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    Montessori - Natural Life Learning

    Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants - doing nothing but living and walking about - came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love.

    ~Maria Montessori


    Children, people, love learning. It’s natural and innate, and happens whether we interfere or not. Why not encourage that natural love of learning? The essence of life is learning, growing, loving, interacting with our environment and people around us. Children need simply to experience life, to be honored and encouraged for their own gifts and love of learning from what and whomever is around them - regardless of age or achievement - and without rewards or punishment. When children are allowed to learn on their own, they find success through personal experience, and build self-esteem and internal motivation: an incentive more powerful than any external reward (i.e. grades). Learning IS the reward.  

    Just as with adults, the freedom to choose what is interesting and thus, what to learn, belongs to each child. As parents, we should foster that freedom by offering a calm, peaceful, and inspired environment in which they can make those choices without hindrance. I don't mean free-for-all chaos, but rather that we accept the understanding that our children to know what to do. We observe and honor our children's interests (even if they may not reflect our own expectations or desires) and support them, offering help and guidance as requested, and teaching only through example - trusting they'll learn at their own pace, in their own time, as they desire and need.  

    Imagine the possibilities if everyone could learn and explore their desires as they are naturally inclined to, without fear of failure, self-guided and internally motivated. It would be like having the world in your hands - limitless. 

    Posted: Jul 28 2012, 18:32 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    One Action. One Choice.

    A global change can begin with one person.

    One action.

    One choice.

    A global change can begin with envisioning the ideals that we strive towards and the things which are important to us and then LIVING those things. It may not be easy to bring healthy humane food with you, instead of stopping for take-out, but it's worth it. It may not be easy to save up your paper, bottles, and cans and bring them to a recycling center, but it's worth it. It may not be easy to respond with gentleness and understanding when your child is in the midst of a tantrum, but it's worth it.

    Think of something you'd like to change, or improve in your life or in the world and work towards it, one step at a time.

    Remember that:

    Our actions, however small, reverberate.

    Our kids mimic what they see – they do what we do.

    Imagine If:

    Children worldwide grew up not just hearing about recycling, buying locally grown food, eating healthy, treating animals with respect, but grew up actually LIVING IT, watching their parents do it, participating in it? Those things wouldn’t be a question or even some distant ideal or possibility – they would just BE REALITY. It’s how they would live because it’s what they KNOW. It’s how they will interact with their friends, their classmates, their teachers, their future children.

    Your action – or inaction – in all things important to you and the world – MATTERS.

    If you act with kindness, empathy, and concern for people and animals and the environment around you – your children will do the same.

    That’s all it takes. One action. One choice. Make a change. Pick a more challenging thing over the easy - every time you make that decision, it will become more effortless. And it WILL make a difference.


    Vegan Apple Oat Cookies

    5 Tbs vegan butter, slightly softened (we used Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread*)

    1/2 cup brown sugar

    1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    1/4 cup apple sauce

    1/3 cup of flour

    1/4 tsp baking soda

    1 1/4 cups of rolled oats

    1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

    1/4 cup dried apple rings, finely chopped

    *note: this does impart a slight coconut flavor, so, you can use margarine instead if you don't care for coconut

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Mix the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add the applesauce & mix. Add the rolled oats and mix a bit more. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Add the flour and baking soda and mix once more. Finally, fold in the nuts and apples. Drop by tablespoonfuls on to the cookie sheet. Bake for around 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 16 sweet, soft, apple-y cookies. Enjoy!

    This recipe was adapted from The Big Book of Cookies by Catherine Atkinson. The original recipe calls for butter, eggs, additional white sugar, salt, and raisins. I added the nuts, and eliminated the animal products, raisins, and extra sugar.

    Posted: Jul 16 2012, 22:23 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    Everything is Life

    Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
    ~ Marthe Troly-Curtin

    So, I like Wire Tap (a show on public radio); though I don't often get to tune in. But, Adam came home from work telling me this evening's episode was listen-worthy, so, I went online & found it.

    The second half of the show starts with a reading from David Eagleman's book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

    It's fascinating, and worth a listen (actually, the whole episode is worth a listen, but even if you just tune in for the first few minutes to hear the reading of the short story, it'll be enough to understand the point of my post).

    Here's the link (there's a short commercial at the start, reading begins about 30s in): 

    wiretap_20091114_23048.mp3 (12.21 mb) 

    (a bit of transcription, in case the link doesn't work for you...)

    In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order.

    All the moments that share a quality are grouped together: 

    You spend two months driving the street in front of your house. 

    7 months having sex. 

    You sleep for 30 years without opening your eyes. 

    For 5 months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet. 

    You take all your pain at once: all 27 intense hours of it. 

    Bones break, cars crash, skin is cut, babies are born. 

    Once you make it through though, it's agony free for the rest of your afterlife.

    That doesn't mean it's always pleasant. 

    You spend 6 days clipping your nails. 

    15 months looking for lost items.

    18 months waiting in line.

    Two years of boredom staring out a bus window, sitting in an airport terminal.

    1 year reading books; your eyes hurt and you itch because you can't take a shower until it's your time to take your marathon 200 day shower

    2 weeks wondering what happens when you die

    1 minute realizing your body is falling

    77 hours of confusion

    1 hour realizing you've forgotten someone's name

    3 weeks realizing you're wrong

    2 days lying

    6 weeks waiting for a green light

    7 hours vomiting

    14 minutes experiencing pure joy

    (... and continues on with more awesomeness)


    On to my point:

    We talk a lot in this life about wasted time. Worry over it. Try desperately (typically unsuccessfully) to multitask, in order to make up for that time we think we're wasting. At night we may fret before bed of how little we “got done”, or swear how tomorrow will be different; we fantasize over our entire to-do list checked off.

    But, I think we forget this thing about time… time is moving forward, always going, and taking us with it. Each moment – MOMENT – not even minute, our one glass of experience is filling, while our other glass of experience yet to come is draining - and none of us really know just how big that second glass is. We could be sucking droplets out of the bottom with a straw and be blissfully (or not so) unaware.  We don't know. But we spend so much of our time in a state of worry over things not done, annoyance that we’re having to do this, that, or the other, and planning over how to optimize every moment, that we often forget the time is moving on, regardless of how we feel about it, but how we feel about it colors our moments.

    So why not feel good about it? This moment right now. Why not embrace it for what it is – the here & now – the only time we actually HAVE for SURE. How would it feel to believe that THIS MOMENT is exactly what you need it to be.

    As my husband said after listening to the show: Everything is life.

    Everything is life. This blog post. The laundry. Hugs from your kids. It’s all life. It’s all worth it. It's all what you need, right now. 

    Posted: Jul 13 2012, 19:20 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    I Imagine a Future of Compassion - On Becoming Vegan

    Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.

    ~Albert Schweitzer

    It's not too often in this short life you have truly life-changing experiences. Maybe the opportunities for such occurrences don't come about with frequency. Perhaps our hearts aren't always open. But occasionally, the giver of such opportunity and the recipient are in synch. All planets in alignment, so to speak, and the intended message, and subsequent experience, comes across loud & clear. This past week, such an opportunity presented itself to myself and my family.

    We had the occasion to visit a place called the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York. It's a beautiful place, rural (rural, anyhow to my Philadelphia-suburbs-living self), hilly, graced with wildflowers, lakes, streams, and lush woods. We came to the Farm Sanctuary thinking we would be simply visiting a zoo of sorts - a place where our children could come pet the rescued farm animals. What we left with was a far greater and deeper understanding of animals, the current state of factory farming, an introduction to the phenomenon of carnism (the human belief system that certain animals are okay to love and protect, while others are okay to kill and eat), and a real connection with farm animals that I've never in my 30-something years on this planet experienced before. Have you ever had the chance to pet and talk to a turkey (yes, a turkey)? I had the opportunity to do just that, and it was an eye-opening experience.

    Farm animals, truly, farms in general (again, being a suburban gal), have always been a bit elusive and distant to me. I'd venture to say the case is similar for most people living in the United States in the 21st century. In the US, most of us live in the suburbs or city and our encounters with farms, or farm animals, are brief and fleeting - a school field trip here, a farmer's market there. Most of our food purchases come from grocery stores, not directly from farmers. So, for the majority of North Americans, the connection with the living, feeling beings that live on farms - cows, pigs, chickens - and the food on our plates is tenuous; in some cases non-existent. Our grocery stores don't help the matter, either - there's no brilliantly colored photograph of the cow that donated her life on the wrapper of the shiny wrapped ground beef that you purchase in the store, no connection between the farm and the food. The fact is, for most folks, a bowl of cereal is a banana is a hamburger; just something to eat. The story of the cow's life before the burger doesn't even cross the mind. Of course, that being said, being a greenhorn when it comes to farming doesn't automatically correlate with ignorance surrounding food origins. For myself, being a vegetarian for over 20 years, I may not have ever spent time around a cow, but I've understood for a good long time that cows are alive, and that I wasn't comfortable eating them. But I know I'm in the minority; just look at any menu in any mainstream restaurant - the vast majority of items available for consumption are animal-based or contain animal derivatives - the names have been changed, of course. As the meat department in your local store doesn't show photographs of cows, the menu in your local restaurant doesn't call its hamburgers cowburgers. So, while the lack of physical or even suggested connection with the source of our food may not be the only motivating factor in why so many people choose animal-based diets, it certainly is a considerable factor; perhaps the most substantial. People don't see the meat on their plates as once being alive.

    One of the Farm Sanctuary's goals is to end that disconnect; to "bridge that gap most people have in understanding and empathizing with farm animals, which is a result of the fact that they rarely have an opportunity to interact with them in their everyday lives" [Bruce Friedrich] I can tell you that when you have the opportunity to: walk amongst a herd of cows out in a field and see a baby calf peeking out from around her mother's leg, have your hand licked by the rough tongue of a huge cow so incredibly gentle and receptive to human interaction, pet dozing pigs' bellies, or stroke the rough fur of a 3,000 pound bull... you don't forget the experience. It touches your soul. Vegetarian or not. Animal lover or not. You just can't help but be affected when a (former) dairy goat leans her body against your leg (not unlike my dog used to do) - connecting, communicating without words. When you walk around Farm Sanctuary - freely able to interact with the animals - that gap they're trying to bridge… doesn't feel like a gap at all.

    While at the farm, we not only had the opportunity to meet the animals face-to-face, but we also received a real education about the state of animal treatment and animal consumption in the United States. The number of animals slaughtered for consumption in this country alone (I looked the numbers up later, after getting home) is staggering, and sobering: In 2010, the USDA stat on land animals slaughtered for food (cattle, pigs, chickens/hens, and turkeys) was...

    Are you sitting down? You should be.

    10,153,000,000 Yes, that's billions (and does not include fish/sea life killed for consumption)

    While that number may be astounding, what is perhaps more astounding - and disturbing - is the knowledge that a far-too-large number of those animals (~875 million) die due to malnutrition, mistreatment, disease, injury, or outright slaughter (male chicks are discarded shortly after birth as they are not considered valuable for breeding or meat production purposes). We learned that most farm animals are slaughtered far sooner than their natural life span would dictate; and babies are routinely taken from mothers much earlier than their natural weaning age (which causes great distress to the nursing mother/baby pair, as well as increases the likelihood of illness in the babies from not having sustained breastmilk nourishment). That cows must be pregnant or lactating in order to produce enough milk to keep up with demand and are forced into a highly unnatural cycle of continuous impregnation, birth, and milking; along with hormone injections in many cases, to keep up with demand. That cows' tails are routinely docked without anesthetic in the name of hygiene. That pregnant pigs are often confined to gestation crates for the duration of their pregnancies - with barely enough room to lie down. That the living conditions of most chickens raised for meat are deplorable and sickening - extreme overcrowding, excessive feces, warehouse-like buildings with no access to outside, forced rapid growth that leads to deformities and health conditions. That many ill and injured animals are not protected against slaughter and are as such forced to suffer, often abused on their way to death. I could go on. It's sad that our society condones the mistreatment of so many animals just for the pleasure of eating.

    But still, I feel hopeful. In spite of those chilling facts, and while my heart aches for so many animals I've never met, having experienced the Farm Sanctuary's mission in person gives me hope that things are changing - and that they can continue to change for the better. Through their sanctuaries and website, they are bringing a greater awareness of animal rights to a younger generation (and my own!) by allowing people to really connect with animals in a way that most people don't have the opportunity to do. Their stories of animal rescue from abusive or neglectful situations are awe-inspiring; it was amazing to meet some of the sweet souls who have been rescued - so gentle and trusting, in spite of their past. The people working at the farm were so friendly; not judgmental, just informative. They truly care about animals, the earth, and yes, humans too.

    I left the Farm Sanctuary with my head spinning; saddened, astounded... inspired. It was a touching experience, and as I mentioned at the start, life-changing: as after leaving, and much discussion, we have decided as a family to change the way we eat to an all plant-based diet. We are migrating from being a family of vegetarians to a family of vegans - my husband, my daughter, my son, and myself. Knowing what we now know, it is the right choice, the best choice. I don't want to live making excuses for my choices when I can make a choice that doesn't require apology or defense (going vegan is easy, healthy, economical, peaceful, eco-friendly, and fun!). I know I can do better with my life, we can do better by our environment and our animal cohabitants; as a society I have hope. We can all choose not to ignore the connection between what's on our plate and the animals who have worked or given their lives (and perhaps suffered) to provide our nourishment. We can all vote with our dollars - choosing to buy and consume fewer, or even no, animal products. We can tell others about our choices, and point them in the direction of amazing places like the Farm Sanctuary. We can be heartened by knowing that our small choices - awareness of the source of your food and how those animals are treated, choices to reduce your meat, dairy, and egg consumption, to eat vegetarian, or vegan - can have large repercussions, not only on your own personal health, but on the health of the planet, the health of animals, and our collective future.

    I can imagine a future of compassion and sustainability; I teach my children that it is reachable. Can you and do you?

    If you have the opportunity, I highly encourage you to visit one of the sanctuaries to experience the animals in person, and to educate yourself about the state of farm animal treatment in our country, and the healthy, compassionate, and sustainable choice of a vegan diet.


    For more information on veganism and compassionate living:


    The Farm Sanctuary's Compassionate Communities Campaign

    Veganism in a Nutshell at The Vegetarian Resource Group

    ChooseVeg.com - Info on vegetarian and vegan living

    The Vegan Society - Become a Vegan

    Explore What Vegan Means

    Why Vegan? at the Beautiful-Vegan.com

    Top 10 Vegan Cooking Substitutes at VegNews.com

    Vegan Action

    Becoming a Vegan? Ask Dr. Weil

    On Going Vegan at VegSource.com

    Veg101: Becoming Vegan Starter Guide at The Happy Cow

    Vegan Recipes at VeganLunchBox