Lessons from Scandinavia

A few nights ago I stood on a street corner near my apartment. It was a little before midnight. The air was crisp, the sky was bright, fir garlands twinkled with Christmas lights. I stood alone, nary a car in sight…and waited for the light to change from red to green.

Shit, I thought. I’m practically Danish now.

Five years in Copenhagen has almost completely erased twenty years of proud NYC jaywalking. In a fit of civil disobedience, I crossed against the light. But the fact that it took a conscious thought to do so made me realize how much living in Scandinavia has changed me.

I’m less competitive. As an American abroad, I didn’t have to explain the notion of American exceptionalism because it was evident in everything I did–or did not–do. But five years in Scandinavia has taught me that competing with myself and those around me? All it does is exhaust me. My kids don’t have six activities each. A day. The older one doesn’t play an instrument. Neither one of them is on the chess club. If there is a future checklist of extracurricular activities they need for college acceptance, we’re failing. And after five years here….that’s ok with me. In fact, if they choose not to go to college, that’s ok with me too. They’re kind. They’re happy. They drive me nuts but they are good, inclusive, thoughtful kids. No amount of piano or extracurricular Arabic lessons are going to enhance those qualities. I don’t always succeed and it isn’t always easy, but I’m learning to place those qualities above grades, above awards, above percentile and rankings.

I’ve admire the way Scandinavians look at the world. Scandis are loosely guided by the social principles of Jantelavn, which places the value on the whole rather than the individual. In fact, those who attempt to stand out above the fold are often looked down upon. It’s pretty much in direct opposition to the way I was raised, the way most Americans are raised–in a culture that demands and encourages you to stand up and shout. I hated it at first. I mocked it. They are striving for mediocrity! There’s no innovation! There’s no competition! There’s no ingenuity! And it’s true. There’s not a whole lot of that. (Or rather there’s plenty, just not by super-sized American standards). What there is though? Contentment.

I’ve seen how social programs can work. Contrary to what many Americans seem to think, ‘socialized’ health care doesn’t result in people dropping dead on the main drag on a daily basis. Will you get the same level of health care you’d get with a top-tier US insurance plan that’s costing you or your employer $3,000 a month? Nope. Do you need all those bells and whistles? 95% of the time, nope. Will you ever go bankrupt in Scandinavia because you get sick or are in an accident? Nope. But more than the very real benefits of tax money which pays for everyone to have decent health care is the pride the Nordics have in taking care of one another. They all contribute and they all receive. They are proud of the way they’ve structured their economy to look after one other. Nope, it’s not perfect. Yes, there is fraud. But there is a deep-rooted sense of satisfaction which comes from knowing that not only are you taking care of, but you are taken care of. I admire it greatly.

When you get rid of one, two more take its place
When you get rid of one, two more take its place
I’ve learned to worry less. Kid number one goes to Tivoli with a friend on his own. Kid number two walks to the toy store two blocks away by himself to buy Pokemon cards. The 12 y/o rides public transport alone. They go to the park near our house on their own, they stay home by themselves while we do the grocery shopping. And I don’t worry. It’s not that I don’t worry because bad things could happen. It’s that I don’t worry because I’m not immersed in a culture which is so obsessed by worry it that it dictates every action, reaction and counter-action. And by virtue of marinating in a more relaxed atmosphere for five years, I’ve absorbed it. And quite frankly, it’s glorious.

I’ve learned not to look for answers to problems that don’t exist. I realized this the other day sitting in a meeting which was peppered with ‘what ifs?’. It took some scrawny Danish guy from the bus company who shrugged his shoulders and said, “if it becomes an issue, we’ll address it.” And suddenly…it made sense to me. For most of my life I’ve demanded an answer to ‘what if?’. The problem with demanding answers for issues that don’t exist is that once there is one problem, three more follow. It’s like the Hydra. It turns out when you free your mind from could be-maybe-what if? problems, there’s a lot of room for something like…well, happiness.

scandi-nationsScandinavians have it right about a lot of things. Not everything. But a lot of things. They have it right about the work-life balance. They have it right about vacation time. Scandinavians–scratch that–Europeans think Americans are nuts. Oh, and they don’t give a fig if overworked Americans think Europeans are lazy and entitled. You know why? Because they’re sipping drinks on a beach somewhere enjoying their vacation time. Americans take a perverse pride in just how much they are being screwed over. There is a bizarre sense of I must be heartier, stronger, better because I work more and harder for less. It took me eight years of living outside of it to be able to put my finger on that. And I still don’t understand it completely.

I don’t know where life will take us next, what the next chapter will hold. But I hope that the lessons I’ve learned after five years in Scandinavia come with me, wherever we end up.


Science Experiments for All Around Your Home

Potato energy experiment
It’s natural to have a lot of questions about the world. As you wonder about these things and ask questions, you are learning. Curiosity about science helps you become an explorer finding out how things work and why things happen. Anyone can be a scientist, performing experiments to ask questions and get answers. You can even be a scientist at home, working on experiments with ingredients you probably have in your kitchen or laundry room. Always get a parent’s permission before you conduct experiments. Working as a team with an adult is best for safety.

If you’ve ever wondered why someone can measure and pour ingredients into a bowl, mix them up, and then bake the batter in the oven to make a cake, you’ve thought about science. The process of mixing certain ingredients together and adding heat causes the ingredients to react and change. For example, baking powder or baking soda in a cake recipe will react with acidic or wet things in the batter to puff it up and make the cake light and fluffy. Scientists tested these reactions so many times that they learned what would happen every time. This is called experimentation, and you can do it, too.

As you wonder and ask questions, experiments will let you watch chemical reactions as they happen. Even something as simple as writing a secret message on the bathroom mirror with a cotton swab and dish detergent can teach you about science. When the bathroom fills with warm steam from a shower, your message will appear like magic on the mirror. It’s not really magic, though. The dish detergent on the mirror is preventing water molecules in the steam from sticking together, so you can see the letters you wrote earlier.

The kitchen can be an ideal place for performing science experiments, with an adult’s help. For instance, with a few stalks of celery and some food coloring, you can watch capillary action happen almost before your eyes. Capillary action describes what happens as plants move water up from their roots to their leaves. Get four stalks of celery and cut off the bottoms so each stalk is 10 inches long. You’ll also need four identical cups, each filled with a half-cup of cool water. Decide what color you want to make the water, and then add the same number of drops of food coloring to each cup of water. Stir the water well with a spoon. Place one stalk of celery into each cup. After two hours, remove one stalk and label this one “two hours.” After four hours, remove another stalk and label it the same way. Do the same with the next stalk at six hours and the final stalk at eight hours. After you finish, compare the celery stalks to see how each one changed color, depending on how long it was in the colored water.

You could even step into the living room to have more scientific fun. Learn about static electricity with some tiny scraps of paper and a balloon. Blow up the balloon and tie it closed. Make a small pile of paper scraps on the floor, and rub the balloon back and forth several times on your hair or on a sweater. Immediately move the balloon to the paper and watch as the paper scraps cling to the balloon.Slussen Rub the balloon on your head or sweater again and then place it against the wall to see it stick there. This surprising sticking happens because you have moved electrons around and the balloon now has more of a negative charge, while the paper or the wall has more of a positive charge. Putting the two surfaces together makes the opposite charges stick to each other.

Have fun exploring science around your house and backyard. Take pictures of your experiment steps and make a science experiment notebook to record your findings. It’s safest to work with a parent or other adult when performing science experiments, though. Always get permission before you work like a scientist, and ask an adult to help you with the experiment steps.


Is Your Carpet Cleaner Good for Your Health and the Environment?

The carpet in your home takes a lot of abuse, suffering through trampling, spills, and plenty of dirt throughout the course of a year. When it comes time to clean the carpet — either with a professional service or a as a DIY project — using harsh chemicals might not be a very good solution for preserving the carpet, the environment, and your own personal health. For those reasons many people today are turning to greener alternatives for carpet cleaning. Here are some of the benefits that green carpet cleaning can have for your family, your home and the earth.

Fewer Toxins Released into the Environment

Harsh chemicals that are used in carpet cleaning often have a significant negative impact on the environment. During the carpet cleaning chemicals are released into the air (the same air you and your family will have to breathe after the carpet cleaners are gone), and after they are used to clean up the spots on your carpet, these chemicals are poured, dumped, or rinsed down the drain where they can be potentially harmful to the water supply.

The majority of traditional carpet cleaning mixtures use a long list of harsh chemicals in order to lift the stains of your everyday life out of the carpet.Hemstädning Odenplan While it can leave you with clean and shiny carpet, the price that the environment pays for the toxins left behind can be steep. Greener or more earth-friendly alternatives often include ingredients that are nontoxic and biodegradable. In addition, these products often come in packaging that is recyclable to reduce landfill waste.

Better Health for Your Family

Another side effect of chemical carpet cleaning is the potential impact on the health of you and your family. The use of a cocktail of noxious chemicals inside the enclosed space of your home can often lead to significant problems, particularly for babies, toddlers, and pets—who spend the most time breathing near the carpet—and for those who already suffer from respiratory illness. Some of the most common symptoms people suffer after breathing in carpet cleaning chemicals include:

Coughing and congestion
Headaches or migraines
Asthma attacks
Nose, lung, and eye irritation
Nausea and fatigue
To compound the problem, unless you purchased carpeting made entirely of organic materials (which is pretty uncommon in most traditional residential construction), your carpet is made up of synthetic fibers and materials that could interact with carpet cleaning chemicals to detrimental effect. Some of the most common chemicals found in both carpets and cleaners include acid, acetone, formaldehyde, pesticides, disinfectants, and more.

Carpet cleaners that have these dangerous chemicals often leave a concentrated vapor of toxins in the air that you and your family are breathing. Even letting the carpet “dry” or “air out” for a short period of time will not eliminate these toxic fumes entirely.

Less Water Waste

Another environmental impact of traditional carpet cleaning that many people don’t consider is wasted water. Many “green” carpet cleaning methods today use significantly less water in the process of cleaning. This has a few different benefits:

First, using less water means there is less water wasted or thrown away after the carpet is clean.
Second, less wasted water reduces the potential that the hazardous chemicals found in carpet cleaning compounds will be dumped or poured into the water supply, where they can impact the whole community.
Finally, reducing the volume of water in carpet cleaning means that carpets can dry much faster (sometimes in as little as four hours), getting your family back into your home sooner, and limiting the opportunity for mold and mildew growth.
Longer Carpet Life

Many traditional chemical cleaners can also reduce the beauty and useful life of your carpets. Mixing harsh chemicals with the synthetic materials in your carpet may lead to visible problems like yellow or brownish coloring in the carpet, but it can also have an unseen consequence for your flooring. As the chemicals come in contact with the carpet fibers they can break it down and cause it to deteriorate prematurely. With the high cost of removing existing and installing new carpet, it makes sense to use a cleaner that will prolong the life of your flooring rather than break it down and cause it to wear out sooner.

How to Find the Best Green Carpet Cleaning Materials

Green carpet cleaning supplies are available both from professional cleaners and do-it-yourself stores. If you’re planning to hire a carpet cleaning company, ask them about the cleaners they use and if you’re concerned about whether or not they are organic, get a list of ingredients. Talk to the company about their process and policies for using chemical cleaners, and select carpet cleaners that put your family’s health and the environment first.

If you’re planning to do your own carpet cleaning, search for products that have a list of ingredients that you recognize and can pronounce. Often these cleaners are odor-free and will advertise the certified organic ingredients inside. If you are not sure about a product, take some time to research the ingredients and how it’s made before you purchase it for use in your home. Another important consideration is the container that the cleaner comes in. Choose organic cleaners sold in recyclable packaging to further reduce the environmental impact of your carpet cleaning.

Many people are increasingly concerned with the volume of chemicals that we are exposed to in our day-to-day life. Fortunately you don’t have to suffer through stained and soiled carpet just because you don’t want to use harsh chemicals on your floors. If you’re worried about the impact that traditional carpet cleaning might have on the environment and on your own personal health, look for green solutions that can provide you with the clean home you want and have minimal impact on your health and the health of the environment.

Carpet cleaning might seem like a very small part of an overall environmental strategy, but as more and more people begin to change their behaviors and use sustainable materials in all different aspects of life, these small changes can collectively benefit the health of the planet and the health of the people living here.



7 Best Year-End Rituals for Leaders

By Jessica Stillman

As a leader you’re probably already neck-deep in end-of-the-year planning, forecasting growth, nailing down budgets, and setting targets. All of which is necessary to set yourself up for a great 2017.

But it’s not sufficient.

If you really want to soar in the coming year, end-of-the-year planning isn’t just about getting your strategy straight and your financial house in order. You also need to get your head right, and that means tuning up your psychology, renewing your mental resources, and recommitting to your deepest values.

In short, you don’t just need to review and reflect on business matters. You also need to review and reflect on your life. And the way to do that is with rituals.

” ‘Rituals’ sounds a little hippie dippie to me,” you might say. “I’m not really the chimes and chanting type.” But whether you’re a self-help devotee or consider yourself the hardest-nosed realist out there, here’s the truth: Rituals work. Science proves that taking concrete actions to mark a new state of mind really does affect our feelings and behavior, even if that’s totally irrational. (Do I really need to convince you that humans aren’t entirely rational creatures?)

So what end-of-year rituals are best for leaders? The internet is littered with suggestions, though the best bet might just be whatever feels most natural and effective for you. Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking. Flyttstädning Odenplan

1. Give thanks, in writing.
Gratitude is one of the best studied and most powerful happiness boosters out there. Counting your blessing strengthens your positivity muscles, putting you on a more optimistic footing for the year ahead. My colleague John Boitnott has suggested one powerful way leaders (or anyone really) could put that insight to use this time of year: Take some time to send your customers or team hand-written thank-you notes.

2. Declutter your space, and your brain.
Changing your physical environment can have a surprisingly profound effect on your mentality, so one way to convince your brain it’s time to turn a new page and leave the burdens of the past behind is to physically chuck some stuff. You could opt for this comprehensive holiday clean-out plan or simply designate an area of your home, office, or life to ruthlessly declutter.

3. Counteract any lingering suckage.
For many folks, 2016 was a pretty rough year. If you’re among those struggling to regain your mental balance after taking a beating in the past 12 months, entrepreneur and financial coach Denise Duffield-Thomas suggests this straightforward ritual to combat the suckage and reclaims your positivity.

Grab a partner, she instructs, and then sit down with a piece of paper and start completing this sentence: “This year, I’m proud of … ” If you run out of steam, your partner can gently prod you with “What else?” Keep going until you have thought of 30 to 50 brags, big or small, business or personal.

Suddenly, 2016 won’t seem so uniformly awful after all, and you’ll be reminded that even in bad times, you managed to salvage some good. Now imagine what you can do in 2017.

4. Remind yourself how much you’ve learned.
Just like you probably accomplished more this year than you remember, you also probably learned more than you realize. But the key to getting the most out of that new knowledge is actually putting it to use. This ritual from coach Christi Heisted can help.

“Cull your notes from the conferences, classes, and webinars you’ve attended throughout the year, as well as the books you’ve read. Summarize your key learnings and set your top 3-5 action steps. Knowledge is great, but knowledge plus implementation makes you unstoppable,” she writes.

5. Make peace with your failures (and your enemies).
While counting your blessings in various ways is a powerful way to end the year, it also helps to put to bed any conflicts and regrets you’ve racked up too. Thought Catalog offers several good suggestions on how to do this. hemstädning odenplan

For instance, try forgiving an enemy. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean welcoming someone back into your life. It doesn’t even necessarily mean contacting them again. It just means making the conscious decision to let go of any anger, resentment and blame that you’ve been holding onto. It means accepting that we’re all fallible people, and allowing ourselves to head into the new year with peace in relation to that fact,” explains the blog. Science suggests this will do wonders for your own mental health.

Another idea from Thought Catalog is to face your own failures from the previous year head on. “It’s tough to make it through the year without a single failure. But rather than dragging that beaten horse into the New Year alongside you, have the strength and the audacity before this year ends to let it go. To accept that you have failed. To let disappointment sink in, but also to revel in the freedom it allows you,” the post suggests.

6. Learn to expect the unexpected.
It’s easy after something happens to feel that it was inevitable, but it’s only hindsight that’s 20/20. Remind yourself of that fact and make space in your life for surprises with one more cool ritual from Thought Catalog. “Make a concrete list of all the places life has taken you in the past year that you didn’t expect — and let it serve as a reminder that the coming year will likely be full of surprises, too,” the site advises.

7. Light a (literal) fire.
In many parts of the country, a New Year’s fire is a good idea simply to keep away the cold, but you could also use that cozy fireplace for ritualistic purposes. Why not write down your fears and burn them to cinders before the clock strikes midnight?

You can even make it a family affair (with proper safety supervision), suggests Mindbodygreen. “You can buy fly wish paper. Have your kids write down on one piece of paper what they want to let go of, and on another piece of paper what they want to manifest (for themselves, for others, and for the planet). Burn the paper and watch it fly into the universe,” notes the post. A fireplace works perfectly well too, it adds.


A coffee expert shares the 6 things every coffee drinker should have

Besides breathing and sleeping, there are few things I do with as much regularity as my morning cup of coffee. Before my first cup of Joe in the morning, I am walking through the day like a zombie, and I feel pretty confident in saying I’m not alone in this.

I do my best to make my morning mug at home when I can, but most days I’m scrambling for a train, and then scrambling through sidewalks with only time for a quick moment of reprieve at my morning food cart. It is not the ideal coffee scenario, but it gets the job done for me.

There are better ways to start your morning with a cup of coffee all your own, but since my daily routine is a bit chaotic, we decided to call in an expert. I recently spoke with Paul Toscano, connoisseur of all things coffee and chief marketing officer of Joyride Coffee, a company that specializes in cold brew kegs. I asked him to take me through some items he thinks avid coffee drinkers might be missing in their cupboards


Home Energy Conservation for Kids

Energy is very important. It is something that kids need and use every day at home and at school. In fact, some form of energy is used just about anywhere that you can imagine! It is also something that adults talk, worry, and have concerns about. One of the things that they worry about is called energy conservation. When you hear the words “conserving” and “conservation,” it means to use less of something. If you are using less of something, then you are saving it: If you are conserving energy, that means you are saving it by using less of it. Energy conservation is just as important as energy itself. It is also something that kids can help with.

Saving energy is a big deal. It’s important for people, and it is important for the planet, too. Why is it important? To make energy, natural resources are used. Natural resources are things that are found in nature, such as water, natural gas, and oil. Many of the natural resources that are used for energy are called non-renewable. Non-renewable means that there is only a limited amount in the world. Once that limited amount is gone, there will be no more to replace it. Because using too much energy uses up natural resources, it is important to conserve it.

Another important reason to use less energy is pollution. When chemicals and other nasty things get into the air or the water, it is called pollution. Pollution can make people and animals sick and cause problems with plants. The use of certain resources, like gasoline in cars, helps spread pollution by releasing gases and chemicals. It also helps cause the earth to get warmer than it should. When this happens, it can make the weather change when it shouldn’t or create really bad rain, heat, or snow. This can cause problems with plants and animals, too. By using less energy, you’re creating less pollution.

Kids can do a lot to help conserve energy at home. Video games, watching television, and using other electronics is fun, but they use a lot of energy. Watch less TV and play games less by going outside to play more often. When you watch TV or play video games, turn them off when you are done. If there are lights on in empty rooms, turn them off, too. If you’re getting food from the refrigerator, know what you want and be as quick as you can. The longer the refrigerator door is open, the more energy it uses. If the air conditioner is on, close all of the doors and windows in the house. When they are open, they make the air conditioner work harder than it needs to. If it isn’t too hot, ask your parents to open the windows instead of using the air conditioner. Keep the windows and doors closed on cold days to keep the colder air outside and the warm air inside. Don’t just let hot water run in the sink – that uses a lot of energy, too!

Energy makes it possible to do a lot of things, including fun stuff. But it won’t last forever, and using it too much can be bad for plants, animals, and even people. Kids can do a lot to help conserve energy. When less energy is used, there will be more of it left for the future. Using less energy also helps keep the earth and everything in it healthier.

If you want to learn even more about conserving energy at home, click on any of the following links.

Energy Star Kids: Pick an energy-saving activity on the Energy Star website for kids. On this page, kids can learn fun facts or the definition of global warming with a click of the mouse. Kids can also choose to learn how they can make changes to help the environment.
Saving Energy: The California Energy Commission has great tips on how to save energy when at home. On this page, there is also information on how to save energy when not at home and how to recycle.
Energy Kids – Saving Energy: The difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency is explained.
Use Less Energy: Click this link for great advice on saving energy. On the page, there are more links to further information about the subject.
Climate Kids – What Can We Do to Help?: The Climate Kids website is a NASA website. On this page, read about ways that kids can help protect the environment, reduce their carbon footprint by saving energy, and reduce their trash pile and water use.
Lights Out the Energy Saving Game: By clicking on this link, kids are opening an online game about saving energy. Instructions on how to play are also found on this page.
How You Can Save Energy: Find out how kids and their families can use less energy. This Tennessee Valley Authority article includes links to other websites about energy and energy conservation.
Top Ten Rules for Saving Energy: Rules can make it easy for the whole family to save energy in the home. Click on this link to read ten helpful rules on saving household energy.
Zoo America – Kids Conserve: Zoo America wants to teach kids how to help protect the environment. This page gives tips on saving energy, conserving water, and other advice, including recycling.
Just for Kids – Conserving Energy: Lighting: Kids can learn about conserving energy by using lighting correctly. On this page, there are also additional links to energy conservation tips that involve appliances and carpooling, for example.
Energy Saving Tips: Kids can get great tips on how to save energy while at home and while at school. Click on this link to read these easy-to-remember tips from the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
What You Can Do – Energy Saving Tips for Kids: Click on this link to read a PDF about how kids can help the environment by saving energy. This page also talks about climate change, what it is, and why it’s serious.
How Energy Efficient Are You?: This link opens up a fun quiz where kids can learn how well they save energy. The game also gives tips on how kids can save energy even more!
Energy Experience – Save Energy: Click on this link for an interactive game that teaches what wastes energy and how to fix it. Play the game by clicking on items in the room that may be wasting energy.
Energy Tips for Kids: On this page, kids can learn ways to conserve energy. The page reviews activities that kids can participate in other than watching television. Tips for the whole family and ways to save water are also on this page.
Kids Korner – Energy Efficiency: Kids who click on this link will learn what it means to be energy-efficient. They’ll also learn about ways that they can be efficient every day.

Cleaning Ceramic

To clean ceramic tile floors, mix 1/2 cup ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda with warm water in a bucket. Using a mop, spread the mixture on the tile, and then rinse and mop clean. This same solution also works on a ceramic backsplash. Spread the mixture on the tile with a rag, then wipe away with a clean rag. Rinse with clean water as needed.

Cleaning Stone

ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda can naturally clean and deodorize granite and other stone while removing stains and spots. To clean these stones, create a solution by adding 4 tablespoons of baking soda to each quart of water, and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on countertops, then wipe away with a clean cloth. Since food will touch the counters, it is important to use an all-natural cleaner.