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How a mompreneur used online learning to startup a biz

By | artists, BUSINESS, gardening, parenting | 2 Comments

Most people don’t think of YouTube or Pinterest as online learning sites, but when used properly, they’re a rich source of knowledge.

Tami Shidawara-Vazquez started her business after she had her second child. After maternity leave from her FedEx job, she was looking for ways to earn some extra income. She was trying to think of things she could do at home. This is when this Silicon Valley mom decided to become a mompreneur and educate herself through online learning.

“I started making cakes for events.  I love creating sculpted cakes. It’s an art form for me. The kids go crazy for it when they see the cake come out. They love it. I love the reward of seeing kids’ and adults’ faces. They’re so wowed by it. It’s fun to see their reactions,” Tami said.

online learning train cake mompreneur startup

Tami made this train cake for a boy who was turning five years old.

“I also like the fun of trying to figure it out. Most of the time I’m creating something I’ve never done before. I have to Google the theme or go on Pinterest to see how other people have done it. Pinterest is my usual go-to place for ideas and online learning. Sometimes I find helpful DIY videos and tips,” Tami said.

“But doing cakes was hard with the kids. It was too hard to do baking and decorating with kids who need constant attention. They were always trying to sneak a lick of frosting or stick their fingers in the cake. It was too hard to juggle a cake business with kids that age,” Tami said.

online learning flea market

Tami Shidawara-Vazquez (left), pictured here with her friend, Violeta Sy (right) at the DeAnza Flea Market in 2013.

Tami started looking for other things she could do. That’s when her friend, Violeta Syintroduced her to shabby chic.

“Violeta was thinking we could do the flea market together. I started painting furniture and some wall decor. We went to DeAnza Flea Market together to see if our stuff would sell. She did really good. I did ok. It was a fun experience. I met some people who really encouraged me. I got some really good feedback from customers. It made me want to keep going and learn new stuff and try new techniques. It worked out and I started doing more and more pieces,” Tami said.

painting online learning kids toolbox helmet safety Restoration Illumination

Tami’s oldest son practicing safety-first with his bike helmet on.

The first project she did was an old wood toolbox that her boys did with her. Tami picked up this toolbox at a garage sale. They sanded it and stained it. Then they planted succulents in it. Ricardo was five and Mateo was three when Tami kicked off her wood restoration business with this first project.

handmade toolbox succulents online learning painting gardening children projects

This handmade toolbox is one of the first wood painting projects Tami did with the boys.

Tami chose Restoration Illumination as the name of her business because she wanted to restore things and give them a new life. “Restoration” is a means of giving an old item a new life. “Illumination” is a way of seeing things in a new light. She also liked that the name rhymed. Check out some of her pieces on Instagram at Restoration Illumination.

Tami liked the idea of starting a business where her boys could get involved. online learning painting kids boys family business

Tami liked the idea of starting a business where her boys could get involved.

Online learning opened up a whole new world for this former FedEx manager. She taught herself how to do shabby chic by watching YouTube videos and clicking through Pinterest links. By following along, she learned the techniques. From there she discovered farmhouse style, French Cottage, industrial, Funky Junk, and Trash to Treasure.

Online learning offers the flexibility that this mompreneur needed to gain the skills to build her business. As she was learning new techniques, she taught her boys the basics along the way.

boys painting helping work family business mompreneur online learning fun kids activities summer

The boys are always eager to help out. Tami loves watching them paint even when she has to redo their work.

“I have a home workshop. I started working in my back yard with just a couple projects. As I started getting more projects in, I started using the carport. I took over the carport and then as I added on even more projects and the work started coming in more, I took over one part of the garage. Then as it grew even more we built a little overhang. It’s been three years now. I’ve taken over the whole back yard,” Tami said.

boys power tools safety adult supervision family business

“My boys love any chance they get to use power tools. They know that safety is first. They can’t just play with them. They know that they’re actual tools and they can’t use them unless an adult is with them,” Tami said.

In addition to learning from YouTube videos and how-to articles, Tami also learns from shows on HGTV, DIYNetwork, and Great American Country.

Restoration-Illumination-Tami-Vazquez-Family-momprenuer-Bonding-chair-thankful-love-home-business-online-learning

“My older son enjoyed prepping and sanding this vintage chair for restoration. This was one of our earlier projects,” Tami said.

Tami is a big fan of Joanna Gaines, the “Magnolia Mom,” and host of HGTV‘s Fixer Upper show. This is one of Tami’s favorite shows for online learning.

“I’m inspired by Joanna’s down-to-earth personality and style. She renovates homes that others wouldn’t want and helps them to see the potential in it. They’re low-key and fun to watch. I love how when she’s staging, the kids come over and they have dinner together. I love how she involves her kids and makes time for family,” Tami said.

Tami is also a fan of Flea Market Flip, a competition where two teams have $500 to spend at a flea market. They have three projects that they have to do and one day to complete all three projects. Whoever has the most profit in the end wins $5,000.

“I love seeing what the teams come up with. They have a list of projects to do. I like seeing what they pick and how they turn it into something very unique or something with a new purpose. I like seeing the whole thought process of what they do,” Tami said.

boys flea market fun online learning painting selling furniture

Tami’s boys like going with her to the flea market because they get to find something fun for themselves, like Pokémon cards or Legos.

Salvage Dawgs is another one of Tami’s favorite shows.

“They go into old historic buildings that are being torn down. They get to go into a building and save pieces from inside before it’s demolished. They’re saving history and repurposing it. They find a lot of great stuff, a lot of architectural salvage. They usually show one project they’re working on and how they repurposed it for their shop,” Tami said.

“I watch shows after the kids go to sleep or when they’re at school. Or I watch after dinner is done and the homework is done. The boys get bored with the shows. They prefer to watch cartoons or play video games,” Instead of watching TV, I like to do things with them outside, things they can get involved with. Gardening is one activity that they do at school and we do at home. They were interested in planting a garden. They picked out some plants from Los Altos Nursery,” I like the gardening. It’s an activity plus it gives them a sense of pride that they’ve picked it out, they care for it and they get to watch it grow. It also gives them the responsibility to keep checking on the plants,” Tami said.

“The reason I started this business was because I wanted to take care of the kids and be with them at home. When I’m at home and working outside, the kids can be playing outside or they can be helping me out and I can still watch them while I’m working,”  Tami said.

jug repurposing boys garden gardening online learning

The boys love using their repurposed milk jug to water the garden they planted in their back yard.

“I started selling on Craigslist. As people came to buy things like a dresser, I would ask them if they needed anything else for other parts of their house. I got people interested in doing more work just by asking. Then I’d get referrals from them and it grew from there,” Tami said.

Most of Tami’s repeat customers are people who purchased one item from her and turned to her for help in finding more pieces. Tami especially enjoys working with these clients and shopping for them, finding the perfect piece. She likes working with customers who want to do an entire room in a new theme.

“Now Ricardo is helping more. He’s seven. When Mateo helps out, it’s more for fun and I usually have to redo it. He just turned six. Ricardo is getting to the point where I can use his work. He does signs and distressing. He’s good with banging up wood and distressing with hammers and chains. He’s good at it and he likes to do it,” Tami said.

“Sometimes they’re eager to help out and surprise me. I’m just afraid one day I’m going to come in the house and find out that they distressed all the furniture with hammer and chains,” Tami said.

online learning lettering Restoration Illumination mompreneur

Tami is especially excited when customers think it’s an authentic piece, but it’s something she just painted.

“You can learn a lot on YouTube! I love what I do. I can easily work twelve to fifteen hours a day,” she said.

Today, Tami considers herself a junker who loves shabby chic and French Cottage design. She also likes farmhouse style, especially for kitchens. She enjoys creating decorations that pull everything together.

If you’re interested in seeing some of Tami’s repurposing projects, check out:

9 Ideas to Repurpose Junk Into Treasure

“If you’re a working mom looking for a way to spend more time with your kids, I would definitely say to do something that you’re passionate about. That makes it really easy to love your work. If you need more skills, online learning is a great resource and a lot of it is free. It’s easily accessible, right at your fingertips. Even my boys use online learning for school to learn reading, spelling and math. If it’s something your kids can do with you, you can get them involved and use it as a bonding experience. It’s a chance to help them learn new skills. The more you can get them involved, the more time you get with them, and maybe you can even start a family business. The main thing is to just do what you love and try to keep the kids involved. But don’t get so wrapped up in your work that you’re not present with them. You need to be there not just physically, but for their needs as well. If they ask for help with homework or they want to show you something they did at school that they’re excited about, don’t put it off.  Make time to be there for them when they need it,” Tami said.

RestorationIlluminationLogo

Kids’ laundry piling up? Wash clothes with love and logic.

By | clothing & accessories, laundry, parenting | No Comments

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by laundry or other household chores?

Yes?

Me too.

In 2000, I married my soulmate, a widower with five children between the ages of 8 and 16. My newlywed and I went on a two-week honeymoon.

Family and friends stayed with the kids as they went on about their daily routine of going to school, playing soccer, doing homework, taking baths and showers, and doing all the normal things that kids do to turn clean clothes into laundry.

When we returned, I remember seeing laundry everywhere. Tops and bottoms were garnishing the edges of the bedroom floors. Clothes and shoes were tangled on the floors in closets. Towels, socks and underwear were on the floor in the bathrooms. Jackets were draped over couches and chairs. Socks were stuffed between couch cushions.

A day or two later, I asked the three youngest kids (who were home at the time) to go around the house and collect all the clothes, socks, underwear, and towels and bring them to the family room. I’ll never forget that scene. With all the stuff collected from around the house, plus the laundry my newlywed and I accumulated before and during our trip, I was faced with the biggest pile of laundry I’d ever encountered.

The pile was several feet wide and several feet deep. I had never seen anything like it. I was sure that this equated to many hours of washing, drying, sorting, folding and distributing everything back to the right closets and drawers.

most-memorable-days-dirtiest-clothesMy husband didn’t know how to operate a washer or dryer. At that moment, I had a glimpse of what I had gotten myself into. I didn’t panic. I went into problem-solving mode.

I had several years of teaching experience so my teacher gears were spinning. I also had experience with construction project management, so I felt confident I could handle this lightweight crew.

Step 1: Get everyone excited and engaged. As I expected, they were open to playing along.

Step 2: Get everyone to help divide and conquer: jeans pile, dark pile, white pile, and so on.

They threw clothes at each other, sometimes aiming at the right piles. They made faces and said things like, “eww, stinky” while displaying a pair of underwear or socks. It was totally fun and entertaining. I fell in love with the kids. It was the beginning of the parenting honeymoon. From this moment on, our lives were never the same.

Step 3: Teach everyone how to add detergent and choose the right water temperature based on the colors.

Step 4: Patiently wait for wash load #1 to do its thing.

Step 5: Teach everyone how to use the dryer.

Step 6: Do it again and again and again and again . . .

This, as it turned out, would be just one of the many initiations I faced as I dove into the deep end of the parenting pool.

Some moms prefer to do their kids’ laundry for many years, into their teens and beyond. Others lean more toward empowering kids with know-how.

These opposing styles represent two sides of a broad and colorful parenting spectrum. One end fosters dependence and control while the other cultivates independence and freedom.

A simple chore, like how you handle laundry in your household, reveals a lot about your personality and values.

Although I hadn’t yet read their books, I would soon learn that my parenting style was in line with the principles taught by the Love and Logic Institute. I’m so thankful for Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay. Their words would later calm my nerves at times when I felt tested.

Years later, I can now look back and smile knowing that all the kids know how to do laundry and much, much more.

14 Marriage jokes to liven up your anniversary

By | love, parenting, spouses | One Comment

Everyone should get married at some time. After all, happiness isn’t the only thing in life. TensionNot

One of the reasons my husband and I decided to get married on a holiday weekend was to ensure that we’d always have the opportunity to get away for our anniversaries. This year my husband and I spent out 14th anniversary in Maui. What does a blogger want to do on her anniversary? Interview her husband, of course.

Lorraine and Bob celebrating 14th anniversary in Maui

Lorraine and Bob celebrating 14th anniversary in Maui

So as we sipped our fresh fruit smoothies before heading to the beach for the day, I asked my husband to help me brainstorm 14 tips for a happy marriage. I figured we should have learned at least one valuable lesson for each year of marriage. It didn’t take us long at all to come up with the following ideas:

1. Love may be blind but marriage is a real eye-opener. Anonymous

When you date someone for months or even years, it’s easy to get a false sense of security that you really know him or her. Most people are somewhat flexible when it comes to dating and courting. But inevitably, a new set of expectations kicks in when once you’re married. Based on culture and family history, people enter marriage with fixed notions of what they want from their life partner.

Try to have as much fun as possible as you iron out your differing assumptions and intentions. Look for opportunities to do things together that you both enjoy doing. Maintaining a strong marriage is a lifelong process.

2. Successful partners have a perfect understanding: he won’t try to run her life, and he won’t try to run his either. Anonymous

“Selfishness is one of the keys to failure,” my husband says. Keep prioritized lists of ways to please your spouse. For some, this is automatic. You probably already know your spouse’s favorite foods or hobbies, but other things may not be so obvious. If your spouse is going through a difficult time, you can ask, “What are several things I can do for you to help make this week easier for you?” The response may surprise you. It’s all about Love & Respect.

You can use this same list strategy for fun times. When you’re going on vacation together, you can ask, “What 3-5 things are most important for you on this trip?” When you approach marriage with a “me second” attitude, you’re much more likely to be rewarded with a fulfilling marriage. My husband said he liked this joke: “My wife and I agreed that I’d make all the big decisions and she’d make all the little decisions. In all these years, there just haven’t been any big decisions.”

3. When a girl marries, she exchanges the attentions of many men for the inattention of one. Helen Rowland

Find ways to do something together even if it means that you take breaks to do things that interest you. There’s a balance of doing things together while inserting extra activities along the way. My husband likes snorkeling, so we both have a good day when we go to a beach where he can snorkel while I read, walk, socialize or take pictures.

My husband sometimes likes watching (and napping through) golf or football on Sunday afternoons, but that doesn’t stop us from spending the afternoon together. I don’t mind golf in the background, except for all the annoying viagra and drug commercials. But when he watches football, he wears a headset while I write or do something else.

KingCartoon27173anniversary

4. Marriage is like having cable with one channel. Nathanel Stroman

People are naturally habitual. Some routines are good, but some aren’t. Take the time to label your good and bad routines and discuss the ones where you don’t agree. Find ways to weed out bad relationship habits or routines. Stay out of daily, weekly, monthly and annual ruts. Some people go the same place for holidays or vacation year after year, without taking advantage of how refreshing it can be to do something new.

Go someplace that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. Visit family members you haven’t seen for a while or go to a foreign country. When you go out and explore new places together, you have to rely on each other. It puts a new aspect on partnering when you team up through new experiences.

5. The honeymoon is over when he phones to say he’ll be late for supper and she’s already left a note that it’s in the refrigerator. Bill Lawrence

My husband was a widower with five children. We got married on Labor Day weekend. Little did I know at that time how appropriate that date was for a woman diving into an instant family! But it surprised me when my husband insisted that we continue dating at least one evening a week, even after we got married. He believed in the importance of date nights with just the two of us.

Although I didn’t think it would be possible with children, he taught me that it was especially important when you have children. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going out for a Saturday night dinner or a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. The important thing is to take some time where just the two of you can chat and catch up without the distractions of housekeeping, grocery shopping, preparing meals or caring for children. When you take time out for regular romantic interludes, it allows you to flush out small issues before they build up to big blowouts.

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6. We always hold hands. If I let go, she shops. Henny Youngman

When you’re married, you’ll inevitably experience a roller coaster of emotions at different times. You may hurt your spouse or vice versa. But it’s important to let things go. This also means that you don’t overthink who makes more money, who does more cooking, or who does more or less of anything on any given day. As a couple, you have one bank account and you’re both responsible for making sure the finances balance at the end of each month.

Together you’re responsible for taking care of all the time-consuming details it takes to manage a family. How you spend your time and money says a lot, so it’s important to have an open checkbook and calendar so you each know how you’re spending your most important assets. “Awareness is good, but don’t keep score,” my husband says. Stay focused on the bigger picture.

7. I think we explored the further reaches of “for better or for worse.” Mary Archer

Children add both pleasure and stress to marriage. In a family situation, it’s critical to be united. When children are involved, it’s vital to discuss how you want to handle child-rearing and discipline. Don’t argue in front of your children or other family members. Work out your disagreements one-on-one whenever necessary.

It’s totally ok to have open discussions where everyone can voice their concerns and opinions, but once a decision is made, it’s important that at least one parent take the lead to see it through. This is part of being a team. This isn’t necessary for every little decision, but it can be important on bigger decisions where family members have conflicting views.

8. Husband: One who stands by you in troubles you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t married him. Anonymous

Differing values are pushed onto relationships through family traditions and culture, but you don’t have to succumb to them in your home. This can be especially challenging with blended families where children are exposed to different households with conflicting house rules. And it can become intensified as kids are sorting through their own values through their teen years.

Look for ways to blend, support and even restrain differing values. It has always been important to me that the children eat real foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. But I had to learn to let this go during holiday time with family members who have different standards.

Go Away! And other good advice parents should give kids

It’s actually beneficial for kids to be exposed to different values, traditions, cultures and lifestyles. It helps them learn from a young age that they have the freedom to decide how they want to manage their own lives after they move out.

9. The only thing worse than a husband who never notices what you cook or what you wear is a husband who always notices what you cook and what you wear. Sandra Litoff

SchwadronCartoonWifeStud

When everything about your marriage feels too predictable, it can become boring. Avoid getting into comfort zone ruts or bad habits that cause stagnation. Try new things together. Another great way to break up your routine is to travel. When you get away from home, you’re automatically forced into new circumstances that allow you to try new things. Be daring together. Try new foods, buy youthful outfits, go skinny dipping, do something that surprises your spouse in a fun way.

10. My husband said he needed more space . . . so I locked him outside. Rosanne Barr

Going out with the guys or having a ladies night out is ok in moderation. but it’s more important to do stuff together. Sitting on the couch together is nice, but if that’s all you do night after night, you’ll turn into couch potatoes . Ever since I’ve known my husband, he has been been finding ways for us to try new things together to create memories. “You have to plan for them. They don’t just happen automatically,” he says. Sometimes it may just be the two of you together, but it’s equally important to mix it up by doing things with friends and family.

11. Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution? M.L. Mencken

If you enjoy spending most of your non-working hours with your spouse, then you likely to have a strong marriage. If you don’t want to spend time together, it’s critical to figure out why and work through the issues. If either partner feels trapped or confined, both will suffer. It’s much easier to have a happy marriage when you’re married to your best friend.

12. Before marriage, a man will go home and lie awake all night thinking about something you said; after marriage, he’ll go to sleep before you finish saying it. Helen Rowland

Opposites attract. When couples fall in love, it’s sometimes despite the innate characteristics of their partner . . . the things that make them tick. These are the things that can make or break a marriage. Do you know your spouses’s love language? My sister, Jan, is passionate about art and her husband, Periklis, is passionate about flying. They’ve always been supportive of each other pursuing their dreams, despite their differences and fears:

How an artist leverages her passion to suppress fear

Supporting each other in pursuit of your passions sometimes involves short-term sacrifices as you work toward living out your dreams. Always listen to the voice deep inside you. It will guide you to your true north. And encourage your spouse to do the same. It may mean you need to temporarily set aside some fears or short-term desires in order to reach larger goals, but in the end, you’ll both be much happier.

13. I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. Rita Rudner

Take the time to look over your marriage and think about your last several months or years. It’s much easier to laugh at the difficult situations after time has passed. Cherish the challenging times as opportunities that allowed you to learn more about each other. Reflect on the best experiences you’ve had with your spouse.

Find ways to create more positive memories while avoiding the not-so-good experiences in the future. Keep your mind on the good times and positive things that have happened over the years. Practice The 4:8 Principle.

14. The secret to a happy marriage is a secret. Henny Youngman

Make a conscious effort to discover your spouse’s hot points and what they need to feel loved. Some people need words of encouragement while others need a lot of touch. It can take years or even decades for couples to really understand each other. Some people are too embarrassed, shy or afraid to share their true feelings. Some people remain pent-up for years or even decades.

If you can learn to communicate fully and truthfully, you’ll have a much better chance at understanding each other’s deepest feelings and moving to new levels of trust. This can help you unlock ways to resolve your differences. Explore new ways to enjoy your sex life. If you’re happy in bed, you’re more likely to be happy everywhere else.

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I enjoyed pulling together this list with my husband. It was a fun exercise that gave us an opportunity to reminisce and laugh. Together, we came up with more than 14 ideas, jokes and quotes in less than an hour. I hope these marriage jokes help to liven up your anniversary.

Later in the day I asked my husband if he would tell me the 14 things I do that annoy him the most and I would do the same for him. But he said he wasn’t in the mood for playing that game.

If you have something you’d like to add to the list, please leave a comment. There’s no such thing as a marriage that’s too good!

Why you ought to squat a lot: 7 benefits of squat toilets

By | home, Natural Remedies, parenting | 4 Comments

Did you realize that squat toilets are the norm for the majority of people throughout the world? If you grew up using a Western toilet, you might find this surprising but . . . squatting is the natural position for better elimination.

split pants baby squattingIn China, babies are allowed to follow their instinct and squat when they need to go. Although they usually wear diapers for the first few months, they’re quickly weaned off diapers and clothed into crotchless pants that make it easy for them to go when they need to.

When a child is outdoors, the caretaker usually tries to get the child to go on the nearest tree or landscaped area, sometimes holding him or her from their knees in a hanging squat position until the child is finished.

When an adult sees a toddler going down into the squatting position, it’s obvious that the child is getting ready to go. I remember many times, when living in China, seeing babies and toddlers stopping in their tracks and stooping to squat. The parent or caretaker, and everyone else around, knows exactly what’s coming!

America is the land of dog and cat lovers. It’s socially acceptable for animals to pee or poo near trees or grassy areas, but many Western travelers sneer when they see human babies doing the same.

The health benefit for the child is that their bottom isn’t soaking in their pee or poo in their diaper. It’s all wiped away immediately, just as adults do for themselves. Some Asians view diapering as a dirty and unhealthy practice. Which is more important? The cleanliness of the sidewalk area or the cleanliness of the baby’s bottom? Your culture has taught you the “right” answer.

Warning: Old People and Frogs May Trigger Culture Shock

Before you cringe about hygiene, keep in mind that dogs, cats, birds, and nearly all other living creatures defecate in their natural settings. They don’t have indoor plumbing. In all cases (whether animals or humans), it’s best if the excrement is collected and disposed of properly, especially in highly populated areas.

Did you hear the joke about the toilet? Never mind, it’s too dirty. Great Clean Jokes

man pooping in a squat toiletBefore I traveled to China, I didn’t know much about squat toilets, but within a few weeks of living there, I noticed the benefits of squatting. Not only did it feel more natural, I also gained more strength in my calves and thighs from squatting several times throughout the day.

Consider the following seven health benefits of squatting:

  1. In general, squat toilets are more sanitary than Western toilets because your body doesn’t need to touch any of the toilet parts. Passport and a Toothbrush
  2. Squatting is the natural position for elimination. It positions your muscles in a more ready position for elimination. Wellness Mama
  3. Squatting helps to alleviate hemorrhoids. Lillipad
  4. According to Dr. Oz, constipation is the #1 gastrointestinal complaint in the US and, in rare cases, can even be fatal. Squatting is a natural treatment for constipation. Squatty Potty
  5. Squatting allows you to better empty your bowels which reduces your chances of irritable bowel syndrome, appendicitus and fecal stagnation which can lead to colon cancer. Nature’s Platform
  6. Squatting when you eliminate may help prevent numerous health issues caused by western toilets such as: bladder incontinence, diverticulosis, endometriosis, GERD, heart attacks, hiatus hernia, hysterectomy, pregnancy and childbirth issues, prostate disorders, sexual dysfunction, uterine fibroids and much more. Adam Huber
  7. Squatting helps to increase your flexibility in your ankles, calves and thighs. It can help you maintain balance. This is especially helpful as you age. Squatters tend to have better health throughout their lives and are therefore less likely to be as needy in their later years.

If four out of five Westerners suffer from one of these Western-toilet related ailments, does that mean that one enjoys it? Porcelain Poetry

Are you pooping wrong? 

Some experts believe the western toilet was one of the worst inventions in modern times, as detrimental to people’s health as cars. Just as cars have taken away people’s need to walk when they want to go somewhere, Western toilets have taken away people’s natural tendency to squat when they need to go. If you believe it’s more “civilized” to sit on a toilet, sit in a car, sit at work all day, and sit on the couch in the evening, you must also conclude that it’s more “civilized” to have more health issues. Real Constipation Remedies

When I moved to China I found it fascinating to see people relaxing in the streets or in the subways in the squat position. Interestingly enough, while I lived in China it quickly became a comfortable and relaxing position for me as well.

men in Asia squatting

When you feel the urge to go, try to go soon. If you make a habit of going in the squat position when nature calls, you do yourself a big favor. Holding it puts extra stress on your bowels, your stomach, and your digestion system. Squatting allows for a full release.

“But where do I put my feet?” Here are some basics on how to use a squat toilet:

Don’t assume that a Western toilet, or “porcelain throne” is better just because you’re accustomed to it.

If you have a Western toilet at home, consider purchasing a platform that allows you to squat. It relaxes the muscles in your back and throughout your body making it easier for you to release fecal matter.

If you’ve never tried squatting, you can work your way up to it by using higher and higher footstools near your toilet. You can also practice extra squats throughout the day. Over time your flexibility will increase.

Your Best Excuse for Not Going to the Gym

You don’t have to go to a gym to work out. If you squat each time you go to the bathroom, you can work on increasing your strength and flexibility multiple times a day wherever you are.

Trainers recommend that you breathe out as you squat down and breathe in as you stand back up. This may be something helpful to think about as you’re practicing squats. Squatting improves the flexibility in your legs and back, and it also helps to maintain your core strength. If you can already squat down and balance on your feet for several minutes, you’re probably in fairly good shape.

If you aren’t flexible enough to squat yet, begin incorporating squats into your daily routine. Practice squats throughout the day when you’re doing household chores, gardening, or reaching for things on low shelves. With practice, you can increase your strength and flexibility.

11 Equipment Essentials for Easy Everyday Exercises

If you’re interested in purchasing some type of device to help you get started at home, begin by using a stool to prop up your feet in front of your toilet or purchase a toilet adapter from the Squatty Potty (7″ or 9″ foot elevation) if you’re a beginner, the Lillipad (12.75″ and 15″ foot elevation) once you’ve developed some flexibility, or Nature’s Platform (adjustable to the height of your toilet) when you’ve achieved maximum flexibility.

The next time I remodel, build, or buy a home, I definitely want to have at least one squat toilet. In the meantime, I’ll keep lifting the toilet seat to squat on western thrones. Always lift toilet seats when squatting because they often shift when you put all your weight on them.

squatting

Once you increase your strength and flexibility, you can practice squatting on Western toilets when you’re away from home. When you’re using Western toilets in public restrooms, choose handicapped stalls whenever possible because they have handle bars to hang on to. This helps to make it a little safer.

Although I have more I’d like to share with you, I really need to go . . .

toilet hackers org logo

WARNING: Old people and frogs may trigger culture shock

By | GO, longevity, love, parenting | 3 Comments
Eric Chen Lorraine Wei Eddie Toastmasters

Lorraine with Naigui Chen (wearing a tie)

When I first met Naigui Chen in China, he introduced himself to me with his English name, Eric. I was immediately impressed with his fluency in English, but even more so with his hospitality and kindness.

My husband and I had recently moved to Shenzhen and decided to join the nearest English-speaking Toastmasters club. Eric happened to be the president of this club, Eloquence of the Elites (EOE). My husband and I became good friends with Chen and many others in the club.

At the end of summer 2013, my husband and I moved back to the US and, coincidently, Chen moved to Indianapolis for the MBA program at Kelley School of Business.

A few days ago, I received this note from Chen . . .

Hi Lorraine, I went to a nursing home to help move someone to a different facility because his health is deteriorating. It was the first time I saw such a thing as nursing homes. It’s so sad. On the way back home in the car, I cried my heart out. And then I thought about the Chinese belief of children taking care of their old parents is a good thing. It’s such an emotional time for me. I don’t think I will ever forget it. I thought I might share this special experience with you.

Thank you so much for sharing this story with me Chen. It means a lot to me! It’s the American way. Many people have compartmentalized lives. Can you please tell me more about your experience?

old people

Absolutely. My friend is a hospice consultant and I went to help him move a patient from a nursing home to an assisted living community for Alzheimer patients. What really shocked me was the dining room full of patients, people at the end of their lives, away from their children and taken care of by staff. In China we don’t have many of these. The children are supposed to take care of their parents no matter what happens. Although nursing homes are starting to appear in China, most people don’t send their parents to those places because of the social stigma. Seeing all these patients was just too strong an emotional impact for me. The good news is when we got back today, there were volunteers coming in to teach songs. Music made most of the time a little more tolerable for me.

When I heard Chen’s reaction to American culture, I immediately thought about the Boiling Frog Syndrome.

If frogs can be content in hot water, can seniors be content in retirement homes, apart from their families? Turns out that many seniors in retirement homes are happy as long as they feel connected to other people, regardless of whether or not they’re family. Pets and even social media sites such as Facebook also provide a satisfying sense of connection. AARP

Another factor that affects happiness in old age is a person’s perception. People who are happier in their younger years are likely to become even happier as they age. People who are irritable in their younger years are more likely to become grumpy old people. The same applies to health. People who are lively or athletic at a younger age tend to be healthier as they age. Our characteristics tend to become more exaggerated over time. Wouldn’t it be it great to know now How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free?

One of the things I like most about Chinese culture is the sense of community. In the daytime, you see the elderly pushing their grandchildren in strollers. They park the buggies and congregate in parks to talk with friends as the toddlers play. As the kids get older, you see grandparents waiting for their grandkids outside schools at the end of the school day.

Go Away! And Other Good Advice Parents Should Give Kids

In the subways you see all ages, young and old, moving about together to their next destination. These grandparents aren’t in wheelchairs. They stay active because they have purpose. Many of them also do the shopping and prepare meals for three generations. This aspect of Chinese culture, some gerentologists say, is one of the reasons why Hong Kong (with similar traditions) touts the greatest percentage of centenarians in the world. China Daily

In the evenings you see the elderly dancing in the parks or walking arm in arm with their spouses or adult children. It’s common to see an old person hanging on to their adult child for support, but very rare to see anyone in a wheelchair.

Since returning to the US, this sense of community and connectedness is one of the things I miss most about Chinese culture. Although I wasn’t anyone’s child, parent or grandparent there, the people in my neighborhood who recognized me would smile at me every day, acknowledging my presence. I really like that about them.

But it was also shocking to me that Chinese women my age would choose to live with their in-laws and/or adult children and derail their careers while their husbands had the opportunity to advance in their jobs and, in some cases rumor has it, have affairs with younger women.

The Chinese ladies I befriended would twist their arms around mine when we walked together. And both males and female friends rub shoulders while eating a meal or talking together. Even as a foreigner with very limited language skills, I felt closely connected to many of my Chinese friends physically, mentally and even spiritually. Humans are humans in every race. I didn’t expect it, but the end of our going away party when we said goodbye to some of our closest Chinese friends, several of us fought back tears.

If you move a native Chinese senior to an American nursing home, he might fall into deep depression. Or if you told an American senior that she was responsible for taking care of her grandchildren and cooking for her adult children every day, she may feel cheated out of her restful retirement years. It all depends on the person and his or her expectations. You’re Only Old Once, so you might as well make the most of it.

Chen is an especially kind and sensitive man. I’m sure the elderly man sincerely appreciated Chen’s help with his move. If Chen were to ever to lead a retirement home in the US or China, it would be a wonderful place to live. Chen would make sure of that. I saw his leadership skills in action in one of the best Toastmasters clubs I’ve ever been involved with in the past decade. He has the good nature and wisdom to influence the people around him to bring out the best in everyone.

frog cartoonCulture brainwashes us to expect people around us to act a certain “normal” way. When we travel to other cultures, we see people acting “abnormally.” Sometimes it seems a little strange. Other times it’s so disgusting or delightful, so appalling or appealing that it causes us to experience culture shock. Ironically, you can find micro-cultures of people, even within your own country, who aren’t doing things the way you think they should.

Many people live like frogs in hot pots, on the edge of boiling point, knowing that something isn’t quite right, but too stifled by cultural or family pressures to do anything about it. They don’t care enough to take action until it’s too late.

You may not be able to change your culture or family, but I urge you to create happiness in your life sooner than later. Check your temperature.

Meditation: The Answer to All Your Problems

What’s the one thing you need to do now to create more happiness in your life?

 AARP logo - The power to make it better.

 

 

 

It doesn’t take a PhD to see that DOE deserves a D in education

By | education, Movies, NONPROFITS, parenting | One Comment

USDOE logoDear Mr. President,

I know you’re very busy trying to fix the deficit, the economy, the NSA and the ObamaCare website, but every good dad should have a few minutes to take a look at his kid’s report card. There’s something else you need to fix. Your child, Doe, isn’t doing very well in school. Here’s DOE’s report card.

Math & Science Scores – C

Among other countries, the US ranks 31st in math and 23rd in science. Students FirstThis puts US students in the “middle of the pack,” about the equivalent of a C. Huffington Post. This average score, however, has nothing to do with the number of qualified math teachers. They always multiply. PunOfTheDay 

School Lunches – F

Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years. CDC. When kids walk through hallways to go to another class or to go eat their Monsanto lunch, they pass by vending machines filled with junk food. Huffington Post. Most people believe that school lunches play a big part in contributing to childhood obesity and that schools have a big influence on what kids eat. FreshBites. Overweight kids are more likely to face health issues that will shorten their lives and they add economic burden to all citizens. Some students are so fat, they can’t even jump to conclusions. JustOneLinersFood Matters!

Physical Education – D

Only six states require physical education classes. As school budgets have been tightening their belts, students have been letting theirs out. Physical education and other elective classes such as nutrition and health have been cut. This is further exacerbating the obesity issue. SPARK. Some young moms are so out of shape that they have trouble pulling shopping carts apart. AgelessFx

Graduation Rate – F

According to the OECD, the United States has a 76% graduation rate. The No Child Left Behind plan failed. The White House. Of the OECD countries, 20 of the 34 are doing better in providing a basic education to their citizens. I wasn’t a math major, but I think this means that the US ranks around 38%, equivalent to an F. We need more teachers like Erin Gruwell, who rallied up students to be Freedom Writers. Recently, a group of dropouts gathered at the front of a movie theatre for a noon matinee on a school day. They were all texting and one by one more kept showing up. As the crowd grew to more than a dozen teens, the manager stepped outside to ask what they were doing. One young man with oversize droopy pants spoke up said they were still waiting on a few more friends since the sign said that 17 and under were not admitted. Jeff Foxworthy

SAT & ACT Scores – D

Maybe students aren’t interested in studying at school and they’re picking up their reading and writing skills on social networking sites? Maybe not. SAT and ACT scores are generally on a downward trend. The Unsilenced Science. The DOE needs to invest more in high-tech teaching tools and less on high-tech security equipment, then these scores would be rising, not falling. “Our bombs are smarter than the average high school student. At least they can find Kuwait,” says A. Whitney Brown.

Teachers – D

Teacher job satisfaction is the lowest it has been in 25 years. If the teachers aren’t happy teaching, then students won’t be happy learners. Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, says, “Teacher job satisfaction will continue to free fall as long as school budgets are slashed.” Huffington Post. Do we need more money or do we need more teachers like Jaime Escalante who are willing to Stand and Deliver?

Spending – D

If you’re thinking that we need to spend more money to solve the problem, consider this. The US already spends more on education than any other participating OECD country. NEA TodayIf I were a business consultant and found out that a company was spending more than any of their competitors to deliver their service, and customers and employees were unsatisfied, I’d give them a D with a warning that they better start doing their homework before they go out of business.

Schools – D

The education system is needs fixin’. It’s going to take a superhero to take care of all these issues! Fortunately, there are some superheros among us. Some kids have the good fortune of getting into KIPP schools. But we need more superheroes like SuperMike and SuperDave KIPPsters to figure out how to get all kids into successful schools. Watch Waiting for Superman free on Vimeo to see how KIPP schools have overcome these issues and found a way to successfully prepare their students for college. Check out the trailer. . .

By bringing Monsanto executives into your administration, you’ve been quite successful at destroying America’s food system and the health of American people. Occupy Monsanto. This leadership thing really seems to do the trick. By the way, was the tree in the DOE logo genetically modified too?

Stand Up For Kids“My school was so tough, the school newspaper had an obituary section,” says Norm CrosbyTake a look inside one of the country’s most dangerous schools on this ABC News report. “If you know any teenagers in prison, send them some candy to help them break out.” Jill Perlow

Today’s kids are generally worse off than their parents, mentally, physically and financially. I’m writing on behalf of all the kids who are suffering, getting left behind, sleeping in the streetsgetting locked up and dying for help. The kids are Waiting for Superman! Can you please hire some KIPP-like leaders to head up the DOE so that they can help all our young does and John Does succeed? Please call immediately to schedule a parent-teacher conference.

Go Away! And other good advice parents should give kids

KIPP Work hard. Be nice.

This CAR game will drive you crazy

By | parenting, transportation | 6 Comments

The Covert Auto Racket (CAR) is a game patented by the government. They use your tax dollars to build, maintain and police the playing board (the roads). They also write the rules. Big corporations market the game, sell the pieces and set the costs on all the stuff you need in order to play.

car crashCAR is a game of solitaire, but you do compete with all the other players and objects on the road. The purpose of the game is to navigate your motorized vehicle without bumping into anything. It sounds fairly simple, but it’s a costly and risky game. Wired

The CAR game creates the illusion of freedom. Players feel like they can go anywhere they want. They quickly become addicted and start to believe they can’t do without a car.

Many parents teach their kids to play the CAR game, seeing it as a necessary step in helping teens transition to self-reliance. This complex game was carefully crafted so that even parents wouldn’t realize that the game actually fosters dependence on vehicles, big corporations and the government.

In order to play the CAR game, you must first pay for the following: driver’s license, car, license plate, title fees, inspection fees and insurance. Even after you have all the basics, keep in mind that you’ll need to continue paying for things indefinitely: insurance, gas, maintenance, repairs, parking fees, parking permits, tolls, annual license plate registration stickers, monthly payments, and loan fees if you borrowed money. And of course there are additional taxes and other hidden costs.

You may be involved in an accident or your car may break down at any time. Any player can shop around for estimates on repairs. But only players with good driving records should bother to shop around for better rates on insurance. And players need good credit to shop around for better rates on car loans. No players, however, can control the rising cost of gas.

Players must yield to all the rules or they risk incurring additional expenses such as parking tickets, towing fees, speeding tickets, attorney expenses, court fees, insurance increases and even lawsuits or imprisonment if they do something really stupid like driving while intoxicated or intexticated.

One time a cop pulled me over for running a stop sign.

“Didn’t you see the stop sign?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, “but I don’t believe everything I read.” Steven Wright

Speed limits are posted on roads and you’re supposed to obey them. You can go faster, but you risk getting a speeding ticket. New speed-trap technologies are helping to increase revenues for local jurisdictions who have ticket quotas to help compensate for their tightening budgets. Players can cheat by slowing down in known speed trap areas.

Freeways are places where players are free to toss their fast food trash out their windows while they’re on their way. These free-to-litter-ways are expensive to build and maintain. Taxes cover the cost of the government employees who build and maintain them and the prisoners who clean up the garbage. Most players don’t feel bad about this, however, because they know their tax dollars are paying for the prisoners‘ meals and housing. They seem to qualify for more benefits than the working poor.

Years ago, some players got annoyed with the amount of litter on the freeways. In 1984, James R. “Bobby” Evans came up with the brilliant idea of getting people to volunteer to clean up after their lazy neighbors. For this, the Adopt a Highway program gives companies or organizations a discrete sign to advertise the fact that they have volunteered to be the garbage collector for this stretch of the road. If the road looks bad, it’s now the fault of that company whose volunteers are slacking.

The US has long held the record for more cars per capita than any other nation in the world. And the government has convinced players that this makes them champs. Winners, some believe, have nice cars, vanity plates and two or three-car garages attached to big houses in the suburbs. They may look like winners, but keep in mind that the game wasn’t designed for the players to win. The only winners in the CAR game are the oil diggers and frackers, and big companies who make or sell CAR stuff.

Losers appear to be the people who have older model cars or ones in disrepair. But some of these people have more assets than the ones driving newer models. It’s nearly impossible to know, however, because Americans rarely share financial information with anyone they trust.

woman in car Betty Auchard

Illustration by Betty Auchard

Many people play the CAR game for years without realizing how much stress it causes. According to a recent study by MIT and Audi, driving can be as stressful as skydiving.NYDailyNews. Players can expect to get stressed out twice a day by their work commutes. Slate. And players can also expect to get stressed out when driving with their kids or spouse . . .

It’s hard to avoid playing the CAR game in a country where the federal government has invested in interstates instead of trains, and state and local jurisdictions have invested in pavement instead of public transportation. The US has more cars per capita than nearly every other country in the world. According to DriveSteady, “the United States is clearly in the lead.” In 1991 more than 95% of American households had a car. But the numbers are finally starting to shift. Today, that number is closer to 90%. CNBC

CAUTION: Once you start playing the CAR game, there are only two ways out. You quit or die.

Some players quit against their will. They can no longer afford the car, they lose their license or their health has deteriorated from so many years of a sedentary lifestyle and now they’re no longer healthy enough to drive. This can leave seniors stranded, forcing them to give up their homes in the suburbs.

Some people quit willingly. They see the financial and health advantages and they position their home, work and family life in such a way that they don’t have to play this stressful game any longer. Few people have the willpower to do this in a culture which has designed its infrastructure around cars instead of people. According to Louis CK, people who play the Covert Auto Racket game have a different set of values.

Corvette from HellMillions of Americans are injured in traffic accidents each year. The CDC reminds people to buckle up and reduce their drinking and driving, but they don’t say anything about alternate transportation modes. Every day, thousands of people are involved in crashes that result in injuries and deaths.  In 2012, there were 34,080 motor vehicle fatalities in the US. NHTSA. About 93 people die each day on American roads and, unfortunately, some are just innocent pedestrians and bike riders. The three major causes of fatal accidents are distractions, speeding and drunk driving. These are just some of the reasons why this game drives people MADD.

There were times in my life when I played the CAR game and times when I didn’t. I’ve lived in everything from small towns to big cities. Lots of college towns have high walkability scores. I lived virtually car-free for many years as I progressed through my education at Monterey Peninsula College, Slippery Rock University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the University of Florida.

Europe has great public transportation. I went anywhere I needed to go by foot, bus or train when I lived in Nancy, France. I also lived without a car in one of the biggest cities in the world, Shenzhen, China. Coincidently, they have one of the newest subway systems in the world and it hooks up to high-speed trains or planes that take you anywhere you want to go.

It’s easy to quit the CAR game. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose. Like gambling in a Vegas casino, CAR will welcome you back into the game again anytime you show up with a big wad of money.

zipcar

I always enjoy the more relaxed lifestyle when I’m not playing the CAR game. I’m currently living car-free in one of the biggest cities in the US, San Jose, CA. It’s easy to get around here by foot, bikebus, light railsubwaytrain and even plane.

Every now and then if I really need a car, I use Uber, Lyft or Sidecar, or I rent a ZipCar for a few hours. Parents tell their kids to share their toys, but toddlers are watching to see whether or not their parents share theirs.

Jacob, a teen boy, just passed his driver’s test and asked his dad if he could borrow the car.

“Bring your grades up from a C to B average, study the Bible, get a haircut, and then we’ll talk,” his father responded.

At the end of the semester, Jacob showed his father his report card and asked, “can I borrow the car now?”

“You have a B average and I’ve seen you reading the Bible, but your hair is longer than it was before.”

“But dad, Samson, John the Baptist, Moses and even Jesus had long hair!”

“Yes, and they all walked everywhere they went.” GuySports

 

Public Transportation Takes Us There logo

 

Go Away! And other good advice parents should give kids

By | education, GO, Movies, parenting, travel | 2 Comments

A pilot made a very rough landing, skidding the plane on its belly across the runway. As part of his job he was required to stand at the terminal door and say goodbye to the passengers as they disembarked. He was afraid of what they might say about his landing. But nearly everyone passed by without saying a word until the last few people were exiting and one little boy asked, “Did we land, or were we shot down?” AJokeADay

Sum Ting Wong? Yes.

Ho Lee Fuk. What’s up?

Wi Tu Lo. Our scores need to go up.

The US spends more $15,000 per student annually. This is more per student than any other country. OECD.

Ho Lee Fuk.

And here’s what we get for our money . . .

How is it that something like this can make national news in America? Did you know that the US has been slipping behind in the global report card for years? Even smart people who work at places like news agencies can be duped by an intern or Dum Gai.

It doesn’t take a PhD to see the DOE deserves a D in education

According to the OECD, the US falls well below the global average for the percentage of students graduating from high school. The NO Child Left Behind policy obviously doesn’t apply to ALL children. If you want to increase your child’s chance of graduating from high school, you’re better off in Slovenia, Finland, Japan, Korea, the UK, or more than a dozen other countries that outperform the US.

Wi Tu Lo.

But if you have the money, you can move to an upscale suburban neighborhood where higher property taxes help to ensure that your child gets a better than average education.

Watch Waiting for ‘Superman’ to see if you have enough money to play education roulette with your kid’s future. I don’t cry easily, but this film had me sobbing over the fact that American leaders are neglecting the education of millions of children, instead choosing to imprison them as young adults, causing them to fall into a life of poverty where they scrape by in less than desirable neighborhoods. And become a financial burden to all Americans. The wrong people are going to jail in this case! Go KIPPsters!

Sum Ting Wong?

Apparently some children are more important than others.

Ho Lee Fuk.

Bang Ding Ow.

Do you believe everything you hear on the evening news? I don’t either and I urge you to start looking for second and third opinions elsewhere. And teach your kids to do the same. If you and your kids can get news in other languages, all the better. Languages act like firewalls. If you can’t speak a language, you miss out on a lot of information on the other side of the wall.

Powerful corporations act like firewalls too. A Canadian poll recently revealed that 90% of scientists are afraid to speak openly to the media about the work they do. Tyee. The survey also found that 24% were asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons and 37% were told not to respond to questions by the public or media. Media Matters! Watch the War on Whistleblowers to learn more about Hu Yu Hai Ding. PL

Big corporations buy out news organizations, politicians and scientists to ensure that we only hear what they want us to hear. And they pay off citizens to keep their mouths shut.

So Su Mi. GLP

Smart people with ethics don’t last long under these circumstances. They eventually lose something: their ethics, conscious, job, home, health or life.

Sum Ting Wong!

The Union of Concerned Scientists represent 400,000 scientists and citizens from all walks of life who believe that we should be making decisions based on science without obstructions from politics, the media or corporations. UCS is working on some of the world’s most daunting problems such as global warming, how to feed, power and transport the world’s growing population, and how to reduce the threat of catastrophic war.

Bang Ding Ow.

Watch Collapse to get an idea of how we got where we are and for tips on what you can do to help prepare for the future.

Survival of the fittest applies to both animals and people. The country with the smartest and healthiest people has the best chance of surviving. According to the OECD, Asian students make up 53% of foreign students enrolled in universities worldwide. The largest numbers of foreign students are from China, India and Korea, and these numbers continue to grow. Europe is the top destination for students enrolled in college outside their country of origin. Although foreigners are still enrolling in American universities, it’s on a downward trend. Wonder why?

Talk to Wi Tu Lo and Wi Tu Phat.

Yang Mythos France Eiffel Tower

Yang Mythos students from China sketching the Eiffel Tower

An American man struck up a conversation with a woman from Switzerland while on a Mediterranean cruise. They seemed to be hitting it off fairly well so he invited her to go for a dip in the sea followed by dinner when they docked in Rome.

“Can you speak Italian?” she asked.

“I’m American. I only speak English,” he responded.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I speak Italian, so I can order dinner for us.”

“Can you swim?” he asked.

“No,” she said, “but I can scream for help in six different languages.” HBBB

If you want your children or grandchildren to have a better understanding of the world, encourage them to travel and study abroad. There are so many things they’ll never see or comprehend if they never leave the country or learn another language.

You can’t see your country when you’re too busy driving between your home in the suburbs to your job, to strip malls scattered all over the place and to gas stations to keep filling up your tank. And the growing number of less fortunate who don’t have a car or home, are too busy trying to figure out how they can safely eat and sleep each day. Have you found your Escape from Suburbia yet?

Every good artist knows that you have to step back and look at your creation from a distance. Only then do you gain a true perspective on the whole.

This is when you gain new insights and come up with innovative ideas. That’s what a democracy is about, right? Education for all and freedom of speech for all. We educate our people so they have a fair shot at the American dream and a say in shaping our country, making it a better place for everyone.

A great time to live abroad is to take a year between high school and college or a year between a bachelor’s and master’s degree, or a year between completing a college degree and getting a job. If you’re like most people and don’t have the funds to lay on the beach for a year, look for a work opportunity in another country. You’ll learn a whole lot more that way any how and build a resume line that may help you for years to come. New York Times Gap Year

You don’t have to wait until your kids or grandkids are in college. Students can participate in exchange programs in middle school or high school. When I was living in Shenzhen, China, I had the opportunity to befriend and become language partners with Yang Mei Hong, the founder of Yang Mythos, of one of the most amazing intercultural schools I’ve ever seen.

Yang Mythos - Lorraine & Mei

Dr. Lorraine Haataia & Yang Mei Hong at Yang Mythos Center at Children’s Palace in Shenzhen, China

Yang Mythos Art Education Center isn’t only about art, fashion, dance and travel. It’s so much more. Students have the opportunity to attend local art classes with many talented foreign, bicultural or bilingual teachers as well as participate in international exchange programs. These real-life experiential programs give them hands-on opportunities to practice creativity, happiness, wisdom, enlightenment, and much more. The teachers, parents and students all have fun while building relationships and bridges among people and across cultures.

Yang Mythos has more than a dozen exchange centers throughout the world, in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Canada, France and Germany. And they just recently opened a new center in Washington, DC.

Yang Mythos Berlin WallThis Chinese boy is writing on the Berlin Wall. Who knows how this experience might affect his future? Perhaps he will tear down Nefarious walls and free people. The writing is on the wall.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” asked the teacher.

“Possible,” said the boy.

“What do you mean by that?” the teacher asked.

“My mom keeps telling me I’m impossible. When I grow up, I want to be possible.” AHD

Don’t let money stop you. Look for funding through organizations like the Institute of International Education.

Just one international trip can change many lives forever. Take a look at the Touch A Life Foundation to see what one trip to Vietnam did for Pam and Randy Cope and the countless lives they’ve affected through this organization they founded.

When was the last time you told your kid to go away?

AFS Intercultural Programs

YouCaring: A Toadly Awesome Fundraising Tool

By | gifts, healthcare, NONPROFITS, parenting | One Comment

Harry the Hungry Frog

You know why are frogs so happy? Because they eat whatever bugs them.  AllAboutFrogs

Does it bug you that you don’t know what to do when a friend is facing a serious life challenge?

One thing that makes social media sites so engaging is that you never know what you’re going to see next: a joke, a dog or a frog. Anything’s possible.

While one friend is posting a profile of his wife’s very pregnant belly, someone else is checking his kid into an emergency room. How did the frog get hurt? He jumped to the wrong conclusion. It’s a real-time reality sitcom, soap opera and tragedy all at the same time.

One day, more than a decade ago, my husband and I were doing what we often did . . . driving around in our SUV loaded with kids looking for an affordable place to feed the family. As we were passing through fast food strip-mall lined suburbia, my youngest stepdaughter pointed out the window and said she wanted to eat at Chewys.

Chevys Fresh Mex

Everyone started cracking up. She had no idea why, so she continued on about how much she liked Chewy chicken, which made every laugh even louder.

“What,” she kept asking. “What’s so funny?”

We didn’t have Facebook back then, but if we did, our friends would have heard about this one.

“Daddy,” a teen girl asked her father, “how much does it cost to get married?”

“I don’t know,” he responded. “I’m still paying for it.” Jokes4All

If you have kids, you know how costly they can be, upwards of $200,000 each by the time they graduate from high school. Housing accounts for about a third of that expense, while child care and food combined accounts for another third. USA Today

One day a little girl brought home a story that she wrote. It was about a hungry frog. A proud father was inspired. Author Larry Levy elaborated on his daughter’s story and developed it into a book about Harry the Hungry Frog.

That’s how I first met Larry. He said “yes” when I invited him to talk to a group of writers. He shared a fun story about a frog who ventured out to find delicious food. That was several years ago.

Recently, Larry shared a different story . . .

Even when kids are relatively healthy, medical bills can put families in a pinch. So you can imagine how hard it is for a parent who suddenly has a mailbox full of doctor bills and hospital expenses he can’t afford.

Larry is a father who knows what this is like. And to make matters worse, doctors still haven’t found a cure. How would you feel if your child couldn’t even eat without being in pain?

To this day I still smile every time I drive by Chewys. I wonder what Larry will be thinking about his daughter Mya when he looks back ten years from now?

Next time a friend or family member is facing a serious illness, you don’t have to feel toadly helpless. Think about what you can do to offer just a little hope or hoppiness.

Here are numerous ways you may be able to help Mya or others like her who are ill:

  • Contact Larry if you know a medical professional who may be able to help with her unusual illness.
  • Ask if there’s anything specific you can do to help. Buy a Hungry Frog book to help support her family, for example.
  • Share her story with your friends and family who may be able to help.
  • Offer a donation through YouCaring to help with fundraising for her medical expenses.
  • Give her a reason to smile, or even better, a reason to laugh. Jokes for Your Friends Who Are Sick and Tired
  • Bring a smiling stuffed animal for her to snuggle with and to remind her to search for ways to smile every day. Frogs can turn into princes and wishes can come true.
  • Learn about her illness so you can better understand what she’s going through. “A new study showed that licking a frog can cure depression, for example. The downside, however, is that as soon as you stop licking, the frog gets depressed again.” Jay Leno quote on MichaelsWorld
  • Visit her in the hospital. Remember to fill the parking meter so your car doesn’t get toad.

You Caring

Halloween Balls: A candy substitute for people with balls

By | Comedy, eating, holidays, parenting | 4 Comments

It takes balls to say you’re not going to pass out candy on Halloween. It’s like saying you don’t want to roast a turkey on Thanksgiving, or fire up crackers and hotdogs on the Fourth of July.

Smiley Face BallsYou may think people who turn off their porch lights on Halloween night are anti-American scrooges who don’t like kids, when in fact they may be doing you a favor. Your kids get less candy, but more exercise as they parade to the next house. Some kids do more walking on Halloween night than they do most other nights of the year.

Why do you think Superman’s costume is so tight? It’s because he’s wearing an “S” when he needs an “L.”  Funology

Buying sweet goodies is more of a trick than a treat. You think kids like Halloween?

Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween are even bigger celebrations for the candy industry. According to the National Retail Association, Americans will spend more than $2 billion on Halloween candy alone this year.

Halloween is the time to sample new sweets. Adults buy pounds of their favorite candies to share with kids and colleagues, and to hide away stashes for themselves. Millions of Americans are plagued with sugar addiction.

If you want to know whether or not your kid is addicted to sugar, try this little experiment.

Candy contributes to cavities and other dental issues. That’s why we have the Halloween Candy Buyback program, you might be thinking. But do you really want your dentist getting free PR on the evening news because he’s paying kids for candy he sends off to troops abroad? Don’t fall for this prank! It’s like shipping our electronic waste off to China and India, making people in other countries suffer from our toxic waste. GreenPeace

 

It’s normal for parents to want to pass along their heritage. But why not create a new healthier tradition? Instead of passing out candy this year, have balls, throw balls, and get kids excited about playing with their balls!

Why balls?

Sour balls and other candies helps kids with eye-hand coordination as they improve their aim to their mouths. But balls help kids with more important things, like long distance eye-hand coordination, physical balance, strength and endurance.

Ask any man. He loves his balls and he’s enjoyed playing with them ever since he can remember. If you don’t believe me, test this for yourself. Given the choice, a boy will part with candy before he’ll part with his balls. Balls are to men what shoes are to women. SearchQuotes

Males tend to be more athletic than females. They keep their balls with them all the time, close at hand. The majority of females grow to appreciate balls, but parents with little girls need to know that there’s no guarantee on things like this.

Even though they may not have any themselves, they understand that men like their balls regardless of what size or shape they are. They come in a wide variety of sizes: everything from dense bowling balls, to air-filled basketballs, hardcore baseballs, and little lightweight ping pongs. Men and women across the globe have exhibited that they get a significant amount of pleasure each week from balls.

When young couples marry, brides are sometimes surprised that their newlyweds leave their balls out on the couch or living room floor. New wives are usually fairly tolerant of things like this, but after children come into the picture, ladies often nag their children and their husbands about putting their balls away.

Keep your eye on the ball. Doesn’t it make more sense to give your kids things to help their brains and bodies develop, rather than deteriorate?

How much should you invest in your balls? 

Whatever you put into your balls now will certainly return to you later. Even a very small investment may give you a surprising rebound. Regardless of how much you choose to spend on your balls, your investment will provide you with dividends for years to come.

How can you get balls? 

If you don’t have any balls, don’t worry. They’re surprisingly easy to come by. Most women can attest to this. Women are natural shoppers. They know how to get what they’re looking for. If you’re having trouble finding your balls, ask a woman. She can help you out.

In a recent survey, most men reported that their balls are priceless and they’d spend almost anything to keep them. Both men and women enjoy checking out balls at places like Dicks, Sports Basement and Sports Authority.

Some people like old balls. Look for them in the toy section in your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. They often have bins or shelves full of toys and balls you can get for a few bucks. Play It Again Sports is another great place to find balls that have been kicked around. Most used balls work just fine. Older ones tend to have more character. Don’t worry if they’re a little deflated. You can pump them up with a little air.

Let the kids select the balls. Studies have shown that boys especially are more confident when they have a say in matters that involve their balls. Besides, kids are more likely to know what kinds of balls their friends like.

If you’re a germaphobe, wash the balls before you touch them. Men don’t mind playing with dirty balls, but girls do.

What kinds of balls work best?

Different balls serve different purposes, so don’t let anyone convince you that his balls are better than anyone else’s. It all depends on your personal preference. When I was a young girl, I loved playing with big inflatable balls at the beach. And I also liked playing with my Jacks with ball set. I had friends who were into tennis balls, pool table balls and footballs. But I was most impressed with one of my friends who could ride a unicycle while juggling balls or oranges.

When it comes to balls, the sky is the limit. What boy wouldn’t like to have glow in the dark balls, for example?

Should you give your balls away?

Do your part to End Sugar Addiction. Give balls away this year. Don’t worry about losing them. Studies have shown that when you give your balls away, they eventually bounce back.

What food can you serve at a costume ball?

Celebrate healthy eating. Serve healthy treats such as banana ghosts, tangerine pumpkins or fruit-kabobs. Hold a fruit & vegetable art contest for younger kids and a pumpkin carving contest for older ones.

Halloween food art - GreatFoodFunPlaces.com

Banana, tangerine and celery snack plate.

Kids today know how to keep their eyes on their Apple iPhones, but they’ll be more active if they’re participating in an apple-bobbing contest. Check your phone, not your watch. It’s time for change.

Do kids need more balls or more candy?

Halloween candy is out. Halloween balls are in.

According to the American Diabetes Association, about 26 million Americans have diabetes and another 79 million have prediabetes and are at risk of developing it.

Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than they should be. It’s a serious disease which can result in slew of negative health effects. The ADA estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the US contributes $176 billion to the pharmaceutical and health care industries. Trick or treat?

As President Obama advises his nation . . .

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
We are the change that we seek.”
BrainyQuote

Is Halloween a good time to schedule a ball game?

Yes. Host an afternoon softball or soccer game where players come dressed up in costumes. Then let kids get all juiced up as they participate in a fruit & vegetable art contest to explore their creative talent.

Should you involve your kids in ball planning? 

Yes. Involve your kids in planning the Halloween ball or ballgame. Brainstorm activities they might want to do. Not only will they have more fun at the party, they’ll also learn some basics of planning events and preparing healthy snacks.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can lead to life-threatening consequences.”

How do you know when it’s time to change a holiday tradition?

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that world obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. More than 33% of the world’s population is overweight. According to the World Health Organization, 65% of the world’s population lives in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than starvation. Weight issues are the fifth leading cause of death.

Who are you most afraid of? Witches, doctors or dentists?

The good news is that these dental and weight issues are preventable. If you want to protect your kids from these afflictions, check out this advice from the Childhood Obesity Foundation. They offer four simple things families can do now to help kids achieve healthy bodies.

Order your balls today. Then give your balls to your friends and tell them about the advantages of having a ball on Halloween.

Next time you’re thinking of reaching for a piece of candy. Resist. Reach for your balls instead.

Childhood Obesity Foundation

Laundry study shows Americans have few hangups

By | HAVE FUN, laundry, parenting, POPULAR, spouses | 9 Comments

For the record, I don’t have any problem with people hiding things in their drawers. That’s not my business. Participants in this laundry study agreed unanimously that once clothes are washed, they should, in fact, be hung up or put away in drawers.

Why do a laundry study? I lived in France when I was in college and became fascinated by the ways that people from different cultures do laundry.

Here are a few of my hangups and some of my husband’s as well. I took this picture from the balcony of our apartment in Shenzhen, China.

In this study, drying clothes or putting clothes on hangers was simply referred to as “hangups.”

The French procrastinate. They don’t like dealing with their hangups at all. I became close friends with quite a few people and got invited to their apartments. Many of them had very few clothes and they’d wear the same outfit all week. I learned that the French invented eau de toilette water just to avoid their hangups.

collapsible indoor tripod clothes drying rack

CLICK HERE to buy a collapsible indoor tripod clothes drying rack.

Instead of doing laundry, they’d rather meet up with friends to talk over a glass of wine and a plate of crackers topped with smelly cheese. At first I didn’t like the smell of some of the cheeses or even some of my friends. But it didn’t take me long to adapt to the culture and pay less attention to my own hangups.

One French participant noted that he used his bidet to wash his underwear and derriere at the same time. AhaJokes

Americans also avoid their hangups, but in a different way. They put their clothes in the dryer and expect the appliance to minimize their hangups. Numerous participants reported that their things do indeed tend to shrink in the dryer.

But in reality, dryers are a big waste of money and space. Clothes dry all by themselves if you give them a few hours. They don’t need to be baked. We’d all be better off if people dealt with their hangups on their own instead of relying on an electric appliance for a quick fix.

Many Americans firmly believe that people shouldn’t hang their laundry out to dry. In fact many homeowner’s associations and apartment complexes in the US restrict people from hanging their laundry out to dry. They forbid people from putting up clotheslines in their own backyard or hanging clothes on their porches.

hang drying laundry on a retractable outdoor clothes line

CLICK HERE to buy a retractable outdoor clothes line. It stows away neatly when not in use.

Uppity hotels and resorts in the US restrict their customers from hanging their beach towels or bathing suits on their balconies. As an American, I think we should stop doing this. It’s really confusing to foreigners who think America is the land of the free.

One Italian who participated in the study stated that he didn’t understand why so many Americans went all the way to Italy just to take pictures of laundry hanging across streets in his hometown, Venice. He felt that Americans should be free to display hangups in their own streets.

Dry your laundry like you're in Venice.

Dry your laundry like you’re in Venice.

Most participants agreed that it’s perfectly normal to have hangups. And we’d all be better off if everyone hung their things out to dry. Most of the male participants agreed with this. Several commented that they like to know if a woman wears granny panties or thongs, adding that they have a tendency to be curious about things like this. But many female participants stated that they prefer to hide these sorts of things in their drawers. Whatever you wear, be sure to choose natural fabrics over synthetics.

My husband loves me regardless of my hangups. I know this because over the years he has supported me during times when I’ve had fewer hangups and at times when I’ve expanded my collection.

It’s important for married couples to be tolerant of one another. Since the time we got married, I’ve dealt with every one of my husband’s hangups, except for the occasional ones I pass on to the dry cleaner.

But even this I take seriously. I don’t give his hangups to just any dry cleaner. I look for ones that don’t use PERC.

clothes line solar powered laundry drying apparatus

Clothesline: a radical solar-powered laundry drying apparatus

Men usually have bigger hangups than women. Because their shoulders are typically wider, they’re naturally suited for larger hangups. This was another important finding of the study. My own husband, for example, didn’t know how to use a washer or dryer when we got married. Some of the younger women who participated in the study said they would have a problem with this because they expect their husband to deal with his own hangups.

But like many men of the Baby Boomer generation, my husband believes that women should be responsible for all the hangups in the family. I never really had a problem with it though because it makes me a stronger person. Any woman who has carried around a big basket of wet laundry knows it’s a heavy load to carry.

Turns out this is a global phenomenon. I’ve traveled all over the world and observed that women are usually the ones who take responsibility not only for their husband’s hangups, but also for the hangups of their children. That’s why middle age women are generally afflicted with a higher percentage of hangups.

According to the Green Cleaners Council, most drycleaners don’t care about their hangups. They pass them out without asking customers to bring them back. Responsible drycleaners understand that perfectly good hangups should not be wasted or placed in the trash.

When I lived in China, I was impressed with how many hangups Chinese people have. I saw many new types of hangups I’d never seen before. Most of them have a certain type of hangup permanently installed on their balconies or porches. And some have attachments to purposely display their hangups from their windows. They have no problem sharing even their most personal hangups with their neighbors. In fact, most Chinese people don’t even own electric dryers. They hang all their laundry out to dry.

I like to take pictures of people and their hangups. You can learn a lot about folks this way. Sometimes you can tell what type of work they do, the age of their children, and even how much money they make.

I’ve always believed that children should learn at a young age to put away their toys, say thank you, and deal with their own hangups. And moms should also be concerned about the toxins in dryer sheets. According to the Environmental Health Association of Ontario, dryer sheets “have been associated with numerous illnesses and chronic conditions.”

More Americans are starting to understand the hangup issue we have in our country. They’re banding together in organizations like Project Laundry List to educate people and to promote things like clotheslines, drying racks, and more hangups for Americans.

A member of the International Naturist Federation participated in the survey and commented that most people in Western countries have way too many hangups that they don’t need. He asked to remain anonymous even though he assured me he didn’t have anything he wanted to cover up.

nudefest naturist beach

The naturist assured me he didn’t have anything he wanted to cover up.

You can do your part by supporting Project Laundry List and your local green cleaner. But, according to the findings of this laundry study, the most important thing you can do is start dealing with your own hangups. As soon as they come out of the washer, hang them up to dry.

As with any change, you may find it a bit uncomfortable until you get into the new habit. But you’ll quickly begin to reap the benefits. Not only will you increase your physical activity, your clothes will last longer, and you’ll save money.

Shortly after the laundry study was complete, one of the participants contacted me with good news. Her husband decided he would try to do his own wash.

“What setting do I use on the washing machine?” my husband yelled out from the laundry room one morning.

“It depends,” I told him. “What does it say on your shirt?”

Go Gators,” he replied.

AboutLaundryRoomJokes

Project Laundry List

 

3 Yummy Books Under $13 for 3-Year-Old Kids

By | books, eating, gifts, parenting | No Comments

Say YES to Watermelon

How many times have you seen a picture of a kid with cake and icing smeared all over his or her face? It’s a classic American shot. Parents proudly display to their friends and family that their boy or girl is one year older, so it’s time to eat cake.

“I can’t get my kids to eat vegetables,” some parents say. It’s usually for one obvious reason. The parents are feeding their kids other things. When you go to a Farmer’s Market, you see kids gnawing on carrots or apples. When you go to a mall, you see kids sucking up soda from straws or chewing on giant cookies that are too big for their little hands.

Whether you’re the parent, grandparent, nursery school teacher, uncle or nanny, you play an important role in what that 3-year-old eats. Let’s face it, most of them aren’t tall enough to reach stuff on shelves or get through the checkout line. They eat what you eat.

Here are three great books that will help toddlers get excited about fruits and vegetables:

Now I Eat My ABCs

You have an opportunity to teach children to eat their ABCs in the form of  fruits and vegetables. Fresh organic produce is packed with vitamins just the way nature designed it to be. When kids develop good eating habits at an early age, parents save money on vitamins and doctor bills. When kids develop a taste for whole foods at an early age, they benefit the rest of their lives.

Fast Food

America is known as the Fast Food Nation. And we all know how SAD that is! I love the image on the front of this book. What little boy wouldn’t want to eat the wheels off this hot rod? Cucumber slices make great snacks. Health-conscious moms know it takes very little time to chop up some vegetables or fruit. It’s the best kind of fast food. This book is full of fun illustrations that will entice and inspire both kids and adults.

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z

A few years back, I  remember reading the findings of a study that showed American kids could recognize hundreds of logos and labels, but couldn’t come up with names for produce such as ginger root, yams or sprouts. When prompted with images or logos, they could call out “Tony the Tiger” or “Tootsie Pop” but very few could come up with the right name for a tangerine.

Imagine the face of that innocent 3-year-old you’ve been thinking about. Wouldn’t you rather have him or her ask for mangos instead of M&Ms?