Category Archives: Academic Coaching

On Death and Laughing

My grandmother died last week. We got the news over the phone. She was 96. My mother
asked, “what’d she die of?” I roared: “she died of OLD AGE, what else do you think she died of, a stubbed toe? She was OLD.” Later that day, my mother, was getting versed in age old Jewish rituals of mourning: the tearing of the shirt, sitting low and buying a big candle that must be lit for seven days of mourning, what Jews call, sitting Shiva.  I laughed. I mocked. I guess I’m afraid of death, and crack jokes to assuage myself. I hadn’t seen or spoken with my grandmother in thirty-six years. (Long story.)

And yet, I couldn’t help seeing humor. My mother looked funny reclining in the frame of her sofa, like a buddha, in her neon pink t-shirt and sweats. A friend bought her a mega mourner’s candle which I kept blowing out each night because I was afraid of a fire. My mother was livid, afraid, her dead mother’s spirit would get god to zap her.

And the coffee table. It groaned under the weight of spongy cakes, fruit trays and beverages, hot andShiva-Candle cold. It looked like a buffet. But it was nice, heartening, to see how many people cared for, doted on, my mother. They talked, cajoled, shared food and grocery information and intermittently my mother shared distant childhood memories. Collectively they condemned the Israeli Rabbi for not coming to visit with her. “The nerve of that man.” “Disgusting.” “What kind of Rabbi is that?” “I know a better one. He’s de best.” “A Lubavitch Rabbi would have come.” It was much needed comfort and distraction.

Yet, there was room for sadness too, in private mostly, in person or over the phone. My sistershiva-mourning told her to focus on happy childhood memories, not just bad ones. We surrounded mum with compassion and patience, for the most part. My younger brother brought her healthy, home-cooked meals and they played Rummy-Q. Tucker, the lick monster dog, joined my older brother on his visits. I poked fun at the rituals but not at her ambivalent grief and sadness. I served her many visitors with devotion except a few who came empty handed and talked non-stop for four hours. Was I wrong to laugh, at times? Maybe yes and maybe no 🙂


Be Nice to Yourself! Stopping Punitive Perfectionism

Last night, I heard someone, emphatically, declare, “don’t make promises you can’t keep.” My punitive alert monitor soared to harsh. I thought, so this person has never EVER broken a promise? He’s infallible? What happens when he or others make mistakes?  No mercy. He’s Punitive Peter. Punitive Patty for the females. People who regularly respond punitively when people mess up, fall short, or don’t measure up, lack empathy and compassion for themselves and others. They punish instead of being compassionate and patient. It takes on different forms: angry or cold stares, avoiding eye contact, harsh criticism, judging, being unforgiving.

The Vicious Cycle

The person experiencing the scorn feels worse and the punitive person feels better in a negatively perverse way. I was one of those people and at weak moments, still am. I had a cruel father that didn’t allow mistakes like spilled milk, laughing at the dinner table and challenging an order. We walked on eggshells and internalized a stringent, unattainable perfectionism encased in punitive pie crust. This bred lots of anxiety, fear of failure and being abandoned. In therapy, I have learned that I was cruel to myself and others when mistakes were made. I was not allowed to be, and hated being, human.

Impossible Perfectionism

Not everyone had this kind of home life but in my experience as a coach, teacher, and visual self-compassion-quoteartist, almost everyone I work with, young and mature, is hard on themselves and others. More and more, I teach people to be patient, kind and forgiving with themselves especially when learning something new and working with others. Impossible standards of perfectionism are created and when they are not met, the punishment, brutally verbal, begins. We get locked in a punitive cycle of perfectionism and punishment. That we’re hard on ourselves and others is not new but it seems more awareness has been created in this time of social media scrutiny and comparison.

Making Changes

Change begins with you. Examine your relationship with yourself. How do you treat yourself when you make a mistake? How you behave toward yourself is mirrored in your exchanges with others. Are you impatient? Do you call yourself names? I used to curse myself out for not finding my keys! Do you judge yourself harshly? Are you “supposed” to look and feel a certain way? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you’re punitive. You’re making life more anxious for you, loved ones and people you work with. You’re making yourself sick. Take a deep breath… and stop. Be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes because that’s what humans do. The world doesn’t hang, or end on, what you do. Let me know how things go.

Your Present is Better than You Realize

I think I’ve cracked it. I think I know why, or at least partially why, I’ve been unable or unwilling to live in the present, until now. Call it amnesia, a lack or awareness, or not knowing how to appreciate the steady progress I’ve made. Because I’m not a millionaire, I lost and gained weight, or don’t have a husband, I decided that the present is awful. In my harshest moments I saw myself as loser.

The Social Media Trap

By strongly undervaluing my recent accomplishments — lecturing at a top Canadian university for over a year, expanding my English literacy client base, paying for dental insurance, having my credit card limit increased, drawing daily for the first time in over 25 years — and negatively comparing these achievements to what I see in my social media feeds — people clinking wine glasses or attending “cool” events —  I convinced myself that my present wasn’t worth acknowledging let alone celebrating. Was I wrong. This “somebody-nobody” binary still has currency and needs overturning, now.

Courageously UncomfortableEternal-belongs-to

Not celebrating “unsexy” progress is a symptom of self neglect that took root in childhood where there was little celebration from my late father. He didn’t know any better. But I do NOW. By having the courage to ask myself why I didn’t want to live in the present, I got the information that I needed to take action. I can’t underscore the importance, the necessity, of writing every day and asking yourself courageous, direct, uncomfortable questions. This is what I’ve been doing in the PRESENT and not appreciating because I thought my milestones were not sexy, juicy or chocolaty enough.

Act Today

What have you celebrated lately? Have you been kinder to yourself, people at work? Are you more patient with your spouse or children? Have you decided to get help with an addiction? Are you writing that play you’ve always wanted? Then, today, now, I ask you to look in the mirror and thank yourself. Do what a good parent or friend would do for you and you for them. Write yourself a loving note (shout out to Danielle from Naked with Anxiety for that great idea). The note you always dreamed of getting. It’ll give you appreciation, self-compassion and perspective. We’ve come a long way. Don’t let anyone or any one thing tell you otherwise.


Be Creative or Bust!

Think creativity is only for baristas or designated artists? Think again. It’s for you, your mom, uncle Vikram, the dedicated gift wrapper and condiment stylist. You don’t have to be “good” at it either. It’s not a contest. It’s about letting your spirit out, letting it soar and pushing your limits.

Acknowledge the Fear

Creatively, I was dormant for decades. A dear friend, dub poet Lillian Allen, suggested I get Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way and get “unblocked.” It worked wonders. I had to face a lot of childhood fears of rejection and losing love. For over a year now, with intermittent breaks, I have drawn, doodled, done Second City improv, painted and written. I don’t worry about making something “great,” because when I do, it takes all the joy. Public failure and vulnerability is still a challenge for me but I’m working on it.

The Benefits

Making pottery, sewing, cooking, building a bird feeder or coding, is engrossing, joyful, challenging and spiritual. It’s humbling. Not knowing where a sketch or colouring page ends up astounds and mystifies me each time. Most of all, creative expression comforts me positively. It’s an alternative to bad self parenting, like addiction, or too much sitting and computer time. It’s also great for calming and channeling anxious energy.

Do it with a Buddy

If you find it isolating, or a little intimidating, enlist a friend, family member or work colleague. Join the #100dayproject which runs from April 19th to July 27th. Follow elleluna on Instagram and the hashtag.

Lastly…focus on the process, not the end product. Revel in the exploration, sensory flow and the joy of play. Doodle like nobody’s watching!

Let me know how it goes 🙂


Tired Toronto? Get Some Sleep!

We’re not sleeping enough. At least not at home. It’s a wonder anything gets done or that nobody gets seriously hurt. Everywhere you look — the subway, coffee shop, at work, at school — people, especially young ones, are yawning (and not covering their mouths!), have their heads planted on their chests, look dizzy — including me. One sleepy student told me yesterday that he does homework until 2 a.m.!

Sleep Withdrawal

I haven’t been sleeping enough and thought I could keep bobbing along without a serious blunder. My vision has been blurry, eyelids puffy and too much computer time compounds the pain. Recently, I took a cue from my friend Evis and decided to sleep right after work. I slept for about 3 hours. Totally surprised me. I got up, did a few things and went back to sleep at a decent time, which for me is about 11pm.

We’re staying up for different reasons.

Students are staying up to keep up with school work. Many of you are up late doing work or  worried about the usual life challenges. I tend to avoid sleep because of loneliness, fear and worry. Occasionally back or knee pain keeps me awake.

Sleep Without the Shame

Choose sleep. It’s a choice. I’ve decided  that I’m going to sleep, on time, no matter what. I can no longer afford not to. So far, I’m almost a week into my new sleep routine. Let me know if you’re sleeping well or not. Do you feel pressure not to sleep or pretend not to need it? Check out this fact sheet on sleep.

Writing: An Act of Self-Care, Love and Motivation

For the last few months I was anxious and abandoned most of my self care regime for different reasons. I stopped doing my Morning Pages and affirmations. I didn’t post anywhere. Didn’t eat too well and slept very little. I floundered.

write bravelySelf care, self-parenting, don’t come “natural” to me. With the help of my therapist, I’ve been learning how to nurture myself, build confidence, in healthy ways. The cornerstone of this has been writing and when I choose not to write, I suffer. It’s that simple. It’s a form of neglect. Returning to writing this month, especially this week, delivered these revelations. Writing brings me clarity, truth, comfort, confidence, when I do it honestly. Honesty is the key. WHAT you write matters more than HOW you write, when it comes to self nurturing. When I write I know I’m taking care of and empowering myself, especially that emotionally neglected little girl in me.

I am writing this for you today or someone else you care about. If you have the courage, yes courage, to find out the truth about why you are sad, angry, lonely or scared, writing will deliver. Because it’s just you and the page. Now, instead of skimming through more social media posts, or checking how many likes you got, write a paragraph or two. Find out what you’re thinking and feeling. Empower yourself.

Thanks for reading,

Find the RIGHT English Tutor/Literacy Specialist with these TEN MUST-HAVE Criteria

It’s Back to School time and many of you are thinking about hiring an English tutor for your children or yourself but you don’t know where to start. Whether you are looking for a tutor for the first time or thinking about switching, this TEN point guide is for you! Here are my must-have criteria for finding the ideal English literacy specialist to start your family on this important and worthwhile journey:

  1. A SERIOUS ASSESSMENT PROCESS: Any English tutor worth her salt will provide a thorough assessment that evaluates vocabulary, intellect, critical thinking, speaking, listening, writing skills and mindset (accountability, mental obstacles). My assessment is approximately two and a half hours in length and takes a prospective client through an in-depth interview, debate, vocabulary test, reading comprehension exam, a short, timed persuasive essay and culminates in my written evaluation that I share aloud. This methodical process provides us with a realistic assessment of your communication skills and helps me create strategies, lesson plans, work sheets and assignments geared toward your literacy requirements. A serious assessment also shows prospective clients how committed the English tutor is to them, their time and, their needs.
  2. WELL- READ: She has to have read, studied and taught all, or most, of the plays, novels, short stories and poems in your child’s curriculum and BEYOND. Diverse texts like Kushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan (1956), Flannery O’Connor’s Everything that Rises Must Converge (1965) and Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845) are vital to the creation of a well-rounded thinker and a confident, empathetic, globally-engaged citizen. Your English tutor’s rich reading experience will provide more nutrients, value, to you, your family and community.
  3. MULTI-SKILLED: Your English tutor, in addition to being a serious and open-minded reader, needs to listen attentively, think critically, reflect, know at least three hundred years worth of global history and politics, and, be aware of current/topical events, issues and trends in science and technology. For example, if you are studying Ralph Ellison’s classic novel Invisible Man (1952), you need to be taught the historical U.S. arc that encompasses: slavery, the Civil War, Abolition, the Fugitive Slave Act, the Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction, Post-Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, Southern Black migration in the second decade of the twentieth century, the Harlem Renaissance and the emerging Civil Rights Movement. Most students I work with do not have a cursory knowledge of important historical moments of the last three hundred years. As an informed English tutor, schooled in history, I can identify and fill that gap with relevant content because texts, like Ellison’s, do not exist in a historical vacuum.
  4. STRONG WRITING, EDITING & COMMUNICATION: Your English literacy specialist MUST be a wordsmith, articulate and write with clarity and economy. Full Stop. If she can’t point out and explain, with laser precision, your grammar, syntax, vocabulary, argument/logic inconsistencies, then move on. An adept tutor will teach you a method of writing, editing and proofreading that, with practice and consistency, yields excellent results, both short and long term. For example, I have developed an essay teaching-editing process that consistently and patiently shows clients how and why I make revisions.
  5. PASSION: Does your prospective English tutor LOVE what she does? Does she like working WITH people? Does she motivate you? Is she truly interested in helping you become more skilled and create your life vision? You don’t want to work with someone who is going through the motions, burned- out, cynical or jaded. You deserve better!
  6. CONSISTENCY: Consistent implementation of lesson times, payment procedures and attendance policies are essential to your successful client-tutor relationship and indicates punctuality, professionalism, organization, efficient time management and sound financial investment. Consistency, not talent, manifests success.
  7. NON-JUDGEMENTAL & PATIENCE: The ideal English tutor provides a welcoming, kind, supportive and patient learning experience free of judgement and labels. Young students, I work with, often categorize their mistakes as “bad” which is problematic. I explain to them that neither they nor their writing mistakes are bad and that we all have to start somewhere to build skills; the great Michael Jordan was once a beginner too. These kinds of exchanges are a big part of the tutoring experience and require sensitivity and compassion.
  8. INTEGRITY: Bottom line, do you trust your prospective English tutor? Go with your gut. Is she sincere? Is she listening to you? Does she really care about your self-improvement? Being an instructor, is a calling, not a quick or easy way to earn money, at least, it shouldn’t be. Is she making unrealistic promises and encouraging shortcuts? English literacy skills, like a master tennis serve, takes days, weeks, months and years of consistent learning, practice and development. Be prepared to work a minimum of 6 to 18 months together. I work an average of three to five years with clients aged ten to sixteen. A quarter of my clients will invest five to ten years in us and a quarter will hire me for a lifetime of writing and editing projects that matter to them and their tribe.
  9. MONEY: Low paid English tutors, as in other professions, devalue work and expertise. An elite English literacy expert, like me, has invested years and MONEY in training, skill development, brain power, to be the BEST at what she does. Choosing an English expert requires rejecting a “bargain” or “best deal” mentality. Valuing education, yourself, your child’s future, nurturing productive actions and fulfilling work have to be a priority for you because they are FOR ME.
  10. TRANSPARENCY: Your relationship with your tutor will flourish if there is clarity about every aspect of the work. An agreement that clearly outlines the time period, expectations, materials, confidentiality, content and strategy, and so forth, will remove uncertainty. Furthermore, weekly lesson logs and progress reports ensure ongoing and reliable communication.I hope this checklist answers important questions about finding a top-notch English tutor for your or a family member. If you need to know more, send me a note and I’ll be glad to help you make this important investment.

Rosalin Krieger is an award-winning, featured English Literacy specialist, on the Rogers TV Program In the Know, a Toronto Public Library educational speaker, and an editor . For a complimentary 45 consultation call 416.227.0865 or visit her on Facebook or Word Warrior Communications.