About viaelearning

Ellen has a passion for families and the gift of children who embody the spark of all tomorrows. She has over 20 years experience driving marketing and sales efforts in startup organizations and teaches business courses at the University of California, Irvine Extension. Ellen served on the Vista del Mar Elementary School PTA board of directors for two years and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Masters in Finance from Pepperdine University. Her goal is to utilize her talents, passions and experiences as a teacher, student, mother and business executive to promote wholesome and enriching environments that both groom and excite the next generation.

Healthy Anger Management for Boys

I titled this post as anger management for boys not because I think girls do not have anger they need help to manage, but as a personal story about my grandson.

I grew up in a generation and a family where anger was to be hidden.  We talk only about positive things and scorn those that appear to promote conflict or violence.

As a toy maker for children, I seek to promote toys that encourage healthy play environments and to that end, navigate away from creating toys of “conflict or pretend battles.”  Well, at least until I entered the world of play found in communities of boys.  I started to examine more closely traditional boy play environments seeking to understand the why of play conflict, such as super heroes and villains.

I then pondered a world filled with conflict, divorce, separation, and hurt.  Could it be children can benefit emotional well-being through conflict play environments?  A place where the good guy and bad guy are clearly defined?  A place where children are safe in expressing feelings of anger, fear, and triumph?  A place to reconcile feelings they don’t quite understand?  A place where children have complete control over the outcome…who the winners and losers are?

I have researched and written papers on the role-playing aspects of play.  How repetitive play acts as rehearsal and can build positive skills in children.  My worry was that combat play would rehearse the wrong skills—reinforce aggressive behavior.  But I see now, that I was short-sited with application.  Not only do children rehearse and build desirable skills through a guided play environment, but they also practice how to manage conflict, fear, and uncertainty.

For many years we have put aggressive boys into sports teams to help them direct their aggression in a positive environment.  Sports are a type of battle—there are winners and losers.  Here we teach how to be a gracious winner and a tempered loser.  We teach that losing is not the end.  To keep on trying to win at your goal.  The same type of positive application can be true of combat play using toys.

I said this was personal.  Yes.  My grandson is separated from his father.  A father who has not found the value in being an active participant in his life.  Additionally, my grandson has some emotional disabilities that make it harder for him to control his impulses.  The combination of feelings of sadness, loneliness for his father, anger, and lack of control leads to episodes of behavior problems.  My goal is to give him a healthy way to vent these feelings before they build up and contribute to problems that can impact his ability to interact socially.

My grandson is very smart and creative; he loves to make things.  So, I made him a bad-guy that he helped design.  I suggested when he feelings anger, this bad guy is tough enough for a pretend battle.  I gave him permission, if you will, to act out on this character.  My hopes are the stuffed bad guy, that he help make, would help him transition from feelings of anger to feelings of confidence that he can win even when life hurts.  I understand that this toy is not a “magic bullet” in the war over hurt and sadness, but perhaps it can be a tool to help him in times when he needs to express the negative energy created by being hurt in his situation.  At a time when his maturity is not enough to reconcile the situation of his broken home.  I figure, at minimum, he will know his grandmother loves him and this bad guy that we built together represents a positive element in his life.

Via E Japanese Oni Plush Toy PDF Pattern

The feature picture is of the stuffed bad guy my grandson designed.  He selected the colors. (The color selection gives insight, doesn’t it?)  Later today, he will glue on the face pieces and decide what his Japanese oni should wear and we will make it together.  Perhaps we will make some more battle tools to aid his play experience. I hope my story and thoughts create conversations on how we can help our little ones navigate a big and sometimes difficult world.


Kewanee Arrow Craft

Archery is the sport, practice, or skill of using a bow to shoot arrows. The word comes from the Latin arcus, meaning bow. Historically, archery has been used for hunting and combat. In modern times, it is mainly a competitive sport and recreational activity.(Wikipedia)

When Kewanee picks up her long bow she feels connected to her ancestors. For this reason, she enjoys target shooting and competing with her brother NIKAN to see who can get the most points. Together the set up targets, cans or apples to see if they can aim well enough to knock them off the platform where they were set. Kewanee and NIKAN always make sure they are practicing in an area set up for target practice to ensure they don’t hurt anyone and their arrows are not sharp but have a foam tip so they can only knock things over.

This arrow craft can be made with things you can easily find around the house or get at your local craft store. It is easy enough for kindergarten aged children, but it is important to supervise play.

The images below are the front and back of the Arrow Craft included with Kewanee’s Forest outfit shown below. You can get this outfit for a limited time at: https://via-e.com/collections/clothing-activity-sets/products/forest-limited-edition-sketch-pad-design

Use the Foam Arrow Trace pattern to make the foam arrowhead.
Use the color thread to secure the arrowhead and ends of the feather to the chopstick (cut the chopstick to any size. I like a size of 6 1/2 inches.) As you wrap the thread cover the area so the thread becomes the decoration. Use super glue to tack the end of the thread when you are done winding it around the arrow.

Bumper Cars

Have you ever been on a bumper car attraction? 

Perhaps they are most enjoyed from the sidelines as you can’t help but to smile and feel joy.  Some bumper cars cruise around the arena intently avoiding others.  Some charge at full speed to bump the car of this methodical avoidance.  With triumphant glee, they “got you.”  And in the spirit of bumper cars, perhaps you laugh and then maneuver to a safer space.  Then there are those who get caught up in the crowd, bumping and being bumped.  It seems there is always a car that gets stuck against the edge of the arena that can’t seem to figure out how to get un-stuck.

I was thinking, life is like a bumper car attraction—bumping others and being bumped.  We get bumped by people, employers, governmental policy, etc.  And in our attempt to find a safer space, we bump others.  I wonder if a secret to living a joyful life is more about inner joy and the ability to move on after being “bumped.”

Perhaps it is about creating a circle around those who are being targeted by the “got you” bumper types.  But doing so in a way that the act of protecting is its own reward, creates its own joy.

I think a joyful soul is a powerful elixir.  So many tales of extreme hardship have turned into powerful messages that leave a positive imprint on society’s reflection.  You see, people are watching.  They see you.  They feel you.  If you can be joy filled, love filled when you are being bumped, the blessing of peace will be yours and it will spread to others.

Yes, it is a game of bumper cars.  We will be bumped.  Sometimes gently, other times with great force.  We can’t control what bumper cars are going to do, where they will go, we can only control our reaction to being bumped.

Fill your minutes, hours, days with joyful thoughts.  Reflect on your best memories, your cherished ones, and plan the next.  Let good fill your mind and pull it deep into your soul.  Be a protective bumper for those in need and share your joy with others.

Be a light unto the world and darkness will be nothing more than a shadow of passing bumps.

Together we can extinguish, or at least make burdens less heavy, by having a joyful heart and sharing it with another.

My heart to yours,


Mary of the Middle East™ Dollfriend® –Her Story

Mary of the Middle East™ Dollfriend® is the newest Advance Production Adventure™ from Via E. Advanced Production Adventures™ are the winning formula for the creation of Dollfriends®. Through these adventures, the Via E community participates in the design and development of each and every Dollfriend® character. It starts with viewing the first sculps, suggesting changes, voting to approve the design, viewing the prototype, discussing and voting on the meet outfit and ending with the delivery of the character being featured. For those who join before the box artwork is printed, each will be invited to have their name printed on the outer box to document their participation.

So far, we have received four design awards using this process. Other companies monitor their competitor’s products to get their new product ideas…we don’t. The only inspiration needed comes from within our own community.

Mary has lived as a dream of mine for three years now. Patiently waiting for her turn, I can’t think of a better month to begin her journey, December of 2021.

Who is Mary?
Mary is a girl who has an infinite ability to love and accept those around her. Her official birthday is July 26th (this does not reflect the delivery date, rather is a detail in her backstory.) Mary is home schooled by her mother, Hannah and is an only child. She has a grace about her that can turn even a stranger into a loyal friend. Her father, Joachim, came from a wealthy family, but instead of using that wealth for riches, Joachim travels to the poorest of regions where money can help to build the things most needed for others. Perhaps this is why we can see tenderness and love in Mary’s eyes, she has her father’s eyes.

Mary hopes someday to become an ambassador, crossing the boarders of the Middle East in an effort to build a more unified people and help to end conflict. Mary has a natural ability to learn new languages and enjoys reading. But don’t think Mary is too delicate…she is always up for a new adventure and stomping around in even the most challenging of climates.

I’m going to love getting to know Mary. I hope you will too.

During 2022, we will learn more about Mary as we craft her into our next Dollfriend®. Help support her production by joining her Advanced Production Adventure™ early! Find out more at: https://via-e.com/collections/dollfriends/products/mary-of-the-middle-east-advanced-production-adventure

Mary with have brown wavy hair, blue-green eyes, and joints at the elbows, knees and wrists. Her all vinyl body will be strung with elastic allowing for water play. Like all Dollfriends®, she will have 22 points of realism including French manicures and pedicures and toes that can wear flip-flop sandals. Through Mary, we will all learn a little bit about the Middle Eastern culture and people.

The Flight of Super Woman in Modern Times

“Pass me another energy drink please.”  It’s 5:30 am and time for the baby’s morning feeding.  This was proceeded by the 10:00pm and 1:00am feeding, making the night a series of cat naps.  A morning shower includes baby in the swing just outside the shower (he likes the light sprinkles that fall on his face as the water bounces off his mother’s shoulders).  Mom reaches down after rinsing the shampoo out of her hair to bring baby in for a quick wash down.  The warmth of the water and soothing feel of the rain-like drops on his back will act like an elixir and ensure a long morning nap–long enough to allow mom to dress, feed, and get brother off to school.  Thank goodness it is not her turn for the school carpool. A kiss and a hug send little Gunnar running to the car idling at the curb in front of the house.  Mom smiles and waves as the red minivan full of neighborhood children rushes off to beat the morning school bell.  Being sure to close the door quietly, she now has just enough time to make phone calls to the morning’s “Hot List” and attend her boss’s ZOOM video conference call.

Stories like this are being written in time all around the United States and perhaps the world.  This story is the tale of a single mom.  Adding a partner to the story may make it a little less hectic, but not much as it takes two incomes to keep a roof overhead and food on the table.  Mom as “Super Woman”, is not a novelty, it is a norm.  How did we get here?  How do we survive a life where the stories are the things of super-human efforts?

I’m not famous where my words will somehow inspire a paradigm shift that solves for sanity, but my observations, sprinkled with years of education, and my own experiences conclude the solution lies in the extended family. Working hard and being independent are two values, when not balanced with the old countries’ values of extended family integration and a ring of close community cooperation, can lead us to striving to be something no human was meant to be—super human.

It takes a village to raise a child is not just a saying, it is wisdom of generations from all cultures found around the world.  But somehow our worlds keep getting smaller.  The “me generation” has created a nasty residue of broken chains between family and community. The solution, I think, is not in creating governmental substitutes wear children are shipped off to free child care centers or the like.  I believe the solution is found in each of us.  In our willingness to connect.  Our willingness to lend another our time, our talents, our love, and support.  Being connected creates a place where each can be a hero without having to be super human.

Perhaps each of us can extend a helping hand to a family member, a community member, or even a stranger. 

Be a hero in another’s eyes as often as you can.  We are the stewards of the world in which live.

With all my heart,


The Dangers of Toxic Relationships

A reflection of personal tragedy by Ellen Callen

Suicide.  How does a person of any age reach the point of deciding the only relief is to force an ending?  I’ve had a few weeks to contemplate.  At first, I thought I’d write about the pain of loss and the road to recovery.  But after situation(s) circled around me, I realized at the center of such tragedy was abusive relationships.

Not all abusive relationship couplings end in a suicide, but that does not make such relationships any less damaging.  And in today’s toxic political environment iced with the COVID-19 pandemic, toxicity has spread as fast as the virus itself.

How do we know if toxicity has infected our own relationships?  Ask yourself the following:

Do I feel better, worse, or no change in my emotional state after contact with the person
in question?

Does the person in question speak in positive or negative languages?

Do I feel I have to compete in order to be valued?

Do I feel I can trust the person in question with my well-being?

Do I feel the person in question cares about me?

Would the person in question adjust if they knew they were hurting you?

Does the person say “I’m sorry.” and make changes to keep from hurting you?

Can you, off the top of your head, remember a time shared where you felt loved recently?

Do you feel the relationship is a constant battel?

If you took account of your answers what would it tell you?  I suspect we all know innately when we are being treated in such a way that we feel bad.  The question is, “What to do about it?”

The answer to that question is not so easy as it often depends on how closely tied we are to the toxic person.  If it is a husband or wife, perhaps counseling can help.  To do nothing and to continue absorbing the toxicity is unhealthy and will lead to an outcome that is unpredictable, but surely damaging to your ability to have a healthy state of mind.  If the relationship is with siblings where family counseling is not probable or possible, boundaries need to be set.  No one has the right to abuse you—not even family.  In some cases, we may need to distance ourselves from toxic family relationships until each can find a way to interact in a way that adds value and increases healthy bonds.

Perhaps it is friend, a co-worker, a boss?  Most assuredly I can tell you a toxic friend is no friend at all.  Friendship is defined as:  “a state of mutual trust and support.”  Don’t mistake a person who spends time with you to be the same as a friend.  If the person is toxic, let them go.  What about a co-worker or boss that you can’t avoid?  The first step is to realize the environment is toxic.  The second step is to plan your escape.  See if there is another department you can transfer to, or look outside the company for a new place of employment.  In the meantime, speak to your Human Resources department or health line for support.  Don’t be afraid to protect yourself from toxic people.  We are our own best protection plan.  But you have to be willing to take action.

But what about the children?  It was because of children that I created Via E.  In the hope that one of the Dollfriends®, and now Brothers Adventures™, would find its way to the arms of a child in need of a safe friend.  That the activities would help develop confidence, and the community would result in a support system.

Humm…but my thinking was flawed.  The children in greatest need are buried by the command of their abusers.  What do I mean?  Our system in society too often fails the at-risk children.  They bounce back and forth from abuse to help to abuse.  This cycle of abuse to help to abuse leaves the child felling there is no escape from the abuse…each time hope is restored it is taken away.  Until the point the child puts an end to it on their own.

How can we stop this cycle?  How can we save our at-risk children from toxic situations that seem to never end?  Never end…sounds like I am using words to over state the situation.  BUT, in a child’s mind the idea, the belief that someday they will be free from their pain is outside of their mental development.  Today, the now, is everything to a child.

My grandson, at the age of 14, decided two weeks ago that his best escape from a toxic situation was to end his life.

Was he loved…yes.  To the moon and back.  But he was caught in a custody battel with one parent deep in toxicity, perhaps unknowingly stripping her son of his will to live.

This blog post does not claim to have any answers.  It is a reflection. It is a call to action for all who read it.  Toxic relationships kill.  They kill our spirit, our joy, our self-concept, and yes can even lead to loss of life.

What can we do?  We can pray.  But God calls for action as well.  First, we have to clean our own house of toxic situations.  Set boundaries where appropriate to allow our healthy minds and hearts to become strong.  Only then will we be able to see toxic situations in others and be able to support others toward finding a path to detox and selflove.  The children, we must dare to get dirty if the call to support crosses our path.  If we are whole, we are in a position to lend our heart to those in need.  Learn about support organizations and be willing to build up a child’s sense of self whenever possible.

My grandson’s name is Marques.  I won’t say “was.”  Marques lives on in our hearts, our memories, and in God’s kingdom.  Those that knew him will miss him.  We all wish we were there at the moment he felt he could not escape his pain, to hold his hand and assure him that we were on his team.  Life is fragile.  If nothing else, let’s remember to love one another, be kind and tender-hearted, acting to others as we would wish to be treated.

I finish this long post with a thank you for reading.  With a hope that each will work to remove toxic things and people from your life so you may reach your highest dreams and have the energy to lift others up along your path.

Sending all my love, Ellen

What is the story of Alexis, and who designs Dollfriends(R)?

Alexis O'Shay, Alexis, Alexis doll, Alexis Dollfriend, Via E
Alexis 2012 Release in her “Fun in the Sun” outfit

Alexis was created in 2012 but her story goes back to 2009 when I, Ellen Callen, created two characters – Alexis and Elena to share a world of diversity and love of learning.

Originally, Via E was an online retail store selling over 800 items for 18″ dolls. Alexis and Elena were the characters and models. Mattel, Inc., who owns American Girl, LLC, was quick to have their legal team shoot a warning shot across the bow of the young Via E concept. That was my first lesson of their power. I had sent out a simple email promotion the first week of opening Via E and within days they ordered me to close my doors, stating several legal statutes and scary language. Some of what they were upset about had merit and some was just an effort to push me off the industry map. In the end, I quickly evolved to a place where Via E could move forward without Mattel drowning me in legal battels.

Over the years they (American Girl, LLC.) have “borrowed” concepts from Via E…in the industry it is known as taking inspiration from others which is completely legal. I’ve had my own legal advisors review merits of such activity and have had some experienced industry lawyers tell me I had a case against various violators who became too inspired with my work. When a company takes another company’s concept and makes it their own it is seen as unfair but it is also the American way.

Recently, I was contacted and notified that American Girl, LLC, has created a character and named it Alexis. They have created a line of themed clothing representing different countries around the world and as they have done before, they have used similar hair color and style, eye and skin color as one of our award-winning characters. If this is true, what does that mean? What it means is we are now the inspiration for the largest toy company in the world. Everyone knows Mattel, et al, “borrows” from many industry players so that doesn’t make us special but it does validate our little company.

Should we feel threatened? NO.

Mattel and their American Girl division is loved by many and not so loved by others. Mattel can not be Via E. American Girl cannot be Via E. Only we can be Via E. Our stories, our characters, our designs, our community, our friendship is ours and ours to share.

YES, I am the designer and Via E Inc., is the copyright owner of Alexis Christine O’Shay(TM) Dollfriend(R) and the same is true of Tatiana, Elena, Kewanee, Melina, Mako and Nikan and my inspiration comes directly from YOU.

I do not visit any other doll company sites. I do not research any other dolls to find my inspiration. In fact, I purposely stay away from such activities because I don’t want to dilute the inspiration that is YOU.

So, let’s continue designing new Dollfriends(R) and Brothers Adventures(TM) our own way. If others are inspired, let’s smile knowing our light is burning brighter when others are warmed by it.

Alexis is a name shared by many, but there is only one Alexis Christine O’Shay(TM) and we know who she is and are the masters of her continued journey around the world. After Melina and Mako arrive and we have our celebration time, we will start another Advanced Production Adventure together. A new girl and a new boy will join Alexis as she and her friends learn about different people, places, and cultures.

So, spread the word that our community is open to all and inspired by all who wish to join our family known as Via E.

(Legal disclaimer: Mattel Inc, and American Girl, LLC are not associated in any way with Via E, Inc. This story is my own accounting of events that have transpired and are disclosed only in an effort to further differentiate Via E copyrights from possible consumer confusion between the brands aforementioned.)

Have Things Gotten a Little Negative at Your House?

In August, my family will start its sixth month of quarantine. Grocery shopping has become a task I look forward to because it is the one thing that brings new life through the solid oak entry door. I have the sacks of bounty delivered. We sanitize the counters and hands after putting away what will become my entertainment.  Mask, wrap-around glasses sit on top of a stool right next to the door.  Shoes stacked under the stool and a designated quarantine area for the daily mail complete the additions to our decor.  I think I have gained at least five pounds and I’m feeling a bit squishy.  So, a stationary bicycle has also been added to the backyard.

We started out like a pack of bears huddled in our den while we kept each other safe and warm.  But as the weeks became months and the forecast became many more months to come of COVID-19, being close turned into being too close.  I noticed more infighting from extended family and the two plus one at home seemed to make picking on each other a sport.

Last week I had had enough of all the negativity.  So, I created the Negative-Nelly or Negative-Ned game.  I pulled three retired plastic cream cheese containers out of the bottom kitchen drawer, grabbed a Sharpie from a pencil cup in my nearby office, and then wrote my name on one, my husband’s and son’s name on the other two.  With scissors, I cut a slot in the top of each. Then I announce the rules of the game,

“Each time someone says something negative to another, they get a ticket dropped into their container.  At the end of each week, the person with the most offences has to perform a favor for the other two.  For example, my car sits and collects dirt now days, so I may ask for a car wash.”

It started out as a joke, but those three little containers performed magic in my house.  The negativity disappeared.

In a time like now where we have so many stresses and at the same time are pushed together in spaces designed for basic shelter, perhaps a little reminder (in a non-threatening way) can help us all remember to be kind to one another.


Business is Kid Stuff – Naming your company and creating a logo.

So you have an idea and want to start your own business.   We learn in the book “Business is Kid Stuff” that business is like playing a sport.  In sports, every team has a name and a unique logo that helps their fans identify the team they claim as their own.  A logo also helps fans to align with who the company is and what it provides.  Note I said who the company is.  That was not a grammatical error.  Your company will create its own personality and human-like qualities.  Often companies take on the human qualities of its founder(s.)  This is important to understand because it will help you understand how to build and represent your company’s personality or brand.

For example,in the book Business is Kid Stuff, Mako and Melina are building a skateboard company.  Mako wants to call his company, “Kickflip.”  Let’s help Mako find out if the name Kickflip is available to use for his company.  Yes, I said available to use.  You are not legally allowed to use a name for your company that is already being used by another.  The first thing is to do a Google or other search engine search on the name Kickflip.  If we find any companies in the same market and region using that name, it is not available.  Or is it?  Mako said he wants to name his company Kickflip, but he will take the flip and turn it upside-down.  At this point, Mako made a unique mark that can be protected as his own.

Notice I used the words “unique mark.” The legal purpose of a “unique mark” is to help the consumer find what they are looking for.  If two companies (or more) are using the same exact mark, it will confuse the consumer.  Such confusion can lead to the customer being taken advantage of or cause an unfair perception of what hey are purchasing.  And when a new company copies an existing mark, they are stealing all the name recognition for which the company has spend money to create.  Thus, if you get caught using a name that already exists, you may find yourself in court and all the money you made can be granted to the owner of the company who first created the mark.

Let’s say we searched for Kickflip and did not find another company (in the same consumer good category) with that name.  Is it safe to use?  No.  Next, we will search the Secretary of State’s Business Entity database to see if anyone has registered a name like the one we want to create.  Or you can hire a company like LegalZoom to do the search and file the registration papers you will need to protect your name.

What about logos?
In our book “Business is Kid Stuff,”  the kids make their own logos.  Each logo incorporates the colors that will represent the company (just like teams have their own colors), a stylized font and maybe even a character or symbol.  Take a look at the logo ideas below or do a Google search for the logos of your favorite companies to help you get your creative thinking warmed up.

I’ve working in marketing for many companies in the past and teach this subject at the university level.  I have a few suggestions to pass on:

  • Keep your logo simple.
  • Do not use too many colors
  • Make sure your logo looks good in many different sizes.
  • Make a black and white version for when printing in color is not possible.
  • Get opinions from others–do they see and feel what you want others to see and feel?

Of the logos above, Mako’s Kickflip logo fits all the criteria: it is simple, there are only two colors used, because it is simple it will look good in many different sizes, the logo will look good in black and white, and it expresses an idea or feeling skateboarders will understand so it will be memorable.

If you follow these simple instructions, at any age, you too can create a name and a winning logo for your company.

—Ellen M. Callen

Ellen is the founder, Via E, Inc.  She has been an Instructor at the University of California, Irvine since 2004 and most recently was awarded the Distinguished Instructor Award, University California, Irvine, Division of Continuing Education in 2019.  Ellen is the author of 3 college-level textbooks and 12 children’s books.  In addition she has earned three product design awards. Although she has held several senior positions in both international and domestic companies, Ellen’s passion is best fulfilled sharing knowledge and, hopefully, inspiring other to pursue their dreams.

Melina Akemi™ Dollfriend® Activity – Japanese Kanzashi Flowers

Making Japanese kanzashi flowers are a wonderful craft for all ages.  I suggest you first use squares of paper, two inch by two inch (has to be perfect square.)  When you move on to fabric, make sure you use heavy starch on the fabric or ribbon.  This will help hold the fabric in the folding process.  When you start to make small flowers, use tweezers to help you hold the fabric as you move from stage to stage of the folding.  Post your Kanzashi on the Facebook page for all to see!  Facebook.ViaE.Dollfriends.

Via E Melina Akemi Dollfriend

Via E Melina Akemi Dollfriend