November 2016 archive

How to Give Thanks Every Morning


I used to write a list of between 3 and 10 things I was thankful for each morning, and it really made a difference in my day (sidenote: it seems like we all develop these really great habits and then abandon them at one point or another- why do we always do this when it’s so good for us?).

Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving, I thought it might be time to start this up again, but in a way that works a bit better for me- as a new component of my daily planner instead of as a completely new addition to my life.

There are calendars and planners out there (I found quite a few on Amazon) that include a blank list of ‘Things I’m Grateful For’ on each page, but I just went ahead and added a quick “Grateful For: 1. 2. 3.’ in a tiny sliver in the top margin of each page on my current planner.

To start things off I wrote:

Grateful For:

  1. Thai food dinners and great conversation with good friends
  2. A husband who makes me laugh hysterically
  3. An incredible job

It might not seems like much, but it’s a start.

This way, every time I get into work mode (aka the place where only my laptop matters and nothing else, unfortunately), I’ll see this small reminder in the corner of the page that life is not all work and no play.

And when I end up with that very serious ‘I’m working face’ on, maybe I’ll lighten up and finish grading those papers with a smile.

Happy living!

The 5 Friends You Need in Your Social Circle

DSC_4103 copy

As life moves forward and we all strive for simplicity and satisfaction with the day-to-day, I think it’s natural (and necessary) that we also start considering who we spend our time with, and who brings out the best, happiest version of ourselves.

The other day I was thinking about the most meaningful friends or family members in my life, and I realize that they each fit into one of 5 pretty distinct categories (I also later realized that you could probably fit each of the 5 characters from Friends into each of these categories, but that’s not really the point..).

I’ve come to the conclusion that to have a happy, simple, feel-good, fulfilling social circle, these are the 5 friends you need to have:

  1. The Lifelong Friend. This is the loyal friend you may have met in college. This person will give you the shirt off their back, make visits whenever they can, be there for you in a jam, and never make anything of it. Maybe it’s selfish to want this kind of friend, but there’s something very comforting about knowing that this person will always be in your life.
  1. The Friend That Feels Like Family. This person is someone who may not have started out with best friend status, but you’ve been through a lot together, you still live surprisingly close, and you realize that a decade has gone by and they’ve been a solid pal. Maybe you don’t have everything in common, but you were roommates at some point, helped each other through breakups, and you can still text each other to run errands at a moment’s notice.
  1. The Friend That Makes You Grow. This person is always coming to you with new ideas that bring out a part of your personality you might need to explore more often. You engage in intelligent conversation for hours and feel inspired as you head back home. This friend may be the artist or entrepreneur in your life that isn’t necessarily your best friend, but the feats, work ethic, and interests they have that line up with a certain part of your personality (that many of your friends might not understand) makes this relationship one that’s filled with growth and common goals.
  1. The Friend You Can’t Stop Laughing With. This is the person you completely let your guard down around. This person doesn’t like you because you’re smart or ‘important’ by society’s standards, and they might even make fun of you when you act too ‘serious.’ You talk about inane things together, watch really lame/embarrassing TV shows and movies together, and have way too many inside jokes that lead to laughing uncontrollably over cartons of ice cream.
  1. The Colleague Friend. Everyone needs a good work buddy. This person might be the same time of worker you are, they’re lighthearted, have some similar interests, you can easily trade tips and suggestions for those projects you’re working on, and they’re totally normal (unlike some of your other colleagues) so you have a tendency to hang out after work and talk about life in general. You absolutely need this person to round out your solid social circle.


With the holidays upon us, and as we buy gifts and spend time with the ones we love, be sure to cherish these 5 special types of friends in your life. After all, life is short and time is precious, so surround yourself with those that make you smile and fill your heart with happiness and love.

Happy living!

The 6 Best Christmas-Themed Movies You’re (Kind Of) Allowed to Watch Year-Round


I have to admit, I love Christmas movies, and the cheesier the better.

I’m the person who starts watching Christmas movies in August every year, and no matter how hard I try to resist, I just can’t help myself. I use the excuse that I’m ‘grading papers’ (very inefficiently, I might add) while I watch them, but who am I kidding.

Since I’ve already binged on nearly a dozen (I just realized how crazy that sounds..) Hallmark movies and we’re not even halfway through November yet, I figured many of you out there would appreciate this quick blog post.

If you’re anything like me and you can’t handle waiting until the ‘official’ season’s festivities start after Thanksgiving, here are 5 Christmas-y movies you can kind of get away with watching, no matter what time of year the mood strikes:

  1. “Serendipity”- It may get treated like a Christmas movie, but technically it isn’t, so go for it.
  2. “Love Actually”- According to the title of an article by, ‘‘Love Actually’ Isn’t a Romantic Comedy or A Christmas Movie. It’s A Tragedy.’ Despite this depressing article, we all love Love Actually, so pop it in whenever you want to watch a quality film.
  3. “Just Friends”- The plot takes place around the holiday season, but I don’t think anyone would classify this as an official Christmas movie, so you’re fully allowed to indulge with this one.
  4. “Elf”- I’ve talked to plenty of people who aren’t that big on the holidays who watch this movie whenever they want a good laugh, so grab some spaghetti with maple syrup and enjoy this Will Ferrell flick!
  5. “Sundays at Tiffany’s”- Okay, this one is probably meant for the holiday season only, but it’s more of a standard chick flick than anything else. I just adore this movie, and I watch it/mostly listen to it probably 3 times a year while I’m taking care of household stuff and I feel like treating myself to something Christmas-y, even when it’s 95 degrees outside.
  6. “Four Christmases”- Despite the name, this one is completely appropriate year-round, and I think I could get some other people to agree with me on this one. Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn are not your standard actors for Christmas movies, it’s just a hilarious comedy, end of discussion.

To end this post, and in the spirit of the upcoming season, here is an (initially accidental) Twas the Night Before Christmas-ish rhyme for you..

“For those who have wrapped the presents and put up the tree,
you have my permission to go watch these 6 almost Christmas movies,
completely guilt free.”

Happy living!

How to Help Students Think Critically in the College Classroom: State, Elaborate, Exemplify, and Illustrate Activity

DSC_5026 copy

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I’ve been working on some face-to-face classroom activities (that I’ve also tried out with my online classes) to help my students answer and analyze questions/concepts more thoroughly in future assignments.

After experimenting a little bit, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results.

Any instructor, regardless of what course you teach, can use this State, Elaborate, Exemplify, and Illustrate (or ‘SEE-I’) activity to guide students in breaking down and further understanding most course concepts; I may also start recommending it to students as an effective approach to studying.


Below is the activity I used in my classroom to help students better appreciate the importance of ‘audience analysis,’ which is a crucial concept to grasp and apply in public speaking. After the SEE-I activity, I even had them give 1-minute-long impromptu speeches to speak about topics that would appeal most to their audience, as a way to show their new understanding of being an audience-centered speaker.

The following SEE-I activity can be easily implemented into any course to help guide students in their critical thinking- I highly recommend giving it a shot in your own classroom!


SPC 1608 Critical Thinking (SEE-I) Activity

Please read the following directions and examples carefully to do the assignment correctly. Good luck!


  • Read through the ‘audience analysis’ section of your textbook to gain a deeper understand of the concept (pgs. 34-44)
  • Answer the following 5 questions in 1-3 sentences each:

What characteristics did you consider or “analyze” about your audience before you chose your Informative Speech topic and the content you would speak about?

How did you do this?

Why did you do this?

Was it helpfull?

Is there anything else you might consider analyzing for your next speech?

(Keep in in mind, answers will vary!)

  • Fill in the following 4 components as they relate to ‘audience analysis’ using at least one thorough sentence (except for #2 which will required more)
  1. State the concept or idea in a single sentence or two.

Clearly state/define the concept: ______________

  1. Elaborate on the concept in your own words. Explain it at greater length in 3 or more sentences.

Clarify the concept in your own words:______________ (ie. “In other words,. . .”)

  1. Exemplify the concept by giving concrete examples (and counter examples) of the concept.

Specify the concept by giving at least one specific example: _______________ (ie. “For example, . . .”)

  1. Illustrate the concept with a picture, diagram, metaphor, or analogy.

Draw something, find an existing picture, or create a picture-in-words, such as with a metaphor or analogy: _____________ (ie. “It’s like …”)


Here are some examples of the student work from my online class:

  1. State the concept or idea in a single sentence or two.
  •       Clearly state/define the concept:

Student answer: Analyzing the audience’s attitudes and values before choosing a speech topic is helpful.

  1. Elaborate on the concept in your own words. Explain it at greater length in 3 or

more sentences.

  •       Clarify the concept in your own words:

Student answer: In other words, considering what’s important/ unimportant to your audience will leave them engaged. Also considering how your audience may feel about your speech will influence how they’ll respond to you. Considering these small details leaves you with an audience that will be engaged and an easy way to chose a topic because you can base it off of  your audience.

  1. Exemplify the concept by giving concrete examples (and counter examples) of the concept.
  •       Specify the concept by giving at least one specific example:

Student answer: For example, if you have an audience that values education, you might decide to give an informative speech about a new scholarship. This will lead to most of your audience members being engaged and having a positive attitude towards this topic. A bad example would be if you are going to give a speech about Instagram, and most of your audience doesn’t know what Instagram is then they’ll feel disconnected from the topic.

(*Note: The ‘Illustrate’ part was my favorite, and I think it was my students’ favorite as well, so I’ve included a few extra student answers below)

  1. Illustrate the concept with a picture, diagram, metaphor, or analogy.
  •       Draw something, find an existing picture, or create a picture-in-words, such as with a metaphor or analogy:

Student answer: Analyzing your audience before choosing a speech topic is like opening the door before getting into your car.

Student answer: Analyzing your audience before presenting your speech is like tying your shoes before going on a run; it can save you from a fall, or a sprained ankle.

Student answer: Analyzing your audience before choosing the topic of your speech is like cooking. If you don’t know the ingredients, you are bound to make an awful dish. However, if you do know the right ingredients to use, people will end up loving it.


I hope this activity helps your students to become more critical thinkers, and helps you add even more depth to your lessons.

Happy teaching!