Slice of Life: Late summer days

Slice of Life 2015

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.

Friday evening

My idea of a perfect afternoon: meet a dear friend in a state park, hike for an hour or two, swim, eat a picnic dinner, then drive home westward facing a brilliant orangey-pink sunset.

Kara and Tim Marsh Creek State Park 82215

Kara and Tim, Marsh Creek State Park. August 2015

Saturday morning

The late summer air has finally cooled down. At 7 a.m., Millersville smells of cow manure. Sitting in my parents’ driveway, I bite into an apple, and a shimmer of fall kisses my skin.
“I’m coming,” it whispers.

Celebrating my birthday and back-to-school #Celebratelu

Ruth Ayres hosts the Celebrate Link-Up every weekend on her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes. I’m a day late in joining because I was too busy celebrating in real life :)

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Sunday was my birthday. The past few days were full of pleasant activities, not all intended as birthday festivities, but I’m calling it an all-around delightful birthday weekend. It included time with an old friend, an adventure with a new one, a serendipitous conversation with a semi-stranger, dinner with my parents. Plus cider, yoga, and vegan ice cream.

I’m also celebrating the start of school this week. I am neither a teacher nor a student, but I get to be present at various first days in my county as the education reporter for my newspaper. I love that I get to engage with the excitement of the new year. As a kid, I looked forward to summer break as anyone, but I was always ready to go back by late August. I loved the newness of everything — new classes, new pencils, new jeans — as well as the return to various activities I was involved with.
And of course I loved learning. Still do. Case in point: one of my birthday presents from my parents was a math game. The other was a Jane Austen t-shirt.

Kara at 5 and 28

Me on the first day of kindergarten and my 28th birthday. Courtesy of mi madre.

Celebrating growth #celebratelu

Ruth Ayres hosts the Celebrate Link-Up every weekend on her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes. I’m joining in.

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When I think about some of the articles I wrote in my last newspaper job, I feel privately embarrassed. I considered myself a good writer at the time, but if I re-read those stories now, I’d see many ways to do them differently.

Instead of focusing on past flaws, today I’m thinking about the other spin on this: celebrating growth.

The reason I’d do those articles differently is because I’ve learned a lot in the last two years about writing and reporting. And that is, after all, why I left the previous job. I wanted to be in a place where I’d have more coaching and be surrounded by examples of quality journalism. I’m glad to have had that opportunity. Some of the areas in which I’ve improved include writing strong ledes, incorporating data and research, finding multiple voices and selecting the best elements to tell a story (rather than info dumping). I’ve also focused more intentionally in recent months on developing various types of sources. For example, my network of teacher contacts has widened greatly this summer, and I’m proud of that. But there’s still more work to do in that area!

A totally different area of my life in which growth is very evident is running. This morning I ran 8 miles. At mile marker 2, I thought “I’m a quarter done.” And then I thought about how when I lived in Perry County, 2 miles was the complete length I ran every other day. I don’t run 8 miles every day now, but I do run 4-5 miles several throughout the week, and this month I’ve started longer weekend runs to prepare for a half marathon, which will be the longest distance I’ve ever run.

This summer I’ve been listening to the podcast “Happier with Gretchen Rubin,” as well as two of Gretchen Rubin’s audio books. I love them because they’re focused on actions and habits to be a better you, i.e. growth. That may sound super self-help-y, and technically they probably fall in that category, but Gretchen is a relatable person whose advice stems from a lot of nerdy research and trying things out herself. If you’re into personal development, I recommend giving the podcast a listen!

Have you been thinking about the ways you’ve grown in recent months or years? I’d love to hear about it!

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.

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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

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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

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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.

Catskills

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.



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