What About Jeans On Mondays?

Why have I not written in PrattleNog lately?

Um, work-life balance. (Alas, I’ve written about *that* before.)

Why am I posting now?

Because TED posted a video with Nigel March about work-life balance that I want to share. Marsh’s main message is comprised of these key points:

  • Achieving work-life balance is up to each of us.
  • Wearing jeans on Fridays will not accomplish it.
  • If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you.
  • Make small changes.
  • Take your kid to the park and then to get pizza. (Ok, that’s not really a main message, but I like it anyway.)

Watch more; learn:


Installment #13: What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning

In today’s installment of What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning, let’s talk about food. Actually, let’s talk about fuel. Mac needs fuel — good fuel — on a regular basis (like every few hours) to keep going and to keep learning. When he doesn’t get good food on a regular basis, just as when he doesn’t get good sleep on a regular basis, we’re in for trouble!

Snack Time

I know from my own experience that when I am hungry, I am not very effective at thinking, acting, or behaving very well. My mom tells stories of me as a baby needing to eat RIGHT!!! AWAY!!! upon waking up in the morning or from a nap. Forget dry or clean diapers or hugs and kisses: GIVE ME MY DAMN CHEERIOS NOW, WOMAN!

That's me, eating, as much and as fast as possible.

This hasn’t changed much for me as I’ve gotten older, the same holds true for Mac, and I am pretty certain it’s the case for most of us. Food — especially good food — fuels us. We need it to run our bodies and our brains.

In his book How We Decide (which I started reading after I had to make a difficult decision), Jonah Lehrer cites an experiment led by a psychologist at Florida State in which students who received lemonade made with real sugar made better decisions than the experimental group who received lemonade with a sugar substitute (if you’re interested, read the whole description of this study on page 152). The reason, as Lehrer explains it, is this:

The rational brains of these students [who received the substitute] were simply too exhausted to think. They’d needed a restorative sugar fix … This research can also help explain why we get cranky when we’re hungry and tired: the brain is less able to suppress the negative emotions sparked by small annoyances. (p. 152)

Too exhausted — too hungry — to think… Right?!?! I know that feeling!

So … what is good food? (It’s probably not sugary lemonade.)

The more I read about this subject, the more I am coming to appreciate Michael Pollen’s Food Rules, and I highly recommend his “Eater’s Manual” for an easily-digestible (pardon the pun) version of his work. Pollen’s three basic rules are:

  1. Eat food.
  2. Not too much.
  3. Mostly plants.

Mac and Bapa shucking fresh corn for dinner.

With all my might (and it takes a lot of might), I am focusing on this for Mac’s diet — and the fourth line I’d add is this:

  1. Eat food.
  2. Not too much.
  3. Mostly plants.
  4. On a regular basis (every few hours) to keep blood sugar levels stable.

I know there will come a day when Mac will be exposed to the addictive nature of McDonald’s french fries, and already he constantly lobbies for “yogurt stars,” which are basically cookies made to look healthy (thanks a lot, Trader Joe’s). For now, as long as we can hold back the temptations, we’ll do our best to follow Pollen’s rules, such as these:

  • #19:  If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
  • #57:  Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
  • #60:  Treat treats as treats.

Alas, there are already times that we need to call on Rule #64: Break the rules once in a while.

I know, I know: It's an Otter Pop! Long Live Rule #64!


Installment #11: What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning


Sleep is really, really, really important.

Our brains need rest. They need time to deal with new information; to manage our knowledge; and to assimilate and make sense of our new experiences.

For Mac, his brain AND his body need rest. Even though he is getting older, if he doesn’t get a good nap and a good night’s rest, he cannot make good decisions and he is emotional and irrational. Frankly, when he’s lacking sleep, he’s not a lot of fun to be around, nor, more importantly, is he able to learn new things.


If there is one major lesson I have learned about learning from Mac, it’s that we all need good sleep (even us adult learners). If you’re missing out on sleep, you might want to read more about “sleep debt.”

And then, for goodness sake, go take a nap!

Installment #7: What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning

Sometimes we just need help.

Adult learners balance precariously on very thin beams. Our attentions are divided among our professional obligations, our kids, our parents, our bills, our pets, our partners, our lawns that need mowing and our laundry that needs washing. And oh, did I mention that essay to write, that study group to attend, that book to read, that research to do? Yeah – all that LEARNING that needs to happen?

Oh, and what about sleep?

And darnnit — as hard as it is to admit — sometimes we need help! As Mac has told me very clearly these days, when he is in the midst of striving for independence and perfection (hmmm – sound familiar?), help is the last thing he wants from me. He wants to do it (whatever “it” is) himself; he wants to be a super-hero; get it all done and done well; and get credit for it all.  He wants to be self-sufficient and strong, just like we do.

I'm glad dad is here to hang on to!

But indeed, sometimes we just need help. So when you need it, ask for it!

  • Ask your partner to make dinner a few nights a week.
  • Ask a co-worker to let you sit and read quietly on your lunch break 3 days a week.
  • Ask your boss for a day off.
  • Ask your instructor for help interpreting an assignment.
  • Ask a trusted study partner to proofread your paper for you.
  • Ask your kids to clean the bathroom (and thank them gloriously when they do).
  • Ask a librarian to help you with a literature search.
  • ASK!


#1 – Learning Can Happen When We Challenge our Perspectives

#2 – Learning is Developmental

#3 – We Learn by Direct Experience

#4 – We Learn by Observing Others, Even If Others Are Not Experts

#5 – The Importance Of Books In Learning

#6 – Selecting the Right Learning Tools

Are You In Sleep Debt?


Thanks to floralbrigades on Flickr for making this photo available for reuse.

The New Service blog posted a good article about Sleep Debt that I wanted to share.  What is sleep debt? According to the article:


Sleep debt is the accumulated sleep that is lost due to poor sleeping habits, sickness, or other causes that affect “peaceful” sleep.  This debt can become difficult to “pay back” if it becomes too large.  Adults roughly need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  Yet according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many adults are not getting enough sleep each night.  Nearly 1 out 4 adults do not sleep 50% of the time or more.

This seems like an especially important concept for adults in higher education because we try to do everything and cram it all into 24 hours. We work, we take care of others, we eat, we exercise, we spend time with our children/friends/sisters/brothers/partners/animals,  we contribute to our communities/place of worship/neighborhoods, we clean house or do yard work or make our meals, and then ??? THEN we add to this already very full plate educational activities. Somewhere in this mix we need to sleep!

Wanna know why? It’s quite simple: we need sleep in order to learn.  Read more HERE and HERE about this! Sleep is critical to helping us process new information and make sense of our prior knowledge.

I can add a tip to the list offered by New Service: remove your cats from your room!

What tips can you add for ensuring you get enough sleep?