February 8th, 2017 § § permalink
Following an emotionally exhausting political season, the month of love has finally arrived. Let’s welcome, with open arms, the sweet exchange of molten chocolate lava cakes and mysterious handwritten notes. But, amidst it all, let’s not forget to regroup. Perhaps you, during these past few months, have been through a cumulative trauma that has left you feeling a bit rattled. Below are steps to take any time it seems difficult to ignore the injustices all around. Keep the list close by to use anytime you’re feeling glum. It will make you and those around you have a little more hope and faith in humanity.
- Be Nice to Yourself
Take care. Embrace drinking chamomile tea or chocolate muffin milkshakes, but also eat real food—food that is good for you. Watch inspirational episodes of Wonder Woman or Batman. Leave affirming messages on your own phone. Write sappy slogans to yourself and hide them inside cabinet doors. Better yet, post them proudly on your fridge—“I really am amazing!”
Take a break. Go outside. Reconnect with the natural world. Walk to a nearby playground, or head deep into the woods. Search for animal tracks, skip stones on an icy pond, go cloud watching, or start a winter journal. Learn to meditate. Sit still. Breathe.
- Connect with Others
Seek support. Reach out and strengthen connections with your family and community. Join forces. Surround yourself with inspiring people. Hug and be hugged.
- Do Something Helpful and Good
Be nice to someone else. Engage in small acts of kindness. No kind act is too small or too big—give a free ukulele lesson, hand over the best slice of pie, leave a big tip, write an apology letter. Simple, everyday gifts can provide silent strength to all parties. Be thoughtful and purposeful with your giving.
- Create a Vision
Darkness can provide a great backdrop for keen insight. Think constructively, and your brain will soon fill with electrifying ideas. Keep a positive tone and listen to your inner voice. Set short, obtainable goals to pick yourself up and make a personal plan for a day, a month, or a year. Visualize where you’re heading. Get excited about the future.
- Take Action
Roll up your sleeves, step out of your comfort zone, and do something good. Improve your world with your own actions. Just a tiny input from you is enough to get things rolling. Find your voice and use it. Pick a cause and get involved. Call or write a letter to someone important. (HERE is a helpful link.). Make your voice heard. Create something new and useful. Now is the time. Do what you can and do it with gusto.
- Be Patient
Allow yourself to heal. Remember to start simple. Remember that life is a journey.
Train your mind to be grateful. Appreciate your talents, your uniqueness, and your brilliance. Acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of your surroundings and the people around you. And love it all, with all its imperfections.
June 19th, 2014 § § permalink
click on image to play video.
May 15th, 2014 § § permalink
And so, to become even BETTER friends with you (Yes! It’s possible!), I’ve started writing a Mossy Monthly newsletter. Why should you subscribe? Here’s why: Because you’ll get detailed step-by-step instructions for hands-on earthy projects that you won’t see here on my blog. You’ll get announcements that you won’t ever want to miss, special offers and other generally neat stuff.
And… if you sign up for my NEWSLETTER before June 1st, you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE COPY of Ashley English’s newly released beautiful book, HANDMADE GATHERINGS. This book is chock full of practical, creative and fun ideas for seasonal collaborative get-togethers. It is a wonderfully written book filled with fantastic photos and recipes for rhubarb buttermilk bread and quick pickled ramps and chocolate cherry hand pies and homemade root beer, and also tips for entertaining goodness like throwing cakewalks and making mulling spice sachets and homemade candles. And it can be YOURS.
I honestly don’t know how Ashley has time for everything she does, since, in addition to being a mom and writing her heart-stirring blog Small Measure, Ashley has also written THIS delicious book as well as an entire book series including THIS ONE (which I hope to someday have a need for)—all highlighting a mind-blowing mishmash of topics related to small-scale homesteading and environmentally sensible endeavors. Check out her blog where she chronicles her homesteading adventures including bee- and chicken-keeping, canning and preserving, and parenting small people in remote western North Carolina. From basic pie dough to cardamom apple butter, late-summer pickles, goat cheese basil frittata, homemade sunburn soothers and wildflower risotto—Ashley provides all the practical, hold-your-hand basics of the important smallish things in life.
And so, what are you waiting for? Click HERE to subscribe to my Mossy Monthly newsletter.
And tell me IN THE COMMENTS BELOW that you’ve done so. Why? Well, because I love hearing from you.
You will not be disappointed. I promise.
One winner will be chosen at random and must live in the U.S.
And, don’t worry! If you’ve a real planner and happened to sign up for MY NEWSLETTER yesterday, or the day before, or last week or anytime before that, you’re automatically entered in the GIVEAWAY. Yay YOU! I’ve done it for you!
Here’s the link again just in case you missed it: AMAZING NEWSLETTER
And, in the meantime, meet me HERE in Brooklyn this weekend for seedbomb-making and a tour of the Java Street Community Garden. Fun fun!
April 29th, 2014 § § permalink
This past January, deep in the mountains of central Maine, a dear friend of mine suddenly passed away. I am not telling you this to make you sad, I am telling you this because I need you to understand her amazingness. She was like a slice of blue ribbon sour cherry pie—magical and tangy and bold and not fussy at all—and there was never enough of her to go around. She left behind friends, parents, siblings, a sweet husband, a small baby girl, and a school full of eager preschool children.
I met Sam in the fall of 1996. There were roughly a dozen of us working and living together as teachers. I was lucky enough to be chosen as her roommate. Our small wood cabin had twin beds inside separated by a night table, and a guitar in one corner. It was surrounded by woods and ponds and spirited packs of school kids during the day, and stars and owls at night. Sam was possibly the youngest of our bunch, but she quickly established herself as a capable leader and all around rabble-rouser. She oversaw all sorts of social events—extensive scavenger hunts, costumed skits, fireside sing-a-longs—among all of us there were massive week-long games of deception in which personal items were publicly kidnapped and then peculiarly discovered high upon inaccessible rooftops or deep within damp commercial dishwashers. We had fun. We stayed up late. We sang. We laughed. Sam was a natural teacher. She memorized all the lines of The Lorax, collected microscopic critters from pond muck, led wild night hikes in search of Barred owls, and soulfully sang Teach Your Children Well at the week’s end to tearful kids.
Sam loved all that the Earth offered, in every season—spring birdsong, summer rain, fall colors, crisp winter air—its stillness and silence. She approached the world as scientist, teacher, and friend. She celebrated wildness, and she was eager to share her wild love. Sam traveled through the world thoughtfully and intentionally. She moved with all of herself. She put her heart into everything she did. She served as a compass for many.
This past January, a few days after Sam was gone, we started a public page as a tribute to her—Spread Some SamShine—a deep-rooted circle of support to put some Light back into the world. The page swiftly grew from a few close friends to several thousand people doing random acts of kindness for others worldwide—an enthusiastic smile, a compliment, a shared snack, a potted plant—as a celebration of Sam’s life. In the midst of it all, some friends bought handfuls of my books and placed them in good hands—libraries, schools and families—in Sam’s name. With each simple random act of kindness like this, Sam’s extraordinary story was shared. And now it is spring. And here we are. Still helping each other move through these days with love.
Death is a mystery. It is horribly heartbreaking, filled with sleepless nights and unanswerable questions. But death it is also refreshingly truthful. It makes you think about your place in the world.
And that is where I am right now.
And so, what if each one of us celebrates Sam’s life, or someone else’s life, in a powerful way like this? What if we create a precious Shine in which we can see a reflection of ourselves, and also a person we’ve lost? What if each of us travels through the world thoughtfully and intentionally—in appreciation, connection and joy—and spreads some SamShine along the way?
I hope you will take a moment on this fine spring day to love deeply and to quietly spread some SamShine. Leave a note below to let me know. It can be as simple as a hug or a kind word or a lunchbox note. Really anything will do.
March 28th, 2014 § § permalink
Once upon a time, in a land maybe not so far away, there lived a perfectly programmed little kid. And it was you. You were an accomplished creative scientist with just about any convenient medium—crayons, finger paints, mud puddles, noodles—buzzing with ideas and willing to take wondrous risks with your actions and your thoughts. You dazzled the world with your vivid imagination. Discarded cardboard boxes metamorphosed into mailboxes and rocket ships, sofa cushions became modified superhero headquarters, and dirt piles were mountains inhabited by creepy villainous monsters. You broadcast your scientific findings throughout your world. And then, most likely, somewhere along the way, you had to deal with everyday stuff, and your natural creative and experimental tendencies were somehow gobbled up along the way. It is sad but true that an innately inquisitive child such as you could potentially develop into an incurious adult.
Creativity is slippery and difficult to define. It’s not a talent. It’s not just something you think about doing, it’s something you do. It’s a skill—like performing a magic trick—that’s developed and applied. To be creative, you must wander freely, explore without limits, and be open to brand new ideas. Creativity is not confined to the arts—it’s possible to be creative whenever you’re using your brain to tinker with original ideas—whether baking pinwheel cookies or teaching quantitative analysis. You gather information, mess around with productive thoughts, make critical judgments along the way, and craft concepts into their best forms. Creativity is insight—just a clever merging of everyday things. And it’s magical. First, standing before you is nothing. Then voila! There’s something brand new and super sparkly.
Are you still creative? Yes, indeed you are. Your highly developed human brain is a savvy creativity machine. Your brain was built for creative problem solving and can withstand years of innovation squashing. If your brain has gotten a little flabby on its right side, a course of systematic conditioning and stretching can help it “remember” its former creative achievements. Your brain will spring right back to prizewinning shape. It’s easy, even for a rusty grownup.
Let me remind you that you’re a natural problem solver. An earmark on a book page, a paperweight on a stack of notes—you instinctively take opportunities to build simple solutions to problems. Look around and see the cleverness of everyday things—buttons, zippers, pencils, scissors, clips, snaps. Each of these began as an ingenious solution to a problem, and each is ever evolving. There are always problems to be solved. There are always improvements to be made.
Look around and find inspiration in unlikely places—your kitchen, your front porch, your backyard—and jump-start your creative engine. Be a scientist and explorer of things. Look at everything around you as an opportunity for ingenuity. Tinker with odds and ends. Take things apart, study them and test them. Learn what you can. Look at things from all angles to get different perspectives. See the world with fresh eyes. Treat each day as a treasure to unearth, each moment as a secret to discover. Spring back to your previous prizewinning creative self.
Why? Creativity is the heart of a productive world. It is central to understanding how the world works. Fundamentally, science and the creative arts are the same—both interpret and reinterpret the environment—with the particle physicist, the professional pianist, and the preschool painter each expressing a real need to discover and create something brand new—a story about the surrounding world that is whole and beautiful. At the heart of all great science lies creativity. In a quest to make sense of the natural world, the ideal scientists are in constant search of new ideas, innovative solutions to problems and possible explanations for everyday things. And they realize there’s no right or wrong. No coloring within the lines. There is no “perfect”—so, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and create something. Anything will do!
This post of mine can also be found today on the Penguin Blog as a contribution to National Craft Month.
February 13th, 2013 § § permalink
“If you live to be a hundred,
I want to live to be a hundred minus one day
so I never have to live without you.”
December 31st, 2012 § § permalink
It’s a curious thing, winter. All year long we plan our snowman, paper snowflake and snow fort designs, then weather-strip the windows, stack the wood, wax the toboggan, varnish the snowshoes, prime the hot tub, knit a jazzy collection of sleeping caps, and await the slightest sign of it. The first season’s snow is welcomed with heartfelt cheers (unless it occurs during October like the past few years here in the Northeast. Rrrggh!) and nimble steps. The entire family springs into action—equipped within seconds to fight the freeze.
But winter wears out its welcome superfast. The second time the snow falls, happiness at getting snowy may not be quite as enormous as that very first episode. The third time it snows, hurrahs are tempered and the steps are deliberately slower—a prized mitten has been lost, the hot cocoa tin is empty. And by the tenth time, the happiness may be significantly less enormous, until snow begins to offer very little happiness at all, and instead evokes prickling memories of funky wet socks and a bone-penetrating chill.
It’s at this point that alternatives to getting snowy are considered. Energy turns to indoor stuff—the obstacle course, the scavenger hunt, the indoor tent, the box fort—that keep small people busy. Creativity is at its prime—marble mazes, body scrubs, oobleck, felted soap, salt dough, finger puppets, swittens, flipbooks, homemade snow cones—if there’s anything as magnificent as a picnic in a sofa tent in winter, well, I don’t believe you. Unless your posse is not getting along. Then, there is nothing as terrible.
I know this much is true. In the winter, there are days that require getting as far away from the house as possible. If you live within the Hudson Valley like me and you’ve found yourself in a pickle, there are neat places to go—local places that are kid-friendly during those tricky wintery-mix days. Here are just a few:
New York Botanical Garden, Bronx
Spanning 250 acres of Bronx Park, NYBG is home to an amazing collection of cozy indoor greenhouses. Don’t miss the Holiday Train Show (ending January 13th) or the upcoming Tropical Paradise exhibit (January 19th through February 24th) at the Haupt Conservatory.
Hudson River Museum and Planetarium, Yonkers
The largest museum in Westchester County, the HRM complex includes six art galleries, a planetarium and weekend family science programs. Don’t miss the evening planetarium shows or the current exhibition of award-winning children’s book illustrator Jerry Pinkney (ending January 13th).
Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan
A visit the busiest train station in the country can perk up the entire family. Grand Central celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013—honor it with a visit, a slice from Two Boots and an over-the-top chocolate babka from Zaro’s bakery. Now, that’s a party!
Bear Mountain Ice Rink, Stony Point
Show off your inner Michelle Kwan during one of Bear Mountain’s public skating sessions. Rent skates or bring your own for hours of walley jumps and one-foot axels— dramatic crimson red sparkly dress bedazzled with feathered flames is optional. If weather permits, follow up with a post-skate cool down at the nearby trailside museum.
Bronx Zoo, Bronx
Winter is prime-time viewing season for cold-weather animals. Siberian tigers, sea lions, snow leopards and polar bears consider winter weather ideal. Warm up afterward with hot cocoa at the Dancing Crane Café.
Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah
This magical gem situated in the midst of an evergreen forest has 10 to 12 beautifully curated exhibitions each year. Its children’s activity center allows space for budding young artists to explore and create their own work. It’s just a 10-minute walk from the Katonah train station—the perfect day trip. Don’t miss the current exhibit on 3D animation featuring original drawings, storyboards, props and movie clips from Blue Sky Studios (ending January 20th).
December 13th, 2012 § § permalink
I sit on the edge of everything.
There is nothing sudden.
Everything is slow.
We stretch like taffy.
And then you’re gone.
So silent I hear just your footsteps.
Dragging around my heart.
Letting handlebars go.
Flying off stonewalls.
Meeting people I may never know.
I am the red balloon.
I made this.
I made this moment.
I am the queen of small wild girls.
Held by just a string.
June 11th, 2012 § § permalink
I think some people are born magicians
Hatching artful diversions
While we watch dazed
The bullet catch
The cabinet escape
The elastic lady
Seamless 5-ball cascade juggling
We stare mouths open
My firecracker friend Jenny is magical like this.
And now for the next trick!
Fava bean crostini
I am so blown away.
She has written it all down.
Voila! It’s HERE!
May 7th, 2012 § § permalink
When I am an old woman, thin white crazy hair like whispers, I will wear electric green. Today I walk in the woods—your smallish calloused hand in mine. You say someday you’ll live here. In a cave. I will visit you and bring berries.
Long before you were here, we ran wild deep into the trees, and cut willow whips and made critter traps with pocketknives and hatchets. We skateboarded home, poison ivy all up our arms, tadpoles in hand, helmet-less. We piled into old 8-track tape rust wagons, small brown limbs and inner tubes everywhere, no seatbelts, no sunscreen. Heads out of windows like pups licking air.
You are amazed.
But we did not crash. We did not die.
Don’t use your teeth, you will crack them, I say. Wash your hands. Don’t fall. Don’t throw rocks. Zip up. Watch your thumb. Check for ticks. Don’t poke your eye out.
Today we laugh, you say, mouths open wide. Today we climb the highest tree, higher than any squirrel, and lean our bare backs against the bark. And listen for waxwings. Way up there. Today and tomorrow we do not care.
You say great ideas come from great walks.
And just like that you have changed me.