Friday, July 7, 2017

Recommended with July

Appalachia country | America the beautiful

Happy birthday, America!  You're a beautiful country with innovative people who are the most generous in the world.  There will always be plenty of work to be done in better caring for the tired, poor, and huddled masses, and I am still proud of the good you do do.  Keep moving forward, Americans.  Love trumps hate.
Here's a favorite video of a slice of American culture: the cast of STOMP + The Harlem Globe Trotters

And a different side of America: Superman vs the Ku Klux Klan actually happened

Encouragement for today: "If we celebrated growing and getting healthy as much as we did perfection, it would be a lot easier to get help." 

How to moonwalk, in gifs

For at least a year now, I've been having trouble sleeping through the night.  Stress and blue light from my phone are big factors for me, and I've used a little calming yoga and a magnesium supplement to help me sleep better.  Here are some other great tips for getting your mind and body to rest at night.

Sara Tasker from Me & Orla wrote a very poignant post about Living with Less + Trust. "For a lot of us, it’s the fear of not having enough that makes us hold onto things."

Also from Sara: "What this has made me realise is, people’s emotions are not really an indicator of their strength.  It is a fallacy and a joke to believe that suppressing our true feelings is in some way admirable; that faking the same state of consciousness at all times is the best representation of a  healthy mind."

Your daily dose of cuteness: Puppy training and 3D printed cat armor

Friday, June 23, 2017

Water the flowers, not the weeds

A small clover bouquet | water the flowers, not the weeds
Much of this year has been a time of unrest for me, of distress, panic, fear, and vulnerability without comfort.  In the midst of this, a massage therapist shared with me that meditation could be helpful, and that led me to browsing the website of Ziva Mind, which she had recommended.  While I never did sign up for their subscription, I did find this one phrase that stuck out for me and brought fresh breath to my spirit.

Water the flowers, not the weeds.

When your days seem effortless and you're filled to the brim with thankfulness,
treasure these seasons of happiness.

When your control of situations slips with your grip,
dwell on where you are steady and secure.

When everything is something to complain about,
hunt for the blessings you haven't noticed yet.

Now this phrase just assumes that there are flowers with the weeds, which I wanted to point out.  There is something beautiful and worthy of gratefulness, no matter where you are.  I have yet to come across a story where that isn't true.  If you're where I was a few months ago, take heart.  When we dwell on the negative, it grows larger and stronger, even if it's just in our perspectives.  The same happens for the good when we dwell on it.

This is something I haven't taken to heart and action completely yet, but I know it will only benefit myself and others to focus on the positive and to allow that mindset to bring buoyancy to every area of my life.  To help with this, I have picked up meditation.  I'm nowhere close to being good at it, but just like yoga, it's something that you get better at with time, and even when you suck at it, it already has benefits to offer.  I plan on writing a post soon with some first impressions and ideas for getting started with meditation.

My question for you

How do you stay buoyant in your life?  In your crappy and straight up awful situations?  What keeps you strong or calm or persistent?  If you could start getting things right much earlier, what advice would you share with yourself?

You can see the page where I found this maxim here along with some great advice on managing holiday and travel stress.

Friday, May 5, 2017

How to introduce yourself to Bollywood

I know that my blog doesn't usually cover film in any respect, but Bollywood movies are something that bring me great happiness, and I'd love to spread the joy!  

The genre is large and overwhelming even without being a clueless foreigner, so I wanted to share short reviews of the movies I've watched and give some recommendations for potential entry drugs movies.  Be aware: the plots can sometimes get flimsy, the reactions dramatic, and the dance numbers infectious.  The style, messages, and themes are different from what I'm used to in the USA, but they're also so often beautiful and exciting.  For me, Bollywood is a perfect small escape to a new world full of color and life.  I hope you'll check some of these out, and if you do, let me know what you think!

Ram Leela | 5/5 stars

I first fell in love with this movie from the music.  It would show up on my Bollywood Pandora channel, I would swoon, and favorite song after song from the soundtrack.  When I finally got around to watching it, it was a complete experience!  This movie is saturation with the color, culture, and tradition of India while telling a classic Romeo and Juliet story.  (For a brief but mind blowing introduction to the bold and exciting main male character, check out this entrance dance number.)  It might be a bit long and in depth for a first-timer, but after you've worked yourself up to enjoying Bollywood, definitely make it to watching this one.

Friday, April 7, 2017

My new hobby: Foraging!

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If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen a lot more foliage popping up in the pictures I share lately.  Along with music, writing, and many styles of dance, I've recently added foraging to my collection of hobbies!

It all started last fall when two friends of mine mentioned some Atlanta folks who had found some chantrelle mushrooms in local parks.  I had never heard of anyone eating wild food like that, and definitely not mushrooms, but when I realized there were tasty mushrooms hanging around outside, just waiting to be eaten (and that they were free!) I was immediately interested.  Mushrooms are one of my top favorite foods, and being able to find my own sounded really exciting.

The only problem was, I didn't know how to get started.  And if you do any research on where to start looking for wild mushrooms, the internet will tell you very fast that seasoned mushroom hunters do not share their foraging spots.  They want to keep their crops to themselves, period.

Once I realized I had to be self-sufficient in learning how to forage, I bought Mushrooms Demystified and set myself to memorizing identifying traits of easy beginner mushrooms and figuring out where around Atlanta they might be hiding in season.

Turns out, there is pretty much no chance of finding edible mushrooms in the winter, which is just when I got started.  I went out hunting so many times with no success because of the cold weather and because I was looking for mushrooms that are a lot more rare than I expected them to be.  I actually became quite discouraged and was thinking about giving up on mushroom hunting until the fall when I knew some other varieties would be springing up in the city.

Around this time, I started looking into foraging hashtags on Instagram and coming across a lot of accounts of folks who had a lot of info to share about wild edibles.  Once I found some people who were located in the Southeast, I started to get a more realistic perspective of what I could expect to find in my area and when I could expect it.  Having their pictures show up on my feed brought back my excitement and my drive to find all these exciting things I could eat from the outdoors.

Soon after, I found out about a foraging ramble hosted by a small local farm.  Chris and Isia of the Cracks in the Sidewalk Farmlet invited the community to their farm to wander the grounds and learn about all the foragables that come in the spring.  I spent my own money (!!) to learn from them, I took copious notes, and I had a great time.

Spending time with Chris and Isia on their farm was the perfect catalyst to a more relaxed perspective on foraging.  Instead of feeling like I have to work hard to find specific treasures, I learned that there are edibles in my own backyard, available for the picking when I want to spend the time picking them.  Having the knowledge of what's edible near me lets me enjoy walking and looking around my neighborhood and seeing what's available.  Hunting for specific edibles is great, too, but it wasn't until I let go of that intense drive that I actually found what I'd originally been looking for: morel mushrooms.

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I found them just two blocks from my house!  I couldn't believe it!  After about a month of weekend walks in the woods, of staying low to the ground and of thinking "maybe I don't like this very much after all," these mushrooms revealed themselves while my sister and I were sauntering along with absolutely no agenda.  I completely freaked out when I saw them, to the point of cussing, which is a rare thing for me.  Thankfully, my sister had her phone with her, so we could capture this moment of glorious success and serendipity.

I couldn't believe my luck!  And while I'd love to try and find some more in the parks I'd been looking in earlier in the year, I might let myself be satisfied with what I have this time.  My backyard has so many violets, henbit, cleaver, dandelion, chickweed, and probably even more that I could use in salads, and I think I'm going to be happy with that.

Foraging resources for beginners 

Instagram accounts to follow:

MylesJonesProject (Georgia)
Free State Forager (Mississipi)
farma_cee (Appalachia)
Foraging and Feasting (USA)
Wild Food Love (USA)

Herb Inc Alabama (Alabama)
Organic and Wild (Michigan)
Yellow Elanor (Pacific Northwest)
Real Wild Thing (Ontario)
Foraged and Found Edibles (Northeast + Seattle)

Atlanta resources:

Homestead Atlanta | An organization that highlights primitive and homestead skill workshops
Concrete Jungle | A map of foragables on public land
ForageATL | This page has a monthly list of medicinal foragables.
Mushroom Club of Georgia


Women's Heritage | "Bringing elements of the homestead to every day life"
Stone Axe Herbals | Blogging through homesteading

Other resources:

Falling Fruit |  An international site showing you available edibles in your area (similar to Concrete Jungle)

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Monday, February 27, 2017

One tip for being more effective in social change: Remember the bell curve

Image by Rebecca Monahan via Unsplash

Chances are, you've probably seen some excitement happening on social media these past few months.  You've probably seen a lot more politics cropping up in all over your social media.  Maybe you've even had some of these conversations in real life.  What I can guarantee you, though, is that you've come across people you don't agree with.  In fact, you've almost certainly talked with people who you believe are downright wrong.  I know I have, and it's made me very, very frustrated.

The problem comes with deciding what to do about it.  I've always enjoyed arguing with my peers, even when I didn't know how to argue well or fairly.  Even now, sometimes I just want to shout out what I believe to be true just to try and convince them to see things the way I see them.  I mean, I truly believe I am right and that it would benefit all these people to be blessed with my perspective.  I've got the facts, I've got the history, and I've got the rhetoric (sometimes).  Wouldn't the world just be so much better if they could listen and see what I have to say?

^ Surely I'm not the only one who thinks like this, and now that I've got us all on the same page, I want to step back and look at what we have and look at the other, more important facets of this conversation.

Regardless of whether you're bringing the most beautiful piece of truth to the world or not, your message isn't the crux of this situation.  What you have to say doesn't matter most.  What matters most is how receptive your audience is.

The Bell Curve

Back in 2015, my church hosted a panel discussion about the Ferguson protests and racial tensions in America.  I learned a lot that evening, and I want to share this one piece of the discussion that has stuck with me and that I've returned to so often since that night.

Whenever a new technology is introduced to society, it always has a gradual adoption.  A small few who were in the know and who loved their music bought the first walkmans.  They slowly caught on and then a huge amount of walkmans were seen on the streets, in parks, and in the backseat of family cars.  After the rush died down, there were still a few stragglers who wanted to get their walkmans, too, so a smaller number brought up the rear of the introduction of the walkman to normal, commonplace use.  The same thing happened with the iPod, then the iPhone, and the same thing also happens with social change and perspectives.

You can see this bell curve in many areas of society.  The shift away from legal, and then away from any slavery.  The shift toward better nutrition.  The shift toward mandatory vaccinations.  Hopefully we're just at the beginning of a bell curve toward organic and sustainable farming.  It starts with a smaller number of people, then comes the swell, and then it tapers out as the last few folks come on board.

I've found it very helpful to to keep the bell curve in mind when debating, because it plays a large part in who is going to be receptive to your message.  For a practical example, let's pretend you're a civil rights activist in the '70s.  If you're trying to change the minds of the world toward viewing, treating, and respecting all people the same regardless of their skin, the people you're talking to about this progress fall into three categories.  Some of the population is already 100% on board with you or will agree with you very quickly.  A large majority will adopt this perspective a little later but they're also at least somewhat open to hearing about the change even before they themselves change.  Finally, another smaller number will change much, much later or maybe not at all.

While we'd love for everyone to adopt the practice of equality right away, the way you can be most effective and spread your message quickest is if you focus your efforts on the first and second groups of people.  When you find someone who fits into the third category, no matter what you tell them or how to say it, they are just not ready to listen.  We still want those hearts to be won, but that third group will take the most time and energy.  Knowing that ahead of time will hopefully show you where you might need or want to adjust so you aren't just spinning your wheels in conversation.

In Practice

Instead of discouraging you from speaking with anyone around you, I want to encourage you to speak to those who are ready to listen.   Haters are gonna hate, but you have waves to make! Stay focused, stay buoyant, and when you do come across a hater, don't let it get you down.  There are so many more people who are ready to listen to what you have to say.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Simple printable calendars for 2017

For me, each new year brings around the search for the perfect calendar.  My tastes have gotten more and more specific: beautiful, simple and clean WITH space for writing in appointments AND come as free online printables.  (Why pay if you don't have to, you know?)  It's not as easy to find the likes of these around the internet these days, but if your aesthetic is similar to mine, you're going to love the four I've found!

#1 life in eight - This blog also shares free weekly planner printables.

#2 Foreign Rooftops - The author does require you to subscribe to her newsletter to download the calendar printables, but I consider that worth it.  This one's my favorite of the bunch!

#3 ink+volt - This is the calendar I've printed for myself, just because of the extra space it has for writing.  I did edit the downloadable pdf, though, to take off some of the branding and clutter around the edges.  The calendars are downloadable in 3-month increments, and there's also a printable goal planner worksheet.

#4 Alice & Lois - You have to write in the numbers for each month, but that means you can use this same template next year again without having to search for a new printable!  There's also a handy To Do List section on the right of each of the landscape pages.  (I might switch to using this one in the spring.)

Have you come across any other minimalist calendars to add to the mix?  Did I miss any?  Let us know in the comments, and I hope the rest of your January is lovely.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Reflection & 2017 Projection

Like every year, 2016 brought new struggles and new joys.  My very, very lowest struggles came along with unexpected breakthroughs which made them, eventually, surmountable.  My new adventures had dark clouds and silver linings.  For me, this is nothing new, and I want to remember always that to every thing there is a season (note, "a season," not "an eternity").  I don't want to belittle anyone else's 2016, I know some very terrible things happened this year, but terrible things happen every year.  Great things do, too.

One of the best things of 2016 for me was going to couples counseling for the first time.  It didn't look hardly anything like Caleb or I expected, and there were some serious shocks and twists and highs and lows.  Honestly, couples counseling didn't last as long as I thought or hoped it would, but it made a good change in our relationship that further unfolded as the weeks and conflicts and resolutions rolled on.  I am so thankful we both were brave enough to ask for help, professional help, in making our marriage better.  It's working.

The one thing I hope to change for next year isn't much of a change, but a stronger pursuit.  More fervor.  More passion for what matters and more discernment about what does, in fact, matter.  It's just this past year that's brought the importance, gravity, and consequence (the mattering, if you will) of self care to the forefront of my mind (or to any part of my mind, really).  It's brought in a wild change to my lifestyle, and I've done things I never would have predicted.  I donated what I think I can honestly say was about half of the clothes I own and besides jeans and underwear, I've only purchased secondhand clothes since the spring.  Another big leap forward was saying "no" to a special family holiday gathering.  I'd realized that the large amount travel I'd been doing had been a great toll on my body and that I needed a break from so many large people-oriented events and I needed to take care of the house before hosting the day after the family gathering.  So I said no.  (It's a scary thing to say no to your mother-in-law about such things.  Thank God for my understanding mother-in-law.)

I hope that I continue to stand up for myself, to tend to my body, to speak well of myself in my own thoughts, to say no when I don't want to do something, to say yes when I should, and to nurture the parts of me that require extra attention.

Parts of me that require extra attention right now and parts that are in progress, with methods of self care listed below:
  • my spiritual life
    • reading invigorating books that inspire more love and affection for Yahweh, consistent attendance at church and Bible studies, daily and thoughtful and honest prayer, discussion with intimate friends (this last one is a goal for me and isn't in practice yet)
  •  my physical strength and bodily health
    • daily yoga (but also grace for myself when I really can't), regular chiropractor & massage appointments, maybe finding a dance class to join, a daily regimen of vitamins and (ugh) flossing, daily sunscreen and continued skincare
  • my emotional strength and agility
    • regular individual counseling, reading and journaling about regulating my own emotions and expressing them differently, fortifying my acceptance of my feelings for what they are and rooting out secondary feelings of shame associated with feeling, identifying my inner critic and shutting her up with better things worth saying and hearing
  • my peripheral activities (I have no idea what to call this section, but basically I want to cut out the things that don't serve me in all other areas and instead clutter my life)
    • maintain a minimal wardrobe filled only with clothing I enjoy, don't go to events I don't want to go to or that I don't have time/space for, devote less time and energy to social media (because it never invests as much into me... it's a very one-sided relationship), do invest into real-life relationships (e.g. letters!  phone calls!  friend dates!  etc.!), read more dangit, go dancing more dangit, invite people to my home and other events more dangit
The "too long, didn't read" version: cut out what doesn't give life to me (looking at you, Instagram), and gorge myself on what does.

If you've come to any new conclusions or have resolutions for yourself, I'd love to hear.  If you have any encouragement for me, I'd also love to hear that, because I know this journey isn't going to be easy.  I mean, look at that list of methods!  I'm already nervous I'm not going to make it through Yoga with Adriene's Revolution: 31 days of Yoga (it just started today).  If you're feeling any of these things above and want to join me, be my partner and let's do it together.  You and me.  Let me know where we're matching up, and also what you'd like encouragement in, and let's do this year.