Ask Alexis: How Do I Raise My Kids to be Kind and Open-Minded?

Painting of a row of back patios, divided by fences
September Morning, 2008. Private collection.

Reader Rebecca sent me the following question:

“I have two boys and I live in a very conservative area. I love where I live (mostly), but I don’t like how a lot of people around here talk about people with different skin colors and religions, members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and women. I don’t want my sons to ever talk like that. Do you have any advice for raising kind and open-minded boys in an area that isn’t always very kind and open-minded?”

Thanks for the question, Rebecca!  First, a couple of caveats.  I don’t have kids myself (yet), so I’m hesitant to give parenting advice.  In particular, I don’t know your kids, their personalities, or how they might respond in various situations, but I’ll do my best to share some general thoughts on this topic.

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The Bar Exam: Perspective and Self-Care

A stack of law books

Across the United States, recent law school graduates have begun studying for the bar exam, a two-day (sometimes three-day) test offered during the last week of July and also in February).  Each state gives its own version of the exam, which usually includes a day of tricky multiple choice questions and a day consisting of some combination of essay questions, short answer questions, and a closed-universe performance test.  Intensive test-prep courses usually begin in late May, and many test-takers study full-time and then some.

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Rethinking Gift-Giving

Oil painting of a cluster of tomatoes at different stages of ripeness and a small ceramic pitcher on a rumpled blue tablecloth
Still Life with Tomatoes, 2009. For details or to purchase, please contact Alexis (contact form in menu bar).

I recently came across this post on gift-giving from Mr. Money Mustache and thought it was worth sharing.  The post is several years old and references Mother’s Day, but it applies to all the occasions on which our culture tells us we are supposed to give gifts.

Ideally, gift-giving should be a way of expressing our appreciation for the people we love, making their day a little brighter, and perhaps easing their burden.  At its worst, gift-giving can become another obligation, and the gifts we give can sometimes add to the burdens of the receiver as well as the giver.  I’ve gone to holiday gatherings without gifts to give and have been embarrassed when others brought gifts for everyone, including me.  The gifts were not personally selected for each individual, but were, I suspect, bought en masse out of either a sense of requirement or a desire for the gift-giver to feel good about herself.  These gifts were not meaningful, but they provoked feelings of guilt and obligation in me.  That is not what gift-giving should do.

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Life Lessons from an Easter Egg Hunt

The author as a child posing with an inflatable Easter Bunny

One of my earliest childhood memories is of an Easter egg hunt that my dad’s company hosted when I was about three.  On a sunny Saturday morning, the employees’ young children gathered in front of a building facing a big lawn where plastic eggs had been scattered.  Someone said go, and a mob of older children sprinted onto the grass, grabbing eggs and shoving them into plastic bags.  I was younger than most of the kids and wasn’t entirely sure what was happening.  The eggs hadn’t been hidden well; it wasn’t a hunt so much as a race.  My little legs couldn’t run very fast, and it seemed like every time my searching eyes spotted a brightly colored piece of plastic, someone else got to it before I did.  Within a few minutes, all of the eggs had been captured.  I had one lonely egg in my clear plastic bag.

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Infusing our Environments with Reminders of our Values

A painting of forsythia trimmings in a clear vase and a blue pitcher on a table
Still Life with Forsythia, Oil on Canvas, 2015. For purchase information, please contact Alexis.

You may have noticed that in each Monday’s Quote of the Week post, I usually include a link to an item bearing the selected quotation or other words of wisdom spoken or written by the same person.  I do this not because I want to encourage you to buy things (I am not compensated for these links), but because I like to surround myself with statements of my values and important lessons.  Read more

The Weekend Listen

A pair of wireless headphones for podcast listening

I listen to a lot of podcasts while driving, working out, and doing chores around the house. In this weekly feature, I’ll tell you about one episode I particularly enjoyed that week.

Note: This week’s podcast episode contains explicit language that may be objectionable to some listeners. 

I’m a little behind on my podcast listening, and this week’s selection is about two weeks old.  I’m posting it anyway because it serves as a nice follow-up to Sunday’s post on financial management.  On the Tim Ferriss Show, the author of The Four Hour Workweek interviews top performers in a variety of fields about their habits, beliefs, experiences, lifestyles, and how they do what they do.  Tim recently talked to “Mr. Money Mustache,” Pete Adeney, about how he retired at 30 and lives comfortably (with a family of three) on $25-27K of passive income per year.  I was not familiar with Mr. Money Mustache before this podcast, but I’m intrigued by his advice and plan to check out his website (which apparently has a cult following).

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