Saturday, January 2, 2016

Welcome 2016! Year Goals/Year Songs

Hey! Happy 2016! I wanted to make a quick post with some things that I'd like to focus on this year. First of all, I'm making a list of "Year Songs," songs that capture ideas or feelings that I want to work on this year. Last year, I started a tradition of listening to "This Year" by The Mountain Goats ever year on New Year's Day,  and when I listened to it this year, it made me think about the place that I was in at the beginning of last year, and about how much my life had changed since then. The lyrics meant something totally and completely different to me then, and it was just really cool to have that experience, and that chance to reflect. I wanted to be a little bit fancier this year, and have a few different specific songs that relate to my goals for this year. If a song specifically relates to a goal, I'll also add it under that goal and have an explanation). Here are the ones that I've chosen:
Better Than Love - Hayley Kiyoko (Love  is so important, and everyone deserves it. Give it openly and freely)
 Koisuru Fortune Cookie - AKB48 (so upbeat and happy! Carries a lot of themes that I want to remember this year) *
Happiness - Arashi (Happiness is a big theme for me this year)
  This Year - The Mountain Goats  (I AM going to make it through this year)
Freckles and Constellations - Dodie Clark (Beautiful and magical <3)
The Days- Aviici (Find the magic and enjoy everything)

Also, I wanted to write up a list of goals for the new year, because I've decided to be one of those people. I feel pretty cliche doing this, but I wanted to write down some things that I'd like to keep on my mind this year. Mine are much more "be a nice person" than they are "learn to cook well", but I'm still counting them as goals, because this is my blog, so I MAKE THE RULES. That's how it works, obviously.
If you want to make a goals list, as well, awesome! Leave me a comment with a link to yours, and I'll check it out.
Here's mine:
1. Don't waste time on the internet.
Wasting time on the internet is one of my worst habits. I'll jump on the internet for a second to chck my email, and BAM, an hour later, I'm still scrolling down my Tumblr feed, idly muttering that I'll give myself "five more minuets". Well, no more. I'm done with this. It's a time waster, and a super bad mechanism for coping with stress.
(This ones needs a specific and written out gameplan, or it's never going to happen).
A. Don't get on the computer in the morning before class.
This is going to be crazy hard, but I need to stay off of my laptop in the mornings. This is one of my biggest time wasters. I'm going to try reading something when I first wake up, to get my brain adjusted to being awake again. And then, I'm going to do homework.
B. When you feel stressed, take a five minuet break that does not involve the internet.
Meditate, deep breathing, lying on the floor for five minuets, talking to a friend. Something like that. Do not succumb to the allure of the internet.
C. Larger break? Read a book.
(This is pretty straightforward).
D. Time your internet breaks. Get off after half an hour.
This is going to be the hardest goal, for sure.
2. Stop worrying so much. Everything will be fine.
I worry, a lot. About silly things, things that probably aren't that big of a deal. Things that really aren't important. And I want to try not to worry. I want to stay calm, and stay happy, and realize that nothing is really as big of a deal as I seem to think that it is.
Songs to listen to when you feel irrationally worried:
This is Gospel
Simple as This
Cubs in Five
Other ideas:
Realize that nothing is as big of a deal as you think it is.
Think about what Junior year of high school Erin would have worried about. Did any of those things really matter? A lot of them really didn't.
Try to stay chill. Everything is fine.
3. Find magic in the everyday.
Earlier this semester, I walked into a building at school late at night to do some homework. For reasons that I have long forgot, I was completely barefoot (I routinely forget my shoes when walking to and from places on campus). As I felt the marbled floor, cold against my feet, I stopped and marveled for a second; at how lucky I was to be going to school where I am, to be studying what I enjoy, to be taking classes that are stimulating and interesting. Wow. I am so lucky.
I get to spend a lot of time with my friend Scout, which is lovely. A lot of the time, she'll be sitting there, reading, or writing, or talking, or even just sitting quietly and thinking, and I stop, and I look at her, and I realize, holy crap, she is so, so beautiful. I mean, I'm always thinking it, but sometimes, she's doing something, and it hits me, her beauty just completely overwhelms me. The universe did something amazing when it made her. And she's sweet, and smart, and funny, and creative, and talented, and she is someone who I can call my friend. Wow. I'm so lucky. Do you see that? Magic.
Other times, I see S in her element. She's planning out a big paper or project, or she's going somewhere special with M, and her heart is so happy, and I can see the joy and inspiration on her face. And I think, woah. I'm so lucky to know her, to be here, to be able to experience this moment. That moment? That moment is magic.
Sometimes, I greet C when she comes back from work. And, even on the toughest days, she is so joyful, so talkative and friendly and loving. She spreads happiness wherever she goes, and and she shares her happiness with me. She is magic, carrying joy with her, spreading it in her wake. And I get to know her.
When I walk past the Japanese embassy, or see flowers on campus, or walk into a new building at school that I haven't visited before, or find a new, special place to study, or see a new and cool part of DC, I feel it. Magic. It's everywhere. And I want to see it, to feel it, and to experience it more often.
Better Than Love - Hayley Kiyoko
Freckles and Constellations
The Days
4. Be happy.
This is a pretty simple goal, at least, it looks simple.
When I say "be happy", it means be content, be joyful, be grateful. Just be happy. I have an amazing life, and so, so much to be content about. I have wonderful and loving friends, who care about me and take care of me. I go to an amazing school, where I'm able to study a subject that I love. Everyone around me is so smart, hard-working, and well informed, I am constantly learning new things from other people. I live in such a cool place, there are always special opportunities and many things to do. I have been able to come to terms with my identity, and life in an amazingly supportive environment. I am more comfortable with who I am than I have ever been in the past. The people in my life are just so amazing, and supportive, and lovely. I am so beyond lucky to have them in my life. I can't even begin to express how grateful I am for all of them. Everyone in my life is just so fantastic <3 At AU, I am surrounded by friendliness; even people whom I barely know are kind, upbeat, and lovely. And my close friends are the most lovely, smart, loving, kind, helpful, and wonderful people in the entire world. I feel so, so happy when I'm with them. I'm so lucky to be able to spend any time with them. I look around, and I cannot believe that this is my life. I went to Japan and had such an amazing and fulfilling experience, and now I'm here. I just feel so lucky, and my heart feels so full, and I want to remember this throughout this year. I am surrounded by love, acceptance, opportunity, and an abundance of intelligent people. My heart should feel full all of the time. I'm tired of getting down over silly things. My life is so, so perfect and lovely right now -- I want to appreciate every second of it.
Koisuru Fortune Cookie  
The Days
5. Wash your dishes, for God's sakes.
This is just getting out of hand. Don't leave them in your room for weeks. Your roommates are beginning to hate you.
6. Love openly and freely.
This is just a general command. Don't be stingy with love, don't worry about getting hurt or "projecting yourself" (which is dumb and doesn't work, anyway). Everyone is worthy of your love, of your friendship, of your care. Give them what they deserve.
 "Better Than Love" 
Koisuru Fortune Cookie 
7. Give people grace.
This isn't really a goal that I need to work on, just one that I want to keep in mind. I tend to be someone who gives others grace, but I want to keep doing this, and I want to do it consistently and without slipping up. We're all a little bit broken, and we all deserve grace and love. Even the people who hurt your best friends need grace. Even that painfully self-absorbed person whom you have trouble tolerating. Especially that person. Give them grace. Everyone needs the benefit of the doubt, or a second chance. Give them these things. Show them kindness.
8. Keep working hard!
Don't lose focus. You can do this! Everything that you're working on now is so important. Make sure to keep focused and work hard!
Jan Egeland (Work hard, and you, too, can one day be the United Nations superhero man).

Also: kind of related: Hank Green did this video called "My Favourite Feelings" that I really liked, and he said something that I want to remember:
"Maybe the best feeling of all feelings that I've ever had, is opening up, and letting somebody that you love see all your broken bits, and then they're like, 'I don't mind, those are pretty cool. Here are mine, too.' And you're like, 'yeah...I like those! Those are cool! That's fine'...Knowing that, yes, this person that you love loves you back, and you can trust that, and you can know it forever."
ILY, Hank. Thanks for always being Hank.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

October 2015: Tinder Cats, and Other Happenings

(I haven't journaled since October? Woah. I kind of stopped journaling when I was reminded that people can see what you post online -- that was a scary thought. But hey, here we are).
Found this poem on Tumblr:
My creative writing professor told me to stop writing about love.
I asked him why and he said
“because you have turned it over and over in your hands,
felt every angle, every fault, every inch, every bruise. You have ruined it for yourself.”I spent the next 3 weeks writing about
science and space. Stars exploding. Getting sucked into a black hole. How much I wished I could sleep inside of that nothingness without being annihilated. What an exploding star would taste like. If it would make our stomachs glow like fireflies, or tingle and shake like pop rocks under our tongue.

My creative writing professor told me that those poems weren’t what he was looking for.
He tells me to stop writing about outer space. Stop writing about science.
Again, I ask him why. Again , he says “You have ruined it for yourself.”
I spend the next three weeks writing about my mother, how we are told we can’t make homes inside of other human beings, but the foreclosure sign on my mother’s empty womb tells me that women who give birth know a different, more painful truth.
My creative writing professor tells me I am both talented and hopeless, that everything I write is both visceral and empty, a walking circus with no animals inside but a beautiful trapeze artist with a broken hip selling popcorn in the entrance-way.
He tells me to stop writing about my mother. I don’t ask why. I pick up my books and my notepad and I leave his office with my war stories tucked under my tongue like an exploding star, like the taste of the last person I ever loved, like my mother’s baby thermometer, and I do not look back.
We are all writing about our mothers, our lovers, the empty space that we will never be able to breathe in. We are all carrying stones in our pockets and tossing them back and forth in our hands, trying to explain the heaviness
and we will never stop writing about love, about black holes, about how quiet it must have been inside the chaos of my mother’s belly, inside the chaos of his arms, inside the chaos of the spaces in every poem I have ever written.
None of this is ruined.
Do not listen to them when they tell you that it is
my creative writng professor told me to stop writing about love | Caitlyn Siehl 
J: "I saw a cat on Tinder. I swiped right on that!"
R's Mom has started saying "or something" like Ben, and I love it/Rachel's Mom so much. Oh my goodness.
People always talk about the fun things they do when they have the room to themselves, when all I do when S and C are gone is do my homework in our room and aggressively lipsynch to Tegan and Sara songs.
(I told R this story, and she was like, "The hot, gay identical twins? Yess. Them).
This is precious! 
Dodie Clark is precious, oh my goodness. I'm actually dying. 

For some reason, I find this super amusing, but I find the comment that it was reblogged with even more amusing (from Liam Dryden):
I almost can’t believe this is only a day old. There’s something about it that’s like… it has the vibe of the kind of *good* content that got me into YouTube in, like, 2007?
Like there’s no exhausting “thanks for watching be sure to check out my last video here and my collab with this person here and find links to preorder my book below and leave a comment about ur mom and subscribe to join the #squad” at the end, this person isn’t pulling mad views (this is literally already their second most viewed video!); their channel is seven years old and just !!! This is just a creative person putting out content on a platform for seven years for the sake of it and has somehow let the industrialisation of YouTube completely pass them by and holy crap it must be protected at all costs

Thursday, October 1, 2015

September 2015: Cats and Openness

My goals for right now:
Be open and honest
Do all things with love
Think about others and put them first
Show people that you love them and care about them.
Give and receive love freely. Love widely and naively.
Show everyone the respect and love that they deserve.
College evening activities: everyone sits around on Tinder. Minus me.
Always a fabulous time.
Sarah: "Erin, we're socializing! Except, you know, not in real life."
 Everyone here is so lovely <3 I feel very lucky to have found and inclusive and loving community here. I feel so happy here. I can be open with everyone, which is suck a relief, and a really, really lovely feeling.
Cerys: 'When I was a kid, I thought that Peter in the live-action Peter Pan was so hot. And Wendy."
This was me watching Paper Towns, like, Nat AND Cara are attractive as ever, man. Cerys understands my pansexual problems.
Overheard in the cafeteria:
A guy, loudly screaming, for some unknown reason, "God DAMMIT, TDR!"
What it's like to live at AU: I walked into the lounge today, to microwave some water, and four separate people screamed "FEEL THE BERN" at me.
Cerys is watching Pocahontas for a school project. She is grunting and making frequent sounds of disapproval. She is poised to drag these people.
"I'm going to triple check it five times" -- an actual phrase that I just uttered.
Rachel found this particularly amusing.
Me: "Rebekah, what are you having?"
Rebekah: "A bacon cheeseburger. I'm a terrible Jew."
JC and Ben came today. Ahh, my heart feels so full <3 We had such a lovely day.
I feel a tiny bit empty when JC leaves, though. Urg. if only they could stay here forever.
Current mood: Listening to She by Dodie Clark and crying.
Everything kind of sucks right now. I feel really dull and everything aches.
I'm being so overdramatic. But right now...doesn't feel too good.
The cat is dead.
The cat is so dead.
This song just came out, and I am feeling it right now. Ugh, Troye, how did you know.
It's....fairly applicable to me right now. Which is unfortunate.
(In other news, I am a huge drama queen).
M (from school) invited me over to have tea with her, and a group of other people, tomorrow. If she's not there, I'm just going to be like

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Completely (Ab)normal Day

A post I wrote months ago and just discovered:
The kiddos and I had a pretty calm day today, and it was honestly so lovely.
We hadn't gone in the creek at all this summer. Adora and Juno had been asking for a while, but the grass was mega tall, and I didn't want them to get ticks. Finally, after a lot of begging and pleading, my younger brother took his riding mower down and mowed the grass for me, so that this week, we could go down and enjoy the creek.
We swam for a while, finding areas of different depths, discovering acorns floating in the river, and glimpsing special rocks buried deep in the creekbed. In a sandy bank, we found some seaglass, and at first sight, the kiddos were hooked. We spend a good half hour looking for seaglass in the riverbed, and we found a lot of pretty and interesting pieces. Juno, especially, enjoyed finding these treasures in the creekbank. She excitedly dashed around, shouting with joy every time she found one. A girl after my own heart -- I have jars and jars of seaglass that I have collected on the beach.
After finding seaglass, we continued walking through the creek. "I'm Miss Adventure, follow me!" Adora announced, before bringing us on a creek-stomping adventure. We returned to the house, eventually, as Juno was getting cold, but I think that if it had just been Adora and me in the creek, we might have stayed for hours.
 After we came back from the creek, I set Juno up in my room with lots of soft towels and a pile of warm blankets while I ran a bath for Adora.
I put on a record for Juno (Tallahasse by The Mountain Goats -- her choice) and ran into the other room to help Adora set up her bath. After some digging around in the bathroom, I found an unused bath bomb, which I allowed Adora to use in her bath. This, of course, thrilled her to no end. We talked about how there are many different kinds, and I told her that I would see if I could find some special ones on Etsy for Esther Day, but she doesn't know -- she is going to be so excited).
When I came back to my room, Juno was lying down, wrapped up in blankets, and relaxing music was planing on the turntable. She rubbed her eyes and told me that she was going to sleep.
Juno rested, eventually both girls had a warm bath, we went back downstairs and played games, and read books together. It was just such a lovely day.
I feel so lucky to be able to spend time with these awesome small people, and to enjoy peaceful and fun days like these.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

August 2015: I Do a Crappy Job of Blogging

Current Jam: Pextatonix Daft Punk mashup/remix 
I'm so obsessed with Pextatonix lately. I don't even know why. I mean, WHY NOT.
Things that I should be doing:
So many
Things that I am doing:
Reading fanfiction
I'm so ashamed.
This is literally all I wrote this month. God Bless.
I started school! My roommates are phenomenal and queer and feminist and amazing.
School is fantastic. I can openly be myself here, and it is such a wonderful feeling. I am so, so very happy.
I miss JC a lot. And they miss me (!!), so, you know. That makes me feel happy.
Everyone here is cool and loving and open and friendly. I am so lucky to have them all in my life.
...That's it. I'm sad? Will add pictures:
At school! Whee~ 

First week of school! Lots of fun.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by My Life in Japan)

Welcome to the August 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Life Learners
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have talked about how they continue learning throughout life and inspire their children to do the same.
I firmly believe that we can learn from everyday life.
Last year, I was an exchange student in Japan; I went to a Japanese school, I lived with a Japanese family, and I experienced Japanese life. I was constantly learning; everything in my life was fresh and new. I didn't have to work at all to learn new things; in everything that I did, I was learning. In some ways, people who unschool approach schooling with a similar philosophy: children are surrounded with learning opportunities, and they constantly pick things up through modeling in experience. I think that this kind of learning doesn't have to stop when you're small. When I was abroad (and was, in some ways, learning how to do life over again), I leaned a lot of ways to carry this kind of learning into adulthood, and I wanted to share some of my tips with you guys! I wrote a lot of tips (I shamelessly like to talk about myself), so, for your reading ease, I have the tip in bold at the top, and then a bolded summary at the bottom (if it's tl;dr). Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Show up/Say Yes
In Japan, one of my rules for myself was that, if I were invited to any kind of outing or activity (minus anything that would put me in a compromising position/made me uncomfortable/would be dangerous), I would say yes, even if I wanted to say no.
I was almost always game for anything in Japan; I had been dreaming of living there for so long, and I truly wanted to experience everything that I could. But sometimes, I would come home from school, exhausted from a day of translating everything that was going on around me. Someone would invite me to go and do something, and I would want to say no. Not because I didn't want to do the thing itself, but because I was worn out, and slightly overwhelmed and I just wanted to sleep. But every time, I made myself say yes.
 I did these activities and went to these places, even though I was worn out, and I am so, so glad that I did. I got to experience so many special things-- experiences that I would have missed if I had said no.
Since I came back to America, I don't use this rule all of the time, but sometimes, someone will invite me to go somewhere, and, even though I'm tired, and I don't want to go, I go. And every time, I learn new things, have new experiences, and meet new people.
Recently, my friend called. Her partner was using the car, and she needed to buy new nappies from the market. It was 10:30 at night, and I really, really didn't want to go. I was exhausted. But, I went anyway, and I got to hold her baby, and to talk to her, and to learn about her life as a new mother. If I hadn't gone, I would have missed out on all of that.
When I say "yes", I always learn something new.
Caveat: I'm a big believer in saying no when you need to, so obviously, with this rule, use your best judgement, and do what's safe for you. 
Book club -- something I may not have done if I hadn't been following my "always say yes" rule. It was one of my coolest experiences abroad. We read a book about a Japanese woman who came to live in America (Daughter of a Samurai, for anyone interested), so, my classmates interviewed me about being an American woman living in Japan (and dressed me up in kimono, because why not).
2. Utilize Free Moments
I find that, any time that I have a free moment during which I could possibly be actively learning something, I waste it messing around on the internet, or lying around and doing nothing productive. Please tell me I'm not the only one.
This happens to me on a daily basis:
"Cool! I have a free hour! I should do my Japanese flashcards. I'll just check my email first..."
*Mindlessly scrolls Tumblr for the entire hour*
Although technology is super distracting (at least, to me personally), it's also full of amazing resources that can help maimize your learning during your free time.
If you're interested in making better use of your free time, there are tons of amazing resources available. YouTube videos and podcasts are great; I really like Sci Show and Crash Course, because the videos are interesting, funny, and short (and because I love John and Hank Green, so, so very much). You could throw one up on your phone while you wait for the train, while you stand in line at the grocery store, or during any time that you have a free second.
 If you're with your kids, Sci Show and Crash Couse both have super cool children's versions of their shows, which I highly recommend! Although they're for kids, I always learn something new from them.
If you're not feeling videos, or you don't want to use technology, make yourself some foreign language, science, or (insert your personal interest here) flashcards! I make my own Japanese flashcards and carry them around with me everywhere. When I have a free second, I pull the out and study them! It's super effective.
Use your free time wisely; watch a video, use flash cards, learn something new.
3. Raise Awareness
This is such a pretentious-sounding thing to say, but seriously. I find that, the more aware you are of your surroundings, and the more you take in, the more you learn.
When I was abroad, I was constantly taking in everything. I wanted to see it all, understand it all, and remember it all. Things that were totally normal to Japanese people were mind-blowing to me. Every second of the day, I was reading everything around me, looking at every building, asking to know what everything around me was. I stopped to smell every rose, quite literally.
I don't have nearly this much curiosity about my home country, but, since I've been back, I've been trying to see it with a similar curiosity. After all, there are tons of things that I don't know about my home city. Why not take the time to try and learn them?
What's in that building down the street from your house? What's the name of that river you drive over every day, or the bridge you use to do so? How about the flowers in your garden; do you know their names? I could answer all of these questions and more about my home in Japan, because I was always asking them, and yearning to know the answers.
  You can learn so much by being aware of what is around you and asking questions. 
A photo my host sister took of me getting overly excited about a gourd
Getting hype about cake (what can I say? I like food)

4. See Everything as a Learning Experience 
I had a few months in between when I came back from Japan and when I started working again when I was kind of in limbo, and, when I first came back, I (very pretentiously) decided to try and find ways to learn from "life experiences".
Sometimes, this meant actively going out and trying new things (traveling to a new city, making something, ect), but, most of the time, it meant looking at frustrating situations in my life and saying, "Well, at least this is a new life experience!"
There was a small period of time when, due to transportation issues, I had to walk about a mile and a half to work every day. This was in January, in Pennsylvania, so, it was snowy and extremely cold. But, every morning when I tied on my scarf and braced myself for the freezing weather, I forced myself to silently think, "Life experience! I never walk out in the snow, so I'll see a lot of new things today! I wonder what I'll discover." I got to find new things that I would not find normally, and experience thing that I would not have, if I hadn't had to walk. Even though this wasn't the most pleasant thing I have ever done, I can honestly look back and say that I had gained a lot of positive learning experiences from my walks to work. Sometimes, I learned how to walk back out into the snowy landscape and frantically search for the ballet flats I had planned to change into (which had fallen out of my purse on the way to work), only to come back defeated, and have to explain to the children in my preschool class why I would be spending the entire day wearing wet snowboots. Okay, maybe I don't look back at ALL of the experiences with fondness.
When you see everyday happenings as learning experiences, I genuinely think that you learn more from them. Changing a diaper? Think about how amazing you've become at changing diapers since you've had a baby. You're a master. That's knowledge that you have gained. Are you driving somewhere new today? Awesome! You're learning a new route, and seeing things that you haven't seen before. Everything in life is a learning experience, and I find that, the more I try to see it that way, the more I end up learning.

5. Actively Participate in Life 
When I attended Japanese school, the temptation to just zone out in class was so strong; trying to understand what was going on in class took a tremendous amount of energy, and it would have been way easier to zone out and let my mind wander. But I didn't. I focused, I took notes, and I actively participated in everything that was happening. Spoiler alert: I learned a lot about Japanese culture, I made a deeper connection with my classmates and teachers, and I learned a ton of Japanese! In the end, I was so glad that I forced myself to pay attention to what was going on.
It's so easy to zone out and let learning opportunities pass you by. Choose to be an active participant in you life. Drink some water, meditate, whatever it takes -- try to pay attention to the learning opportunities that are around you all of the time!  
With some classmates at school 

6. Seek out new experiences
In Japan, it was easy to find new experiences, because everything I did was new -- no seeking necessary. Even walking down the street and seeing what was around my neighborhood was fresh, exciting, and special. I reveled in the new smells, sights, and sounds. However,it can be harder to do this in your home country; you've lived there for your entire life, and you've already experienced a lot there. But there are always new things to do and try, and new experiences are learning experiences!

My friend Alissa is particularly good at finding interesting places to go with the kids for whom she nannies. They always seem to be going to a cool museum that she's discovered, a beautiful park, or a new theme park. She finds many cool places where they can go and learn together. It's awesome!
Have you ever been to Philadelphia or Chicago (insert the name of a big city near you here)? Have you been to that museum in your town? How about that foreign grocery store down the street? Go and check these places out! You can see things that you haven't seen, and you can learn in these new environments.
Channel your inner Alissa; find cool new places to explore, and soak in learning from these new environments. 
7. The internet is your friend
Again, technology is cool. Videos, podcasts, blogs, apps -- find what works for you, and use it to learn!

8. Everyone has a story -- learn from them!
I believe that one of the best ways to learn is to discover new things from people around you. Everyone around you has a story; they know things that you don't know, that have experienced things that you can only imagine, and they have a perspective on life completely different from your own. When you stop to talk to new people, you learn more about them, and about the world.
In Japan, I talked to everyone whom I met. I wanted to become fluent in Japanese while living in Japan, and I also wanted to meet and interact with as many people as possible. Talking to everyone with whom I came into contact helped me reach both of those goals, and also helped me learn a lot about Japanese culture.
Interacting with new people was a lot easier when I was living in Japan. I saw hundreds of people at school every day, and, because I was the only exchange student at my school, people thought that it was kind of glamorous to be able to talk to me (which is laughable, but true). Although it's not as easy to do this in your home country, think about how many people you come into contact with every day; store clerks, strangers in line at an event, other parents at the playground. Try striking up a conversation with one of these people! I find that, every time I make the effort to talk to a stranger (whether it's the clerk at the grocery store, a friend of my brother's, or someone new online), I benefit. I learn a new perspective, I discover something interesting about that person's life, or I gain a new friend.
If you're someone who has trouble striking up conversations like this, but who wants to become better at it, I find that it helps to be outrageously polite and friendly, and to compliment the heck out of people (people like compliments). These are basically common sense, but they work.
 Next time someone is bagging your groceries or waiting in line next to you at an event, try talking to them. You might learn something new. 

With some classmates in Japan

9. Make deeper connections
On the flip side, maybe you're not so into chatting up random strangers -- that's totally understandable. It's not everyone's thing. Although these small connections can be a cool way to learn from other people, deeper connections are a great way to do this, too. Find a few close friends, and make it your goal to become closer to these people; how much do you really know about them and their lives?
 In Japan, I always asked people questions so that they would talk to me (I have no shame and I wanted to talk to people). I wrote some questions that you can use to spark conversations with friends:
1. In what moment were you the happiest that you have ever been?
2. Which colour reminds you the most of yourself?
3. Why did you choose your children's names? Are there stories behind them?
4. Which countries have you visited? Which was your favourite, and why?
5. Did you like high school/university? What were your favourite/least favourite parts?
Or, if you're not feeling, that, you could do a fun game/app together, I like The Seven Second Challege (which would be amazingly fun for kids, as well), but there are lots of fun options.
Get to know your friends more deeply. Ask questions and enjoy their company as fully as you can.
With my most sister in Japan. I connected with her by constantly interrogating her about her life (which, bafflingly, worked, and we're now friends).

10. Take your kids!! 
You're not the only one who can learn things from everyday life! Your kids can learn right alongside you. Then, not only to you get the joy of learning something new, you also get to see your kids learning and growing with you.
A bonus eleventh tip: No pressure! Life is not a competition, in which you have to learn as much as you can. You don't have to follow my crazy setps, or anyone's crazy steps, unless you like them and they work for you. Just do the best you can, and figure out what works best for you.
I hope that all of this helps you guys as you work on learning from everyday life! If you have any questions, please throw them in the comments!
If you want to learn more about my trip to Japan (i.e, if, for some reason, this post of pretentious ramblings really tickled your fancy and you WANT MORE), you can check out my Japan Journals! They're numbered, and they all have "Japan Journal" in the title, so, they're pretty simple to navigate.
How do you learn from everyday life? Let me know in the comments! I'm always looking for tips. 
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage — Shortly after they got married, Emily at Natural Parents Network and her husband visited a financial planner. Many of the goals and priorities they set back then are now irrelevant, but one has stuck with them through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing: allowances.
  • Lifelong Learning — Survivor at Surviving Mexico--Adventures and Disasters writes about how her family's philosophy of life-long learning has aided them.
  • Inspiring Children to be Lifelong Learners — Donna from Eco-Mothering discusses the reasons behind her family's educational choices for their daughter, including a wish list for a lifetime of learning.
  • Always Learning — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves learning, and lately she's undertaken a special project that her family has been enjoying sharing with her.
  • We're all unschoolers — Lauren at Hobo Mama embraces the joy in learning for its own sake, and wants to pass that along to her sons as she homeschools.
  • My children, my teachers Stoneageparent shares how becoming a parent has opened doors into learning for her and her family, through home education and forest school.
  • Never Stop Learning — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses her belief that some of the most important things she knows now are things she's learned since finishing "formal" schooling.
  • Learning is a Lifelong Adventure — Learning has changed over time for Life Breath Present, and she is more excited and interested now than ever before.
  • Facebook: The Modern Forum — Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains why Facebook is today's forum - a place where people from all walks of life can meet to discuss philosophies, debate ideas, and share information.
  • 10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by my Life in Japan) — Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different offers tips she learned while living in Japan to help you learn from everyday life.

Monday, August 3, 2015

On Feeling Like You Might Kind of Suck

So, I'm writing this out, in the hopes that I can find others who can commiserate with me, or that, somehow, if I write it out, I will feel better about the situation.
Recently, I feel like I SUCK at being a nanny, and at taking care of kids. I just feel like I majorly suck at it.
I feel like I am not patient enough with the girls. Too often, I feel like I get frustrated over something that really doesn't matter at all.
I feel like maybe I don't do a good enough job explaining things to the girls, that too often, I'm tired, and I'm focused on too many things, and my explanation is not full enough, not good enough. That, when answering tricky questions, when considering "if I explain it this way, would that be a statement that your parents would agree with/be okay with?" I lose the explanation that I really wanted to give.
When I have the girls choose an activity or craft instead of doing free play, I feel like I'm doing a bad job because I'm forcing them to do something, instead of following their lead.
When I follow their lead, I end up feeling like we aren't doing anything productive, and that we really should be doing something.
But, I KNOW that none of this is true.
I know that these thoughts come from some part of me that thinks that I am NOT good enough,
I know that I am crazy patient with the girls, that, even when I am frustrated, I never yell. That I always speak in a fairly calm and sweet voice. That my most frustrated statement is usually, "Okay, like I said before, right now I am working on something with your sister, but if you wait a minuet, I can help you with what you need, okay?" in a slightly harried voice. That, even though I sometimes slip up and say something that could have been phrased better, for the most part, I stay pretty calm. But, COULDN'T I BE DOING BETTER? Why is my voice ever harried? Why am I ever frustrated? Why can't I be a goddess-like paragon of patience and virtue?
Because no one can be. I'm working of being patient, on being loving, on being the best that I can. It's hard. No one is perfect.
I know that when it comes to activities, I'm struggling with my personal desire to keep a schedule. And honestly, this summer, I have been doing a pretty good job of veering from our general schedule, and going with what the girls want to do. Things have been a little bit hectic this summer, and we have had a lot of changes, but, as a unit, we've mostly been going with the flow, and we've had a pretty awesome summer. I should be happy with what we've done. I've let go of a lot of my personal desire for control and schedule, even though it has not always been easy for me. The girls have had tons of opportunities to explore their interests in ways that they enjoy, and we have done many, many cool and fun things this summer.
Drawing with chalk (one of our summer activities)

Celebrating Raksha Bandhan

As far as working with tricky questions, I've been doing the best that I can. The parents for whom I work are amazing, kind, and super cool people, but they use a parenting style that is drastically different from mine, and their general worldview is extremely different from mine, as well. Sometimes this is difficult, but I've been doing the best that I can, considering the circumstances.
I know these things. I know that I'm doing my best.
I love the kiddos that I watch. The are sweet, intelligent, fun, creative, and lovely kids. I am so, so lucky to be able to spend time with them. I treasure the hours that we spend together. I enjoy watching them play and grow. And I know, at least hypothetically, that I am doing a good job caring for them.

And yes, there's that nagging voice. You known the one.
The one that says, "You aren't good enough. You could be doing so much better. You sucks at taking care of kids. You're going to be a horrible mother someday. You should never even have children."
I hate that voice.
But some days, it's really, really hard to make it go away.