the watch face, you can swipe "up" to view small glances of content you view the most, then swipe "down" to see missed notifications. No need to wind this watch, but you do still have what they call a digital crown which looks like that nob you use to wind.  You can roll the digital crown to see more information you are swiping, zoom in, call on Siri, and view more apps. Force touch is another innovative resource on this phone. It avoids more buttons on the display and allows you to delete messages, end sessions, and navigate to other apps. Will you be one of the masses wearing it?
  • Health: There is a new feature accompanying Apple Watch, called Health Tap. Let's say you are hungry and want a quick ride, not only will your Apple watch (aka, Siri) help you find a special local place like Governor Stumpy's which serves a variety of delicious options, but it can give you nutrition data about what you are consuming.  Health Tap, will also provide you with helpful knowledge from over 68,000 licensed doctors. Other features and apps include the ability to set pill reminders, monitor your heart rate, and track your total body movement as you investigate other aspects of your life.
  • Life: I think back to my dad, who always has this way of saying something that seems so straightforward and simplistic, yet ends up having a bigger meaning. Over the years, we all have been in meetings, where someone was checking their watch, then it migrated to checking their laptop, then their phone and now it's back the watch. When, in all honesty, it would be nice for them to just check out the person they are with!  If you are a person who has self control and you know that you won't be constantly looking at your watch, then do it. Go get that digital wearable!
But, unlike our mobile phones, we can't put THIS watch away. It's on us, tethered to our body,  so unless you take it off....you are connected to everything, except maybe the one you are with.

And, it doesn't have those unforgettable guards like the Swatch watch. Maybe that's what Apple needs to add, guards to keep people from wasting time constantly looking DOWN, and instead... keep them looking UP.

It's yours 4.24.15 (you can pre-order, too). Set your alarm...or not. Are you part of the cure...or the disease?