Let Nature Nurture

There is a lot of pain, fear and anger in the world these days. I don’t know if it is worse than years, generations, decades or even centuries past, but it is certainly stressful. I have been avoiding the news, discussing the news, thinking about the news… I just need some time to recover from the raw emotions of the shootings in the United States, I need time to fully process and recover my strength. I don’t have time to turn to nature to help me heal, so instead, I’ve been hunting through my photos for pictures of some of my favorite healing nature places.

Water

My most relaxing place is the ocean. I love the crash of the waves on the rocks in Mendocino, which is my happy place. But there are many oceans, and rivers, and bays, and lakes, and other places that have water that make me happy.

Trees

I love trees, too. I love their huge size, the bright green when the leaves are new, the dramatic skeletons when the leaves are gone… In forests and in fields, and down the street from me. Trees are completely uplifting.

Blossoms

Any bright and cheerful blossom in the spring makes me smile – I can’t get enough of the gorgeous colors around me then. When I lived in New York City, I lived near Fort Tryon Park, and spent years wandering through the park soaking up the vivid colors. And I’ve always loved gardens – botanical gardens, gardens at historic estates, gardens of my neighbors. Bright colors make me happy! 2015_Dogwood blossomsChristina's Flower 2

Fort Tryon Park, in 2007

Fort Tryon Park, in 2007

Just looking at these pictures make me happier, and perhaps more resilient. Of course, they also bring back happy memories, which probably also lowers my stress level. It’s a nice reminder to see adventures with friends and family over the years.

I hope you have a moment to stop and smell the flowers and enjoy the trees. It won’t solve the world’s problems, but it might make them easier to stomach. red poppies

Shopping, Sewing and Sustainability

The Mechanic and I try to live a sustainable life – we are vegetarian (except during international travel, when we want to try local specialties), do our best to avoid foods made with palm oil, we walk, bike or use public transportation on a daily basis, and rent cars when we are going out of town. We use as little water as possible, turning off the water during showers and while brushing teeth, and The Mechanic mostly washes dishes by hand to reduce water usage. We have CFLs or LED lights, reuse our plastic zip top baggies, use environmentally-friendly cleaning products as much as possible, take reusable bags when we go shopping, and turn off the lights in rooms we aren’t using. There is always room for improvement – I’ve recently been exploring environmentally-friendly toiletries and beauty supplies, and buying bulk food items like nuts. But for me, shopping is The Weakest Link.Plastic Baggies

Eileen Fisher, fashion designer and industry activist, said last year that fashion is the second most polluting industry after the oil industry. She knows better than I do, but there is no arguing with the fact that the fashion industry is not an ideal industry. From ethical treatment of workers to textile manufacture to shipping garments and shoes thousands of miles to billions of garments being thrown away, there are problems all the way through. Fast fashion, clothing that is turned out quickly after it appears on runways, has become the norm, as people of all ages flock to inexpensive trends as soon as they come out. Fashion Revolution Week, April 18-24 this year, brings attention to the nameless workers who crank out those fast fashion pieces, a movement inspired by and in honor of the over 1,100 workers who died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  In response, some clothing companies pledged greater transparency with their supply chain, resulting in the Fashion Transparency Index, ranking clothing companies by results. But even beyond the idea of who makes the clothes the world consumes are issues involving the fabrics themselves – polyester is made from petroleum; creating cotton fabric uses an unbelievable amount of water; there’s the fertilizer used in growing those crops; and apparently the average American citizen THROWS AWAY 70lbs of clothing a year. The statistics are depressing.

Who made my clothes? I did!

Who made my clothes? I did!

So with an industry dirty from beginning to end, how do you incorporate sustainability into what you put on every day?

Uniqlo

I love these pieces but maybe for the same price I should have just ordered three yards of Liberty of London fabric…

I could smugly answer, “Well, I make my own clothes,” but that is not only an incorrect answer, it doesn’t solve the problem. I don’t make ALL my own clothes. I don’t know where the fabrics I purchase are made, or by whom. I’ve never even looked to see where my patterns are printed! Because I have limited local fabric shopping options, I tend to order most of fabrics, which means transportation emissions from the warehouse where the fabrics are kept; don’t even think about how the fabrics were transported to that warehouse. And I still buy fast fashion – I love my Liberty of London for Uniqlo purchases! So what is a sewist and fashion addict to do?!

For starters, I try really hard to not buy clothing any more “just because.” I actually find that I would rather make most things anyway, and that I’d rather *wear* the things I make. It’s more fun to make cute reflective garments than basic tee shirts, but I may need to start doing that as well. I love Spoonflower because of their eco-friendly system: digital printing of fabric leads to less waste of fabric, ink and electricity; they don’t need to store potentially unpurchased fabrics that could end up thrown away; many of their fabrics are made in the USA or organic or both; they support small designers by giving them a platform; and the Sprout Patterns printed on fabric reduces even more waste! If I could buy all my fabrics from Spoonflower, I would.

One giant piece of fabric with the pattern pieces printed right on it!

One giant piece of fabric with the pattern pieces printed right on it!

I have started researching companies that do engage in eco-friendly, ethical creations. H&M and Uniqlo aren’t doing too badly on the Fashion Transparency Index, and I do like H&M’s Conscious Exclusive collection, even though most of it is fancier than I’d ever need. I don’t know that I have the patience to simply not buy – I’m a bit like a magpie: Oh look, something shiny! But if I can focus on a list of places whose practices I agree with, at least my purchases are supporting what I believe in. I haven’t fully identified those companies yet; the ones I have found have very expensive clothing. On the other hand, the pieces I own that I’ve spent the most money on tend to be the pieces I love wearing. Hm… maybe that should be my new shopping strategy: only buy expensive things! Hahahaha….

In terms of sewing and sustainability, I will be testing out my first few download-and-tape-together pattern from indie pattern companies, and looking around for other places to order fabric. I need to find some patterns that can act as basics, so I don’t need to buy those but can quickly whip them up. I would love to be able to sew everything, but I simply don’t have time, and then I get impatient for something new, and then I go out an buy. Hm…. So really, what this all boils down to is being happy with what I have and not wanting anything new! But that seems boring to me – I need to make it work in more eco-friendly ways! And either way, I need to think about the carbon footprint of the USPS/UPS/FedEx way my orders get to me. Buy all the fabric all at once?

What are your favorite sustainable ways to shop and sew?

 

2016: Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

Happy 2016!

Yay, new calendars!

Yay, new calendars!

I love a new year. Like a blank slate, a brand new notebook, it has so much potential. What will happen in this new year? Some ideas floating around, but I have learned that no matter how I plan, things always seem to turn out differently…. Nevertheless, I love the feeling of starting over, of reinventing myself – who can I be this year?!

I love this "Line a Day" Five Year journal, and this year I get to start a brand new one. What will these pages hold at the end of it?!

I love this “Line a Day” Five Year journal, and this year I get to start a brand new one. What will these pages hold at the end of it?!

However, I, like so many others, find it hard to keep my resolutions. So this year I’ve decided that maybe a personal mantra will help me stay on track. I just need to keep repeating something to myself that will remind me of my goals.

I decided to adapt the phrase made famous by Benjamin Franklin, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” into simply “Healthy, wealthy and wise.” This reflects all the different areas of my life that I constantly strive to improve, so it’s easy to group my specific goals under these three topics.

Benjamin Franklin, portrait by Joseph-Siffrein Suplessis, circa 1785. Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Franklin, portrait by Joseph-Siffrein Suplessis, circa 1785. Wikimedia Commons

Healthy

I’ve been lazy with my healthy eating habits and regular exercise, and my pants are beginning to not fit quite as well, oops! Time to reset and get back on the bandwagon. There are many things I need to do to clean up my act, but two challenges in particular that I want to focus on:

  • Eight hours of sleep. More specifically, go to bed at 10pm, rather than 11pm or later. This is a bit of a struggle and The Mechanic and I practiced a bit this week (although not last night!). My goal is to be able to get up earlier and do some yoga before starting my day, and that means going to bed earlier.
  • Cut down on sugar. I’d love to say that I’m going to cut it out completely but I can’t give up lemon bars and pumpkin pie and chocolate chip cookies. I can, however, retrain myself to only eat them for true celebrations – Valentine’s Day, birthdays, holidays… I don’t want to eat it everyday anymore. I know it’s addictive, so this won’t be easy.

    Right after I eat all these champagne cupcakes that I made for New Year's Eve...

    Right after I eat all these champagne cupcakes that I made for New Year’s Eve…

Wealthy

Saving money, or rather, not shopping, is a huge struggle for me, and it partly stems from the constant need for excitement. New clothes, after all, are quite exciting! But I don’t need much, and I want more savings. So there are two things I want to do to help myself:

  • Rein in impulse shopping. I want to only make myself things, or buy from my Stitch Fix subscription, or buy really cool shoes, not all the cool shoes. I tell myself I’ll behave and then I find myself with something in hand. Stop it, just stop it!
  • Set up a “Family and Friends” savings account. I love buying stuff for family and friends, and this year I want a dedicated savings account and have money automatically transfer into it, so when birthdays and holidays and vacations roll around, I have funds specifically to spend on them. Having it separated will work better for me; I know from experience.
This is the Boden skirt that inspired my color blocked dress that I made this fall. The skirt was on clearance so I ordered it. I love it! Last purchase, I promise!!!

This is the Boden skirt that inspired my color blocked dress that I made this fall. The skirt was on clearance so I ordered it. I love it! Last purchase, I promise!!!

Wise

Wisdom comes from different sources. I’m thinking not only of being knowledgeable and fluent in current events, but also of being wise when it comes to my actions, especially in regards to sustainability and my purchasing power. I want to think about what I do and buy and how it impacts the planet. For example, I recently read that bar soap is more environmentally friendly than shower gel, and although I don’t really like bar soap, it is making me consider trying some. The Mechanic and I are already pretty green, so now it’s time to take it up a notch.

Sometimes a different perspective is all that is needed to want to make a change. Here, the National Mall as viewed from the Washington Monument, on a recent, perfectly clear day.

Sometimes a different perspective is all that is needed to want to make a change. Here, the National Mall as viewed from the Washington Monument, on a recent, perfectly clear day.

Even if you don’t create formal resolutions, do you find yourself resolving to do things better or differently in the new year? Or do you make resolutions at another milestone, such as a birthday? What prompts you to make changes or improvements in your life?

Here’s to a healthy, wealthy and wise 2016!

 

 

Thankful for Social Media

Many people I know, including friends younger than me (Millennials!) but not including my mother, don’t understand social media. They don’t want to be on Facebook, see no use for Twitter, and are marginally interested in Instagram. They claim that they have nothing to Tweet, nor care for the prattling of people they know, let alone people they don’t know. Blogging is too much work.

I, however, am thankful for social media. It has expanded my world more than I could have ever expected back in 2007 when I joined Facebook. I’ve reconnected with friends from my hometown, from my days of local theater, stayed connected with friends as we move around the world, stayed on top of current events, and met many people who are smart, interesting, interested in similar things, creative, talented, worldly, engaged, involved and inspiring. My interactions with them have expanded my horizons, inspired me to push my limits, and offered me opportunities to engage. I firmly believe that I bike differently and sew better because of my internet relationships.

So this Thanksgiving, while I am thankful for my family, friends, husband, health, prosperity, awesome job and work family, and safe, stable environment, I want to express my thankfulness for everyone whom I touch, frequently and infrequently, through social media. Thank you for your involvement in my life. Thank you for helping me grow.

I'm nuts about you all!

I’m nuts about you all!

Thinking About Winter: Bar Mitts

And suddenly, it is November! Is anyone else horrified by how close the holidays and end of the year now seem?!

Thinking ahead to the holidays, the time change, darker evening bike rides home, and cooling temperatures means that I’m also thinking about cold. And snow. And I’m *really* not happy about that. If this coming winter is anything like last winter, I need a better cold hands strategy. Apparently I have Raynaud’s Disease (or Syndrome or Condition), which means that, in response to cold or stress, smaller blood vessels shrink more dramatically, causing loss of blood flow to fingers, toes, lips, ears, etc. Last winter, my hands would get so cold even on my short, 3-mile bike ride, that some of my fingers would turn white, then hurt a lot as they warmed up. I wasn’t sure if that was normal or not, so I finally texted a photo to my mom and aunt; my aunt replied, “That’s Raynaud’s – welcome to the club.”

Turning white is only the first stage - at least they never turned blue!

Turning white is only the first stage – at least they never turned blue!

I asked on Facebook for suggestions from others who might have similar experiences, and several suggested bar mitts. I was a little afraid of this. The Mechanic has encouraged them for a while now, but I find them pretty unattractive, so yes, I have been avoiding them. However, this year, I might need to suck it up and buy some.

Bar mitts are pretty much what the name suggestions – mitts that go over bars. Any kind of handle bars – scooters, motorcycles, snowmobiles, all styles of bicycles, baby jogging strollers…. Made of durable black neoprene, the design varies only based on the shape of the handlebars. As far as I can tell, the only company out there that makes them is called Bar Mitts. Right on the homepage, it says the bar mitts are good for anyone suffering Raynaud’s.

The neoprene is obviously a good choice for being in the elements. Basil, the Dutch bicycle accessories company, makes faux sheepskin ones, which I quite like. I don’t know how well these would hold up in the rain – would the fabric get soggy, and not dry out in the cold?

I am tempted to order them from Dutch Bike Bits anyway, but if they are hard to swap out, I don’t know that it would be worth using them some time, but replacing them with the neoprene option when it’s really needed.

I briefly considered making my own. The Mechanic made some for his scooter a few winters back, when he was riding a scooter out to Fairfax County (a not really bike-friendly commute). He used some old materials from his military days, but found that when they got wet, they didn’t dry out for days. I’m pretty sure I would be miserable, in that case. Igloo Bar Mitts 1 Igloo Bar Mitts 2I’ll probably wait until after Christmas to order Bar Mitts, but I think they will be on my winter biking prep list, no matter what I think of the look. I guess keeping my fingers healthier is worth it <grits teeth>. After all, I did eventually succumb to the warmth of down coats, over my preferred wool coats.

Have you experienced anything like this whilst biking in the cold? What was your solution? What has been your best cold weather solution?

First Day of School!

Arlington Public Schools starts back to school today, September 8. It seems really late this year, a whole week into September, but I can’t imagine any of the students complaining! It’s been so hot these last few days that I have to laugh at fall back-to-school things – new sweaters and fall leaves and cozy hot drinks. My mother tells me that every year, my grandmother very carefully bought me a new raincoat, rain boots and umbrella, but California in the 1970s was in the middle of a drought, and I outgrew them before getting too much use out of them.

I had my parents send me my back-to-school photos. What a hoot! My style hasn’t changed much in decades – floral dresses and oh my goodness that oh so proper outfit on my first day of First Grade! And look – my natural hair color! <ahem>

First Grade - who wears something like this in first grade?!?! How did my parents not guess at my future focus from this photo?

First Grade – who wears something like this in first grade?!?! How did my parents not guess at my future focus from this photo?

Second Grade - if you look closely you can see my "Little House on the Prairie" lunch box. And keep watching for knee socks. Apparently that was a look I really loved. I didn't crop these because I love the square photo shape, but watch how they eventually change.

Second Grade – if you look closely you can see my “Little House on the Prairie” lunch box. And keep watching for knee socks. Apparently that was a look I really loved. I didn’t crop these because I love the square photo shape, but watch how they eventually change.

Third Grade - another floral print dress! No socks this day, bet it was hot. Same lunch box too. And guess I had my hair cut off in between years.

Third Grade – another floral print dress! No socks this day, bet it was hot. Same lunch box too. And guess I had my hair cut off in between years.

Fourth Grade and the photos move outside. I'm clutching camellias from the yard, for the teacher I assume. Another floral dress and knee socks again.

Fourth Grade and the photos move outside. I’m clutching camellias from the yard, for the teacher I assume. Another floral dress and knee socks again.

Fifth Grade - yes, I am wearing a blouse that my mother embroidered. I forget the technique but I know I loved it (and still do). I assume that I slept on foam curlers to get my hair that curly.

Fifth Grade – yes, I am wearing a blouse that my mother embroidered. I forget the technique but I know I loved it (and still do). I assume that I slept on foam curlers to get my hair that curly.

Sixth Grade - look at the sudden style shift! Pants, on the first day of school! And Velcro tennis shoes. My, I was a bean pole then, wasn't I?

Sixth Grade – look at the sudden style shift! Pants, on the first day of school! And Velcro tennis shoes. My, I was a bean pole then, wasn’t I?

And also, look at a few group photos of the first day – one with my little brother, and two with my friend at the time.

Back to school fashions are much different these days, but the excitement and anxiety remains for every kid returning to school. I’ve talked to many parents recently who plan on walking and biking with their kids to school (yay!), and some who plan to drive their child because they don’t want them up too early/the traffic around the school is terrible/drivers are terrible/it’s too hilly around our school. I think that is a shame, because they are not helping their children as much as they think they are.

We all read research about the positive impacts of children biking and walking to school and know how important it is to get kids moving to beat the obesity crisis. But much more compelling arguments to me are the mental benefits. An article in the print version of Momentum Magazine (sorry, I couldn’t find it online) quotes Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, a Canadian physician, who talks about the rise in anxiety and depression in adolescents and young adults, and says that children need MORE freedom, independence and exercise. The article states that children who bike and walk to school “have the opportunity” to take “small risks” every day – these risks are important, because they help children develop “resiliency and self-confidence that can be drawn upon when facing life’s challenges in later years.” Basically, children who bike and walk to school develop not only better physical health, but better abilities to handle life’s challenges as they grow up.

Jenn Savedge, in her recent article in Mother Nature Network, laments that parents spend so much time and money on enrichment activities for their offspring, whereas letting them bike and walk to school has immediate, longer-lasting impacts. She talks about a 2012 Danish study that found that children who walk or bike to school not only have better concentration than their peers who rode public transportation or were dropped off by parents, but that the concentration lasts up to four hours! More striking – the effect was greater than even having breakfast and lunch. safe_routes_to_schools_logoTo me, the “small risks,” mental alertness and emotional maturity that come from risk taking are more important than even the physical health. Helping a child build his or her own mental resilience has got to be one of the most important things an adult can do. There has been an uptick in conversation about mental health lately, and how to spot mental illnesses earlier. Let’s focus instead on how to prevent or minimize mental illness by encouraging more activities that help children cope with challenges and struggles in their lives. Hovering over a child to prevent disappointment or a sense of failure isn’t healthy; helping her build the confidence to overcome them herself is.

Taking risks and building confidence is something that will not only follow us into adulthood, but something that we continually need to call upon. The Mechanic and I joined some friends mountain biking yesterday. It was only my second time out, and I was really skittish when we started out. But I stuck it out – and eventually gained some confidence. Yes, I still walked plenty of spots, but I took some risks – and succeeded.

What you don't see in this photo is me paused in front of the creek, working up the courage to bike through. But I did it! Yep, badass!

What you don’t see in this photo is me paused in front of the creek, working up the courage to bike through. But I did it! Yep, badass!

As a society, we need to work together to encourage children to gain confidence and strength. I really can’t think of a better way than through biking and walking to school. We should all encourage the creation of cool skills parks like this one to help children develop skills safely. We should all encourage green streets and safe routes to schools. I don’t have children, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about my community and the children growing up in it. Their mental health and emotional resilience are important to all of us. So let’s all work together to create it.

And maybe buy your kids this great Showers Pass rain jacket (there are boys and girls version in a range of colors) to get them excited about biking in the rain. I would have loved one of these when I was a kid – even if I never got to wear it….

Showers Pass Girls Rain Jacket (photo from Showers Pass website)

Showers Pass Girls Rain Jacket (photo from Showers Pass website)

(A few more things I wanted to add but this was long enough: Dr. Jennifer Rupert mentions mental benefits of walking in nature; a great video about biking and walking to school in Portland.)

Buried by Books

I’ve neglected my blog this past weekend. I was in need of some reading therapy, so I’ve been buried in the Little House on the Prairie books. I blame it on my niece.

The Mechanic and I had our 8-year-old niece over to spend the night last Saturday. It was the first time we’d ever been fully in charge of her, and had her at our house, and overnight, and I was a bit nervous. I just wanted her to have a good time, so she’d want to hang out with us again. I think we were successful.

It was fun – we took her on the Silver Line out to Tyson’s Corner Center. A suburban girl, she doesn’t get to ride trains much, and seemed fascinated by all of it, thank goodness. Our goal was the American Girl Doll store, where she wanted her doll’s ears pierced. I took my American Girl Doll too! I have the original Samantha (she’s been re-released, and is now a bit less historical than before); she was given to me by friends years ago. She’s the 1904 New York Victorian girl, for those of you who don’t know, and I have a few of her historical outfits and accessories, as well as some homemade dresses. I don’t play with her, obviously, and since I don’t have space to display her in our current apartment, she’s been in a box for a while. So she was happy to get out and see the world. Naturally I bought her a new dress at the store.

After sushi at Wasabi, the restaurant in Tyson’s with a conveyor belt of endless sushi, the Disney store, Bath & Body Works, and some ice skating at the outdoor rink at the mall, we staggered home. When we eventually got her tucked into bed, she pulled out her copy of Little House in the Big Woods, which she’s been reading. Yay, one of my favorite series of books ever! Her version is full-color, so I pulled out my decades old set with black and white illustrations, and we compared the lovely Garth Williams images for a while, before I left her to read in bed.

Then I started rereading them. And haven’t stopped.

Okay, I cut out some fabric Sunday after our niece left, and took apart my wedding dress, so I now have a few projects ready to start, huzzah! But basically all I did Sunday and then Monday night was read. Reading is my way of dealing with stress – when I’m overloaded by life, I need to bury myself in a book. And I felt a bit overloaded by the time she left; both The Mechanic and I were. Not used to being around kids much, close to 24 hours of non-stop attention on a kid overwhelmed true-introvert The Mechanic and borderline-introvert me. So I need to reread some old favorite fiction. I skimmed through The Long Winter last night, which seemed appropriate as Winter Storm/Blizzard Juno was rolling in on the Northeast. I just couldn’t manage to rouse myself from my reading stupor to write a blog post. Do you ever get like that – so overwhelmed that you need to do nothing? Or rather, bury yourself in something to take your mind off things?

This was once a Liberty of London for Target duvet cover. Now it will be a spring blouse.

This was once a Liberty of London for Target duvet cover. Now it will be a spring blouse with an orange sherbert reflective sash.

My poor wedding dress!

My poor wedding dress!

A friend is going to repurpose this. She's an amazing seamstress with two daughters - I can't wait to see what she does with it!

A friend is going to repurpose this. She’s an amazing seamstress with two daughters – I can’t wait to see what she does with it!

Now, however, I feel like I’m a bit more relaxed and I’m thinking ahead to everything I want to do this weekend – I just need to finish one last book… Happy Golden Years

Into the Woods

The Mechanic and I saw “Into the Woods,” the new movie, over the New Year’s weekend. We rarely go to see movies; apparently this is our New Year’s tradition. What a brilliant movie to see on the big screen! There were so many excellent moments in the show, lines (“I was raised to be Charming, not sincere…”), costumes, songs, sets, scenes…. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the show, and I was really happy to get to introduce it to The Mechanic. Now I want him to see the video production of the 1987 Broadway version, to see the original. The movie isn’t that much different, but it is a bit altered. Still, I loved it and recommend it.Into the Woods Movie

The musical has some special memories for me too – when I was an undergrad, majoring in history at CSU Sacramento, I worked in the theater costume shop. One semester they did “Into the Woods” with costumes rented from the Broadway tour. I had been dressing Broadway tours already at that point, so I was not new to seeing Broadway costumes, but I remember a moment of disappointment in the repairs in the Stepsisters’ costumes. Twenty (or so) years later, I understand what I saw, but at the time, well, I assumed that professional costumes at least used matching thread colors! That CSUS production was also my first draped costumed, draped, then dyed, and that will also always be special to me.

Despite all the wonderful moments and memories, there was something in the back of my mind while I watched the movie that bothered me. The forest, the Woods, was the biggest uncredited performer in the movie, and not necessarily well represented. It started off well: in the first act, the Baker and his Wife have a duet in which she sings about how different he is in the woods – “stronger, braver.” It made me think about the Children & Nature Network, and all the research that shows the benefits of being in nature – not just the health impact of physical exercise over sitting in front of a screen, but also mental health and development, emotional health and reduced stress, etc. In the first act of “Into the Woods,” each character that ventures into the woods learns something about themselves, they grow as a person. This is exactly what we want children to get out of playing in nature.

Being in nature soothes my soul

Being in nature soothes my soul

However… in the second act, the Woods are dark, sinister and dangerous, the paths are gone, everything looks different – it’s gotten scary. The characters fight, some die, and they all panic. Even when some of them join forces to solve the problem, they still come out of it scarred. This unfortunate portrayal of the Woods reminded me of an op ed in the LA Times, found through the Children & Nature Network newsletter, entitled “The Great Fear of the Great Outdoors.” The author, Gary Ferguson, makes a startling statement up front: “…our unease about nature is beginning to outweigh our desire for it.” He then goes on to list the number of TV shows and movies that cast Nature as the bad guy. Not only are we addicted to our electronic devices, we are being told by the media that nature is scary, dark, sinister, dangerous and deadly. No wonder no one wants to play outside! And now we have a movie that ends with a scary Woods, exactly what everyone will remember when they leave the movie theater, not the empowering discovery of the first act. Even the movie ads make the Woods seem menacing!

Ooh, spooky woods...

Ooh, spooky woods…

The implications of children not knowing the outdoors are well documented; you only need to spend a bit of time on the Children & Nature website to see some proof. But beyond the individual development of nature play, there is a greater concern that children who have no connection to nature will grow into adults who see no value in national parks, state parks and local green space. That means the parks are at risk; god forbid we lose the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, along with numerous other smaller parks, because generations after our see no reason to keep them as public parks. The National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary in a year, in 1916, and I hope we can keep it around another hundred years. But maybe we need to make more of an effort to ensure that children see nature as a positive thing, not something to fear. And that effort needs to include the arts and entertainment – TV shows, movies, and adults dedicated to putting down the electronics to sit still and enjoy going into the woods.

Happy Nature!

Happy Nature!

 

Thankful for You

I have much to be thankful for this year:

Getting Married

I am thankful that not only did The Mechanic and get married this year, that we were able to celebrate with our closest family and friends. Having a small wedding meant being able to truly enjoy everyone who attended, and that made the day truly special and memorable. Wedding PhotoOur Amazing Honeymoon

Our three-week trip through Europe was such an amazing adventure, and I can’t wait to bike through Europe again! I am so thankful that we had the ability to be gone for three weeks, since it will be a while before we will have that much time off together again! Konstanz

Biking

Although I haven’t touched my road bike all year, I am still thankful for the biking I have done, and look forward to planning a few half-centuries next year. Biking is still my commute mode of choice, a lifestyle I prefer, a way to stay healthy(ier), a fun way to get around, and heck, a fun thing to style. I hope that I’ll be biking as long as I live, and I will be thankful every year I’m able to. Iladora Top 3Sewing

Even with wedding planning, the wedding and a long trip, I am very pleased with the number of sewing projects I was able to complete this year. I am thankful that I’ve picked up this hobby again, and have turned it into something useful, something that combines my love of fashion with my interest in biking. I’m thankful that I found a way to funnel my creative energies! Fake Fur_TinLizzie

Blogging

I am thankful for all of you read my blog, and comment and like posts. It’s a nice way to feel connected to a bigger thing, to feel a sense of community. When I was young, I wanted to be a writer, but grew to feel that “everything” was written about, and there was no reason for me to keep it up. Blogging has enabled me to return to that first dream, and I’m beginning to write for others. If you haven’t ready my latest post for The Discerning Cyclist, check it out, and be sure to read my tips for stylish cold weather biking on the Bike Pretty blog. Hopefully there will be more where that comes from.

YOU

We may not have ever met. We might “chat” via Twitter or this blog. We might have been friends a long time ago, friends who haven’t talked in ages. We might chat all the time, and you just like to read what I write and share in my adventures. And to my family, most of whom live far far away, and my new family, who live closer, I am so happy, thankful, and grateful to have you in my life. No matter what our relationship might be, I value it. It is part of what makes me who I am, and for that, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Home Depot Flower Turkeys

Biking to Ballet

At the end of 2013, I purchased a Living Social deal to Adagio Ballet & Dance School, 10 adult classes for a really good rate. I was very excited about this – although my childhood experiences with tap and ballet classes don’t hold the happiest of memories, I took classes for a while as an adult living in New York, and really enjoyed it. I’m terrible at it, but really like the hour of full concentration, grace and strength (perceived grace on my part), and the fact that ballet is learning something, rather than just lifting weights (which as you all know, I totally love). I envisioned myself strong and graceful at the end of 10 weeks.

How I envision myself after 10 weeks of classes... (image from Wikepdia).

How I envision myself after 10 weeks of classes… (image from Wikepdia).

However…. When I Googled the bike directions from my apartment to Adagio, the route was up Glebe Road, which is not bike friendly at all. Luckily there is a convenient bus route, so I tried that a few times. But between buses either showing up earlier, or not showing up at all, bad winter weather, and work events, I didn’t end up going as often as I’d hoped.

... instead it was me and a bunch of women who had either never taken a class, or, like me, hadn't taken classes in years. (Image from Disney).

… instead it was me and a bunch of women who had either never taken a class, or, like me, hadn’t taken classes in years. (Image from Disney).

As the weather improved, I decided it was time to make more of an effort to go before the deal expired, so I Googled the route one more time. This time, it showed me a way to get there through neighborhoods! No main roads! Huzzah! Although I got lost a few times in North Arlington’s twisty hills, I eventually found an easy way to get to my ballet class in a mere 15 minutes! It was nice to get there already warmed up, and I was pleased to discover that between BodyPump, yoga, and biking, I wasn’t as sore as I initially anticipated I would be. Yes, different muscles are being used, but I’m apparently in much better shape than I thought. I went regularly for a while, although now with wedding chaos about to start and the end of the spring class term, I won’t be back until the fall.

My bike in front of Adagio Ballet Studio - they need a bike rack!

My bike in front of Adagio Ballet Studio – they need a bike rack!

This whole process also proved that for as bikey as I am, I am also the person for whom bike lanes are intended – I don’t want to ride on main roads with no shoulders and cars whizzing angrily by. I want a route that I feel safe on, so that I am encouraged to ride somewhere regularly. I’d love protected bike lanes, ideally, but I’m good with a painted lane. Just something that gives me space and legitimacy. Or at least quiet neighborhood streets where I can enjoy the yards full of flowers, giant trees, the occasional fox running across the road in the dusk, and a car or pedestrian now and again. It makes such a difference!

I volunteered at their Spring recital to help dress baby ballerinas.

I volunteered at their Spring recital to help dress baby ballerinas.

I really hope they do another Living Social deal, but I think that even if they don’t, I will make the investment and get a 10-class package, and start with classes again in September. My instructor did tell me that I should be able to move up to the next level adult class soon, now that I’m recognizing steps and so on. Yay! That is incentive, for sure! I’ll be a ballerina yet.