The 6 Hour Work Day?

May 25, 2016

Anthony Delanoix

Here’s an interesting experiment: A nursing home in Sweden (predictably!) was selected for a study about work hours. Researchers wanted to see what would change if employees worked a six-hour day instead of eight hours — for the same pay. After one year, the program “had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health.”

Sweden is already home to many businesses that allow flexible work hours and liberal parental leave policies, but it seems to me that this is a worthwhile conversation for other places to have. Is the “8 hour work day” ideal for every kind of business and employee? And if not, should we change it?

When I began working from home, I noticed that despite its challenges, I got a lot more done in far less time than I did in an office. That’s because in the average work place there’s a lot of time spent on things that aren’t directly task-related — such as casual conversations, coffee breaks, dilly-dallying, and unproductive meeting time. People are often more efficient when they have less time. (This is one reason why busy moms get so much done!)

The same can be said of school. The time children spend at school actually doing academics is far less than the hours spent there. Of course, education is not just academics — and this goes for the work environment, too. Many employees enjoy chit-chatting around the water cooler, and spending time that they’re not “on task.” But with only 24 hours in a day, is that more important than having more time for family at home, for the outdoors or exercising, for making healthy meals, for being involved with your community or church, for learning something?

Of course, it’s necessarily the case that six-hour work days are best. There are probably businesses and professions that it doesn’t and wouldn’t work for. But maybe this isn’t a one-size fits all approach. Truth it, we don’t even have a eight-hour work day so much anymore — it’s more like nine or 10 hours, at least when I look around at the kind of time the average person spends at his or her work place.

Would you welcome a 6 hour work day? Do you think it would be make you more more or less efficient?

Image: Anthony Delanoix at unsplash

 

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Monday Morning Buns

May 23, 2016

Olga's Tatatine Morning Buns

I can’t think of a better way to begin a Monday morning than with something from my sister Olga’s kitchen. Unfortunately, unless you live on the north shore of Nova Scotia, these morning buns are for your eyes only, and not your belly. I don’t even eat these kinds of things, but when Olga sends me photos of her latest culinary creations, I wish I could beam myself into her kitchen for a long, leisurely visit.

When Olga recently made her first trip to San Francisco, high on her list was stop at Tartine. The morning buns above use the Tartine croissant dough recipe from their cookbook, and the full morning bun recipe came from a blog called butterbaking.com, which she found when googling “Tartine’s morning bun recipe.” Just thought I better share all that in case you can’t help make this a reality for yourself.

Homemade baked goods remind me of home and I let myself indulge a bit when I’m there, but in my day-to-day life, I rarely eat them. One of these would totally hit the spot, though, with a cup of tea or coffee. Instead I’ll probably be predicable and whip up one of my signature green monster smoothies.

What’s your favorite way to get Monday morning started?

Image: Olga 

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Van Gogh in Action

May 18, 2016

I thought this art installation reportedly by students from the Institute of Fine Arts in Beirut, Lebanon, was super cool. It really does look like a moving painting, doesn’t it?

Are you a van Gogh fan? Vermeer? Who are some of your favorite artists from days gone by?

 

 

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Rosan Harmens pic unsplash

I’ve been thinking about the great women I’ve known, especially those who’ve passed on.

On Friday, I learned about the death of my friend, Susie Hurley DeConcini. Susie and I met when we were on the board of a Washington, D.C. non-profit that promoted the welfare of women and children. Thirty years my senior, Susie was  always kind of ageless because she had so much energy, enthusiasm, and passion for life. She was at once a dignified lady who knew all the appropriate social graces because she’d been married to a US senator, while at the same time she was completely down to earth, hospitable, and always up for an adventure.

Hailing from a long line of strong women (her grandmother had been a suffragist) Susie’s life was about service and she affected a lot of change in her circles of influence and beyond — including bringing childcare to the US Senate and advocating for troubled youth. Susie was full of stories and would frequently share them at our board meetings, or whenever I had the good fortune of being with her.

I’ll never forget one board meeting trip to New Orleans where Susie invited the late Ambassador Lindy Boggs to join us for dinner at Antoine’s where the two regaled us younger women with great stories, after which we all walked down Bourbon Street to Boggs’ amazing historic home for more visiting. (I wrote about that here when Boggs passed away.)

I didn’t know Lady Lindy Boggs, but she seemed to me a lot like Susie, who embodied so much of what it means to be a great woman: Kind, strong, brave, loving, wise, dedicated to her children and loved ones, faith-filled, successful, a life-long learner, humble, confident, unafraid to be herself.

One of the many things I loved about Susie was that she had plain old common sense — a rarity these days. I’m sure that played a role in how she dealt with her cancer diagnosis. When she learned of it, she decided against surgeries and drugs that might prolong her life but not cure her, and chose to go through the dying process as naturally as possible, spending her remaining time with close family and friends, and checking things off her bucket list.

The last time I saw Susie was at the shower friends threw for us right before H and S came home. Susie was so supportive and interested in our decision to adopt — she herself had one or two adopted grandchildren. My life has been so intense since then and we never got together again. But Susie recently came to mind very intensely for a couple of days and I now know that’s when she died.

The person Susie was, and the way she lived her life, makes me think about my own legacy: What difference will I have made? What kind of woman do I want to be? Great women like Susie inspires such questions. I know she’d be the first to tell me that I’m doing great, and she’d encourage me to keep living my life to the full as best I can.

Rest in peace, dear Susie. Thanks for all that you brought to the world.

 

Image: Rosan Harmens at unsplash

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Pull Up A Chair

May 13, 2016

Erol Ahmed cactus photo

So let’s get the weekend started with a lemon lavender gin rickey from Food52. I always want to try whatever I see in my Instagram feed from that recipe site!

I have so many random things in my brain at the moment…

  • Next week is our last at our homeschool academy for this academic year. I love having it two days a week — it  provides structure for our homeschooling and has been great for the girls on many levels. But it will also be nice to have a break from having to get the kids out the door early in the morning and make lunches and deal with homework for their classes there. Gosh, what would I do if they went to “regular” school every day? It would be so excessive. Haha
  • You know you’re busy when a delivery of Frye boots shows up at your door and you’re too busy to even open the boxes for days. Also, picking our boots online is hard! There’s a long story behind these boots. Back when we had our TV trip to North Carolina, a friend gifted me with a pair of Fryes. The problem was, they had a major defect and there wasn’t time to return them. The customer service folks at Frye said they were okay with me wearing them for the show and sending them back afterwards for credit. Which I did, hoping to get another pair just like them. But they were out of stock and weren’t going to be back in for months. So, I waited, and then kind of forgot about them, and then realized my credit was going to run out so I better hop to it! But then I wasn’t sure I wanted the same pair; maybe I should try some other styles just to complicate things? So, I did. And now I’m going back and forth between two colors of these Phillip Harness boots. I wanted the camel color and they’re out so it’s between the cognac and the black. I like the former slightly better, but the latter is more practical with my current wardrobe. I’m not good at these kinds of decisions. They’re just boots, but I don’t get Fryes everyday and I want to get it right!
  • We’ve had so much rain and many cloudy days. But I find it strangely comforting because it reminds me of home. Nova Scotia gets a lot of clouds and rain — a lot like the northwest of the US. So, speaking of boots, I’ve been wearing my Hunters a lot. I love throwing on rubber boots to head out the door.
  • My husband got me hooked on a show called Peaky Blinders. Heard of it? It’s a gangster drama located in the streets of post-war Birmingham, England, on the verge of the 1920s. B liked it right away; I was like, meh… And then it kind of sucked me in. Great performances. And I like that it’s not too violent, at least compared to so many other shows and what you’d expect from a show about gangsters.
  • Did I mention I had a lovely Mother’s Day? Low key and relaxing. The girls made me awesome homemade cards. Those are like pearls to me. And we went out for a special brunch where I had the best Bloody Mary ever. The girls tried to be on their best behavior all day. Sometimes I still can’t believe I have the privilege of being their mom. It’s a gift never lost on me.

Well, there’s more, but that’s enough. How was your week, friends? Hope it was a good one, and hope you have a terrific May weekend. See you back here next week.

Image: Erol Ahmed at unsplash

 

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Jiu jitsu warrior princesses

My girlie-girls who love all things pink, fluffy, and cute are three weeks into Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes and loving every minute of it. I must admit I’m a little surprised they dig it so much. Then again, these girls are always surprising me with their super coolness.

They attend a Gracie Academy school which we found right in our neighborhood, run by a guy trained in and passionate about Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In 1925, a Brazilian family by the last name of “Gracie,” began developing a new kind of jiu jitsu (based on the traditional Japanese martial art) for small or weaker people to defend themselves effectively. Many members of the Gracie Family have since dedicated their lives to developing what they — and many others — consider to be the most effective system of self-defense in the world. (You can read more about its interesting history here.) It’s a grappling art — there’s no punching or kicking involved.

B has always been a fan of martial arts; I, on the other hand, haven’t known much about them and shy away from anything that resembles fighting. At the same time, as a petite woman, I’ve often wished I was well-versed in self-defense. I think it’s a great thing for anyone, especially a woman, to know.

I really like the Gracie kids’ program because it’s not so much focused on teaching kids to fight, but on helping them gain the confidence to diffuse situations, learn to be safe, and only defend themselves physically if necessary. Then it teaches them the skills to do that. What I also love is that they spend at least 10 minutes at the beginning of every class talking about character development. Right now, it’s responsibility. My kids have never been better about doing chores without even being asked — a parent’s dream, right?

Besides helping the girls burn off energy and be physically active, it’s giving them more confidence and a sense of accomplishment. They love their teacher and it’s a positive environment and diverse group of kids. Not only that, S and H seem to be naturals. Who knew?

Look out world, there will be two jiu jitsu warrior princesses on the loose before you know it, and you won’t want to mess with them.

Would you ever want your kids to take a martial art, or have they? What about you?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul 

 

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Pull Up A Chair

May 6, 2016

Erol Ahmed flowers photo

Whew, it was one of those weeks! So many moving parts, and me running to catch up. How does one be a “slow” mama in the midst of days and weeks like this one, which happen so often?

I’m always trying to figure that out, but I think one secret is to be conscious of the present moment as much as possible and in those moments to pause and breathe deeply, be more present to what’s going on, and be grateful. Sure, there are things we could all do to slow our lives down more, and we should consider those things, but the fact is, life is full and busy and some seasons of life are especially this way. Being present to the moment is the only way to live fully in the time we have, no matter what’s going on.

This week, I did manage to get out with a good friend who was in town for the evening. I’m still thinking of the vodka mule I had — vodka plus fresh lime juice and ginger beer. Feel free to grab one and tell me about your week!

And how about your weekend? It’s Mother’s Day — any exciting plans? I know Mother’s Day is not all roses and sunshine for many women, and I get that. Every mother’s day, we bring flowers to a church and place them in front of a statue of Mary, in honor of S and H’s first mother. It’s a way for S and H to do something concrete that acknowledges and celebrates her, and for me to share that day with her in some way and offer a prayer.

In addition to the ways my little family will spoil me, we have a full weekend, including dinner with my brother and his family before they take a trip overseas, and a couple of other events we’re attending. Hope it’s a good one for you, friends, and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Erol Ahmed at unsplash

 

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Photo by Matthew Wiebe at unsplash

Not a morning person? You are finally vindicated, my friend.

According to a new study, none of us should be starting work — or school, for that matter  — before 10 a.m. I’ve always known this, but the rest of the world has been slow to catch on. Now science is finally catching up with what many of us have long suspected: Most of us don’t do so well when we leave the house at ungodly hours to commute to work or head to school.

The human body runs on circadian rhythms, genetically pre-programmed cycles that regulate energy levels, brainwave activity, and hormones. These 24-hour rhythms evolved around sunlight and not “the business strategies of the nation’s employers.”

In the late 18th century, the 8-hour work day was designed to maximize efficiency. But factory owners didn’t consider the body’s natural clock, they only thought about a 24/7 production schedule.

And though it might have appeared to maximize numbingly repetitive factory work, with the rise of technology and increasing number of jobs where you actually have to think, the 9am start time is completely backfiring.

Oxford University’s Dr. Paul Kelley, told the British Science Festival that his remedy for our sleep deprived society was to move start times forward to 10am so he tested his theory: He moved the start time of a British school from 8:30am to 10:00am and he saw grades improve by an average of 19%.

Kelly also thinks the work world has it all wrong.

Companies who are forcing workers to start earlier than 10am are placing major stress on the emotional and physical systems of their employees and effectively contributing to long-term health problems and higher numbers of sick days. The societal prevalence of sleep deprivation is probably the reason why the average American consumes 3.1 nine-ounce cups of coffee a day. That’s 40 billion dollars a year spent annually by Americans to prevent drool from dripping onto their keyboard.

That’s a good point about coffee. I don’t know anyone who can get up super early and manage to generate the kind of energy they need for the day without their cup of coffee, or two, or three.

As for what this means for those of you who do wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6am every morning, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe your circadian rhythms are off? Maybe you’ve evolved to a higher life form? Maybe you drink too much coffee?

What I do know is that it’s nice to now have some research to show that if you don’t think everything should begin at 7 a.m. it doesn’t mean you’re lazy and will never be successful.

Are you a morning person? What would you think about a 10am work and school day start time? What would be an ideal schedule for you?

Image: Matthew Wiebe for unsplash

 

 

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Pull Up A Chair

April 29, 2016

Girls with Rosie

Guess who got to hold their pet tarantula for the first time? S and H have been looking forward to this moment ever since Rosie Snackers arrived a few months ago. The terrarium had to be cleaned and it was the perfect excuse for them to finally get some hands-on time. I had visions of Rosie running away, getting lost in our disaster of a bedroom, and flipping out some night as she crawled over my face as I slept. (Yes, she lives in my bedroom. I think that should earn me the wife-of-the-year award.)

But, no. Apparently we’ve got ourselves the most docile and friendly arachnid on the planet. Not only that, Rosie loves being held. She gravitates to the girls, always coming up to the glass whenever they talk to her, and she didn’t want them to put her back—she kept trying to get out to them again. She loves B, too. I came into the room the other night and she was sitting in his hand, sound asleep. When he put her back, she kept coming to the corner, indicating she wanted out again. He thought it was the most adorable thing ever.

Rosie seemed to have a lot of personality from the beginning. She’s quite an interior decorator, constantly re-arranging things in her terrarium. We were surprised to observe she can dig amazingly well, and carry large amounts of dirt around. She also drinks water and grooms herself, washing her feet in the water bowl after climbing on walls, and she curls up into a ball and then slumps over when she falls asleep. She does all of this while being almost blind.

The only one who hasn’t held her yet is me. Can’t say it’s high on my list. I think she’s awfully interesting, and even cute —I’m getting quite a kick out of her. But there’s still something about the way a giant hairy spider moves—even a slow, friendly, personable one—that kind of weirds me out. My girls really want their mama to hold her, though, so I may need to bite the bullet soon and just do it.

In completely different and sad news, the man who’s responsible for bringing us delicious St-Germain elderflower liqueur passed away this week. Robert Cooper was only 39, so his death hit me as very sad since that’s so young. Seems only right to toast him with a lovely spring cocktail with St-Germain. So here’s a Lady Sybil from the Kitchn. Such an elegant drink!

Anything exciting happening this weekend? Lots on my list—we’ll see what gets accomplished. I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

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Empathy vs. Sympathy

April 28, 2016

Everyone loves Brené Brown and I must say, I like her stuff, too. In this lovely animated RSA Short, Brown talks about the difference between empathy and sympathy and how we can only create an authentic empathic connection if we’re brave enough to get in touch with our own vulnerability.

But when I watched this, I wasn’t sure I agreed with Brown’s definition of sympathy. She totally disses it. I guess it all  depends on how you define the word. I’ve always thought of sympathy as an early step to empathy, or a simple but valuable way to convey concern or care to someone. For instance, when you offer or send words of sympathy to someone who’s lost a loved one it’s a caring sentiment and conveys thoughtfulness. No, it’s not empathy — empathy is something else, more important, more involved. But that doesn’t mean sympathy is the opposite of empathy.

What do you think? Do you agree with Brown in this video? How have you understood the term sympathy?

 

 

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