Friday, October 24, 2014

Be Thankful for What you Have

I believe that we all need a little bit of inspiration from time to time. Here is a famous quote from Oprah Winfrey that I find particularly inspirational. 


Have an amazing weekend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Walk or Bike to School in October

Photo obtained from: http://www.theparentreport.com/2013/09/walk-to-school/

Do you know that October is the "International Walk to School Month"?

International Walk to School Day/Month (IWALK) is a global event that involves communities from more than 40 countries walking and biking to school on the same day. It began in 1997 as a one-day event. Over time, this event has become part of a movement for year-round safe routes to school and a celebration – with record breaking participation – each October.

IWALK is a chance to celebrate our environment by keeping our air clean, to share walking safety skills with children, to bring safety to our neighbourhoods and reduce crime, to address traffic congestion, pollution and speed around our schools, and to spend valuable time with one another. All great reasons to get your school and community involved!

Since October is not over yet, consider joining the movement and try to walk or bike with your kids at least twice before the month is over. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Trying to Survive a Chaotic Life or The Busy Life of a Family with Young Children


I started to write this post about three weeks ago, more exactly at the end of September. The topic of the blog was supposed to be "the chaotic and busy life of a family with small kids: Trying to survive" or something like that. It's now past the middle of October, and the post is not published, and it's far from being completed (although I am hoping that I will do this within the next 24 hours!!!). 

Why is this post not completed yet? The answer is simple: The situation in our house has been chaotic; we have been extremely busy and overwhelmed by work and family responsibilities since the beginning of September. Life has been so busy that neither my husband nor I have had too much time to relax, sleep or enjoy life during the last few weeks. It feels that we are always doing something that was supposed to be done the day, or week before. 

Are We Busier than Other Families?

I sometimes wonder if our way of living is "normal", or if you prefer, typical of families with small children. Or, it is just us who don't know how to organize ourselves efficiently. Of course, I know that families with children are always busy, but are we busier than other families? How do other families do to find time to relax and enjoy life without feeling rushed or under pressure by anything, and everything? 

Other times, I think that perhaps we are actually doing better than other families. After all, we generally make an effort to have dinners together. It's only occasionally that one of us misses a dinner. During dinners, we always take the time to say a prayer to thank God for all that we have received, including the challenging moments. We also take the time to share our thoughts and daily experiences. You know, I am talking about the usual questions: how was work today? What did you do at school today?, etc. My husband and I both help our children with school homework, and even give them extra activities to practice what they are learning at school.

After dinner, it is usually a different story. We don't usually have much time to relax because one of us has to walk the dog while the rest of the family is busy doing something else (e.g., homework, practicing a musical instrument, or folding cloths).

Sometimes, I wonder how families used to do during 30, 50 or 100 years ago. Were they as busy as we are today? Were kids involved in extra-curricular activities? I have the impression that the situation was very different in the past. I am not saying that kids and families were not busy, but I suspect that the situation was probably different... perhaps, a different type of "busyness". 

Regardless of the Chaos, there are Always Good Moments...

Having said this, I should also say that although our days are very chaotic, we have had chance to spend at least a few wonderful moments together since September. For instance, we were able to spend a couple of weekends at our cottage and went apple-picking a couple of times with friends. 


But, without any doubt of of the best moments of the fall so far happened 2 days ago. Our little boy, Elijah, ran at the Prince Edward Island Marathon Kids Spud Run.

Elijah was so excited about this race, and wanted so much to participate in it. He was always talking about it, and really wanted to do well, and be very "fast". 

Well, Elijah did fantastically well. He really surprised me and his father who accompanied him during the race (for security reasons kids 5 and younger needed to be accompanied by a parent).

Elijah was fast and never stopped during the race. He kept a consistent speed and finished among the first 10 runners!! He was so proud of himself and is already talking about next year's race.

It was a wonderful moment for the whole family, and we were all so proud of him.








Thursday, October 16, 2014

Make your Life a Priority

There is nothing wrong with loving your work and wanting to succeed at it. But, it's important to remember that there is much more to life than just work. So, never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. Take the time to live and make your life a priority!




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

7 Habits that Most People Want to Change


Have you ever heard about the book "The Happiness Project"? If you haven't read it yet, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you get a copy of it. 

This book is the New York Times bestseller written by Gretchen Rubin that spent more than 2 years on the bestseller list with more than a million copies sold in 35 languages -- A real success!


Gretchen Rubin is also the author of other books (e.g, Happier at Home) and a super popular website-blog entitled "The Happiness Project". I am subscribed to this website and always get very interesting and inspirational posts about all kind of things associated with happiness, including those related to her upcoming book about habits change call it, "Before and After". 

The Essential Seven

Recently, I received a post from Rubin that really attracted my attention. It looks that she recently asked people about the habits that they most wanted to change. After examining the data provided by people, Rubin realized that the information could be organized in what she likes to call "Essential Seven" habits.

Here is a list of Gretchen Rubin's essential seven:

1. Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, eat more vegetables, drink less alcohol)

2. Exercise regularly

3. Save, spend, and earn wisely (save regularly, pay down debt, donate to worthy causes, stick to a budget)

4. Rest, relax, and enjoy (stop watching TV in bed, turn off a cell phone, spend time in nature, cultivate silence, get enough sleep, spend less time in the car)

5. Accomplish more, stop procrastinating (practice an instrument, work without interruption, learn a language, maintain a blog)

6. Simplify, clear, clean, and organize (make the bed, file regularly, put keys away in the same place, recycle)

7. Engage more deeply in relationships—with other people, with God, with the world(call friends, volunteer, spend more time with family, attend religious services)


I have to agree with her in that these are "essential" habits that most people would like to change or improve. I know that I would certainly like to work on all of them. They are part of the monthly, and the "new year" resolutions of many people. I know that I tend to include at least a couple of them in my resolutions list.



A Potential Solution 

But, why are they so hard to change? Some experts indicate that it's difficult to change habits because if we aren't sure why we are changing, don't fully believe we are making the right choice, or question whether what we are doing will work, we are likely to settle back on our regular or traditional behaviours. So, we don't change anything or state status quo. It's not easy to find the endurance, motivation or mental energy to change what we have been doing for years.

Here is what Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University, suggests to do to change habits: "n
ext time you're trying to make a change, figure out what your current default is, and remind yourself exactly why it isn't working. Then look for ways to change your default so you don't have to fight the old default as often. And feel free to be your own cheerleader when the going gets rough. Look for the first evidence (a pound lost here, a dwindling credit card statement there) that what you're doing is paying off".

It's not easy to change old habits, but apparently it's possible!

You've Just Been BOO-ed by BuyCostumes


**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links

BuyCostumes Halloween Costumes


You've just been "BOO-ed" by BuyCostumes! The latest chain reaction game sweeping this Halloween season has just hit your screen with a super discount 20% off EVERYTHING at BuyCostumes when you use coupon code: AFCBOO20!

Now for the fun part... you get to go "BOO" your friends! Take this BuyCostumes offer and share it on their Facebook pages, pin it alongside their favorite Halloween pics, insert it into their Instagram feed, spread this "boo-tiful" offer everywhere!

Don't wait to share this offer - it expires on October 23, 2014
We wouldn't want you and your friends to miss out on the spooktacular savings!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Have you tried Zulily BIG SALES yet?

Have you TRIED Zulily yet?





Zulily is a fabulous online store offering daily sales on top-quality boutique apparel, gear and other goodies for moms, babies and kids. Members can enjoy savings of up to 70% off (and sometimes 80% off) retail prices--not to mention discover some exciting new brands and products.


Only members can shop Zulily sales, but membership is free and to sign up is fast and easy. If you haven't tried Zulily, I highly recommend the place. You can find hundreds and hundreds of big name brands in one site and a sale going on somewhere continually.

Today is no different and I thought I would highlight a few of the BIG SALES going on this week!


Free People Clothing and Accessories on Sale at zulily

Frozen Up to 60% Off at zulily

Disney Junior Collection Up to 55% Off at zulily

Disney Princess Collection Up to 55% Off at zulily

Goodnight Moon on Sale at zulily

Rachael Ray Products on Sale at zulily

Nepresso on Sale at zulily

Kate Spade Bags on Sale at Zulily

MUK LUKS Women on Sale at zulily

Little Tikes Up to 40% Off at zulily


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Ballad of David Quammen -- A tribute to the Song of the Dodo

Science students can be very creative when given the chance. In two of my upper level courses, students have to read non-fiction science books dealing with topics discussed in class. For example, in my Macroecology & Biogeography course, students have to read the book The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction by David Quammen.  


Students had to read the  book, lead discussions and organize activities for each chapter of the book. As a tribute to this book, two students who took the course during the winter 2014 wrote a song that they entitled "The Ballad of David Quammen". These two students, Garreth Ashley and Lucas Peters, were responsible for the last chapter of the book as well as the final discussion. They wrote the lyrics of this song and interpreted the song with the help of the whole class.

The whole class enjoyed reading the book and found that it was a much more enriching and interesting experience than reading a textbook. Click below to listen to the "Ballad of David Quammen".

Learning can be fun!



Can Social Media and Peer Influence Contribute to Body Dissatisfaction and Eating Disorders in Young Women?

Photo taken from http://www.bodycorethailand.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/skinny-woman.jpg

When I am not busy with family- or work-related issues, I am spending time researching information on the role that social media plays in today's society. Today, I came across a couple of interesting articles about the potential role that social media may have on body dissatisfaction and eating disorders in young women.

The degree to which media contributes to body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms in teenage girls it is apparently debatable (Ferguson et al. 2013). Some believe that media influences on body dissatisfaction may extend to eating disorder symptoms, possibly explaining increases in eating disorders across the twentieth century in Western nations. For example, a study conducted by the University of Haifa in 2011 showed that the more time teenage girls spend on Facebook, the higher their risk of developing negative body images and eating disorders.

Eating disorders (e.g., anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating) are a complex set of illnesses caused by genetic, biological, behavioural, psychological and social factors. These disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. To my surprise, I found out that Anorexia, in particular, has a mortality rate 12 times higher than any other cause of death in women ages 15 to 24, according to the American Institute of Mental Health.

According to some studies, social media, where users exchange information and photos and communities form over common interests, has become a bastion for some struggling with eating disorders. Images of spindly legs, concave stomachs and jutting ribs emerge on various sites by searching hashtags like #thinspogram #thighgap or #bonespo.


Photo taken from http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_av24PGmT1O0/TOWjjhAp8BI/AAAAAAAACBM/HbBIkZfuMuw/s1600/bra2.jpg

Having said this, it is important to mention that in recent years, social media sites have made attempts to censor content that encourages eating disorders and self-harm. Instagram, for example, banned certain hashtags and instituted new guidelines against self-harm images and accounts. Individuals are also beginning to share their personal histories and photos of recovery on social media, using hashtags like #edrecovery, #edsoldier and #foodisfuel and posting images of their meals. NEDA also asks social media users to join the pro-recovery movement by sharing posts and using the hashtag #prorecovery.

Interestingly, other researchers contend that links between media and body dissatisfaction are not consistent, may be explained by other variables such as personality traits or family environment, or may apply only to some girls but not others (Roberts and Good 2010). The most recent meta-analysis of ~200 studies that examined media effects on body dissatisfaction and eating disorders concluded that the evidence for relationships between social media and either body dissatisfaction or eating disorders are largely inconsistent. Only small overall links between media ideals and body dissatisfaction in women already predisposed to body dissatisfaction were found in this study. Evidence for a link with eating disorders was largely absent.

By contrast, a recent study conducted by Fergurson et al. (2013) on 237 young American girls suggests that peer competition, rather than television or social media exposure, is more salient to body and eating issues in teenage girls. Young people are often deeply influenced by their peer group. However, most of the time, this influence is very subtle, and they do not notice the changes in their behaviour, attitudes and skills. Peer influence also exerts pressures. At times, many young people end up doing things they would not have done on their own. It is important to mention that the majority of the girls Fergurson et al.'s (2013) study were of Hispanic origin, suggesting that ethnicity may also play a role in body dissatisfaction in young women.



Tips for Parents

I have learned a couple of important things from these studies.

(1) Social Media and Internet Time: We should encourage our children, especially girls, to use their net time wisely.

(2) Peer Influence: Young people tend to engage in both positive and negative behaviours with their friends and peer groups. Although having friends is essential to healthy psychological and social development, the quality of relationships, and the types of activities they engage in, are also important to consider when examining the health and well‑being of young people. It is essential that we discuss the pros and cons of peer influence with our children. 


Papers Cited
Fergurson, et al. 2013. Concurrent and prospective analyses of peer, television
and social media influences on body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms and life satisfaction in adolescent girls. file:///C:/Users/default.SID18285/Documents/Blogging/BodyImageProspective.pdf.

Roberts, A., & Good, E. (2010). Media images and female body dissatisfaction: The moderating effects of the five-factor traits. Eating Behaviors, 11(4), 211–216. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2010.
04.002




Today, Set a Goal, and Make it Happen!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Welcome to the Anthropocene or the Age of Human Domination on Earth!

If you are asking yourself what is the "anthropocene", I bet you are not the only person! I did not know anything about the term anthropocene until I read the book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by author, Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History


I am using this book for a conservation biology class that I am teaching this semester. In this book, Elizabeth Kolbert tell us that over the last half a billion years, there have been five major mass extinctions. During each one of these episodes of massive species loses, the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted.

The author of this book makes the compelling case that human activities are behind the sixth mass extinction in the Earth’s history. This extinction did not happen in the past, this extinction is happening right now, and we are the main reason why it is occurring. 

We are putting down massive amounts of pavement, moving species around the planet, over-fishing and acidifying the oceans, changing the chemical composition of rivers, fragmenting and destroying natural habitats, and much more. Contrary to previous mass extinctions, the cataclysm that is currently driving thousand of species to extinction is us.  


Welcome to the Anthropocene!


One of the chapters of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History  is entitled "Welcome to the Anthropocene". The term Anthropocene was coined by ecologist Eugene Stoermer in the 1980s. Interestingly, the term has been popularized by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen who has indicated that the influence of human behaviour on our planet's atmosphere in recent centuries is so significant that it should constitute a new geological epoch for the lithosphere. 

According to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the professional organization in charge of defining earth’s time scale, we are officially in the Holocene (“entirely recent”) epoch, which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age. However, the use of the word Anthropocene is now so popular that the question whether or not we are still in the Holocene is now debatable. Last year, the term Anthropocene appeared in nearly 200 peer-reviewed articles and the publisher Elsevier launched a new aca­demic journal titled Anthropocene in 2013. A quick search of the word "anthropocene" in Amazon.com resulted in 134 books, including a few that attracted my intention: The Anthropocene: A New Planet Shaped by HumansEntrepreneurship in the Anthropocene Era: It Could Be the Best of Times or  The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us. Recently, the IUGS convened a group of scholars to decide by 2016 whether to officially declare that the Holocene is over and the Anthropocene has begun.


During our class discussion, my students and I were literally "fascinated" by the use of the term Anthropocene. I should specify that we were not necessarily interested in examining the question whether or not we are currently in the Holocene or the Anthropocene, but on the belief system behind the use of the word anthropocene. Why do people use this term?


I think that as a collective group, my students and I realize that why and how people use the term "anthropocene" may also be a good subject for a debate. Are we using the term Anthropocene to indicate that we are finally aware of all the adverse effects that our behaviour and activities are having on the other species and the planet? Or, are we using the term Anthropocene simply because we (humans) see ourselves as the center of the universe, and believe that this is the epoch of human domination on Earth?

Since our species appeared in this planet, we have been able to overcome almost all the environmental limitations that restricted other species to their ecological niches. The Industrial Revolution began a march towards control of the planet and its resources, which, over the past 50 years, has become truly global. Our population soared from ~10,000 individuals at the start of the Holocene to ~7 billions today. It is estimated that our species will pass a colossal 9 billion by 2050.


It is clear that the implications of viewing ourselves as the dominant species in the planet are far more important than determining whether or not the Holocene is over. I believe that the main issue that we are facing today is to know whether or not we are capable of using the knowledge, technology and tools that we have developed or acquired over the last 250 years to change things. Or, are we going to pursue our search for unlimited power and dominance on other species and see them going extinct without feeling any remorse? Although the idea that one species could dominate a planet is usually the subject of science fiction movies, it is the disturbing reality of our planet in this case.   


Coming Back to The Sixth Extinction

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am using the book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History in a conservation biology class. When I decided to adopt the book, my main intention was to force students to read about conservation issues. So far, I am very pleased with the book because my students are reading it and are also increasing their knowledge about all kind of conservation-related problems that are associated with the current mass extinction. But, this particular book chapter (Welcome to the Anthropocene) also gave us (students and I) the chance to reflect about our role as the dominant species in this planet. 





Set Your Goals High Today!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Party Ideas by Celebrate Express





A Halloween party is so much more than just a few costumes and a couple of bat cupcakes! Haunted house tour, favorite murder mystery re-enactment…there are so many exciting possibilities and Celebrate Express has what it takes to supply them all! 




Halloween Party Ideas
Decor: Setting a festive fright scene starts with a bold table. Start by layering together different patterns, you can make a totally unique party look that's super chic and super easy. Get this look in one convenient package with a Celebrate Express Halloween party in a box, or experiment with chevron party supplies, polka dot party supplies, and quatrefoil party supplies.




Treats: Candy is must-have on this holiday, but it can get a little monster make-over as well. Turn your treats into decor with easy candy kabobs! Coat some wooden skewers with cooking spray so that the candy won't get stuck, and press them through marshmallows, orange tummies, twists of licorice, and any other candies you like. Stand the kebabs up in a bowl of jellybeans or Sixlets to display before eating! 

Great news! Get 15% off Halloween Party Supplies through the end of October! Whatever terrifically terrifying theme you choose for your spook-tacular celebration, be sure to browse the large selection at Celebrate Express.


Halloween Spooky Boots Party Supplies

Halloween Orange with Black Spiders Latex Balloons

Halloween Spooky Boots Cello Bags (20)