Shorter Lists, More Curiosity

Shorter Lists, More Curiosity

I’m an (almost obsessive) list person. Perhaps you can relate? Do you have crazy long lists of books you want to read, podcasts to catch up on, replays of webinars that you signed up for but got so busy you missed them? Do you also have insanely long lists of tasks to do, projects to move forward, stuff to remember? 

What lists get the majority of your time and attention? 

My “go juice” is learning things, thinking about new ideas (or old ideas in new ways) and connecting to other people who are interested in exploring and learning. Allowing myself the time to indulge in activities that ignite that curiosity spark is where I find a lot of my motivation. So why am I constantly holding an empty cup?

That’s a question I think we’re all still trying to solve, but all of this did get me thinking about the students that I teach and mentor. Have I taught and encouraged them to seek out the moments that spark their curiosity? To refill their cups with “go juice?” 

By nature of my role in their lives, my work with young people includes a lot of lists. Planning for your future isn’t as simple as an entry in the “to-do” column, but it does require a progression of essential steps and tasks and experiences – especially if the plan is to pursue college – which is a pretty grueling list in itself.  

I think we’re really good at telling kids what to do. When they’re little we help them organize their day with consistent meal and bed times and other simple routines. As they grow we create lists of daily things to do and in school we introduce homework notebooks and calendars. We help our teens with more sophisticated organizational and time management skills (well, hopefully we’re doing this – they need it!) and all along the way we praise them for getting things done.

Do we give equal praise when we see our students or children create space for activities that let them think creatively and curiously? Do we model the joy of following an interest into something that is not on a list?

Anxiety, stress-related illnesses and depression are affecting teens at alarmingly high rates. There are of course many factors that contribute to this growing problem but I do wonder if we a small start could be embedding accountability for taking care of ourselves more consistently and starting at an early age; making sure that every day – or most days- have moments, or experiences for the brain and soul to be curious.  

To be a better teacher and mentor I want to explore this more. Of course I should start with giving a little respect to that other set of lists! 

I would love to hear how you are cultivating curiosity and joy in your life – or what moments you create for your children or students to let their imaginations flow.

And now, fly



Fast Flight Friday: April 9, 2021

Fast Flight Friday: April 9, 2021

How was your week? Plans for the weekend?

I have a new puppy so the “fringe time” I used to enjoy, especially early in the morning, has evaporated. Completely love the little guy, but he has turned my days upside down! 

As puppy is working on growing up (with the help of my constant reminders about how to do that) the thing I am missing most is time to read. I can get a few pages in here or there but the days of being able to slip 30 minutes of uninterrupted book time (aka self care) into the day are on hold. 

As I sit here at my computer I can see a stack of brand new books on the corner of my desk. Their brightly colored dust jackets and the promise of what’s inside are making it a little hard to focus. 

I’ll give you a quick tour in case you’re looking forward to a new read, too. 

Come Fly The World. The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am by Julia Cooke. The inside of the dust jacket says, “Glamour, Danger, Liberation.” I’m in. 

The Nearest Far Away Place by Hayley Long. “A story of grief, hope and brotherhood.” It is set in Wales where my family is from. Note to buy Kleenex before settling in with this one.

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley.  This one isn’t the type of book I usually pick up but the promise of humor, getting my heart warmed and feeling uplifted through a story about being brave and putting your real self forward seemed like a good read right about now. 

Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause, by Ty Seidule. This book kept turning up on lists I subscribe to and in groups I belong to. It feels particularly timely to me and I’m looking forward expanding my perspective and understanding.

The Stars and How to See Them, H.A. Rey. This is the newest addition to the stack and it is on the top! H.A. Rey isn’t an astronomer or scientist. He’s the illustrator of the iconic and well-loved Curious George series. Rey was a life-long amateur astronomer and in the 1950s he began experimenting with simplified methods to learn the constellations. He substituted traditional representations of constellations with diagrams he felt more closely depicted their names. The evenings will soon be warmer and I’ll be ready!

I’m off – my little terror angel has awakened from his nap. Have a wonderful weekend.



Fast Flight Friday – April 2, 2021

Fast Flight Friday – April 2, 2021

The first three months of 2021 have just flown by and it is kind of astounding that this is Easter weekend! I adore everything about this spring holiday and have such fond memories of dying eggs, hunting the yard for the jelly-bean filled eggs my Mom had hidden, stuffed bunnies, and chocolate everything.

One thing we didn’t regularly have was Peeps. I don’t know if they weren’t available in the small town I grew up in or if my mom just never got into them. But once I discovered the Peep, it was love. I’m a fan of the Peep-tini, Peep S’mores and putting them on top of cupcakes and desserts.  But the thing I love most are the incredible dioramas and sculptures that people far more creative than I make with them.  Never fails to make me laugh and it’s a highlight of the season.

Happy Easter to you and yours. The links below will lead you to some laughs of your own.

The Official Peeps website featuring this year’s Peepsonality contest.

Next you’ll find a truly fabulous geeky collection of creations with a science theme – gathered under the hashtag, #peepyourscience.

And if you’re inspired, check out this site for Peep-y science experiments.



Fast Flight Friday: March 26, 2021

Fast Flight Friday: March 26, 2021

It’s been a long time since my adult responsibilities were such that I could run away for Spring Break. But being around students and working with schools keeps me in tune with the rhythm of the school year and I still yearn for the days when a week off was something more than a week filled with things there wasn’t normally time for. 

Maybe next year when we can travel again, I’ll try to reclaim Spring Break, but for now here are a few sites I’m relying on for my mid-semester get away.

Radio Garden is a website (and there is a mobile app) that allows users to tune in to live radio around the world. Spin the 3-D globe, click on a glowing green dot representing a city or town and choose a radio station.  This might be the first time I’ve heard accordion music on the radio and it was actually sort of fun. 

 MapCrunch lets you browse random images of the world via Google Street View. You can generally select a country or the site generates images of the day from a variety of places. I’ve just returned from a 20 minute trip to Ireland and then I hopped over to Iceland for a bit. 

Because I love museums, my break ended with some time at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Always something to discover there. 

What I love about sites like these is that they can be cultural/educational or they can just be fun (possibly both) and enjoyed as a quick 20 minute break or with the family or even a friend night on Zoom. 

Happy Travels,



Please, just stop.

Please, just stop.

Well it’s that time of the year again when acceptance letters and financial aid offers have landed and the plans for attending college are now becoming very real. 

I have a love-hate relationship with this moment in the college process. It brings such joy to see a student who has worked hard get the breakthrough they deserved. Watching kids accept and overcome a tough rejection and hold their heads high is pretty joyous too, in its own way.

But somehow before the dollars and cents are sorted out, before the final decision is settled and the deposit is mailed away, THE QUESTION lands: “What are you majoring in?” 

Now before we get going here, know I’m all in when it comes to encouraging students to have a plan (or a couple of plans) and I know that with the horrifyingly exorbitant expense of higher education, no one wants to write that check and send their child off without a clue.   

And yet, I believe right down to my toes that this is the wrong way to show your excitement for a young person who has a whole lot to figure out. It becomes over-the-top wrong when the questioner expresses disappointment when the response isn’t something they perceive to be grand, prestigious or guaranteed to pay really well. 

You know, I’ve never heard anyone ask a high school senior how they plan to use their first year of college to discover the kind of person they want to be, or what their plan is for exploring all of the paths available to them. Those conversations would be fun to listen in on.

College, like every level of education, is more than just advanced instruction in the 3Rs. It’s a complex process of learning and mastering a whole range of new things and connecting it all to where a student has been, is, and where he or she is going.  

It’s okay to have a college major or a career in mind, it’s okay to not have one. Knowing happens at different times for different students.  I knew a 7th grader who told me the first time I met him that he wanted to be a doctor. And he’s a doctor. I’ve also known 12th graders, and college seniors who didn’t know quite yet where they were headed exactly. They figured it out and are living happy, productive career and personal lives. 

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “but it’s a waste of money!” An investment in learning will forever compound and like its financial counterpart in this analogy, investments mature and grow at different rates – impacted by all sorts of market factors some of which are predictable and some that are not. Ultimately, I believe that the cost of pressuring a young person into claiming a career prize they don’t want to earn poses a much greater risk for a wasted investment.

So, as the young people in our lives approach this momentous crossroads I’d like to propose that we please, just stop with the college major question. Let’s affirm and empower! These are a few of the questions I plan to ask the class of 2021:

  • When do you register for your first ever college classes?
  • What do you love about the school you’ve chosen?
  • (and if the student is still in the throes of deciding) What 3 things are important factors in your choice?
  • What is one goal you have for your first year? 
  • What out-of-class aspects of college life are you looking forward to? 
  • When is your very first day of class? 
  • Who was the first person you told about getting in?
  • How do you feel about your accomplishment? 

And now, fly.



Fast Flight Friday: March 19, 2021

Fast Flight Friday: March 19, 2021

Even with the first signs of spring and the improving outlook now that the COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed I’m still feeling a bit stressed. I think it might be because we still don’t quite know when concerts, brunch dates with friends, or going out to the movies can begin again. Are you still feeling it, too? 

Today I’m sharing a couple of tools that are helping me “over the hump” these days starting with A Soft Murmur It’s basically a white sound machine that you can customize on the website and, download as an app for both IOS and Android. Five soothing sounds  and you’re back to zen. 

To be honest, I don’t cook often (or all that well) but I haven’t given up yet. Definitely bookmarking in case pizza delivery is ever suspended. Click on all of the ingredients that you have in your fridge and pantry and the site will kick back a group of recipes you are all set to make. Kind of fun even if you don’t plan on preparing anything.

This one is an all-time favorite for stress relief and, for getting things out of my system before they turn into an email. is simple and brilliant. Just type in whatever is making you want to scream, click on scream and let it go!

Have a great weekend,



Thank You Notes I Should Have Written

Thank You Notes I Should Have Written

A couple of days ago, the guy who invented the cassette tape died. Lou Ottens. 

If you are reading this and are not sure what a cassette tape is you have a piece of history to learn.   

Still, I’m likely revealing my age here when I say that the mix tape was one of the most important parts of my adolescent life; all the love, joy, tragic break-ups, parent-child discord and just plain survival of the teen experience.  On behalf of my teen generation, I hope Lou was fairly compensated for this brilliant invention. I wish he knew how much I appreciated it.

That got me thinking – put me into what buzzword types like to say, a gratitude mindset so I decided to start a list of people who deserved a thank you note for their contributions to the making the ordinary parts of life a little less so. I’ll share a few. 

It’s presently March, the holy month of the Girl Scout cookie, so I will add Florence E. Neal to my list. In 1922 Miss Neil, a scout leader from the Chicago area, loaned her cookie recipe to the council’s 2,000 Girl Scouts. She estimated the approximate cost of ingredients for six- to seven-dozen cookies to be 26 to 36 cents. The cookies, she suggested, could be sold by troops for 25 or 30 cents per dozen. Florence, I’m eating some Thin Mints right now and praising your name. For 99 years, your entrepreneurial spirit has made the first sign of spring a cookie.

From my brief research, no one person invented movies. The Kinetoscope, invented by the Edison Company in 1891, was a starting place for enabling viewing of moving pictures. But the thank you note for all of those inspiring, scary, funny (and completely trouble-free) hours in the dark goes to the Lumière brothers who first presented projected moving pictures to a paying audience. 

The next time you fill a tall glass with ice and pour tea into it, give a shout to John Gorrie who invented it in 1844. Gorrie, an American physician, built a refrigerator to cool the air for his yellow fever patients. The contraption made ice which he then hung from the ceiling in a basin. Some historians think that Dr. Gorrie may have also invented the first ice cube tray since it was documented that his patients were also receiving iced drinks. This of course led to the on-the-rocks margarita, the frozen daiquiri and other miracles of chemistry. Brilliant.   

I’ve been working on a school project in Ecuador that is helping rural schools get working restrooms and handwashing facilities. Then we’ll study how this changes educational outcomes. Can you imagine spending an entire day at school without a sanitary, private restroom and trying to focus on learning?  I wish I could send a thank you note to the taxpayers that funded the beautiful school buildings that welcomed me and my fellow students through their sturdy doors and the custodians who made sure we had a clean, polished and welcoming place to learn. 

Who is on your list of Thank You notes you should have written? 

 Now, go fly.



Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap

Lately, I’ve had a lot of questions about taking a gap year. Maybe it’s because students are just burned out after extended on-line learning, or is it a result of financial and other stressors of the pandemic? One questioner wondered if she would be  getting the whole college experience she was paying for if things are not closer to normal by the fall. 

If you’re one of the students thinking of delaying college, here’s a few things to keep in mind: 

  1. A gap year can have a lot of benefits – but only if you use the year wisely.  A year with no plan, no job and no growth will kill your motivation and later entry into college. You really need a gap year plan. We’ll talk about that more in a minute.  
  2. Every college has its own deferral policy so approach your college with your plans as soon as you’ve made the decision you’re deferring. That way you have time to work through any issues that will affect your later enrollment. 
  3. Gap year opportunities (like availability of internships and restrictions on travel) will be different this year so you’ll need to plan ahead and be creative.

What to do? Explore volunteer opportunities, check out virtual internships, take an open-source course in something that interests you, create a gap year reading list..or maybe go all-in on an experience like AmeriCorps. 

The most important thing? Get out of your comfort zone, surround yourself with new challenges and work on finding a deeper understanding about what your interests are. Those are key ingredients to being a great college student. 



A nice and easy prescription for ending stress.

A nice and easy prescription for ending stress.

This has been a tough school year. COVID continues to mess up traditions and experiences we are used to. Add in the stresses of navigating the college process, keeping your gpa up and all of the other things you’re juggling and you are probably feeling a little stressed right now.

Stress is a super-destructive force that can do a lot of damage so it makes sense to find healthy ways to deal with it. There is a lot of great advice out there but I want to point out one easy, inexpensive, you can start today, strategy that is often overlooked.

Be Kind!

Did you know that when you do something kind for someone else, your brain releases a hormone that reduces your stress levels?  And get this, that same hormone lowers your blood pressure. Plus, let’s face it, being nice feels good.

Smile at someone in the hallway or share a compliment. Instead of stampeding by, help pick things up when someone drops them in a rush to class. Say thank you when someone does the same for you. 

Even the smallest act of kindness can make a great difference to the person who receives it. And for you, too.

You’re off to great things.



If I Had a Dollar

If I Had a Dollar

for every time I got this question, “what book should I buy to help me get into college?” For the record, I don’t know exactly what I’d do with that kind of money but it would be a lot!

There are literally hundreds of titles that cover high school success and college planning and many of them are traditional step-by-step walks through the admissions process. Which is fine but there are some real standouts, too that will not only help you get into college but will change the way you think and learn. 

I’ve got a number of favorites (books are life!) but a title I’ve recommended many times is: How to Be A High School Superstar by Cal Newport. 

It’s a favorite because it turns some of the conventional thinking about how to be competitive on its head. Newport’s main message is how to be successful without stressing yourself out, making yourself sick, and spending your high school years in misery. Gotta  love that approach. 

Newport’s method is to teach you what he calls the “3 laws of relaxed superstars.” Along the way, you’ll do some really good thinking about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what to do to make it matter in the overall application process.  There are lots of examples from students who have succeeded with this approach and I really like that the book is infused with the science of learning. 

A book is very often the answer.