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Posts tagged ‘reading’

5 Ways to Stay Accountable In Online Classes

Have you ever signed up for an online class, but never got around to doing a thing with it? You’re in the right place. We’re gonna talk about online class accountability today.

Taking an online, self-paced course is awesome because you can do it at, you know, your own pace. But let’s be honest: sometimes our pace turns out to be…never.  If you’ve ever registered for an online class and not actually taken it, then we have something in common.

Somewhere out there lives an entire village of untaken, unopened class lessons on everything from: How to Excel at Selfies When Your Arms Are Super Short to How to Make a Million in 30 Days Selling Miniature Soap Sculptures of Jon Hamm on a Motorcycle.

jon hamm

Won’t you please take your online class for this poor fella’s sake?

I don’t want you to buy a class and not take it. I want you to benefit from your soap sculpting class. I take a LOT of online classes and over the years I’ve figured out how to stay accountable, so that I actually get something out of them.

Here are a few tips:

1. Enroll with a Friend:  Ask a friend or colleague with similar interests to take the class with you. Start the course at the same time and make a schedule together, so that you’re both progressing through the lessons at about the same pace. Then hold each other accountable by planning to discuss it on a regular basis. You can do this in person over brunch or by email. Or try a quick daily check-in message (“DONE!”) with no need for a reply to one another.

Have a lot of friends? Ask a bunch of them to enroll in the class and make it a work project or a book club-like event.

Hooray for Accountability Partners (and Keith Haring)!

Hooray for AccountabilityBuddies (and Keith Haring)!

2. Go Public: We’re more likely to stick to our commitments when other people know about our goals. Tell people in your life that you’re taking the class and what you hope to achieve. Make it known.

You can also use social media to hold you accountable. Sometimes just the act of posting your goals and progress to an audience is enough to keep you plugging away. If you want to raise the stakes a little, try an online site like SticKK where you can get a community of people to hold you accountable to your commitments and cheer you on. You can even put money down on yourself – fail to reach your goal and you forfeit the money (to charity – yay!).

3. Create Content:  Bloggers, this one is for you. As a spin off to #2, if you already have an audience, think of the class you’re taking as content fodder. It can be tough to find new things to write about every week. Use the structure of the class to create new content. You can write weekly posts to correspond with each lesson and share your progress. Or your can write a wrap-up post when you finish the class to share what you’ve learned. Announce to your readers early on that you’re in class. Knowing your readers are waiting for your thoughts on the topic will help keep you in school.

4. Schedule It: Before you get started, look at your calendar and life. Is this the right time to start or should you wait a couple of months to dive in? Where can you block out time each week to do the lessons?

Plan to start the course when you feel like it’s realistic for you, but then stick to it by blocking out time in your calendar to do the work. Make a commitment to start each lesson on a specific date and mark down any live calls or webinars. Do this in advance – so your schedule reflects your commitment.


I can never get enough of these chickens. They really speak to my soul, you know? (source)

5. Set Intentions and Goals:  Be clear about why you’re taking the class. We’re all so busy and have a trillion things pulling at our attention. Reflect on why you really hit “buy now!”, so you know why you’re willing to pass up New Girl reruns to do the homework.

Here’s a question to help you figure out your intention for the class: What do you hope to be able to do differently because of this course? Try to be specific.

Once you know why you’re in class, set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based) to help you get there.

Here’s an example: I will complete the 15 lessons in the Sculpting Hunky Stars From Soap course over the next four months so that I can improve my Jon Hamm soap miniatures and start charging double for them. To do this I will spend 20-30 minutes per day, after work but before dinner, doing the practice lessons and whittling tiny abs out of Ivory bars.  

Now that’s a SMART goal.

So that’s it folks – a few ideas for how not to fall off the online-class wagon!  What about you? Do you have any tricks or tips for staying accountable and engaged in online classes? Share them in the comments so we can all benefit from your knowledge!

Walking and Reading: 9|20|13

dinosaur delivery

Delivering dinosaurs for exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science. Arthur Pollock, 1984.

For the Dogs: Teaching my dog to “touch” has been pretty handy (pun intended) and I use it often with the dogs I walk. Here’s a Whole Dog Journal piece all about targeting if you want to give it a shot.

I’ve been sad to read that many of my fellow bloggers have recently had to say goodbye to their beloved dogs and cats. If you’ve lost a family member, go easy on yourself as you grieve.

Stuff like this makes me really glad I live in Maine these days. And I heart humane education. Also, not enough dogs are named “Garry.”

For the Humans: 10 things you should know if you want to be happier. Who couldn’t stand to be a little happier now and then? Go for it.

I bet these two read those 10 tips. This is some happy shit. I cannot stop looking at this lady’s face. I’d like to be her when I grow up.

For the Laugh: Have you read this yet? If not, you should. Warning: if you own anything with the word “Namaste” on it, you will probably hate this.

And Offline: I’m reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman and Turning the Mind Into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham.

What about you guys? 

Walking and Reading: 8|10|13

Feb. 9, 1928. Washington, D.C. "Peter Pan, wire-haired terrier pet of the personal secretary to President Coolidge and Mrs. Edward T. Clark, arrived at the White House today attired in 'flapper galoshes'." (source)

Feb. 9, 1928. Washington, D.C. “Peter Pan, wire-haired terrier pet of the personal secretary to President Coolidge and Mrs. Edward T. Clark, arrived at the White House today attired in ‘flapper galoshes‘.” (source)

For the Dogs:

So many of us are waiting for veterinarians to catch on to the idea that they can (and should) make exams less scary, less stressful, and more compassionate for our pets. Thank you Dr. V for writing about Fear Free Vet Practices.

Architecture for Dogs  (Isn’t that Bark-i-tecture? Ugh. Sorry). The “Wanmock” might be a real hit.

You may want to think twice about signing for an unexpected package if you live in Brunete, Spain. Warning: poop ahead.

For the Humans:

If you love books, animals, and libraries, this amazing collection of great reads and the paper art they inspired will make you giddy.

Our failures of kindness may be our greatest regrets. George Saunder’s advice to graduates has (rightly) gone viral. It hit me square in the chest.

For the Laugh:

Suzanne Clothier posted this Cookie Monster video as a reminder to teach your dogs self control. It may be the best dog training/dance song/puppet advice ever produced. I can’t stop watching it: Me Want it, But Me Wait.

And Offline: I finally finished On Looking – really good! I’ve also been reading an amazing book I picked up at an antique store called “Our Town and City Animals” which was published by the ASPCA in 1937 as part of their humane education program. As soon as I’m done, I’ll share some of it with you!



Walking and Reading: 7|19|13

Hey I’m on the road again! Here’s some weekend reading for youz guys:

For the Dogs:

Meet the “Carolina dogs” (and no, they’re not Tar Heel blue), otherwise known as “America’s Dingo.”

Old dogs are the best. Taking care of them at the shelter always broke my heart. A frat house is no place for a dignified senior. So I think this “Silver Hearts” project by the fab Lori Fusaro is the tits.

My dog Birdie tore her ACL the other week, so there’s lots of talk about pain management going around here. Have any of you seen/used this wacky looking thing? Apparently Lil Bub swears by it and she’s always right.

For the Humans:

This is what it means to be the “living change.” I dare you to not be inspired by this trio. In fact, I love this story so much that this is the only post in this category.

For the Laugh:

Photobombs are funny. Check these 15 out.

And Offline: I’m still reading On Looking (do you guys ever hit a roadblock where you can’t read anything more than a magazine for a few weeks? That’s where I’m at right now. So I’m reading This Old House Magazine. Who needs me to tear out their old toilet?). Plus I’m listening to Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby in the car while I tool around the Northeast this weekend.

Stay cool out there everyone!





Walking and Reading 7|5|13

Oh, we're just hanging out in giant white drawers and scuba gear. How's your summer going? source

I’m just hanging out in giant white drawers and scuba gear. How’s your summer going? (source)

For the Dogs:

This week the world lost a very special dog to cancer. Grant the Library Dog was the embodiment of all my childhood favorites: dogs and books. Meet him here. And safe travels Grant. I hope that wherever you are, kids are reading your favorite stories to you.

A love letter to her dog – to all of our dogs – by Andrea Gibson. “My heart, my heart, my heart…” 

Most people prefer dogs, 18% of us want a dinosaur. Can’t we have both? Sheesh. And I’ll take #5 thankyouverymuch.

For the Humans:

In honor of July 4th (Happy Birthday America!), take a look these Life Magazine photos of American Cowgirls in the 1940s.

Truth: “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt. Or, Quit Pointing Your Avocado At Me. 

Life is too short not to own an Airstream. My neighbor has one and I stare at it a lot, trying to will it into my driveway. No luck…yet.

For the Laughs:

I live for Blooper Reels. Here’s the one from Bridesmaids.

And Offline: I just started On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz (of Inside of a Dog and the Dog Cognition Lab fame).


I Was a Teenage Gap Girl

UPDATE: As of October 2013, Amazon has banned all residents of the state of Maine from their affiliate program. It’s a gigantic pissing match between a giant corporation and our state government over the “unconstitutional Maine state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and Governor LePage…” (quote from Amazon). So the store still exists, but I no longer earn any commission on the products you purchase there. Fun times, right? Stay tuned for updates!

I want to warn you: This blog post is going to result in a shameless self promotion that may make me wealthy one day. And by wealthy, I mean not rich at all, but more like the kind of woman who owns multiple pairs of flip flops simultaneously, including a pair of “dress” flops. You should stop reading now if that makes you uncomfortable. No hard feelings. Promise.

Before we go any further: I have to tell you about working at the Gap when I was in high school. This was weird, because it was the 90’s and I didn’t look like I worked at the Gap. I dressed like a boy. A boy who alternated between farming (overalls and flannel shirts) and skating (huge jeans and ringer tees) and apprenticing at a funeral home (black, black, black, and Docs), while rapping on the side (puffy vests and Africa medallions – just kidding! I never wore a puffy vest).

But I was a teenager in New Jersey and that means the majority of the jobs available to me were at The Mall. When the Gap offered me five dollars an hour, how could I refuse?

So I worked at the Gap and I was a really, really good salesperson. I sold a lot of clothes because I told people not to buy stuff.

I always gave people my honest opinion about how they looked, which if you’ve ever worked a dressing room, you’ll know means I had to tell people they looked terrible a lot. For those of you who have never worked a dressing room, I’ll just say this: it’s never a bad idea to wear clothes in your actual size, not the size you wish you were or the size you were when you were three.

You might think that I got slapped a lot. Nope! People were tired of corny salesgirls telling them to “just cinch it!” and they appreciated my honesty. When I suggested different clothes, ones that looked good on them, people trusted my opinion.

I genuinely wanted everyone to look nice. Especially all the middle-aged ladies that were going on dates. I really wanted to help them because I thought they were super brave to be out there dating when they were so clearly vulnerable to breaking a hip. Looking back, these women were probably 26. But still. I wanted them to feel fierce (I can say “fierce” because it was the 90’s and RuPaul taught me everything I knew about being a woman).


All of my teenage fashion influences, in one photo. (source)

Almost all of my teenage fashion influences are in this photo. (source)

This radical honesty, combined with my drag queen-like dedication to empowering women to look their best, led to loyal customers and many sales. Occasionally, it also led to people not buying anything. This annoyed my managers.

Shockingly, I never got fired. Not even when I showed up to work dressed like Columbo (brown wool pants, crumpled white button down shirt, cigar in my pocket). I’d like to think that was because the corporate offices at the Gap were monitoring my new approach to sales: honesty, empathy, and relationship building. But it was probably because I left for college a few months later, before my managers could come up with a plan to fire me without triggering a law suit (discriminating against an employee for being a Peter Falk impersonator is serious business).

So all of this is to say: I’m not comfortable selling stuff just for the sake of the sale. I have to believe that it’s really looking good on you/making your life a little easier/getting you laid on your date tonight.

And the point of saying that is because: I wanted to tell you that I started an Amazon affiliate store filled with some of the stuff I mention here on my blog, as well as some of the stuff that you’ve told me is awesome, and I hope you’ll check it out some time. I thought it would be helpful to have some of the products I write about all in one place for easy browsing and linking.


Notes from a Dog Walker Store

Full (Monty) Disclosure: I earn a little advertising fee when you buy stuff in the store – it’s not so much that I can buy an Airstream, but it’s a little pocket change to go towards paying the bills. The less time I spend rolling pennies, the more time I have to write. Which, after reading this, you may or may not want me to do. (10/7/13: Not anymore. See update at the beginning of the blog).

I feel like I should say, just for the record: affiliates doesn’t change what I write about. I share stuff here that I think will be helpful and that I really like, whether or not it’s for sale in the store. Some of what I mention here is for sale in the store, some of it is for sale in other people’s stores, and some of it is being sold out of the back of a truck by that cousin of yours that no one mentions by name anymore. I like to spread the business around. 

No pressure to visit the store. I just felt like it was self-sabotaging to not even announce that I’d made one. So there:  I made a store


p.s. It’s not your hips. No one looks good in a treat pouch. But, wear it anyway, because Supermodel, You Better Work.

Also, I know you want to watch this right now. I just did:

Walking and Reading 6|29|13

I’m back this week to report that no rotten vegetables were thrown at me for last week’s post about what I’ve been reading lately. Neat! Let’s do it again, shall we (the sharing links and not throwing tomatoes)?

My favorite author, Maurice Sendak, with his dog Herman. Photographed by Mariana Cook (Source)

For the Dogs: 

The SPARCS 2013 International Conference is live streaming all weekend long. That’s the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science btw. If you’re a dog nerd you’ll want to get in on this free action!

Whoa. I might have to get a Poodle so I can do this.  Or maybe I’ll just grab some markers and draw a mustache on Birdie.

I love this blog. The artwork makes me smile. And it’s really helpful. Birdie and I are doing cookie reaches this afternoon to help increase her flexibility.

For the Humans:

Oh Italy. It’s been a while. Why can’t I be rich and go see you every year? Luckily Nat and Bill over at Photo Lab shared these gorgeous photos of their trip, so I can live vicariously through them. You can too.

Listen to James Gandolfini read Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen. I love this so much. I’m sorry we won’t get to see more from this talented man.

These photos of immigrants from the early 1900s, as they passed through Ellis Island, are stunning.

For the Laughs:

How is this real? How did I not see it sooner? Why am I not prancercising right this second? Stop talkin’ and do some walkin’!

And Offline: I’m reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess. If you like politically incorrect, foul mouthed, not at all comfortable, yet compassionate humor, this would be your jam.

When I’m Not Walking, I’m Reading

I’m on the road this week, so I thought it might be a good time to share some of my favorite recent reads from around the web.

Do you care? I don’t know!

I figured I’d just share and you can ignore this post if it makes you grumpy. On the flip side, if you like this sort of thing, will you let me know? I’ll keep sharing what I bookmark, but only if makes you guys happy campers. Life is too short to share links no one wants to open, right?

Boogie and one of our cats, Gizmo,

Boogie and one of our cats, Gizmo. Boogie says, “I don’t care. I love it!” about this post.

For the Dogs:

Brindle is beautiful (and so are the other markings). Cartoons make everything more fun.

Fart jokes are funny. Fart science is interesting.

These photos are stunning and a little heartbreaking, plus the interview is fascinating (especially if you enjoy documentary photography).

For the Humans:

Pathological altruism. If you work in animal welfare, this is a must-read. Many of us will recognize someone we know. Maybe even ourselves, at some point? I know I did.

Humans can really stink sometimes. But more often than not, they totally rule. Humans of New York will help restore your faith.

I like easy. Sometimes we think we need to make things hard or they don’t count. Not true. Don’t resist easy.

Someone needs to buy me this t-shirt.

For the Laughs:

A sweet sounding gal gets drunk and tries to tell a joke to her husband.

And Offline:  I’m listening to Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart in my car and reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed (the brilliant mind behind Dear Sugar from The Rumpus).

What’s on your nightstand?