Current obsessions: January 2017

It's been a while since I posted! Winter is one of the times that I like to retreat into myself, figure out my Word of the Year, set some intentions, all that lovely New Years stuff. I thought about setting a 2017 intention to blog more consistently, but I realized that would take the joy out of it for me. I like to write while the heat is in me, as Thoreau once said. Any attempt at having a regular blog series, or even a weekly writing habit, has failed for me, but I'm okay with that. I'm slowly learning to do things with less rigidity, more spontaneity, more listening to my intuition.

And this morning I really feel like sharing some obsessions with you! I have lots of new podcasts that I can't get enough of. If only there could be more time in the day to consume all this information... Plus some recipes, links, and books I'm into as well.

Cheers, and happy January!

  • I've been pretty fascinated by the concept of rewilding for the last year or so. I've taken small steps to bring the philosophy into my life, although nothing earth-shattering just yet. But it's fun to learn about it, and imagine the wild and naturey life that I'll live sometime in the future... The Rewild Yourself podcast has lengthy but fascinating interviews with people interested in rewilding their lives, and the She Explores podcast is all about women who inspired by time spent outdoors.
  • How to Build a Culture of Good Health: A fascinating article on the link between our emotional expression and physical health, particularly the links between childhood experiences and the immune system.
  • Eliminating decision fatigue is a major reason behind why I am so routine-based. If I don't have to think about my morning routine, it'll mean a calmer, more relaxing start to the day, and more room in my brain for the fast-paced decision-making demands of teaching kindergarten.
  • Speaking of calm, some ways to filter out the noise throughout your day.
  • After hearing about the book Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature a bunch of times, I finally ordered it and can't wait to dive in.
  • I've been obsessed with the idea of "invitations to create" in the classroom. I've done a few of them, and they've been really successful. I love that they don't need much of an introduction, and really engage my kids to use creativity and imagination while they explore.


Current obsessions: October 2016

current-obsessions-10-16 Don't you just love fall? I know it's the cliche favorite season for everyone ever, but I can't help loving it. Some things I'm currently obsessed with during this beautiful autumn:

I finally started a (somewhat) regular meditation practice! I've been doing lots of reading on how to use mindfulness in the classroom, and everything I read suggests that the teacher needs to practice mindfulness before she can teach it to her students... So I decided I would try to get in the habit of meditating for ten minutes when I get home from school. So far so good! It's a reasonable amount of time, I only make myself do it on the weekdays, and I've started to really look forward to it. After a crazy-busy day at school, it's pretty nice to just sit around for ten minutes doing nothing but breathing. I use the app called Heartfulness, and I did splurge a few months ago and buy a meditation cushion. (It's really just a pretty floor cushion from Pier One.)

On a similar note, I discovered some new podcasts that teach about mindfulness, meditation and the like: Tara Brach's podcast, Zencast, and The Mindful Podcast. My favorite is Tara Brach - her voice practically puts me to sleep it's so peaceful, and I love her talks about life and happiness and Buddhist philosophy.

In my teaching life, I've been trying to figure out how to have a more meaningful choice/play time for my kindergarteners. Technically I'm not even supposed to have play time in the schedule. There's no room for it in our master schedule, which we're expected to comply with except on special occasions like field trip days. How awful is that? Kids should be allowed to play just for play's sake. But I figure if I can make play time a demonstrably productive learning time, it'll be easier to convince administration of its importance. After all, kids really do learn a lot while they play - but I want to make it seem obvious that free play time is a meaningful part of the day. I heard about this book and got super excited because it seems like it was written just for my predicament -- Choice Time: How to Deepen Learning through Inquiry and Play by Renee Dinnerstein. I follow her blog, which is all about the importance of play and choice in the early grades, and can't wait to start reading the book.

A couple song obsessions this season: I'm on Fire by Town Mountain, Midnight on the Interstate by Trampled by Turtles, and Buckets of Rain by Bob Dylan (happy Nobel prize!)

I'm also slightly obsessed with the artist/author Dallas Clayton lately. I first heard him interviewed on the Real Talk Radio podcast (Play, Art and Power of Encouraging Others), and loved everything he said. Now I'm following him on Instagram for a daily dose of inspirational art.

Current obsessions: September 2016

I've been making lists called "Current Obsessions" since I was in middle school. These were primarily in the form of mix tapes and CDs, which, if you know me, is not at all surprising. (I am really into lists and also really into mix CDs.) So I decided to carry over my tradition of putting together a list of the songs I'm currently obsessed with, and tweak it a bit for the blog - putting together a list of all the things that I'm currently obsessed with. It'll be kind of like my Inspiration for the Weekend posts, but not limited to internet links. I'm hoping to find more time to write about the things I'm passionate about, instead of just providing links to other people's writing. So here goes! Current obsessions Sept 2016

I should note that this idea came in part from one of my current obsessions - Nicole Antoinette's podcast Real Talk Radio. She does long-form interviews of some really amazing people involved in health, wellness and activism. And the first question she usually asks her guests is "What are you currently obsessed with?" It's an awesome get-to-know-you question. I want to ask all my new coworkers that question.

And yes! I have new coworkers! I made an epic life decision this summer to switch school districts, so now I'll be teaching at a school in my neighborhood (as opposed to a suburb that was about 30 minutes away). I'm going to miss my coworkers and families so much, but it seems like the right decision and I'm really excited to be starting at the new school. And it'll save me an hour of driving every day! I can ride my bike to work! #lifechanging

Other obsessions include, obviously, how best to set up my classroom for the beginning of the school year. I have way fewer students (only 16! Last year I started with 24!) but also a smaller classroom, so I've had to be creative in how I set it up. I'm also trying to resist the idea of making my room perfect. I always dwell on the smallest of details, and end up spending two hours on, say, making my word wall letters perfectly spaced apart, when I could be using that time to, I don't know...look at the curriculum? Or go home and relax? Thus, I'm trying to let go of the need for perfection. Which is hard, seeing as I am a classic Type A perfectionist... Anyways, in that spirit, I found this link to be super helpful: How Finland Starts the School Year. Seriously, if you are a teacher, read this post. It turns out you don't NEED to spend 60 hours setting up your classroom, and in fact, maybe you shouldn't?! (gasp)

I'm also really really trying to be more mindful about how I spend my money. Seriously, where does it all go? I don't buy a lot of stuff, or so I tell myself. But somehow, at the end of each month, I end up spending way more than my paycheck probably allows for. Which is why I have been obsessively reading minimalist and don't-be-stupid-about-money blogs, like this one and this one and this one. I also especially loved this from Becoming Minimalist: One Simple Question to Ask Before Any Purchase. Now I need to just start following his advice...

And last but not least, I am currently obsessed with what most others on the internet have been obsessed with for many years now... Instagram. I finally, finally let go of my resistance to having another social media platform to keep up with, and jumped on the Instagram bandwagon. So far, so good. I have a reasonable amount of willpower about not checking it too often, which makes me feel less guilt about enjoying all the inspirational pictures and posts from yoga/outdoorsy/runner people that I follow. Anyway, if you want to follow the blog's new Instagram, I'm planning to post pictures of my morning runs and a few other things from time to time!

Inspiration for the week

freedombooks I apologize I haven't been posting lately. School will be over in one week (actually four days!) and I promise to be more active on here. One of my goals for the summer is to connect with writing and blogging more, as it's a creative outlet that brings me a lot of happiness. But only when I make time for it! Meanwhile, here are a few links to inspire over the next week:

Catching a piece of the sky: on childhood and wonder

Jose Vilson (who wrote This is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class and Education) had a series of guest posts on his blog that I loved. This one especially.

Another Jose Vilson piece: We must not be defeated. On optimism in May.

I'm fascinated by simple, effective ways to do inquiry-based teaching. I liked this article, on why it's not always important to name everything we find in the natural world.

Super cool! The first school district to embrace climate literacy. Maybe I should go teach in Portland.

I don't know much about John Muir, but I'd like to know more, and I always see his quote "The mountains are calling" all over my Pinterest boards. Adventure Journal delves into what the quote actually means.

Hooray for the new food labels! They now have to show explicitly how much added sugar is in packaged foods. Serving sizes will also be changed to more accurately reflect the amount people eat.

This is your brain on nature.

I'm a slow runner, and always have been. This piece gave me hope that it might not have to be that way forever :)

Inspiration for the weekend

livingwildlivingfreewakeupspring Ah spring. My favorite season. Yes, I know that fall has changing leaves and that crisp autumn smell. But spring is filled with blooming flowers, and sprouting gardens, and hope. Here are some hopeful links to share with you this morning...

Making peace with my body: How I did away with guilt and focused on joy.

On mindful running.

A beautiful story on why we should be able to walk through our country, and how absurd it is that we can't.

Rewild your life: a 30-day challenge. I signed up to do this challenge to spend 30 minutes in nature each day, but realized that it's near impossible during the school year. Fortunately, next month is the end of the school year! So I'll start it up then.

One of my all-time favorite bands is Cloud Cult. Their songs, shows, and albums are filled with so much beauty and emotion. Their lead singer, Craig Minowa, did an interview on the show On Being. I love everything he talks about, and also his midwestern accent.

A good lesson on being mindful when something is frustrating.

I wear these headbands all the time and love them! They're adjustable, don't slip, and come in really pretty patterns. Highly recommended.

Inspiration for the week

wildnessI love leisurely Saturday mornings. They usually result in me drinking too much coffee (so warm and tasty!) and attempting to read the whole internet. So here is some weekend inspiration to share: Have I mentioned my obsession with the Running on Om podcast? I can't get enough of it. Try this episode on feminine fierce, or this one on falling in love with your running, or this one on the intersection of running, nutrition and intuition.

I'm trying to get better at journaling every day. I've figured out a good way to meditate in the morning (just two minutes, right before breakfast), but haven't been able to fit journaling in my daily routine. This gives some good inspiration to find the time:

  • When you become a better listener to yourself, you become a better listener to others.
  • This soft quiet practice initiates the nurturing of your inner teacher, who happens to be pretty benevolent, empathetic and compassionate. You’ll start to be more lenient on yourself and that will trickle down to others because you’ll realize that we’re all doing the best we can with the tools we have.

When things are changing. Paying attention to subtle changes in your life/mind/body/soul, and why that's important.

I always grapple with the paradox of personal growth: How do you find a balance between accepting and loving yourself for who you are, and working to change yourself for the better?

And in the teaching world:

Extraordinary things happen when we simplify childhood. I'm not a parent, but I have kids I love, and oh my gosh do I love this article.

Teaching kindergarten in a new age of anxiety. YES.

Just found another teaching book I can't live without. I wish I had an unlimited budget for books... The Teacher You Want to Be: Essays about Children, Learning and Teaching.

Inspiration for the week

tolivequote I woke up this morning full of excitement for my upcoming nine days of freedom (aka spring break!). And for some reason, even though it's only just turned to spring, I couldn't get summer plans out of my head. There's so much I could possibly do this summer. There's a master naturalist course I want to take, plus a yoga teacher training I got accepted to (!), as well as my summer grad school classes, some science-related professional development stuff through my school, and my summer job at the nature center. Plus J and I are hoping to take a trip to California to see the redwoods and Big Sur (!!).

So much to choose from, which is an awesome problem to have. But it seems as always that I'm taking on too much and won't be able to do it all without being a crazy busy crazy person. And summer is definitely NOT the time for being a crazy busy crazy person. It's supposed to be my season of relaxation.

So I'll have to do some thinking and schedule-balancing, and probably let a few of those things go for now. I need to get better at remembering my intention to simplify my life. To help me remember, I decided to put together a few links on intentional living for your viewing pleasure...

Why saying you want change is not enough. A conversation in this article, that his mentor has about truly wanting something, really rang true for me. I keep saying I want a simpler life, or enough money to travel, or more time to read, or to learn how to rock climb better. But I don't realign my priorities to make sure I do it.

A mentor of mine was interacting with a gentleman older than me when the man made this statement, “I want to buy a Corvette.”

My mentor responded to his desire quite frankly, “No you don’t.”

“What do you mean? Of course I do. I’d like to own a Corvette.”

My mentor responded with words I have never forgotten, “No, you don’t really want to buy a Corvette. You see, if you really wanted to buy a Corvette, you could buy a Corvette. You could sell your home and maybe also your business. Then, you would have enough money to buy a Corvette. You say you want to own a Corvette… but if you really wanted to buy a Corvette, you’d be changing your life to do exactly that.”

Amazing new podcast discovery! It's called Running on Om, and it's all about the mind/body/soul connection between running, yoga, mindfulness, and intention. How did I function without this podcast until now?

I think making avocado toast every night could simplify my life.

The secret to having a simplified schedule. Something I need to work on.

A book I got and a book I would like to get.

I was trying to avoid the major fad that is the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, because I'm freakishly organized already and don't need to be pushed any further in that direction. But then a good friend of mine convinced me to look at how the book recommends you get rid of possessions - by asking the question "Does this spark joy?" It seems silly, because items in your house don't really spark joy. But I looked at my closet with the lens of "does this piece of clothing make me feel joyful?" If the answer was no, I got rid of it. If the answer was "well I might wear this someday" or "I really like this color" or "I paid a lot for this dress," I still got rid of it. Lo and behold, I got rid of about one-fourth of my clothes in 15 minutes. It was awesome.

Inspiration for the week

inspiration for the week Spring is coming! I've decided (even though I realize my confession borders on sacrilege, given the popularity of fall in the collective minds of millennials) that spring is my favorite season. Nothing gets me more excited about life than hearing that first mourning dove, watching snow melt from the branches, and feeling the warm spring sunshine on my face. So happy spring, and enjoy some links that have inspired me this week!

Self-care is something that I know teachers don't prioritize nearly enough: Experts share their tips on how you can be kinder to yourself.

Homemade almond milk. My bf makes this every week, and it's always more delicious than the store-bought kind. Given how much I use each week for breakfasts, I should probably start making it too.

I sent this to one of my busy momma friends, about giving yourself some space, a moment of peace, which women don't do often enough.

Along those same lines, you can't read, watch and do everything (but I'm always guilty of trying).

And last, a super interesting article that gives another reason why poverty is a barrier to healthy eating habits. Children need to try a new food at least 8 times before they learn to like it - and if you're strapped for cash, why would you bother buying a food that you know your child will reject 8 times in a row? Wasting food is not an option in many families, so kids don't get enough chances to try new fruits and vegetables. Enter...the school system! Just another reason why we should systematically educate kids on healthy eating habits in schools.

Inspiration for the week

tree Well here we are at the end of 2015. It hardly seems like winter, let alone a few days before Christmas, due to the fact that it's pouring with rain virtually everywhere in the midwest. But I'm still doing my end-of-the-year stuff, including reflecting on the year that has passed, and recovering from an intense semester in the kindergarten classroom. Hoorah for winter break, and year-end thoughtfulness. Here are some links for to help you along in your New Years reflections:

A year-long adventure in saying no to self-improvement.

A hilarious guided meditation. I'm trying to weave more meditation into my life, because my stress level has been chaotic this year. This video is perfect, and I want to watch it every day.

Along the same lines of being mindful, the broken promise of multi-tasking.

Essential Zen Habits. A book to get.

The best folk albums of 2015.

Teach Breathe Learn. I just got this book, on teaching mindfulness in the classroom. I haven't read it yet, but it looks promising.

Maria Popova's bookshelf! She writes Brain Pickings, one of my all-time favorite things to read on the internet. And here are all of her book recommendations in one place. Guess we know where all my tax return money will go...

And last certainly not least, Unraveling the Year Ahead: the workbook. My favorite way to set my intentions for next year.

Inspiration for the week

davinciprint Some links to inspire on this beautiful fall day!

On summer's departure. But autumn in the midwest, how do I love thee.

I may have already linked to this once, but I listened to the unedited version of Mary Oliver's interview on the On Being podcast. She's pretty amazing.

We are becoming the phone people! Yuck.

I really want to try making apple cider kombucha.

Speaking of fermented things, I follow this fermentation blog, Phickle, and would love to get her new book Ferment Your Vegetables!

Textbooks whitewashing history. No surprise there.

I don't know much about this yet, but apparently Obama wants students to stop taking unnecessary tests. Heck yes.

I love this blog written by an American teacher who moved to Finland. He had an article in the Atlantic a while back which is how I found out about it. But I like his most recent post a lot as well: Finland's teachers - with less stress and more time - collaborate naturally. My favorite line? "Collaboration is virtually impossible when teachers are overwhelmed." My second favorite line? "Teachers need many opportunities to work together, and a lighter teaching load to maximize the time they spend together." AMEN!

And for celebrating fall with your students...the Ultimate List of Books that Inspire Nature Explorations.