Efficiency Begets Quality Time

The Efficiency Project, from 805 Living Magazine's Pulse section, winter 2021.

The Efficiency Project, from 805 Living Magazine’s Pulse section, winter 2021.

Founded by sisters Alia Glasgow, an event producer, and Casey Geeb, an interior designer, The Efficiency Project (theefficiencyprojectsb.com) helps families create time-saving interiors that free up more precious moments to do the things they enjoy the most.

Creating a drop zone for keys near the entry to a home, for example, can save time spent
looking for them.

“Design and organization really do go hand in hand,” says Glasgow, who specializes in the organizing side of the business, “and the fact that we can support and brainstorm with each other on both means Casey’s design is stronger. I help her with the functional [aspects], and she makes it look really great.”

They also offer help for those moving from one home to another and enhancing the appeal of a home to live in or to sell.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Waldorf Education Honors the Head, Heart, and Hands

Waldorf Education Honors the Head, Heart and Hands. Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Waldorf Education Honors the Head, Heart and Hands. Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

101-Year-Old Tradition Offers a Holistic Approach to School

The 101-year-old Waldorf educational tradition is still thriving today at The Waldorf School of Santa Barbara. One of the key components is the whole child educational approach, which Administrator Teddy Macker described as, “Trying to encourage the intellectual,
artistic, and practical capacities of our children equally in a loving, reverent holistic manner, and I think that in itself is unique.”

Instead of “teaching to the test,” as a focus, “We want our children to flourish as human beings, wholly,” said Macker. “So we privilege working in the garden like we might privilege math. We privilege painting like we privilege history, so it’s an integrated, holistic curriculum wherein all of the human is honored.”

“Head, Heart, and Hands” is one of the catch phrases you often hear. “When we talk about the head, we are talking about the academic and intellectual development of the child,” said 6th grade teacher and Administrator Carolyn Kaster. “So we see that we have a rigorous curriculum, but in addition to that, we are working with building capacities within the children. Rather than having a vessel that you’re filling up with information, we see it as building capacities in the children to learn and also fostering imagination and creativity.”

The heart, she explained, refers to social and emotional learning. “In our philosophy, we value the relationships,” said Kaster. “It’s very common in our school and in all Waldorf schools for the teacher-student relationship to span several years.” The long-term teacher-student and teacher-parent relationships create a unique partnership and connection.

The “hand” component, Kaster said, concerns the artistic approach to education, whether that means visual art, music, dance, woodwork, or another discipline. “All of the artistic parts of the curriculum are really woven throughout,” she explained. “So what you’ll see is that there’s not much of separation between art and the curriculum, but that there is art woven through.”

Altogether, Macker said that these programs ensure that their students’ socioemotional is thriving. “We’re really wanting the children to not be these mere heads sitting in desks who can pull off cognitive feats,” he said. “We’re really wanting them to be whole. For us, happiness is wholeness, so we proudly — and we do it fallibly, of course, and
imperfectly — but we proudly fabric the social emotional into everything.”

waldorfsantabarbara.org

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.

 

Wishful Weaving

See fiber artist Regina Vorgang’s handwoven table runners in A Time to Gather at Studio Channel Islands through November 25. Photo by W. Scott Miles, the Scientific Photographer, THESCIENTIFICPHOTOGRAPHER.COM.

See fiber artist Regina Vorgang’s handwoven table runners in A Time to Gather at Studio Channel Islands through November 25. Photo by W. Scott Miles, the Scientific Photographer, THESCIENTIFICPHOTOGRAPHER.COM.

Folks are spending more time than ever in their homes these days, and with that in mind, fiber artist Regina Vorgang has turned her talents to creating functional pieces of art for the table—handwoven table runners. “I’ve been thinking a lot about family gatherings,” says Vorgang, whose Regina Design (reginadesign.com) studio is based in Camarillo. “I’m trying to focus on what can be for the end of this year, in the hope that we can gather without too much worry.”

Vorgang started her career as a graphic designer before her desire to do something more tactile led her to begin creating handwoven tapestries and rugs. “I’m inspired by nature or designs that come into my head,” she says. Her table runners are on display through November 25 in A Time to Gather, an exhibit at Studio Channel Islands (studiochannelislands.org), a former elementary school housing 40 artists’ studios and a gallery. To schedule a private viewing visit studiochannelislands.org/visit.

805 Living Cover, October 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, October 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

Sprigeo Says Yes to School Safety

Joe Bruzzese of Sprigeo, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Joe Bruzzese of Sprigeo, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

When Joe Bruzzese founded Sprigeo in 2010, he wanted to help schools prevent bullying and provide a safe, anonymous method for students to report things that made them feel unsafe. The service has since evolved into a full-fledged school safety tip line reporting system, with a 24/7 call center accessible by phone, email, text, an app, or the website.

“Everything goes through the call center,” explained Bruzzese. “They triage those tips based on pre-set criteria to determine how serious of a threat the tip is. Some are very serious—‘There’s a planned school attack,’ or ‘I’m planning to take my own life and I’m calling or reporting to get help’—to something that’s far less serious, like, ‘I don’t like what they’re serving in the school cafeteria.’ We get the gamut of reportable tips, not all of which qualify obviously as a school safety threat.”

A virtual company from the get-go, Sprigeo now serves more than 4,000 schools across 28 states as well as administering the statewide tip lines for Oregon and Idaho. They recently signed on to provide the tip line for the state of Illinois, their largest customer so far.

That provides a lot of data to digest. One trend that Bruzzese sees is an uptick in middle-school students “really struggling with cutting and depression and other forms of self-harm.” Vaping is also on the rise, not just in high school but in middle school. Prior to the pandemic, Sprigeo was working on a series of videos featuring high schoolers telling middle schoolers how “uncool” and unhealthy vaping really is.

Unfortunately, that project is on hold at the moment, but one thing the company has been able to move forward on is an online educational conference that will launch on September 14.

“The culture around meetings and professional development really has changed, and people are now very comfortable with sitting in front of a screen and attending a Zoom meeting or a training session,” explained Bruzzese. “Districts still have the same professional development requirements by law, [so this is] helping them in a way that makes sense, which has been great. Everyone is really looking for opportunities for quality online training.”   sprigeo.com

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

 

Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20

 

ParentSquare Makes the Grade

Anupama Vaid of ParentSquare, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Anupama Vaid of ParentSquare, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Entrepreneurs follow all kinds of inspirational paths. For Anupama Vaid, it was the halls of Santa Barbara’s Peabody Charter School that inspired her to start ParentSquare, a communication platform connecting parents to teachers and school administrators that is now used by 4,500 K-12 schools across the country.

A former computer engineer for Citrix, Vaid came up with the idea in 2011, when she took a sabbatical to be home with her young children and realized how much more school information was available to stay-at-home parents.

The platform’s development by Vaid and her husband, Sohit Wadhwa, emphasized a simple format that could be accessed via phones, laptops, tablets, and desktops for parents, teachers, and office staff. But making a solid product was only step one.

“Even if you build a good product, there is hindrance in adoption primarily because the education tech industry is a government industry and there are regulations and lots of things to learn,” explained Vaid, who spent almost four years learning the ins and outs of ed tech. “Education really teaches us about technology, but they are not the first ones to adopt technology. Whenever they are buying something, it has to be a collective decision. Plus, it has to be priced correctly because they are buying it with state funds.”

Upon cracking that nut, ParentSquare grew rapidly, but COVID-19 is presenting new challenges. The schools pay a fixed amount per student, but with online education becoming the norm in the spring, their normal usage patterns have gone up tremendously. “But we’re happy to be able to serve the schools during this time,” said Vaid. “It’s very satisfying to be able to do that.”

In addition to consistently delivering helpful tips for better online communication, ParentSquare also added Health Screening Forms to the platform to help schools prevent the spread of COVID.

A more persistent challenge is hiring developers, as ParentSquare uses the same Ruby on Rails web-application framework that’s also used by some of the biggest companies in town, such as AppFolio and Procore. “Obviously, their pockets are much deeper,” she said. But ParentSquare offers a unique advantage. “This is such a soulful company,” she said. “It’s a feel-good experience, and every one of the education industry people is so nice to work with because you know you’re all in it together for the common good. Unlike other industries I’ve been in, this is tech for a social cause, and it’s a different feeling being a part of such a company.”

parentsquare.com

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

 

Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20

 

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

This special section for the Santa Barbara Independent features the following stories (click on links to read them or click here to see the issue as it appeared originally.

Introduction to Active Aging

Aging with Grace and Humor: Etta “Honey” Miller Celebrates 105th Birthday

Providing Healthy Food for Healthier Lives 

Time to Move to a Senior Living Facility? Westmont Living Experts Answer This Question and More

The Shift to Telemedicine: Dr. William Gallivan’s Orthopedic Institute Lead the New Way

Healthy People, Healthy Trails: Broad Collaboration is Taking Seniors Into Nature

Building Better Bone Health With Osteostrong: Wellness Studio Fights Against Osteoporosis

Reverse Mortgages 101: Mutual of Omaha’s Montecito Office Offers Planning Advice

When Families Help Families: Mission Villa’s Brother-Sister Transition Team

Meet the Society of Fearless Grandmothers: Seniors Band Together to Fight Earth’s Destruction

The Cremation Quiz: Simply Remembered Educates About End-of-Life Options

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

Time to Move to a Senior Living Facility?

Time to Move to Senior Living Facility, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Time to Move to Senior Living Facility, Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Westmont Living Experts Answer This Question and More

Today’s seniors and their loved ones have an abundance of choices when it’s time to move into a retirement community. But there remain many factors to consider when deciding the timing of that transition and determining which location is best for you. Experts from Westmont Living, which owns Mariposa at Ellwood Shores in Goleta, share their insights.

How do you know when it’s time to choose senior living?

“Ideally, families should start looking for an appropriate senior living community when when there isn’t a sense of urgency,” said Nick Begane, community relations director at Mariposa at Ellwood Shores, a senior community offering independent and assisted living as well as memory-care options.

Waiting lists can be very long for desirable senior living situations. Can you get on a waiting list even if you’re not quite ready to move?

“A family should start their research at least one year ahead of your desired move,” said Jack McCarty, vice president of sales and marketing for Westmont Living, which also runs The Oaks in Nipomo and will open The Oaks in Paso Robles in 2021. “When you find a place that meets a majority of your criteria, consider placing a deposit with the community so that you can secure a place when you are ready or when they have an opening.”

How can you tell if a place is right for you?

“Some communities allow short-term or respite stays,” said McCarty. “This allows for your parent(s) to spend time getting to know the community, those that work there, and to enjoy the amenities firsthand. Interestingly, some people stay rather than move out again. When that happens, it’s a win-win for the seniors and their families.”

What questions should you ask about a community?

• Is the building secure and do they follow the recommended CDC guidelines?

• How competent is their health support? Are they licensed to provide health services? Are nurses on-site every day? What are their COVID-19 procedures?

• Does the building look like a place that you would like to live?

• Do they have a fitness center or exercise options for optimum health and wellness?

• Is therapy after hospitalization available?

• Does the dining program provide the right menus?

“Once you have determined that a particular community is a good fit for your family member, then meet with a community relations person to review the payment structure and termination and refund policies,” said Begane.

How can you best learn about the culture and vibe?

“Ask to see the community schedule and look at the quality of the activities available and the frequency of social activities,” said McCarty. “Find out if the community can support the mind, body, and spiritual needs of your parent(s).

Stop by and have lunch and spend time observing your new home.”

COMMON SIGNS THAT EXTRA SUPPORT IS NEEDED INCLUDE

 short-term memory loss

 forgetting to pay bills

 not managing personal affairs

disorientation of time and place

 loss of normal judgement, such as making an illogical approach to a problem

 not cooking or eating regularly

 loss of weight

 poor home maintenance (dirty dishes, unwashed laundry, and clutter)

 poor personal hygiene (not bathing regularly, repeatedly wearing the same clothes without washing)

 not taking medication or following medicine instructions

 losing touch with friends, not socializing or participating in favorite activities

 showing signs of depression, like sleeping or crying

Westmont Living: westmontliving.com

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

The Cremation Quiz

The Cremation Quiz, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

The Cremation Quiz, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

SIMPLY REMEMBERED EDUCATES ABOUT END-OF-LIFE OPTIONS

“The death of a loved one can be overwhelming,” says Dan Flynn, owner of Simply Remembered Cremation Care, a funeral home offering cremation services, home funerals, and green burials. “Planning for one should not be.”

When considering cremation services, it’s important to get the facts straight. Test your knowledge with this short True-or-False quiz.

1) The County of Santa Barbara regulates funeral homes and cemeteries.

False. They are regulated by The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau of the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

2) Embalming (preservation of a corpse from decay) is required by law.

False. Embalming is not required by law. The embalming trend was kicked off by the first celebrity embalming, Abraham Lincoln, said Flynn, explaining, “They stopped at every single town on their way to his final resting place.”

3) A deceased loved one’s body must be removed from the home within 72 hours.

False. There is not an amount of time by which a loved-one’s body must be removed from the home.

4) It is legal to hold a funeral in your home.

True.

5) Ashes may not be scattered at sea in California.

False. Ashes may be scattered at sea, provided they are at least 500 yards from shore.

6) Ashes may not be scattered in a lake, pond, or river in California.

True.

7) Ashes may be scattered on land in California.

True, provided you have permission from the landowner.

8) Cremation accounts for just 25 percent of all dispositions in the United States.

False. Cremation now accounts for 52 percent of all dispositions in the United States, 63 percent in California, and 90 percent in the Santa Barbara region.

9) Full-body burial at sea is not legal.

False. Full-body burial at sea is legal. The only requirements for full-body burial at sea are that the boat be a minimum of three miles offshore (federal waters) and in 600 feet of water. Due to the shallowness of the coastline in Santa Barbara, boats must go out eight miles to reach a depth of 600 feet.

10) A “green burial” means that no fossil fuels were used in the preparation of the body.

False. “Green burials,” which are legal provided the cemetery allows them, are when there is no embalming, no casket, and the body is wrapped in a cloth shroud and buried directly in the ground. There are currently no cemeteries in Santa Barbara that offer this option. A loved one’s ashes can also be planted in a “Bio Urn” that will grow a tree of your choosing.

11) “Water cremation” is illegal in California.

False. Effective July 1, 2020, California became the 14th state to allow “water cremation,” also known as alkaline hydrolysis. This is literally a warm, soapy bath, where the high-alkaline solution dissolves the soft tissue over a couple of hours. What remains is only the skeleton, which is then processed to a fine white powder.

Simply Remembered Cremation Care: simplyremembered.com

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

When Families Help Families

When Families Help Families, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

When Families Help Families, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

MISSION VILLA’S BROTHER-SISTER TRANSITION TEAM

When it comes to senior services, the Newquists are keeping it in the family.

Sensitivity, understanding, and compassion are so important when it comes to helping people with the big changes in their lives. When seniors are moving out of family homes — either to “rightsize” into something more suitable, or to transition into life in an assisted living environment — it can have a dramatic impact on the entire family.

The brother-and-sister team of Dana Newquist and Nancy Newquist-Nolan works closely with families to help them through these changes in this emotional time in their lives.

Dana Newquist, who owns and operates the downtown Santa Barbara assisted-living dementia care specialist Mission Villa, has been in the memory care business for 24 years. He started his career in the early days of tech, founding Computer Plaza in 1981 (near Harry’s Plaza Café), as well as Montecito Video and Summerland Video. He was looking for a new venture in the mid-1980s when his sister Lyn Lorenzo, the oldest of the seven Newquist siblings, came to him with her gerontology degree in hand and a thesis project describing a new assisted-living model that was more like a home and less like an institution.

She’d taken the thesis to the bank for a loan, but they wanted a business plan. “Well, my sister was a great gerontologist, but she wasn’t very well schooled in business,” said Dana. “So she called me to write her a business plan.”

That plan turned into Country Village (countryvillagecare.com) in Chico, California, which is still operating.

“She was very progressive in her thoughts,” said Nancy about her admired oldest sister, who is now 78 and still actively involved.

The family ties keep coming. Nancy’s husband, Keith Nolan, principal of ON Design Architects (ondesignarchitects.net ), designed both Country Village and Mission Villa senior care homes. Meanwhile, Nancy is Coldwell Banker’s senior real estate specialist (nancynewquistnolan.com ), with training from the California Association of Realtors on understanding what seniors need when they go to sell a house.

Dana is also a Realtor and frequently works with Nancy on deals. In addition, Nancy used to own an estate liquidation business and brings years of experience in working with seniors and their families to sell the contents of their homes.

“When you’re going into a house to liquidate everything, you learn about so many aspects of life,” laughed Nancy. “When they get older, they stuff everything in their pockets or in books or in weird places. I always tell the family prior to us coming in: Please go through your family members’ pants pockets, coat pockets, flip through their books, because they tend to get dementia and start putting money in those places, and we want to make sure that we didn’t sell a book by accident that had a thousand dollars in it.”

The hardest thing is letting go. “They love their home, they have their memories, and they’re afraid,” said Nancy. “And you’re telling them to let go and move forward on to what will be a safer place for them. We try to be proactive instead of reactive. And being proactive means they can make the choice, and that’s what we highly suggest. That way, they still are able to have their say in what happens to them.”

Added Dana, “Trust is the whole deal — you’re dealing with the most important thing they have, and that could be a spouse, or a mom or dad.”

That’s especially true when going to a memory-care facility like Mission Villa, which works closely with hospice providers and is designed to be the last home a person will live in.

“This is really an end-of-life kind of facility,” said Dana.

The pandemic is only making compassionate care more challenging, as visitors are currently prohibited.

“Because we’re dealing with dementia, if you take a daughter or son away for even a week, let’s say, when the dementia patient has to be reinforced in memory all the time, they forget who somebody is,” said Dana. “We totally become their family.”

Thankfully, the Newquists are up to the task. “When you have seven kids in the family, you have to have grace and patience,” said Nancy. “We all seem to have that, which makes us really even keeled to help the seniors as we do.”

Mission Villa: mvcare.com

Nancy Newquist-Nolan: nancynewquistnolan.com

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.

Reverse Mortgages 101

Reverse Mortgages 101, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

Reverse Mortgages 101, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

MUTUAL OF OMAHA’S MONTECITO OFFICE OFFERS PLANNING ADVICE

A type of loan available to homeowners aged 62 and older, reverse mortgages allow people to borrow money based on the value of their homes. Unlike other loans, the debt isn’t immediately due. Instead, payment is deferred until the borrower either dies or sells the home, at which point the debt comes out of their estate or sale.

“In the right circumstances, a reverse mortgage can be a really nice thing for older homeowners in retirement,” said Tom Kronen, an advisor at Mutual of Omaha’s Montecito office who has specialized in this type of loan for almost 20 years. He often works with multiple family members and also prefers to get a trusted advisor involved, whether an attorney, accountant, or financial advisor.

“This is much more of a relationship business than the traditional one between a broker and client,” said Kronen. A reverse mortgage should not be seen as a silver bullet for financial survival, and Kronen does not suggest using it as a “stand-alone product.” He explained, “So you are utilizing home equity, but it’s better if you utilize home equity in coordination with retirement income and other assets.”

But it can be a worthy tool during tough times. “When financial markets are really volatile, and especially if you sustain losses in the market, that’s not a good time to pull money out of your savings and investment accounts,” said Kronen. “Instead, you can use a reverse mortgage to supplement your income and carry you over until the markets rebound.”

Many are concerned that this arrangement will interfere with their ability to leave money to their family when they’re gone, and there’s truth to that.

“Legacy is a really important thing, and it’s something that we always bring up in the conversation because it can really affect decision making,” said Kronen. “But a reverse mortgage sometimes can be even better for legacy; it just depends on the situation. One thing we like to say in our business is: A reverse mortgage is best when it’s not used as a last resort. It’s better if it’s used earlier in retirement and as part of a coordinated plan.”

You can actually use a reverse mortgage to finance the purchase of a new home. “If a retired couple or individual is downsizing or rightsizing into a new home from their old home, they can use a reverse mortgage exactly like they would get a mortgage in a new home,” he said. “But you are not obligated to have mortgage payments on that new house. You’re going to get to put more money in the bank.”

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

 

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.