#100HappyDays

#100HappyDays is a free photo documentation project designed to inspire people to start noticing what makes them happy every day, be happier, be thankful, be optimistic, and all sorts of good stuff. If there is one thing that all this life documentation has taught me, it’s that the small, everyday moments – routines, habits, meals – are the things that make up who you are. When we acknowledge and celebrate those small moments, we’re celebrating ourselves. You can learn more about the project by visiting the 100happydays.com website and sign up for free!
 

My #100HappyDays challenge ended last month. It was awesome. And I can’t wait to take the photos and turn them into an album we can view for years to come. But I just can’t get enough! So I’m continuing the series through the end of the year.

..

#100 Happy Days

I’m enamored with nature lately. We’ve had unseasonably warm weather mixed in between crisp, sunny fall days and the sky has been a beautiful backdrop to the changing light. Naturally, I’m taking full advantage. WAY too many photos. But I refuse to stop. It’s just too perfect.

As if the colorful leaves and sunsets weren’t enough, our garden is still producing tomatoes, eggplant, greens, and roots. We’re riding bikes and making excuses to spend time outside. We’re apple picking. We’re attending birthdays. We’re eating healthy. We’re reflecting and growing. We’re moving and getting outdoors. And we’re spending a lot of time with friends. This may be the #bestfallyet!

#cantgetenough

#smilesallaround

xoxo,

Julie

Posted in Garden, Motherhood, Sustain.Environment, Sustain.Others | Tagged | Leave a comment

Reflect (R is for)

Me: the Abridged Version is a class led by Cathy Zielske through Big Picture Classes. It’s about telling your story in a fun, creative way. I think telling your story is important – not just for you, but for the people that love you. Join me on this short series of personal photo-journalism and see the pretty things my iPhone can make.
 

Lately I’ve been talking about this class that I’m taking with clean and simple memory keeping guru Cathy Zielske‘s called Me: the Abridged Version (link in side bar). It’s an alphabetical memory keeping project designed to help you document who you are – in real time.

I talked about why this is important, but as I delve into this project, I’m finding that the purpose and intention strikes a much deeper cord in my being than I expected. I am firmly in line with the mission of memory keeping oneself. And that is why I push it on my friends and family. And while it has not worked yet, as far as I can tell, I’m going to keep on trying.

Why?

Relections

Reflecting on who you are in this moment

As a daughter who lost her father young, I treasure every bit of my memory of him. Not because he was a particularly great person (though I think he was). Not because he did anything particularly special (though I think that he did). But because he was my father. Because we share similar interests. Because I’m a little like him. Because I love our family.

He made a complicated, deep, and lasting impression on my view of the world. His years of illness dramatically shifted how I see beauty and strength and body image. His vulnerability, through illness, gave me the opportunity to gain responsibility and reliability. With his influence, I became a more confident, more comfortable, more driven person than I would have been without him.

I know his history through the stories he told. But as all things with the mind, time changes them. Memories shift. We inevitably drift our perception of an event towards fulfilling our current viewpoint. And I feel like, though I lost him years ago, every day I lose him a little more. Each day that passes brings me farther from his memory.

As a mother, I find myself reflecting on my mother’s (and mother-in-law’s) past in order to learn how to parent my son. And as a sister and friend, I encourage everyone in my life to continually document their changing preferences and perspectives. This is not selfish. And it’s not for you – it’s for everyone who loves you.

Sure, part of this does come from that place in my heart that is saddened by loss. That same part of me fears that I will lose other people that I love. Or that they will lose me.But a greater part of my drive for memory keeping is because I love learning about other people. I want to know their history, the path that brought them to who they are today. I want to know their likes, their preferences, and what has colored their view of the world. I see each individual’s perspective as a set of circumstances and subsequent choices that brought them to here and now.

And then our lives intersect.

If they intersect at the right time, our perspectives and circumstances may align. But sometimes they don’t. And it’s all incredibly fascinating to me.

If I meet you, I probably won’t remember your name at first. But I will remember your story. I’ll remember what you were excited to share. And I’ll remember your background and interests.

So if you choose to take on a small memory-keeping project, let me make a suggestion to you: write a little something about who you are now. What do you say when you’re introduced to someone? Write that. Or photograph that. And place it in a notebook. Or in a file. Or tuck it away where no one will find it. Wait. When you come across it months or years later, you might just find that you’re happy you did it after all.

xoxo,

Julie

Posted in Motherhood, Pregnancy, Sustain.Me, Sustain.Others | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Five Senses

Yes - another memory keeping project.

It’s the start of Week in the Life, a week-long life documentation project, designed by Ali Edwards to capture routines and what life is like right now. This is my second year doing this project and it’s fun to see how much things have changed with my daily routines.

Again, I do memory-keeping LITE, meaning I’m going all-digital, on my phone, and I’ll save the page images to make a book someday. But if you want to get into it and make something beautiful, Ali sells a complete Week in the Life kit on her site. For more on my process, check out this post from last week.

*

I had this moment in the car this morning and it got me thinking about how representative it is of my life right now.

IMG_3992.JPG

Listening to NPR report on the latest Ebola response while Max yells “let’s GO mommy! GO! GO! GO!” from his car seat.

Seeing my face in the car mirror while I apply tinted moisturizer and chapstick and Max’s scrunched up grumpy face, urging me to drive to the play place.

Smelling the scent of fall leaves in the crisp autumn air, and noticing how comforting it is.

Feeling the warmth of sun-heated car with my jacket and scarf, a welcome contrast to the cool weather.

Tasting hot coffee from my Tervis travel mug, savoring all that it brings me.

 

Looking forward to the week ahead. Follow me on Instagram to see little moments this week.

 

xoxo,

Julie

Posted in Motherhood, Sustain.Me | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Let’s Make STEM an Economic Equalizer

Everyone needs to care about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Read this so you can understand some of the reasons why.

there must be a better way

there must be a better way

This week I had the opportunity to attend the Massachusetts STEM Summit and it was – in one word – A-MAZING. As a scientist and engineer, I couldn’t be more thrilled to see so many educators, government officials, professionals, and nonprofits working to make Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education a top priority for the state. And I learned A TON.

For instance, it is predicted that in the next 20 years, a growing MAJORITY of skilled and unskilled jobs will require some level of experience in coding (coding: developing programs which tell computers what to do).

This is the part where you say “but I’m a maker/crafter/artist/writer/therapist/daycare provider, why would I need to learn this?” or “but school was never really my thing. I can’t be a software engineer.”

OMG, people. There is so much you need to know.

First, it’s not that hard. It’s the same thing as learning the basics of a language (like French or Spanish), which most students are required to do in order to obtain high school degrees. The inherent problem is that it is not prioritized and/or standardized in the educational system the way other things – like history and second languages – are.

STEM-Logo2

Coding: building websites and blogs and product marketing, is the future. If you want to be independently employed (most millennials would say HELL YES), you need to be able to fill all of the standardized roles of a company: marketing, brand-building, website development, etc.. That means products – which could be physical products like t-shirts or craft supplies – or services – like e-Courses, e-Books, financial advice and products, etc..

To be honest, I’ve seen this coming for a few years now and have been considering learning to code because I see this trend only getting bigger. But when high-level corporate managers of major science and tech companies in Massachusetts – one of the leading states in STEM employers – tell an audience of educators to teach kids to code so they can employ them in 10, 15, 20 years. Well, that’s when I take note. And when the Governor of Massachusetts announces that his top priority is to see his state become #1 in public STEM education, I say HELL YES.

I truly believe that anyone of average intelligence, with the right teacher and enough time, can learn how to code. You don’t need to learn be a web developer. You don’t need to write sophisticated programs. But you do need to spend the time and work at it. And if you had been taught in, say, elementary school – imagine what you could do with that information today.

I have SO much more to say on this subject and I am SO pumped to hear all of the amazingly creative, inventive, and interesting things that are coming in the realm of STEM. STEM offers stable careers, independent careers, entrepreneurship. STEM offers an opportunity to leverage talent and hard work to move up in economic class. It IS opportunity.

As a parent, I say – get your kids interested in tech. Get your girls interested in tech. Get economically disadvantaged youth engaged in tech. And get diversity in tech. And you will see a revolution of creativity and ideas that I truly think will change the world.

There is so much talk which shames millenials for things that other generations just don’t understand. What I see is a level of pragmatism, efficiency, and dedication to work being life and life being meaningful that is a whole hell of a lot more exciting than the 9-5 rush-rush commuter lifestyle so many of us live now.

More to come.

Happy weekend, everyone!

 

XOXO,

Julie

 

Posted in Motherhood, Sustain.Environment, Sustain.Others | Tagged , | Leave a comment

In the Garden

If you had told me a month ago that our tomatoes would still produce flowers in mid-October, I wouldn’t have believed you. After a cool, dry summer, we were ready to pull the garden plants during the first spell of cool fall weather in early September.

Thankfully, we procrastinated. And we have been given many thanks as a result.

our garden: in october

our garden: in october

Every time I think “this is the last tomato sauce of the season” (while silently whimpering), our garden has kicked butt and proved me wrong – three times. We have carrots, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, eggplant, carrots, and potatoes. And if this warm weather holds, we should have edible spinach and kale in a week!

Of course, there are losses because of the fluctuation in temperature (from 70 degrees F, down to 40F and back to 60F in 24-hours), especially with the tomatoes. But the remaining plants are holding strong. And I’m loving the extra time – and extra food – that comes with it.

Way to go, nature!

xoxo,

Julie

 

 

Posted in Garden, Sustain.Environment | Tagged | Leave a comment

Making Pretty Scrapbooks on your Phone

Me: the Abridged Version is a class led by Cathy Zielske through Big Picture Classes. It’s about telling your story in a fun, creative way. I think telling your story is important – not just for you, but for the people that love you. Join me on this short series of personal photo-journalism and see the pretty things my iPhone can make.

 

I love this project. I know, I say that about all the projects that I write about – but it’s not true of all the projects I do. This one is different. It’s a lot of fun. And it’s SO easy to do!

The thing is – I love scrapbooking now that I’ve discovered Project Life, but I can’t commit the time necessary to edit photos on my computer, upload into Photoshop (which is what many scrapbookers these days do), pull together a layout, and hope that someday I’ll make a book. Let alone share the layouts that I made with others. I seriously admire the women that can do that on a regular basis. It’s just not practical for me.

I need things on my phone. I need it in my hand so when I’m on the train, or hanging with Max, or waiting for the school bus, or unwinding from the day, I can work on my latest project in the palm of my hand for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. At my convenience. Wherever I am.

This week I wanted to share the apps that I use regularly for photo editing, and particularly for my latest memory keeping class.

my favorite iPhone apps for photos

favorite iPhone apps

 

Project Life App. $2.99. The Project Life App is a beautifully designed app that lets you scrapbook photos directly from your iPhone, photo stream, and other apps – like Dropbox. It is very user-friendly and intuitive and it has made it possible for me to do memory keeping on my phone. It’s amazing. And it made it possible for me to keep up with memory keeping – like when I made a page the same day that we had Max’s birthday party. In addition to all the amazing features, it’s incredibly gratifying!

iPhone Camera. Most of the photos for my scrapbook are taken with a native iPhone 5 camera.

TimerCam. Free. The TimerCam App allows you to take photos with a timer, making selfies or group photos much easier.

PicTapGo. $1.99. The PicTapGo App is perfect for brightening up standard photos on your phone. I use this every time I need to brighten or saturate a photo – no, it’s not the same as increasing exposure. Totally worth it!

VSCOcam. Free. The VSCOcam App gives you all the flexibility in editing that you need. The filters are nice, but as soon as I discovered all of the editing features, I was hooked. Need a better endorsement? It’s used by professional photographers.

Dropbox. Free. If you’re not familiar with Dropbox, it’s a cloud-based document storage website that allows you to share folders, documents, and photos with anyone who has the link. It’s ideal for groups who work remotely or for individual documents that you want to keep access to where ever you are. Someone recently recommended that I try it for scrapbooking and I was instantly hooked. I use the web app for sharing photos that I take at group events and the Dropbox iPhone App for document and photo sharing between devices.

Here are some examples of what I’ve made using the apps I mentioned. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Project Life App Page

Made with the Project Life App, using DSLR photos

Project Life App Page

Made with the Project Life App

Made in about 5 minutes, on his birthday

Made in about 5 minutes, on his birthday

Made same day as the event, in about 5 minutes!

Used Project Life App and Rhonna Farmer App

 

Next week I’ll cover my process for pulling together a scrapbook page from several sources, all in one place. It’s warrants its own post because it’s kind of complicated, but once you get it down – WOW it is so easy.

xoxo,

Julie

 

Posted in Motherhood, Sustain.Me | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Eat ALL the Desserts

We’re out of cupcakes, snack breads, and ice cream in our house and I’m doing my best not to panic. You’re probably thinking – maybe that’s a good thing? Shouldn’t we want to eat healthy all the time? My argument is – no way! Sweets – in moderation – are a welcome addition to most diets.

Pink cupcake

Pink cupcake

In the summer, my afternoon sweet treat is seasonal fruit – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, watermelon. Biologically this makes sense, since these fruits pack a lot of flavor without a lot of calories, making it easier to keep cool in hotter temps and providing your body with a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you need to stay healthy, fit, and energized in its peak season. For example, watermelon, tomatoes, and red bell peppers all contain the antioxidant lycopene, which helps block UV light, preventing sunburn.

But when the weather cools down, and winter is approaching, I crave the comfort of seasonal soups, casseroles, baked quick breads, and – yes – sweets. And I know what my cravings are telling me – adding a couple extra pounds WILL make it easier to keep warm in the winter. In Maine we used to call that our “winter layer”, which was a cute way of supporting the natural fluctuations of body size in a cold climate. But even if you’re committed to staying slim and fit (snaps for you! that can be so hard!), these foods – in proper form – will offer a “warming” effect that will help you adjust to the cooler temps.

And it’s not just vegetables. Spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger – the seasonal flavor choices of fall and winter – are known as “warming” spices, which is probably why they’re so prevalent in baked goodies like pies, dessert breads, and cookies. Examples of their benefits include reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and reduced blood glucose and total cholesterol. Hence the over-commercialized pumpkin-flavored goodies every October!

So I say, limit your portions, but indulge in the “spice” of the season. After all, it’s good for you, right?!

 

xoxo,

Julie

Posted in Sustain.Body, Sustain.Environment | Leave a comment

Monday Inspiration: Beautiful Art and a Therapy Cat

This is one of those stories that can make your heart melt. A little girl, her Maine Coon therapy kitty and a whole bunch of beautiful works of art. Can it get any better?

Read the story here and here and on her blog and check out her shop.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of IrisGracePainting.com

 

I am completely in awe of her talents. Learning disabilities are something my family is all to familiar with. The struggles are real. They are constant. They are heart-wrenching. And each milestone, each victory, feels worthy of celebration.

I see the photographs and – on the surface – I think how WONDERFUL her life must be, but the better part of me knows that reality, simple daily tasks, can feel impossibly difficult for the child and for the care givers. Which is why she is such a worthy cause.

Purchasing from her store helps support Iris Grace’s private therapies, lessons, and supplies.

 

xoxo,

Julie

Posted in Sustain.Others | Tagged | Leave a comment

Thoughts on #BullyMovie

This week I had a chance to watch the Independent Lens documentary Bully on PBS. It’s getting a lot of attention with parents and educators because it so brilliantly tells the story and experience of three students who are victims of harassment and bullying by their classmates.

READ: if you are a parent, or an educator, or anyone who has a young person in your life, watch this movie. If you are a former victim, or a former bully, watch this movie. If you are a conscious being who gives a shit about what the world will be like in the future, watch this movie. And especially if you think you don’t need to, please PLEASE watch this movie! In summary, everyone needs to watch this movie.

boys playing

boys playing

I’m coming at this from two perspectives: first, as a former participant in the bullied/bully cycle, and second, as a parent of a learning impaired child who – just 5 weeks into his kindergarten year – has been harassed and picked on by his classmates.

Growing up, I was bullied by other girls in my neighborhood. It wasn’t particularly violent or cruel, but the experience of being a victim of childhood harassment stuck with me. In role playing games, I was forced to play the role of the ‘family dog’ or told I could only watch, not participate in play. Sometimes I would just watch them from my yard. Occasionally I would just go home. But many times, I was forced into uncomfortable, degrading, and demeaning roles, much to the pleasure of my bully.

As with many bullies, mine had a troubled family life. But that doesn’t excuse or condone or any way make her actions acceptable. And – even then – I knew it was wrong.

Years later, this same girl would force me to turn on my friends. To swear. To degrade. To demean and harass them. And even though I didn’t want to, I did what she said.

It wasn’t until kids started bullying my younger sister – a quiet girl with physically indistinguishable mental retardation – for me to start standing up against bullies. By middle school I was physically fighting boys who threw rocks at her. Or snow balls. Or dirt.

And I never told anyone.

Cal and I at a school ice cream social

Cal and I at a school ice cream social for kids with special needs

Now, as a parent, I’m responsible for the care of her son, my nephew, who also has learning disabilities. Two weeks into the school year, I had to request that the bus driver keep him in the front row, “to watch him,” placing blame on him for the poor choices of other students on the bus. I have been in yelling matches with other parents when he was getting punched in a bouncy house and everyone just stood by and watched. I have intervened when GIRLS push him in line. I have parented my friend’s kids when they  push him, or shove him, or exclude him. I have listened to my neighbors, who would prefer that he not play with their kids.

And while we are fortunate to be in a school district that trains every student, teacher, and administrator on bullying prevention and awareness, I know that bullies will haunt his future. It is heartbreaking. It is cruel. And, at times, it is overwhelming.

But I will never give up. Not for one second.

There is no corner of my being that will silently allow this to continue. It is unacceptable. It is horrible. And it is absolutely PREVENTABLE.

In a country where we have successfully instituted training for children on stranger danger, on the risks of drugs and alcohol, and sex ed, I know that we can also successfully institute systematic awareness and education on the prevention of bullying. If we can teach our children physics and art history, we can teach them not to bully. If we can teach them calculus and Shakespeare, we can teach them not to bully. If we can teach them to throw a fast ball or to paint a portrait, we can teach them equity and inclusion and we can teach them not to bully.

If you want to stop bullying in the workplace. If you want gender equity and fairness. If you support equality and opportunity for all, then you want every child and every parent to be given the tools and strategies necessary to eliminate bullying from our culture. Eliminate it.

Talk to your kids. Talk to your friends. Talk to your colleagues. End bullying.

We can do this.

 

xoxo,

Julie

Posted in Motherhood, Sustain.Me, Sustain.Others, Sustain.Work | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Weather (W is for)

Me: the Abridged Version is a class led by Cathy Zielske through Big Picture Classes. It’s about telling your story in a fun, creative way. I think telling your story is important – not just for you, but for the people that love you. Join me on this short series of personal photo-journalism and see the pretty things my iPhone can make.
 

I’m writing this on a beautiful, unseasonably warm October afternoon. This is the first October in memory where I have comfortably worn shorts THREE times. These rare and wonderful warm fall days are a welcome excuse to visit a park, or work outside on our patio, and open the windows, because – how many other opportunities will I have?

I wish I describe the feeling I get when I’m outside during the day. It’s a mix of happy and excited and thankful and optimistic that I haven’t felt since I lived in western Maine. Opportunity is everywhere and nothing is impossible. There is not a piece of me that takes this for granted.

View from here on a warm October afternoon

View from here on a warm October afternoon

 

Most afternoons, after Max is home from daycare, I take the dogs (and Max) on a walk around our neighborhood. We stroll the same path each time. And I appreciate the opportunity to stretch my legs, clear my head, and breathe fresh air. We rarely see people, apart from the occasional mom or retiree in between errands.

But today was different.

Today we were greeted with pleasant conversation, introductions, and some ear scratches for cassie (our Australian Shepard). Today we met our neighbors. We talked to many of them. And we promised to ‘stop by and say hi’ again soon.

That’s the thing about unseasonably nice weather – it has a way of bringing out the nicest parts of people.

So when I shouted “it’s beautiful today!” to an old man, sweeping leaves off a side street (probably just to enjoy the day), his response was perfect:

“let’s hope it stays like this until Easter!”

For half a second, I imagined living here in New England, with all that it has to offer, and replacing cold, wet, winter days with the happy optimism of a warm October afternoon and I thought “that would be the perfect place to live”.

Unfortunately, that is not what we have in store for this winter. In fact, forecasters are predicting another miserable, cold, record-snow, logistical nightmare of a winter. And I’m completely petrified of it. Not just for the cold (that’s the least of the problems!). It’s the sick days, managing the winter gear, the length of time it takes to get all of the kids with all of their stuff out the door, the time spent indoors, the short days, and – fine – the cold.

So, for now, I’m going to imagine – for a moment – that I live in a place where October lasts until Easter. And I couldn’t be happier.

October love from one of my favorite books

October love from one of my favorite books

 

xoxo,

Julie

 

 

 

 

Posted in Sustain.Environment, Sustain.Others | Tagged , , | Leave a comment