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Amy Shearn (558 posts)
Plenty of road trips end with that Thelma-and-Louise feeling, am I right? You know what I mean. Reaching the end and realizing how much has changed, how much hasn't changed, how much you just want to keep on going. Not in a driving-into-the Grand-Canyon-because-the-law's-catching-up way, but in a soaring-into-the-air-eternally way. But you don't, of course you don't, because your life is waiting. You know, real life -- the job that needs to be returned once the vacation days expire, the dog that needs to be picked up from the kennel, the house full of all your very important stuff that you can't quite picture anymore, quietly awaiting your return. But what if you just kept going? Well, that's what Gunther Holtorf did. Twenty-three years ago.
When Gunther Holtorf and his wife began their journey in 1989, they meant to take an 18-month trip around Africa -- an ambitious enough undertaking. But somehow they just weren't ready to stop traveling, and continued on in their Mercedes Benz G Wagen for the next, oh, 500,000 miles. This BBC News video is a must-see, full of inspiring images of the trusty car (Holtorf says he's never had a major breakdown!) just about everywhere on Earth a person might want to travel.
And guess what: Holtorf has documented these amazing travels with only a couple of ancient film cameras. Film! No blog. No Twitter. No Instagram. It's almost as if the true roving spirit, the collective unconscious travel bug, has swarmed and assembled in this cheerful world-driver. After I'd seen this video for the first time, I was walking across a highway overpass and found myself gazing at the river of cars, wondering if any of them were in the midst of a grand adventure, feeling somehow, as I hadn't before, that most of them must be.
Ten Places to See Before They're Gone
Inspiration for the Armchair Traveler
Can you imagine explaining Facebook to an alien from outerspace? Or your grandmother? "It's, you know, you put...pictures...you share whatever little thought you have...to like 900 people..." "But why?" the alien grandma would ask, and you would have to shake your head and admit that you just didn't know. Then there's the brand-new Camellia Network. This site, founded by a business strategist and a bestselling author, is designed to help kids aging out of foster care. It's a social network that provides a tangible good, the kind of thing that makes you think, "Oh THAT'S why the Internet exists."
You may have never given much thought to what happens to foster kids when they turn 18, but consider this: According to the Camellia Network, "For youth who age out of the [foster care] system without a permanent family to support them, life is often tough. 25% of these youth become homeless by the time they turn twenty. 25% become incarcerated. 60% have children of their own within four years, and those kids are twice as likely to be placed in foster care themselves - continuing the cycle for a future generation." Kind of makes your veins go cold for a minute, doesn't it? I know when I was 18 I was completely ready to be out on my own. By which I mean, in a dorm room where all my meals were provided at a college my parents were paying for, on a clearly defined path to an adult life I'd grown up studying. Imagine trying to find your way without any guidance. Or dorm-meal-plan-provided cereal.
So what can you do to help? Well, thanks to the Camellia Network, you can post a job or internship opportunity, let the Camellia youth know about your healthcare, education, transportation, etc, service, or even just buy a kid a toaster. Browsing the profiles is its own kind of education, and reveals the genius of Camellia Network's premise: when you see a name and a hopeful face, when you read about each person's goals and how they are working toward them, you are suddenly invested. It's not an "issue," it's a person, a young person setting out into adult life without a safety net.
Learn more about Camellia Network's co-founder Vanessa Diffenbaugh's bestselling and widely acclaimed novel, The Language of Flowers (which is about a foster child aging out of the system), at her website here. Speaking of which, in the language of flowers, "camellia" means "My destiny is in your hands." How's that for a poetic call to action?
Visit the Camellia Network to find out how you can get involved.
The Baby You Give Back: Fostering Infants
A Summer Camp That Connects Siblings
What about you? How many useful life skills do you have? Do you know how to build a fire? How about without matches? Do you know CPR? Can you change a flat tire? Sew on a button? Give a speech? Even Cool has assembled a very helpful/shame-making list of 50 things everyone should know how to do. From jump-starting a car to cleaning your house to effectively flirting (it's very comprehensive), this list compiles skills every adult should have -- and of course, links to helpful articles from all across the Internet explaining how to do these very things. It's a list that should be bookmarked on every computer (don't know how to use a computer? It's on the list!), and emailed to everyone you know who's about to head off to college. Or grad school. Or, you know, another day at work.
A Father's Financial Tips for His Daughter
20 Questions That Could Change Your Life
I was reminded of the power of cuteness recently when my husband extracted our daughter from a weepy fit by showing her a photo of a baby sloth. She stopped mid-whine, transfixed. "Why are its eyes so BIG?" she asked, her eyes getting really big as she forgot all about her angst. Thank you, baby sloth!
We all have those moments, those afternoons that seem to stretch on forever, those bad moods that won't burst. The world is a beautiful place, right, whatever, yadda yadda, but sometimes you just need an instant happiness-dose, an injection of adorability shot right into your heart. In short, a flying baby.
Sure, most baby photos are pretty cute, but Rachel Hulin's otherwordly shots of her son flying in midair bring the cuteness to a new level of whimsy. This is surely the sign of advancing cuteness technology. And that's not all -- Hulin has a children's book, Flying Henry, coming out in the spring. You baby sloths out there better get your game up. (via Shine)
Is Your Baby As Cute As You Think?
The Cutest Animal Videos
Unlikely (and Adorable) Friendships
Set that fear aside. Right. Maybe that's why I teared up when I saw this image of Annaleise Carr's parents embracing her after her historic swim. This bad-a** Canadian teenager just became the youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario. In case you're unfamiliar with the great lakes, that is a very serious lake. Carr's swim took her 27 hours, and spanned 52.5 kilometers (or, in American, 32.6 miles), taking her from Niagara-on-the-lake in Southern Ontario to Toronto's Marilyn Bell park. (The park is named, by the way, for the first person to make that historic swim across Lake Ontario; Marilyn Bell completed her swim in 1954 at the advanced age of 16.)
And did I mention the swim took 27 hours? 27 hours of swimming. TWENTY-SEVEN. I can hardly stay awake for twelve in a row, but then again, I am a crusty old woman compared to this energetic creature, who reportedly was smiling, giving thumbs up, and playfully splashing the pacers throughout her epic swim.
In a CTV News video, Carr's beaming parents explained their reaction when she first brought up the idea: "No way. No chance." But, as kids tend to, she won them over, proving over months and months of training that she was serious about becoming the youngest person to ever make the long-distance swim. (For more on the swim and how she prepared for it, read the whole story at CTV.) Lucky for all of us that her parents were able to set aside their fear and let their baby dive into the wild waters: not only is Carr's swim inspirational as all get-out, but she did it to raise money for Camp Trillium, a camp for kids with cancer. As someone in the group cheering her arrival at Marilyn Bell park cried out, "Annaleise, you're a super hero!"
Diana Nyad's 33-Year-Old Dream of Swimming to Cuba
The World's Smallest Swimming Champ
Phyllis Diller passed away on August 20th, at the age of 95, and has been widely remembered for her eccentric persona -- the wild wigs, the claims of terrible housekeeping, the rapid fire one-liners. But besides being one of the first female comedians to make it big with her brash style of self-deprecating humor, Diller was also a relatively late bloomer. In fact, she didn't become a comedian until she was 37, and already a mother of 5. (I'm sure any mother of 5 is either a comedian or too tired to speak, or possibly both.) As Diller once told NPR, "The thing is, I had been doing [comedy] all my life without realizing it because I'm a born comic." So when her family was struggling financially, her husband convinced her to try her hand at comedy. And what do you know, it worked.
Besides a willingness to do anything for a laugh, and the creation of an outlandish persona, what set Diller apart? As she wrote in her 2005 memoir Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse, her impulse as a performer was never to copy, never to mediate, never to even pay homage; it was always to be purely herself: "I purposely never watched other comedians perform because I didn't want to copy anyone. I wanted to become me, totally me. The more me, the better. I instinctively knew this and I was right. My attitude, my material, and me—those were the components that distinguished me from the rest of the field right from the start."
Becoming "totally me" -- what a good goal, performer or not. And a useful mantra, it turns out, as it launched the 30-something star of PTA-skits into the annals of great comedy. Starting with her first television performance, seen in the clip below, in all its sweet awkward glory:
Remembering Maurice Sendak
Tiny Fey Talks to Oprah
Cerand writes of her longing for a quiet life, far from the breathless glitter of Manhattan and the constant hustle of her freelancer/publicist lifestyle. "An enormous amount of dedication is required to patch together a living, and it occurred to me this week that there is a direct correlation with how long it’s been since I’ve taken a vacation and how long since I’ve dated anyone. Years, so many that sometimes it seems pointless to reach for a two-week break, or a person." She draws a startling, vivid connection with the feeling of skidding on an icy highway—out of control, terrified, moving too fast to stop.
Then, as wise women tend to, she quotes Mary Oliver: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?" Aren't you doing it, Cerand asks of herself, of all of us? And if not, good gracious, why not? Whether it's more quiet or more glitter, more time for contemplation or more nights out eating oysters and wearing pearls, leaving behind the job that's sucking you dry or embarking on a new project even though you know it will be demanding—when do you plan to start living that real life you keep meaning to begin?
As Cerand puts it: "I must practice, with all the days that I have; I will improve the way I pass the time."
To which I say: Yes, yes, yes. And: now.
Find Your Hopeful Place
The Beauty of Living in the Moment
Contentment in Your Own Backyard
War and Forgiveness
Homeless Female Veterans
I know two things for sure about raising a girl to be a strong woman: 1) It's really important and something I'd like to do, and 2) The parenting maxim "Do as I say, not as I do," probably isn't going to work out so well here. So how do you balance being a responsible mother with modeling awesomely brave behavior? Super Chicken has some ideas.
This woman, besides looking good in a chicken suit, wants to inspire people to live without fear. As her indiegogo page explains, "We are all full of fears, we are all
chickens. I used to think
that feeling fear was not a good thing. That
if you had
confidence the fear went away. Although that is not the case...The
not letting that fear paralyze you in life, feel the fear and
anyway." So what did she do? Naturally, she made herself a Super Chicken suit, sold all her earthly possessions, and took off the travel the world. For at least 6 months. With her 17-year-old daughter. Dressed as a chicken.
Super Chicken is looking for donations to help her and her (awesomely sporting, it seems) daughter see as much of the world as possible. But she's also looking to spread the word, to help others conquer fear and embrace risk, adventure, and above all, it would seem, a sense of humor. I'd like to admit that while just reading her description of her project, I think I stopped breathing for at least a minute: But! But you can't! You can't do that! And this is exactly what Super Chicken is talking about. Why live in a world of "But you can't do that"s? As Super Chicken (I imagine) would say, there are plenty of people out there to say "you can't." You must be the one to tell yourself "I can."You can ride a horse dressed as an enormous chicken. You can travel the world if you want to.You can educate your children the way you think they should be educated, by traveling and experiencing and meeting people and learning to live not only safely and well but without the "you can't"s.
Living Without Fear
Overcoming Airplane Phobia
Every Christmas, Marianne Russo bakes muffins for her elderly neighbors. Last week—it's August, mind you—she tweeted that she'd found this in her mailbox:
Russo does a lot of good things for the world—she happens to be the host of a radio show for families with children who have special needs. But how lovely, to see how small gestures ripple out and return, so that if someone comes across a muffin cookbook in the dog days of summer, they think of you. (As an aside, I love pointless presents. I always think I'm going to do this, give someone a present just because I found it and thought of them, holidays be darned, but somehow I forget. Note to self: Do this more.) These moments of neighborliness create a culture of community, a current of generosity, a Christmas-less season of giving.
Either that, or Muffin Lady's neighbors are really tired of her standby muffin recipe. (Kidding! I'm sure it's not that!)
35 Little Moments of Kindness
Performing Random Acts of Chocolate