Thursday, March 29, 2012


Just read an interesting 2011 publication called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.
I can't recommend it completely. It's a bit long-winded and it actually contains several typos. This is a hardcover book published by Penguin. Typos, people?
I also can't recall all of its points, because I read it each night just before sleep. This is actually one of the things I appreciated about the book: it put me to sleep. I'm serious. Sorry Baumeister and Tierney; I'm just saying. I am one of those people who cannot read novels, or apparently memoirs, before bed -- they keep me up all night because I can't bear to put them down. Willpower, on the other hand, is full of studies. The studies and their results are interesting, but it's not a story.
Since I was peacefully drifting off to sleep each night as I read it, I need to re-read it, with a pencil and a note pad this time.
If nothing else, this should generate another week of good sleep.
Moreover, it will help me to better understand and apply the authors' findings that (a) willpower is a finite resource depleted by use; and (b) willpower can be strengthened with training. This initially struck me as paradoxical, but of course it's no more paradoxical than muscle-power.
Why haven't I re-read the book yet? Well, it's a library book(!). This is part of the new austerity around here. I am LOVING the library. One catch -- no renewals if someone else has requested the book. So I rushed to finish up and return the book by its original due date, and promptly put in another request. Now I wait.
In the meantime, I can't get the book out of my head.
Fun fact from Willpower: it's weakened by low blood sugar.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Best Potty Chart Ever

I'm so happy to say that I have created the Best Potty Chart Ever.
It's easy: 
  1. Find a piece of black construction paper.
  2. Tape it to the bathroom wall.
  3. Offer stickers.
It looks good. (Black goes with everything.)
It's J's favourite colour (again, black). 
It doesn't expire.
I get to decide when it's full. 
It's customizable. We started using just stars, but one day when we needed a big incentive we added the smiley planet stickers. 
Best of all, it worked!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Imperfectly happy video!

I love this very happy video. Life is too short to be perfect.

"We just have to be the adults we hope they grow up to be."

I just watched two fascinating, motivating talks by Brené Brown.
Apparently Dr. Brown's December, 2010 talk went viral, but I was pretty much immune from the pull of the internet at that time, being fully pulled by my career, so I'm grateful to NorCal Katie for posting Dr. Brown's latest talk.
Dr. Brown's research led her to an unexpected -- and initially unwanted -- discovery about the power of vulnerability. Based on her research, her advice is to let ourselves be fully seen; to love fully; to practice gratitude and joy, even in the face of insecurity; and to believe that we are enough. That dry summary is a tiny hint of Dr. Brown's findings shared in her engaging 2010 talk.
This month Dr. Brown gave another talk, Listening to Shame, preceded by a Q&A, Being vulnerable about vulnerability; Q&A with BrenĂ© Brown.
Dr. Brown's findings are both inspiring and challenging. Daring to be vulnerable may be valuable, but it isn't easy. So, as a parent, I was particularly moved by Dr. Brown's comment at the conclusion of the Q&A:
You can’t raise children who have more shame resilience than you do. Because even if you don’t shame them, and even if you are actively trying to raise them feeling good about who they are, they’re never going to treat themselves better than you treat yourself. ... We can’t give children what we don’t have. We just have to be the adults we hope they grow up to be.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Recalling Little House in the Big Woods in my last post got me thinking about other books I love.

I recommend Anthony Swofford's memoir Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles, the story of Swofford's experience as a marine in Operation Desert Storm. This memoir has one of the best openings of any book, in any genre. I'll be watching for Swofford's next memoir due out in June, 2012.

Some memoir-writers have experienced something life-altering, an experience shared by some but almost unimaginable to the rest of us. Yet experience alone does not make a great memoir.

What are your favourite memoirs?

Monday, March 12, 2012

A day in the woods

This weekend I took my son J back to the marsh for the first time in months. We avoided the boardwalks and walked in the woods instead. On our way to a bird-feeding station, two small deer crossed our path and arrived at the bird-feeder just ahead of us. We stood and watched them eat fallen birdseed in the snow. J was eager to get closer but I reluctantly held him back. After a while we moved on, leaving the deer to their lunch.
At the end of our hike we entered a Sod House and tried to imagine living in a one-room home. One smoky room without plumbing or electricity (or wifi). It would be a simpler life, but so dependent on one's attitude, the quality of one's marriage, and the natural world. I recently re-read Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods, an evocative and idyllic portrayal of a young family of five living in a log cabin. I have such fond memories of this series from my own childhood, and Little House in the Big Woods was just as good as I remembered. I can't wait to introduce the whole Little House series to J when he gets a little older!
We also saw a few Canada Geese exploring the late winter landscape. People in the South are probably happy to be rid of them already, but here in the North the return of the geese is a sign of spring. Welcome.

p.s. I loved the Little House books so much that I've added an Amazon link. Full disclosure: Amazon promises to share with me a little bit of any purchases through this link.