One grandmother has found a way to help her daughter out from miles away.

This tech-savvy grandma can tell you all about AutoRap and JibJab.

For Lisa Carpenter, the day her daughter announced her pregnancy was both amazing and heartbreaking.

Lisa was thrilled to become a grandmother and wanted to be in her grandson's life — but her daughter lived more than 800 miles away.  

"They had our first grandson [Brayden] in 2008," Lisa says, "which was fabulous news when they announced the pregnancy but horribly hard on my heart as I simply could not comprehend how I would survive as a long-distance grandma."


Lisa, Jim, and their three daughters. All images via Lisa Carpenter, used with permission.

Lisa and her husband, Jim, settled in Colorado Springs after their wedding 35 years ago.

They raised their three daughters — Brianna, Megan, and Andrea — with the majestic beauty of Pikes Peak as the backdrop to their lives. While two daughters settled close to home, one moved to Arizona and started her own family there.  

As their kids got older, Lisa and Jim faced what so many others have: a family that’s spread out and grandkids who are too far away to see often.  

Brayden, Camden, and Declan pause playtime for a quick photo.

Refusing to let distance prevent her from building a relationship with her grandkids, Lisa turned to tech to bridge the gap.

As part of her coping mechanism, she started blogging about her experience. Eight years later, she's built a community and inspires other grandparents to find inventive ways to connect with their long-distance grandkids.

First, she started with Skype. But when baby #2 was born, the joy of Skype was quickly overshadowed by a basic challenge: How do you get two kids to sit in front of a screen for any significant period of time?

Enter: FaceTime.

"FaceTime is much easier," Lisa says. "Now all three boys can take turns with the phone with Gramma and PawDad [the name one grandson gave his grandad when he got a bit mixed up trying to say grandpa]. Sometimes we see a lot of ceilings as they walk around the house talking, or they don't quite get their faces on the screen and it's an arm or belly we're viewing."

A little FaceTime action.

She gets to pitch in and take some pressure off her daughter, too. "We typically FaceTime while mom's making dinner so it keeps them busy while she's prepping," Lisa explains.

The phone gave Lisa a lifeline to remain involved as a long-distance grandparent.

She receives texts often, with photos of the boys around the house. And it’s not a one-way street: Lisa and Jim use apps like JibJab to make little videos and show the kids that grandparents can be silly, too. She even persuaded 9-year-old James, her oldest daughter’s stepson, to remix "Old MacDonald" with her using AutoRap.

Lisa and James share a sweet moment.

Still, there have been challenges.

"I would like to Skype, FaceTime, just plain talk on the phone more often than works for my daughter's schedule," Lisa shares. "I was first offended by that and it took me a bit to realize I need to be considerate of the time it takes to interact from afar."  

Brayden, Camden, and Declan cheesing during Easter festivities.

Now, instead of being frustrated, Lisa appreciates the time that her daughter puts in to keep her connected with the little ones in between visits.

Hiccups aside, maintaining a digital connection has been incredibly rewarding.

When her youngest grandson was causing mild mayhem during his brother’s baseball game, it was grandma to the rescue. Her daughter let him FaceTime with Lisa, and from 800 miles away, she gave her daughter the break she needed to watch her other son play.

James has a model moment.

But her favorite memory is of a little message her middle grandson shared. He left her a ToyMail message — they call them "snorts" — that said "Hey, Gramma! I hope you're having a good day! Love ya!"

"That was it. And that made my day," says Lisa.

Lisa and Jim get some in-person time with the three boys.

Lisa — and the many grandparents like her — are proof that the stereotype of the tech-illiterate grandparent is more than a little outdated.

"Being able to stay in touch from afar is the only way I survive as a long-distance grandmother," says Lisa. "I know some grandparents who move to be near their grandkids, and that's something my husband and I simply won't do for a variety of reasons."

"Having the ability to FaceTime and text and share this and that via various apps and such keeps me from regretting that decision, keeps me feeling like a relevant — and remembered — force in the lives of my beloved grandsons."

Correction 5/25/2017: Daughter Brianna's name has been corrected.

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As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

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For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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