Slice of Life: Homemade root beer in Amish country

Slice of Life 2015

There is a road I sometimes travel to visit a local high school that is located in the heart of Lancaster County’s Amish country. Somewhere along that road, there is a sign that has always intrigued me (possibly as far as back when I was in elementary school and my mom coached soccer out that way). It advertises homemade root beer, and sits at the end of a long lane back to a farmhouse.

I’ve always had an urge to stop when I see that sign. But, given that I’m not actually a fan of root beer, and I’m usually on my way somewhere, I never had.


At the beginning of July, my friend Emily visited from New York. I asked her if she wanted to explore Amish Country, and I mentioned my curious urge to try the homemade root beer. As it turns out, Emily loves root beer. Perfect!

So we went on our adventure, which led to a few other stops first (farm stands and the like — you have to buy Lancaster County corn while you’re here!) Around lunchtime, we made it to the root beer spot. I put on my turn signal and finally turned down the lane.

The soda, fudge, and some other goodies were sold from an outbuilding near the house. We had packed a lunch, not necessarily planning to eat it at this farm, but by happy circumstance, there was a picnic table for us to eat and drink at. 20150703_123941 The root beer came in a glass bottle with barrel-like molding. It was earthy, spicy and sweet, but not saccharine, which meant I liked it much more than store-bought soda, though I still could only drink about 1/5 of a bottle on my own. And when we were finished, there were goats to pet! 20150703_131901 20150703_132008


Emily loves goats as well as root beer.

This post is part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their site to see other bloggers’ slices. Links are in the comments.

Celebrate June! #celebratelu


Ruth Ayres hosts the Celebrate Link-Up every weekend on her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes. Although the weekend’s over, I’m taking time to celebrate because June is coming to a close, and I don’t want it to pass without acknowledging some of the joys it brought.

1. ivoh Restorative Narrative summit

Rejuvenating, clarifying, affirming. Those words describe my recent experience at a summit focused on questions of how media can tell stories of resilience and recovery after and in the midst of trauma and catastrophe. The people were great, the schedule included time for walks and meditation, and the setting at a Brahma Kumaris retreat center in the Catskill Mountains nourished my soul.

2. World Cup soccer

Watching the U.S. Women’s National Team games with my mom and dad has been one of my simplest but most treasured activities of the past few weeks. We were a serious soccer family growing up and the tournament is bringing up memories of a magical summer after sixth grade, when my family went to several of the ’99 World Cup games. I’m looking forward to tonight’s match against Germany!

3. Summertime

I usually say that fall is my favorite season, but living in Lancaster County during the summer makes me question that. I just love summer here. So much fresh local produce, pick-your-own fruit becomes available, and walking around this small city in tank tops, shorts and sandals makes life feel easy breezy.


Mountain view at Peace Village, NY. June 2015

Those are just a few. There were many other things worth celebrating in June. Hope you had a great month, too!

Not looking away

I just listened to an interview with Ben Lowy, a conflict photojournalist, on the “It’s All Journalism” podcast. Lowy has photographed war in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. Asked to explain why he does this tough work, he acknowledged the ego involved. But then he said this:

“When I see something horrible, I don’t turn away from it, for whatever reason. … This is a way I want to talk about what I’m witnessing because I hope that this way that I’m talking will translate.”

I identify a lot with the first part of Lowy’s explanation. I don’t have a defined reason for why I’ve been able to go to places like Occupied Palestine or post-coup Honduras or poverty-ridden India and hold those realities within my heart. But because I can, it feels like an imperative — an imperative to go, an imperative to bear witness, an imperative to do something.

My current life doesn’t engage this capacity of mine (nor the imperative). I intend to change that in the near future. I choose to view this capacity as an unexplained gift, and life is truly too fleeting not to use our gifts.

I leave you with a related poem/quote by Arundhati Roy. I keep a copy of her words hanging near my desk.

Slice of Life Tuesday: Not all young people

This post is part of the Slice of Life challenge at the Two Writing Teachers blog.

Slice of Life 2015

Last week I attended a forum in which a labor market analyst, some college presidents and a workforce leader discussed higher education choices and job outlooks. It was a fundraiser for a local education foundation, and I was there to cover it for my newspaper. The speakers shared the sorts of facts and figures that tend to make me think I should’ve studied science in college (based on employment and income likelihood), though of course I would never trade in my anthro years.

In the question and answer period, one man at a table near to mine stood to ask a question. He referenced a point one speaker had made about the high payoff from studying math but it being a difficult pursuit.

“From what I’ve seen, most young people aren’t interested in being challenged,” he continued.

I don’t recall his actual question, because at that point I had to concern myself with not letting my face match my internal aggravation. Sure, plenty of young people goof around at times and don’t always make the best choices (that’s their underdeveloped pre-frontal cortexes at work), but to cast the majority of them as disliking challenges is wrong.

The panelist didn’t directly tackle the man’s generalization about young people, but he did point to the idea of engagement. He said that math isn’t inherently hard, but the way math has traditionally been taught hasn’t been engaging, and called for a more applied approach to learning the subject.

The idea applies beyond math: if a teenager is engaged in subject or task, he or she will work just as hard as any adult. If they’re not engaged, we ought to find better ways to get them connected to what they’re doing, rather than assuming they’re lazy.

Slice of Life: Mansplaining yoga

Slice of Life 2015

As we rolled up our yoga mats in the YMCA exercise room, an older man approached the woman who’d been practicing next to me. The woman who’d been taking deep breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth.

The man, who was not an instructor, informed her that in yoga you are “supposed to” breath in and out through your nose.

I, too, had noticed her exhalations, but had I considered telling this woman (who also, despite the overall Y membership being diverse, was the only person of color in the class) that she was doing it “wrong”?


I don’t consider myself an expert just by the fact of existing, or even for having been to a bunch of yoga classes. Moreover, the woman’s breathing was very deliberate, so rather than assuming ignorance, I assumed that she was aware of what she was doing, and the pattern worked for her.

Which is indeed what she told the man, patiently. She also asked if she’d bothered him. He said no, though he followed that with some explanation that he had wanted to check if she was new to yoga.

This interaction I observed was not hostile, nor was the man overtly condescending. But as I returned to the locker room to get my coat, I wondered how it had affected the woman’s overall experience that morning.

Can’t we just get some exercise or relaxation without a male stranger telling us how to behave?


This post is part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their site to see other bloggers’ slices. Links are in the comments.

A snow poem


I just came in from a walk

From AU campus, up Massachusetts Ave, to Andrew’s apartment.

Snowy Valentine’s dinner. He bought tilapia.

Pesto with pine nuts — how fancy.

We took a couple’s selfie, before they were called that

Love in megapixels.



I just came in from a walk.

Droplets of melting snow glide off my hair  —

Bangs plastered to forehead as if sweaty

Ears tinged red to match my Rudolph nose

Inside, apartment’s empty.

No other boots stomping wet footprints around the mat.

Just my writing waits for me.

I came in from my walk.



Wind sculpture near the Lancaster train station. Feb. 21, 2015

Andrew and Kara Vday

Andrew and Kara on Valentine’s Day, 2007.


As may be obvious, I wrote this poem after taking a snowy walk this evening. Along the way, I recalled lots of different winter memories, including the walk to my friend Andrew’s apartment on Valentine’s Day eight years ago. The contrast with the empty apartment I returned to tonight is not actually a sad one. I’ve been relishing this cozy day of writing poetry and more.

Celebrate today! #celebratelu


I’m joining the Celebrate Link-Up. To read other bloggers’ celebrations, visit Ruth Ayres’ site.

I worked today, which meant I had yesterday off. Weekdays off can be a treat because they give me a chance to spend time with my dad. He works second shift so we can’t ever make plans on week nights or Friday nights, and he also works frequent weekends. (In his case, that’s not offset by a weekday off — it just means he’s overworked.) Yesterday we went out for sushi and then ran an errand together. They were simple activities and I don’t remember specific things we talked about, but hanging out with my dad makes me feel relaxed and at peace. That’s a good feeling. And tomorrow we’re going to see “Selma” together!

Cape May Vacation

That’s my dad, circa 2009. Photo by my mom.



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