Teachable Moments : Bugs!

I’m starting a new series on the blog to share some of the education adventures that the boys and I go on; you can read my introductory post here.

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Mamas and Papas, I’ve decided that fall through spring is the perfect time to investigate bugs!

You’re confused, I know, but hear me out : I spend those seasons vacuuming up all sorts of insects in our house. There are stink bugs, green lacewings, some wasps, flies, and sometimes lady bugs. So, rather than toss the dead bugs in the trash, they are the perfect specimens for learning.

bugs

Have your kiddos collect a bunch of bugs, and then start asking them probing questions that get them observing.

  • You could start with an open-ended : What do the bugs look like?
  • And then get more specific : What color are they?
  • How many legs do they have?
  • How many wings?
  • If you’ve found more than one variety : How are the bugs different or the same?
  • And then you could build curiosity: How did they get in the house?

I try not to hammer them with questions. Instead, I like to sit back and let them explore, but the questions can help to get them thinking and/or they’re just handy to have in mind if you’re having a conversation about the insects and want to keep it going.

bugs2

Introduce your kids to scientific tools. We have a few magnifying glasses and the kids’ microscope that you see in the photo above. We also happened upon a super easy trick – use a macro lens on your phone to shoot a zoom-in photo of the insects. If your kids are like mine, they will be amazed at the detail! While they love using their tools, I’ve found that the tools don’t come with the strongest lenses and it can be hard for shaky/excited hands to keep everything in focus. Using the macro photograph is one of the easiest ways to expand your kids’ awe and curiosity about bugs – they can’t believe all of the details that are on the bug sitting there on the table (the fuzzy hairs, the patterns that just looked like stripes now are something else, etc.).

For better or worse, seeing the bugs magnified to this level makes it easier to anthropomorphize the insects, which can lead to some awesome learning conversations. My guys like to talk about the bugs families, what the different members of the family do, where they get their food, etc. And then this can lead to more detailed discussions about the social structure of some bugs, their lifecycle, the predator/prey relationships, and on and on.

When it comes to bug-related tools, we have a bug box that’s handy when we’re catching and analyzing live insects.

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We also like to pull out the insect field guides to look up the insects we’ve found. The first time I pulled out this book, Alex went bonkers! He couldn’t believe all of the different insects that were in the book. So, I gave him plenty of time to just browse the book. Then we narrowed in on the insects we had, once we were on the right page, I had him find the specific insect, and then we read about them.

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My goal is for us to do activities like this over and over again whenever the interest arises, with the intent to increase the boys’ depth of knowledge each time. Some examples include teaching them the correct names of insect parts, the lifecycle of the insect, their role in the ecosystem. And here are a few other simple ideas for extending this activity:

  • draw pictures of the insects
  • discuss and paint a picture of their habitat
  • visit the insect exhibits at your local natural history museum
  • during the summer, we like to start by catching some bugs in the garden! This is one of the easiest ways to discuss the insects’ role in the ecosystem, their preferred habitat, and food. We don’t kill them, but we are still able to carry out a variety of the activities above, and this is where having the bug box is key to keeping your live specimens in one place.

If you’re a bug lover, a parent, or just someone with an idea, I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any other ideas for introducing kids to insects? Do you have any favorite insect facts?

*This post contains affiliate links.
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Teachable Moments : an Introduction

Now that Alex is nearing 4 years old and Luc is nearing 2, I’m starting to be more intentional with how we spend some of our time together. While they spend their days playing, I want to highlight more “teachable moments” that challenge the boys to learn new skills, whether it’s physical, practical, and/or academic. And since we blog about what we love and what’s important to us, I’m hoping to share some of these pre-school teaching adventures on the blog.

alex_stick

We’ve already started some of this work and sharing through the Cooking with Kids series, but I’d like to expand the posts to share some of the work we’re doing outside of the kitchen.

Our Learning Philosophy

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, it’s no surprise that Sarah and I enjoy challenging ourselves to learn new things, and (of course), we love to share what we’ve learned with others. Much of what we do here on the blog is from the perspective of an amateur in that we’ve had no formal schooling in cooking, crafting, or potion-making, yet other things we do from the perspective of professionals (Sarah as a photographer and yogi, myself as a scientist, naturalist, and quasi-economist). Beyond spending years as a student, I’ve also worked as an educator in one capacity or another (volunteering to work with high school kids in urban gardens, being a teaching assistant in grad school, and teaching college courses). All that’s to say that we have many passions, some we’ve pursued through formal education and others we’ve pursued as hobbies.

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beach

As you may expect, we’re keen to pass our love of learning on to the boys. The most important skills that I hope to nurture in them are to be observant of the world around them, ask questions about how the world works, and come up with ideas that try to answer those questions. I’m hoping to raise curious problem solvers. Of course, I’m also hoping to raise kiddos with a social conscious, but aren’t we all? I hope?

What are Teachable Moments?

While they’re still young, I’m not concerned about enrolling the kiddos in a rigorous academic environment, rather, I think it’s fairly easy to engage them in teachable moments no matter what we’re doing from one day to the next. For example, Alex is starting to identify letters of the alphabet and spell simple words. He doesn’t need worksheets to help with this, instead, we’re always finding moments to have him find letters (road signs, cereal boxes, books, etc.). And Luc’s learning is much more basic – he’s learning to form sentences, ask questions, and (of course) he tries to copy anything his big brother does from counting to jumping off the furniture. So we spend a lot of time talking to/with Luc (not at him) to help his language develop. I ask him questions, give him time to answer. Before he was even speaking in sentences, I would really listen when he was making noises at me, because often he had something he was trying to communicate.

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Whatever the subject manner, there’s often a way to relate to it in our day-to-day lives. For example, Calder and I were total dorks when we bought the NPS pass and talked about the utility we get just from knowing that we could go to any park at any time… and when I’m hiking in the mountains, a rock slide makes me want to talk about entropy – the idea that things gradually go from an ordered to disordered state. The bottom line is that there are so many moments in the day where we could stop, observe, and start an academic conversation about a whole slew of topics.

But those are big ideas. At the boys’ age, I like to follow their curiosity. Some days we’re using blocks to see who can build the highest tower, and why does one stay up while another falls? Other days we’re sitting outside for hours looking for bugs, watching where they go and what they do. And other days, we’re mixing food coloring into homemade gak to see what happens when we mix red with blue (purple!), but what if we add yellow and green too (brown!)?

Teaching Resources

Right now, given the boys’ ages, our conversations and teachable moments are really pretty mellow, but they’re there, and more are happening every day – especially with Alex.

I’ve started to look for some resources that I can refer to as I think about fostering a creative, problem-solving, independent environment in (and outside!) our house.

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bats

For the most part, I’ve been leaning on my intuition and ideas from our mom who is a retired teacher, but I’ve also begun to turn to a couple of books:

  • Tinkerlab is a great resource for helping parents to foster a more creative and exploratory learning environment at home. It begins with a few sections discussing the importance of letting kids tinker, how to organize your home, and lists of suggested tinkering supplies for kids. Then the bulk of the book provides ideas for tinkering activities, organized broadly under the topics of “design, build, concoct, and discover”. There’s also a Tinkerlab website bursting with ideas and inspiring posts.
  • The Outdoor Classroom in Practice, Ages 3-7 is a great basic resource if you would like to have some practical help for creating a forest school environment. Admittedly, we aren’t spending our full days outside, but it is a major goal of mine to have a lot of the boys learning and activities taking place outside. This is a month-by-month guide with ideas for introducing children to the idea of a forest school and with a few simple seasonally-appropriate activities for each month.
  • The Kids’ Nature Book This book is out of print, but Sarah picked up a copy for us at a used book store. There are other versions of nature activity books available, but I really love this one. It gives you an activity idea for every day of the year – that’s 365 ideas! Some are super simple (measure the snowfall), while others are more intensive. The bottom line is that you can find an activity that’s appropriate for any moment and age level. I’ll come back to this book in a future post and talk in more detail about how I use it.

In addition to those books, as we all know, the internet is full of ideas, and I have a few Pinterest boards to help me keep those resources organized.

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I’m exciting to start this series on the blog, and am thinking about a variety of future posts covering everything from how we create teachable moments while on vacation to our early experiments with learning letters. I know these posts won’t be for everyone, but I’m hoping that there’s a community of readers who would like to join in this discussion and share their teachable moments.

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2017 Resolutions

Want to see how this list compares to the past? Here are my 2016 and 2015 resolutions.

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I know everyone’s not in the same boat, but I love setting intentions and goals for the new year. I like that it creates a challenge within a timeframe. I’m always trying to better myself and create a better home for our family in a number of ways, but saying and writing specific ideas down at the beginning of the year gives me a bit of focus that I don’t have when I just say “become more healthy”, “do more of this or that with the boys”, etc.

I also like that when creating the coming year’s resolutions, we take a moment to look back and reassess how we did the previous year (who am I kidding, since I live with the Resolution Master, our assessing starts in August!). With that in mind, I thought a little looking back would be nice before diving into 2017.

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As I titled last year’s resolution post, it’s always a lot of same same, but different. I’m so SO happy with how well-nourished our family was in all aspects of mind, body, and soul. We ate so well (did you see those farm share posts?!). The boys are growing and learning new physical and mental skills left and right. As a family, we spent so much time outdoors. We filled every weekend and many weekdays with adventures, some big and some little, just like I wanted. Personally, I ended the year feeling really happy and content, and I think this is a reflection of how much I was able to take care of myself with exercise, creative projects, and doing it all while taking care of the day-to-day business without feeling overwhelmed. So, while the world seemed to be crashing down around us (I’m looking at you, presidential election), in our home, all is well.

This year, my biggest goal is just to keep on, keeping on. I want to keep doing all that good stuff, and improve it with a few key goals.

  • 100 sun salutations – last year I wanted to do a sun salutation a day. I kept this up for a long time, but then it fell by the wayside, and somehow I had that mental block where I couldn’t start it again because I had already missed too many days. Why do we do that to ourselves?! Anyway, rather than a daily task, I’m shooting for 100 total (but maybe really 1-a-day, wink wink).
  • sew some clothes with knit fabrics (think sweat shirts, t-shirts, leggings) – I was give a serger for Christmas, and if you know anything about sewing machines, then you know that these are great for sewing clothes (they create the tidy seams that you see if you look inside almost any factory-made shirt). And sergers are particularly handy for sewing knit fabrics because they create a stretchy seam that’s necessary for that material. So, I want to stretch my sewing and clothes-making muscles by making some clothes for myself and the boys.
  • weave! – I also received a table/lap loom for Christmas and am so excited to start using up my crazy yarn stash by learning to weave. My exact goal is to make a wall hanging for one of our rooms. I have this idea to create something that’s actually going to be a combination of multiple individual weavings (more on that in another post!).
  • make a specific curriculum plan for the boys – I’m going to talk about this more in a series of posts, but a quick summary is that the boys are still young and they’re home with me rather than in daycare/preschool. I love it this way, and the educator in me loves to think of ways to integrate learning opportunities in our day-to-day play. It’s been going great so far, but I think it would make me happy to have an overarching plan to some of our play. I know that’s a bit vague, but I’m hoping to explore the idea on the blog in real time.
  • get to Great Sand Dunes NP! – Great Sand Dunes looks like such a crazy place, and it’s in our state! I’m making it a personal goal of mine to get our family there for at least one visit this year. Hopefully it’ll involve camping and a bit of exploring that area of Colorado. eek!

Those are my big goals for the year. I think it’s such a manageable list, but what’s not on it are some of the goals that I keep setting and then not finishing. I’m looking at you, room full of instruments. I would really love to spend more time practicing the piano and violin. I decided not to make it a specific resolution this year, but I’m hoping that as I spend less time changing diapers, I’ll eventually find more time for making music.

I’ve also taken this excitement of the new year to make a few simple changes. I was getting tired of my old exfoliating face wash, so I picked up an alternative that I’m loving (more on that after a few more weeks of testing). I also decided that I want to drink more water, but somehow this seems too lame to be a resolution. I’m doing it and tracking my progress in Streaks (also tracking my daily sun salutations and how much I read), and I hope that’s enough to make me more aware of my water intake, and that in a few weeks it’ll just become habit… hope springs eternal (ha! pun intended).

What about you? Any resolutions that you’re excited about this year? Any that you’re re-doing from last year?

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5 Ways Yoga Helped Me Heal After a Breakup

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
-Mary Oliver


I began practicing yoga seriously after I returned from a long stint in Asia in 2011-2012. My relationship to yoga actually began after I was dumped by my then boyfriend of about five years over the phone the night I returned to the USA from Thailand. Pretty fucked up right?

I thought so too. I was sad. I was defeated. I felt like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. See about two months before I flew home, I had sensed a shift in our conversations over Facebook. I could just tell there was something different happening with him in America, I just wasn’t sure what. I even mentioned it, but he never answered.

I took it particularly hard because I had tried (and failed) to break up with this man twice over the course of five years. I knew the relationship wasn’t meant to last forever and yet somehow we would work it out, we would be ‘better’ and the attempted breakups did make our relationship stronger so when I finally committed my vulnerable little heart to freely loving another person unconditionally, I was dumped. It was painful.

In hindsight, the breakup was so devastating because this same boyfriend came all the way to Thailand that Christmas to visit me. I felt so loved and lucky to have someone literally travel across the earth to be with me. For the first time in my life, I envisioned marriage and even my future wedding. It’s true, as I traveled Thailand by bus and a love song would come on, I would listen to the lyrics and consider it for my imagined wedding. It would take me years after the break up to be able to listen to John Legend songs and not feel pangs of hurt and rejection. I guess all this is to say, sometimes you are completely blindsided by a breakup and it forces you to sit in a sobbing puddle of rejection and just deal with your feelings.

The entire next month, my main goal was to not break down and cry in public. I would go to work, which at the time was catering parties and weddings, and I would have to sneak off to the bathroom or around a corner and mentally talk myself out of sobbing. It was really hard to keep it together. Once I got in my car or home to my sister’s apartment, I would breakdown. Watching any type of tv (even commercials), listening to the radio, even walking down the street in a neighborhood where he and I spent so much time together, felt like the most challenging task in the world. I was a mess and I had never in my life dealt with something so agonizing.

At the time, my ex and i were still texting periodically throughout the day. We had actually bought tickets a few months previous, to a huge music festival together with about 15 of our closest friends and we had agreed that we would still attend it together and try to act normal. The first day was fine as I got completely obliterated, but the second was draining. I ended up just laying in a grassy field for hours and hours while all my friends pranced and danced and my ex completely disappeared from the group and did his own thing. It was during this festival that something clicked. We are all individuals and while I cannot fathom life without this dude, it’s obviously meant to be that way. If we were meant to get back together, we would eventually, but until then, I needed to try to move on and forget about how hurt and rejected I felt.

I started by moving to my other sister’s, hours from my ex and pretty much my entire life and community I had created in Philadelphia over the past five years. I’m so glad I did this and I feel like it was a major step in my healing process. To not have to bump into him and our mutual friends in my neighborhood on a weekly basis really helped to distance myself from the breakup.

I also decided to cut off communication with my ex. At my request, we stopped sending our handful of texts each day. I remember how fucking hard that week was though, I felt like my best friend had died and I was all alone. Along with not texting, I made a concerted effort to stop looking at his or his friends’ social media because who really wants to see their ex dating someone already after a couple months. Again, this was a huge step forward in terms of starting my own life again. I will admit, I relapsed a couple times and looked at his Facebook and his girlfriend’s Facebook, but that’s how I found out he started dating her before I even moved home from Thailand. While this bit of information felt like hot lava being poured on my chest, it also gave me the ammunition I needed to mentally move on for good.

After spending a couple more weeks crying and feeling bad for myself, I found a random job, started hiking with Katie’s hound dog (he’s now mine!), and making plans with my friends again.

It was around this time that I remembered a yoga studio that Katie and I visited a few years ago. I had always felt a connection to this studio even though I only attended a couple classes there. I’ll never forget the first yoga class I attended after the break up, I looked up the schedule online, realized I had about ten minutes to get there, contemplated it for a moment and then drove like hell to make it on time. That class changed the entire course of my life. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s absolutely true. I told you that entire sob story only so you’d begin to understand the power that authentic yoga (not just stretching and exercising to music and practicing handstands) can have on your life.

After a few months of yoga, I was completely transformed and in a way, reborn. Yoga teaches many lessons, but in terms of dealing with a breakup it teaches you ::

  • Self acceptance of where you are at this moment in time. Sometimes life throws us for a loop. There is no sense resisting, fighting what is currently taking place, you can only settle into it. When the breakup occurred, I was convinced it was a momentary mistake, something that would soon be corrected. Once I started practicing yoga and accepting what was being handed (or taken away) in life, I realized nothing is a mistake. Each situation is a gift to learn more and connect deeper with oneself. I also began looking back and remembering times in my life that seemed tragic and hard to deal with and I realized I prospered after those periods and I would after this one as well.
  • Your mat is your world. Nothing outside of your mat is a reflection or judgment of what is happening on your mat. You’ll hear this quite often in yoga. Do not compare yourself to others, focus on yourself, accept where you are at this moment in time, do no strive to be further along in your journey even if you’re seemingly further behind than you were yesterday. This lesson was absolutely crucial in getting over my ex. Not only did I feel like I lost a great dude (he was attractive, interesting and motivated), but I was replaced by a younger, more beautiful girl. For awhile, it was really hard not to be jealous of his new, fit and attractive girlfriend. I could immediately see that she was everything I was not, all the little things he had wanted me to be over the course of our relationship. Not only that, but they were traveling all over the place, something I would have loved to do. I felt like I lost everything and they had it all. What a ridiculous notion it is to look at what your neighbor has, covet it and wallow in your discontent. This will get you absolutely nowhere and it will create an ugly person in the meantime. Once I focused all my energy inwards and began cultivating my own happiness and directing my own journey, I was able to actually nurture love and happiness for my ex and his new beautiful partner. I don’t know this girl, but I’m positive she’s a great human. I also learned to see more clearly and to realize my ex was in many ways not the right partner for me. I gained clarity about my situation once I focused my energy inwards.
  • Connection to breath and body sensations. Basically yoga taught me to be mindful, something I hadn’t practiced before. Mindfulness was a completely new concept and to this day it has a profound effect on my psyche. Each time I found my mind wandering or getting hung up on a memory or feeling, I would bring myself back to a deep belly breath and try to not only identify my thoughts, but also to locate what sensations were arising and how they felt in my body. Being more present, connected and aware helped me to realize that often my sadness was just an autopilot state of being. If i wasn’t stimulated or even if another emotion was trying to shine through, my sadness would overwhelm me, it was as if my heart wanted to feel broken and my mind was just cruising along with it instead of thinking rationally about the present moment and my true feelings from hour to hour.
  • Disconnection from emotion and external forces. Disconnecting from my emotions was really the next step in my mindfulness practice. Once I was able to stay present and identify my emotions, I was able to question them and in a way compartmentalize them in my mind. Obviously it’s okay to feel deeply, but instead of allowing our monkey minds to completely hijack how we feel, it’s crucial to question why we feel the way we do, to think rationally about the entire situation at hand. I was so so sad day after day even though I had previously tried to initiate a break up, even though I knew the relationship was in no way sustainable, so why was I allowing emotions to run my life? At a certain point, it’s absolutely necessary to box up reactions and intense emotions and disconnect from them, to set them aside, and allow yourself to think with clarity about the situation in life.
  • Self love. Above all, yoga has taught me to love myself inside and out. Cheesy as it may sound, I believe self love is the key to a happy life full of successful relationships whether they’re romantic or not. Having love, gratitude and appreciation for yourself above all else allows you to thrive and feel comfortable in any situation. Creeping feelings of self-doubt and ugly notions of jealousy are eradicated and more space for compassion and appreciation is created. I now see endings as new beginnings and heartache as an experience to be cherished as much as mourned. In all beings and situations I search for love, any tiny speck of love that allows everything to fall into place and make sense.

Yoga allowed me to fall in love with myself again, while disconnecting from emotion long enough to process the breakup and begin to heal. I was taught to practice mindfulness and realize my expectations of the relationship and my life in general were just that, expectations, not reality. Yoga allowed me the space I needed to be present with my emotions without becoming wrapped up and attached to them. I look back to the person I was ten even five years ago and I barely recognize her. Yoga has changed me in many ways and it all started with one shitty breakup. Today I’m grateful for the heartache because it introduced me to a yoga lifestyle and a set of tools that allow me to thrive in all situations. Are you going through a transition or a difficult time right now? Find your nearest yoga studio and dive in.

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Creation Inspiration: Start A Quote Book


Ever come across a passage, poem or quote that really speaks to you? How do you remember it? Do you dog-ear the page? Highlight the passage? Pin the quote to your words of inspiration board? Save them all in a memo on your computer? Read it once and let it go? I used to do all of the above until about a week ago when I finally decided to start a quote book.

I picked up a small notebook at a local shop and started by jotting down all my absolute favorite quotes from over the past few years. I dug up those random note cards, looked up all my highlights in my kindle app and wrote down all the saved bookmarks and highlighted passages that have spoke to me. It’s quite therapeutic to focus on a quote, record it and to be able to look back at all the words that connected with you at different times in your life. Think of a quote book as basically your own little playbook or pep talk. Sometimes we need a few words of inspiration to get through the day or to remember to treat ourselves properly. Our thought patterns can be chaotic. Sometimes they are a disservice. It’s helpful to bring yourself back to center with a few words of encouragement, cue the quote book!


Here are a few of my favorite quotes, passages and poems to get you started:
Talk to yourself like you would someone you love.

Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you or home is nowhere at all. – Hermann Hesse

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi

Cry everyday if you want, not because you’re sad, but because the world is so beautiful and life is so short.

To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance. -Oscar Wilde

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. -Mary Oliver

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,

be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Asking Too Much by Andrea Gibson:

“I want you to tell me about every person you’ve ever been in love with.

Tell me why you loved them,

then tell me why they loved you.
Tell me about a day in your life you didn’t think you’d live through.

Tell me what the word home means to you

and tell me in a way that I’ll know your mother’s name

just by the way you describe your bedroom

when you were eight.
See, I want to know the first time you felt the weight of hate,

and if that day still trembles beneath your bones.
Do you prefer to play in puddles of rain

or bounce in the bellies of snow?

And if you were to build a snowman,

would you rip two branches from a tree to build your snowman arms

or would leave your snowman armless

for the sake of being harmless to the tree?

And if you would,

would you notice how that tree weeps for you

because your snowman has no arms to hug you

every time you kiss him on the cheek?
Do you kiss your friends on the cheek?

Do you sleep beside them when they’re sad

even if it makes your lover mad?

Do you think that anger is a sincere emotion

or just the timid motion of a fragile heart trying to beat away its pain?
See, I wanna know what you think of your first name,

and if you often lie awake at night and imagine your mother’s joy

when she spoke it for the very first time.
I want you to tell me all the ways you’ve been unkind.

Tell me all the ways you’ve been cruel.

Tell me, knowing I often picture Gandhi at ten years old

beating up little boys at school.
If you were walking by a chemical plant

where smokestacks were filling the sky with dark black clouds

would you holler “Poison! Poison! Poison!” really loud

or would you whisper

“That cloud looks like a fish,

and that cloud looks like a fairy!”
Do you believe that Mary was really a virgin?

Do you believe that Moses really parted the sea?

And if you don’t believe in miracles, tell me —

how would you explain the miracle of my life to me?
See, I wanna know if you believe in any god

or if you believe in many gods

or better yet

what gods believe in you.

And for all the times that you’ve knelt before the temple of yourself,

have the prayers you asked come true?

And if they didn’t, did you feel denied?

And if you felt denied,

denied by who?
I wanna know what you see when you look in the mirror

on a day you’re feeling good.

I wanna know what you see when you look in the mirror

on a day you’re feeling bad.

I wanna know the first person who taught you your beauty

could ever be reflected on a lousy piece of glass.
If you ever reach enlightenment

will you remember how to laugh?
Have you ever been a song?

Would you think less of me

if I told you I’ve lived my entire life a little off-key?

And I’m not nearly as smart as my poetry

I just plagiarize the thoughts of the people around me

who have learned the wisdom of silence.
Do you believe that concrete perpetuates violence?

And if you do —

I want you to tell me of a meadow

where my skateboard will soar.
See, I wanna know more than what you do for a living.

I wanna know how much of your life you spend just giving,

and if you love yourself enough to also receive sometimes.

I wanna know if you bleed sometimes

from other people’s wounds,

and if you dream sometimes

that this life is just a balloon —

that if you wanted to, you could pop,

but you never would

‘cause you’d never want it to stop.
If a tree fell in the forest

and you were the only one there to hear —

if its fall to the ground didn’t make a sound,

would you panic in fear that you didn’t exist,

or would you bask in the bliss of your nothingness?
And lastly, let me ask you this:
If you and I went for a walk

and the entire walk, we didn’t talk —

do you think eventually, we’d… kiss?
No, wait.

That’s asking too much –

After all,

this is only our first date.”
I hope these words that have had an amazing impact on me touched you as well. I have so many more inspiring passages, some that come from books I read or wanderings on the internet or by way of friends, all these words are so important that I wish to never be without them and therefore the reason I created a quote book. Quote books are also an amazing gift especially if you customize them for the particular person or even more so for a particular time in a person’s life. I hope you’ll make one this year and continue to fill it until you’re forced to start volume two.

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Sarah’s Five Must See Documentaries on Netflix

Hey booboos! It’s not a stretch to say this post lacks a bit of substance, but these five documentaries are chock full. If I’m not watching adventure or travel documentaries, it seems the only type of TV I truly like is that which practically rips my heart from my chest. If I’m sitting wide-eyed, unblinking and holding both cheeks in my hands then I’m enjoying myself, even if it looks like I’m about to cry, which I probably am. I’m sure you’ve watched Making a Murderer by now. If you haven’t, kick off your ‘questioning life and existence’ documentary binge by watching it on Netflix. Making a Murderer really reawakened a true crime obsession that I’ve had for at least a decade. My family was less than thrilled that one summer at the beach when I bought five true crime books, all with various blood patterns splattered across the covers. If you’re not into true crime, don’t worry, these documentaries cover a broad range of topics, but fair warning, all are pretty dark.live-seasoned-netflix-documentary-suggestions

 

Amanda Knox – The story of American exchange student, Amanda Knox, when she is tried and convicted of murder in Italy. This documentary is enthralling because it features in-depth interviews from Amanda herself as well as her boyfriend at the time (also convicted) and the detectives who worked the case. Truly a terrifying story because I realized anyone can get caught up in a serious situation.

The Square – A current, first person account of Egyptian revolutionaries organizing against the regime. The Square shed a lot of light of a story I knew relatively little about. It’s a documentary that encourages empathy and cultural understanding by highlighting another country’s relationship with their own government.

Audrie & Daisy – Is a heart wrenching look at the effects of bullying in today’s world where photos and fibs are spread online like wild fires. Audrie & Daisy helped to remind me of the struggles that young girls and boys face each day throughout middle and high school. If you have children, this is an important documentary to watch, but not necessarily with them. Have tissues handy.

13th – The 13th highlights government policy that led to the massive success of private prisons in America and the perceived motive of those moves. This documentary serves up stats and information that will come in handy during your next cocktail party debate about the prison system in American without you having to read The New Jim Crow, which is an enlightening book that I’m constantly telling everyone to devour.

The Culture High – Possibly the hardest documentary for me to watch, The Culture High, features graphic scenes and stark realities of the war on drugs in America. The criminalization of drugs in America is a topic I’ve personally had to deal with and suffer the consequences of, which is why I cried throughout this movie, knowing how lucky I was and how unlucky others were when dealing with the same drug possession charges.

If you’re wanting more, I highly recommend these true crime documentaries, none of which are on Netflix at the moment: Central Park 5, The Jinx, and The Staircase.

Now go! Go feel pain, agony and helplessness and hopefully gain more empathy for our fellow man’s struggle.

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Living The Tao of Pooh

“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”

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Hi, friends!  A couple weeks ago, I took a quick trip to Philadelphia to help my childhood friend move into her first home.  As I’m waiting at the airport, I thought of another amazing friend and sent him a quick text, ‘Hey, pick me up on your motorcycle!’ I totally expected the text to be the start of another conversation instead of actually accepting the invitation. A few hours later, I’m waiting at the PHL terminal and a shiny blue motorcycle pulls up. I’m handed a helmet, I swing my leg over the seat and we’re off, speeding down I-95 towards the city of Brotherly Love.

After an iced chai and a funny catch-up chat, we headed to his house in my old neighborhood, Fishtown. I sat down and looked over his prints from a recent trip to the UAE, Oman and Turkey. While I could have looked at them for hours, the photo editor in me flipped through them insanely fast only allowing a fraction of the photos to leave an imprint in my mind. I can still imagine them today. I’m excited to see how he uses my favorites, but also the images that I may have passed by too quickly. Photos are magical in that the way in which you use them can completely alter the image and message. Saleem has an uncanny ability to work with his photographs in this manner.

While I was shuffling through the images, I kept thinking of my childhood friend, Steph, the one I was supposed to be helping move in. I was torn in opposite directions, stay and hang out with Saleem who so kindly picked me up from the airport or rush off to Steph’s since she was expecting me. I hated the creeping feeling of guilt so after a quick pitbull play session and a few minutes of chill time in the backyard I said my goodbyes to Saleem.

saleem-ahmed-turkey-1 Continue reading

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Feeling Inspired

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Can you smell fall in the air? While I’m looking forward a season of cozy days spent indoors, our camping trip last weekend and photos of the changing scenery make me want to get outside. Even knowing that tomorrow afternoon I get to sit on the sidelines and watch Alex’s soccer practice has me excited (and brings me right back to the many fall seasons spent playing soccer when I was growing up).  It’s all just a reminder of how important it is for our souls to spend a bit of time outside, especially during these transitions from one season to another. Spend some time outdoors this weekend, letting yourself take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the changing seasons. xo

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Lessons of Blogging

It has been over eight years since I first created a blog. My first post is too embarrassing to link to, but it was a montage of peace signs found around Philadelphia. Not much has changed. Over the years, I’ve written about culture, nightlife, nature, traveling abroad and random tidbits. I’ve tried out three hosting platforms, various styles of posts combining images and sometimes longwinded recolections of life events. A few years ago Katie and I teamed up to create a shared journal: Live Seasoned. The quality of past (and not so past) posts and photos sometimes make me cringe, and I probably have more typos living on the web than hairs on my head, but whatevs. I love sharing ideas and starting conversations not only with Kate, but with all of you.

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Here’s what I’ve learned:

Write about what you love – even if everybody ignores it. It happens more often than not. You’ll pour your little soul into a blog post, finish it up at 2am and deem it the best damn thing you’ve ever written. Twelve people will look at it and only four will make it through the entire post. You’ll cringe at the bounce rate, but you’ll do it again next week and your heart will feel happy. Five years from now you’ll get a random email of thanks from a stranger for that blog post and you’ll think, ‘well, at least it has 13 hits now.’

It’s takes effort to be authentic. Just like waking up every morning and striving to be an individual, it does take some effort to remain authentic. You’ll fall into a rut where every post and picture on your IG feed looks the same and you’ll think, ‘oh, maybe I should love pineapples too! Everyone else loves them..’ NO! You do not have to love fucking pineapples, if clementines float your boat, you post about clementines.

Your audience decides which posts do best, you do not. Even if you want everyone to love volunteering, they probably won’t. You want to draw attention to slave labor in Thailand? No one cares. They want what they want. Give it to them, but don’t stop posting about the things that matter to you. If it’s important to you, it’s important to someone else too.

People love the shit out of selfies. Feeling vain every time you post a selfie? No? That’s good because people eat that shit up. You’ll have to get over it. I did. Well, I’m trying. I still grumble about it to friends, but I no longer hide behind my camera, I step in front of it as well and guess what? People love that shit! They want to see you, the voice of the blog, they want to know you, so let them.

Likes mean nothing, but sharing means something. It’s true. Liking a post on social media is great, but it’s the comments, sharing and back-links that give your site traction. Be thankful for all of it, but really let back-linkers, commenters and sharers know how much you appreciate their ongoing support.

You’ll wonder why the fuck you spend so much time writing a blog. You will. There is SO MUCH STUFF on the internet. Sometimes it seems like you’re just throwing more shit on the pile, but as long as it’s good shit, helpful shit, shit that will improve someone’s life in some way, you should keep adding it to the internet. Keep creating.

You may take a teensy break. Or you may stop writing for months at a time. That’s okay. Don’t apologize for it. Life is important, you may get busy living it, but when you have a second, come back to your blog. Your readers missed you and they want to know that you’re still alive.

Be prepared to be googled and judged solely on your blog content. Sometimes I forget that everyone googles. Shit. When you post insanely personal blog posts about breakups and IUD insertion, expect colleagues, clients, long lost friends, people you met randomly for five minutes, and even potential employers to google you and see those posts where you laid it all out there. They will see them and they’ll bring it up in person and it will be awkward as fuck.

You will try to censor yourself. Write, revisit, and re-write, but don’t silence yourself. Feeling vulnerable is completely natural, but we all appreciate truth. Be brave! Also, use spell check.

There are things you could and should be doing to improve your blog. Get over it. Put forth the effort or let it marinate for a bit, but don’t feel bad about your blogging efforts.

Do you. Whatever your blog is, whatever it becomes, you do you. You’re even allowed to curse.

Photo by the lovely Jai Morton.
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