Internet Menagerie

June 8, 2015

Happy Monday! I’m kicking off the week with a trip around the web. It’s a real smorgasbord this time! I’d love to hear about your own finds in the comments.

  • I’m fantasizing about staying here on our next trip to Ethiopia. (Scott Dunn)
  • 14 Week-old baby seen clapping his (or her!) hands in utero during an ultrasound while parents sing:


Image: Life of Pix


by Margaret Cabaniss

Not exactly the most lighthearted subject, I know, but I just came across a couple of excellent posts on the topic and had to share. One is from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, talking about what she has learned in the 30 days since her husband passed away unexpectedly while they were on vacation:

I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me. Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?”—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.

It’s so hard to fight the urge to want to do something when someone is suffering — and, of course, there’s a time and a place for helping out in tangible ways. But it seems the more important (and difficult) part is to simply be with them — not expecting them to feel a certain way on a certain timeline, not trying to find the perfect thing to say (or worse, trying to cheer them up). It’s definitely something I’m still working on.

Speaking of timelines, Joanna Goddard shared a great insight about grief “progress reports,” as it were, from the book Lament for a Son:

Rather often I am asked whether the grief remains as intense as when I wrote. The answer is, No. The wound is no longer raw. But it has not disappeared. That is as it should be. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over.

Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides. So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it… Every lament is a love-song.

Such a beautiful way to reframe the whole idea of “helping” someone through their grief. Sadness over the loss of a loved one is not in itself a terrible thing; it’s also simply a part of acknowledging “the worth of the one loved.” And if that’s true, then grief itself isn’t something to be fixed but to be shared in love.

How do you approach a loved one who is grieving? Has your perspective on grief changed after suffering a loss of your own? I would love to hear.

Image: Simon Hilton


Building New Habits

June 3, 2015

Life-of-Pix Stretching by Leeroy How long do you think it takes to build a new habit? I’ve read numerous answers over the years, and the consensus seems to be somewhere between 21 and 60 days. I was never sure where that range came from exactly, but this article from HuffPost sheds some light on it.

Apparently, a doctor named Maxwell Maltz published a book about behavioral change in 1960 (which sold more than 30 million copies) in which he claims that, based on his clinical observations, it takes people a minimum of 21 days to form a new habit.

In the decades that followed his book, many self-help professionals forgot about the “minimum” part of that statement and started throwing out 21 as the magic number. Some chose other numbers, like 30 and 60, but there were no solid stats on this — until Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, published a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2009 about just how long it really takes to form a new habit.

Her study showed that, on average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days, to be exact. But the length of time actually depends on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. The study showed that it can take some people up to 254 days.

I must admit, this sort of came as a relief. Even though I’d like to believe that acquiring a new habit would never take me nine months, I’ve always wondered why certain things I’ve done repeatedly for, say, two months, never stuck. It also explains why many of my coaching clients, who might manage to repeat something for two or three months with success, could in some cases fall away so quickly from the behavior.

One good thing the researchers found was that forgetting to perform the behavior or habit every so often did not affect the habit forming process in the long run.

There are some helpful takeaways from this. First, there is no quick fix: If we want to form a new habit, whatever it is, we need to have patience with ourselves and allow it to be a process. In other words, we need a “slow” approach to changing ourselves.

Also, we don’t need to throw in the towel if we mess up here and there. Making mistakes is okay, and part of forming habits is learning the strategies we need to keep them strong.

When is the last time you consciously tried to build a new habit, and how did it go? Is there a habit you’d love to acquire this year?

Image: life of pix


Pencils of Promise in Ghana
I’ve never done a done a full-blown promotion before on SlowMama, but I decided this one was a win-win for everyone involved so I wanted to give it a go. Let me share a little background before I tell you more…

As I’ve mentioned, I follow a blogger named Christine Gilbert. A travel writer, she and her husband were among National Geographic’s “Travelers of the Year” last year. She hosts creative workshops around the world and just launched an online food and culture magazine called Cultures+Cuisines. (She’s also the mother of two toddlers.)

Christine runs a course called “Blog Brilliantly,” and when she offered a a huge discount on the cost a while back, I jumped on board. Even though I’m not a travel blogger, her advice and expertise is applicable to any kind of lifestyle blog, and I knew that even if I didn’t have the chance to work through the whole course (which I haven’t yet), I’d still pick up a lot of tips on the Facebook group and eventually use it all in some way towards my own goals and projects. (I highly recommend the course to any lifestyle blogger, especially beginners.)

Anyway, when Christine announced recently that the “Blog Brilliantly” course was going to be featured in a bundle of other excellent online products designed for people who want to built more travel into their lives or work from anywhere, I decided it was worth telling you about. It’s called The Paradise Pack.

I’ve always wondered how people can afford to quit their jobs, travel the world, and make a living while they’re at it. The experts who’ve created the videos, guides, and audio training courses in The Paradise Pack know how to do this because it’s what they’ve done. Whether you’re someone who wants to work from home and take a few trips a year, travel long term, become a digital nomad, or move to another country, the products in this pack give very specific info and advice about how to make that happen.

I know that most SlowMama readers are not looking to live the way the Gilbert family does, or the way the Harteau family lives — and that’s not exactly what my family is planning, either. But I’m always looking for resources to help us make our own dreams come true, and I love to support people who are trying to do the same. I know that some of you would love to quit your day jobs and live abroad, or become entrepreneurs, or take your families on round-the-world trips; the Paradise Pack has 20 products (including Christine’s course) that aim to do that. The pack is worth over $2,000 but is being offered right now for $197. It’s an amazing deal! (Christine’s course alone is usually over $250.)

By the way, there are two extra bonuses when you buy the pack: You get the entire bundle at one time and then have lifetime access so you can learn at your own pace. (I’m really glad to have this option with the “Blog Brilliantly” course.) Also, 10% from each sale goes to an organization called Pencils of Promise, which helps build schools for kids in developing countries.

I won’t go on any more, in case you’re not the least bit interested in this offer — and if that’s the case, come on back in a day or two and I’ll be back to normal posts. But if this is up your alley, be sure to purchase the Paradise Pack by the end of the week, as the deal only runs for 7 days. (The first 1,000 buyers get some kind of bonus.)

Paradise Pack square ad

Full disclosure: I’ll receive a small commission on any sale of The Paradise Pack made through this blog, so if you want to purchase it, I’d be grateful if you would use the links provided in this post or click on one of the images here.

Alright, promo over. I only promote products and services I believe in and think you might be interested in, too, so that’s the primary reason I wanted to share this one with you.

Happy Monday!

Image: Kids from a school built in Ghana by Pencils of Promise  

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Woman with Handbag Like most people, I like to look my best, though some days you’d never know it. Over the years, I’ve noticed that there are certain things that make a big difference. Here are my top five tips for looking your most beautiful:

1. Good posture.

This is number one in my book. You can almost make anyone forget you’re wearing a stained t-shirt and old yoga pants if you have good posture. It automatically ups your beauty quotient, communicates confidence and self-possession, and makes clothes look better on your frame.

2. Heels you can walk in.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen an attractive, well-dressed woman walking down the street in beautiful shoes — shoes that she can’t walk in. Very few women can pull off really high heels. Walking awkwardly or half-way tripping in your shoes is not attractive. I think we all look lovelier when we’re able to walk effortlessly.

3. A flattering haircut.

I’m still looking for a hair stylist in Baltimore who can do something wonderful with my board-straight hair, and not having much luck. Hair is one of the first things we notice about people and a flattering haircut that compliments your face — and works with your lifestyle — goes a long way.

4. Good health.

Healthiness is attractive. When you eat well and exercise, your skin looks more vibrant, your hair looks more luxurious, you move better in your body, you have more confidence and energy. A healthy person has a vitality that translates into natural attractiveness.

5. Personal style and grace.

I think as we age, personal style matters even more when it comes to looking and feeling good. And there is grace involved in accepting whatever phase of life you’re in, as well as your individuality. Developing personal style is about being yourself, creativity, dignity, freshness, class, and ease — which all adds to our true beauty.

These are the things that strike me when I’m out and about, and what I aspire to myself. What would you add to the list?

Image: Viktor Hanacek at picjumbo







Feels Like Summer

May 26, 2015

Weekend fun I know the first day of summer doesn’t arrive until June 21st, but Memorial Day weekend always feel like the beginning of the season. The weather here was perfect this past weekend — sunny, a light breeze, between 70-85 degrees. My kind of weather! I only wish it would hang around longer.

H Riding Our daughters rode horses for the first time on Saturday (and guess what they want now??) and we spent some time at a private turtle and reptile sanctuary and hung out with some goats.

B and goat We even got to touch some beautiful snakes — who knew that they’re really satiny smooth and not slimy at all?

Snake B and I also got out for a 90 minute lunch together — still a rare occurrence — and we spent a lot of time outside this weekend as a family walking along the water and hanging out in parks. (We didn’t attend any parades or special events yesterday, but we did talk with S and H about the meaning of the holiday.)

The girls recently finished their homeschool tutorial program and we’re beginning to plan our vacation for July. So, yes, it’s beginning to feel a lot like summer around here and I have to say, after such a long winter, it feels pretty good.

How about you? Anything you’re looking forward to this summer?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul




When Plans Change

May 21, 2015

Cinema Usher by Dave Meier I consider myself to be very flexible — and I don’t mean doing the full lotus position, although I’m holding my own there. What I mean is, I can go with the flow, change things up, adjust. (One of the benefits of growing up in a large family, for sure.)

But the truth is, I don’t always like when I’ve made plans to zig and then am forced to zag. It can take me a little while to reorient myself to something new, and I’m not always a happy camper about it — at least at first.

Case in point: We had plans to travel to Kentucky at the end of this month to see family. I had already planned a few work commitments around it, cancelled some other things, started to think about packing, and was generally looking forward to it. But for a number of reasons, the dates no longer work for everyone so we’ve post-poned the visit until fall.

At first, I was annoyed that the plan had changed. But I quickly saw the silver lining: Now I can actually tackle a number of small house projects; I’ll be around when one of my closest friends has her new baby; and B and I will have more time for car shopping (yes, we’re in the market for a new vehicle).

My flexibility in the face of changing plans was put into perspective when I read the latest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Christine Gilbert. After many years of traveling, she and her husband Drew decided to settle in Barcelona for a while and get their son ready to start school there in 2016, but Drew just came back from screening his new documentary in the U.S., a changed man with a plan: He wants to get fit, live in the mountains, and get out of big cities for a while. After seven years of traveling together and following Christine’s agenda all the time, he now has his own request — and Christine is happy to accommodate:

I love Barcelona. But I love Drew more. We spun the globe and picked a spot. Peru. Neither of us had been before. Great food. Good base to launch out to other parts of South America. He can do big adventures in Patagonia. I can take cooking classes. One year in Peru, the year before my baby, my first baby anyway, turns an age that feels like a hard-line. He’s going to get fit. Climb mountains. Grow an epic beard.

Then, in a year, we return. I think. Although, as you can see, life has a way of changing even the best laid plans.

Yes, plans are great, but they often change, either because we (or our loved ones) shift priorities, or things out of our control happen that direct our path in a new way.

How do you deal with shifting plans? Do you consider yourself flexible or do you have a tough time when you have to change course?

Image: Dave Meier at picography


Just had to post this little video of a peculiar experiment: A young couple, about to get married, agrees to be altered by professional makeup artists to see what they will look like in their 50s, 70s, and 90s. I must admit I got a little teary watching it. His alterations looked a little strange, but their reactions to seeing themselves and each other were so genuine and lovely.

If you could see yourself in different phases of aging, would you? And would you welcome seeing your significant other this way?




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Friday Inspiration

May 15, 2015

Adam Harteau photo
I live vicariously through others sometimes, and frankly, it’s one of my secrets to a satisfying life. I can’t be and do everything, and there are so many “alternate” lives I’d love to experience; the only way I can do it is to enter other peoples’ universes the best I can and encounter other places, cultures, events, and ideas though them. This connects me with friends and strangers alike, and it relieves me of the pressure to do many things I’m not able or willing to do, while still getting a taste of them on some level.

Hereto family on the road
I’ve been following the adventures of the Harteau family ever since I interviewed Emily Harteau here on SlowMama. (Be sure to read that interview if you haven’t already!) The Harteaus’ life kind of blows me away: Emily and her husband, Adam, live full-time on the road from their van with their two young daughters — one of whom Emily gave birth to in South America recently. And they do it all while looking like they stepped out of a Patagonia catalogue.

Recently the family reached a goal of making it to the southernmost region in the Americas, and their photos from Tierra del Fuego, part of an archipelago off the tip of the South American mainland, are absolutely stunning.

Adam Harteau Photo
I’m inspired by the Harteaus’ photos, their free spirits, their ability to make their dreams as a family come true, and their creative talents that allow them to share a slice of what they experience with people like me.

What’s inspiring you this week? Do you enjoy living vicariously through others?

Images: Adam Harteau of Our Open Road

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JORD box
I’ve been eager to tell you about an accessory I took on our TV shoot trip: a super cool handmade wooden watch.

A  U.S.-based company called JORD reached out last month to ask if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their watches. One look at them and I was on board. The watch showed up in some of the loveliest packaging I’ve ever seen: wrapped around a hand-sewn cushion in a hand-carved wooden box with a beautiful wooden tag attached to it. It was impressive. JORD packaging
Of course, gorgeous packaging is one thing; what about the watch itself? Of the styles available to me, I chose the simple Ely version in the light maple. It’s one of the more petite styles, which I thought would work best since I’m a small person, but since I like chunkier jewelry I’m happy the watch has some substance to it. It’s a fabulous combination of elegance and natural simplicity. I love it!

Ely wooden watch by JORD in maple
JORD — a Swedish word for “earth, soil, and land” — is a small company of artists, designers, and seasoned watchsmiths based in Missouri. Their style is guided by a deep appreciation of natural elements and modern design, which you can see in every detail of their gorgeous watches.

With our smart phones on hand to check the time, watches aren’t as common these days, but there are two reasons I still love to wear them: For one, they can be great style pieces. You can choose to wear it the way you’d wear any other piece of jewelry, depending on your outfit or the occasion.

I also really like the the idea of a simple turn of the wrist to check the time, rather than digging around for my smart phone. It’s one less reason to be staring at a screen, especially in public.

Wearing Ely watch
With graduations, Father’s Day, and summer birthdays on the horizon, a wooden watch would be a beautiful surprise. I only write about and endorse products I can stand behind, and I’m pleased to say my lovely JORD watch is one of them. I’ve worn it constantly since it arrived two weeks ago!

Do you wear a watch? What do you think of wearing one as a fashion statement? And which JORD watch style is your favorite?

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

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