Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday Music and Prayers for 804

Hi, everyone!  The end of the academic year is approaching really quickly (as in next week is my last week quickly), and I can't believe it's almost here.  Summers are very busy, too, but it's nice to get to spend more time at home with books and living room dance sessions.
Summer plans aside, though, today I wanted to talk a little bit about the victims of the EgyptAir crash. I know it happened almost a week ago, but I've been thinking about it a lot, and I can't shake how horrible it is.  No one can really understand what the families of those on board Flight 804 are going through, and it's so unfair that they're having to suffer the unimaginable right now.  I still feel traumatized by the other crashes that have happened over the recent years, and I know the families of those victims will never be able to recover from the horror of losing a loved one in such a tragic way with so many unanswered questions.  My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected <3.

Birdy: "Skinny Love"

These Brittle Bones: "Flecks"

M83: "Outro"

<3 Frances 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Remedies

For a very long time, I have believed very strongly in the power of alternative and complementary therapies.  Some of the most important characters in my life (aka people I've known closely) have had their lives altered (and, in some cases, taken) by illnesses and disabilities, and I've found things like herbs, movement, art, and books to be incredibly powerful in helping people to deal with terribly complicated conditions.  Lupus, depression, loss . . . these things may not be curable in every case, but alt/complementary therapies can make living with them much less painful.
With that in mind, today's post is about bibliotherapy, which I am terribly passionate about because it combines a few of the best things in the world: writing, books, and helping people.  Yes, all those things together!  Yay!  
While researching bibliotherapy, I came across The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies. The title immediately drew me in and got me very excited, and the book is a collection of literary pieces that have been selected as (you guessed it) remedies.  Researching The Novel Cure, I found its website and discovered that it was put together by writer-teachers Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, who run The School of Life in London and prescribe books to people to help them "deal with the daily emotional challenges of existence" (Dovey).  The Novel Cure is a bit lighter than some other bibliotherapy resources (it doesn't deal so much with ailments like cancer, etc., as it does with things like writer's block and insomnia), but it's still very helpful because the emotional swing of life can be very tiring at times.  A good book is always a good idea. 
<3 Frances

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Inspiration: Frida Kahlo

Today's inspiration is none other than the beautiful painter queen herself: Frida Kahlo.  Frida helped pave the way for women in the art world, and we can all learn from her authenticity and strong sense of self.  Her life story makes her pretty hardcore, too.  She came down with polio when she was six years old, having to spend a significant amount of time bedridden, and her right leg ended up a lot smaller than her left.  She covered this with long flowy skirts, and, after recovering, participated in sports that were normally considered only for boys.  In 1925, when she was 18, Frida was in a bus accident that broke her spine and collarbone and sent a piece of iron through her abdomen.  Because of the accident, she had to be in a body cast for several months and ended up suffering from chronic and often debilitating bouts of pain for the rest of her life, and she was never able to have children.  But instead of letting this get her down, Frida channeled her suffering into something amazing: art.  She painted her body cast and, lying in bed with nothing but an easel and her own thoughts, made herself into one of the most influential artists ever known.  Go Frida.



<3 Frances 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Photoshop Detox, Daily Inspiration, and Kindness Cultivation

Hi, dears!  I somehow managed my way through another AP test yesterday, followed by an afternoon of volunteering with preschoolers, which was, needless to say, quite interesting.  Preschool conversations, when they're not entirely random and ridiculous, can be intriguing to listen to. They're very unfiltered...
Speaking of which, today I wanted to talk a little bit about something that's been on my mind recently: Photoshop.  I really enjoy photo editing (adding color, changing textures, etc.), but, while it's a fun tool, Photoshop can also be incredibly dangerous.  It's a way for people to totally alter reality, and Photoshopped images establish unrealistic standards. Because of the media and the way it constantly bombards us with Photoshop, we're becoming increasingly preoccupied with looks and reaching "goals" that are, for the majority of us, impossible unless we sacrifice our health and sanity. I'm not trying to be a "hater" or anything....I love admiring the dresses and styles in magazines just as much as the next person.  But it's important that we recognize that a lot of what we're seeing in the media is false.  It's the product of expensive technology and software, not nature, and we shouldn't prioritize molding ourselves into what is perceived as "perfect" before maintaining true health.
But isn't reaching those "goals" what true health is?
No, not at all.
"True health" is leading a lifestyle that is flexible, happy, and kind. It is engaging in movement because it makes you feel good about yourself, not because it punishes you or breaks you down.  It is not feeling obsessive or restrictive.  It is establishing a symbiotic, mutually appreciative relationship between your body and your soul.  Be your own friend!  Remind yourself that so many of the goals being established by the media are commercial and meant to support a major industry, not to make you feel truly happy.  I know this all sounds challenging. I understand. I'm there.  But part of "true health" is understanding that it's a process and that you don't need to be perfect all the time, and another important element of it is knowing that, by being a happy, loving person, you're making the world better because negativity often spurs more negativity.  So what are we waiting for?  Let's do it!  Let's get rid of the obsessiveness and free ourselves from the chains created by unrealistic expectations.  Let's live instead of just existing.  We can do it, and I believe in you.

Louise Hay

<3 Frances

Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday Soundtrack

It's another week closer to summer!  Yay!  I'm making it a priority to look at this last month of school with optimism and gratitude, and I hope that everyone else is able to do the same :).  And if things are difficult, I'm sending sunshine like the giant happy face sun from The Teletubbies.  (Yeah, I definitely just referenced that.)

X Ambassadors: "Unsteady"

The Oh Hello's: "Like the Dawn"

Little May: "Boardwalks"

Fink: "Looking Too Closely"

<3 Frances 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sloth Sanctuary Sunday

Oh, my goodness, guys, this is SO ADORABLE!  The Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary is one of the best places on the planet, and it's the focus of today's happiness break.  There's a lot of stuff going on in the world right now (like this scary news about global warming), but the Sloth Sanctuary is, as its name suggests, a reminder that there are still things to be happy about.  I mean, how can you not feel happy looking at these baby sloths?  There's just too much cuteness.

Sloth Sanctuary_2_72dpi_041116.png
Copyright R Richardson

The Sloth Sanctuary was founded in 1992 to help the injured and orphaned sloths of Costa Rica. Threatened by habitat destruction, their lives depend on people recognizing just how important it is to protect them and preserve their homes.  Aside from being really cute, they're also key members of their rainforest biomes, and their fur even acts as its own ecosystem.  Can't get enough of them?  Check out this video about a little sloth named Velcro:

I hope this little happiness break was able to nourish your soul in some way today <3.  It's important to feed yourself positive things.  They're what we need to make the world a better place because they give us goals.  Instead of just acknowledging climate change and deforestation, we need to know what we can do to fix it, and it's crucial that we visualize a positive outcome to work towards.  Having more places like the Sloth Sanctuary would be a good place to start.

<3 Frances


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Keeping Squirrels Safe

Owl hit by car

This post has a somewhat random title, I know, but its message is really quite relevant. Every day, I see animals that have been run over and hit in the road, and it breaks my heart to know that people have just left them there to die.  It's particularly traumatizing in neighborhoods, where people should be driving cautiously but somehow have managed to hit everything from squirrels to kittens. Driving safely is incredibly important not only for us humans but also for those around us.  So many animals could be saved if we were more conscious while driving.  And those that have been hit could be saved if people took the time to learn about wildlife rescue resources.  My mum witnessed a very upsetting incident yesterday that involved a squirrel being injured by a minivan, and it's so important that people be aware of wildlife rescue services in their area so that injured animals can get help and be rehabilitated.  Keep your local wildlife rescue service's phone number in your wallet so you can use it whenever you need to, and check out PETA's guide to helping animals hit by cars:

If you ever see an animal lying on the side of the road, don’t assume that he or she is dead! Here’s what you should do:

Remain calm. Be sure to note your exact location, including the closest mile marker if you’re on a highway.

If it’s safe to do so, immediately and carefully pull over and put your hazard lights on. Be extremely cautious and aware of the traffic around you.

Always be cautious when stopping to check on an animal lying on or near the road.
Always be cautious when stopping to check on an animal lying on or near the road.

Determine if the animal is dead or alive.

Is the animal stiff? This would mean that he or she has been dead for some time.
Is the animal breathing? With furry animals, the wind can fool you, so look carefully. Observe the animal’s chest and abdominal area for movement. If an animal is still warm to the touch but you can’t see him or her breathing or any other movement,  gently pinch a back toe to see if the animal pulls away. If safe to do so, you can also gently position your finger against the corner of the animal’s eye to see if he or she blinks.

Do not attempt to move injured animals without assistance from a trained individual. Some animals could be rabid, putting you in danger—and many animals, including dogs and cats, are more likely to bite if they’re in pain or frightened.

Dog Hit By Car Collage
An animal control officer picked up this dog after she was hit by a car and injured.

If you think an animal might still be alive or if you see an animal run away after being hit, call your local animal-control agency or police dispatch. If you can’t reach a live person, call 911. Calmly state your emergency:

I’ve just found an injured animal who has been hit (state your location) and is still alive. This animal is suffering badly and needs help. Can you please send an animal-control officer right away? I’m pulled over in a (describe the make and model of the car you’re in) and will stay with the animal until help arrives.

Most importantly, do not leave the animal. What if the officer can’t find him or her? Or what if the officer never shows up, and the animal is left to suffer? Stay with the animal until a professional arrives. 

Foxes, raccoons, deer, and other wild animals deserve to be free from suffering, just as the animals we share our homes with do. If you couldn’t imagine your injured dog or cat lying helpless on the side of the road, please show compassion to other animals by stopping to check on them.This deer was hit by a car and badly injured. If you see any injured animals on or near the road, be sure to call animal control and wait near the animal until help arrives.
Owl hit by car
Obviously, it's important to stay safe, so remember not to touch animals because they may be rabid.  But don't just leave them there, either. Do your best to get them the help they need.  It'll make the world a better place!

<3 Frances

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Stresed? Meet Mindfulness.

May has gotten off to a bit of a crazy start in terms of studying and finals and AP tests and projects. Everything's kind of been a big whir of assignments and due dates and work obligations, and, while I'm grateful every day, I'm hoping June will bring a bit of calm. Somehow amidst everything I've managed to get some non-AP textbook reading in, and I'm working on getting through Testament of Youth, Les Miserables, and Mindfulness for Beginners.  Testament and Les Mis are both incredibly beautiful and poignant and amazing, and Mindfulness is something that, as I read more of it, I realize the world really, really needs. So that's what this post is about: mindfulness.

Written by John Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness for Beginners is an introduction to the practice of awareness. I suppose it's a bit of a self-help book, but the part of it that I find the most interesting is its connection to the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) programs that they're using at a lot of hospitals now.  Learning about how awareness can help the world in the big picture is way more intriguing than just learning about how I can use it to help myself, and, if you don't already know about it, MBSR is really inspiring.
Put simply, MBSR is an 8-week course for patients suffering from chronic pain and illnesses that blends meditation and yoga to boost self-esteem, improve wellness, and reduce pain.
The mind is known to be a factor in stress and stress-related disorders, and meditation has been shown to positively effect a range of autonomic physiological processes, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing overall arousal and emotional reactivity. In addition to mindfulness practices, MBSR uses yoga to help reverse the prevalence of disuse atrophy from our culture's largely sedentary lifestyle, especially for those with pain and chronic illnesses. The program brings meditation and yoga together so that the virtues of both can be experienced simultaneously .
We live in a very stressful world, and I've never been particularly good at getting calm/meditative/yogic, but, reading about MBSR, I'm realizing the importance of it, and it's helpful to be reminded that being calmer and more meditative isn't just a self-care practice. It's actually something that's very good for the planet.  Having a lot of stressed, overwhelmed, pained people walking around doesn't yield the peace and positivity that we need to make the world a better place. And MBSR isn't just for hospitals.  Looking around, it's clear that there are lots of other places in which it can (and should) be applied. People are suffering every day all over the world, and MBSR could really help them reconnect with themselves, with nature, and with each other to grapple with the obstacles that they face.

<3 Frances