Can Mushrooms Solve Our Pesticide Problem?

Mushrooms vs PesticidesWe've got pesticide and GMO problems that are causing massive agricultural issues and health degradation for humans AND bees. 

Using something as simple as mushrooms (no, not magic mushrooms), Paul Stamets (a real fun guy, get it?) has patented a SMART pesticide to destroy over 200,000 species of insects without harming plants or humans.

Unfortunately, pesticide giants like Monsanto don't want us to learn about this new-found solution.

Watch his TED Talk below:

Now can you imagine mushrooms solving our pesticide and GMO problems?


Parents Have "Finals" Too!

Parental FinalsWe're all proud of our recent grads, and frankly, and if you're like most parents, you're just glad you made it to the end of the school year without going crazy. Every year, the demands on parents to volunteer, attend, and host end-of-the-year celebrations seems to have increased exponentially. YIKES! Check out the New York Times' article "Mom and Dad Have Their Own Set of Finals" to see that this has become A THING that has consumed us at the end of each school year.

Isn't it true that you feel terrible if you don't attend EVERY SINGLE CELEBRATION and AWARDS CEREMONY? And, haven't you reached the point when you're no longer enjoying these events because you're rushed, stressed and pressured to be everywhere -- all at once? That's why I say, "Congratulations to you amazing moms and dads! You've pulled it together and received A's on your finals!"

Next year, stop that dreadful treadmill and limit the number celebrations you'll attend.  Just let your kids decide which ones are the most important to them. That way, you'll enjoy them more and you'll be better able to support your kids while they're stressed out and/or freaking out during finals!  AND you'll have more free time!  Sounds like a win to me!


6 Things Your Grad Should Do Before Leaving For College

6 Tasks Before CollegeNow that the graduation ceremonies and parties are done (hooraaaay), and your young adult is biding time before heading off to college in the fall, review this list of 6 tasks that will help them close this chapter in their lives and be prepared to start their next one.

One: Clean Your Room!
Okay, this is a great way to get them to get rid of all of their "junk" that they've hung on to for years. Set up 2 large bins: one for trash and the other for Salvation Army or Goodwill. Then, give them a designated area where they can keep their belongings that they'll need when they come home for holidays and breaks. Any remaining items can be stored if they're family heirlooms or mementos, or sold on Craigslist or at a yard sale for cash.

Two: Write Your Autobiography
Before heading off to college, have your teen write an autobiography to give them closure on the first 18 years of their lives. If writing or organizing something like this is not your kids' cup of tea, they can always create a scrap book or photo album and fill it with their favorite memories. Giving them a sense of who they are will instill a strong sense of self-esteem, which will in turn give them a solid foundation on which to build their future.

Three: Create Your 4-Year College Plan
Have them organize their entire 4-year plan for college. By doing the research and thinking about what they hope to learn before the graduate, they'll understand what courses they need to take for their majors (and minors) and general education requirements. They can even add in internships, jobs, and research so they don't have regrets later. Not only will they take advantage of the many programs available to them on campus, they'll graduate in 4 years, which will save you between $12,000-$60,000 (depending on their tuition).  I probably don't have to tell you that anything you can do to save yourself tens of thousands of dollars is time well-spent.

Four: Purchase College Items Early
Every college gives students a list of things they should bring with them during orientation and before classes begin. If your kid is like most college-bound students, they'll probably wait until the last minute to buy these things, which means you'll be paying top dollar at the nearest stores when you arrive with their stuff piled high in your minivan. Instead, ask them to make a list of items they want and ask them to find sales. They can even go on Craiglist, Amazon, flea markets, garage sales, and local bargain stores to get great deals. Most colleges provide a twin bed (extra long), desk, chair and closet. PRO TIP: Buy the extra-long sheets online to get lower prices. They might want a mini-fridge or microwave for their dorm, and you can get those used. My daughter got one for free when students were vacating their dorms and didn't have a place to store them.  Score!

Five: Indulge in Reading
This will be the first time in over a decade that your kid won't have a list of "summer reading" and stress to study for SATs or ACTs. They actually have no responsibilities and no stress. So, give them a list of classics to read for the summer (reading isn't really a responsibility).

Six: Get a Job
With no homework, stress, or lists of things to do -- well, except these (awesome) lists -- they can go out and earn a buck! With no degrees or seniority, taking that low-paying summer job will be just what they need to realize how important it is to get their college degree! So let them slave away at an ice cream counter or bus tables at a restaurant. Earning those extra nickels will also give them spending money once they get to college because you'll be tapped out just paying their tuition, room and board and MONEY DOESN'T GROW ON TREES, KID!

Summer's a Great Time to Write an Autobiography

Family TreeWhile most kids don't enjoy writing -- especially essays or reports -- I've found that many actually do love to write about THEMSELVES. Face it, there's nothing more interesting than one's self, right? This project will get them shuffling through old photos and boxes of "stuff." It'll conjure up great memories with old friends and family. And most importantly, it'll give them a great sense for who they are today based on who they were way back when. Even for young ones, a trip down memory lane is always fun.

For elementary school-aged kids, supply them with photo albums or boxes of photos, mementos you've saved (art work, letters, awards), and plenty of paper and glue. Use 8.5" x 11" paper so you can bind everything at a copy center like Staples. Give them a timeline of big events that happened in their lives so they can use them as guidelines in laying out their autobiographies. Consider listing birthdays (of course!), sporting events, family vacations, best friends, favorite pets, and family get-togethers.

For middle and high school kids, they'll probably prefer using Word or InDesign so they can add digital photos to their text. Ask them to layout their outlines and offer suggestions that will encourage them to write. If you can gather awards, old sports equipment, and photos, you might be surprised by their enthusiasm to scan and include those memories in their autobiographies.

My girls wrote autobiographies in kindergarten, 3rd grade, and again in 12th grade. They enjoyed writing them because it kind of summed up their lives. It's always nice to reflect back on your accomplishments. I love to read them now because I can hear their little voices -- and personalities -- which takes me back to those happy places!

If your child needs motivation to get started or to finish their autobiographies, select a due date when they present them to the family. Invite family or friends over for the event so it adds weight to your deadline. We had little parties and they invited their friends. Just think, they'll be creating something that will become a family heirloom!

Fighting Depression With Fermentation

Pickle PrescriptionCould eating fermented foods really decrease social anxiety and depression?

Recent research from reputable institutions like Harvard Medical School, the College of William and Mary, UCLA, and Oxford suggest that there is a relationship between good bacteria in the gut and mental health. Can you imagine eating foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, pickles, kombucha, and fermented soy products to reduce anxiety and depression?

Better yet, you can actually make your own sauerkraut, kimchee or pickled vegetables at home by using something like this.

Please forward this to anyone you know you suffers from depression - this is an easy thing to try, and you don't need prescriptions for pickles!


Corinthian Colleges Goes Bust; Government Forgives Student Loans

An Emotional JourneyFor profit Corinthian Colleges -- AKA Heald, Everest, and Wyotech vocational colleges -- filed for bankruptcy, leaving 100 colleges and 16,000 students in the lurch.

 With just one day's notice, Heald College campuses closed. Can you imagine going to a college that closes its doors on a moment's notice? Unfortunately, 40,000 students don't have to imagine it, because it happened to them.

Corinthian has been in hot water for a while now - in September, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued them, accusing the chain of predatory conduct and lending abuses. "We believe Corinthian lured in consumers with lies about their job prospects upon graduation, sold high-cost loans to pay for that false hope and then harassed students for overdue debts while they were still in school," said Richard Cordray, the consumer organization's director. 

 In April, the Education Department fined Corinthian $30 million dollars for false advertising -- 947 misrepresentations of placement rates for college graduates. In May, Corinthian had $143 million in debt and less that $20 million in assets. But its chairman, Jack D. Massimino, received a compensation package worth more than $3 million in 2013.  

Amusingly, Corinthian's mission statement includes the following: "We serve our students and operate our schools in keeping with our core values, including integrity, service, excellence and accountability" (emphasis mine).

The good news is that the government has stepped in and will forgive the student loans of 40,000 eligible Corinthian students.  


Creative Ways Kids Can Get Involved in Stopping CO2 Production

H2Back in 1998, my oldest daughter Nicole and Merit classmate Joanne were the first students in the world to build a hydrogen fuel cell. They went on tour across the United States to demonstrate how fuel cells work by making ice cream with a machine powered by the fuel cell! Obviously they were the main attraction at their

Summer Business Idea: Musical Revue

Musical revues are an excellent way for kids to learn about the history of rock 'n roll music. It will also help them learn about marketing and management.  By going back to rhythm and blues to see the evolution of contemporary music, they'll gain a better appreciation for the music they enjoy today. 

Besides, it'll take you down memory lane and give you something to share with your kids. Psst: our music back in the 60's and 70's was revolutionary! 

Lemonade Stand Lessons

The New Lemonade StandWhat happened to kids' entrepreneurship?  Remember setting up lemonade stands in the summer?  Granted, today the "lemonade stand" might be an app, but still, the principle is the same.

I remember my father telling me how he used to knock on doors to sell avocados during the summers. He'd stand outside and chant, "Avocados! Three for a quarter!" This, of course dates him, as avocados now sell for $3.00 a piece.  This was his first job -- at age 7.  His parents were so poor that his mom (my grandmother) used to sew shirts and pants out of cloth sacks that stored rice in bulk.  Wearing these homemade clothes embarrassed him because the kids would tease him.  He wanted to wear the "Levi" brand jeans and "regular" shirts -- just like the other kids.  Sound familiar? But this was post WWII when Japanese Americans wanted to blend into the American fabric.  When he asked for Levis, his mother told him that he would have to earn money to buy it himself. And so, a young entrepreneur was born.

Summers are the ideal time for kids to get a taste for making money and learning about consumerism.  Until they learn the value of a buck, they won't have respect for money, savings, or budgets. I think our society has become so engrossed with consumerism that they've lost sight of their finances.  Many people I know are living month-to-month, yet they purchase luxuries beyond their income level.  Using credit cards to make purchases only puts them in a downward spiral that they may never recover from.

So, stop that vicious cycle. Instead of giving your kids large allowances or buying everything they need, put them on a budget.  When they want something that costs more than they have, they'll have two options: (1) Find a way to make money to purchase the item, or (2) Not purchase the item at all. Both options teach great lessons.  The first, gives them motivation to earn money, and the second, teaches them to decide what is important enough to work for.  You'll be surprised to see what they decide NOT TO BUY, when it's their money!

Kids can sell things that they make, like lemonade or cookies. They'll learn how to quadruple recipes (math!), buy in bulk to save money (financial management), and sell their goods (marketing).  Keeping track of sales and their profits (or losses) opens the doors to bookkeeping and budgets. They can also sell services like washing cars, walking pets, watering plants, or weeding. This teaches kids how to establish clientele by setting up services that people need.  CONSUMERISM -- IN REVERSE! You'll be amazed by the lessons your kids will learn when they start evaluating marketing and advertising from the business point of view. I remember my girls complaining to me about how toy manufacturers "lie to the public about their toys!" because they make them look better than they actually are. This is an excellent lesson - it's good to make them aware of how marketing and advertising gimmicks work while they're young.

My father told me that when his mother made him earn money for the things he wanted, she gave him the best gift of all -- motivation to become financially independent. He grew up to become successful. Something to think about!

The Best Graduation Gift is a GOOD PLAN

4 year college planLooking for the perfect high school graduation gift for that special kid? Money? Nah -- they'll just blow it in ways you probably don't want to know about. Luggage? Nah -- although it's a practical idea, they're probably going to get it from Aunt Sally.  Engraved pen? Nah -- they'll never use it.  So what do college-bound grads need? They need a FOUR-YEAR PLAN that they can use to navigate the confusing major and college graduation requirements!

Every college-bound student needs to completely understand what is required of them for their majors (and minors or double majors) and layout a plan to take all of the necessary prerequisites for each course. Then, they need to select courses that satisfy their graduation requirements while giving them exposure in their other areas of interest and skills that they'll need in their future careers. This can be really confusing!

Combining all of these courses within the constraints of the college can be quite a challenge because some courses are only offered once per year or even alternating years. For courses that are prerequisites to required courses, this can actually set you back a semester or even a full year!  YIKES! That means you'll be paying $12,000 to $60,000 more than you expected to pay for a bachelor's degree!

Besides the cost factor, when freshmen have laid out their four-year plans before they start college, they make better use of their college education. Because they'll know what's required and completely understand what cool programs they can join and specific professors they want to get to know, they can add these extracurricular activities to their four-year plan to make the plan a template for success.

Academic advisors in college are so inundated with students that they only help them consider courses for the upcoming term.  That doesn't give the student the comprehensive understanding that they need to make their college education work for them. So, offer to sit down with your grads and help them map out their four-year plans. That'll be a gift that will ensure that their college experience is more than beer pong!