Latest news

The Chronicles of a (potential) Drummer

No comments

By Colette Hapi

And the saga continues.

It’s been a couple of months since my last drumming update, and let’s just say, growth is not for the faint of heart. When my students get frustrated when trying to learn something, I often tell them, “Growing requires us to stretch and to be okay with being uncomfortable. In the process, we may not always get it right, we may not enjoy it, it might seem arduous or tedious or slow, but if we stick to it and trust the process, we’ll grow. And that’s the most essential aspect of the process.” This is advice that I’ve given countless times, so imagine my surprise when I found myself on the receiving end of it. Just like my students, I found myself frustrated with the drumming process and, quite frankly, was fed up. It felt like the time that I was investing was disproportionate to the reward. To make matters worse, I believed that my drumming coach was having me spend time on exercises that were futile instead of teaching me how to play the songs that I wanted to play. UGH!

Recently, I was working with a student who was having a hard time comprehending their math homework, as it required them to use their still-developing analytical and reasoning skills. I had the student focus on exercises that were meant to build a foundation and serve as building blocks to improve their conceptual understanding, critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, confidence, and ability to adapt. The student didn’t immediately see the end goal to taking this slower approach, but as their mentor, I could see that working on these skills would better prepare them for more advanced topics than me simply showing them how to get to the answers the “quicker” way.

Then it dawned on me…My drumming coach was doing the same thing with me. He had me focus on the building blocks so that I could strengthen my analytical and reasoning skills because they’re the backbone of my development as a drummer. These skills empower me to break down complex rhythms, solve technical challenges, understand song structures, and adapt my playing to various musical contexts. By honing these cognitive abilities, I can elevate my drumming skills, enhance my musicality, and become a more versatile and proficient drummer.

Just like my students, I had been looking for the quick solution. Experiencing this firsthand was a humbling reminder of how challenging it can be to persevere through the learning process. I had (and continuously still remind myself) to trust the process and be patient and persistent. Consistent practice and dedication to the exercises provided by my coach will yield positive results over time, and the process can’t be rushed. Progress may not always be immediate, but with continued effort, improvement is inevitable.

As a drummer, I embrace the journey ahead with renewed determination, knowing that it’s in the challenges and frustrations that true growth lies. Armed with the knowledge that analytical and reasoning skills are the key to unlocking my musical potential, I am committed to breaking down complex rhythms, refining my techniques, and adapting to new musical contexts. Just like my students, I’ve recognized that success isn’t defined by shortcuts or immediate results. Instead, it comes from the dedication to honing one’s craft, the willingness to learn from setbacks, and the courage to face the unknown.

As the chronicles of a drummer continue, I embark on this musical odyssey with a heart full of passion, humility, and the understanding that the journey itself is as valuable as reaching the destination. And with each beat of the drum, I embrace the growth that lies ahead, knowing that the true joy of drumming is found in the process of becoming the best musician that I can be.

Erica MechlinskiThe Chronicles of a (potential) Drummer

Books to Movies

No comments

 By Madeline Albertine

It’s officially summer, and with that typically comes increased family time since kids are home from school and *mostly* homework free! For parents looking to keep their children occupied but still squeeze in quality time, reading books and watching movies together may be the way to go. In my house, I was taught to ALWAYS read the book before watching the movie adaptation because my mom is a big believer that the book is always better. While I completely agree with this sentiment, watching a movie after reading a book is a fun and exciting reward. This summer, I challenge you to encourage your kids to read a book with a movie adaptation so that after they finish, the whole family can enjoy a movie together – complete with snacks, of course! Here are some of my personal book-to-movie recommendations:

Bridge to Terabithia: Katherine Paterson

  • This book is about a young boy and girl who befriend each other and create a “new world” for themselves using their imaginations. This fantasy play bonds the two of them until tragedy strikes. Warning: this book deals with serious topics like death. The movie of the same name was released in 2007.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Roald Dahl

  • A young boy named Charlie obtains a rare Golden Ticket that gives him access to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. While spending the day in the factory, Charlie experiences magical moments and encounters moral challenges.
  • Two movies have been made about this book: 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder, and 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Johnny Depp.


Holes: Louis Sachar

  • This book follows a young boy, Stanley Yelnats, as he gets falsely accused of theft and sent away to a bootcamp. While at camp, readers learn how the actions of others affect Stanley in the present. This book deals with serious topics such as racism, fate, and friendship. The movie of the same name came out in 2003.


Harry Potter (the series): J.K. Rowling

  • Harry Potter is a seven-book series, beginning with Sorcerer’s Stone. The books follow a wizard named Harry as he progresses through Hogwarts, a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Each book was turned into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe. The books can be read first with a movie marathon held after, or you can be like my family and read a book, watch the movie, read the next book, watch the movie, and so on.


After watching these movies as a family, have your kiddos draw comparisons and spot differences between the books and the movies. How did they feel about the changes? Were certain parts cut out of the movie? Do your children agree with the changes? If they are anything like me, they may strongly dislike when movies veer too far from the books!

Erica MechlinskiBooks to Movies

Checking off my Checklist(s)

No comments

By Kristin Backert-Evans

You know how people will sometimes say that too much of a good thing can make it a bad thing? Well, friends, I am here to tell you that this is simply not true. How is too much ice cream bad for you? Or too much chocolate? It simply isn’t!

I like to follow that mantra for all aspects of my life, including how I stay organized. At some point in your life, I’m sure that you’ve used a checklist. Maybe you used one to remind you about items to buy at the grocery store, assignments to complete at school, or worlds to dominate. Checklists are a tidy way to help you keep track of the millions of things that need to get done. So, you may be wondering why I keep not one, not two, but THREE checklist systems. After all, wouldn’t the naysayers tell you that this is overkill?

For some people, my three-checklist system might be too overwhelming. But for me, it’s extremely helpful because it allows me to categorize the tasks that I need to complete. There are so many moving parts in my life, and trying to keep it all in my head, let alone restricted to one checklist, just doesn’t cut it. Let me show you!This sloth checklist (adorable, right?) contains long-term things that I need to complete in both my personal and professional life. For example, I might have reminders to buy my mom a birthday present or to write the Thinking Organized June blog post on here. Typically, the items on this checklist aren’t due for at least a few weeks. The sloth helps me think about the bigger picture.This plan of attack checklist (very determined!) contains immediate tasks that I need to complete. I only place work-related items on this list so that I don’t fall behind in anything. These items are things that I want to finish within the next two weeks, like reading and commenting on something that a colleague sent me. I pull professional items from my sloth checklist to put on this checklist when I want to free up some space on the sloth.

This last checklist is just so stinkin’ precious to me! It’s Pokémon-themed, which speaks to my heart. On this checklist, I plan out what to do on a daily basis. I pull items from my plan of attack checklist so that I have a clear goal of what I want to accomplish every day. This is something that I started back in college, as it made my life easier to set some daily goals so that I could handle all of my assignments.

Maintaining three checklists isn’t for everyone, but it works for me! I love that I get to use checklists with fun designs that also allow me to be organized in a way that works best for me. Plus, having so many checklists means that I get to use all sorts of cool pens (if you couldn’t tell, I love collecting cute pens). Are you a checklist kind of person? What do you use to stay organized?

Erica MechlinskiChecking off my Checklist(s)

From EF to EBC: Celebrating Another Birthday!

No comments

By Cassie Castro

Every time I complete 365 rotations around the sun, I take the time to reflect on where I’ve been to help reorient my trajectory. For my most recent celebration of me, I decided that a great avenue for this self-reflection would be on a hike … to Everest Base Camp (EBC).

Just a month before my departure date, I bought my plane ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal, and found an outfitter who would guide me from the foothills of the Himalayas to the heights of EBC. It was a spontaneous decision, and I was in a state of excitement and panic! I hadn’t trained a single day for this physically challenging adventure, nor had I started collecting gear for the trip.

Nothing calls on the use of strong executive functioning skills and strategies like solo travel! I immediately went into research-planning-execution mode so that I could prepare myself for this adventure. In order to make sure that I would safely and successfully reach EBC, I researched a bunch of things, including:

  • Weather. I researched the season and weather of the region during October to ensure that I would pack appropriate clothes.
  • Cultural Norms. I learned about the language, food, and social norms of Nepal – no social faux pas would happen on my watch!
  • Safety. I studied how to avoid mountain sickness. Having a medical emergency while celebrating my birthday was definitely not something that I wanted to experience.
  • EBC Specifics. I read about other people’s experiences on the trek, including how they prepared, what they experienced, and what they would have done differently.
  • Outfitter Specifics. I explored the group expectations and the trip outline in order to have a clear sense of the itinerary and rules.

Equipped with all the information that I needed, I was ready to start planning. There were so many details that I needed to plan for, including:

  • What to pack. Using what I learned about the weather, I packed versatile items that I could layer up and down. I had to be ready and comfortable in all of nature’s elements.
  • How to be a responsible visitor. As a traveler, I always strive to be respectful in any new place I go to while adventuring and exploring.
  • Staying safe. I followed the guidelines suggested by other trekkers and the outfitter that I would be joining. For example, I made sure to take elevation pills to avoid mountain sickness, and I packed light and only what was necessary.

Now, all that was left was to execute my plan. With one foot in front of the other, one day after the next, with the support of my fellow hikers turned friends and sherpas, and with research and planning, I executed my goal of making it safely and successfully to EBC! More importantly, it was a wonderful avenue for my self-reflection as I prepared to brave the next 365 days.

Erica MechlinskiFrom EF to EBC: Celebrating Another Birthday!

Taking Charge of an iPhone: Digital Minimalism

No comments

By Jessica Bauman

I appreciate all the things that my phone does for me. It keeps me connected to friends and family. It helps me access information on demand. It’s a source of needed entertainment on my Metro commute. 

However, I’m also wary of how much of a time-stealer it can be. It’s easy to rack up screen time minutes I would rather be spending doing something else while just mindlessly browsing news or shopping sites. I’m sure this ambivalent relationship is something that you’ve experienced too! 

With the recent change of seasons, I’ve engaged in a bit of spring cleaning of my phone habits. I’ve found three easy changes that help me focus on using my phone for all the reasons I appreciate, while reducing the time “stolen.” These ideas boil down to a guiding principle of minimalism. They make my phone appear visually as calming and streamlined as possible. That way, when I first look at my phone, I stay focused on what I’m truly meaning to do with it.

I’m happy to share these three ideas with you now!

  • Widgets. My most frequently used, productivity-boosting apps are now widgets on my home page. A widget takes up more room than an app, so there are fewer things on the homepage to steal my attention. Widgets also display key pieces of information from the app, so I can often answer a question like, “What are my top reminders today?” without even opening the app.
  • Grayscale. An underused accessibility feature intended for people with colorblindness, grayscale makes everything on your phone appear gray, white, or black, like you’re looking at a non-color e-reader. This makes looking at the phone less fun and, frankly, less addicting. If I truly need to look at photographs or something with color, I turn the settings to color, then back to grayscale.
  • Unsubscribing. This positively impacts other devices I use, as well. For the past month, any time I get a marketing e-mail I don’t want in my inbox, I hit Unsubscribe. I do the same with “Report Junk” in text messages. Even in the first few days of this, I noticed a surprising reduction in the number of notifications received, and, even more importantly, in the number of e-mails or texts I had to look through (and later delete) to get to important ones.

Our phones have become crucial parts of our lives, but it’s important to not let them completely take over our lives! What are your spring cleaning goals when it comes to your phone?  

Erica MechlinskiTaking Charge of an iPhone: Digital Minimalism

From Indecision to Decision: Choosing the Right College for You?

No comments

By Aileen Choi

March is an exciting time for many high school seniors as they begin to receive their college acceptances. However, it also marks the beginning of the difficult decision of choosing the right college to attend. The decision can be overwhelming, but with the right mindset and approach, it can also be a rewarding and insightful experience. 

When I was deciding where to go for graduate school, I was torn. I had narrowed down my options to staying in-state, where I could save money, or moving to New York, where tuition would be more expensive. As time passed, I became more and more confident that I was going to stay in Maryland. However, once Admitted Students Day for the school in New York came around, I decided to go to finalize my decision. Little did I know that Admitted Students Day had other plans for me! I met the professors, learned more about research opportunities, and met like-minded peers. I was particularly excited for the opportunity to join a research lab studying language in Korean-English bilingual individuals, as I am Korean-American. I made a complete 180 after this experience, and I decided to commit to moving to New York for school.

Here are some more tips that I used to make my decision:

  1. Determine your priorities. Before you make any decisions, think about what’s important to you. Are you looking for a specific program or major? Do you prefer a large or small campus? Are you interested in a particular location or climate? By identifying your priorities, you can narrow down your options from your list of accepted schools. 
  1. Do your research. You’ve already completed this step during the application process, but now you get to do it again with fresh eyes! Once you’ve identified your priorities, look at the colleges that best match your criteria. Look at their websites, read student reviews, and explore their social media accounts. This will give you a sense of the school’s culture, programs, and resources.
  1. Visit the campus. If possible, take another trip out to see the colleges that you are considering attending. This will give you a chance to tour the campus again, meet with students and faculty, and get a feel for the overall atmosphere of the school. You’ll want to make sure that it’s a place where you can see yourself being happy. 
  1. Talk to professors. Talking to professors can make a huge impact on your decision. Speaking to professors at Admitted Students Day allowed me to learn more about research opportunities and start building connections. You can ask about faculty mentorship, academic programs, or even what their favorite TV shows are! If you’re going to work with these professors for the next four years, you’ll want to make sure you can bond with these individuals. 
  1. Ask questions to current students. Talking to current students can also provide valuable insights. They can share their experiences about campus life, social activities, and academics. You can ask questions about the professors’ accessibility, how easy it is to form study groups, or what the best dining options are. Often times these candid conversations can reveal information about why students love their school. 
  1. Consider the cost. College is expensive, so it’s important to consider the cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses. Look into scholarships, financial aid, and work-study programs to help offset the costs. Also, consider the long-term value of your education and the potential return on investment for your chosen field of study.
  1. After learning more about the school and identifying your priorities, you can organize your information through an Excel spreadsheet like the one below:

List the different factors that are important to you, and then use a -2 to 2 rating scale. Then, if you sum them up, you can see which option makes the most sense. As you can see, option 1 was the clear winner (which is the one I went with). You can see, however, that all of them were really great options.

Ultimately, the decision of which college to commit to should feel right for you. Trust your instincts and choose the college that you feel most excited and passionate about. Remember, you will be spending the next few years of your life at this school, so make sure it’s a place where you can see yourself thriving and growing. Good luck!

Erica MechlinskiFrom Indecision to Decision: Choosing the Right College for You?

Goals and the Environment

No comments

By Colette Hapi

A few years ago, I took up the drums as a hobby. Initially, I was enamored with both the instrument and with the novelty of trying something new. Practice time was fun and frictionless to the point where I envisioned myself becoming one of the most popular modern female drummers; it would only take one or two years and I’d be at the top. Wishful thinking doesn’t even begin to describe my thoughts. As you can imagine, life didn’t quite turn out the way I envisioned. After a couple of months, not only did I plateau, but I found myself dreading my practice time. Just thinking about sitting on a drum seat that had lost its plush in a room I considered to be cold and uninviting because I had somehow managed to turn it into a mini storage unit…just thinking about having to locate my sticks, my headphones, and my tablet…Sigh. Discouragement slowly set in, and I’d find myself thinking, “maybe tomorrow.” Tomorrow became tomorrow became tomorrow until it became two weeks; before I knew it, I would do in one month what I used to do in one week. Needless to say, I didn’t meet my deadline for achieving greatness!

Recently, I decided it might be time to pick up the sticks again and to do so more consistently. While aimlessly perusing the internet, I fell upon a book called How to Effectively Practice as a Musician by Benny Grebb. My first thought was, “it’s official; Google has ascended to the status of mind-reader.” My second thought was, “describing myself as a musician might be a bit of stretch at this point.” Nevertheless, I scurried to my room, located my credit card, and made the purchase. About a third of the way into the book, Grebb talks about the importance of creating an environment that supports your goals so that your practice can flow with the least amount of friction. The more friction there is, the harder it is to not only reach but even to just get started with our tasks. This hit me right in the face; no wonder I wasn’t looking forward to practicing – there were too many hurdles to me actually sitting behind the kit, not to mention the cold, dreary, and lackluster room. Nothing about the environment spoke of creativity, which made it hard for me to be creative. 

Taking Grebb’s advice, I made a couple of changes: 

  • I found another storage space in the house and completely cleared out my practice room
  • I purchased:
    • a sound-absorbing mat to avoid any complaints
    • a notebook dedicated to drumming
    • a dedicated music tablet, as well as headphones and additional drumsticks 
    • a music stand so I can stop trying to find unorthodox ways for the book to stay open while I attempt to play through its pages
    • an air freshener because I enjoy the smell of fresh laundry

It’s been a few weeks since I implemented these changes, but I’ve looked forward to practicing more lately than in the past few months. Stepping into a room that is ready-made has done wonders for my progress. Am I ready to go on tour? Maybe not, but I’m at least looking forward to the process. This whole experience has really made me see that if you’re not in a conducive environment, it can be hard to reach your goals.   

Erica MechlinskiGoals and the Environment

Setting Goals for the New Year

No comments

By Kristin Backert-Evans

2023 is officially here! Honestly, I’m still not sure how 2022 is already over…wasn’t it just April last week? But since a new year is indeed upon us, it’s time for a tradition: to set some New Year’s resolutions!

On the surface, setting goals sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world. Think of something that you want to do differently, say that you want to do it, and boom, you’re done. But thinking about goals in a superficial way makes it a lot harder to actually meet them. For example, one thing that I’ve been struggling with is how specific to make my goals. I know that I want to read more. While I usually read before going to sleep each night, that means that it can take weeks to finish a book since I have such a limited time in which to read. Initially, I figured that I could set a goal to read X number of books this year so that there’s a concrete, tangible number that I’m working towards. However, knowing myself, I would feel as though that number was looming over me, and I would feel soooo guilty if I didn’t meet it. And if I didn’t meet it, I would convince myself that every single other action that I took was wrong (if you hadn’t decided to watch that movie, you could have finished that book! If you hadn’t decided to play on your Switch, you could have finished another book! SHAME!). While I could revise my goal number as the months go by, I think that I would still feel guilty for not being “good enough” to hit that initial goal. Based on this, I’m going to set the specific goal of reading for at least 20 minutes during the day on the weekends. To me, that feels more realistic than telling myself to just magically find a way to read X number of books. 

Another goal that I have is to better my crochet techniques. I’ve made a lot of progress over the last 1.5 years, but there’s still so much room for improvement. With crocheting, I think that setting very specific goals would benefit me. For example, I could improve my ability to crochet in the row; for some reason, this basic technique gives me more trouble than it should. This is something very specific, so I could deliberately choose patterns that use this technique so that I have to practice it more frequently. I could also improve my sewing ability so that when I add limbs to a doll, they go on straight and don’t look like some flailing Muppet. An even bigger goal to work towards would be to write my own pattern, which would basically mean choosing a figure (e.g., a book/TV character, an animal, an object) and creating it from scratch instead of following a pattern that someone else has written. That would challenge me because it would involve a lot of trial-and-error as I figured out how many stitches needed to be in each round, what the design should look like, and more. These types of specific goals (as opposed to a more general “get better at crocheting” goal) will help me to, hopefully, improve at a faster rate. 

When you’re setting goals for this New Year, remember that you can make goals as specific as you want! There’s no wrong or right way to do this – the important thing is that you set goals that you feel comfortable with and believe are realistic. Let us know what you’re working towards this year!

Erica MechlinskiSetting Goals for the New Year

Wrapping Up the Year with Gifts

No comments

By Aileen Choi

Every year, my extended family gathers around the Christmas tree to enjoy a home-cooked meal and exchange gifts. As a child, I always loved our delicious potluck dinners and the joy and merriment of the gift exchange. While I always enjoy the festivities now as an adult, it definitely requires some executive functioning skills to successfully carry out, especially when my extended family includes 15-20 people! While everyone has different holiday traditions, here are a few things that helped me prepare for the gift exchange this year: 

  1. Create lists and brainstorm. I list all of my family members and do a bit of brainstorming before immediately clicking over to Amazon to buy things. I ask myself, “What are their hobbies? Have they mentioned anything recently that they wanted? Have they started a new chapter in their lives (e.g., college, new job)? Do they prefer a practical gift to a fun one? “For example, I know that my best friend has gotten into baking cakes recently and wants a decorative book for her coffee table. I figured that the best gift for her is a nice-looking baking book. Once I’ve decided and bought a gift for someone, I check it off my handy list.
  2. Utilize a hobby or skill. For the past few years, my aunt has been making her own organic creams and soaps. I appreciate a hand-made gift, so I always look forward to receiving one – plus, she can make them in a batch! Similarly, my grandma loves to make jewelry, so she makes necklaces for each of her granddaughters. If you’re stuck on an idea for a gift, see if there’s a hobby or skill of yours that you can put to gift-giving use!
  3. Budget. Gift-giving can be expensive. To make sure I’m budgeting appropriately, I use a Google spreadsheet to keep track of my purchases and pick a limit for each gift because it can be easy (and quick) to spend over budget.
  4. Start early. I usually start buying gifts over a month before the exchange so that I can take advantage of Black Friday sales. Sometimes I even start earlier in the year – summer sales can be the best time to snag a deal for winter goodies.

Of course, the holidays shouldn’t be a stressful time, and there are many ways to make sure it is a fun one instead (luckily, we decided on a White Elephant this year). Regardless of how your family likes to celebrate, there are many ways to help you enjoy the process. Happy holidays, and let the gift shopping begin! 

Erica MechlinskiWrapping Up the Year with Gifts

Moving Across the Country 

No comments

By Katarina Yngente

About three months ago, my husband, our 15-month-old daughter, and I set out for our biggest adventure as a family to date: moving across the country. My husband had just landed his dream job at a university in California, 3000 miles away from Washington, DC, where we lived at the time. My husband and I were no strangers to the stresses of moving. In five years, we had logged five addresses in three different states. Having each also completed a cross-country move once before, we were seasoned. The wildcard in this move was our fiery, newly-toddling toddler. 

Moving is inherently stressful. While physically laborious and emotionally demoralizing, moving also requires executive functioning and project management skills. Some of the logistics we had to deal with included finding a new rental in California, securing childcare, establishing the date of our move, working within a budget, finding a moving company, filing for change of addresses on important documents, and shipping our car. Like any large undertaking, moving is actually made up of many parts that can further be chunked into a number of smaller tasks. Once my husband and I identified the “smaller projects” required to move, we established a plan of attack. Here are a few things that helped us get through the move: 

  1. Teamwork (with division of labor): In order to get through the laundry list of tasks and projects, my husband and I opted to divide and conquer, to play to our strengths and approach the move with a clear division of labor. For example, I’m more of a people-person, so I took on tasks related to calling various moving companies and servicers so that we had data to compare prices. My husband is a minimalist and Tetris master, so he tackled the purging and packing. 
  2. Asking for (and accepting) help: We’re so fortunate to have friends and family who offered ways to support us during our transition. Many friends offered their stories and recommendations for similar moves. Our families also offered to help us pack. The biggest barrier for us was knowing when to accept help. This was especially beneficial with our daughter because, as we learned, it’s very difficult to pack boxes around toddlers who enjoy unpacking and climbing into boxes. 
  3. EF tools: For the two months surrounding our move, our household was controlled by spreadsheets, calendar events, and lists. The very apps and programs that I encourage my students to use were the same that helped us manage our move. Our top tools were Excel, Trello, and Google Calendar.

Three months later, I admit that we’re still not fully moved in – we still need to put up artwork, and each closet has 1-2 boxes that still need to be unpacked. Regardless, the hours spent planning and strategizing were all in service of a fairly well-executed move. We found a great daycare just blocks from our new rental, and aside from a couple of arguments, everyone made it through relatively unscathed! 

Erica MechlinskiMoving Across the Country