Saturday, April 27, 2019

Nature's Alarm Clock

The sound of a Canadian goose was my alarm clock this morning (supposing that the honking call is we have this here). The open windows and freshness of spring led to crisp morning air whisper-tickling my skin. Accompanying that was the shifting sunbeam on my face, working its way up and through the slats of my blinds.

Disclosure: I am not a morning person nor do I typically wake up well or easily. Rather I’m a creature of sleep who loves my bed. Always have been. I don’t pounce up, ready to face the world. Rather I wake up tired, wanting to pull the covers over my head, craving more sleep, wanting a good two hours or more. (And this is a girl who has read Shawn Stevenson’s book Sleep Smarter and has purposely tried to go to bed earlier having learned the importance and value of sleep for our health and well-being.)

I know that my slow-to-wake side comes from more than my innate craving for the quiet of the house at the end of the nigh after all go to bed. It’s more than the second wind of creativity I can get in the evening. A lot probably comes from being a working mom with a to-do list that grows faster than it can get all crossed off. Maybe too it’s because I’ve yet to craft that morning routine where that first hour is deliciously mine. Instead, especially on work days, I’m too busy for a morning routine because I’m preoccupied with hitting the snooze button a number of times. Then I’m too busy scurrying around getting ready and organized to get out of the house...frequently running tight on time, hoping not to be late. Clearly we aren’t perfect beings, we have our flaws, and this is among mine.

But I digress—and return to the moment.

Another sunbeam is hitting that sweet spot in the blind, landing it directly on my face. I notice the blessed blue skies and the peeks of green on the trees (almost like a silhouette) through those slats as well. I start to count bird songs I hear, wishing I were more skilled with my identification skills.

I love the early days of spring where all of this is fresh and new, truly waking us up from winter. Hyperaware of it all— in part because we are so grateful winter has finally passed. (My affinity for winter is quite similar to my love of my morning extraction from bed!!)

A sneeze and nose twitxh surprises me, making me aware too of the miscroscopic pollen that is also wafting through my windows on the blowing breeze I feel. But I almost welcome it given it’s a necessary side effect of the beautifully flowered trees that dot my neighborhood and serve as pollination stations for the bees. All good things necessary in this wonderful world of ours.

I’m struck that I’m having an eco-mindfulness moment. And I’m struck that perhaps this indeed is the best way to start the day—filled with a bounty of love. Reminiscent of Earth Day, and the fact that every day should be celebrated as such.

My intention: to go forward through the day maintaining this level of eco-awareness and gratitude, thanking Spring for fully springing.

My hope: I start tomorrow with this same morning mindset! Maybe the new leaves of Spring may help me turn over a new leaf of my own!

Photos from my camera.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Blue Mind: The Book

Fitting that on World Water Day (March 22nd) I wrapped up Wallace J. Nichol's Book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. (It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have a 5 hour layover between flights!)

Fitting too, to share these thoughts during Earth Week!

In reading this book (which came recommended from a colleague at school), it made me realize why I love my pool so. Now that Spring has sprung and the warming has begun, I've got some of my neighborhood hot spots and watering holes on my mind. Also, I have a greater intention to get there more often.

Here are some take aways from this brain-based, research-backed book on the effects of water on the brain and body... and the science of happiness:

πŸ’§The key questions of the book: “What is water? Why are we humans so enthralled by water? Why is this question so obvious and important, yet so hard to adequately answer?” ( page xviii)

πŸ’§“The name for this human-water connection: Blue Mind, a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peaceful, unity, and a sense of general satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from to color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion.” (page 6) Some of those "words" that have infiltrated our vocabulary: Times when we are 'in the flow' of creativity; when we have 'waves of emotions;' we can feel like 'fish out of water' when we are uncomfortable; or we might have a 'sea of questions.' There's a million of them!

πŸ’§The opposite of Blue Mind? Red Mind. A more attention-to-detail, stress-driven, anxiety-fear-anger-ridden mind. The mind that lives in this age of instant-global-connection, hyper-aware, tech-driven world that has us always overstimulated, over-stressed, over-screened. The exact reason why we need to let go of multitasking and spend more time being digitally mindful. Just like in Florence Williams' book Nature Fix (which this is a great companion piece for), being in nature (near water particularly with Blue Mind) gives our frontal lobe a break and helps equalize our emotions and build our empathy. Empathy--what connects us to all things (and perhaps what is missing when it comes to the polarized political world in which we all are living--and needing to disconnect from!)

πŸ’§Which of these lists sounds better and more helpful?
  1. Nature Immersion therapy, Spa Bathing, Hydrotherapy, Eco Therapy, and Wilderness Therapy
  2. “Monkey mind. Toxic stress. Chronic stress. Stress overload. Directed attention fatigue. Mental fatigue.” (page 140)
πŸ’§“What if your doctor handed you a prescription for stress or ill health that read, ‘Take 2 waves, a beach walk, and some flowing river, and call me in the morning?’” (page 141)

πŸ’§Water has power. It is a basic human need. As Americans, we use 80-100 gallons a day. Yet we know that approx 1 in 10 people in the world don't have access to clean water. (Roughly 663 million!) Our bodies are made up of 78% water. Water energizes us via hydration, water splashed on our face, or even just our proximity to it. If climate change doesn't get addressed, the waters will rise and coastal communities will be in danger.

πŸ’§Water is also a 5-senses experience:
  • See: Light takes on a new look when playing on water.
  • Taste & Smell: You can smell and taste the saltiness near ocean water or smell the freshness after a good rain. Smells can also trigger memories.
  • Sound: I can hear it now: the waterfalls, the swish of waves, even the trickling of water in a stream or the rain hitting the wind.
  • Feel: We feel like we weigh less in water and we notice it in our buoyancy. Water exercise or aquatherapy is highly beneficial due to this. I know my aging knees certainly are much more capable in the pool than on land these days! Additionally, between the water pressure, the flotation sensation, and all of the above--our senses tend to come more alive in or near the water! 
πŸ’§There are 3 perspectives when it comes to people and nature:
  1. Egocentric is when you put yourself at the center and only can see what nature can do for you personally.
  2. Anthropogenic is when you broaden from the self and consider everyone, but more "how nature serves humanities needs and desires." (page 250)
  3. Biocentric is when you see "humanity as part of nature, rather than separate." (p. 250) It broadens the perspective to help you realize that you are part of something bigger than yourself. By connecting with nature or water, you become not only more engaged and attentive, but also more invested. You begin to care... which leads to empathy and an emotional drive to take care of it so you can share it with others. 
πŸ’§“Being in nature quiets my mind, and out of that quietness is where the real art happens." ~ Sculptor David Eisenhower (page 223)

πŸ’§"The real voyage of discovery consists not so much in seeking new territory, but possibly in having new sets of eyes." ~ Marcel Proust (page 269)

πŸ’§“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” ~ John Burroughs (page 84)

Rereading this list and thinking about my blue mind, it's made me realize just how much of an aquaphile I really am! No wonder we gravitated toward a water-oriented vacation for this summer ahead! πŸ’§

Images from and video from

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Happy Earth Day

Jane Goodall always strikes me as the Mother of Earth Day. Perhaps it stems from her having an April birthday, and seeing her years ago right around Earth Day. Her dedication to our planet throughout the course of her lifetime adds to this as well, I'm sure.

In honor of Earth Day Monday, take 6 minutes out of your day to watch this, to be inspired to do something for our big beautiful world.

Here are some ideas below if you need a little help getting started this weekend being an environmental steward. Take a friend or your with you!

🌎 Unplug from those devices and do something outside.
🌎 Plan a picnic, a bike ride, a hike, a walk in the park, or time outdoors in. your 
        own backyard!
🌎 Clean a stream, a park, or a community area.
🌎 Shop at a local market, bring your own bag, or don't go shopping at all to use 
        less resources.
🌎 Plant a tree, plant a garden, plant a seed of hope!
🌎 Visit an outdoor festival or an Earth Day event.
🌎 Pass on the plastic bag, the plastic straw, the plastic cups, and plastic utensils.
🌎 Step up your recycling, composting, water usage, or home energy reduction 
🌎 Educate yourself or others, write letters to your leaders, make posters for 
        your neighborhood, or share forward eco facts on your social media.
🌎 Volunteer to help out an environmental organization, a community service, or 
        your neighbors.
🌎 Donate to an environmental cause that you believe in.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Mindfulness is quite en vogue right now. All the podcasts I listen have both hosts and their guests (many of them leaders in their field or entrepreneurs) that talk of their morning routines that morning routines that help shape their day and promote their productivity. 96% of those morning routines have elements of meditation or gratitude in them. Both of these are mindfulness practices. A good friend of mine is a life coach and she swears by mindful practices and has even brought it into our Lower School with great success. (Check out Karin Mitchell Coaching).

As for me, I get glimmers of mindfulness—like when I went on a college visit exploration trip with my family. I found myself very “in the moment” a lot of the time: soaking up the setting, experiencing new things, and looking with fresh eyes. Seeing the first glimmers of Spring, down south (earlier than our “at home” sights) it was refreshingly striking and I found myself really absorbing my surroundings.

Typically though, I wrestle with being in the moment. I'm always trying to investigate new ideas, do "one more thing," check off something on my to-do list... or even mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or Apple News.

Yet it was in reading Cheryl Leutjen’s book “Love Earth Now: The Power is Doing One Thing Every Day” that I couldn’t get past the introduction without being struck by the term “eco-mindful.”

I also highly related to the intro alone as an environmentalist. This quote struck a chord, as I too “attempt to navigate the fine line between eco-mindfulness and eco-madness.” Watching the news reports about plastic pollution, the growing effects of climate change, environmental laws that seem to be going backwards rather than forwards, the arguments from science deniers and politicians who clearly need to take a science class or two—it can be overwhelming and often times downright depressing.

But science minded Cheryl Leutjen embraces her own discomfort with mindful practices to be just that. Additionally, she does it with humor. To inspire mindful moments both “with nature” and in thinking about the environment, it's important to do small actions to make your eco-vote heard. We all can do that whether we are voting via our decisions, our wallet, or our actions & examples—especially to our own children.

Fitting: I was reading all of this, and thinking all of this, while sitting outside. Doing so, I was feeling the shadow-to-sun-ratio above shift, leaving me more and more in the warming sunbeam of early Spring. That alone made me grin back to the sun. In my basking moment, I was struck by a bird call I wasn’t accustomed to, so I started visually scanning my surroundings. I finally locked on a remarkable blue jay hiding noisily in a nearby bush. A rare sighting for me. My blue jay pulled me in to just stop and watch him, preening in the sun much like myself. I wasn't digital-scrolling mindlessly. I stopped reading and just was there, in that moment, in nature.

And... I was richer for the experience!

May you find many moments of eco-mindfulness this Spring, especially with Earth Day on the way!

Images: Book from, "Eco-Mindfulness" was created by me at, and the cherry blossoms from my camera.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Earth Day is on the Way

During an Earth Day lesson this week this week with first graders,  I told them that Earth Day was my favorite holiday. I left out the part about my teaching experience at previous school that was ΓΌber environmental. I also left out the part about writing an eco blog for the past 9+ years. But they got the impassioned point, none the less, and who knows, maybe they could guess the rest.

Earth Day, just like your birthday, is annually on April 22nd. This year, Earth Day turns 49. The 2019 theme: Protect Our Species.

For teachers, Earth Day is ripe for lesson plans and curricular tie-ins at every level. Here's a collection of resources for you if you are still looking for something for the next week or so ahead. (Though, one could argue, environmentalism can and should be taught all year long!)

🌎 Earth Day Network
This is your first stop on Earth Day, from the source. Their mission: "To work year round to solve climate change, to end plastic pollution, to protect endangered species, and to broaden, educate, and activate the environmental movement across the globe."

There, you'll find a wealth of toolkits & background information for teachers and groups including:
  • Organizers' Toolkit
  • Primer & Action Toolkit
  • Teach In Toolkit 
  • Climate Education Toolkit
  • Mobilize U: Campus Teach In
  • Cities & Leaders Toolkit
  • Faith Leaders
Likewise, you can take part in Billion Acts of Green and other campaigns. You can also test your knowledge (or your students') with a variety of Earth Day quizzes including the following: 
  • Protect Our Species Quiz
  • Climate Change Quiz
  • Oceans and Plastic Pollution Quiz
  • Earth Day Environmental Literacy Quiz
  • Deforestation and Biodiversity Quiz
  • Clean Energy Quiz
🌎 Climate Change Resources for Students and Teachers from Common Sense Media

🌎 Ecology and Environmental Science Apps, Games, and Websites from Common Sense Media

🌎 We Are Teachers Website's 12 Meaningful Earth Day Activities for Every Grade

🌎Also, if you teach using Seesaw Digital Portfolios/Learning Journal, be sure to browse the Seesaw Activity Library for "Earth Month in Elementary" section for approximately 100 Earth Day related student activities.

🌎 And... if you still can't get enough, there's always the GTG Archives of Earth Day Activities

Images from and

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Compost Cab

For those of you who have been around awhile, you know I'm a fan of composting. Sadly though, I had to bid adieu to composting. Seems our compost was becoming a fine French Restaurant for all the neighborhood critters...which was not our backyard plan at all! All still perils of the closing the the greenest school in America, now almost 5 years ago!

If I lived closer to Washington, DC, I'd be sure to be in touch with Compost Cab. They could bring about the trifecta: tackle my food scraps while satisfying my environmental desire to compost... all the while without catering to the critter cafe. Yes! I could once again (to modify their tagline) be a Waste Zero Hero!

Created in 2010 by Jeremy Brosowsky and a production of Agricity, Compost Cab's mission is to help "urban agriculture thrive." Not only does it center around local, homegrown food, but it helps work to reduce waste by using that food waste to create soil!

Watch this video to learn a little more about Brosowsky & Compost Cab:

Compost Cab provides its clients with a bin for food scraps. A key component: "If it grows, it goes" (in the bin). They weekly come by to collect your compost, leaving another bin bag for your following week. Your big takeaways (as they take away your compost) is that you are reducing what's carted away to the landfill, you're helping to create soil at Engaged Community Offshoots in College Park, MD, providing great soil for local farms or community gardens.

Compost Cab also has an Education component. They will bring their "Compost Academy" and curriculum to your school to teach kids how to compost, perform "waste audits" of the school, or bring their services to your school.

Compost Cab has two goals: make it easier for people to compost, and easier for urban agriculture to thrive. They achieve these two goals by providing home and commercial composting services, and by partnering with urban farms and community gardens to build soil in the city.

To learn more about composting, check out their websites Resources, click here.

Additionally, learn more here at this Washington Post article from a couple of years ago or The Department of Energy & Environment's 2016 District Sustainability Award Winner Case Study: Compost Cab

Images: screenshot of Agricity from; photo and logo from and; Video from

Saturday, April 6, 2019

What's In Your Kitchen Sink For Clean Up?

We all have kitchens, and they all need attention & cleaning.

Watching this video created by 1 Million Women, (which I found on the Unf**k The World Facebook page) it struck me how little we think about the hidden places disposable plastic resides.

It's here that we made environmental decisions with our dollars. The fixes shared are so simple--and more economical! Our consumer mentality has had people creating items and marketing, letting us know "we need these" in order to maintain our life. Do we? If we all pared down and simplified, we'd have more money in our banks and live a cleaner, less wasteful life. May that be a vision for us all here in 2019!


Video from
photo from

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Waste Not, Want Not

I love Sir David Attenborough. A wise voice in our world today.
His message--one we all need to hear: let's not waste.

Here are some great resources to help you lead a less wasteful life....the perfect follow up to my post last week and with Earth Day ahead, April 22nd.

Huffington Post's "How To Stop Being Wasteful This Year Once And For All"
There are 10 great items on the list to help you make the most of sustainable practices around your house!

Kathryn Kellogg's website: Going Zero Waste
Lots of good ideas here... including her April 2019 book release: 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste

National Waste & Recycling Association's "Fascinating Facts About Waste & Recycling"
Here you'll see a super 2-page infographic!

Video from