Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lessons from the Lab: The Magic of Consistency

Image

It’s been five months since we welcomed Schooner and Katy into our lives.  Since then, we’ve drastically altered the rhythm of our days in order to nurture them and keep our belongings from ending up as chew toys.  We’ve cleaned up every kind of canine body waste, cajoled them through crate training, and unintentionally conditioned a salivary response to the iPhone camera. Through this process, I’m reminded of a Keith Cunningham quote,  “Ordinary things consistently done produce extraordinary results.”

Everyday, twice a day, we walk them.  During, we work on three simple commands: “Sit”, “Stay”, and “Leave it”.  There’s no trick to it, no professional dog trainer – just consistency.  The results have been fantastic. While they are technically still puppies, they can be trusted to follow our commands on and off the leash.  People we meet along our walks can hardly believe how young and well-behaved they are.

And so I’m left wondering…how much more I could accomplish in life if I just consistently practiced three simple skills twice daily?

Schooner: The First 6 Months

Katy: The First 6 Months

Mom Knows Best: 4 Tips for Living Well

My Mom

Forgive me for re-posting old content but in doing so I hope to show my appreciation and love not only for my mother, but for all the mothers out there who sacrifice so much for their kids. Thank you for all you do and Happy Mother’s Day!

Originally posted 5/8/2011

Dear Mom,

You’ve given me so much love, patience, and support over the past forty years. You’ve also given me something invaluable: a role model. In watching you, I’ve learned there are at least three things I can do to thrive in my life:

1. Find meaningful work: Many years ago you told me the civil rights battle of my generation was going to be fought in the classroom. I didn’t know what you meant back then, but I do now. I’ve watched you dedicate your career to improving educational opportunities for kids. You’ve inspired me to try and make a difference, too.

Thanksgiving in Mexico

2. Be willing to grow & change: As kids, you were always there for us. After we left home, you went back to school for your Masters and then a PhD. Now, you’re a successful business owner. Seeing you constantly set a higher bar for yourself has taught me to do the same.

¡Pocos Locos!

3. Marry your best friend: You and Daddy make such a great team. You taught me the importance of working hard at marriage…and I don’t mean the laundry!

The love, respect, and laughter you share extends outward to those around you. We’ve all been warmed by your light!

4.  Lastly, make sure there are plenty of dogs around!

Mabel & Mom

Hobie Roach (July 3, 1999 – December 12, 2011)

Hobie at the Reservoir

It’s a terrible thing to lose a trusted companion, running buddy, constant giver of unconditional love.  But the memories Jack and I have of Hobie and his mom, Splash, will bring us joy and laughter…and tears…for the rest of our lives.

Splash & Hobie napping together, 2009

Splash of Shadowlawn (1994 - 2009)

Port A Christmas 2002

Here are some wonderful words I came across recently that rang so true for me.

Inner Strength
If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can get going without pep pills,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment
If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

 …Then You Are Probably The Family Dog!

Workforce Diversity Does Not Equal Affirmative Action

The United States Olympic Committee has introduced measures to address the fact that its workforce is not reflective of the demographics of the Colorado Springs community where it is located.  This diversity effort, commonly seen as an organizational best practice, is apparently not popular with Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor, Wayne Laugesen.  Accompanying his critical article was the following online poll asking readers if the “USOC should give preference to minorities” as part of their hiring process.

Regardless of implementation, affirmative action along with Equal Employment Opportunity laws are designed to support diversity. They are not synonymous with it, as Laugeson’s polling language would suggest.  Workforce diversity is a strategy for increasing an organization’s competitiveness in a global marketplace.  Moreover, it is much harder to implement than the hiring quotas Wayne is suggesting: Attracting and retaining racial and ethnic minorities, females and people with different abilities requires committed effort and innovation.  And, in the case of Wayne’s world, overcoming ignorance of the issue.

Got Patience? There’s an App for That!

Rin Tin Zen

I’ve been meditating off and on since 2008 but recently committed to making it a daily habit.  A month into this new behavior I can already feel the benefits of meditating 15 minutes twice daily: more patience. The good news is that neuroscientific studies show meditation also lowers blood pressure and helps combat illness, depression, and insomnia.

In experimenting with various forms of meditation, variety keeps me motivated. Meditation is simple and easy to learn, but it takes time, patience and practice.  Here are some ways to kickstart your meditation using your iPhone, iPad, or iTouch:

1.    Mindfulness Meditation: Well worth the $1.99,  these meditations are written and narrated by Stephan Bodian, a respected teacher and author of Meditation for Dummies.  Using mindfulness-based techniques for stress-reduction, this app provides 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40-minute guided meditations.  There’s an audio guide on the basics of meditation, a checklist for optimal practice, and 10-minute deep relaxation exercise to prepare for meditation or to unwind at the end of a stressful day.

2.    Yoga Nidhra Lite:  According to Yoga Journal, nidhra or “yogic sleep” is an ancient practice for creating full-body relaxation and deep meditative states of consciousness. This free app offers nidhra meditation by Madhav, a yoga teacher trained in the Satyananda/Bihar tradition.  It’s another way to vary your practice because you can do it right before falling asleep.

I’ll be posting more as my practice strengthens.  Whether you’re just starting to meditate or have been doing it for years, I’d love to hear from you!

A Roadmap for Social Change

"All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual." Albert Einstein

Since a perk of my work is learning what amazing non-profits are doing to help families survive these difficult economic times, I was thrilled to talk to Crittenton Women’s Union, an .org located in Boston, MA.  CWU provides direct services, conducts research, and advocates for public policy to better support low-income women in their journey to economic self-sufficiency.

The foundation of CWU’s work is a theory of change for what moves a family from poverty to self-sufficiency, Bridge to Self-Sufficiency.  This model not only provides strategy and internal structure for developing programs and measuring outcomes, it gives the CWU clients a tangible set of goals to strive for in the difficult journey from poverty to economic independence.

CWU has a keen focus on specific, relevant data such as their Economic Independence Calculator that determines the actual costs of living depending on family size and location. A single mom in Boston with an infant and school-aged child knows she’ll need earn almost $60K/yr (about $28/hr) to achieve economic independence.  This data is linked to Hot Jobs, “careers that require two years or less of post-secondary education or training, meet the Massachusetts Economic Independence Index income level for a single-parent family with two children, and currently post high-vacancy rates.”  CWU is giving a woman clear, meaningful data to develop a career path that offers opportunity for advancement and breaks the cycle of poverty for her children.

To see what your community’s livable wage is, visit the National Center for Childhood Poverty’s Basic Needs Budget Calculator.

What is your community doing to support upward economic mobility of disadvantaged families?  I’d love to share your story!

Price of Feeling Like a Kid Again…

Last fall, some yahoo stole my bike out of the garage.  So, I’ve been pricing new ones lately.  I fell in love with the Electra Amsterdam but not with the price tag!  Even though it’s not uncommon in  Colorado for your bike to cost more than your car, I’m not buying into it.

Luckily, I came across this used beauty, added a basket and bell and voila!  For less than $150 I’m a kid again!  Considering I can bike to the doctor, grocery store, church, Jack’s office and some of our favorite dining spots, I think I’ll get my money’s worth.

How Earning More Keeps You Poor

191,000 kids live in poverty in Colorado


Why can’t poor people just “get a job”?  Hell, they get food stamps, free child care, tax credits, welfare checks…what else could they need?

I’ve heard variations of this question; truthfully,  I used to ask it myself.  What I failed to recognize (and now try to increase awareness of) is the unintentional negative affect of the 1996 welfare reform laws: the Cliff Effect.  Consider the real-life scenario of Shari (not her real name):

Shari began working at McDonald’s 15 months ago.  She is eligible for a raise, yet she refuses to ask for one or accept any promotions that McDonald’s may offer. If Shari got even a 75-cents-per-hour raise, it would trigger a cut in food stamps, childcare assistance, and medical assistance. She cannot afford to earn a little more. In order to escape poverty, Shari must earn considerably more. Like others in poverty, Shari is often stuck in survival mode, unable to imagine a better future and trapped without the support systems that families who are middle or upper class take for granted. It feels impossible for Shari to plan for the future or make long-term decisions because she is dealing with today’s crises.

Shari’s work supports are supposed to provide her family a means for climbing out of poverty.  These include the minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the child tax credit,  food stamps, health insurance, and child care.  But as Shari’s earnings increase, she begins to lose these benefits, negating any increases in income. The result? Hard-working individuals climbing to reach the American Dream of prosperity end up falling off the cliff…back into poverty.

Just another Shari

We’ve all seen Shari:  at the Wal-Mart checkout counter, at the bus stop, waiting on us at McDonalds.  And we think, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”  Is that it?  Do we stop there?  Or, do we wonder, “Is there anything I can do?”

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” ~ Mother Teresa.

Schools as a Brand

Just this week I noticed an interesting Next!: urban charter school start-ups leveraging a well-known brand, in these cases, famous athletes.

This leaves me wondering: Will schools be marketed to kids like cereal?  In their efforts to attract students will charter schools, already serving a disproportionate number of low-income students, fall into a de facto means of school segregation?

Grateful on Memorial Day

Seemingly incongruous, today we honor our fallen soldiers and kick off the official start of summer.  So, while praying for the souls of those who lost their lives in service to our country, I’m so grateful to spend the day with a very special man who, long before I met him, returned safely from the Vietnam War.