conflicted thoughts on boredom & television.

Americans spend an average of 35 hours per week watching television. 35. That’s almost a 40 hour work week, completed after work. On an average work day that is 8 hours working, 5 hours watching tv, 8 hours for sleeping, and then a measly 3 hours to do everything else (talk to people, cook food, commute, take a shower…).

Let me just reiterate: 35 hours PER WEEK. On average. For all of America. NOTE: That doesn’t include the time we spend trolling the internet. And yet, we claim to be “so busy,” so stressed.

Now I could be one of those people trying to convince you not to watch tv, or at least watch less, or live entirely without one because you’re wasting your life and brainwashing yourself – but other people have done that, and I can’t preach what I don’t practice.

David and I don’t own a tv. First of all, tv’s are large. Second, they’re expensive. But third, they’re unnecessary… because we have a computer with Internet. So we really aren’t off the hook, at all. But for a month we were.

In the month of January, for various unimportant reasons, we were without internet. At first we embraced the concept – we had to go to coffee shops to check email, we didn’t have Facebook, we would have more time to do other things.

We’ve read many, many simple living blogs and articles that attempt to convince you that living without a tv will give you so much time to do other things (101 other things, oh my! – notice that #1-#4 still involve a screen…).

And we did, and do, a lot of other things. We’ve checked of most of that 101 list. We exercise (a lot), read, write, cook everything we eat, do lots of crafts, do yoga, visit with friends, etc. We call family members frequently and have cleaned, sorted, and flushed out pretty much everything from our possession we possibly can – there’s simply nothing left to simplify.

And guess what… we’re still really freaking bored.

When we got internet back (mostly because I telework and paying for cafe food got expensive really fast) we found ourselves, subconsciously, reverting to our old Netflix, Hulu, CBS.com habits (still under 10 hours per week – and we’ve gotten into documentaries lately, that helps, right?). I think that most of America feels the same way – we get bored, so we watch tv.

This fact has bothered me, pretty much every day, since December. I hate being bored. And I don’t want to succumb to the habit of turning to screens in boredom. But after two hats, a dog sweater, a huge scarf, two hand-sewed tank tops, and 8 pairs of earrings – I just don’t have the craftiness in me right now.

I’ve spent some time trying to figure out why we, people who truly embrace hands-on living, are falling into this “tv trap.” The reality is, we live in a tiny town, in a tiny apartment, with very few things. We have friends around and we see them often but we don’t like to spend money on going out, eating out, or other entertainment that costs money, and our friends aren’t available every single night. So, in order to make excuses for myself, and to try and get somewhere with this post… here are some of my theories as to why I’m feeling this way:

1. Living is too easy. We have outsourced much of our usefulness to technology. We have electric heating so we don’t need to cut firewood, haul water, heat water, or light lamps. Our clothes are ready made. We can type, we don’t have to write. We text so we don’t need letters. All of this might seem a little radical but it’s true. Technology has made our lives better, in a lot of ways, but things like washing machines, dishwashers, processed foods, iTunes, electricity, and oil heating have given American’s a ton of free time. So much so that even though David and I do a lot that the average American doesn’t: like cook all our meals from scratch, preserve most of our food, and create our own music (sometimes) we still end up bored.

2. Winter sucks. It just does; and with easy heating, snowblowers, and electricity we don’t have a lot of extra life stuff to do. You can’t grow food in the winter, exercise sucks unless you have the money to buy the equipment, and every two days it’s a snowstorm so you can’t make it out to see your friends (or maybe that’s just how it feels right now…). There’s a lot more free stuff to do for fun when you can get outside.

3. I don’t have responsibilities. I don’t have a pet, or a child. Those things take up time. So while I’m complaining now, I probably will look back and hate myself for it when dependents take over my life.

4. We’re moving. When you know you’re moving and you can’t take “stuff” with you it’s hard to start projects. We don’t have tools or crafting materials or other stuff that might make being creative easier. I like to make stuff, to build stuff, I’m not a big draw/paint kind of person. I sort of wish I was because that would be more transportable.

What I really want to know is: Are other people feeling this way? Am I alone on this one? Please – I would love some input on this, because it’s driving me insane.

expense tracking for dummies.

School doesn’t teach you how to live. When I graduated from high school I barely knew how to cook, I had never done my own laundry, I had no idea how to take out loans, and I didn’t know what a “lease” actually was. When I graduated from college I still didn’t know how to do my taxes, what repaying my loans would actually look like, or how to set a budget – at least now I know how to cook and do my own laundry…MjAxMy0zN2NlNDhlZTgyZjhjN2Qz_523341a6a9402_rc

My point is: for those of us graduating and getting thrown haphazardly into “real-life” there’s a lot of learning curves.

I still don’t really keep a budget, but I do have a very useful habit of tracking what I purchase. This habit has allowed me to actually save money while working at a farm for most of my time since graduation.

In high school I got frustrated by how I seemingly wasn’t saving any of my hard-earned money. My mom suggested I keep a notebook with two columns – column 1: what you’ve spent, column 2: what you’ve earned. I carried a notebook around with me for a month and at the end of the month I tallied each column up, calculating the difference.

I was astounded, and also disgusted with myself. The accumulated lists showed me how much needless money I was wasting through unhealthy snacks, unnecessary driving, and random shopping sprees. I could no long live “out of wallet, out of mind” – my habits were clearly wasteful. I started saving immediately.

I picked the habit back up after graduation. I find my method more informative than trying to ballpark a budget – I can base my future financial decisions on my ACTUAL spending habits. I know when I can afford to go out to eat, how much I’m actually paying on loans, how gas fluctuations impact my income, how much I have to pay off my credit card, and most importantly, how I can intervene to save more next month. And it’s easy. It’s super easy. You are no longer allowed to be afraid of budgeting because this is so damn easy.

So here is a made up example using Excel.
I like Excel because you can automatically add and subtract things, but a notebook would work too.

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TRICK: To create automatic totals enter the equation “=SUM(“, highlight the column you want to add, and close with “)”. For this example box B25 contains “=SUM(B5:B24)“. Easy if you’ve ever used Excel, but not everyone has.

So. Based on the calculations this person (we’ll call her Suzie) is losing 30 dollars a month. Not great. But take a quick look at her expenditures. If Suzie wants to start saving money it won’t be hard. Here’s a few ideas for her:

  • Skip on the expensive concert: there’s so much free music around! Look for something local.
  • $40 on a T-Shirt!? Go check out salvation army.
  • Eat at Home: You’re spending all of your babysitting money on going out to eat, consider having your friends over to make meals every once in a while.
  • Expensive One-timers: In the month of January you both took a trip to NY and bought an expensive new phone – spread these events out over the months to lessen the impact on your budget.

It kind of looks like I’m telling Suzie to have no fun – but that’s absolutely not my point. If she did just ONE of these things she’d be saving a few hundred dollars every month, leaving her room to have fun in other ways.

It’s important to note that even though she’s used her credit cards Suzie has enough money to pay off her credit cards every month, keeping her credit score high and her interest low.

Suzie has loans and rent to pay, and her job doesn’t pay that much. By tracking her expenses and seeing where she can save, however, she can begin to save money, have fun, and stay out of credit card debt.

This is an extremely simple way of tracking expenses and savings in order to budget from month to month. It might seem so simple that you’re wondering why I’m even covering it, maybe you’re already budgeting with a system that makes this look pathetic. Yet, it would amaze you how many people don’t do this – people who track their expenses “in their head” or through their credit card statements.

If you’re one of those people I urge you to try this for at least one month – Just the simple act of needing to remember long enough to write down what you bought makes you more aware of your habits. Awareness is the first step to change.

If you’re not one of those people, if you are already tracking your life’s expenses, how do you do it? Comment below!

6 reasons to exercise – that have nothing to do with weight loss.

The “Freshman 15″ is a thing for a lot of people – I was not an exception. Before college I never reserved much love for exercise, I did track for a few seasons but outside of practice I very rarely got my heart rate up. I started exercising in college to combat the 15 measly pounds I gained; despite my efforts it was years before I lost it. During this time, however, I discovered a million and one reasons why I enjoyed getting my sweat on – and none of them had anything to do with losing weight.

It drives me crazy when people exercise solely for the purpose of losing weight. That’s the wrong way to go about it. Weight loss is an extremely complicated process that cannot be simplified to just burning calories. Heading to the gym to simply weigh yourself on the way out is not a sustainable weight-loss approach. Weight loss is a long-term return-on-investment; it’s so much harder to get yourself to the gym if you’re not focused on at least a few short term benefits. I’m not saying that exercising won’t lead to weight loss, it very well may and probably will; but weight loss can’t be maintained unless your workout routine becomes part of your lifestyle, and to do that you need more than a number on a scale to keep you going.

So here are my top 6 reasons why I exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss. Exercise can drastically change your life in so many other ways, even if you’re not losing weight the way you want to be. I don’t care if you’re walking, running, swimming, hiking, gardening, biking, doing yoga, or a workout tape. If you make the following benefits your purposes for exercising, rather than weight loss, you’ll get immediate payback. And you’ll get this payback no matter what: no matter how fast you are, how long you’re out there, or what you’re doing. Just getting moving.

1. Reduce stress and anxiety, relax.

This is a popular reason why people exercise. Often times people who hit the gym, road, trail, or pool do it because they feel calmer afterwards. Exercise is a huge stress reliever in many different ways. Did you know that it actually burns the stress hormone? I’ve always imagined my stress melting away when I’m running – but that’s literally what it’s doing, it’s burning off. Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise can reverse stress induced depression by enhancing the body’s ability to deal with stress. Exercise can be just as effective as antidepressants. Physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. One study suggests that more is not necessarily better; low-intensity, short exercise stints do just as much for your stress levels as high-intensity workouts, if not more. You don’t have to be a star athlete to benefit from this! In fact, no matter how hard you’re working you’re likely to experience equal stress relief. In fact, just taking a 20 minute walk can have the same effect as a mild tranquilizer.

“The real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping is that it makes the brain function at its best, and in my view, this benefit of physical activity is far more important – and fascinating – than what it does for the body.”

– Dr. John J. RateySpark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

2. Happiness!

Exercising not only reduces stress, it actually increases happiness. The brain releases endorphins during exercise that trigger the release of endorphins and chemicals like norepinephrine that actually make you feel happier. Within just five minutes of your workout you can already feel it! If you aren’t experiencing this boost of happy when you exercise it’s probably because you’re working out too hard. If you hit the ground running, literally, to the point where you can’t talk when you’re moving (because it’s hard to breathe) then you’re delaying your dose of happiness by at least 30 minutes. If you need a mood-boost look no further than the pavement outside your door – and take it easy.

3. Be more confident

This one is huge for me. Exercise made me more confident in my ability to do things. As a kid and preteen I often avoided hard labor with my father and brothers, and hikes and excursions with my friends, under the illusion that I didn’t enjoy it – in reality I was just scared, afraid that my body would make a fool of me. More recently, farming and running taught me that my body is a tool, a vessel for achieving milestones. The simple act of exercising, of using your body, can convince you that you look better – regardless of fitness. You’ll feel proud of your body and what it has achieved, giving you a different perception of yourself. If I haven’t succeeded in convincing you, let Kelsey Raymond try.

4. Get outside

We’ve known that nature deficit disorder is a thing for a long time. Humans are animals: we’re meant to be outside, in nature (however you choose to define that word). Contact with the natural world reduces depression and boosts energy levels. All it takes is – get ready for it – 20 minutes to see an improvement! Are you seeing a pattern? I’m a huge advocate for getting your exercise routine in outside. My choice is always trail running. But it can be walking, swimming, or biking. Getting your heart rate up for a short period of time, in the presence of natural surroundings will have great impact on your mental health.

5. Age better

Aging is scary. It’s unpredictable and unavoidable. But did you know that regular exercise throughout your life and into your later years can drastically reduce your risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that threaten the elderly? Exercise keeps your body healthy and functioning, and it also keeps your brain up and running. Studies show that memory functions of the brain may be maintained or enhanced in people with higher levels of fitness. Some people are afraid that excessive exercise in younger years will cause joint and muscle pain for later years. In contrast, more and more studies are finding that low-moderate exercise, even running!, can be extremely beneficial in the aging process.

6. Get smarter, more creative

By now you get the point that running does some cool stuff to the brain. It creates chemicals that make you happier, improve your memory, and improve your self-confidence. But just to give exercise one more brain-improvement award – it can actually make you smarter. Children who exercise regularly have shown higher levels of intelligence. Regular exercise improves our cognitive skills, giving us the ability to think better. And, not only does it make us smarter, but exercise has the ability to increase our creative potential. I now understand why all my good ideas come to me on my runs…

Conclusion:

There are so, so, so many reasons why we should exercise. These are just my favorite six – and the six that I think get over looked. But other reasons include lower risk of health problems like diabetes, strokes, and cardiovascular disease, the ability to fight addiction, and to improve social connections, to improve productivity, boost your immune system, increase your sex drive, keep you focused, fight back pain, etc., etc., etc.

All I ask is: the next time you hit the pavement, pool, gym, or trail give yourself two good reasons why you’re headed out there today – two good reasons that have nothing to do with your waistline. Exercise deserves to be valued and enjoyed, and I promise that these non-weight-focused reasons will help you achieve that. What you’ll get in return is guaranteed life improvement – can’t argue with that.

non-fiction gems.

It’s hard for me to find non-fiction books that I love. Sure, I’ve read a bunch of Michael Pollen, Bill McKibben, and Bill Bryson, but sometimes it’s just too dense for the moment. I need a story line, a voice I relate with – not just facts. After Born to Run and Eat and Run I experienced a bit of a lull, but then this year I found several gems – so here they are, with my thoughts:

1. The Third Plate by Dan Barber

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My Rating:
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I first heard about Chef Dan Barber from a friend who interned at Stone Barns, a farm partner to the restaurant, Blue Hill, that he owns in New York. For a while I avoided reading his book, partially because I was worried it would bore me, and partially because I was re-reading Harry Potter… But don’t wait. It was by far the best book I’ve read all year. Better taste is always listed as a benefit of eating locally, but until now I have never encountered a piece of work that actually investigated it. In this beautifully narrated novel, Barber takes you all over the world, looking at historic farming methods as well as current technological methods, that prove sustainable food tastes better. From free-range geese in Spain to wheat research in Washington state to true barbecue in the south. I got hungry every time I sat down to read. If there’s anything I would recommend you sit down to read, right now, it’s The Third Plate. You’ll emerge with a greater understanding of food system sustainability and a heightened appreciation for truly good food.


2. Farmacology by Daphne Miller

My Rating:
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A friend recommended this to me. Nutrition has always, to a certain extent, overwhelmed me. Mostly, I think, because of how complicated it is. I believe in ensuring diversity of diet, choosing foods that are clean and whole, and eating only when you’re hungry more than counting calories, vitamins, and minerals. Daphne Miller, a family physician, thought much the same way. She recognized similarities between how we quantitatively treat humans (through medications) and soil for farming (through synthetic fertilizers) – and the declining health of both patients. She embarked on an investigative journey to discover the connections between what we eat and how we care for our bodies. Her book pairs our farming practices with our medication solutions and finds comparisons, lessons learned, and areas for improvement. The questions she investigates include: how does our treatment of the soil compare to how we medicate ourselves? What lessons can grazing practices provide for how we raise our children? What can laying-hens teach us about stress management? How does pest-management relate to cancer treatment? How can urban agriculture transform community health? And even how can an herb farm teach us sustainable beauty? This book successfully shows how health issues, environmental issues, and sustainability issues are intricately linked – a must read for any health or food nuts out there.


3. Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes

My Rating:
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This is the second time I’ve read this book*. I saw Hayes at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Conference a few years ago – she was the keynote address. Her speech unveiled a view of the mid-century feminist movement that I had never considered before… it was truly radical. Her argument is that suburbia and the admittance of women into the workforce outsourced many homemaking projects that allowed consumer culture to flourish the way it has. She cites many reasons why this was a negative shift, focusing on historic proof and research. Then, she offers advice for how women and men should reclaim some forms of domesticity to increase security, happiness, and sense of self-purpose. Her book is based on interviews with numerous acting homemakers with their successes, failures, and advice strewn throughout the pages. These are people who, in her words, “focus on home and hearth as political and ecological act; who center their lives around family and community for personal fulfillment and cultural change.” This book shifted my thoughts on homemaking, feminism, and consumer culture in ways that no other piece of work in the last few years has. I don’t know how to give it better praise. While the cover and title might deter you, please resist – the lessons in this book are so important.

* I rarely re-read, unless it’s Harry Potter, of course. 

 

 

you’ll get up because you have to.

Here’s a little piece from last year, I originally posted it in the Dickinson College Farm newsletter, Dirt, but I came across it yesterday, and with all this cold weather something in it struck me again. Enjoy!

My alarm rings. 7:00am. Huddled under the world’s biggest comforter I groan and close my eyes. It doesn’t make much of a difference though, it’s just as dark on the other side of my eyelids. Before I have the chance to fall back asleep I take a deep breath, brace myself for the cold, and throw the comforter off. As I shiver against the cold air my body instantly awakens. Not for the first time I grumble at myself for agreeing to this job – what a way to spend winter break.

I grope for the light while simultaneously pulling on my purple long johns and dirty jeans. Roscoe, the cat whom has become my sole confidant, meows at the door, tail waving in impatience. After throwing on my undershirt and Smartwool socks I grab my knife from the nightstand and half walk, half slide down the wooden stairs.
In a still-waking, habitual, automatic state I feed Roscoe, throw on three sweatshirts, a hat, scarf, and my boots, and look frantically for my missing glove. By now the sun is peaking up over the horizon. I chug a full glass of water, lace up my boots, and stomp out the door.

It’s cold. It’s really freaking cold. Something around -10 degrees my phone tells me. With the windchill, who knows. Roscoe shoots by me in determination, seemingly unconcerned about the temperature. Stomping through the snow-turned-ice I grab feed from the barn and head to the chickens. They’ve been calling for me since the sun first considered rising. I open their door to satisfy their pleas. Instantly, they move to escape their confinement but stop in confusion when they meet the morning’s cold air and see the new layer of snow on the ground. After five minutes of coaxing, and some serious bribing with food, they hesitantly hop out. One by one.

The gator, our diesel powered farm cart, is too cold to start. So I drag the garden cart with hay up hill by hand to the sheep. I hear them before I round the corner – they’re staring at me, noses pressed through the gate bars, faces framed by frozen clouds of their breath. I bring them their feed first, distributing it evenly between five bins so they don’t trample each other trying to get to it. In the process, however, they almost trample me. Then I drag their hay in to fill the feeder. Not for the first time I envy their heavy coats. Sheep never seem to notice how cold it is.

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From here, I walk along the fence up into the fields, across the property to the cows. As I climb uphill the wind gets brutal, I wrap my scarf around my face and pull my hood tight. I hear the cows running along the fence beside me, eager for water. When it’s cold they huddle in the far corner of their pasture at the bottom of the hill to escape the wind. But they’re thirsty now, since their water bin has been frozen for most of the night.

When I reach their water I finally look up out of my hood and scarf. Instantly, I’m blinded by the sun. When my eyes adjust I pause, stunned by the beauty of the morning. The sun has breached the frozen soy field horizon and is seemingly burning a hole into the bluest sky I’ve ever seen. The sight of it almost starts to thaw me. The cows, anxious in nature, are huddled feet away, their wide and innocent eyes begging me for hydration. I hack for ten minutes at the frozen water bin with a hammer and spray myself with cold water and ice chucks.

When I finally start the hose, chaos ensues. It’s chaos, but it’s organized chaos. The bull goes first, using his massive bulk to push the females out of the way. When he’s done, the younger cows push through. The older, white-faced cows lick ice chunks as they wait for their turn. Twenty minutes later they’re all satisfied and I’m able to actually start filling the bucket.

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Now, with chores almost finished and my brain at a working capacity, I start to contemplate the course of my day. It’s only nine – I have hours ahead of me. As I am yawning away the remains of sleep, the hose jerks out of my hand. I turn around in surprise and the calf jumps back in fright at my movement. I burst out laughing as she timidly noses the hose and starts drinking again, eyes never leaving mine. I suppose she’s not a calf anymore, but she’s still little enough to be at the very bottom of the drinking hierarchy.

When she’s done, I turn off the water and put away the hose. Before I go back, however, I watch the cows. They have returned to their feeder and munch away at a bale I know I will have to replace tomorrow. But for now I don’t dwell on whether or not the tractor will start or how frozen my hands will be when I’m done. Instead, I’m drinking in the sight of the sun on their coats and the beautiful combination of black, brown, and white against the turquoise of the background.

In my fourth year at the Dickinson College Farm I have logged countless hours at the farm but until now I have never understood the true dedication required by farming – especially when you’re alone. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, what time it is, or how cold it might be outside. You’ll get up, because you have to. You’ll take care of them, because if you don’t, no one will. You’re serving them, not the other way around. It’s the simplest and most beautiful of things:  having a purpose to wake up for.

fearing “the future.”

Last year, around this time, the air was thick with the buzzing tension of a class of seniors stressing about their futures. Everyone claimed they didn’t want to talk about it, yet everyone still did. To a certain extent, I escaped the tension within myself (though I was still affected by everyone else’s stress). I knew where I was going to be. My farm job was secured.

Last night, I went to campus to see some girl friends in the current senior class – beautiful, talented, smart, and driven women who will all be perfectly fine. The tension was there, prevalent as ever, and this time (a year later) I’m actually a part of it. But as a graduate, I have a different perspective. I don’t have the stress of classes, extracurriculars, impending culture shock, theses and research hanging over my head – so things seem a little less bleak. I’m already in “the future,” so there’s a lot less to be afraid of.

I think that college students (including my former self) have the wrong outlook on what the “future” is. It’s scary because, unless you’re going to grad school, it’s the first time in your life that your life isn’t scripted. For most people, there’s no template for how your life should be laid out – you don’t need to be somewhere specific, or be at any one job for a certain amount of time, you get to choose what kinds of jobs to look for. You get to call the shots. You get to fully shape your life. That’s what’s so exciting, and so terrifying, about being in your 20s.

But under all the stress of being a senior, college students have trouble seeing the exciting – they only see the terrifying. They put too much pressure on themselves to find the perfect job and to have a detailed plan before May. What they don’t realize is that life won’t end if you don’t have a job by June 1st. You’ll just end up with more time to look for the perfect job, to move somewhere random, to travel, to do things you haven’t had time for, see people you haven’t seen – live a little, find yourself. You don’t need to find your career immediately, in fact, I’d argue you shouldn’t.

I can’t say that I’ve perfected this mind set. I still freak out, regularly, about my own future. But I am learning to put a lot less pressure on myself to know exactly what I want to do, where I want to be, and when I want to get there (let’s be honest, even if I had answers, they’d probably change before 2016).

If I have any advice for current seniors it would be to relax, to believe in yourself and what you’re worth. Don’t fear June, it’s just another June like every other June before it – it will come and everything will be fine.

best,e.

squirrelly twail wun || 13.1

I’ve wanted to run a marathon for a while now. It was a goal of mine for 2014 that didn’t pan out. Which is okay, injuries are not something you can plan for, or blame yourself for. But I’m still determined. I’ve also realized that it’s a little crazy that I wanted to run a marathon without ever having run a race before… I’ve run 15+ miles on my own before, but never in a race setting.

“Thirty minute syndrome”

In early January, when I set my goal to run 26.2 miles in one go before the year is out, I was in the middle of a running slump. I would do a couple of 3 milers in the week but couldn’t push myself further. I call this the “thirty minute syndrome.” I find the first 30 minutes of swimming, or three miles of running, really hard (especially in the cold!), but once I cross that line my workout becomes so much more enjoyable. Sometimes, though, I get in a slump where I forget that it gets better and I get in a cycle of 30 minute workouts.

Train & Pain

So I signed up for a half marathon! I wanted a reason to push myself to do those miles, in the cold, through the winter. But I was nervous that my knees or back would protest, so I didn’t tell anyone… in case I decided to back out. So for the last month and a half I’ve been training, but easily, so as not to push my knees or back too hard. I was doing really, really well – incorporating yoga, stretching, and strength workouts into my routine – until last weekend. I headed out for an eleven-miler and my patella tendons decided to go on strike. So, I didn’t run for a whole week – not the ideal training set-up. I thought several times about quitting, but I really wanted to try. Hey, no one knew about it, so if I backed out halfway through, who would care?

Squirrelly Tail Twail Wun

The race was at Gifford Pinchot State Park. It was a windy, crazy trail setup – true to it’s name. Luckily, we had 40 degree weather with no rain. And I finished! I blew my goal out of the water and ran through the pain (with no lasting affects, promise!).

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Sometimes, even if you know it won’t feel great, it’s worth it to push yourself to the finish line. Even more importantly, it’s crucial that you push yourself through your version of “thirty minute syndrome” – whether in sports, arts, or anything else that gives you a wall.  I encourage you all to remember these facts that are so applicable to every area of life. I’m really glad I did this and I feel much more comfortable about doing races in the future… although I still much prefer running on my own. Half a goal accomplished!

best, e.

I’m back! 2015.

Heya! I’m back.

In January I did something I’ve never truly done – I set new year’s resolutions. I was inspired to do this by my favorite lady, Kelsey Raymond, on her spice & dice blog. Two years ago she decided to change her own life. So she did, surprising herself by accomplishing what she didn’t think she could. How did she do it? Simple. She set real goals. Achievable goals. Then she blew them out of the water. Pride and admiration sent me following in her footsteps (not a new thing). Then, two days later, she actually wrote a post about setting goals! My intuition beat her to the punch.

I know, it’s February. It’s been a whole month since New Year’s. It’s also been a whole month since I’ve been “in the real world.” After I graduated from Dickinson in May I spent six beautiful months on the Dickinson College Organic Farm as their livestock apprentice. Then I took a trip to Seattle to visit my aunt’s, Liz and Jessica, for three amazing weeks. Then it was Christmas. Then, BOOM. 2015. The first full year of my adult life.

I decided I need some direction.

Emily’s 2015 Goals

1. Restart this blog.

This blog got me through my time abroad, it helped me fully process and appreciate all that happened to me. When I stopped writing I found that I spent less time thinking, less energy processing my day to day experiences. As I enter this next stage of my life I want to reconnect with that way of living.

2. Pay off one of my loans. 

Loans, loans, loans. I hate talking about them, I hate thinking about them. But they’re there, and I’ll deal with them. But to kick start the process off right I’m going to pay one of them off in the first year! It’s the small one… but it all counts, right?

2. Run 26.2 miles. 

Gotta have a physical goal, right? Well, signing up for marathons hasn’t been working for me. Injuries, nerves, whatever it is. So I’m just going to run 26.2 miles, on my own. I can say I did, I don’t have to pay for it, and I can do it whenever I want – my kind of running.

3. Go on a road trip. 

David and I decided we’re making a change. So April 1st we’re headed out of central PA (on the first full day of my 23rd year). After visiting a bunch of family we’re going to explore the southwest and find a new place to live (ideally with employment). A big part of re-starting this blog is to document our experiences and update family/friends along the way.

Oh, and we bought a teardrop.

CHECK THIS THING OUT:

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2015 has a lot of potential. Financial realities were a huge shock to the system this month, but I’m determined to live my life fully and true to my values in community and sustainability. Right now I have the privilege to work with some amazing people in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Harrisburg, PA, but past April my plans are very grey. How the year will pan out has yet to be seen, but stick along for the ride (literally) to find out!

best,e.

blank journals.

When I was a kid I loved journals. My mother often took me and my brothers to the local bookstore and I would sneak over to the isles of fancy notebooks while my brothers picked out picture books, or more often, played with the trains. Gingerly running my fingers over their leather spines I imagined how it would feel to fill their textured pages with my words, thoughts and feelings.

Eventually my mom caught on and over several Christmases and birthdays I amassed a small collection of them – some leather, some embroidered, some enveloped with amazing photography. I treasured the books for years, but I never wrote in them.

Occasionally, I sat down with a pen and opened one. I explored the distinct coolness of its cover and the grains of its pages. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to write, imagining it unfolding across the page; then I put my pen down, shelved the book, and headed outside to play.

That was during my preteen years. Those years after blissful, naive childhood but before the grueling, time-consuming academics of high school. It was a time when I could still afford to be creative but was starting to forget how.

Children are born with unapologetic creativity. The kind of “creativity” I am talking about is the kind that strives to understand the world through engaging all six senses and a curiosity that doesn’t know the meaning of embarrassment. Kids dance, play, sing, draw, paint, without any reserve. I was definitely a good example. But there comes a time in a child’s education where the capacity for undisciplined creativity is lost. For me, I encountered that transition at the end of elementary school – when the concepts of perfection and order were introduced. By the end of middle school, raw and unrestrained creativity was all but shut out of my learning. There was no longer room for self expression, and more importantly, no more room for failure.

When I opened those journals I had an idea in my head of what the final product would look like; my handwriting, the format, the substance of my words. In those instances where the pen hovered over the paper the pressure of my own expectations frightened me. On the rare instances when I actually wrote something I never made it more than a few pages; I lost the pen I was using, I forgot the correct heading format, the words I was writing felt all wrong, or even, sometimes, I simply made a spelling mistake. No matter what the project and situation was, if it was no longer perfect, I abandoned it.

Sometimes I wonder if our education system is teaching children that perfection should be revered while failure should be condemned. This setup leaves no room for creative thinking or exploratory learning; in fact, it punishes children for these actions unless they happen to achieve perfection on the first try. For me, the lesson that failure is unacceptable seeped so deep into my world that it began to affect even the most private area of my life – personal journaling. If I couldn’t be creative there then I couldn’t be creative anywhere. I was setting myself up to live a life of constant personal disappointment.

Ultimately, I got extremely lucky. I landed several amazing, unconventional, teachers during those crucial years. In high school I joined a community theater, a place dedicated to reteaching children and young adults how to express themselves. While there, I forgot the stifling expectations of an accelerated high school experience by reminding myself daily that failure is the mode by which you discover who you are and how you learn.

But not all children will have the opportunities I had or be exposed to the same experiences. I don’t know what the answer is, or really how to define the problem, but it is something that merits attention. First of all, we can’t sustain a society on a fear of failure because it implies fears of experimentation and innovation which are the base of all positive change and problem solving. But almost more importantly, raw creativity and the exploration of self-expression are the two most beautiful ways to experience life, and no child should ever, ever be afraid of them.

best,e.

what we all hope for.

The last week of strawberry season I worked the stand by myself most days. One particularly hot and slow day there were only a handful of people in the fields, one was an older couple that I couldn’t help but watch. They had brought buckets upon buckets to fill, the woman asserting that she aimed to make 100 jars of jam; “It’s an all day affair,” she confided. Through the early afternoon their laughs rang across the still fields like a pair of perfectly harmonized song birds.

The man came with his third round of strawberries. He set it on the table, breathing heavily and leaning on the table slightly. As I weighed up the flat and added it to their ever growing list he asked me about our raspberry fields. I repeated my well practiced speech on why we weren’t opening them for U-Pick this year.

“You know,” he said as I handed him his berries, “Black raspberries are so much better than red ones anyways.” He leaned closer and lowered his tone, “We used to have a ton of bushes but she made me cut them down, you know, so she could have a lawn.”

“I needed space for a garden,” his wife asserted, appearing out of nowhere, visibly affronted.

He jumped in surprise and turned towards her. They locked gaze for a few long seconds, his eyes narrowed, her eyebrows raised. Then he grunted in her general direction, and scuffled back towards the truck with his flat.

She signed and turned to me, “You know, we’ve only been married 35 years.”

I laughed, “I can tell.”

Her face fell and she looked flustered, “No I mean we’re best friends.”

“That’s what I can tell.”

Glancing off towards the truck where her husband was loading the berries, her face softened and her eyes took on a brighter shade of green. “My heart still leaps when I see him when I’m not supposed to… well, you know, when he surprises me.”

She returned to the present and realized she was talking out loud. A bit embarrassed, she grinned sheepishly and turned towards the fields. As she walked away I muttered to myself as much as to her, “That’s how it should be, what we all hope for.”

best,e.