Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Writer Confessions and #Goals

I have to admit that I haven't been the most committed writer lately.  With school and work and etc. etc. etc., it's been challenging to find the time, energy, and inspiration to actually sit down and write anything worthwhile that isn't actually due for a class. I can't help but to feel bad about this.  I mean, if I'm not actually committed to writing, then I should probably stop identifying as a "writer." But I'm not ready to do that, so I'm going to try to recommit to writing.  No more slacking.  Obviously, studying and end-of-year projects will probably consume the next few weeks of my life (and graduation is coming up!), but I'm promising to myself that I'll do a better job of avoiding the distractions that normally steal my few moments of free time that should be spent doing something more productive than Pinterest-ing.  (Not that Pinterest is bad, of course--it's actually a wonderful tool for finding inspiration.)  

Image result for writer meme

Anyway . . . I suppose that I'm writing about this here to make my commitment to writing feel more "official" than it would if it were just something I mulled over privately in my mind.  And I also wanted to take the opportunity to encourage everyone out there (you, yeah, you, lol!) to set some fun goals for yourself for the spring and summer!  Make them positive goals that will help you expand your life and make the most of each day.  Write more.  Read more.  Learn dance choreography.  Learn a language.  I know this stuff all sounds sort of cliche and is mentioned all the time, but it can be meaningful in the long-term to commit yourself to making a positive life change.

Hugs for Wednesday!

<3 Frances



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Link Loves and Must-Reads 4/20/17

School work has entered full on crazy mode.  The end of the year is always this way, with deadlines and exams and presentations and after-hours obligations, and I'm so so so grateful for every minute I have that's not booked by something. There's nothing quite like those ten minutes between when the alarm goes off and when I actually get out of bed in the morning, LOL.


  • Affirmations Are Powerful by Julia Grigorian 
    • I love Julia's blog (Drops of Jules), and this post on affirmations is something I've been going back to ever since I first read it. It's so easy to get caught up in worry trails and negative thinking patterns, but by being mindful of how we're talking to ourselves and perceiving our situations, we can really improve our overall mental health.  Julia's three-step affirmation process (acknowledging negativity, recognizing irrational thoughts, and empowering truth) is a very helpful tool, too.
  • Meet This 7 Year-Old Syrian Girl Writing a Memoir About Life Under Siege by Kareem Shaheem
    • This Book Riot article is about Bana, a seven year-old Syrian girl who has seen more suffering and hardship than many of us can imagine. And she's writing about it now. She. Is. Amazing.
  • Among My Swan (Full Album) by Mazzy Star
    • I have this on repeat right now.

<3 Frances

Friday, April 14, 2017

TGIF Playlist and Music Talk

Last night was a late one with Holy Thursday service carrying us into the darker, cooler hours of the night, but it was beautiful, and I actually set the alarm for 6:00 AM instead of 5:45 AM this morning to ward off fatigue.  Anyone who gets up early knows the difference that 15 minutes can make.

Today's Friday playlist is a bit of a mish-mosh of different decades and genres.  I've found that, for whatever reason, listening to the Bee Gees has helped me make progress with my writing projects lately. It's funny because disco-era music has nothing to do with what I'm writing about, but certain songs remind me of mixed-tapes played by my grandmum and mum.  My mum loves a lot of the music my grandmum listened to (Stevie Nicks, Nick Drake, etc.), and my grandfather always liked the Bee Gees, so those artists always show up on our playlists and tapes.

Stieve Nicks (source: en.wikipedia.org)

In middle school, I did a project on music history and famous artists (yes, I had a very fun teacher), and one of my best memories is of the day my mum took me on a musical history lesson using her CDs and our old desktop computer.  She had so much work to do for her job that weekend, but she devoted a few hours to helping me with my project, and the memory of us doing that together will stay with me forever.  I particularly enjoyed our journey into the 1990s. She was in college then, and despite many of the sadnesses she experienced in that time (losses, autoimmune illness, etc.), the music she found in the shelves of hole-in-the-wall record shops really had a big impact on her. Because she's so Jane Bennet-like, most people can't imagine her working at a college radio station decorated in Nirvana and Hole posters, but why subscribe to only one style when you can appreciate Beatrix Potter and Courtney Love at the same time?

Hole: "Doll Parts"

Bee Gees: "Stayin' Alive"

Stevie Nicks: "Landslide"


NIirvana: "About A Girl"

Mazzy Star: "Fade Into You"



<3 Frances

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Realistic Health Goals and Letting Go of Control

Hi, friends <3.  I'm more awake this morning than I usually am, which is saying a lot because I'm typically out of the apartment by 7:20 every weekday.  Don't think that's because I like getting out that early, though--if I had it my way, work wouldn't start until much later in the day, even though I'm much more of a "morning person" than I am a night owl.  I used to be a night owl, and I still really love TGIF movie nights, but work obligations have forced me to adapt to a morning-oriented routine. I've found that getting up and dancing on Saturday and Sunday mornings has helped me to adjust because it gives me a positive association with earliness.

dancing + chocolate + books = happiness

Anyway, with my increased energy this morning (which I assure you will likely fade before my first class, lol), I got to thinking about control and societal expectations and ideas surrounding control. There's no doubt in my mind that most people have some sort of innate desire to be in control. It's comforting to feel like you've got a grip on what's going on at all times, and that makes a lot of sense given evolution. I mean, when in survival mode, control can be beneficial. It provides reassurance that things will work out at least enough that you and your family will live another day. But, like everything, control has a "shadow side," and sometimes the very things you think you need to control/are controlling end up controlling you. 
I know I've definitely struggled with control.  I'm a "creature of comfort" and really, really like routine and predictability.  Chaos = anxiety = ugh, and, as I mentioned earlier, society really does like to amp up the whole "be in control and everything will be fine!" mentality.  I'm still just "seeing the light" with these messages, too, so I'm by no means immune to them, but it's been helpful to be more aware of them.  I mean, look around you . . . so many magazines, articles, ads, etc., feature actors and models talking about their rigid fitness regimes or diet plans or daily schedules.  Don't get me wrong--I'm all about feeling healthy and happy and making life a happy, relaxed place for yourself, but I've been slowly realizing over the years that sometimes giving into all these media messages is really unhealthy.  Everywhere we look, there is a celebrity describing her "typical day.":
She gets up around 7:00, immediately drinks warm water with lemon, oil pulls, stretches, and then hits the gym for an intense session--weights and cardio, five to six times a week, with one active recovery day thrown in for good measure. She avoids sugars, additives, and salt, and she limits her carbs to 1/4 c oatmeal at breakfast, a sweet potato at lunch, and 1/2 c cooked quinoa at dinner (which doesn't happen any later than 7:00 because #digestion, right?).  Oh, and then there's a piece of dark chocolate (JUST A PIECE) at night if it's a Friday or Saturday. 
Okay, so now that we've read this, it's time to examine our own lives.  Just like with everything, there's a light and shadow side to this.  On the light side, we can say, "Oh, okay, maybe instead of staying up till two AM and then getting up at six AM, I can try to go to bed earlier.  That will help me feel less exhausted, and maybe my skin will clear up.  And maybe I'll try lemon water in the morning and that dance/Pilates/etc. video I saw on YouTube when I have time after school.  That sort of thing might energize me."  But on the shadow side, we can say, "Okay. No more rice. Ever. And only a 1/4 c of oatmeal, even if I'm hungry.  And I need to incorporate weights into my training now, and I can only rest one day a week, and then I need to walk for 60 minutes to make up for it . . . " This sort of thinking might make us feel "in control" temporarily, but whenever something interferes with our plan, we feel like everything is falling apart.  We become dependent on our routines and our rules, and if we can't live up to our expectations of ourselves, we fall into negativity and self-criticism.  

Is this healthy?  Trust me, darling--it isn't.

Audrey Hepburn: "Happy girls are the prettiest." (Image from smooth.com.au)

One of the best pieces of advice that I've ever received (and I admit that I need to do a better job following it) is balance.  Balance and moderation.  This advice came from a loved one who has passed on recently, and I've been trying to focus on it more because of how true it is. Complete carelessness and excessive control haven't ever benefited anyone.  Find a happy medium for yourself--a place where you can just exist and lead a full, happy life with things that you look forward to, manageable responsibilities, and some sort of meaning. The best thing about this happy medium is that you can start striving for it RIGHT NOW. You don't need to order any fancy products or sign up for a service. All you need is yourself.

<3 Frances 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Dedications, Jane Austen, and Writer's Block


Yesterday, my great-grandmother--someone that I wholeheartedly love and admire--passed on to be with my grandmother.  Along with my mother, they are my biggest influences in life, and they inspired inspire so much of what I write about. I don't feel at the liberty to call myself "a writer" because, quite frankly, I haven't completed anything that wasn't a school assignment (or a blog post, lol) in a while, but I'm working on being more prolific and efficient and trying to get less distracted. I think one of the things that makes writing so difficult for me is my inclination to write about very heavy topics.  Historical fiction is the genre I spend most of my time working with, and the historical times I focus on are typically depressing and tragic, and I tend to feel incapable of writing anything meaningful enough to capture all the pain and suffering of the past.  But I'm working on that.

Of all the literary worlds to disappear into in times of heartache, Jane Austen's remains one of my favorites.  Sense & Sensibility got me through turbulent airplane rides and homesickness, and quoting Lizzy Bennet lets me pretend to be much more independent and self-assured than I actually am. And Austen's stories are markedly less depressing and dark than some of my other most-loved reading selections (i.e. the works of the Bronte Sisters, wartime tragedies, etc.).  Because of this, I'm incredibly excited to be reading Pride & Prejudice as my last novel of my last semester of high school. I started it once when I was in fifth grade but never finished it, and I'm determined to finish it all the way through now.  With that in mind, here is a little springtime style inspiration straight from Miss Austen's universe:


janeaustensworld.wordpress.com

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."                                                                                                                                                      More:
ceciliaroselee.blogspot.com 

Regency-Women Set 8 | Richard Jenkins Photography:
rjenkins.co.uk

Regency Wedding Dress by Andrea Galer - Handmade.  "Designed by Andrea Galer, Award -winning designer who has created the costumes for ITV's Persuasion (2007), BBC's Miss Austen Regrets (2007) and the film Mansfield Park (1999) to name but a few." So floaty and ethereal and romantic!! love it!!!:
dianegaston.com

Movie Costumes I’d Actually Wear: Part 1 » Formidable Courage:
formidablecourage.com 


<3 Frances

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Matching Foundation

I haven't written anything here in a while, but I've managed to write elsewhere.  Short stories and essays and homework have gotten most of my attention this spring break, but that's been really nice for me because I'm not exactly the "let's make a lot of plans for spring break!" type.  The thought of packing a suitcase or venturing somewhere over this seven-day respite period exhausts me, and if anyone else feels that way, know you're not alone! 
One interesting (albeit insignificant) discovery this week has been that my foundation doesn't exactly match my skin tone.  The foundation I use is lovely and sweet and feels very good, but my pale skin has some yellow undertones that make me pull orange, and since I've been trying to get rid of my scars with retinoids, my skin has been very dry and all the orange has been exacerbated.  My mum took notice of this, and we found that, wow, there is a foundation shade that works with my face!  I'm a very pale "neutral," apparently, and now when I cover my scars up on my face, I don't have to worry about oxidation or color-shifting or scar visibility.  Yay!  If you're struggling with acne scars or cover-up issues, too, I strongly recommend making sure that you've got a foundation that matches your skin tone. It makes a very big difference, and I feel a lot better now even despite insecurities brought on by peeling retinoid skin.
Also . . . here are two songs for today:


Florence + the Machine: "St. Jude"
 
 
The White Stripes: "Blue Orchid"


<3 Frances

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Playlist

A soundtrack for studying . .  . or dancing . . . .


Lorde: "Green Light"

Birdy: "Wings"

Lana Del Rey: "Young and Beautiful"

<3 Frances

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring is Upon Us

I don't care if it's cold outside . . . it's spring now! And even if there was a part of me that really, really wanted snow last week, I'm grateful that all the little flowers and animals didn't have to deal with any crazy blizzard weather.  I'm also grateful that it might actually get warm soon--and not just sporadically like it did in February.  As much as I love hot chocolate-and-peppermint-weather, my chronically dry skin and numb toes are looking forward to not having to be wrapped in layers of flannel.  Not that springtime will stop me from stealing my brother's over-sized plaid shirts, of course....
Indie Playlist for Spring 2017 (Compilation by alexrainbirdMusic)

I've been listening to alexrainbirdMusic's Spring 2017 Indie playlist to get spring ready, doing lots of homework, and cleaning.  Spring weather always makes cleaning feel very necessary. I just wish there were more time for it .... every weekend has been booked by work or school.  Has anyone else been spring cleaning?  Sometimes it helps to put on a show in the background, like the Maya Angelou documentary that was on PBS on Friday..  There was so much about Maya Angelou that I'd never known before I saw the documentary, and I really recommend it because she's as brilliant as her poetry, and the documentary has so much meaningful footage and history in it. 
Another quick thought for spring time . . .for some reason, spring weather always makes me think of styles form the 1910s into the 1920s. Flippy flapper skirts and little hats and flowers always feel very spring-y.  
from fashionista.com

from www.vintage.es

All That Jazz: Fabulous Fashion Inspiration from the Roaring Twenties -:
from Modcloth

from Vicky Loebel

<3 Frances 







Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Link Loves and Must-Reads 3/10/17

In honor of whatever flu/stomach bug/bronchial infection is currently making rounds through school, I'm taking a sick day.  (In other words, I am ill.  Woohoo.)  But I've developed a new sort of love for tea.  If I could carry a tea kettle around with me at school and work, I seriously would do that.  Unfortunately, my backpack is already big enough to make me look ridiculous enough as it is.
Since I'm home, I have a little bit more time to do classwork and long-term projects, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some of the things I've had sitting here as links for the past two weeks.  Yay!

  • What I Ate Wednesday: It's Unhealthy to Eat Only Healthy Food by Alexis Joseph
    • This article from the Hummusapien is really refreshing given the current "all-or-nothing" attitude that the media is preaching when it comes to health and fitness and well-being.  It's awesome to make healthy choices so you can feel your best, but there's a big difference between taking caring of yourself and being obsessive.  Having a fixation on health can actually be really unhealthy.  This is something that's become more and more clear to me over the past few months.  That said, it can be difficult to identify what behaviors are healthy and which are obsessive because of al of the hardcore images of wellness that we're constantly being bombarded with.  Alexis's post is something I think everyone who struggles with balancing true health and happiness with obsession and anxiety needs to read because Alexis (an actual RD) has a very honest and un-obsessive attitude about taking care of herself.  Unlike the Photoshopped fitspo pics preaching two-hour workout sessions, green drink lunches, and dessert-less evenings, Alexis talks about how "[t]here is so much more to life than golden milk and smoothie bowls and toast covered with berries and almond milk yogurt." Thank you!!
  • A Story of Bats, Agaves, and People by Kristen Lear
    • I love Bat Conservation International and all it does to help take care of our little bat friends, and this story is awesome because it shows just how we can help people and animals at the same time.  YAY for environmental conservation efforts!  There's such a huge relationship between the health of the natural world and the health of the human one, and we often forget about this relationship when we're thinking about "progress" and "industrialization."  But true progress is about maintaining a balance with nature and respecting our ecosystems so that our world doesn't end in a sad spiral of global warming and pollution.  I mean, look at Bhutan....a carbon-negative country that measures progress based on GNH (Gross National Happiness). I think we have a lot to learn from Bhutan! (And from bats.)
  • If social media is toxic for you . . . do these 4 things by Cassey Ho
    • This sort of relates to the first article I linked to.  Looking around me, I realize just how many people (many of whom are very young) have fallen into the trap of comparison.  I'm definitely not immune to this myself. Even without a smart phone and all the apps that come with it (yup, I've got a little flip phone and LOVE IT), I'm definitely affected by comparison.  I'm so incredibly grateful every day for little things like hearing my hermit crabs playing in their houses or talking to my mum about work, but I also really love fashion magazines (guilty pleasure), and that usually leads to #comparisonproblems.  Social media is such a huge contributor to comparison because it inundates us with a Photoshopped version of reality.  Why, we wonder, is everyone so happy and glamorous and perfect all the time?  Well, here's the truth: they aren't!  Think of social media as a big filter.  People are only sharing what they WANT to share.  And for every Snapchat story of an epic vacation, there's something very sad going on in the world (i.e. deportation, famine, war, etc.).  Comparing ourselves to each other is such a waste of time. Should a blueberry compare itself to a banana?  NO.  Both fruits are totally awesome in totally different ways. 
<3 Frances

Monday, February 27, 2017

3 Big Ways Stress Wereaks Havoc in Your Life

Dramatic title, right?  But it's totally appropriate.  We're taught all this stuff about how to lead "healthy, happy lives"--eat this, never eat that, always work out, count your macros, get strength and cardio, work all the muscle groups--but the whole "reduce your stress" thing is a trend that, while popular, is particularly difficult to subscribe to.  Meal-prepping seems markedly easier to accomplish than lowering your cortisol levels does, especially in our fast-paced world of PRESSURE PRESSURE PRESSURE. (Okay, maybe I overdid it on the capital letters.)
The thing is, even with all these "wellness rules" that are designed to help make our lives more, well, lively, stress continues to be a major contributor to chronic un-wellness.  I know you've heard this a million times before, but this time, please listen.  It's almost springtime.  Spring clean your life this year!  KICK. STRESS. OUT.

  • Stress damages your skin.  There is a direct correlation between my forehead and lower jaw and exams.  I can actually feel myself actively breaking out when I'm taking a test. When your body releases cortisol (the hormone stress causes), your immune system activity is reduced, and you need a high-functioning immune system to keep blemishes and inflammation at bay. But stress isn't just connected to acne.  Long-term stress can also affect the length of telomeres, the caps at the end of DNA that protect if from degradation.  If telomeres decay, then cells decay and age, and that means wrinkles and lines.
  • Stress messes with your metabolism.   When you're stressed, your body enters "fight or flight" mode, which is great if you need to outrun a zombie but not so great if you're just trying to have a happy day.  To give you energy for fight or flight mode, your body pumps glucose into your blood stream, and insulin resistance ends up impaired, so you're blood sugar goes on a wild ride that can leave you fatigued and metabolically down: "even if [people] don’t actually comfort-eat to deal with stress, their metabolisms slow down, their energy expenditure decreases, their hormones get all off-kilter, and their blood sugar regulation goes down the drain."
  • Stress can make you miss out on quality sleep.  We all know how important sleep is for everything from encouraging cell growth and repair (#beautysleep) to helping you process and store things you've learned (#studying)., but when we're stressed out, getting the quality 7-9 hours we need to function at our best is a lot more difficult.  Our minds are racing with all the things we need to get done, so we can't drift off into that wonderful REM space of recharging and restoring, and we're so full of stress hormones that our bodies don't relax enough to be refreshed in the morning.
I've been paying more attention lately to just how easily I get stressed out and just how prevalent stress is in my everyday life, and I'm encouraging those around me to do the same.  My mum, for instance, is one of the most hardworking and caring people I know, but stress is a big issue for her because she has a tendency to give give give and never rest rest rest.  But you can't expect to be well if you don't try to prioritize health!  

<3 Frances

Friday, February 24, 2017

Jill's Library: Jane Eyre

It's finally Friday, loves!  And it's oddly warm today . . . not February weather at all.  It's difficult because, as much as I love birdsong and breezes and sunshine (cliched, I know, but true), I struggle with the reality that global warming is having such a big impact on climate conditions.  (I'm not just saying this because it's warm, either--global warming doesn't necessarily mean it gets warmer everywhere!)
But the fate of the planet momentarily aside, let's talk a little bit about books. Today's spotlight is on Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.  It's one of the most famous novels out there, and I actually first picked it up about four or so years ago, when it became a way to escape the stresses of travelling one particularly muggy summer.  I of course intended to finish Jane Eyre right away, but somehow I left the last fifty or so pages unread, and when I discovered this a few weeks ago, I realized I needed to do something about it.  So now, after four whole years, I've finally finished it . . . and I'm sad because I miss it!

Picture from Bustle

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Jane Eyre, it's the story of a young orphaned governess trying to find her way in the dark moors and cold manors of 19th-century England.  Oh, and it's a bit of definitely a love story, too, famous for quotes like "I had not intended to love him."  (But you did, Jane!)  That said, it's also a bit scary.  Not horror scary, but spooky scary, much like Wuthering Heights.  Ghosts, crazy shut-ins, murder attempts . . . these aren't the first things that come to mind when you think "Jane Eyre," but the Bronte sisters don't shy away from eeriness.
Of course, when Jane Eyre is brought up in conversation (however often that may be), there are usually mixed reactions to it, with some disliking it as another sad Victorian romance and others having found solace in Miss Eyre as a friend.  I fall into the latter category.  Jane, reserved and plain as she may be, is a literary "bestie."   She is thoughtful, honest, and incredibly humble, and her ability to stick to her values and beliefs despite not being a "fighter" by nature is inspiring.  Because Jane Eyre is so character-driven, and because it's told from Jane's perspective, I think that her personality and beliefs (justice, equality, etc.) play a major role in my argument for why you should read Jane Eyre if you ever find yourself in the Victorian literature section of the library.  Adding to that, the very way in which Jane Eyre is written is in and of itself compelling, particularly when you think about how much of Charlotte Bronte's own experiences may have inspired it.  The tuberculosis outbreak at Jane's boarding school, for instance, hearkens to the illnesses plaguing the Bronte girls .... all of who died tragically young.



<3 Frances

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Study Corner: Writing Timed Essays (and Why They Make My Skin Break Out)

I had a timed essay in my English class today.  At the end, I felt good about what I'd written, but I also had a breakout of hives on my chin from the anxiety of the experience.  Skintervention setback! I guess I broke out because writing a timed essay is stressful, kind of like riding a roller coaster.  Once you're in your seat and the ascent has begun, you know that there's no going back and that you have to get through the ride now, but you can't quite imagine how.  It's a bit terrifying, really, and, unfortunately, I can't give you much advice in the way of the inevitable "drop" without passing out because riding roller coasters is not something I have much experience with.  Writing timed essays, though . . . that's something much more familiar to me.  I'm no expert, but I definitely have some tried-and-true tips for making timed essays feel less like timed essays (if that makes sense).

I definitely did not take this picture, lol, but it goes well with study time :).
  • Take a deep breath.  
    • Read the prompt over once to familiarize yourself with it and then again to find its main point.
    • Ask yourself what the prompt is asking for.  Usually, it wants you to take a stance on something and defend your position with evidence, but there are nuances in the way a prompt is written that can change the way you're supposed to present your argument. 
    • Also--think of your rubric (if you have one). You want to make sure you hit the big points on the rubric.
  • Decide.
    • Once you've figured out what the prompt wants, think of your resources and come up with a general idea for what you want to say.
    • You need to have a general idea of your argument in order to write a cohesive paper.  Find your focus! Center yourself on it, and let your ideas for your body paragraphs stem from it.
  • Make your skeleton.
    • Come up with the "key three."  These are the main body ideas for your essay.  Put them in boxes on your brainstorm paper to help you organize what you're going to write about. You have limited time, but it might help to write a few bullet points in these boxes if you can.
    • Make sure all your boxes relate in some way to your argument!
  • WRITE!
    • Your thesis will go at the end of your intro, but don't get too caught up in the introduction. If you're getting caught up in it, get your thesis down and start your body paragraphs.  
    • Each body paragraph needs 1) an opening, 2) examples, 3) supports, and 4) a conclusion to tie it up (and relate it to the argument).  This is the simplest formula, and it works.
    • Once you get your three (or however many you end up with) body paragraphs down, work on your intro (if you haven't already) and write your conclusion.  Make sure your conclusion doesn't just summarize but instead also carries your argument forward, but remember that the intro and the conclusion aren't as crucial as getting in the key arguments of your essay and your main point, so don't freak if you're running out of time to make the conclusion super fancy.
  • Check it over.
    • Read over your paper (if you have time) and make sure it hits at least most of the points on the rubric.  If you have time, try to get all of them, but if you're running out of time, try to get at least the big ones.
Good luck, loves!!! I hope this is a *bit* helpful. Coming up with a skeleton is probably the tip that helps me the most.  Let me know if you have any study or writing questions.  I'm not an expert, but my tutoring work has helped me come up with some ideas to make school more manageable.


<3 Frances

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Link Loves and Must-Reads (and Hermit Crabs)

Bear, one of our sweet hermit crab babies, passed on this week :(.  We're going to give him a little burial today in our porch garden cemetery, and I already really miss just knowing that he is in the little terrarium in the living room. We've had many hermit crabs and hamsters over the years, with our apartment serving as a hospital and rehab home for all the smaller pets that get ill at the school my mum works at, and it's always heartbreaking when a pet passes on. I just hope that Bear is now in a happy place with his hermit crab spirit family.
This week's Link Loves and Must-Reads are from many different times and places, but I think they're all important and/or interesting in their own ways, covering everything from happiness to mindset to education.  Education is a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately because, while being a superhero and communciating with the spirit world writing, reading, and dancing are my favorite pastimes, my "daytime identities" include being a teacher and a student. I spend a lot of time in classrooms surrounded by children.  I think their circadian rhythms are on a totally different schedule from mine, though.  When I'm exhausted, they're ready to run an Iron Man or scale walls (the latter of which they've actually attempted).
  • What Happy People Do Differently by Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd B. Kashdan
    • We actually read this article for class, and it couldn't have been a more timely read.  A loved one of mine is currently going through a really hard time health-wise, and I'm praying for them to get better and also thinking a lot about one of the things we talked about the last time we saw each other--balance.  Balance is so important.  Anything to the extreme is detrimental, and even if we think that having control over all aspects of our lives is going to make us happy, IT ISN'T.  If you need any research to back this claim up, "What Happy People Do Differently" lays it out pretty fantastically. Intuitively, it doesn't really make sense that there are many times when discomfort and unpredictability shouldn't be avoided but rather embraced, but curiosity is directly linked to satisfaction and long-term growth. Curious now?  Yes, yes you are ;).
  • Paralysis by Analysis (vlog) by Maddy Moon
    • I've shared some of Maddy's work before, and I keep returning to her podcast, vlog series, and blog because of how inspiring and honest she is.  Her insights on body image, loving yourself, and being true to yourself are incredibly motivating if you're going through a hard time and trying to release limiting beliefs that are holding you back from really living your life (as opposed to just being afraid of it).  "Paralysis by analysis" is something I definitely deal with, and having Maddy tell me to snap out of it is very helpful.
  • Beautiful Women Smile from the Soul by Brooklyn of No Sleep Till Peace
    • This is a post by a Peace Corps volunteer working in Peru, and I love it because of how sweet it is. It's a real cheer-up that'll make you feel like there's still good in the world, no matter how dark things seem sometimes.
  • Why we should all be reading aloud to children TEDTalk by Rebecca Bellingham
    • Anyone who remembers being read to as a little kid, be it at home or in a class or even via a television program (Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, etc.) will be able to relate to this TEDTalk.  It's really quite amazing to think that, of all the little kids I've known, very few have been unable to become engrossed in a book.  Read-alouds seem to be a universal sort of entertainment.  
<3 Frances

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday Playlist

My poor little laptop decided yesterday that all websites were dangerous.  Apparently, the National Geographic site is off-limits because it's been flagged as "education."  Oh, dear.  But that didn't stop me from learning that the Devonian Period (one of the periods of the Paleozoic Era, yay!) was named after Devon, England, because that's where a lot of its fossil evidence was found.  Five year-old me is very excited right now.
And there's music to share today!
Wolf Larsen:: "If I Be Wrong"


Massive Attack ft. Hope Sandoval: "The Spoils"



Sarah Jaffe: "Adeline"

<3 Frances

Friday, February 3, 2017

Why You Should Make a Library Pilgrimage

The summers when I was in elementary school and my mother was working and my grandmother was still alive, she used to take me and my brother to the library so we could participate in the summer reading challenges.  Read x number of books by y date, and you get a little prize.  Somehow in the joy of small plastic frogs and miniature Slinkies, I didn't realize that the real prize of the summer reading challenge was the books-with-my-grandmother part, and our times at the library became some of the memories I now revisit whenever something is scary or sad or difficult.  But I hadn't really re-lived anything like those memories recently, save for all my literary talks with my mum.  Today, I changed that.  I walked up and down the aisles of the school library and rediscovered the rush of finding a book, picking it, and actually checking it out to read.  Checking a book out is like making a commitment to yourself to spend time with a friend, even if it's just for a short while, and I can hardly describe how exciting it was to take the book out of the library with me and know I'd get to go home and share it with my mum later. I felt like a six year-old again, and the best part is that, as I was leaving, I saw all these other books--everything from an anthology of French literature to a novel of the Irish potato famine to a tale of heartbreak--and cataloged them in my mind to check out later.

The book I found at the library today.  It's not a novel by any means, but it's full of beautiful art and poetry.
Win!

Where am I going with this?  Well, if you've been stressed or anxious or worried lately, I strongly recommend that you make a library pilgrimage if you get the chance to!  Literature has such amazing healing abilities, and there's nothing quite like the rush of picking a world to educate yourself in and disappear into.  It's like travelling but without the stress of airports or passports or money.


<3 Frances

Friday: Groundhogs, Dresses, and Humanitarianism

Yesterday was Groundhog Day, dears!  And little Phil saw his shadow, which supposedly means six more weeks of winter, but I'm not so much interested in his forecast as I am in his adorableness.  That said, often times I wish Phil were able to have the life of an everyday groundhog with a family and a little burrow of baby groundhogs instead of being subjected to flashing cameras and newscasters.  If only Beatrix Potter's world were real . . .
This video gets us pretty close, though.  My mum sent it to me the other day while I was studying, and it really did increase my productivity!  Cute baby animals have a way of doing that ;).


The SAG Awards were Sunday night.  I didn't even realize that until I heard people talking about the dresses and winners on Monday.  We don't watch our television much, but I liked getting to see everything recapped in the news, and some of our favorite looks are featured below (pics from POPSUGAR).  Fashion news is a nice break from all the sadness that's been everywhere lately.  Speaking of which--if you're reading this, I highly suggest you look into the International Rescue Committee or the Sierra Club or any of the other organizations that support humanitarianism and the environment.  It's so important that people take individual action to make the world a better, safer place for everyone!!

Emma Stone

Kirsten Dunst

Taraji P. Henson

Natalie Portman

Kerry Washington

Emily Blunt

Salma Hayek

Ellie Kemper

Winona Ryder

Rashida Jones

Viola Davis

Claire Foy

Maisie Williams

What were some of your favorite looks from the night?  
Are there any organizations you think need some extra support right now?  What about causes?
Now, watch those baby groundhogs one more time ;).

<3 Frances


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Link Loves and Must-Reads 1/26 (Plus a Beauty Mishap)

Last night I had a rather unfortunate incident with my right eyebrow.  To avoid getting into too much detail, let's just say that it's not entirely there anymore and that I'm incredibly grateful for my mum's touch-up skills.  #oops 
My little accident aside, though, here are [some of] today's Link Loves and Must-Reads . . . .
  • Amy Rosoff Davis: Actress, Celebrity Trainer, Producer + So Much More... by Robin Shobin
    • Amy Rosoff Davis is, as the title of this article suggests, a woman of many vocations, one of which is trainer for people like Selena Gomez and Emma Roberts.  What I like the most about her interview with Charlotte's Book, though, is her refreshing perspective on wellness.  Instead of preaching the "harder, faster, longer" dogma that so many of us are used to hearing nowadays, she talks about flexibility, doing something different every day based on how you feel, and having a "healthy relationship with your body and your mind" because "to obsess over any detail--that's not healthy." Thank you!!
  • 10 Actions You Can Take Today to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Zoe Fox
    • We can't keep denying the fact that humans are playing a major part in climate change, but we can do something about it.  It's actually really empowering to think that by reducing how much time you spend driving or by buying second-hand clothes you can make a difference for the sake of our sweet planet's health and well-being.
  • The Pantry (Yes, Pantry) Products Nikki Reed Uses for Luminous Skin by Nikki Reed
    • My "skintervention" is a continuing process, and I'm experimenting right now with yogurt masks, MSM, and Vitamin A because, more so than breakouts, my biggest issue right now is scarring. I'm even versing myself in special acne scar terminology.  I didn't know there were so many kinds of scars, and I'm hoping to get mine at least a little bit better because they've been around for a while and I'd love to part ways at some point.  I know I probably will never have 100% scar-free skin, and I'm okay with that, but if there's one thing I've learned form this skintervention process is that it's important to take action while you can. Anyway, I like this article by Nikki Reed because of her advice about all-natural, cruelty-free, chemical-free beauty hacks (eg. avocado in your hair and jojoba on your skin). With the current state of the planet (see my second Must-Read, lol), reducing the chemicals we put into the environment (and into ourselves!) is so crucial for everybody's health.  
Cyber hugs for your Thursday!

<3 Frances

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday Playlist

There's so much going on right now, and all the energy can be overwhelming sometimes. That's why we need music.  Listening to it, playing it, writing it, reading it . . . these are all forms of meditation, right? Much love and light for everyone today.  I'm hoping to share more must-reads soon.  I gather articles in between time spent procrastinating and doing homework, and most of the stuff I've gotten to see this week has to do with the environment (#envirosciwritergirls), having a healthy outlook on life, and cruelty-free beauty.  Let's make change and keep it positive!

Billie Eilish: "Six Feet Under"


Emiliana Torrini: "Birds"


Nick Drake: "Pink Moon"

<3 Frances



Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Playlist

I haven't gotten to share a playlist in a long time, and it's making me realize how I haven't been listening to as much music as I used to lately.  Maybe that's why it's been so difficult to write!  Music has such an incredible way of clearing the mind and distracting it from stressful thought forms (even-and sometimes even more so--if the song is sad), and it inspires creativity that seems to have been evading me recently. Hopefully some of these songs will reach your creative energy, too, and help make today a bit easier.


Daughter: "How"


The Lumineers: "Sleep On The Floor"



Kate Bush: "This Woman's Work"

<3 Frances 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Link Loves and Must-Reads 1/18

I'd told myself I'd write this on Monday (aka two days ago), but it just didn't happen.  Happy post- post- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  I spent most of the holiday running up and down a rainy street trying to locate an apartment building, doing work for school, and feeding pets.  One positive development from this weekend is that my hermit crab has stopped climbing upside-down on the roof of her little house. She's finally seemed to realize (hopefully) how dangerous that is. . . .

Hermit crab antics aside, though, here are some shares for the day:
  • The Truth About Change by Heather Waxman
    • I love Heather's kind, holistic approach to living and connecting with our inner "soul sisters" (or brothers, etc.).  Her post on change is full of so much truth, and it always makes me feel a bit better to consider how change isn't something to be fought but rather a force we can work with.
  • This Superbug Is Resistant to All Antibiotics -- and Has Killed Its First American Victim by Tom Philpott
    • Okay, this one is very sad and upsetting and scary, but I think it's important to read anyway because it gets into the conversation about antibiotic-resistant bacteria and their relationship to factory farming. Factory farms are a a major user of antibiotics, and they're also responsible for massive animal cruelty.  My prayers are with the family of the woman who died, and also with animals in factory farms all over the world.
  • 5 Things I've Learned Living with 500 Plants by Summer Rayne Oakes 
    •  We may not all be able to afford nice Brooklyn apartments filled with plants, but this is a quirky reminder of how beneficial time in nature is.  And it's an inspiration to start an indoor garden. We have lots of little plants around our tiny apartment, and some of them have been around since I was a baby, so I often think of them as siblings. Looking at the pictures of Summer Rayne Oake's plant-filled abode is fun because all the green is so refreshing.  It's amazing how much I want to go hug a plant right now.
Best Wednesday wishes!
<3 Frances 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Jill's Library: "Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature"

Growing up, Beatrix Potter was such an integral part of my everyday life that I nearly made my senior yearbook quote the first line of Peter Rabbit.  When I'm teaching, Beatrix is an author I'm always drawn to, and I used to watch the lovely animated adaptations of her "little books" as a source of comfort whenever I traveled away from home.  Because of my fascination with and love for her, learning about her life beyond the world of Benjamin Bunny and Tom Kitten was an entirely necessary pursuit, and I'm excited (and admittedly a bit sad) to have just finished Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear. When I began making my way through the account of Beatrix's life, I was a bit intimidated by the heavy language and technical information (so many dates!), but Lear managed to intersperse them with such sincerity and depth that the romantic elements of Beatrix's imagination, her tragic first love, and her country home weren't lost amongst the complicated details of financial issues and fell farming.

Image result for beatrix potter

Following Beatrix as she transitions from a young woman confined to the expectations of Victorian society into a strong and capable farmer really altered my idea of her as an individual.  I've always been inspired by her, but her strength in the face of hardships--like the death of her beloved fiance Norman, her strained relationship with her mother, and her frequent bouts of illness--add a level of depth to her character that I hadn't entirely seen before. Beatrix also had a level of pragmatism that people may not be aware of given the fantastical elements of her little children's stories.  She was truly a naturalist at heart more than anything else.  She loved nature and being in nature, and her art was as scientific as it was fantastical.  All her characters and settings were drawn from observation and captured the realities of proportions and visuals, and she translated country life into her stories with her rich illustrations and prose. Her perspective on life is also refreshing.  She truly embraced the wisdom and experience that come with age, and Lear included a quote of hers in A Life in Nature that I find particularly inspiring:
"Do you not feel it is rather pleasing to be so much wiser than quantities of young idiots?"

I also found the end of A Life in Nature to be incredibly meaningful in the way it ties Beatrix's naturalist ideas to her stories and her continued impact on the world.  Lear eloquently connects Beatrix's incorporation of the natural world into her stories to the progress of the environmentalist movement and shows how books like Peter Rabbit can inspire people to see the beauty in a world that has largely disappeared due to industry and modernization.  I highly recommend that anyone who was ever influenced by Jemima Puddleduck or Mrs. Tittlemouse to give Lear's biography of Beatrix Potter a looking at.  It's a very thick book, yes, but the story it shares is a compelling one, and the 100-odd pages of references in the back are fun for us literary-types, too.

<3 Frances

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Good News for Animals

Getting up at 5:55 AM instead of 5:15 AM makes such a difference.  It's not something I'll be able to do again in the near future during the work week, but I'm grateful for the extra sleep today because of so. many. tests.  Something else I'm grateful for?  Fake skin!  Okay, that sounds odd, but what I'm talking about is the fake skin being produced as a substitute for animals in product testing. 
MatTek grows its own human skin, and then sells it to companies that want it—companies that make laundry detergent, makeup, toilet bowl cleaner, anti-aging creams, tanning lotion.  Without lab-grown skin, these companies would be testing products on animals, usually rabbits, shaved to expose patches of naked skin. This practice is straight-up illegal for cosmetics in Europe now, and increasingly ethically dubious everywhere else.  (Sarah Zang)
Isn't it awesome that science is being used to save animals now instead of to hurt them?  While my favorite products are the ones that are natural and don't need intensive testing, I'm excited about the possibility of all companies being able to abandon animal testing practices and use synthetic skin instead.  Science for the win this time!

Image may contain: text

That's our happy news for the day.

<3 Frances

Monday, January 9, 2017

Link Loves and Must-Reads (Again)

I know some of these articles aren't exactly new, but they're still meaningful reads, and if you get the chance, you should definitely check them out.


<3 Frances

Golden Globes Fashion Haul

Hi, friends!  It is so cold outside today, and there is ice everywhere.  I'm hoping everyone stays safe this morning.  There are cute little bird footprints in the snow (awww), but I feel sorry for the birdies to have to be in such a chilly climate right now.  It was pretty warm up until last week.  I think all our Christmas weather just decided to come at once.  But the benefit of having work delayed today is that we got to watch some of the Golden Globes last night.  There's so much struggle in the world right now, and in life, and it's nice to be able to escape into a little film and fashion sometimes.  Not that some real-world difficulties weren't discussed last night, of course.  Meryl Streep gave a very meaningful speech, and there was a sweet dedication to Princess Leia and Debbie Reynolds.

Note: Red Carpet pics borrowed from the Popsugar website. 


Emma Stone
Emma Stone as a celestial goddess


Hailee Steinfeld 
Hailee Steinfeld in a soft purple princess look with angel sleeves
 

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman looks Jackie Kennedy-chic in Prada

Lily Collins
Lily Collins as a ballerina fairy (I love this look so so so much)
 
Gina Rodriguez
Gina Rodriguez sparkles in Naeem Khan

Brie Larson
Brie Larson channels vintage glam in Rodarte
Laura Dern
Laura Dern is sweet in flowers
 
Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore looks breezy and magical
Naomie Harris
Naomie Harris stuns in metallics
Viola Davis
Viola Davis is bold and bright in Michael Kors
Claire Foy
Claire Foy makes sparkles adorable and glamorous
Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana is beautiful in blush
Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon is elegant in buttercream yellow
Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams plays with texture and the perfect simplicity of black and white
Ruth Negga
Ruth Negga goes futuristic-glam
Mandy Moore
Mandy Moore embraces goddess vibes
Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer is chic in a pantsuit
 
There were a lot of other beautiful looks last night, so if you get the chance, definitely check some of them out.  Which were your favorites?  Stay safe this Monday!
 
 
<3 Frances


Monday, January 2, 2017

Link Loves and Must-Reads

Hi, dears!  Happy 2017!  (Yesterday was technically New Year's Day, but it's the thought that counts, right?)  I'm getting ready to go back to work (school) tomorrow and have been teaching/volunteering today, but I'm excited to have some "must-reads" to share with you in case you find yourself with a spare moment. I know that seems unlikely given the whole rush of getting back into the "daily motions" of the post-holiday season, but I'm pretending that the holidays are still going on.  Our Christmas tree is still up, and I intend to keep it up as long as possible.  And I refuse to stop listening to Lissie's cover of "2000 Miles" despite it being a Christmas-y song .  .  .  .

  • The scientific reason you should be watching Planet Earth by Jessica Hullinger
    • Did you know how good being in "awe" is for not only your health but also your relationship with the world around you?  Given all the tragedies of the last year (and even the last few days), this article makes me really really really really want to watch Planet Earth II and then force everyone around me to watch it, too.  We all need to just sit in a group circle talking about swimming sloths and amazing tree frogs until we can achieve peace.
  • Diana Vreeland: Why Your Flaws Are Your Most Important Asset by Words of Women
    • With all the insecurities we have about our flaws, former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland's thoughts on using flaws as strengths are pretty freaking inspirational.  Diana was one of the forces behind the whole "unique beauty" movement.  You don't "owe" anyone prettiness, and stereotypical ideals of prettiness are irrelevant and just plain ugh. YOU are your style.
  • We'll Never See These Animals Again by Laura Smith
    • This article is a lot more depressing than the first two, but it's SO IMPORTANT that we take its message to heart!!!  Knowing that ocean acidity has increased as much as it has devastates me, and I'm traumatized that Toughie (the last Rabbs' fringe-limbed tree frog) has passed away.  PLEASE read this and spread the word. I'm so grateful to be hearing about what Obama has done to protect the environment, and I'm really going to miss him. 
  • Daily affirmations from Louise Hay
    • You Can Heal Your Life has been on my mum's bookshelf as long as I can remember.  Through death, autoimmune disease(s), major life stresses, etc., that book has always been a source comfort. The little affirmations available online are really sweet and uplifting and inspiring--perfect for the new year (or any time of year!).  So take a moment to treat yourself to a little positivity.

I hope you all find these link loves as meaningful as I do :).  Hopefully there will be more to share later, but for now it's time for some psychology textbook reading . . . .

<3 Frances