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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Parenting for Character and Success

Reading aloud to my children has been one of the perks of parenthood. It’s fun, it’s cuddly, and when the husband or I are doing it, I’m confident we’re engaged in something proven to help our kids succeed. Plus, how else can I foist my favorite titles on them and be sure they’ll read them?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks is Not Just for Thanksgiving

Gratitude is on the menu this week. Really, though, giving thanks is not just for Thanksgiving anymore. It's become common knowledge that expressing gratitude for what's good in your life is more than smarmy Pollyanna-ism. It's a skill that promotes happiness and well-being, and these states contribute greatly to feeling successful. Indeed, the idea is now so prevalent among positive psychologists, happiness gurus, and abundance theorists that I don't even need to footnote this sentence. Or the previous one.

How does practicing gratitude make you happier and more successful? Well, readers, since it transpires that happiness is a learned skillset that relies on developing a positive attitude, it makes sense that when you want to create a sense of wealth and abundance in your life, you turn outward and notice things for which you are grateful. Once you do, it’s like noticing one lime green car. Once you see one, you can’t stop seeing lime green cars. Even if you never noticed them before, now they’re much more prevalent than you thought.

With all the above in mind, I am thankful for the following nouns:

  • Heat, water, and electricity.
  • The Norton Anthology of Poetry—for providing my children with many choice vocabulary words, profane and unexpected.
  • The hours between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.—for providing me with a special alert time to meet myself and discuss my most intractable problems.
  • The avatar of the twenty-five-year-old with a swinging blonde ponytail and enviable abs on the personal coach program of the Star Trac treadmill at the YMCA--she makes me work harder than I would on my own.
  • My late father-in-law—for wearing a tux with just the right amount of careless disarray.
  • Maple syrup.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

When I Have Fears

When I Have Fears
By John Keats

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain, 
Before high-piled books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love!--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

I don't know why this poem struck me so much tonight. I read it to the children at dinner. Reading entire books aloud has become too difficult with everyone's schedules, but I decided we could fit in a poem a night, at dinner. The rule is to pick a poem quickly, from the Norton Anthology, even at random, and it has to be less than a page long. The 5th grader is into it. She loves to read aloud. The 9th grader endures it, sometimes with interest, despite herself. We've been at it since school started. I agree with the 5th grader. It is more fun to read aloud than to be read to; but it's good to do both.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Validation, Success, and Moi

I am feeling validated this week. Yes, I feel validated by the re-election of Barack Obama. My teeth have unclenched and I am thrilled that the 2016 campaign for president won’t ramp up into high gear for at least six months. But I am validated in a much more important way. By praise. Praise-and Proverbs.

Yes. You see, last week, we had a visitor, a twenty-something hipster with choppy hair and a skinny headband. She arrived with her kombucha tea in a large glass jar topped with a scary looking mold called a scoby, and her Maca powder for balancing hormones (“hormones are everything,”) for the express purpose of interviewing me.