Nature’s Classroom: Teaching Perspective

Monday I discussed the importance of spending time outdoors with little ones. Today I wanted to focus on the lessons we can teach by spending time outside, not just for ourselves, but for our little ones as well.

I struggle with perspective. The more time I spend outside, the clearer my perspective is on a lot of things. Not just my life, but where my life fits in the world and those directly surrounding me. While there are plenty of other ways to gain perspective, I have found that spending time in the middle of the woods or on top of a mountain to be the quickest way to re-orient and re-prioritize my mindset.

Children also struggle with perspective. Plenty of adults do too, but with a child’s limited experience it is hard for them to understand any perspective but their own. Teaching children to understand different points of views helps with empathy and compassion. It is important for children to have these tools prior to encountering a negative experience with another human being, such as a bully or bad behavior.

To be clear: teaching empathy isn’t telling a child to condone bad behavior, but to understand why a person behaves a certain way. If a child can try to understand the behavior it helps them not take it personally. Many situations where a child is treated badly or bullied have little to do with the child themselves and more to do with what they represent: i.e. happy home life, parental attention, or just because they are there.

Yet the bullied child is told to brush it off and ignore the bad behavior which can lead them to believe that there’s something wrong with them and not with the person behaving badly. If the child is taught to see things from the bully’s perspective, they may have a chance to see that it has nothing to do with them but has everything to do with the unhealthy ways the bully manages their feelings.

It isn’t about making friends with the bully but giving the child the emotional tools to manage the bully internally when it happens. Obviously, if a child’s physical and emotional well-being is in danger more drastic measures need to be taken, but I am referring to the simple push-and-take behavior that occurs in a toddler’s life.

There are many other reasons why teaching a child about perspective will help them daily, bullying is just an easy example many of us have already experienced and want to figure out how to handle when a little one goes through it as well. But learning about perspective cannot be forced, it must be gradually introduced into the child’s daily life/mindset.

When I taught I found that my more successful teaching moments happened when I took the time to understand things from the student’s perspective and worked on their level rather than talking down to them. I could lecture students all day how to formulate a thesis statement or a paragraph, but it was only when I showed them how to do it in a more subtle way on a level they could understand that I found more success.

For kids, nature is a non-threatening and interesting way to understand the world around them and how they fit within it. Using nature as a classroom is an organic way to teach children that there is more to what they see in front of them and makes it easy to transfer those lessons into different scenarios.

Before getting to that point, it’s important to understand things from a toddler’s perspective. Life is rather difficult for toddlers, despite the fact that everything is still done for them: you learn about independence, yet you can’t be fully independent; you learn about objects and how you might want them, yet you can’t get everything you want when you want it; and finally, you are curious about everything, but you aren’t allowed to see or do everything you want when you want.

It’s hard.

It’s also very hard to see the larger world as a toddler. Everything is momentary, everything is what is in front of you. Anything hidden doesn’t exist even when object permanence is finally a thing.

That’s where spending time outdoors can help start the learning process that there’s more to life than what is in front of a toddler’s nose.

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Guest Post: Being a Grandfather

Being a father means that someday you will potentially become a grandfather. I asked my dad to give some of his thoughts on what it was like to become a grandfather. He very graciously gave some of his time to provide me with these wonderful, thoughtful, and sweet answers.

Read his thoughts on being a grandfather below.


On Fatherhood

Before I was a father, I was anxious about whether my child would be healthy and whole. Another big concern I had was if I would be a good Dad. I knew I was going to make mistakes, but I didn’t want to make so many that my child would be scarred for life. To deal with this concern, I resolved to apologize to my daughter for failing her no matter the cost to my pride and no matter how old she was at the time.

From an early age, even before she could remember, I apologized to my daughter. It was important to me to model behavior that showed respect for her person because that was something that was missing from my own childhood. I suppose I wanted to be able to guide her as best as I could, and when I made a mistake, I would admit to it so that she knew she could trust me.

Another important rule for me was to be truthful. I determined to not lie to my children, no matter what. It was disgraceful to hear parents lie to their kids. So I saw fatherhood as a huge responsibility but also one of great joy.

For me, fatherhood has been both one of the most rewarding joys as well of the most heartbreaking in my life. Heartbreaking not because my child failed me, but looking back with 60+ years of maturity, I see where I could have done better. Unfortunately, a rewind button doesn’t exist because I wish we could replay all the fun times and get better guidance to watch out for in the pitfalls of life.

I think I had more fun playing with my daughter as she was growing up because I got to watch her discover new things as the world opened up to her!

Some of my favorite experiences ranged from having tea with her while talking about Ms. Bissy (an imaginary character she created) to feeding fish with our feet in the water so they could nibble our toes. I loved making her laugh so hard she would have a coughing fit and her Mom would yell at me for it. She got me back because I got so terrified when teaching her to drive that I would plead, quietly, “get over, get OVER, GET OVER!”  as she inched closer to the shoulder. She would laugh at me in those moments and be proud of the extra gray hairs she added to my head on those days.

I enjoyed sharing my twisted, quirky sense of humor with her and her to encouraging her to laugh but she turned it against me on countless occasions. She bought herself an Xbox and asked me to play co-op in Halo. Not knowing the game, controls, concept, etc., I couldn’t understand why I kept dying. There weren’t any enemies visible. No rifle fire, no grenade, nobody around…and yet I was dying – blood on the screen. My daughter, who was playing the game behind me, kept beating me to death! My wife finally said, “It’s your daughter doing it!” I turned around and she busted out laughing. Score one for the kid!

I have regrets, but through the great joy of having her and entering her world through play,  I’m grateful for the privilege to be a part of her life.

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Outdoors for Urban-Dwellers

Living in a major metropolitan area makes having daily access to nature a challenge. While we’re lucky enough to have a wooded area near our house, but I know that not everyone is so lucky and wanted to compile ways to increase one’s exposure to nature.

Growing up in a rural area I learned to appreciate all that nature had to offer, but because Jai is going to grow up either in an urban or suburban location (unless something drastically changes), he’s not going to have the same amount of exposure I did. So bringing nature inside will be one task I will want to do as much as possible for his sake.

Bring Nature to You

Here are some simple and easy ways to bring nature to you to help you with reconnection. I didn’t want to limit it to adults with children, so you’ll find all of these suggestions work for adult-only households:

  • Container Gardening: a great way to create your own produce, especially if you live in a food desert or want to know the origin of your fresh vegetables. You don’t need a yard to have a container garden, as a window or balcony can afford you enough space.
  • Potted Plants: you don’t have to have a green thumb to grow and maintain potted plants. If you are worried that you’ll kill a plant, buy a succulent. They tend to be really difficult to kill.
  • Nature walks & classes: find a local nature preserve and check their class schedule. Most have outdoor classes for adults and children on the weekends with a suggested donation fee. Learn a new skill and get yourself out in the wild.
  • Remove the blinds and curtains: if you can, keep your blinds/curtains up all the time to allow for maximum sunlight in your space. Choosing to use the sun for light sources can also be soothing.
  • Picnics in the park: have a park nearby? Why not bring some food and blanket for a quick picnic. Perfect for any day, especially if you work on the weekends or have a tight schedule.
  • Wading pool: For adults and children. Nothing feels better than filling a wading pool in the heat of summer and dipping your feet in.
  • Centerpieces and home decor: If you spend enough time outdoors, consider creating a centerpiece for your table of the interesting sticks, rocks, or leaves you find interesting. Dry flowers and arrange them according to the season with found river rocks in the vase bottom.
  • Companion animal: this is pricier and more time intensive AND dependant on allergies, but consider adopting a companion animal. Animals are known stress-reducers and their wild natures can bring the outside in for you (especially walking the dog). Reptiles are great for places that might have pet fees or those with allergies.
  • Fruit picking trips: If you can, look to see if there is a local farm where you can pick-you-own fruit. It’s a fun experience and a great way to discover fun recipes with the leftovers.
  • Nature Arts & Crafts: I have a flower press that my dad made me when I was a child. I used to press the flowers and leaves I found to make cards or bookmarks. Finding a cheap flower press and making art with dried pieces is a great way to reconnect with nature and a fun gift for a friend.

What do you do to bring nature to you when it’s hard? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography


The First Couple Days…Weeks…Months…


This is a conversation I wish someone gave me when I first received my diagnosis. While it is tailored specifically to MS, I hope some of the thoughts are universal enough for any difficult medical diagnosis.

CW: Discussion of suicide, self-harm, and depression within this post. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please contact Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you are in crisis, text CrisisTextLine to connect with a crisis counselor. You are not alone.


After I got my MS diagnosis I went through a period of shock and relief. I was shocked that it was MS but relieved to finally have an answer. Ultimately, the shock overpowered the feelings of relief and I found that my emotions spiraled out of control.

I don’t remember the first couple days, I think I was numb from trying to process the information: it was like finding out a loved one had died. Every couple of minutes I’d get distracted enough to forget, but as soon as I turned my mind to it, my heart sank and it felt devastatingly fresh again.

The numbness I felt was me unable and unwilling to process the news. 

I was aware of MS since High School because my art teacher had it. I remember my mom telling me about MS, explaining why my teacher may seem fatigued or snappy towards the end of an afternoon class. I also remember sitting in the art room, watching my teacher gush about Cezanne and thinking two things to myself: one, “Oh god, I hope I never get MS;” and two, “it would be the end of my life if I ever got it.”

I was wrong on both thoughts. I may have MS, but my life isn’t over.

So You Have MS

Welcome to Club MS where no one wants membership. 

Right now you’re searching online for meaning and information. There is a lot of information out there and I understand that this post is going to add to the noise. I wrote a simplified post about MS, but I recommend checking out the NMSS for thorough information on the disease if you want specific medical details about MS.

I am not going to offer advice on how to cope with the news of the diagnosis, but provide insight to what I went through to normalize your experience to a certain extent. While working through a diagnosis is unique to each individual, there are certain aspects to the process that are universal. You are not alone in this journey.

There’s a good chance you will go through a range of emotions like I did. Hopefully, relief will be one of them because there is a sense of calm of finally having an answer to what is going on with your body. It makes what is intangible – tangible. What was presumed to be just in your head is now externally acknowledged by a medical professional.

These feelings of relief probably won’t comfort you past the first 48 hours or so. But it is something to keep in the back of your mind for later as you move through your coping process.

The next set of emotions may be frustration and betrayal.

I was frustrated that my body was attacking itself but equally betrayed by it. Here I was, at the end of my 20’s looking at a lifetime of disease; where Ash would have to take care of me if I progressed past a certain point; and I would be a physical, mental, and emotional drain to all of my loved ones.

As a younger person, the idea of having a disease or getting sick was something that happened to other people. I took what was presumed perfect health for granted. I remember thinking to myself: I lived my life relatively well, I was a good person, I did what I was supposed to, why is my body punishing me? What wrongs was I atoning for? This does not happen to good people.

I sank into a deep depression. I was completely lost about what I was facing, how I would face it, and how I would get through it. I felt completely selfish because I could only think about myself. I couldn’t and didn’t want to think about anyone else.

I went to a very dark place and stayed there for several months. There were moments where I was suicidal over the whole situation. If I killed myself, I would regain control of an out-of-control situation. More importantly, I would be able to remove myself from Ash’s life and no longer be a burden to him. The sooner I did it, the sooner he could move on and find a healthier partner.

I never acted on it, never made any serious plans. Instead, I pushed it down the road: if I start to be a burden for my loved ones – then I would do something about it.

I am not saying, nor am I recommending entertaining these thoughts, but by pushing the desire back it helped give me the clarity to healthfully resolve my thoughts on the matter and get to a point where suicide was no longer a viable option at any point in time.

It was around this point that I realized I was going through a form of grieving after getting the diagnosis. Grieving a medical diagnosis for yourself is, in fact, normal. It helped contextualize what I felt in the months after my diagnosis. It also helped me move through the stages more effectively because I now knew what I was experiencing was normal.

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Love after Baby

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today’s post is about how Ash and my love evolved since having Jai. While we never made sweeping romantic gestures before, how we overtly express our love has changed since adding Jai to our family.

It has been an adjustment that we are still working through because that’s how relationships work.

The small gestures…the simple ways to express our love for each other has always been important. That hasn’t really changed because they are easy to do. When Ash sings a made up song to me or buys my favorite candy (back when I ate sugar), it makes me feel special. He loves it when I scratch his back without being asked or bring him his favorite custom drink after a run.

I find that we count on the simple stuff more as gestures of: “I recognize how you enjoy this and want to do it for you because it makes you happy” moments.

While it isn’t necessary to go overboard with our overtures of love, it is important that we don’t get complacent with our actions. Complacency leads to taking each other for granted, something neither of us want to do. How we express and strengthen our love will change as Jai gets older and as we age, so anything we come up with will evolve as time goes on.

Maintaining flexibility and understanding that our time is more precious has helped us have compassion for ourselves and each other.

Making Time

It takes the fun out of romantic spontaneity, but Ash and I have had to schedule our time together.

It doesn’t have to be time for that, but just spending time together.

We fell into a schedule of spending time on the couch after putting Jai to bed by chance. I am sure most relationship experts would say that the time we spend on the couch watching our shows or playing games on our phone is not quality time, but Ash and I would argue that it is quality time.

Our relationship has always been one of being near each other. We don’t have to talk about anything – we don’t have to be doing the same thing, but we find contentment in being near one another. Being able to reach over and touch the other’s arm when we need contact is worth more to us than an hour-long discussion about our day.

That isn’t to say that we don’t talk to each other, we do. But all our time spent together does not need to be at full engagement.

Prior to having Jai, we’d do more active things together: we’d go out, have friends come over, and other things couples without children do. That has had to change, obviously, and we’ve become more homebodies because of it.

This wasn’t a hard adjustment for Ash – he will proudly tell you that he’s a misanthrope and he likes that we stay in more. I am the more social one of the two of us, so when there’s an opportunity to go out with friends I tend to take it while Ash stays at home with Jai.

He loves the opportunity to spend alone time with Jai since he works all day. I just appreciate the break.

That said, we do try to schedule at least one day/evening a month away from Jai. My parents are gracious enough to watch Jai while Ash and I go do something fun: dinner, movie, play, or just walking around downtown. Those moments, because they are more infrequent, are savored because it allows us a few hours to be a couple again.

We still rush home to Jai because we love spending time with the little guy, but we also feel re-engaged with our relationship after a few hours alone. It gives us a chance to show how much we appreciate spending time together when there’s some effort involved.

Listening to Each Other

The other thing that changed a lot for us is that we listen more.

We talked, compromised, worked through our issues prior to Jai, but it has become more imperative that we take the time to listen.

If I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I preface anything that I need to discuss with: “now, I am not mad at you, but I may need to raise my voice in your general direction. Do not think I am yelling at you.” He understands that in that moment I need to vent about something and it needs to be heard by an adult and not just one of the cats. He will sit, listen, and then ask if I want advice or input.

Some days I want input, most days I am just venting, and I already have a solution worked out.

Likewise, when Ash needs me to listen to him, I try to hear him out. I do feel like our relationship is a bit lopsided because almost nothing bothers Ash. When he needs me to listen – I try to be there for him. Most of the time he has a great idea on how we can parent Jai and so I try to incorporate it into my routine.

Little One Makes 3

We’ve had to incorporate Jai in how we express our love for one another: in the moments that all three of us are sitting together reading a book or playing a game Jai has invented, I feel more connected to Ash. It may be biological, but when I watch him care for our child – I can’t help but feel a deeper connection to him.

And in those moments, I try to let him know how much I love him by giving him a quick peck on the cheek, a simple touch on his arm, or a hug (which Jai loves to join in). Growing up my parents would make a “Debbie sandwich” where they would hug each other while holding me between them. Those were always my favorite because as a child – I could feel both my parents love for me and their love for each other in that moment.

We try to show our love for each other in front of Jai because it’s healthy for him to see a loving adult relationship. We want to model healthy love so when he grows up, he will foster a similar relationship with his partner and feel comfortable coming to us for advice.

The Takeaway

For Ash and me, we have come to a place where we appreciate the time spent together and don’t rely so much on how it is spent together. Being physically close to one another is so much more important to us than anything else, which is why going out on frequent dates isn’t as much of a priority.

If there was ever a moment where one of us was unhappy with the situation (bored with another night in, needing to do something different, etc.), we make sure to talk and be open to listening. We may have to compromise because going out takes more logistical work with Jai, but at least we feel heard and a solution is at hand. Sometimes the simple act of talking is enough to soothe any needs.

It hasn’t been easy – most relationships, romantic or otherwise, are difficult to some degree. But knowing that I get to spend the evening with my best friend and go to bed beside him always warms my heart and makes me feel full. I am very fortunate to have found a person who appreciates the same things I do, has similar needs and desires, and wanted to share their life with me. And helps make cute babies.

And since I know he’s reading this: Ash, I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day.


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