A Case for Cards

fashion, Organization, Technology

When I think about subjects to write about, I think to myself, what’s important to me or what makes my life easier? One of the more difficult aspects of taking on freelance jobs is that the subject matter is often assigned to me (and my students think I don’t understand their struggle) so although I’ve been given the opportunity to try a product or service out, it’s usually something I’ve only had for a limited time. Here I have space to expand upon things which I actually use and rely on regularly. Which is why I want to talk about phone cases with card slots. Honestly, it’s not something I ever thought I’d use, and yet, since purchasing one last year it has proven to be one of the handiest accessories I own.

My current love is the Wally case from Ullu, which is an investment. I started off with a cheap non label case I found on Amazon for $12 in a beautiful red alligator print…pretty sure it wasn’t real alligator. Once I was able to see how useful the case was I upped my game to the 12 South relaxed leather case (with pockets) and finally, since I didn’t splurge on a new iPhone this year, I went for the ullu, which I think is one of the most beautiful and well designed card holder cases on the market.

I don’t actually use the case as a full time wallet, my cards only reside there when I need easy access or I have limited space. Here are the situations where I find the case to be the most useful:

1. Taking My Daughter to the Doctor:

Sick babies are not fun. Colicky, fussy, sick babies are the worst. You’ve got the baby and the diaper bag, sometimes the stroller, she’s screaming and the front desk needs to see your medical card, her medical card, your ID & you have to pay the copay. My daughter had several digestive issues as an infant and a card case just made my life so much easier. Everything is all laid out on the back of your phone, phone goes in and out of your pocket with ease, no digging through your bag. You can hand the receptionist your cards all while texting your worried husband that you arrived safely. I assume that this would also come in handy at a place like an amusement park (I’m not a big amusement park fan) or anywhere you have some kind of “pass”.

2. Tiny Clutch Bags:

Gentleman, this is probably not an issue for you, or maybe it is, who am I to judge. I don’t need to transfer my stuff to a smaller wallet and then back again. I just add what cards I need to my phone case and go. The next day, I can just put my phone back in my big bag and transfer the cards back into my wallet when I get the chance (which is actually kind of funny, because I don’t carry a wallet, I’ll write more about that later).

3. Travel Time:

I’m notorious for losing hotel keys. Now when I travel I just stick them in the back of my phone. Easy to grab and go to the pool or the vending machine. I’ve never had an issue with the phone demagnetizing the cards. Same for ticket stubs and coupons you’d otherwise forget.

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The Argument for a Digital Diary

journal, Organization, productivity, Technology, writing

I’ve been an avid journal writer for most of my life. I think it’s the narcissist in me, the same one who thought it was a good idea to try my hand at Hollywood, this thought that someday someone would care enough to read what I had written. It started in the 5th grade with a Scholastic Book Fair “diary” blue with pink hearts which by high school was a legit Laura Palmer type with a real lock and tiny keys. The diaries of my formative years are an open letter of who wronged me, who talked about me (who I was talking about, secret crushes and who attended what party.

Writing took on a whole new meaning in college when I moved away from home and everything I knew. No longer was I writing for an imaginary audience. As I struggled to find myself I wrote solely to sort out my ideas and feelings. To figure out where my place was in this world.

I never stopped. My career, my marriage, the deaths of loved ones, the birth of my child, successes, and some really dark times have all be recorded.

In 2010 I began using a digital journal on my Blackberry. In 2011 I switched to the iPhone and started using the Day One App. At first I was skeptical about digital journaling (and I’ll admit there’s a less comprehensive, yet Louis Vuitton, journal on my bedside table). There is something about putting pen to paper and leaving something behind for the next generation. I have my grandmother’s diary from 1915 and it’s an exquisite piece of history. There’s something to be said about expressing yourself using your own unique handwriting. If there’s one thing I can say about myself it’s that I have beautiful handwriting probably from all those years of journal writing. So I understand the argument for keeping your memories in a book,but here are some reasons to consider for either switching to a digital platform or keeping a digital journal in conjunction with a handwritten diary.

1. A digital journal is always with you: Life is busy. We’re constantly on the go. It’s not reasonable nor plausible that you’d have your paper journal with you everywhere. If you’re in the habit of writing things down as a way of catharsis than it’s beneficial to have that means to express yourself with you at all times. I once lived in a hotel for a month and there was no way I was leaving a traditional paper journal in my room.

2. A digital journal is more secure: If you choose one of the many popular journaling apps such as Day One, Wonderful Days or even Evernote, you can add a passcode or fingerprint lock to secure your writing. Day One even offers encryption as an added safeguard. The chances of someone “finding” your journal and gaining access are minimal.

3. It is a lot easier to add photos to your writing: Do places even develop photos anymore? I love being able to add photos to my entries, especially as I watch my daughter grow.

4. Unlimited space: My journal currently encompasses almost 8 years of memories. I’m saving space by not having all those books cluttering up my closet AND it’s much easier to return to my writing and read past entries, something I rarely do with my previous journals.

5. Writing becomes more organized: I can have multiple journals and tag entries according to subjects or yearly events.

I understand that some people may be worried about trusting “the cloud”. What if the internet goes down? What if the company (app) goes out of business? Those are legitimate concerns. I regularly export my journal as a PDF and save it on a removable hard drive. I have a friend who chooses select entries monthly, prints them out, and adheres them to a scrapbook.

A journal is a personal thing and it isn’t my place to tell anyone how to record their memories but if you’ve never considered a digital journal I hope I’ve offered viable reasons to give it a try. Below are my top three picks to start your mobile writing journey.

Day One

My Wonderful Days

Evernote

Cracked Screens Aren’t Couture

fashion, productivity, Technology

Cracked screens aren’t couture. Your phone is the one accessory which accompanies you everywhere and it’s important that your phone looks well cared for and professional when you pull it out to enter important dates, add a new contact or scan a business card. Just like you, your phone needs to be dressed for the occasion. Here are my top three choices for dressing your iPhone with style and class in every situation.

Ullu

I’m not even sure how I originally heard about ullu, they aren’t sold in retail stores, but these cases are my go to for a slim and classy design. I have a leather snap on and a wally case. The cases are a bit pricey ranging from $75-$400 depending on the style and materials used (ostrich anyone?) but they’re so beautiful. I’d planned on only using these in my smallest handbags because of the slim form factor and lack of rugged protection. The Wally case with its three card slots (and my monogram) was purchased specifically to use in my Louis Vuitton Palm Springs mini backpack (because pulling out a wallet from that bag is annoying) but the case is so gorgeous I use it almost exclusively & am just careful with my phone. No handing it off to the toddler with this case & I’m not sticking a Popsocket to anything this pretty either, so no stand, but it’s worth it. *As a side note, my phone fell off my night stand last night (about a 3 foot drop) & on to a hardwood floor in the Wally case. It’s fine.

Pros:

– Luxury materials

– Light weight

– Slim

– Stylish

– Open ports/easy access

– Monogramming available ($10)

Velvet Caviar

If you’re looking for a trendy, stylish options which offers a modicum of protection, check out Velvet Caviar. These are my gym and exercise cases. They have a slim enough profile but I feel like my phone could actually survive a spill off the treadmill with this case on. The Velvet Caviar cases also work well with Popsockets (which is a great way to prop your phone up on a spin bike or other machine) the site even features some exclusive styles of those handy little stands. Not only is the selection of styles impressive they’re always adding new designs and have descent sales regularly.

Pros:

– Durable

– Easy to wipe down

– Decent protection against falls

– Trendy styles

– Good value for the price

12 South

So I have a thing for wallet cases. I’ve owned 12 South’s original BookBook case since my first iPhone. The case functions as a wallet and a stand but it also has the ability to remove the inner shell and use that as a slim case without the “wallet” portion (on a side note, Ullu offers a similar option with a magnetic backing, something I’m not a fan of, and a flap closure. Again, not a fan). This case does not offer a closure which, I believe, is a selling point. Having a folio style case adds protection to the screen, but it’s one extra step when trying to capture a quick photo. Any type of extra closure, like a flap, I find to be an annoying hindrance. I like this case for traveling. Essentially you’re getting two cases in one so you don’t have to pack an extra case to use in evening bags, it works well for watching movies on a flight and it has the card slots for whichever cards your using, your ID or hotel room keys.

Pros:

– Unique “book” design

– Two cases in one

– Clear plastic ID holder

– Acts as a stand

– Easy to access all ports

– Folio style protects screen in large bags

Staying Organized in 2018

Organization, productivity, Technology

The holidays are over, 2018 is here, and it’s time to

get organized. Most of us are back to work trying to juggle our professional and personal lives while maintaining our sanity. It’s no wonder some form of productivity tops the list of New Year’s resolutions. The thing is, keeping your life together is more about finding a system as opposed to finding a one stop solution. Here are the five things I use daily (and in conjunction with one another) to stay organized.

I don’t believe in keeping my tasks for home vs. work separate, on a technicality I have three jobs, I don’t want to look at three calendars. I need to see the monstrosity of my day in its entirety. I also prefer a month view over a weekly or daily display, which is again a preference that can be augmented.

Step 1: The Calendars

Erin Condren Monthly View Planner

This is your basic spiral bound monthly planner with extra notebook pages added to the back. The thing I like most about Erin Condren’s line is it’s customizable. This one is large, so it stays parked in one place most of the time (usually my desk at school) but it comes home for the holidays or anytime I have to attend a district meeting. I like being able to come into work and getting that instant visual on what’s coming up. I have extra notebook pages added to the end so that I can take notes on a larger scale tablet and later digitize them if I feel they’re worth keeping. Erin Condren planners can be ordered with daily or weekly agendas as well, you can add stickers, or other accessories, they even have one specifically for teachers (which doesn’t work for me AT ALL, ironically). I have mine customized with my initials and my daughter’s photo. The Louis Vuitton stickers were added later 😜.

Awesome Calendar

This was one of the apps I mentioned in my best of 2017 post. Obviously you need a digital calendar (maybe I shouldn’t say obviously, my parents haven’t jumped on the digital bandwagon yet but they’re close to 80). Digital calendars are just so practical. I started with a Palm m100 (anyone remember those? Am I that old?) when I was doing the acting thing full time and working as an assistant to a producer over at Hollywood Center Studios. My life was crazy because my day never looked the same twice and things were constantly changing. The benefits of a digital calendar is the unlimited space for not just events but notes, directions, and photos as well. We’ve come a long way since those Palm days. I know every phone comes with a calendar app and Google makes a great (free) calendar alternative so why spend $10 on another calendar? Again, it’s about finding what works for you. I like being able to add personal photos as the background to my months. I feel that entering events is intuitive. You can look back on events 5 years in the past or look at your photo calendar (all the photos you’ve taken on a specific day). There’s even a Filofax mode in case you need a bit of nostalgia.

Step 2: My Note Takers

Again, I have a digital and paper version of notebooks to simplify my life. Most of the time I have a Field Notes notebook with me, they’re small, light, and fit in even the smallest of bags. Physical notebooks come in handy if your on the phone and need to write things down,as well as certain meeting situations. I hate carrying my laptop around & I don’t always have my iPad either. Some people don’t understand taking notes on a phone (they automatically think you’re texting) so having a tiny, lightweight notebook keeps you looking professional while capturing your ideas. And you can doodle, come on people, don’t act like you don’t love to draw. On a side note, a small notebook & a highlighter are a great way to entertain a fussy toddler in an emergency.

The final resting place for all my notes is Evernote, my digital notebook. Evernote has been my modern TrapperKeeper for almost a decade. Physical notebooks are great but once they’re full they’re relegated to a desk drawer never to be visited again. I avoid losing handwritten ideas by transferring them to Evernote along with news articles, business cards, photos, and import emails. Everything gets tagged and added to the appropriate notebook. I rarely use it, but voice notes can added as well.

Headphones:

The productivity tool everyone forgets about…until they forget them. 2017 was the year of the video call. Front facing cameras may have improved but microphones could still use some work. LHeadphones help you stay focused and in the conversation. Headphones also give you a hands free option for regular phone calls & voice memos.

Happy New Year! What I’m Bringing From 2017 Into 2018: The Best of 2017

fashion, Technology

Goodbye 2017. Hello 2018. With everyone focused on starting anew, resolutions, and wiping the slate clean, I thought I’d share some of my favorites from 2017 which will be making the transition into the new year with me.

The Bags

Palm Springs Mini Backpack: Hands down my easiest go to bag for running around the neighborhood with my daughter. I’ll be posting my one year review and wear and tear on YouTube this week. I’ve never regretted splurging on this bag.

Gucci SoHo Disco Bag: I love this bag because it’s the crossover between a personal bag and a work bag. I can fit my work keys or a diaper in it and it’s small enough to walk around town or take to the playground.

The Accessories

Louis Vuitton Small Leather Goods:

It took me forever to find a system which worked for me. I change bags a lot and it’s easier when I can grab just a few items to transfer. The winners: a mini pochette (or toiletries 15), a cles, and the round coin purse. Every bag, every time.

Leather iPhone Case(s):

Although not the most protective, they are they most stylish and professional. Right now I’m sporting a snap on case from ullu but I have a soft spot for Twelve South as well. Some of my cases have credit card slots, some don’t , but they all have that soft, lived in, leather look and sleek design.

The Apps

Day One:

I’ve kept my digital journal since 2010 and I’ve never looked back. I started using DayOne back in ‘11 but it’s made my 2017 favorites list because I finally splurged on the subscription service enhancing my experience. Unlimited journals. Lost of photos. A secure server. Password protected.

Awesome Calendar:

Yep, that’s it’s name and that’s what it is, an awesome calendar. I’m not anti paper planner, I use an Erin Condren monthly planner for work and an LV pm agenda next to my bed. I carry a Field Notes notebook with me just about everywhere but my digital calendar is my life line. What I love about Awesome Calendar is how customizable it is. I can add photos, stickers, color code, attach notes, directions, and review what I did on this day in history (because sometimes you’re just curious). This is the closest app to my college planner I’d spend hours decorating with magazine cut outs.

The Beauty

Benefit Hello Flawless Powder Foundation:

I’d heard somewhere that women over 40 shouldn’t use powder because it settles into fine lines and wrinkles. While I’m sure that’s true for some women, I’m still pretty oily and powder foundation helps control that. The formula is light and comfortable while providing complete coverage.

Bangs:

I’m not immune to wrinkles and the saying “bangs or Botox” definitely holds some truth. Besides, ever since my daughter saw Iron Man 3 and said I was Pepper Potts, I have a new affinity for my fringe. As much as I love changing up my look, I think I’ll keep the bangs another year.

The Fashion

Zara:

Zara still dominates my closet for shoes and tops. Unfortunately, the brand has vanity sized me out of pants. In an effort to be more inclusive and diverse the smallest pants size Zara carries in most styles has a 26” waist. But, the brand continues to be innovative, trendy, and affordable so I can spend top dollar on more expensive jeans elsewhere.

The Guilt App:

Speaking of denim, Guilt offers a wide variety of styles, brands, and sizes. I’ve even been able to find a size 22 on occasion. The best part is most of the merchandise is discounted. Guilt carries more than jeans, you can find everything from designer bags to vacation getaways.

Remember, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. There’s no need to get caught up in the hype. If you love something, keep it. Happy New Year.

It’s About Time

Uncategorized

Wow, it’s been awhile. And, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things. Not to mention, it’s hard to find time to get back into the swing of things. There’s so much I want to write about it’s overwhelming which is exactly what has prevented me from posting anything at all. Do I even remember how to post? I’m not sure. I have apps I’m in love with (finally found a workflow solution), cases (do you know I own ALL of 12 South’s wallet cases? I can explain), I’ve found the perfect designer toddler mom bag…maybe two which brings me to my first unboxing video for YouTube which I’ll post as soon as I, you know, get the box. There’s so much banging and crashing along inside of my brain that in order to post anything I had to post *something*. My plans for the week: 
* Review of 12 South’s Relaxed Leather iPhone 7 Plus case. 

* What’s in my bag? And why I’m totally obsessed with my bag. 

* Finally the perfect calendar app…sorry Apple, I needed something more. 

* Overrated! Two high fashion accessories unworthy of all the hype. 
As you can see, I’m a list maker. So stick around. This blog is back. 

I’ve Got My Eye on You: Cameras in the Classroom 

Education, Technology

Iowa school district asks principals to wear body cams
It’s no secret I’m a fan of technology in the classroom. I’ve even told my students that I’d love to have a camera filming my awesome and unique teaching style. I could be headed for stardom, society has made all the Kardashians celebrities, why not me? Not to mention, this would be a great way for kids who are absent to catch up on what they’ve missed, parents to become informed and involved in their child’s learning and a great excuse for me to expand my (already vast) wardrobe. But I have a problem with what Burlington, Iowa is proposing. 
The implications here are clear: We want to monitor you because we believe you will do harm simply because of the position you hold in society. You (teacher, principal, vice principal) are a bad person by default because there have been some bad people in your position before. Look at the example given, a police officer who beat a suspect. Again, is that indicative of all cops? Absolutely not. It used to be that if you wanted to be a hero you became a police officer, a fire fighter, a doctor, or a teacher. Now in order to achieve hero statis you have to change your gender. Civil servants are no longer respected but appraised with suspicion and scorn. Something is seriously wrong here. 
I’ve been on the losing side of this argument twice now. Growing up in the 80s and early 90s there was no teacher blame. If I wasn’t doing well in school it was my fault, not the teacher. 
My 5th grade teacher would have been considered abusive by today’s standards: she allowed other students to pick on me (sometimes using racial slurs), she called me stupid in front of the entire class, she really did not like me, and do you know what my parents said about the situation? “She’s the teacher”. That was the end of the discussion. My father worked at the school as a part time music teacher, he knew the woman, he’d visited the class, it didn’t matter. She’s the teacher. End of story. Same situation today and we’d have lawsuits and news coverage. Two out of three times when I encounter a parent in a parent meeting I’m there to defend myself because our culture says that the student is always right. Giving a student until the end of the semester to make up late work for full credit isn’t enough I also need to shorten and simplify the assignments, drop the lowest test score, and stay after school until it’s convenient for the child to come in because their child is “busy”. That’s the pervasive parent position. Our culture is changing. iPads failed those poor LAUSD students they deserve their money back, guns kill people not the psychopath pulling the trigger…
Go read Harrison Bergeron, Brave New World, and 1984 (think of Big Brother as political correctness). Tell me you don’t see life imitating art. 
Put a camera in my room, not on my body. Put a camera in my room because I’m awesome (most days) and you are genuinely interested in seeing the way my classroom works. Put a camera in my classroom because it could benefit student learning if they had the opportunity to hear the same lesson twice. But don’t put a camera on me because you assume I’m going to do something harmful to your child. It’s not action I have issues with it is the approach. 

Resistance is Futile: Tech is Coming Into Your Classroom 

Education, Technology

   The biggest hurtle in the adoption of technology in the classroom isn’t lack of devices or teacher training. The biggest thing holding back the advancement of technology, or more specifically BYOD, are the teachers who refuse to allow students to use said technology in their classrooms. Now I’m not advocating forcing teachers to do anything in their classrooms, I believe every teacher has the right and responsibility to choose curriculum wisely, create rules to promote equality, and to establish guidelines which they feel comfortable with but I do have a few things I wish my colleagues would consider before completely banning smartphones and other tech from their domain. 
Argument #1: Students are Distracted by Technology:

Yes. Yes they are. Students are distracted by a lot of things. Students are distracted by their peers, their hormones, independent reading books, lined paper to draw on, sports, what happened at lunch…squirrel!!!! Allowing students to use cell phones does pose yet another avenue of distraction but it isn’t like the technology is going anywhere. In the past five years, in addition to teaching, I’ve worked as an actor, a fitness model, a fitness instructor, photo double, and freelance writer. I also finished my Master’s of Education. In every situation having a cell phone, let me be more specific, having a smartphone (an iPhone to be REALLY honest in some situations) was mandatory. And, it has never happened (not once), that an employer has taken away my phone. Why? Because real life doesn’t work that way. No one comes into your classroom, your cubicle, the courtroom, and takes away your phone because you’re texting. They just fire your ass. If you can’t do your job because your iPhone is distracting you, if your work doesn’t get done, you get fired. You lose your job and when you lose your job you lose your paycheck. No more paycheck and you can’t pay your rent, your car payment, or buy food. Now you’re homeless and hungry…and then you die (Bit too dramatic? Ok. Maybe a little. But it could happen). All because you couldn’t keep your hands off your cell phone. That’s “the real world”. Wouldn’t it be better if we taught our students how to be responsible with their technology in a controlled environment? The novelty of having a cell phone out in class wears off pretty quickly but if they have to learn a lesson about responsible use and consequences I’d rather have them fail Language Arts 10 than fail life. 
Argument #2: BYOD is “Unfair” Because Not Every Student Has Access to a Device:

Yes. Again. It is unfair. Life is unfair. I know this because my parents reminded me of it every time I wanted something my friends had and my parents said I couldn’t have. The thing is, it’s true, life isn’t fair and that’s…ok. Equality isn’t always giving everyone the same thing, it’s giving everyone what they need to achieve the same results. Should I have petitioned the school board to get rid of football scholarships because as a 5’2”, 88 pound girl I wasn’t eligible? Or, should I have looked at my own talents to find the scholarships which I was eligible for based on my specific abilities? For every assignment I’ve offered this past year which incorporated BYOD there was a corresponding assignment in retro style (pen and paper). Some of the students who had devices elected to go old school hipster on me and use pen and paper anyway. To each his own. My job is to give students the opportunity and present them with options but I firmly believe that since technology is here to stay, it should be offered as an option. 
Argument #3: Students Need to “Think for Themselves” Not Rely on Technology: 

Oh how my math teacher loved to expound on this when I was in high school. I clearly remember his argument “what if the cash register goes down…” It was, in 1994, not such a bad argument but in 2015 it doesn’t stand up so well. What if the case register goes down? Then I’ll pull out my cell phone. What if my battery is dead or I forgot my phone in the car or I have no wifi? In 2015 if you don’t have your cell phone one of your coworkers will. Or, the guy who you’re ringing up or the guy behind the guy you’re ringing up. The fry cook, the janitor, the six-year-old waiting in line for a Happy Meal. Someone has a calculator! It isn’t that students in 2015 have it “easier” they have it differently. The world has changed. I used to be able to use the excuse “I was absent” if I missed a test or a due date for homework. My students need to check online, submit their work to turnitin.com, or email me. Students can check for their homework online when they are absent and their parents can see up to the minute grades. I could tell my parents that I got lost if I was late coming home, these kids have GPS. I couldn’t call because I couldn’t find a pay phone and even if I had, I didn’t have a quarter. Cell phones killed that excuse. Do you know that you can find your child using Find My iPhone? Think for themselves? Any kid who can still come up with a reasonable excuse for missing curfew has my vote for creativity. We don’t just want our students to think for themselves though, we want them to think critically. Having access to the Internet doesn’t change the skill. I had to evaluate the credibility of a source in the library and my students have to do it on line. At least in the library you could rest assured that someone felt the content was publication worthy eliminating some credibility issues. Now anyone can publish their ramblings…you’re reading some right now. So can we really argue that technology has taken away a student’s ability to think critically or has it just changed the landscape the way streaming music and Netflix have changed entertainment? 
   The use of technology is still a very personal choice for teachers but for teachers who are a part of an ecosystem adopting common core, the transition will be inevitable. As the poster children for BYOD personified will tell you “Resistance is Futile” we have the power to teach the next generation how to use technology responsibility. 

Google Classroom 

Uncategorized

I, personally, am not a huge fan of Google Classroom. I know. How can that be? I love tech, I love teaching (not every day, I’ll admit, but most days). How can I not love Google Classroom? After having played around with the tools Google supplies I just feel as though the whole thing wasn’t ready for primetime. Crashes, formatting issues, bugs…it felt like shopping at Macy’s (kind of ok but you know they don’t sell designer) when you should be at Saks. But some people love Google Classroom (some people love Macy’s and that’s ok, too) and make good use of it and others have never tried Google Classroom. If you’re in the latter category I highly suggest you give it a try. You never know until you try, right? Here’s an article to help get you started: Teacher Tech by Alice Keeler