Category: Lessons Learned (Page 1 of 2)

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life is too short. // election thoughts.

Yesterday I got my haircut. The only other customer was 99 year-old May.

May was tiny and withdrawn; a living contrast to the extravagantly decorated salon. Her daughter and the hairdresser helped her into the chair. She said little, just watched herself in the mirror. The hairdresser chattered away, unnoticed.

After a while, May interrupted distractedly. She read, slowly and intently, from a printed quote on the hairdresser’s mirror: “Life is too short to be anything but happy.” 

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I’m a tortoise, not a hare.

Best training run ever!

Best training run ever!

I sped causally down the valley, warm wind in my face, David close behind me. It felt good to bike for once without my commuter saddle-bags weighing me down. It was Sunday and we were enjoying an easy 20-mile ride.

An easy 20-mile ride. I pondered the odd novelty of the phrase, the ease with which I now categorized such a workout. Easy.

Five years ago I wouldn’t go to the gym for more than twenty minutes. Four miles was my personal running limit. I was too terrified to ride a bike.

And yet, last month I ran my first marathon.What changed?

As I switched gears to pump up hill, the Tortoise and the Hare children’s story popped into my head.

It’s seems the classic “found my potential” story, but it’s not.

I didn’t run the marathon because I found my potential. I ran it because I stopped putting limits on my potential. I stopped thinking I had to be a hare, and started being a tortoise.

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my kitchen is a science lab.

Fermentation is kind of awesome.

During fermentation natural yeasts and bacteria break carbohydrates down into alcohols and acids.

Did you know that a third of the foods we eat are a result of fermentation? Beer, wine, ketchup, hot sauce, salami, cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut, soy sauce, chocolate (!) are just a few.

For a long time we’ve raged war on yeasts and, especially, bacteria. We kill them with cleaners and sanitizers, afraid of the small percentage that threatens our wellbeing. It’s true, there are some nasty bugs out there that we should take seriously, but a majority of the invisible organisms living in the air around us are harmless and, we’re now realizing, very good for us.

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cowspiracy: a lesson in naivety.

The newest calf! - Photo Cred: David

I’ve always struggled with vegetarianism.

In college I tried to stop eating meat, several times. As an environmental science undergrad, the more I learned about food systems, the more I felt compelled to convert. I had a burning desire to succeed, almost as if my morality depended on it, but I never found the resolve.

So I tried, failed, tried again, failed again, etc.

Over time, I’ve come across three main arguments for renouncing animal protein:

  1. Humans were meant to be herbivores
  2. Eating other living things is ethically deplorable
  3. Factory farms are terrible

I’m not an anthropologist, but I simply don’t buy the herbivore argument. I seriously struggle with the carnivore sin idea. I love animals, I’ve raised them, and I’ve slaughtered them – maybe some people think it’s insensitive, but I still (very much) like to eat them. The factory farm angle I can get behind 100%… but on just that foundation, it’s very, very difficult to refuse a juicy, grass-fed burger and fatty, free-range bacon.

No argument has successfully managed to turn me off the omnivore path, despite my noble aspirations – until now (sort of).

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Is Instagram apathetic? #ActForNature

(Preemptive apologies to my non-Instagram readers.)

Let’s address the elephant in our collective virtual room:
Why do we spend endless hours photographing nature but very few actually defending it?

Social media is famous for its ability to escalate social movements for change. Consider the Egyptian Uprising, #Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, #BringBackOurGirls, and the #IceBucketChallenge for a start. But all of these movements were/are centered on Twitter, with Facebook as a sidekick. What about Instagram?*

This fall, Socality Barbie brought Instagram’s #liveauthentic movement’s artificiality into light. The press went wild, attacking the culture for it’s glaringly obvious inauthenticity. In my favorite article, Hilary Oliver argues compellingly that the #liveauthentic culture is a cry for meaning from the millennials’ that stems from our suburban, programmed, and privileged childhoods (read here).

These criticisms are fair, but I’d like to add my own.

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why you should just pack up and go.

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As a culture we plan far too much. Our calendars are so full of appointments, meetings, workouts, deadlines, and coffee dates that if we lost them we wouldn’t know where to turn. My life in college was a prime example. I was in so many groups, had so many jobs, and juggled so many assignments that I sometimes felt like a robot, trudging through my calendar and to-do list without thought.

The road trip was a big, dramatic way for me to turn this around; it was a huge success. We crossed the country without a plan. No deadline, no itinerary, no destination. Just each other, a general direction, all materials we might need, and an atlas. The result of this approach was that we never felt rushed, we were able to thoroughly enjoy the places and moments we loved and rush through those that weren’t jiving so well. The lessons I gained from these experiences have transferred into my stationary life – I’m more flexible, spontaneous, and present than before. I hope my “How to Travel Spontaneously” tips can help your next adventure provide you with the same.

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dear minimalism: can I have my home back?

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Back in March I wrote this post about minimalism. I told you that “stuff is just stuff” and that “as a culture we’re drowning in the chaos of our material lives, in our anxiety about getting rid of anything we might possibly regret.”

Then, a few days later, I took a step back and revised my original statement in this post. I argued that not all stuff is just stuff. A lot of material goods are useful to have (like tools, kitchen supplies, etc). I decided that if even if I’m moving towards a minimalist lifestyle I shouldn’t feel guilty about keeping items that I actually use on a regular basis.

When I minimized my life last spring I was preparing to move across the country. Everything had to go that wasn’t a necessity, there simply wasn’t space for anything frivolous. I won’t lie – it felt really great. I felt all the feelings that minimalist spokespersons tell us we’ll feel – liberated, less stressed, calmer, etc.

But then I moved into my new apartment last month and unpacked. Now I take back something I said in my first post about minimalism. I claimed that “For the record: I’ve never regretted getting rid of anything.” That’s no longer true.

I miss a lot of the useless stuff I left behind. 

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how to make moving less formidable.

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The door closed behind my boyfriend. Then, suddenly, it was that moment. My stomach dropped into my shoes, my heart started racing, my head started spinning. I collapsed onto the couch and started sobbing uncontrollably. It was the moment I had been dreading, the moment when a single thought crossed my mind and sent me over the edge: What if we’ve made a terrible mistake?

I’m horrible with transitions, I always have been. The beginning of every semester of college was a nightmare for me. I don’t know why I thought moving across the country would be any easier. This moment was inevitable.

After college David and I lived in our little college town and worked jobs that were just okay in a place that was losing its glamour for us. We had really bad wanderlust. So we made a plan. In the spring we’d quit our jobs, get rid of all of our stuff, and drive west until we found a town we fell in love with. We did all of those things. After two and a half months on the road we found ourselves in a sublet in Durango, CO.

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biking always terrified me.

Confession time.

Biking always terrified me. The fear was born at the beginning – I didn’t learn how to bike until I was seven years old, which to me was always horrifically embarrassing. I got my first nice bike when I was around ten from LL Bean, I loved it (dude, it was pink) but I didn’t really have anywhere to ride it. I lived out in the country surrounded by a combination of dirt roads perfect for my brothers’ BMX bikes and paved roads full of crazy traffic that I wasn’t allowed on. So I rarely rode. I quickly grew out of that bike and I never got a new one.

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Where were these awesome balance bikes when I was a kid?!

My first week in college I realized that Dickinson had a bike rental program. Awesome! Especially since I didn’t have a car. My new roommate and I decided to take a ride to Walmart with a new friend to get some decorations for our room. I forgot that it had been nearly a decade since I’d pedaled anything. The second I swung on to the crappy rental I realized how awkward I felt. I completely wiped out on the way there. That’s probably on the list of my life’s most embarrassing moments.

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endearing and useless: splitting with the teardrop.

I have a soft spot for endearing things. I’m not talking about kittens, daisies, and tiny shoes for infants (though I coo at those things too, don’t get me wrong). Rather, I’m referring to antiques and antique-like-things. It’s a trait I get from my mother. When I was a child my mother used to frequent yard sales and bring home endearing pieces of furniture and decorations. It drove my dad mad. But I get it. I also love creating an environment that’s charming and whimsical. If I can create it from used, cheap items – hey, all the better.

Especially when I think said items have the potential to be practical. I love keeping and acquiring items that may, eventually, have a purpose. Though, as I’ve previously stated, I’m working on this habit – trying to acquire only things that have actually demonstrated usefulness. Like antique sewing machines… and teardrop trailers…

But it’s hard.

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