Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How To Prepare for the School Year (When You're an Adult)

If you're anything like me, organization is not your strong point. That's why when summer comes around, I look forward to the days of unstructured laziness, lounging by the pool and not having a care in the world.

Though it seems that the hazy days of summer will never end, they usually do and at some point you'll see back to school supplies creeping into stores as pool noodles take a backseat to pumpkin everything.

We had a great summer filled with travel and exploration. We visited cities like Niagara Falls, Baltimore, Toronto, and I even had a chance to travel to San Diego and London! There was much time in the sun and even more soaking up on culture but at the back of my mind I know the kids' first days of school and those pictures getting on the bus are following so quickly it makes my head spin.

While my kids are gearing up for school, I have found this year that I need to be more on top of the organization at home. So I'm turning to the internet for help courtesy of Verizon FiOS' Quantum Gateway router which keeps me and my family on task. Here are five tips to help you keep on top of things this year and to keep those angry teacher letters to home from making their way into your kids' take home folder.

1. Do Your Research On Your Child's School 

Every school has a website now and they put some pretty good information up there for our perusal. You can find out the skinny on your kid's teacher and contact him or her before the school year starts especially if you are itching to be that first mystery reader. Be that know-it-all parent at curriculum night that doesn't have questions that can easily be answered online. Then, when the night is over, take a selfie of your smug face because you did your research.

2. Talk to Your Kids about Online Use 

Technology is everywhere now. Your child's school probably has them doing some things you wrote about in the a story called "What Schools Will Be Like in The Future" when you were in six grade. Alas, we still don't have flying cars but our kids have access to some awesome technology. Some, even have kids using iPads and technology in school. With great power comes great responsibility though. Make sure you review policies and expectations with your children about appropriate online use both at school and at home. If you have Verizon, you can control content either from your home page online or from your My Verizon app on your phone.

3. Get Organized 

I found a great site online called Todoist that also comes in app form. It works across all your devices and is user friendly. Once you create tasks for the day, you'll receive notifications with reminders that things remain and unlike a notification from your calendar that you swipe into oblivion, it will keep reminding you until you complete the task. You can even collaborate with other people and assign them tasks which they will receive a notification about. This comes in handy when that last drop of milk as been used that morning and you forgot that you have to bake cookies for the school PTA bake sale.

4. Forget the Stores, Shop Online

Those visions of large size glue sticks dancing in your head are just a dream. They are long, long gone taken by those parents who smelled blood in the water before the supply list was even posted online. You'd be lucky to get a folder that might disintegrate on contact at this point. Amazon has everything and it comes right to your door, unless you like hip-checking the parent next to you for the last box of Number 2 pencils.

5. Don't Stress About What's for Dinner 

I despise grocery shopping. It all leads back to my time at Peapod as a personal shopper. But what I dislike more is the look on my children's faces when I tell them what is for dinner. That's where Blue Apron comes in. The ingredients ARE IN THERE! All you need to do is prepare it. Each meal has a card with the ingredients, full color instructions, and a history of the item on the menu. You can adjust for you children's tastes but we have had some spectacular family meals thanks to them and I didn't even have to touch one of those germy carts!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with Verizon FiOS in Philadelphia. All opinions expressed are my own. #FiOSPhilly

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Faith and Football: The Brandon Burlsworth Story

I'm hunched forward in a three point stance waiting for the next command, I wait for the shrill whistle as sweat trickles down the back of my neck into my helmet. The grass is hard and unyielding not anything like the summer grass from months ago. My fingers ached and my back was burning in the early Autumn sun. I took a furtive glance to my right. The bench looked great from there and yet I was still on the field. So many times I just wanted to stand up and walk to the locker room because I felt I shouldn't be there. The story of my life wasn't going to be an inspirational movie about football.

As a big guy I have spent much of my time battling with self doubt and a lack of faith in myself. It started when I was younger; always tall for my age, my body progressed into a more husky than svelte athlete. I went to department stores with my mom to get special sized clothes because I couldn't fit in the things my friends were wearing. I wasn't a lean, mean, fighting machine like the other boys. My body was just built differently and that made me doubt where I fit in.

I didn't have the swagger of other kids, I just went along for the ride. I didn't believe in myself because I was different, but I was different for a reason. What I did do, was work hard. I always wanted to prove to myself that it could be done, that the bench was the easy way out. I could watch the game from the sidelines and never really play but where was the fun in that?

There is something about the feel of something greater than yourself. In my last year in elementary school, my school put on an awards presentation. It was the kind of show where you knew which kids would be striding up the aisle and confidently running up the risers to the stage. You knew that when MVP was called just who would flash a smile and wave to the crowd. Me? I hung my head and looked at my sneakers. I knew them inside and out; the cracked leather, the frayed end of the left shoelace that was barely hanging on, and the worn sole on the right side from shuffling my feet.

That's when it happened. A person's faith in me changed me in a way I never thought possible. The coach announced that they were awarding the next trophy to a person who exemplified heart and strength in athletics. I never heard my name. The guy next to me poked me and pointed to the stage. I staggered to the stage like I was walking underwater. There had to be a mistake. Yet there I was on the stage, shaking hands and accepting this award. In that moment, my faith in something greater multiplied exponentially.

Brandon Burlsworth is just like me. We were made just the way we were supposed to be. In a world where faith in people is lost, a story like the movie GREATER is just the thing that people need to see. The movie tells the Brandon Burlsworth story which begins from a childhood admiration of Arkansas football to the very goal he promised to himself that he would make real, that someday he would be playing for the Razorbacks.

Brandon faces ridicule from most everyone he meets because he is not athletic. He is often overweight and made fun of by peers and onlookers alike. Despite this abuse, Brandon always holds his head high and always takes the higher road. He discovers why it doesn't matter what others think but what he thinks is what defines a person. Brandon reminds me of how I felt about myself back then.

Along the way Brandon is inspired by coaches who see something in him just like my coach saw in me. It was this drive to be persevere despite any uphill battles that we face that may be hard for others to see. When adversity shows up and the fight becomes harder, we may start to question whether our hearts are really in it.

What will keep us afloat always is the way that we treat each other. The relationships that we build with others out of love are always going to be the strongest. In GREATER, Brandon has a support system that is deeply rooted in family despite his father being an alcoholic. He finds strength in others like his mom and brother who lift him up in times where he feels he may drown.

Relationships are often tested in this movie but most of all our faith in ourselves that there is something greater in each of us. These days my eyes aren't on my feet anymore and my shoes are less worn. Each part of life is a down that we play out until the whistle. How we perform in that play and how we give it our all defines us as people. While we sometimes may not be able to see the entire field we have to trust that the plays that are being called are the right ones in the end.

Go see the movie GREATER August 26th at a theater near you & watch GREATER the movie trailer below for a sneak peek of what the movie is all about.

Check out more about GREATER on social media:

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and GREATER Productions. but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #GREATERMovie #GreaterTheMovie

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Only Camera You'll Ever Need is a Smartphone

Take a look at smartphones these days and they are all pretty much the same. We we made the leap from flip phones, to ones that were just designed for texting, the Blackberry emerged and we discovered that those keys we thought we so desperately needed weren't there for any other reason but nostalgia.

I suspect this is the feeling our parents had when the rotary phone was replaced by the push button phone. Sure it was faster and much easier but between the time you decided to dial and the time that you actually completed the dial, you had a whole lot of time to hang up that phone before the girl on the other end picked it up.

You can't find a smartphone these days that doesn't boast a crystal clear display. We want to be able to see our content clearly so that's a no-brainer. We want it to be fast because we are busy and don't have time for it to lag. Smartphone companies are following the formula that made them successful. Large screen, clear display, almost unbreakable glass with options for customization. I can even get a case that fits my personality.

But here's where the shift begins and ends for me. The camera. I pride myself on my photography. It's the one selling point in a phone that has me all aflutter when we talk images. What you decide to do with that camera is what will set you apart from all other phones. Don't mess that up because we don't want to miss a moment.

Thank goodness smartphones were not around when I was in college. If we wanted to take pictures we bought a disposable camera that clicked incessantly when we advanced to the next frame; you could never do that without someone knowing you were about to take another picture. Even then, if you took a photo in low light, you'd use the fixed flash that used the same burst of light for every situation. Then you would take this camera to the drug store and get it developed and laugh at the messed up composition or wonder why your thumb was the star of every third frame.

While the world is collectively losing their minds about other phones, there is a phone that doesn't get much press and it's the HTC One M9. It boasts up to a 20 hour usage time and more importantly sports a 20 megapixel front facing camera. This is almost twice any other smartphone out there.

The user interface is one I enjoy. There's no more switching to modes by going to settings, Just swiping left or right cycles through selfie, camera, panorama, RAW camera, photo booth, or a specialized mode of your choosing. Shooting in RAW mode is a plus for any serious photographer allowing customization for white balance, over or underexposure, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

The phone also has the most intuitive one touch editing software that I have seen. The editor not only allows creation through standard things like filters, editing tools such as cropping, flipping, and straightening but allows creativity through touch ups for photos of people like skin smoothening, lighting effects, eye enhancement, and anti-shine.

With the HTC One M9 there is little to no need to import a photo to your computer and spend time editing it post shot. The ability to edit and create double exposures, prismatic images and unlimited tools at the touch of your fingers makes you feel like the possibilities are endless. With this phone you are a mobile photographer with all the tools necessary to create on the go. The HTC One M9 will elevate your photography to new levels.

Backed by the best network there is at Verizon, I am able to share these photos with my family, friends, and followers on Instagram and Twitter. HTC prides themselves on elevating a user's image and video experience and it shows. With a 32GB hard drive, it holds all my precious images with room to spare and has a Micro-SD card port for expanded memory. You are only limited by your creativity with the HTC One M9 so forget lugging around an extra camera with you, this phone is the only camera you will ever need.

As a member of a great group of Verizon influencers, I occasionally receive cool products to test drive and share my honest thoughts on. I was provided with the HTC One M9.  No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.