Dec 2, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Days 9-30

Well, November ended up REALLY getting away from me. But because I have so, so much to be thankful for - and because I want to move onto a new blog topic for the month of December - I thought I better finish out this list. Here we go, in no particular order:

9. My brother - I'm thankful for the coolest little brother in the world and the amazing experience of watching him become a father for the first time.

10. My extended family - I'm so lucky to be surrounded by so many interesting, compassionate, and passionate people who I would CHOOSE to be around even if they weren't related to me.

11. My childhood home - It's amazing that I grew up in a space that has always welcomed family and friends with open arms, a clean bed, and some good company. I am especially grateful that I was also able to get married in this home just a couple weeks ago.

12. The written word - It sustains me, it makes me feel alive, it brings me peace.

13. Being able to enjoy nature on a regular basis.

14. Family vacations.

15. My nieces and nephews - I'm discovering that being an aunt is one of the most awesome roles I've ever had in life.

16. Old friends who love me no matter what.

17. New friends who keep me going when I'm living so far away from my family.

18. The roof over my head. It's something I really try to not take for granted.

19. Technology, especially its ability to keep me connected, informed, and inspired.

20. Having the freedom to marry the man I love. One day, I hope anyone in the world will be able to marry the person he or she loves. Period.

21. Airplanes. Seriously. Living so far away from my family is hard for me, but knowing that I can get on a plane and be home in 6 or 7 hours gives me a comfort that sustains me when I'm feeling most homesick.

22. My colleagues. I have the opportunity to work with so many incredible people.

23. Becoming a vegan. It's one of the best things I've done for my health and well-being in recent years. It also doesn't hurt that I'm helping out the planet and living out some important values - like compassion - in the process.

24. My car. Living on the outskirts of a sprawling metropolis makes me appreciate the freedom my car gives me. Ideally, I'd be able to ride my bike or walk everywhere I needed or wanted to, but until that happens, I'll take my little car.

25. My education. Today at the graduation ceremony for the college I work with, we were reminded that less than 30% of all Americans have a bachelor's degree and less than 3% have a doctorate degree. Education is a privilege many people never have the opportunity to pursue, and I work hard to live out the belief that with great privilege comes great responsibility.

26. Changing seasons. I grew up in a place where the seasons don't change that much and one of the things I love about where I live now is the way the seasons change. It reminds me that beauty comes in many different forms, that life is cyclical, and that sunshine always comes after the rain.

27. Forgiveness.

28. Gratitude.

29. Love.

30. All the other people, places, experiences, and ideas that enrich me, sustain me, and remind me that this life really is an incredible journey.

Nov 8, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day Eight - My Students

I've had the opportunity to teach so many incredible young people through the years. The lessons they've taught me, the humility and strength they've given me, and the undeniable ways in which they've changed me make me commited always to working in the educational field.

Today marks the five-year anniversary of one of their deaths. That day, five years ago, and the aftermath that followed, altered my world and forever impacted my perspective on the deep importance of doing meaningful work in this life. To that end, I thought I'd share a paragraph from the acknowledgements section of my first book on education that recognizes these young people:

And lastly, thank you to all the students throughout the years who have crossed my path and reminded me that this work matters. A special thanks goes out to all those students who, during a particularly difficult year of tragedy a few years back, proved to me time and time again the strength, resiliency, and compassion of our youth. You are my inspiration. You are my why.

Nov 7, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day Seven - My Love

I'll keep this brief and fairly vague because he doesn't like me writing about him online, but I'd be remiss if I didn't dedicate one day to the man I share my life with. His patience, gentleness, intelligence, humor, support, and love make me thankful a thousand times over each and every day. I know every morning when I wake up and every night when I fall asleep that I am blessed beyond measure to be walking through life beside him.

Nov 6, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day Six - Sunny Days

There's just something about the sunshine that makes me want to get up and move. I grew up in a place with abundant sunshine, and I think it took me moving to another part of the country to truly appreciate those days when I wake up and the sun is there to greet me - streaming through my bedroom window, warming me up when I walk outside, and reminding me that there are forces much greater than you and I at play in this universe. As the days get shorter and winter settles in, I'm more thankful than ever for those days when the sun fills my day with its warmth and glow.

Nov 5, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day Five - My Health

I'm thankful for my health. I'm thankful for a body that lets me move freely, run long distances, and hug the ones I love. I'm thankful for a mind that can remember important moments in my life, solve problems, and think critically about the world in which I live.

Today I helped a friend move into a new apartment. It was my body that allowed me to pack up and pick up boxes, run down stairwells, drive a car full of stuff, unload boxes, move heavy furniture... you get the picture. And it was my mind that reminded me that helping a friend move was a meaningful way to start off my weekend - a little act of kindness to someone who has been a great friend since the day we met.

Being thankful for the health of the body and mind I've been given makes it so much easier to accept me for me. It also makes it easier to make healthy choices in my daily life - whole foods over junk, exercise over watching tv, rest and sleep over excessive work. Sometimes, all we need to be thankful is a little shift in perspective.

Nov 4, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day Four - Clean Drinking Water

I'm thankful for clean drinking water. It's something that's so easy to take for granted if we have it. But the reality is that it's a privledge not afforded to all. UNICEF publishes some pretty alarming stats on the number of people who go without clean driking water every day. Depressing stuff, really. But the flipside is the hope that comes from seeing so many people and organizations who work tirelesly - day in and day out - to bring clean drinking water to those who don't have it. It's a worthy cause, to say the least.

On a completely different note, it amazes me how so many of us who DO have access to clean drinking water every day neglect to drink enough of it. Water is a powerful resource and so, so beneficial to our physical and mental health. A short list of some of the benefits of drinking water can be found here. Check it out if you're so inclined.

As I'm reflecting this month on all the things, people, ideas, places, feelings, etc. I'm thankful for, I'm seeking balance between the obvious and the less-obvious parts of my life. And as I was sitting down to enjoy a tall glass of water with my vitamins this morning, I couldn't help but see the ways in which this thankfulness exercise is already altering my outlook on things.

Cheers to that.

Nov 3, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day Three - College Friends

I'm spending the month of November reflecting on and writing about things I'm thankful for. Inspired to chart your own thankfulness journey? Leave a comment in the comments section below and I'll make sure to stop by your blog for some inspiration. :)

I'm thankful for my college friends. We are a close-knit, diverse group of women who were lucky enough to all be housed together as college freshmen. We bonded instantly, lived together for the better part of four years, and saw each other through some of the most transformational years of our lives to date.

All these years later, I still feel like my college friendships are some of the strongest in my life. Time and circumstances have created physical space between us, but whenever we have the opportunity to get together it's like no time has passed at all. They serve as a powerful reminder that it's not important to have "a certain number of people in your life, just a number of people you can be certain of."

It's comforting to have people in your world who knew you when...

Nov 2, 2011

Do Something Today That Your Future Self Will Thank You For

Start an exercise program.
Commit to eating more whole, plant-based foods.
Forgive someone for a past mistake.
Forgive yourself.
Take that leap of faith and start your own business.
Help revive an existing one.
Believe in yourself.
Believe in others.
Reach out a hand.
Smile more.
Become important in the life of a child.
Speak up for yourself.
Speak up for someone else who can't.
Listen more.
Love more.
Dream more.
Live more.

Nov 1, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day Two - My Parents

I'm spending the month of November reflecting on and writing about things I'm thankful for. Inspired to chart your own thankfulness journey? Leave a comment in the comments section below and I'll make sure to stop by your blog for some inspiration. :)

I have really awesome parents. Seriously, I do. I have a dad who will call me at 6 in the morning, excitement ringing in his voice, just to tell me about something he recently read that he thinks I need to know about. And I have a mom who will spend an entire weekend rock climbing with me and a bunch of other 20 and 30-something women.

My parents have taught me some of the most important lessons through the examples they live every day. My dad has taught me, time and time again, to always seek new horizons. He's continued to pursue creative ventures, take risks, and live from his heart. And my mom has instilled in me the importance of taking care of myself and my health. I eat well because she eats well and I exercise daily because she has always set that example for me.

When I was a child, my parents had a way of always making me feel like my goals and aspirations mattered. And as I've become an adult, their unwavering support in my journey through this life makes me, above all else, incredibly thankful.

So as I walk through life, I feel indebted to them always. On my best days, I hope to live out their values and make them proud. And during those times when I stumble, I know that they'll be there to help pick me up and carry me through to brighter days. They've shown me the most unselfish type of love. Always and without condition. So, so thankful...

Oct 31, 2011

Thirty Days of Thankfulness: Day One - Sailing

I'm spending the month of November reflecting on and writing about things I'm thankful for. Inspired to chart your own thankfulness journey? Leave a comment in the comments section below and I'll make sure to stop by your blog for some inspiration. :)

I'm thankful that I spent a lot of time as a child on a sailboat. I think the time instilled in me a deep love of the water and an appreciation for all things natural. When many 18-month-olds were at home in pack-and-play contraptions, I was jumping off the bow of my family's small sailboat and swimming to shore. I was spending days upon days with my toes in the sand and my hair in the wind.

My family wasn't wealthy when I was growing up, but my parents always made a point of putting what money they did have towards what they valued most - and one of these things just happened to be giving us experiences sailing. We even lived on our 27-foot sailboat in Florida for a short time. And we spent the better part of our weekends when living in Florida exploring the intercostal waterways. My family remains close-knit to this day and I think that's in small part due to the fact that when by brother and I were growing up we spent so much time together in close quarters with our parents on a boat.

To this day, there's nothing - absolutely nothing - that makes me feel at peace the way being on a sailboat does. Hearing nothing but the waves lapping and seeing nothing but the endless horizon just calms me to the core. And it lets me know that no matter how far I may travelhe from the ocean, eventually I'll always be drawn back to one of my very first loves.

So I'm thankful to my parents for always valuing simple experiences and family time above the latest fashions or the most extravagant vacations.

The Simplicity of Solitude

Contentment in solitude does not come naturally to me. I grew up in a loud family with noise, company, and a whole lot of love around all the time.

But the older I get, the more I realize that finding some peace in being alone from time to time is important. It's part of the balance I seek, part of the rhythm that keeps me going, and part of the journey towards a more simple life.

Because being in solitude doesn't require much else than, well, being. Here are a few of the ways I'm working on embracing the solitude in my life:

1. Meditation - I'm VERY new at this whole meditation thing, but I'm starting to read more on it and practice it daily. I'm at about a minute now, but I know that with time my ability to sit in silence will improve. It's challenging, but I'm enjoying the challenge and looking forward to where it might take me.

2. Running - I've been running for a while now, but in training for my first marathon I find myself more able to enjoy the solitude of those long, quiet runs. Nothing but me and the road before me. It's a time that I'm coming to cherish more and more with each passing day. Seriously. I'm hooked.

3. Being fully present when I'm with others - Because the more I'm able to be present in the company of others, the more I can enjoy the shared time. And the more I can enjoy the time I spend with the people in my life, the more I can likewise enjoy my time alone. It's that whole balance thing. So, so important to where I am in my life right now.

These are just a few of the small steps I'm taking daily to embrace solitude and make a conscious effort to find the time and space for it in my everyday life.

What are some ways that you find solitude in your life? I'd love to hear you share in the comments section below. Thanks for stopping by.

Jul 4, 2011


It's the 4th of July today and I'm challenging myself to look at freedom in light of my journey of voluntary simplicity.

Simplicity is a funny thing. Sometimes it seems simple and sometimes it seems, well, not so simple at all. I've been doing a lot of work on the simplicity front lately - spending time on my front porch in the morning reading up on voluntary simplicity and journaling, reviving my virtual simplicity circle with a friend of mine who now lives in Arkansas, cleaning out my closet and donating 50% of my clothes to Goodwill (I'm at about 30% after my second pass), starting to track my spending again so I know where I stand, focusing on a vegan diet that is more whole-foods based than processed... and the list goes on.

I've found some of these steps to be surprisingly simple, and others to be much more difficult. But the common thread I'm finding in everything I'm doing is the intention behind living a simpler life. And it's that intention that I want to start to explore again in my writing. It's not the what, or even the how, that I'm interested in, but the why.

I'm interested in the voluntary simplicity movement because I believe that who we are is so intricately tied to what we do and how we live our lives. I think we have to work at "being the change," not only in our professional lives, but also in our personal ones.

I was driving to work the other day, for example, and I noticed that this big plot of forest had been cleared - hundreds of trees, gone. The best I can figure out is that the waste management treatment plant that lies directly adjacent to the newly-cleared plot of land is expanding. Yuck!

Once I got over my initial disgust, I began to reflect on both why I was upset and what my personal responsibility is to contributing to the trash that fills our landfills. So, along with everything else I've been working on, I'm also starting to work on reducing the amount of trash that leaves our home every week. As best I can guess, right now we are recycling about 80% of stuff, but I know we can do better.

I know we need to do better.

Because we need more trees, not more landfills.

And we need more consciousness, not more mindless consumption. For me, I know that valuing freedom also means valuing the ability to make conscious choices... not because anyone is forcing me to, but because I can.

Mar 27, 2011

Three Very Simple Reasons Why I'm a Vegan

A lot of people ask me why I'm a vegan. Sometimes, I just smile and don't say much at all, and sometimes I find myself rambling around forever in a way that soon makes both me and the person who first asked the question visibly uncomfortable.

But when it comes down to it, my reasons for being a vegan are pretty simple, and are the exact same reasons why many people choose a life of voluntary simlicity.

Reason #1: It's good for my health. I'm not going to go into much detail about this here, because there are experts who have written extensively on the topic. If you are so inclined, read The China Study and Becoming Vegan.

Reason #2: It's good for my wallet. Seriously, being a vegan saves me money. Except for an occasional meal out at a favorite vegan restaurant, being a vegan is pretty cheap. By and large, veggies and fruits (even the locally grown and organic variety) are reasonably priced. Nuts are worth the price I pay for them, considering how small a serving size is. Even my expensive vegan protein powder doesn't cost me nearly as much as the average person spends on buying meat, cheese, and dairy products. Do I sometimes get upset that my organic soy milk costs so much more than regular milk and that it rarely goes on sale? Of course I do. But then I just revert back to Reason #1 above and I relax.

Reason #3. It's good for the environment. And I'm not just talking about the animals here. Of course being a vegan is good for them. :) It's also better for the air, water, and land. Again, you don't have to research much to learn the impact that the Standard American Diet has on our environment... and how being a vegan is a lighter way to walk through life.

I'm really not an expert on veganism. I just know that it makes sense for me personally. It aligns with my values and makes me feel good about many of the choices I make on a daily basis. That's it.

If you've ever considered giving up animal products, I encourage you to do your research and then take the leap. Try it. If you don't like it, you know, you can always go back... And if being a vegan seems like too big of a stretch, join the "Meatless Mondays" movement. Give up meat one day a week, knowing that on Tuesday you can go back to eating whatever you ate on Sunday. You might just find yourself not wanting all that meat after a while.

Oh, and check out my brother's blog here. He's the person who inspired me to go vegan. And he writes about it quite a bit on his blog. And he's pretty smart and entertaining. But again, that's just my personal opinion. :)