Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Bucket List Challenge: Prioritizing Family Time

No one has ever said I wish I'd spent more time at work. Yet, when doing what you love or working for yourself, we're often doing just that to the detriment of relationships and our own mental health. Whether you have kids or not, it's important to make time for awe and wonder to spark your creative process and to spur innovation. Summer Bucket Lists can help with this.

2014 Summer Bucket List: See the Butterflies at Academy of Sciences


It's been drilled into us that if something is not scheduled it won't happen. If you're not careful, you can easily end up with every waking moment accounted for. And, this is a bad thing. Not only have you left yourself no time for unexpected emergencies, you have left out opportunities for discovery, for recharging, for connecting.

Last summer, I put aside projects I thought I needed to do and prioritized family time (our Summer Bucket List helped with this), creating opportunities for us just to be a family. It was a struggle to do so at the time, but after the events of the Fall, a struggle I'm glad I took on.

What's one thing you can do
to add a little more awe and wonder to your day?
2014 Summer Bucket List: Visit Academy of Sciences Gates Explores Tide Pool at Academy of Sciences


Making Time for Awe and Wonder

Young children have no grasp on time. Everything is right now for them. There's no judgement that the time they're spending just being is being wasted. Their minds are free to wander without self-imposed restrictions. They see the world with a sense of wonder and amazement. And, as adults we need to bring some of this freedom back into our lives.

Tips for Intentionally Using Your Time

Here are five tips for being more intentional with your use or nonuse of time:

  1. Stop judging time where you're not "doing" something as wasted. It's ok to be still, to not be producing visible, tangible results. In our always on, always accessible modern world, it's easy to fall into the trap of not wanting to waste a moment, to appear indispensable to an employer, or to be appreciated by a customer, a friend, or a random person on the Internet. You're constantly checking your email or social media to see if a colleague needs help, if there's an event you could be at, or something else. You're looking for a better use of your time; the only time that's wasted is the time you spend judging yourself.
  2. Put away your devices (unless you're using them as a camera). Leave them in another room where you won't be tempted to check them. If out, turn notifications off and silence your phone. Use your devices just for emergencies. Be "on" for your family, not an imagined potential work crisis.
  3. Don't beat yourself up for yesterday; today is a new day. If you've had your nose to the grindstone or worked through blocks of time you've set aside to be with your family or to be by yourself in the past, it's ok. You can't change the past. Taking time for discovery, recharge, and connection is a life long practice. If you didn't practice yesterday, practice today.
  4. Guilt only has value if something productive results. If you continue feeling the same guilt (for example, that you never have enough time to just sit and "do" nothing) and never do anything to change your behavior, it's wasted energy. And not only that, it's a lot of negative energy you're choosing to surround yourself in.
  5. Baby steps are progress. When you were learning to run, you didn't just jump up from a crawl and sprint across your living room. You first had to learn how to stand on your feet and that meant discovering your muscles and beginning to manipulate them. Once you were standing, you had to learn how to move in a planned direction. While to an outsider it might not look like an accomplishment, the amount of data you were accumulating and processing was vast. So don't try to unlearn a behavior in one try.
If like me you thrive on lists, create a list of "rainy day" activities. These "rainy day" activities are ones that would make you happy, ones that you wouldn't necessarily take the time to do but you've secretly wanted to do. Pull out your list when you want to take a break and recharge. Your list will reduce the time you spend context switching as your research will already be done and you can just go when you have the momentum. For us, our list is our Summer Bucket List.

Do you have a Summer Bucket List?

Our Progress on 2014 Summer Bucket List

I'd planned on sharing our 2014 Summer Bucket List with you earlier in the summer. While I didn't share it, we've been consistently working our way through it an item or two every couple of weeks. So far, Gates had her first taste of Mitchell's Ice Cream (their avocado ice cream was a hit). Gates went to the Academy of Sciences for the first time. Gates tasted Creme Brulee for the first time.

2014 Summer Bucket List: Eat Creme Brulee Gates Eats Creme Brulee


We've cooked or baked as a family on numerous occasions (and intentionally shown that both cubes and I take turns cleaning up). We went camping as a family (and we're going to go again!). And, Gates ate her first strawberry that she picked herself.

2014 Summer Bucket List: Go Camping as a Family Gates Asleep in Our Tent


You can view more photos from our summer excursions in our Summer Bucket List Flickr gallery.

The Importance of Making Family Time

We first participated in the Summer Bucket List Challenge in 2013 when Gates was just a year old. Our reason for a summer bucket list when Gates wasn't even in school yet? To take advantage of her external-commitment free time. There's no pressure to complete a math workbook, read from a mandated book list, visit historical sites in advance of class lessons to get personal photos for future class projects, or anything else. We, or rather I, was a little ambitious with our first list. We were still adjusting to our lives as a family of three and ended up in August racing through our list.

2013 Summer Bucket List: Picnic In Mission Dolores


At the time it was a little crazy trying to fill every moment with a bucket list challenge item, but in hindsight so worth it. When cubes was in the hospital, I looked back on those memories and didn't regret the work that I put aside for an instant. Knowing that his time in the hospital was temporary and that we'd be once again doing activities as a family helped me stay grounded through the Fall.

Gates Playing at Mission Dolores


Depending on where your kids go to school, you may have a few weeks of summer left (mid-August) or just over a month (Labor Day). However much time you have and whether you have a Summer Bucket List or not, carve out some time to spend together as a family. It may seem like you can push it off--and you may indeed be able to--but, trust me the memories you'll be making, the smiles and the laughter you'll be sharing, will warm your heart through any tough times.

Gates at Mission Dolores Playyground


For us, the summer of 2013 will be the summer we raised a horde of fruit flies instead of growing organic indoor strawberries. The summer Gates had her first taste of Bi-Rite Ice Cream. We "picnicked" in Mission Dolores Park with friends (the photos of that excursion would paper the walls of cubes' hospital room). We had an old timey family portrait taken on Sunday Streets (we actually made it out to a Sunday Streets festival!).

genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Granting Yourself Permission to be Creative

No one has the right to stop another person from being creative. Creativity is not a label one needs to earn before they can call themselves creative. Creativity is about granting yourself permission, facing your fears, and making something. Creativity is a practice, one that I don't always embrace.

Granting Yourself Permission to Make


Earlier this year, I contributed to the last We are the Contributors project: Alter Ego. In the call for submissions, we were asked to explore inhabiting the mind, space, and life of another person, an adult version of "let's pretend," using the medium of our choice and to share a little about our process.

For my piece, Breaking to Soar, I choose collage and eventually decided to step into the shoes of my four-year-old self grown up. In doing so, I realized the dangers in having two personas: one you share with the online world and one you share in the real world.

Do you have more than one persona? Is it intentional?
Behind the Scenes: Finding My Way Back to My Four Year Old Self


Editor's Note: I wrote "Rediscovering My Authentic Self" this past April but couldn't bring myself to hit publish. I'm proud of the work I submitted for We are The Contributors and am sharing my struggle with the piece now for anyone else out there that is applying someone else's standard to their work or for anyone who is afraid to start because their beginning won't be as good as someone else's middle or end. I wrote "How to Become Your Authentic Self" upon reflection of why I hadn't shared a part of my story previously and how I could use the experience to grow.

Rediscovering My Authentic Self

To say I didn’t struggle with the We Are The Contributors project would be lying. In March, I jumped at the chance to participate in “an adult version of ‘let’s pretend.” I had so many ideas, I welcomed the opportunity to let my creativity soar unfettered.

As the month wore on, I wondered what I had been thinking taking on this project. Sure I had women I wanted to be like. But, none felt “right.”

I couldn’t imagine being someone else. I could compare myself to them. And, I did. But, stepping into their shoes and understanding their motivations, their passions, and their dreams beyond what I observed as an outsider proved challenging. No one knows what a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, or even a loved one, has experienced.

Granting Permission to Break


Many of us pick out the personas we show to the world based on who we’ll be seeing or what we’ll be doing. Then, we don those shells. Sometimes, these personas are almost polar opposites of each other, disarming those who think they know us when they glimpse an alternate persona.

Until a few years ago, I had two personas; one felt more authentic than the other. One was the driven corporate career woman, with the perfectly kept four-bedroom house in the suburbs, and wardrobe stocked with the right designer labels—not too flashy, no nonsense. The other was the passionate creative, barefoot, covered in paint working through the night to Moby and Paul Oakenfold blaring or whipping up a new recipe for possible inclusion on a restaurant menu. The personas existed in two different worlds; worlds that seldom collided, but when they did, most people were surprised.

Behind the Scenes: Struggling to Soar


When I moved to San Francisco five years ago, I began combining the two personas. I struggled with what to reveal and to whom. I wondered what people would think. Would they like me? It wasn’t until recently that I realized if someone doesn’t get my passions it’s ok. I didn’t need to apologize for them or hide them. There would be people who did get them. I didn’t need to change who I am.

Pretending to be someone else, while appealing at first, hit too close. I was reminded of all the time lost and energy expended switching back and forth between two personas. Instead, I thought back to an authenticity exercise Brene Brown had us complete in her The Gifts of Imperfection: A Six-Week eCourse. She had us find a photo of “that captures our authentic self—one that conveys a sense of who you are.” I selected a photo from my childhood, one before I started worrying what others thought of me.

Inspiration for Breaking to Soar: My Four Year Old Self

My Four Year Old Self: Self-Assured. Unabashed. Eager.


And then it hit me. My path that’s been obscured by swirling mist was suddenly visible. Each alternate route, detour, or back road I’ve taken has always been leading here.

Where’s here? My four-year old self grown up.

Without realizing it, I’ve been on a quest to recapture the essence of that four-year old. To once again be Self-Assured. Unabashed. Eager.

How to Become Your Authentic Self

It is easy to compare ourselves to others. In an online world where influence (or likeability) appears transparent with visible measures, it's even more tempting. But we have to stop. We have to step back and realize we may be self-censoring to be a version of ourselves that fits in. When you feel like you're about to censor yourself, do this:

Grant yourself permission:

  • to be vulnerable.
  • to speak out.
  • to struggle.
  • to break free.
  • to soar.
  • to make.

Breaking to Soar: Butterfly Detail


So remember this when you're afraid to hit publish or to share something you're proud of: all of us are imperfect. All of us have different strengths. Those of us who have similar strengths have different aptitudes. And those of us who have similar strengths have different levels of commitment.

And know this: it is easier to criticize by attacking than it is to start a discussion. As Laura Gaskill of Lolalina advised: "Ignore the haters, and leave the trolls under the bridge where they belong."

genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Good Life Snapshot: Laura Gaskill of Lolalina

Every once in awhile a person will cross your path who will have you really thinking about what you're doing and why. Recently that person for me was Laura Gaskill of Lolalina. She asked a group of bloggers if anyone would be interested in participating in an blogger's chain letter of sorts talking about our writing process as part of the Writing Process Blog Tour.

Laura Gaskill: A Good Life Snapshot


What intrigued me about Laura wasn't that she asked us permission to include us in the tour. What intrigued me was her mission "to create a cozy, creative, positive corner of the Internet, and to connect with and inspire others who wish for the same thing." I believe there's too much negativity in the world, so was excited to find someone else who shared that belief. I wanted to know whether her positivity meant she saw herself having "The Good Life." To find out I asked her to participate in my A Good Life Snapshot series. I especially enjoyed her interview and hope you do as well.

genuinely eden


1. How do you define The Good Life?

I have come to think of The Good Life as two sides of the same coin, with mindfulness on one side, and following your bliss on the other. Mindfulness, to me, means living in the present moment with awareness and gratitude as often as possible. Eyes open. Not taking anything for granted. Keeping things in perspective, and not letting pettiness or negativity overwhelm you. The other side, following your bliss, is about living an authentic life and being true to yourself. Making sure your work, your home life, even your clothing and decorating style sits well with who you are inside and what is important to you. I think both pieces are necessary to truly live your Good Life.

A Good Life Is According to Laura Gaskill


2. Do you think it's possible to pursue The Good Life? Why or why not.

Being mindful and cultivating gratitude is truly possible for everyone, no matter the circumstances of your life. Not necessarily easy, but possible. The other part — the following your bliss part — can be trickier. It can depend on resources and geographic location, and other things out of your control. BUT, I think if you are lucky enough to be healthy, and have a place to live, you can make something happen. We can come up with so many excuses not to pursue our dreams!

Follow Your Bliss


3. Do you think you have The Good Life? If yes, when did you learn this?

Yes, and it's a major work in progress! Becoming a mother and full-time writer have been major turning points for me. Having a child made me feel suddenly extremely vulnerable — which helped awaken me to the fact that I have a lot to lose, and by the same token, a lot to cherish and love right now. Since having my son, I have made a strong effort to live my everyday life more mindfully, appreciating all of the tiny moments while I can. Five years ago, when I left my teaching career and moved to the east coast with my husband, marked a new beginning in my life. We bought a house, had a baby, and I worked really hard to inch my way into a writing career. When you sum it up like that, it sounds easy ... but it was decidedly not.

We went through some really tough times financially and emotionally before the hard work started to pay off. Now I am proud to say I am a full-time freelance writer, I am able to work from home, have plenty of time with my young son, and I have exceeded my teaching salary ... which admittedly was not a terribly high bar to reach, but because writing is such an elusive profession, I'd still say that's pretty darn good.

Never need to retire


You asked when I learned that I am living The Good Life, and I actually know the exact moment. I was driving home from dropping my husband at the train station, looking forward to starting work that day when it hit me: I love what I do. I could clearly see the arc of my life spreading out before me, and I realized I would always want to write. I would never need to "retire" because what I do is what I would be doing anyway.

4. How has blogging helped you recognize The Good Life?

Blogging has opened me up to a tribe of wonderful people, some of whom have become dear friends. People are doing some really inspiring things on their blogs, so I guess for me, reading blogs has been just as helpful as authoring my own blog. But my own blog, of course, holds a special place in my life. Over the past five (!) years it has been a way to record my hopes and dreams, hold myself accountable, and measure my progress. I also keep private journals, but they will never replace the community and encouragement that comes from keeping a blog.

Tips for The Good Life


5. Do you have any tips you'd like to share with others?

My best tip is to pay close attention to the things you are most drawn to, and pursue them. Record them, write about them, photograph them, hunt them down, do them — the things you love are like breadcrumbs leading to your most authentic life. Don't put the "urgent" ahead of what's really important. Seek out supportive people, and don't be afraid to say goodbye to those who do not have your best interests at heart. Ignore the haters, and leave the trolls under the bridge where they belong.

Thank you so much Eden!

Leave the trolls


About Laura Gaskill

Laura lives in a little yellow house in Providence, Rhode Island, with her hubby, son, cat, and four hens. She's a Houzz contributor, freelance writer, and lover of all things warm, cozy, and creative. She started blogging in 2009 craving a shift towards a more passionate, creative life--a life she is now living. She can honestly say that blogging has been an essential part of her journey. On her blog, Lolalina, she aims to create a cozy, creative, positive corner of the Internet, and to connect with and inspire others who wish for the same thing. You can find her as LauraGaskill on Twitter, Lolalina on Facebook, LauraLolalina on Instagram, and LauraG on Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life. All images personal photos of Laura Gaskill of Lolalina and used with permission.

A Good Life Snapshot is a monthly series featuring a DIY or lifestyle blogger I follow and who I admire.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Around the Neighborhood: Chocolate in The Mission

Valencia street in San Francisco is quite the destination for foodies. Within a few short blocks, you can find restaurants galore, a bakery, a cheesemonger, and two chocolatiers. The chocolatiers are my favorite spots: Dandelion Chocolate in the winter for a hot cocoa warm up and Chocolatier Blue on a grey day for a color pick-me-up.

Which do you love most: sweets or savories?
Mango, Lemon Verbena, and Mojito Chocolates from Chocolatier Blue


If donuts, cookies, creme brûlée, or ice cream are more to your liking than chocolate, check out my round up of our favorite sweet spots in The Mission.

Mango, Lemon Verbena, and Mojito Chocolates from Chocolatier Blue Mojito Chocolate from Chocolatier Blue


Chocolatier Blue

The flavors (and colors) you'll find when you step through the door of Chocolatier Blue vary by season. The raspberries, peaches, lemons, and other fruits used in their collections come directly from the local farmer’s markets in Berkeley. On my recent visit they had passion fruit, mango, lemon verbena to name a few. (You can see the full collection of chocolates on their website.)

Chocolatier Blue


If you're ever stumped for what to get a hostess of a party, pick up some chocolates from Chocolatier Blue. With the variety of colors and shapes you have a memorable hostess gift that not only looks great, but tastes great as well. Chocolates are about a dollar each.

Mango, Lemon Verbena, and Mojito Chocolates from Chocolatier Blue Passion Fruit, Chile, and Sangria Chocolates from Chocolatier Blue


Dandelion Chocolate

I discovered Dandelion over a year ago and have been in love with it ever since, even taking my mom here for a mid-day treat on a Saturday.

Dandelion Chocolate Dandelion Chocolate Housemade Marshmellows and Brownie Flights


So in love did I fall that for Alt Summit SF, when I wanted to share a taste of home with fellow attendees, a taste they were unlikely to find sold across the United States in their grocery store, I headed to Dandelion. I chose dark chocolate covered Lavender, Candied Orange, and Coconut shortbread from Kika's Treats to hand out.

Dandelion Chocolate for Alt Summit SF Business Cards


Where Chocolatier Blue makes its chocolates across the bay in Berkeley, Dandelion Chocolate makes theirs here in The Mission. A visit to Dandelion can be somewhat overwhelming the first time as you're presented with various bars of chocolate and tasting notes. Be sure to schedule a tour to learn more about how they make their chocolate or attend a tasting event.

Dandelion Chocolate


Dandelion is also home to one of Gates' firsts: her first taste of coffee. Gates had her first taste of coffee, when I forgot that an Iced Cafe Mocha, unlike a Hot Chocolate, is made with coffee and offered up my drink without thinking when she asked politely for a sip.

genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Currently Reading: The Same Magazines as All Other Bloggers

Recently I've started thinking about the media I take in based on the revelation by Karen of Chookooloonks that she follows a "curated media diet." At the same time, to be original and to maintain an authentic voice, I strive to consume media different from other lifestyle bloggers. Yet I'm finding I don't like the amount of filtering and censoring I'm having to do with some magazines.

Do you filter what your family reads?
What's On My Desk Currently Reading: Magazine Inspiration


One magazine that I decided to give a chance after being offered a Klout Perk was The Red Bulletin Magazine. I was initially skeptical, thinking it would be a magazine solely of interest to "bros." Each month I decided to keep an open mind and for the most part have been pleasantly surprised and found inspiration to pursue one's passions and to carve new paths. However, the consistent objectification of females has me deciding not to renew my subscription.

Review: The Red Bulletin Magazine

The Good: I discovered Ian Ruhter, an artist who created a camera out of a moving truck. I learned about females tackling sports previously dominated by men, such as 20-year old Sasha DiGuilian, a rising star in climbing. And I saw Parkour as a way of life, not just a fad sport: "Getting over obstacles, mastering challenges and taming fears makes parkour a school of life which to the rest of us looks like a really cool thing to do."

Currently Reading: Red Bulletin Magazine


The Bad: But while positive role models were found in the magazine, I had to guard against the objectification of women. Not just in advertisements, but in editorial content as well.

Why is this bad? "Individuals create a personalized reality that is reflective of what they observe and identify as meaningful in their environment, and then they act based on those observations. Therefore, if women are observing images thrust at them through mass communication as a guideline of how to act, they will begin to act in that manner because it mirrors their environment. If men are constantly viewing women as objects that must be possessed, or prizes to be won, they will begin treating them as so. (Bandura, Albert. 1999. “Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective.” Asian Journal of Social Psychology. 2:21-41. as paraphrased in Berberick, Stephanie Nicholl. 2010. "The Objectification of Women in Mass Media: Female Self-Image in Misogynist Culture. (pdf)" The New York Sociologist. 5.)"

Comparing Images of Male and Females: Diver and Singer Comparing Images of Male and Females: Two Singers


Over the course of a year long subscription, I noticed that women under the age of 21 appeared fully clothed and in context of their sport or their talent. Women over the age of 21 were more often than not scantily clad regardless of profession. The least clad male was a sport diver (contextually accurate). Male singers appeared fully clothed in all of their photographs while female singers appeared clothed and in lingerie.

Maybe with my undergraduate work in Communication I'm sensitized to the portrayal of women in the media. Whatever the reason, and whether or not links between these images and individual behavior have been proven, I don't feel comfortable exposing these images to Gates.

Currently Reading: 3191


Magazines I Let My Toddler Flip Through

Unlike Red Bulletin, I subscribe to a handful of magazines that I have no qualms about Gates flipping through. Most of these magazines and journals are ones that flood bloggers' social media streams each month or quarter when they're published.

  • 3191 Miles Apart (a quarterly magazine chronicling the everyday moments of two women each living in Portland, one in Oregon and one in Maine)
  • 8 Faces (a quarterly journal no longer in publication profiling eight type designers)
  • Anthology Magazine (a quarterly magazine exploring a different theme each issue)
  • Uppercase Magazine (a quarterly magazine profiling up-and-coming artists or exploring emerging trends in design and creativity)
With one modification (more photos of Daddy), Gates selected the format of 3191 Miles Apart for our family's Summer Bucket Challenge chronicle. I love that she can find inspiration in these magazines for our projects.

What magazines do you subscribe to?
genuinely eden

P.S. Don't feel like commenting? Strike up a conversation with me elsewhere: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or Pinterest.

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

Disclosure: I received a one year subscription to Red Bulletin Magazine as a Klout Perk. I am not being compensated to write about the magazine I received. All opinions presented are my own.

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