#54: Live each day to the fullest

CC licensed image by Flickr user BK

CC licensed image by Flickr user BK

I’ve been thinking about this topic lately because of news from a few different people lately of loved ones nearing their last days or being diagnosed with scary and unfortunate illnesses, such as cancer. I also just watched the series finale of How I Met Your Mother and…(spoiler alert! Don’t read the next sentence if you intend to still watch it. Love the show, btw) it also brought me back to the realization that one’s life can end at any moment and we must truly appreciate and make the most of the present. After having a child, I’ve also been more sensitive to the idea of loss, as I now have another life that is depending on me for so much and on whom so much of my own sense of well-being now depends, not to mention the increasing bond I have with my family–my loving husband and parents (who are now grandparents)–and dear friends, as well.

As a friend of mine recently expressed to me, all we have is NOW. We can think back to our past and learn from it, we can envision and plan for our future, but the one and only moment that is real is RIGHT NOW. So, why not make the most of it and live this very moment at your best? I have a little plaque at home that says ‘…live each day as if it were your last.’ I like this perspective, although I find it challenging to live by all the time because I can’t truly internalize how I would really feel or act if I absolutely knew I was on my last days. I’m pretty sure I would spend as much time as possible with loved ones and soaking in all the beautiful things on this planet, such as nature, good food, music and dancing (amongst other things), but I think I would feel a different (perhaps a deeper, more connected and aware) sense of self and perspective on life that one can only have when one is in such a situation. In any case, what I think is key is ensuring that we live in such a way that we would not have any regrets if our lives were to (unfortunately) end too soon.  To this end, I try to give my husband and child a loving gesture each and every time I or they leave the house to go out, I try and frequently communicate words of love, kindness and appreciation to those around me, and I try and be the best person I can be a little more each and every moment of each day. I certainly do fall into traps of negativity and unproductivity from time to time, but reminders of life’s fragile timeline helps me improve. Meditation is also a great tool for training ourselves to be present. I don’t want to come off as being overly fatalistic–instead, my goal is to inspire greater authenticity. All we have is now. Let’s make the most of the present and strive to live our best lives, being our best selves, each and every precious day.

Feel free to check out a different but related post I wrote on this topic several years ago.

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#53: Bring some sunshine to a stranger–a small act of kindness

CC licensed image by Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography

CC licensed image by Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography

Since becoming a mother I’ve been privy to an awesomely open and welcoming community that exists in Toronto. A community where strangers will approach me and my baby boy with delightful smiles, hellos and waves (for my son, of course); a community where lighthearted colloquy and friendly gestures become contagious.

A few months ago, a stranger (a fellow mother), put a smile on my face with a small act of kindness. I was at a baby store with my husband and my five month-old son, looking for infant sunglasses for an upcoming trip we were taking. My husband and I were amusingly testing out sunglasses on our son (babies in sunglasses are uber cute!), but unfortunately none of them fit him. Another mother who was in the store with her son (of a similar age) came over and started up conversation with us. After several minutes of talking about our kids and travel, she told us to hold on, as she had some infant sunglasses in her car, that she would gladly retrieve for us to try on. She fetched the sunglasses, which were still in the original packaging with the price tag, and handed them to us. They fit our little guy perfectly. We gave them back to her and made note of the brand, but she told us to take them, saying that her son wore them briefly during their recent travels but wasn’t likely to wear them again. We offered to pay, but she said there was no need and we could have them. It was a nice gesture that shed a glimmer of kindness and generosity that exists in what sometimes feels like a big, hurried, individualistic city.

We went on our trip and our little guy wore those cute sunglasses every day. As we soaked in the warmth and glory of the sunshine, my husband and I relished every moment of seeing our baby grin and giggle from behind his shades. It’s beautiful what a small act of kindness from a stranger can do for others. :) Thanks!

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#52: Differentiate instruction

CC licensed image by Flickr user duncan

CC licensed image by Flickr user duncan

If someone were to ask me what the single most important skill in teaching children would be, I would say it is the ability to differentiate instruction and assessment. This means, authentically getting to know each child, and tailoring your instruction and assessment to fit their optimal learning style. How does one teacher figure out each and every multi-dimensional child in their class, assess them accurately and instruct them according to their unique needs? This is the art, science and professional craft of educators and it’s an on-going challenge.

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#51: Support women’s hockey!

CC licensed image by Flickr user Krista Windsor

CC licensed image by Flickr user Krista Windsor

I recently listened to an interview on CBC’s Metro Morning with Brenda Andress, the Commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, in which she talked about how the female hockey players on the Olympic roster do not get paid anything for their skill, while the men’s Olympic roster makes a salary of over $150, 000 000.  Her recommendation was to support women’s hockey by coming out to their games; the more support they get, the more tickets they sell, the more revenue that comes in to offer salaries and the potential for a professional hockey career. Visit their site for more information. After listening to the interview, on the heels of all the excitement, inspiration and pride from the Sochi winter Olympics, I was asking myself why we are facing such disparities. Is it just that women’s hockey is not promoted enough, that it’s not an inveterate part of Canadian hockey culture? If so, why is that? Or, do people genuinely feel that women’s hockey is objectively not as appealing as men’s? If the latter is the case, is this sentiment truly objective or as a result of more deeply ingrained biases towards women’s and men’s roles in the athletic arena (and beyond)? 

How can we change, shift and shape the societal psyche towards women’s hockey and sport in general, such that we create an inherent culture of more enthusiasm, support and equity for all involved? Comments/thoughts welcome.

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#50: Make a fashion statement of Confidence

"The best fashion statement is...CONFIDENCE"--Akila Venkatesh (CC licensed image by Flickr user alebaffa)

“The best fashion statement is…Confidence“–Akila Venkatesh
(CC licensed image by Flickr user alebaffa)

I enjoy fashion, clothing and accessories…but I would say that the best fashion statement is….Confidence.  I thought of this sentence in my head about a year ago and wrote it on my white board as a source of inspiration. What makes you feel confident and how does that tie into the way you present yourself to others? Does self-confidence allow you to feel happier with what you wear or how you look, or vice versa? (There’s no right or wrong answer!)

Put an authentic smile on your face, be comfortable in your own shoes, be open and non-judgemental towards yourself and others and you’ll look great in almost anything. It’s about beauty from the inside out. 

I really enjoy D.’s blog and her post on this topic. We’re thinking along the exact same lines.

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#49: Make a party box

CC licensed Flickr image Special Collections, Waterloo Library

CC licensed Flickr image from Special Collections, Waterloo Library

One of my favourite social activities is hosting parties and get togethers. I love the feeling of bringing friends and family together in a welcoming and personal atmosphere, and it makes me happy to treat them to an afternoon or evening of laughter, food, pleasantries, games and fun. This sense of community is certainly a joy in life and when I can enjoy these activities in a sustainable way, it makes it all the better.

In an effort to reduce my water consumption and learn more about my water footprint, I stumbled up this post about the ‘party box’ idea.  A party box is a big, all encompassing box of non-disposable party supplies (cups, plates, cutlery, etc..) that can be shared amongst neighbours and friends when hosting group get-togethers. It not only helps reduce your water footprint, but sends a message of community and sustainability. Perfect for kids’ parties, but possible as well for adult gatherings. (If you try it out, let me know how it goes!)  

I am perpetually dismayed and dumbfounded by the amount of water it takes to produce so many of the everyday items we consume–paper, plastic, meat, clothing etc… and feel it imperative to take small (or large) but regular steps to reduce our consumption of such products and preserve our most precious resource. Although it might take a little bit of extra effort, every little step in being environmentally friendly helps, and when it’s shared amongst people, sustainability becomes a trend.

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#48: Teach pedagogically

CC licensed image by Flickr user earlyarts

CC licensed image by Flickr user earlyarts

In teaching, we often use the term ‘pedagogy’ to describe our practice–that is, we teach using the art and science behind the method. Scientific methods, which empirically follow trends in behaviour, cause and effect, help guide teachers in the strategies used to plan instruction for specific learners. The art, in my opinion, is in the delivery, and in inspiring  growing minds. I really like this article that talks about pedagogy.

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#47: Believe in the power of one

Image

CC licensed image by Flickr user Jason Lander

The world is a big place. At about 7 billion people with a magnitude of diversity that surpasses what the mind can realize, the work of ‘making a difference’, can understandably feel daunting at times. Making the world a better place does not only have to involve large scale change, all at once, by a select few people (although this is what is often showcased in the media and catches people’s attention). Small, everyday actions are extremely valuable, as they lay the foundation for creating more caring and socially and environmentally responsible communities. Every individual on this planet makes some difference each and every day with every decision, action and interaction. These differences are positive or negative, depending on what types of choices people make. Being accurately informed is a necessary first step towards acting more socially and environmentally responsible (which points to the importance of literacy as well).

Cumulatively, as each person acts in well-informed, socially and environmentally responsible ways (or even just demonstrates everyday kindness and good character!) individual actions can go from making small dents, to larger craters and change can become more visible. If everyone pitches in a little, a lot can happen. Similarly, if no one pitches in or acts to make a difference, nothing will get done. Obscure or overt, believe that every little bit does help. It is this mindset that motivates small but necessary steps to be taken towards progress. These deeds are indeed felt in different nooks, crannies and corners of the world, in different communities and affect different people, places and things in different ways. They do make a difference!

Change can happen from everyday heroes. One person can have a positive influence on others through their everyday actions, and this influence can embed itself into the way others think, act and feel. This is powerful. Friends, siblings, parents and members of your community can all make a difference in the lives of others by acting as positive role models.

Believe in the power that one person can have on making our world a better place.  Every (well-informed) action you take to making a positive contribution on this earth, does just that–it makes a positive difference! Once acted upon, your positive actions have instantly made a mark: they have improved yourself, your community and your planet. Whether it be turning out the lights every time you leave a room, taking shorter showers, eating less meat, using the stairs instead of the elevator, smiling more, reusing more, consuming less, giving someone a hug, welcoming people into your home, helping your parents set the table, being an attentive listener, researching/experimenting to understand the world better, educating others, holding the door for someone, buying local, eating healthier, coming up with a cure for cancer or travelling to the moon (and the list goes on and on!), your good actions make the world a better place. You are one person…and you are mighty!

Be the change you wish to see in the world–Gandhi

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#46: Consider being perfectly happy

CC licensed image shared by Flickr user jojo nickdao

CC licensed image shared by Flickr user jojo nickdao

The other day, I came up with the following phrase: “I may not have the perfect life, but I am perfectly happy.” Another version of the same idea: “I may not be perfect, but I am perfectly happy.” This latter perspective can be particularly useful in promoting self-esteem. If you enjoy a good life that is generally pain-free (physically and/or emotionally), consider being perfectly happy even if there are areas in your life you would like to change.

The notion of perfection is entirely subjective and means something different for each person. After thinking further about the sayings above, I frankly feel that the word ‘perfect’ and the idea of imperfection are not ideal for promoting empowerment (although they lend themselves to having a catchy phrase). Instead, I prefer to replace the concept of imperfection with growth and improvement instead. For me personally, the reality of the statements above would more accurately be rephrased as: “I may have areas for growth in my life, but I am perfectly happy.” 

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#45: Invest in maternity leave

CC licensed image shared by Flickr user kb_vaidya

CC licensed image shared by Flickr user kb_vaidya

How fortunate am I to be able to have this whole year to simply focus on raising my child, spend time cuddling and playing with him, actively taking part in his development and savouring this amazing bond? I can’t imagine only having the few weeks or months that are allocated to mothers in other countries. This time with your newborn, coupled with early childhood and post-natal services and programs (i.e., mommy-baby sing along groups, new mother discussion groups), is essential to their optimal development, which has an impact on their future success and ultimately, the future of the country and the world.

Unfortunately however, many mothers cannot financially afford to take their full maternity leave, often resulting in their infants being left at home in the care of others, without appropriate stimulation or nutrition. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty and highlights the link between poverty and future well-being (academically, socially and health-related), which starts as early as infancy, and in some cases, birth. Furthermore, there are negative social-psychological effects on the mother, due to lack of adequate bonding with their infant and the stress associated with balancing financial needs along with the needs of their newborn.

There is ample research demonstrating the far reaching benefits of investing in early childhood development and the link between poverty and developmental outcomes and future success. Investing in greater maternity leave benefits, especially for those in need, will help mothers and babies get off to an optimal start and positively influence the well-being of the whole family, country and beyond.

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