Wednesday, March 30, 2016


There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. Jiddu Krishnamurti

As a mother of 4, I have learned to appreciate the act of learning with my children. As a parent, I’m responsible for teaching and guiding them along their journey. As they enter school and come home telling stories about what they learned over the course of a particular day, I’m proud of what they are accomplishing. Of course, some days are better than others, and they aren’t always in love with school and learning. I understand their disappointment, having already gone through this process as a child. However, as an adult, I realize more and more that learning does not end after graduation. We are all here to learn from each other, as much as we can. This week’s featured post is all about ways to carry on the learning experience in your life in a way that is both accessible and fun.

Lifelong learning has a variety of benefits that go beyond increasing one’s knowledge. It encourages us to continuously open our minds to new ideas. It also promotes an ongoing sense of achievement, or at least fulfillment, in that we are pursuing knowledge simply for the sake of pursuing knowledge. Henry Ford even insists that ongoing education can have benefits in terms of youthfulness: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

If having other people around you is a motivating force, you may want to consider something that involves group learning. There are a variety of options should you choose to go this route- including adult education classes in a topic you’ve always wanted to explore, joining a group based on a common interest (i.e. a book club), or signing up for a seminar. Group settings have a social component that is beneficial for certain people.

People who prefer to learn independently have plenty of options, as well. Kahn Academy is a free online educational resource, which began as a way to help students who struggle in a traditional classroom. It’s open to the public, though, and include subjects of math, science, economics and finance, arts and humanities, and even some coding- and yes, it’s all free! Another option if you see a course offered by a university nearby that you would rather take on your own time- many schools now offer online courses. As long as you complete the assignments on time, you can set aside time when it’s convenient (i.e. before/after work).

Another relatively low-cost method of pursuing knowledge is simply to read. Explore new topics or genres that you normally wouldn’t, find something that seems a bit challenging- anything to push the boundaries of your mind into new territory. Others insist that performing puzzles and word searches on a daily basis help them to stay “sharp.” The trick, in general, is to find the method that best suits your needs, and to continue using it. It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself: “Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it” (Brian Tracy). Keep on learning!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, it is the parent of all others”- Cicero

Gratitude lists and journals are often suggested as a “pick me up” for people to get out of their own head. It’s a great exercise, and many people report that it works. The idea is to actively acknowledge what we are grateful for, which will help bring those positive feelings to our awareness and shift our mindset from the negative to the positive. Doing something every day to express gratitude- whether it’s using a gratitude journal, calling someone to thank them for their presence in your life, or simply saying “thank you” can help shift your mood.

The first step in expressing gratitude is to tap into the things you are grateful for, no matter how simple or trivial. Like anything else, this might require a bit of practice, and if you’re having a particularly difficult time in general, it may take a bit more work.

The next step is to find a way to channel it: “Gratitude requires awareness and effort not only to feel it but to express it” Bonnie D. Parkin. Some ideas for expressing gratitude include journaling, writing a letter, making a phone call, or paying it forward somehow. Gratitude journals have gained a lot of popularity recently (after all, Oprah has one!). If you decide to go that route, it’s recommended to make an entry 1-3 times a week. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an every day thing. Be diligent but don’t make it a chore- otherwise you risk making it a chore. You should set aside some time each day to write in your gratitude journal, but give yourself a range of items rather than a set amount (like 3-5). If you have more, great- don’t put a cap on it!

Why express gratitude? Anne Lamott explains it in this quote: “Gratitude is peace.” Having and showing gratitude have been linked to increased positive feelings, including optimism. In the wake of a terrible day, just being aware that you have a few things to be grateful for can give you a surge of good feelings- enough to know that it will all turn out alright, no matter what is happening at this moment: “When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change” (Dr. Wayne Dyer). Expressing gratitude can also increase our feelings of interconnectedness. No matter what method you choose- writing, praying, speaking to another- you sometimes experience a surge of compassion for certain people in your life. If that’s the case, you may even want to reach out to them and let them know!Expressing gratitude is an easy way to snap out of a bad mood. It also allows you to foster feelings of optimism, goodwill, connection, and overall positivity. Another bonus of gratitude is that it can be expressed in a variety of ways. I’ve given some examples above, but trust me- there are many more! If you cannot find anything to be grateful for, consider this quote: “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”- Dr. Seuss

Last Wednesday was Dr. Seuss’ birthday. As a once-upon-a-time child and current mother, Dr. Seuss has been an influence on my life and countless others. “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” may be one of his more quotable books, in my opinion. The nostalgia of being read to as a child, and this quote in particular, have me reflecting on the importance of reading to a child. Children learn the value of reading from adults, and what better place to start than in their own homes? Setting aside time to read together as a family serves a few different purposes. It teaches children the value of reading, encourages time spent bonding as a family, and there are plenty of resources for getting started.

“Children are made readers in the laps of their parents” Emilie Buchwald. Reading to children is incredibly beneficial, and it all starts at home. This is where they’ll learn the value of reading and depending how old they are, actually start learning how to read. Once they start going to school, they have an advantage over others. According to this study from the NEA “Twenty six percent of children who were read to three to four times in the last week by a family member recognized all the letters of the alphabet.” This is compared to 14% of children who were read to less frequently or not at all. It probably isn’t surprising that success in school begins at home.

Reading to children early on does more than set them up for academic success. Fostering an an early interest in reading sets children up for a lifelong adventure: “To learn to read is to light a fire, every syllable that is spelled out is a spark” (Victor Hugo). Being able to access books, newspapers, and all other types of literature opens up new worlds and ways of thinking that, without reading, would have been inaccessible. Think of your favorite childhood books and the places those stories would transport you in your imagination- what a priceless gift to impart to a younger generation!

If you think about it, reading to your kids can be boiled down to one thing: spending time together. Taking away all the facts about better grades or higher SAT scores, picking up a book and reading to a child can simply just be a way to spend time with one another. Giving the gift of our time and attention is one of the best things we can do for our children (or the children in our lives): “One of the greatest gifts adults can give - to their offspring and to society- is to read to children” Carl Sagan.

If you aren't sure where to start with books to read, head to your local library. They are usually very helpful when it comes to recommendations and children's reading. Many have programs for early readers, too. When all else fails, there are plenty of online resources to check out for book ideas.

If you aren’t sure where to start with books to read, head to your local library. They are usually very helpful when it comes to recommendations and children’s reading. Many have programs for early readers, too. When all else fails, there are plenty of internet resources and blogs to check out for book ideas. This list from Parenting is a great starting point. Or, start with your favorite book from when you were a kid! No matter what you decide, it’s a small way to make a big difference.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach” -W.E.B. DuBois

One of the most terrifying things about raising children is that you have a constant audience. Whether you realize it or not, your children watch you from day one. They’re picking up on your actions, and we only really notice when it gets parrotted back to us. Maybe you catch someone trying to put on lipstick, stomp around in someone else’s shoes, or repeat a word that you really hoped they didn’t hear. It’s in those moments that you realize how much of an impact you have on them. You’re their role model, their example of what it is to be an adult and be human. Like I said, terrifying. We are so aware of our perceived faults and inadequacies, it’s difficult to take a step back and remember that to our children, we are the example.

Just because we have a constant audience doesn’t mean we need to bear the burden of trying to be perfect all the time. This can do more harm than good, because we’ll inevitably fall short (to our own chagrin). Seeking perfection is a journey with no destination, an impossible task. It’s okay to be flawed, as long as you have a positive attitude, treat yourself and others with kindness and respect, and simply do the best you can with what you have- that’s what really matters. “There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent” Mahatma Gandhi

One overlooked aspect of parenting is the relationship we have with ourselves. You know the saying “You can’t feed others from an empty cupboard?” It’s true- if you don’t at least have a little love to give yourself, where will you find it for others? Another difficult truth- children will notice if you do not have a positive relationship with yourself, and this sometimes shapes their own concepts of self-love. It’s an instance of leading by example, like telling our kids to wear their seatbelts- it’s probably a good idea to put our own seatbelt on, as well. Along those lines, we can tell our kids it’s important to love yourself, but it doesn’t carry a lot of weight if we’re not demonstrating it. It’s all a learning process: “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do, too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it myself.” -Joyce Maynard

Although at times it seems as though your children never listen, they are certainly always watching: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them”- James Baldwin. We may not be perfect role models for our children all the time, but if we are mindful about our words and actions on a daily basis, we can provide them with dedicated parents worth imitating from time to time.