Make a Difference Day

It happens in the USA and UK at the end of October. It’s the biggest day of volunteering-to bring people together and build better communities.

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Hardworking Home Study Spaces-Tutoring You

Whether you home educate your child permanently or are home schooling for a shorter period, creating a personal and inviting space will not only motivate your little one’s productivity and inspiration, but it will also keep your home looking good and in order too. From dedicated home school rooms to DIY desks bursting with creativity, check out these ridiculously cool home school ideas that score top marks.

Side-by-Side Seating

Gabrielle Kessler for Folio Photography

This kitchen office was designed for a mom who wanted a space she could share with her 12-year-old son. Key features include outlets for two computers, a cordless phone, and a single printer, undercabinet task lighting, and a dividing column of drawers to stow craft and office supplies. This arrangement makes a great cooperative learning area for homes with multiple students, too.

Walled-Off Study Station

Jean Allsop/ Southern Living

Throw up some wall frames and create built-in room dividers, like the ones shown here, in a larger rooms.

Work Space With a View

© Crate & Barrel

Mount a corkboard wall

Tria Giovan/ Southern Living

Cover an entire wall in cork tiles or chalkboard paint to make a bold—and functional— design statement.

There are more ideas for you at:

6 Best Road Trips from Chicago

Do you live near Chicago or are planning to visit soon ? Discover 6 nearby destinations to visit besides the Windy City. Check out this article by Adam Lapetina for Travel & Leisure.

Cities can sometimes feel like endless stretches of concrete — especially in the hot summer months — and Chicago is no exception.

Fortunately, there’s a whole world out there beyond the city limits. While it doesn’t always feel like it, there are so, so, so many worthy escapes within a few hours’ drive of Chi-town: storybook towns studded with ice cream parlors, lakeside cities with entirely different cultures, and even places where you can connect with nature among waterfalls and lush trees. Waterfalls! Outside Chicago!

The Windy City’s location, in this case, is your ally. Pack your car with some picnic accoutrements, and maybe some hiking gear just in case, and head off. You’re within driving distance of some truly great, out-of-the-ordinary places that make for wonderful road trips. Here are six of them.

Madison, Wisconsin


Imagine a state already known for its beer and cheese having to cater to over 30,000 college students, and you’ve got some idea of the earthly delights that await in Madison, Wisconsin. This state capital could have been a destination in its own right for its unique geography — located on a narrow isthmus surrounded by two large lakes, it’s beautiful even during cold Wisconsin winters — or its remarkable breadth of shopping, cultural events and festivals, and architecture, but its food scene is virtually unrivaled for a city of its size.

The streets are filled with an eclectic mix of professors, politicians, businesspeople, street performers, and health nuts, and if you ask any of them for their favorite spot, you’ll likely get a range of answers as large as the city’s 250,000-plus population: American small bites at the new and renowned Mint Mark, tacos and margaritas at Canteen, Lao-Thai noodles from Vientiane Palace, and the list goes on and on.

Most students, however, will drive you toward craft-beer watering holes like The Malt House or Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry, which purportedly serves one of the best burgers anywhere. Wash it down with some Wisconsin beer from New Glarus as well as some fried cheese curds, and you’ll have yourself a real Madison, Wisconsin, night.

Madison is about two and a half hours from Chicago.

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois


Yes, Illinois isn’t known for its natural beauty like some other states. Yes, its highest natural point is Charles Mound, a diminutive 1,235-foot hill. But that doesn’t mean that hidden gems don’t exist here. For a true escape from Chicago’s steel-and-stone skyscrapers that’s still within the state limits, drive to the area around Starved Rock State Park.

Visitors expecting more flat Illinois farmland will be surprised to find an incredible valley around the Illinois River, with lush trees, striking bluffs, and 14 gorgeous waterfalls feeding into the roaring waters. Starved Rock is a choice destination for camping, hiking, kayaking, and white-water rafting, and after you’re exhausted from a day of physical exertion, it’s also got a place to hang your hat: the Starved Rock Lodge.

However, if you feel like experiencing a bit more of the local flavor, the towns around the river valley provide it in buckets. Tiny, charming Utica is home to the August Hill Winery and some wonderful antique stores, while the historic towns of Oglesby and Ottawa are chock-full of Americana: small museums, galleries, and great food, particularly at the Red Dog Grill in Ottawa and The Rootbeer Stand in Oglesby.

Starved Rock State Park is about an hour and a half from Chicago.

Allegan County, Michigan

Lake Michigan is huge. And in the summertime, when the heat gets a little unbearable, you could easily just jump into the lake in Chicago. But there’s something to be said for taking a jaunt out to Michigan to visit a string of lakeside towns that bring some truly unique qualities to the mix.

Douglas, Saugatuck, and Holland — and Fennville, though it’s not right on the water — epitomize small-town charm, while still offering some truly city-sized amenities for city-sized appetites. Fennville is known as the fruit basket of Michigan, with apple orchards, vineyards, and berry farms alongside delightful creameries and even corn mazes, while Saugatuck and Douglas consistently take the cake as two of the best lakeside towns in the Midwest, with incredibly charming downtown areas, gorgeous undulating sand dunes, pristine blue water, and more art galleries than you can shake a stick at. In fact, it’s here that two School of the Art Institute of Chicago instructors founded their own art school and residence, Ox-Bow, establishing an artists’ colony right on the shores of Lake Michigan. Their legacy endures to this day.

Further up the road, you’ll find a truly unique destination in Holland, where Dutch colonists established a foothold in the 1800s, bringing with them their culture, architecture, pastries (check out DeBoer Bakkerij), and even fields’ worth of tulips, which you can find at Veldheer Tulip Gardens.

Fennville is about two hours from Chicago.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Among the many types of travelers out there — people who crave solitude, people who don’t want to leave the 100-foot radius of their resort’s pool — there are those who are fascinated by city life, jumping from one urban area to another. If you count yourself among them, a road trip from Chicago to Indianapolis is certainly warranted.

First off, it’s the 17th-largest city in America, with a vast population and penchant for festivals, parties, and overall pageantry (it is the Racing Capital of the World, after all, and its famous month of May includes tons of smaller celebrations leading up to the Indy 500). No matter the time of year, though, you’ll find Indianapolis in full swing, whether you’re in the midst of its rollicking IndyFringe Festival in August and September or its Wine & Food Festival in June. It’s also a museum hub, with the world’s largest children’s museum, several art museums with broad and granular focuses, and small museums focusing on its favorite children, from Vonnegut to President Benjamin Harrison.

But one of the main reasons visitors flock to Indianapolis is its incredible food scene, which has, in recent years, exploded into national prominence. Hot new restaurants like Bluebeard, Milktooth, Crispy Bird, Oca, and more have all contributed to its reputation as a gastronomical powerhouse, while iconic institutions like Workingman’s Friend have been, well, working behind the scenes to keep Hoosiers well-fed for decades. It’s about time their city gets noticed.

Indianapolis is about three hours from Chicago.

Traverse City, Michigan

If you’re craving a real getaway, you can’t do much better than northern Michigan — it’s still within driving distance of Chicago and not as remote as the state’s Upper Peninsula, while still providing a wilderness-tinged escape for city dwellers. The de-facto capital of the region, Traverse City, is a city in name, but its population of around 15,000 means it’s got small-town charm and accessibility, making it a perfect gateway to the region’s breathtaking sights. Stop in for a glass of beer or wine at one of the many famous wineries and brewpubs, like Mari Vineyards or Mackinaw Brewing Company, before heading into the wilderness.

From Traverse City’s quaint streets, you can head north and explore the Leelanau Peninsula, or veer west to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Better yet, take scenic M-22 to tick off both boxes. Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of the country’s best stretches of shoreline, with incredible dunes and westerly views that mean it’s got some of the best sunsets east of the Mississippi.

From there, mosey up M-22 to continue exploring the Leelanau Peninsula, where wilderness encroaches a bit further and small towns, each with a population under 1,000, dot the roads. Hike through the dense forests, pick apples and berries at the region’s many farms, and be sure to grab a heaping sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty in the county seat of Leland (population 377).

Traverse City is about five hours from Chicago.

Galena, Illinois


In rare cases, a road trip doesn’t just mean traveling great distances — it can also mean traveling back in time. That’s what’s figuratively the case when you drive west from Chicago to Galena, consistently rated as one of the best small towns in America. For decades, Galena has been on a mission to preserve its rich history, meaning it has one of the most unspoiled historic town centers in the country.

The town’s good fortune started back in the mid-1800s, when it was the beneficiary of government grants to begin mining precious minerals located under the town. Since then, the town has focused on maintaining the buildings from that boom time, and there are architectural landmarks around every corner. The Galena Historic District is a particular delight, comprising more than 1,000 buildings, including the home of Ulysses S. Grant, a prime example of the Italianate style and now a dedicated memorial to his legacy. The town even has trolley tours that take you to its major historical and architectural benchmarks, contributing to its overall throwback feel.

Galena’s best eating institutions don’t necessarily date all the way back to 1850, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also great — Durty Gurt’s Burger Joynt was founded in 2007 and serves gigantic, almost architecturally impressive stacks of meat and cheese. Looks like everyone’s concerned with building a legacy here.

Galena is about three hours from Chicago.


How To Meditate in 5 Simple Steps

Key Forms of Meditation

Since meditation is such an age-old activity practiced by different religions and cultures, there has been a huge range of different meditation techniques developed and amassed over the years. To date, many books and articles have been written on this topic.

Below is a list of three key forms of meditation which encompasses majority of meditations today. Many popularized meditation methods such as the Jose Silva method and Sedona method fall under one of these forms. I once came across a meditation book which covered over 100 meditation techniques — but most of them were really just nuance variations of the below:

  1. Still Meditation or Mindfulness Meditation — Meditating by focusing your attention on an object or process, such as your breathing, a flame, a mantra, a visualization, music, etc. An open focus is maintained. This means even though you are concentrating on something, you keep an open awareness of everything else that is happening around you and inside your mind.
  2. Moving or Walking Meditation — Gaining awareness through using simple repetitive steps. Some examples are Tai Chi, yoga or even simple walking exercises.
  3. Concentration Meditation — This is usually practiced in religions. It is similar to mindfulness meditation with 2 differences (1) you concentrate on a religious prayer (2) you are required to maintain a closed focus where you close your awareness off from anything other than the prayer.

Common Objective of Meditation

While there can be many schools of thoughts on how to meditate exactly, the basic underlying objective is the same — to raise your consciousness or energetic “vibrations.”

How to Meditate In 5 Simple Steps

The meditation I’m covering here is Still Meditation or Mindfulness Meditation. This is my favorite form of meditation due to its simplicity; it’s possible to do it anywhere, whether at home or when you are commuting.

1. Find your meditation spot

This should be a private spot free from external disturbances. You should feel safe, at peace and comfortable in it. If you have a bedroom to yourself, it is probably the most appropriate inside your bedroom. After you pick the spot, clean the space around it. Remove any pieces of clutter lying around.

My meditative spot is in front of my bedside table — the table itself serves as a meditative altar with crystals, rocks, flowers and candles. Another favorite spot is on my bed.

2. Sit in a comfortable position

You don’t have to specifically sit in a special way just to meditate. Find a position that’s most comfortable for you. Sitting on your chair is fine too.  In fact, it’s a good option if you often experience numbness in their feet from sitting cross-legged (I do).

Whatever posture you choose, sit upright to facilitate the flow of energy. I do not recommend lying down (i.e., the sleeping posture) to meditate because it’ll usually induce sleep as opposed to letting you remain in a state of awareness.

3. Clear your mind

Clear your mind. Loosen yourself up. Take a few deep, slow breaths.

4. Simply sit and observe

Then, just sit back and observe the inner dialogue playing in your mind. Let them float by. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Just observe; don’t engage.

Many people probably think that in meditation, they have to force themselves not to think and block out all their mental thoughts. It is really quite the opposite. You let your mind continue to think, but you don’t engage. You take the role of a passive observer and watch them from the back of your head.

Say for example, if you have a sudden thought that says, “I need to buy groceries tomorrow,” observing it means knowing that particular thought is there. If you proceed to react from the thought, such as feeling annoyed that you have to buy groceries, or thinking about what groceries you have to buy or what time to buy them, you are engaging with the thought. Don’t do that. Your desired state in meditation is to observe these thoughts, not engage with them.

One way of detecting when your focus breaks is to count slowly from 1, 2, all the way to 10. Repeat when you reach 10. Each time your focus is deviated, take note of the last number you were reading — this is an indicator of how long you held you focus. Try again, restarting from 1, and try to go beyond the last number this time.

The presence of these thoughts during meditation means they are being cleared. These thoughts have always been present in your mind; you are just not aware since there are so many thoughts screaming for attention inside your head! And now through meditation, they are clearing out, one by one. After repeated meditations, you will gradually reach a new level of mental Zen-like quietness. If you think your mind seems quiet now, try meditating a few days in a row — you’ll notice a new found mental peace.

This liberty from the mental clutter lets me focus even more than before — it is as if all those thoughts were weighing me down in the past, regardless of whether they were positive or negative. It prevented me from fully focusing and living in the present moment.

Meditate for as long as you want, till you feel cleansed, purified, refreshed and good to go. I recommend 30 minutes to start off. If you want to meditate longer, that’s even better. Back when I went for the Vipassana retreat, I underwent almost 100 hours of intense meditation, and processed a lot of latent memories and thoughts I didn’t know were there.

After meditating for a certain period, you will reach a point where your consciousness starts to shift above the physical reality. When that happens, you become detached from your physical self and become an observer to your physical reality. The longer you meditate, the deeper the state you will be in and the higher the consciousness you will enter.

5. Ending Your Meditation

When you are done with your meditation, slowly ease into the physical state. Start off by being present of the physical reality around you. Next, be aware of your physical body. This can take 15~30 seconds, or however long you need to do this step. Then, very slowly, open your eyes. Get attuned to your surroundings. If you open your eyes immediately and try to resume your physical activities, it might be disjointing and jarring.

Instead of resuming your physical activities immediately, you might want to continue sitting in the meditative spot and reflect upon some of the thoughts, feelings or imagery that arose during your meditation. You may also want to just spend a few minutes expressing gratitude toward the things you enjoy in your life. 🙂

Article by Celes.

Source: How To Meditate in 5 Simple Steps – Personal Excellence

How To Handle Stress, Anxiety and Fears

1.  The behavioral-environmental part of the problem–

  • Exposure–confront the scary situation over and over.
  •  Analyze the situation–log and assess the possible causes.
  •  Avoid the stressful situation or person, change your environment.
  •  Seek support from friends, counselors, self-help groups, etc.

2.  The emotional part–

  • Learn to relax–counter the tension directly.
  •  Desensitization–reduce the fear or anxiety response.
  •  Flooding or venting feelings–get strong emotions off your chest.
  •  Stress inoculation–learn to “stay calm” or to “talk yourself down.”
  •  Channel “nervous energy” into fruitful activities.
  •  Develop psychological toughness–take on stressful challenges.

3.  Skills for reducing insecurity–

  • Actually having more skills makes you feel more competent…you are!

4.   Cognitive part–

  • Observe and model a person successfully handling the scary situation.
  •  Recognize that faulty thinking may be the cause of your stress.
  •  Correct misperceptions–consult with others; test out your views.
  •  Challenge irrational beliefs and demands of how things “should” be.
  •  Right wrong conclusions–check with others, test your reasoning, learn to think     logically.
  •  Intentional thorough planning of how to cope.
  •  Healthy attitudes–face problems squarely, commit yourself to action.
  •  Build your faith in your ability to handle stress and other problems.
  •  Find an inspiring mission in life and nurture an optimistic attitude.

5.  Unconscious factors–

  • Explore your history–for traumas, stressful emotions, and beliefs.
  •  Utilize natural curiosity–ask relatives and friends about childhood.
  •  Read psychological literature and case studies: Q: “True of me too?”

Now you are prepared to plan your attack on tension and fears that hold you back. Based on what you know, select the best two or three methods and give them an honest try. If they don’t work, try something else.  Good luck.

Photo credit: Photo by mohamed_hassan on Pixabay

5 things introverts can teach people

Do you consider yourself to an introvert, an extrovert, or a mix of the two called an ambivert.  This article by Meghan Holohan explains that introverts can teach us all a lot about being more mindful and not over-sharing so much.

When it comes to personality, there are endless articles about extroverts’ amazing qualities and how people can best emulate extroverts. In some ways, it makes sense. Research shows that extroverts are happier, have loads of friends and feel supported. A recent paper even found that when introverts act like extroverts it boosts their moods.

Yet, introverts bristle at always being told to act like extroverts. That because introverts know that their lives are “rich and full and not the lack of something,” Laurie Helgoe, associate professor of behavioral sciences at the Ross School of Medicine, explained to TODAY.

People’s personalities exist on a continuum from introverted to extroverted with most being an ambivert — meaning their personalities fall somewhere between extroverted and introverted. Extroverts are outgoing, impulsive and bold, while introverts feel fulfilled through solitary activities and limited, meaningful social interactions.

Introverts have some distinct qualities that other people can learn from.

1. Introverts know when to say ‘no’.

There’s a misconception that introverts dislike being around others. In fact, they do enjoying spending time with friends and family, just not as much.

“It is not the case they never want to be with other people,” Soto said. Instead, “they need to do less … with their social life.”

This means that introverts are more likely to say “no” to joining the wine and painting girls’ night, attending the local music festival, party hopping or volunteering for every PTA event.

“Everybody can still be subjected to FOMO, but I think there is that advantage that introverts have that we find refuge in solitude,” said Helgoe, who wrote the book Introvert Power.

“There is so much outside social stimulation that tells us who we should be and how to spend our time. Introverts are better able to detract from those temptations and evaluate what I want and what works for me.”

2. Introverts don’t share everything.

Whether it’s at work, a party, a child’s soccer game or the grocery store, many have encountered that person who overshares.

“Extroverts are more at risk of doing that … just dumping things on people and disclosing too much information and not having a filter,” Christopher Soto, an associate professor of psychology at Colby College, told TODAY.

An introvert, on the other hand, provides relief.

3. Introverts won’t act recklessly.

It’s less likely that person in the ER after an e-scooter accident is an introvert, experts say. While some might think it’s lame, introverts aren’t into risky behaviors and that might mean they avoid accidental injuries — and unusual causes of death.

“Sky diving, fasting driving, risky leisure activities tend to be less appealing for introverts and that’s probably good for their health,” Soto said.

4. Introverts pause before speaking.

Extroverts love it when someone tells them they’re witty or smart or interesting, so they often jump into conversations as much as possible to get the high of the validation. Introverts don’t need that reinforcement as much and feel less compelled to speak to fill space. This means they’re less likely to say the wrong thing or offer knee-jerk response.

“That is a strength that introverts have. I will sit and think of what everyone is saying,” Hegloe said. “Extroverts could allow more time to consider their responses and polish them a little to be a little more mysterious or have a poker face and let people wonder what they are thinking.”

5. Introverts observe the world.

Being mindful can reduce stress and anxiety and improve health. Introverts often engage in reflection and observation, which feels similar to mindfulness, and allows them to experience the moment.

“A pastime that is underrated and misunderstood with extroverts is observation,” Helgoe said. “Observing like an artist observes, taking in images, noticing but that is from a position of solitude. Being in the world and not of the world.”

This attention helps introverts see the world in a different way, like “a work of art or story that enriches life.”

And as the picture above shows, They Do Have Fun.

Image by Hero Images / Getty Images

What is an Empath?

Put simply, an Empath is a person who absorbs other people’s emotions and experiences these emotions as if they were their own.

Empathic people are highly sensitive to the emotional climates around them and often take on the psychological baggage of other people. This often leads to chronic mental and physical sicknesses.

In a world full of fear, greed, cruelty, egotism, and immense pain, your sensitivity is an immense blessing.

12 Signs You’re an Empath

Common signs of being an empath include:

  • The tendency to soak up other’s emotions and even physical sensations, like a sponge
  • Strong intuitive abilities or claircognizance
  • Chaotic or fluctuating emotions
  • Moodiness
  • Intense sensitivity
  • Highly creative
  • Inability to watch violence
  • Tendency towards anxiety and addiction
  • Tendency to attract wounded people
  • Gentle and caring nature
  • Chronic fatigue + digestive issues
  • Drawn to healing professions

How many of these signs can you identify within this list?

How to Become a Healed and Empowered Empath

The key to becoming a healed and empowered Empath lies in working to developing an individuated identity, clear boundaries, and non-attachment/resistance to emotions. The first step in becoming a matured Empath is to learn how to ground yourself in your body firmly.

Examples of practices that all Empaths will find beneficial include:

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Qigong
  • Breathing practices
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Body awareness

Any technique that can help you get out of your mind and into experiencing the present moment with non-judgment and non-resistance will help you as an Empath.

Why You Are a Gift to This World

In a world full of fear, greed, cruelty, egotism, and immense pain, your sensitivity is an immense blessing.

Your sensitivity is a gift this world desperately needs.

The ability to care deeply for others is something our world lacks to a severe degree. Your gift not only closes the gap between people, but it also opens the door to loving-kindness and other extrasensory abilities such as intuition.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all sensitive, caring, and receptive to each other? We would be living in paradise.

So, honor this experience of being an Empath for the great lessons and opportunities it presents you with.

Source: What is an Empath? (+ 12 Signs & How to Stay Balanced) ⋆ LonerWolf

A Brief Halloween History Lesson

Halloween has evolved over the years to become one of America’s best holiday.

There are cool costumes, tons of candy, decorations, haunted houses and the best part is that everything is optional. Between this, and the fact that it takes place during the coziest time of year, Halloween really can’t be beat.