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This Is Your Brain On Walking. Any Questions?

A great meditation on walking from a good friend of mine.
My husband and I took our own short getaway this past weekend, and other than sit around reading books and drinking tea, we walked. We walked on quiet country roads, we walked along the tops of dykes, we walked a small portion of a small mountain.
We felt the different breezes blowing in our faces. We smelled the salty marshes of the flats where the ocean meets the farmlands the sea air blowing in off the Sound, and the cedars and firs on the mountain awakening from winter. We heard and saw various raptors, song birds, and water fowl co-mingling. And in just those few short miles we accumulated over the weekend, we felt more refreshed than we had in awhile. Even just a short walk in nature can do wonders.

camino times two

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I came across this story last week about Vancouver author John Izzo. A popular author, business speaker, and consultant, Izzo had a successful career writing and teaching about how to live and work better.

But he wasn’t happy.

So where did he go to rediscover himself? The Camino, of course.

“Izzo hiked in Spain for 29 days and found he was happier when he learned to surrender to circumstances, rather than hooking his happiness to outcomes.”

(Click here for the whole article)

(Sounds a lot like my Practice Acceptance mantra.)

Izzo isn’t pointing out something new. It’s been 2400 years since Hippocrates said “Walking is a man’s best medicine.”

Modern medicine still agrees:

Something as simple as walking to work makes you happier.

Committing to walking outside, in nature, has a host of physical benefits.

Walking specifically in nature, away from cities and traffic, has measurable effects on mental health. 

Something…

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How to Play-Fight with your Kids



After posting a blog about why I choose to play fight with my kids, I got a great response from parents and non-parents alike. What surprised me however was how many people – moms, uncles/aunts, non-kid affiliated adults – reached out to me and asked, "How do I even get started?"

It turns out a lot of people never play-fought as a kids…
They were told to never hit, never push, never poke.
Or they just never had a good example from their parents or older siblings or relatives.

Or as parents now, they have played with older kids but when they try to do the same thing with their little one she just cries and runs away.

That makes me so sad. There are so many benefits to play-fighting as a kid, and as a grown-up. Both my husband and I are huge advocates of physical play, including roughhousing. Play-fighting doesn’t have to be rough and tumble all the time either; there are some great games that involve the same elements as physical play but are more gentler on the body than traditional wrestling or punching games (pretending to be movable mannequins is one of my favorites).

Based on my research of studying physical play behaviors, and my own experience with my kids, not to mention observing my husband coach and facilitate grown-ups on how to play for the past 10+ years, here is what I’ve found to be good tips to get started:

Let the kids lead: Young animals of all species, including kids, are naturally the best players in the entire animal kingdom. It is how they learn about their world. So let them lead. You can come up with the game, but often times the kids already have a game in mind. Or, give them a gentle poke or push and see how they respond. Sometimes they might not be in the mood, but sometimes they will take your cue and run with it.
Anecdotally, I’ve noticed often girls will be done rough-playing sooner than boys or need more breaks, whereas little boys will often go and go until they start to cry, so don’t be surprised if either happens.

Match their strength…: When we see big dogs and little dogs play together, often the big dog will handicap themselves; they won’t push as hard, or they’ll get down on the ground so the little dog can actually reach them. Similarly, match your play partner’s strength. Push only has hard as they push, or hit only as hard as they hit.

…But show off yours too: Of course you can and should try doing lifts, carries, spins, gentle knock downs, and other things that require you to have more strength. That’s part of the fun of playing with someone bigger than you!

Let them win (sometimes): Similar to the dog play example above, if you want the game to keep going then make sure they’re having fun, which means letting them get a few punches in on you or knocking you down. (If you aren’t comfortable yet with falling down, think of this as a great way to practice slowly falling down in a safe way.) But that also means you get to win sometimes too; don’t be a punching bag, but it’s all about taking turns so you are both having fun.

Communicate: Check-in, see how they are doing. Ask if they want to switch up the game, or if you’re ready to switch it up or take a break, tell them. Which leads to…


Teach them no
: The whole joy of play-fighting is the give and the take (have I said this enough times yet?). When it’s not fun anymore, both you AND your child get to say no, stop, time out, or I’m done. At any time. And, as the grown-up, you also need to be able to read your play-partner’s cues and tell when they’re not having a good time, even if they’re not specifically saying no.

Tickling is a great example. A lot of people see ticking as "harmless fun" and it’s tricky when a little kid is laughing and saying no at the same time, but it can be quite scary for a kid (or a grown-up) if they mean no and it isn’t respected. But, it’s also a great way to build trust with your play partner, whether they are a kid or a grown-up. Now, I HATE being tickled! HATE it! No tickles ever, thank you! Ever since I was little. My mom has stories of her trying to tickle me as a tiny baby, and even so much as putting her fingers out to say "coochie coochie coo" and I would just freak out! And she listened. So no tickles. As a grown-up I have not always had partners that understood that tickling is not fun for me, or when to stop tickling (as in immediately). But thanks to my mom I knew that I could choose to say no and that needed to be respected.

The same goes for tickling your kid; if they say stop, even if they’re laughing, stop. If they want more, they will ask for it (kids are good at that sort of thing).
And this can be expanded to all kinds of physical play; we need to learn how to listen to our bodies and our limits. If we get scared or frustrated, we need to learn to take a step back and regroup, and that we’re safe to do so. Physical play with a safe person like your parents is a great place to practice that.

Have fun!: In the end, that’s what this is all about. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to wrestle, and sometimes you are, or maybe you’ve got knee pain and can’t get on the ground, so just go with what feels right in the moment. Make up stories ("we’re bears, rawr!"), give yourself challenges (you can’t move from one spot; you can only use one arm), and just see what happens.

There are lots of different fun games you can try out with your kids and prompt you both to play more. Here is a great example of kid-led play fighting:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqFJEQopKdY

I’d love to hear some of the games you have come up with with your little play partners, so share them in the comments below.

Harnessing the Power of Nature to Improve Our Cities

Adding to my Reading List.

(yes, even the city codes. That might seem a little dry to non-landscape designers, but they are important to understand as far as how to work with cities to promote and integrate more greenery).

The Dirt

Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design / Island Press Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design / Island Press

People feel happier, healthier, and more social when they engage with nature. Their cognitive abilities go up and stress levels go down. So why is nature so often thought to be found only “out there” in the wilderness, or perhaps suburbia? For Timothy Beatley, a professor at the University of Virginia, nature should be found everywhere, but especially in cities. Cities must remain dense and walkable, but they can be unique, memorable places only when they merge with nature. If well planned and designed, a city’s forests, waterfronts, parks, gardens, and streets can make out-sized contributions to the health and well-being of everyone who lives there. In his latest excellent book, the Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design, Beatley brings together all the established science, the important case studies, the innovative code and design practices from around the…

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Google works to restore wildlife habitat in office parks in the middle of Silicon Valley

This is fantastic! In many ways commercial parks like tech campuses, manufacturing, and storage lots are ideal places to create nature sanctuaries for animals, both migratory and local creatures like frogs, butterflies, and song birds. It’s secure at night with almost no human activity, and less traffic during the day overall.

​(photo credit: Fast Company)

A century and a half ago, the area that is now the Google campus in Mountain View, California—sandwiched between the bay and oak savannahs—was made up of wildflower-filled meadows, wetlands, scattered oaks, and sprawling willow groves.

Part of the land was later farmed, and by the 1990s it became an office park. In 2003, Google moved in. Now, the company is rebuilding pieces of the former landscape, with a vision of helping reconnect critical habitat for species like snowy egrets and burrowing owls throughout all of Silicon Valley.

Full article: https://www.fastcoexist.com/3067796/how-google-is-restoring-wildlife-habitats-in-the-middle-of-silicon-valley-office-parks


These restoration efforts are also better for the humans living inside the buildings to look out of their offices or go out for a lunch break and see a truly vibrant ecosystem of native plants and animals right there in front of them. The increase of mixed flora is also better for filtering pollutants caused by all the vehicles coming and going every day to these sites.

It is also easier maintenance and cost to plant native species rather than try to maintain exotic plants or single rows of trees.

There are many tech companies expanding on both the east and west coasts of North America, and I truly hope they take Google’s example to restore, maintain, or increase the native biodiversity around their campuses. Even a little bit can really go a long way.

The value of employee artwork in office buildings

At my work we are currently trying to get an "employee" artwork exhibit up and running. It would showcase different types of art or artists every two months.

This isn’t just some vanity project to show off how amazing our designers are. (Although from a corporate, showing-off-to-clients point of view that’s great too.)

For one thing, we aren’t just asking the designers to participate. Everyone is welcome. Researchers, marketers, engineers.

People who make rings as a hobby. People who crochet. People who take amazing photos while on vacation.

Obviously we aren’t the first company to come up with this idea.

Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook , and other large tech companies do as well.

Some Deloitte offices have a rotating installation…

(Photo credit: me)

Some airports are getting in on the action…

​(Photo: Bernadette Garcia at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport art show)

And of course numerous universities have employee and student art installed all over their campuses, and not just the obligatory shows put on by arts professors and students.

There are good arguments for why offices and work spaces need to incorporate more art into their spaces in general, and in particular filling the walls with employee art work.

For one thing, it lets the employees’ "outside" life come in to a space where they spend the majority of their waking hours. This gives them a sense of pride of their off-hours work, as well as putting more investment into their paid work.

It’s a great way to get to know your coworkers better. I had no idea for years that someone made jewelry as a hobby, or that another employee made hand-thrown mugs for all of his teammates one Christmas.

Showcasing employee-made art also helps promote overall wellness. One way is from the office space itself; there is a large body of science that demonstrates that people are more productive, happier, and less stressed when they are surrounded by things that make them happy, varying shapes and colors, and natural objects – preferably nature itself but even pictures of rocks or plants or the ocean. Art pieces can provide all of those things inside the work environment.

Another way it promotes wellness from a therapeutic perspective. Art is very cathartic for people, both as the maker and as the viewer, and while many companies pay lip-service to supporting mental and emotional health for their employees, this is a way to physically demonstrate that you the employer is serious about promoting work-life balance.

Hospitals and clinics will often display employee art for many of the reasons stated above.

(Carilion Clinic Art Show: Employee’s child’s submission "Robot Monster")

So our Art Committee will keep pushing forward to get the opportunity to showcase the amazing artistic capabilities of everyone here in our office. I hope you do too!

Parks Without Borders: Creating a Seamless Public Realm

A very important discussion of how to make parks feel like part of the city and not just pieces of land tucked away for kids or dogs.
Even in a lush city like Seattle, where I live, some of the parks are integrated into people’s every day commutes or habits, while others are beautiful but tucked away and hard to get to. They are slowly moving to add more centralized open spaces for communities as they see the economic benefits like increase in real estate values, as well as events like farmer’s markets and other festivals.

The Dirt

Rocky Run Park / Flickr Rocky Run Park, Arlington, Virginia / Flickr

“Parks are not islands that exist in isolation, they are connected to streets, sidewalks, and public spaces,” said NYC parks commissioner Mitchell Silver. “It’s our goal to create a seamless public realm for New York City.” The Parks Without Borders discussion series kicked off last week to a standing-room only crowd in Central Park’s Arsenal gallery. The enthusiasm generated by the Parks Without Borders summit held last spring inspired Silver to build the momentum with a series of shorter discussions. For this one, park leaders from three different cities, each with a uniquely successful park system, were invited to address the question: How can innovative park planning create a more seamless public realm?

Every day, 25,000 people go to work at the Pentagon, and the majority of these people live in Arlington, Virginia. How has a county that is both transit-oriented and a…

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Why I Play-Fight with my Kids

In some ways this seems like an overly obvious, unnecessary post. Of course parents play fight with their kids! Right? Yet I am surprised by how few MOMS play fight with their kids.

I do. And I love it! I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I do, but I do. Here are my top reasons why.

1. It teaches them body awareness – How hard do I have to push to make something happen? How strong am I before I get pushed over? How do I get myself back upright? How hard is too hard to hit? Also being aware of how strong they are now versus a month from now is important too as they grow and get bigger and stronger; I’ve known too many bigger little kids that don’t know their own strength.

2. It teaches them spatial awareness – How far away is that body I am playing with? Where are my legs and arms while I’m wrestling? Oops, now I’m upside down, how does that make me feel?

3. It makes them feel loved and given attention.

4. It’s fun! I’ll bet almost everyone at one time or another has played slug bug, tickle time, or wrestled with your sibling, or started a real fight with your sibling that by the end you two were both on the floor laughing.

5. They feel safe acting out being big and strong and knocking me down or punching me and knowing that I can take it.

6. Kids who play fight with their dads are being shown that men are big and strong. For somewhat feminist but mostly totally selfish reasons, I want them to know that women (i.e. ME!) can be big, strong, and tough too.

7. Along those same lines, grown-ups who play fight with kids are demonstrating that when people play or play fight, they are being respectful of each other’s boundaries, and if you don’t feel safe you can and should ask the other person to stop. If the other person doesn’t respect your boundaries then kids learn that’s not okay and they get time out or kids or grown-ups stop playing with them. This is a super-critical skill that is missing in so much rhetoric, both physical and verbal, in our society today.

8. As their mom, it is so fun to watch my kids get stronger, faster, more coordinated, and more creative in their physical play. They mix strategies, including saying silly things to catch me off guard, which is all part of the art of play.

9. Finally, I want to promote physical play of all kinds with kids and grown-ups alike. Whether that’s boxing, hiking, jump rope, tricycles, making forts, tree-climbing, or just going for an exploratory walk around the neighborhood, I support it.

I’m sure there are other reasons I’m forgetting, but those are my main ones.

My husband teaches natural movement classes, and before that parkour and martial arts. Slowly more women are joining the adult classes in all of those fields. But especially in the kids’ classes, the moms are just as likely to join their kids, but almost none participate given the opportunity. Why?! Some women (and men) don’t like physical contact activities. And that’s totally fine. But more often than not women are intimidated. I say no more fear! Get in there and push someone.

Why do you play fight with your kids? Or why don’t you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Seattle Celebrates “Neighbor Day” on February 11 Through Random Acts of Kindness

Seattle, sometimes I love you!

We invite all Seattle residents to celebrate Neighbor Day on February 11 by indulging in random acts of kindness.

Neighbor Day is a special day set aside to reach out to neighbors, make new friends, and express thanks to those who help make your neighborhood a great place to live.

Residents, businesses, or community groups are all encouraged to participate however they like. The main goal is simply to reach out and connect with your neighbors through generosity.

Here are some ways you can be a part of Neighbor Day:

  • Do something nice for a neighbor: take them to coffee, clean up their yard, bake them some cookies, invite them for a walk.
  • Organize a neighborhood potluck, open house, or work party.

It can be as big or simple as you want. Need an idea? We have an extensive list to help inspire you. Want to know how your local business or community group can participate? Here are some ideas! If your event is open to the public, you can post it to our online events calendar. Use our flyer to post around your neighborhood or work area to remind people of the day. Have your children color our Neighbor Day coloring sheet and give it to a neighbor. Share a “great neighbor” story or tell us how you are celebrating by tagging us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and using #neighborday.

More at: Neighbor Day – Neighborhoods | seattle.gov

A Guerrilla Florist Is Putting Flower Beards on Statues | The Creators Project

To draw attention to historical monuments all over Belgium, florist Geoffroy Mottart stages herbaceous interventions by adding botanical beards and verdant hairdos to statues of luminaries and potentates like Victor Rousseau and King Leopold II. This clash between history and brightly-colored floral facial hair lends the otherwise-somber effigies an air of tender whimsy.

Mottart chooses the flowers for each sculpture with care, taking into account his subject’s features, the statue’s color and material, its location, and the season.

More at: A Guerrilla Florist Is Putting Flower Beards on Statues | The Creators Project