Jane Pyecha Runs One of the Best Schools in Addis Ababa. Now She’s Teaching Others How it’s Done.

The morning rush hour in Addis Ababa is beyond alive.  People are lined up for blocks to catch the city bus to work.  Drivers wheeling overcrowded “blue donkey” taxis hustle to move people from the hubs of Kazanches and Mexico Square.  Shopkeepers are preparing to sell everything from bananas and pineapple to injera and freshly butchered beef.  Shoe shines, fresh fried donuts and fresh brewed coffee. It’s all for sell.

In the midst of the movement of rush hour, Head to Toe Early Learning Center and Kindergarten sits on a quiet street in the heart of Addis Ababa, just past the busy Meganegna roundabout.  The beautifully manicured garden that surrounds the school is a unique and rare greenspace among the schools in Addis Ababa. It is here that Head to Toe provides a play-based curriculum for children ages 0-7 — something that didn’t exist before Jane Pyecha opened the school in 2009.




Pyecha, an experienced international educator, moved from the Middle East to Addis Ababa to teach preschool in an international school.  After getting married and having her first child, the North Carolina native decided to lay down permanent roots in Ethiopia.

“Many years ago, when I was looking for a preschool for my own child, many of the schools were doing things that were not age appropriate, such as handwriting worksheets” says Pyecha.  “It appeared that most preschools were in the business of ‘babysitting’ and not making much effort to interact constructively with the children.”  Knowing that ages 0-5 are when a child’s brain develops the most, she set out to develop a play-based in-home preschool that would allow her to spend time with her new son at the same time serving the needs of two other families.



Eight years later, a manicured play yard equipped with seesaws, balance bikes, swings, and shade sails surround the school building.  But it’s not just the beautiful play yard that makes this school different from the others. Three things are at the core of its uniqueness:  Well-trained teachers; evidence-based teaching strategies; and an inclusive learning environment.

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Well-Trained Teachers

Jane Pyecha has been teaching for 24 years and is a specialist in teacher training and curricula development. She hires Ethiopian and foreign teachers not based on their credentials, but based on their love for children and willingness to learn.  “I hire teachers that have strong English skills and have teaching in their heart,” says Pyecha. On top of this, her teachers receive ongoing professional development and weekly 1:1 coaching to learn new approaches as the needs of the students evolve.  Giving the teachers the opportunities to advance their skills keeps the teaching fresh and has led to very low teacher turnover.

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Evidence-Based Teaching Strategies, Play-Based Learning

There is no shortage of research on the importance of play in developing the minds of children ages 0-5.  Head to Toe integrates the HighScope curriculum with directed, and self-directed group-style play. In the morning, you’ll find toddlers in circle time before choosing their first learning “stations.”  At one station they learn cooperation by using magnetic blocks to build towers together; at the costume station they express creativity as they pretend to be doctors.  Cooking play-doh burgers on a pretend grill teaches children self-confidence and responsibility.



Pyecha admits that her play-based approaches weren’t always welcome in the schools in Lebanon and Abu Dhabi, where highly structured “skill and drill” methods were preferred over “exploring and investigating.”   But even there, she sold a few administrators on the play-based approach.  “We are an active learning program,” says Pyecha.  “Instead of doing worksheets, here children remember their letters by drawing them in the sand box. We focus on play-based learning because through play is how kids learn best.  We want to make sure our kids have lots of different kinds of stimulation.”   The children are constantly learning and they don’t even realize it.



In the afternoon, the kids are hard at work on a collaborative art piece.  The teacher guides them in the creation of “deep art” that is worked on over several weeks, and where all of the ideas for how to construct a piece come from the children themselves.  Creating the art over an extended period of time develops the child’s imagination, helps them to focus, and uses their analysis skills. No two pieces are alike.

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Each year the children’s artwork is auctioned off in a swank fundraising event for a local charity.  Parents dress up in bow ties and drink champagne and buy art that is truly deserving of a place in one’s home.



Family Support – Nannies & Children with Special Needs

Head to Toe offers two programs that foster inclusiveness in the community.  The “Nanny and Me” program, is open to children ages 6 months to 2 years.  Nannies are invited to bring infants to do activities, sing-alongs, and story-time up to five mornings a week.  Nannies can then use the techniques the learn at home with the children.

outdoor circle time

A second program provides scholarships and a family support group for children with special needs.  Children who would normally spend their entire lives hidden from society because of the stigma can enroll in Head to Toe’s full-day program — the only of its kind in the city.   “We realized how little there was available to them,” Pyecha says.  “They don’t get to see extended family.  The kids truly don’t leave the house.  I will never turn a child down if it’s at all possible.”

Head to Toe’s offering of a basic right to play is consistent with the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says that nations should provide opportunities for children to participate fully in cultural, artistic, recreational, and leisure activity.   The parent support group shares resources, challenges, and successes. It also provides emotional support to the parents of children with special needs, which doesn’t really exist elsewhere.



A special education consultant has trained all of the teachers on strategies for interacting with children with special needs.  “The staff have really become passionate about this group of children,” says Pyecha.  “It’s hard for people to hear that their child has special needs. Sometimes when you’re the first person to say it they don’t want to accept it and you don’t see those people again. But other times they are grateful for the help, ” she adds. These children are able to come out and play, interact, and be a part of society.

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Teaching Others How it is Done

Early childhood education in Addis Ababa continues to evolve.  And as more expats and the Ethiopian diaspora are returning to Addis seek quality preschool education, most of the newly established schools are now play-based.  To help develop these new schools, Pyecha provides individual and group consulting, and facilitates workshops and training for teachers, caregivers and parents on a variety of education topics that have been fundamental to Head to Toe’s success.   She hopes to one day bring this kind of experience to vulnerable children such as refugees.


Pyecha advises anyone who wants to establish a school targeting a truly international population to understand the inherent challenge of working with many different cultures and social contexts.  “You have to learn where the parents are coming from and what their experiences have been.  If your approach is very different from what they know and expect, there will be some inherent barriers that have to be overcome.”

She also emphasizes the importance of her husband and business partner Teddy’s patience and savvy.  As a native Ethiopian, his help was essential for navigating the culture and bureaucracy of establishing and maintaining a business there.

teddy and gigi

Pyecha is happy to have changed the face of early childhood education in Addis Ababa. Head to Toe also fulfilled her goal of providing high quality preschool education for her own two children.  She hopes that the evolution will continue well into the future.

jane and gigiJane Pyecha, International Education Specialist and Consultant, has been a leader and advocate in education, sharing her technical expertise with colleagues and administrators for 20+ years (15 internationally).  Using her skills in assessment and adaptability she gears her teaching to each student’s learning capabilities to help them reach their individual levels of success.  Contact Jane Pyecha on LinkedIn to learn more about her consulting services or about Head to Toe Early Learning Center and Kindergarten in Addis Ababa.


If You Do These 10 Things, You’re Winning at Fatherhood

Loving a child is not particularly hard.  One look at that bobble head and beer belly and we’re sold.  Throw in a smile and we’re forever smitten.

But babies grow up. We believe that parenting will get easier. But it doesn’t. You go from late nights wiping stinky bottoms to late nights wiping uncontrollable tears.  How do you explain to an 8 year old why some kids are just mean?

Time goes on. Just when you perfect the art of parenting that 8 year old, she has a birthday and turns 14.  The game changes.  You dole out advice and wonder if she’s listening.  Someone is always in a funk, even when ice cream is involved.  Spending every Saturday coaching kids sports, watching kids sports, or working so that you can afford to pay for kids sports — that’s all hard stuff.

But a lot of fathers are doing what’s hard every day.  They show up.  And we moms appreciate it. And although we may not say it as much as we should, continue being awesome dads. For those who forgot what awesome looks like, here’s a reminder.

Great dads do things they don’t want to do. Spending a day at the beach is not my husband’s idea of a good time. He doesn’t swim. He sees no point to laying in the sun on an uncomfortable beach chair, surrounded by sand.  But the beach  =  hours of fun for the wife and kids. So he does his best to enjoy it at least once a year.

Zanzibar, Tanzania


Great dads clean up the big messes. Spilled milk? No problem.  Snotty nose? I got you.  But when my son got into the green paint, tag. Dad was it.  “Super Dad” protects little feet by sweeping broken dishes from floors and handles anything requiring a plunger.  When I don’t want to get my hands dirty, I don’t have to.


Great dads shovel snow.  Every year it snows in Maryland. And every year, this dad makes sure that a path is safe and doesn’t ice over.  This is isn’t just for our safety but for the safety of the mail carrier and any neighbors that might brave the cold to visit us.  He helps us enjoy the snow when we are completely over it.  I call it our “snow day rules.”  And yes, he builds snowmen.


Great dads teach their kids how to  “shovel snow.”  Snow shoveling, here, is a metaphor for any skill that dad imparts, which the kids can then go brag to their friends about.   Did your dad teach you how to shoot a gun? Build a fire? Do long division? Play basketball? Ride a bike? Change a tire? Catch a fish? Pick a lock? Drive a riding lawnmower, ATV, or a car? If yes, chances are you have an awesome dad.


Great dads don’t ask for directions.  Great dads, actually discard the directions when going anywhere or assembling anything that seems remotely intuitive.  At the expense of being a mild annoyance to me, ditching the instructions teaches the kids to trust their instincts, abilities, and talents and to also and to enjoy the journey; because without instructions, this just might take a while.SONY DSC


Great dads fix cars (or can at least keep a mechanic honest). I am lucky to have landed a guy who is talented when it comes to basic car maintenance and repair. He’s the “Dan” to my “Roseanne.” This is because he had a great dad, who taught him how to change a tire, to check oil, to bleed breaks, and that in a pinch, break fluid is a decent substitute for power steering fluid. Rarely are we in a serious car bind. And if we need a mechanic, he knows just enough to keep the mechanic honest. I look forward to the day when our kids are under the hood with him.



Great dads make holidays fun.  Even though he refuses to indulge the kids with fantasies about Santa Claus, he does his best to make the major holidays special for the kids. So while I am getting Halloween costumes together and putting up lights, he’s there with the camera in hand to capture all the special moments.

School Halloween Festival


Great dads encourage the building of forts. Kids can rest easy knowing that dad will not blink an eye at the impromptu building of a fort in the living room, especially since it was probably all dad’s idea. Great dads take time get on the floor with kids and play, whether it’s giving piggy back rides, indoor hide n’ seek, or spending hours zoned out on the video games.


Great dads take you to see real life forts. This future Jeopardy-contestant dad never misses an opportunity to teach the kids. When our son was doing a report on the Wright Brothers, we drove 30 miles south to the National Air and Space Museum to check out one of their first planes up close.  Our Hamilton-crazed daughter was able to see a special exhibit and tour on his life by taking a 2 hour drive north to Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center. Near or far, he’s usually up for an experience that will bring the story books to life.  Yes, those pyramids in the “Prince of Egypt,” are a thing.

Dad & Son Atop the Fort
Dad & Son atop the Nizwa Fort, Oman
Kids enjoy Gondar Castle, Gondar Ethiopia
The Blue Nile Falls, near Bahir Dar Ethiopia

Great dads look good on mom’s arm.  After great dads are done cleaning up green paint and cleaning engine oil from under their nails, they clean up well. I never miss an opportunity to dress him up and step out on the town.


Enjoying coffee on at Wude Coffee, Bahir Dar

Hats off to all the great dads in the world.  And if you have a great dad in your life, make sure that he knows it this Father’s Day — show him in his love language or the best way you know how.  For everyone appreciates sincere, kind words of appreciation spoken from the heart.





To Make Dad Feel Loved on Father’s Day, Observe How he Loves

Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentines Day.  These “Hallmark holidays,”  deliberately designed to push greeting cards in America are now a social norm. When these days roll around, dads, moms, and those “in a relationship,”  appreciate (dare I say, expect) some sort of acknowledgment.  How can you show your father you care and avoid the cliches and make Father’s Day really count?  If you know your dad’s primary love language, you’re halfway there.

In his book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Gary Chapman suggests that each person has one primary and one secondary  way to express and experience love.  He calls these expressions, “love languages.”  By observing how your father expresses love towards others, you can learn his love language, then show your love exactly how he likes to receive it.

Receiving Gifts

For dads that like receiving gifts, avoid giving a gift just for the sake of giving.  Put some real thought into it. Does he have a collection that you can add to? Would the latest gadget help him enjoy a hobby he loves?  Maybe he needs some cash put towards a holiday he’s been planning.  Chances are, he’s already told you what he wants.  I just hope you were listening.

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Quality Time

Fathers who value quality time enjoy undivided attention.  No, he does not want to ride shotgun you while you run errands. Yes, you must put your phone away during dinner. When he invites you to go fishing or over just to watch tv, go and don’t complain.  Give 100% to show him how much he means to you.

Acts of Service

A dad who values acts of service might rarely say the words, “I love you;” but he does his best to make sure that you have what you need.  These dads sacrifice. They hustle. They leave money in your car in case you run low on gas.  Take time this Father’s day to return his love by putting in work. Maybe he needs you to clear out the garage; to help him install a vegetable garden; or to fix up his old hobby car.   The warm feeling you get afterward from having put his needs before your own, is a bonus.

abandoned orange sedan
Photo by Georgi Petrov on Pexels.com

Physical Touch

The latest scientific research suggests that touch is good for our health. But something happens in the teenage years.  The number of hugs we give our dads diminish as we try to show our independence.  If you are lucky to be with your father on Father’s Day, give him a hug.  And this time, be the last one to let go.  He’ll appreciate it more than he’ll let on.

Words of Affirmation

Dads who value words of affirmation will always say, “I love you,” knowing the impact of words on our feelings. This Father’s Day, don’t stop at “I love you,” written in a greeting card. Say”thank you” out loud so that he and everyone can hear it.

I challenge everyone to give words of affirmation this Father’s Day, regardless of your father’s preferred love language.  Tell the dads, grandads, uncle-dads, and husband-dads in your lives exactly what they mean to you.  For everyone appreciates sincere, kind words of appreciation spoken from the heart.  Those who have lost their fathers know well enough that the day will come when only photos and memories are left.  When that day comes, you’ll be glad that you spoke those words.


Hike Like a Girl 2018 | Scenes from Patapsco Valley State Park, Maryland

Patapsco Valley State Park in May is a treat for the eyes and ears.   These photos of my May 5th, Hike Like a Girl adventure feature the park’s McKeldin area, a popular place for nature lovers, bikers, hikers, horseback riders, and picnickers to spend a little time.


The Trailhead

Marked with white, the Switchback trail is about 4 miles and is the longest trail in the McKeldin area of the park.  The loop took me around 1.5 hours to hike.


The lime green leaves of spring are just starting to dominate the landscape.


Veering off of the main trail onto the footpath will allow you to avoid the bikers.


A sample of the variety in the park’s foliage.


About 3/4 miles in, the rocky path and landscape flattens.


I was surprised to find this lily of the valley patch.




The  Patapsco River, which flows through 16,000 acres in Frederick and Carroll counties, calls  me to “sit a spell.” With 3 more miles to go, I whisper, “next time.”


About 2 miles in, the Switchback Trail takes hikers from the river bank, up into the hills, displaying a bird’s eye view of the water down below.


This fallen tree is so big that it straddles both banks of the creek.

I eavesdropped on this feathered couple’s conversation. Soon after, they began fighting.



A little over 3 miles in and the only way left to go is up. The trail’s end was waiting for me about 15 minutes on the other side.


Why America’s Public Libraries Will Never Die

Daedalus Books and Music helped us build a respectable home library for our toddlers. It specialized in selling leftovers — unsold copies sold by the publisher at discounted prices.  We would spend a couple of hours on Saturday browsing the shelves for deeply discounted “good reads.”  I was sad. . . no . . . I was ticked the day our neighborhood branch closed seven years ago.  And when Daedalus closed its last standing branch last month, it was clear that the digital age had scored again.  Even the 4th richest county in America couldn’t keep my favorite bookstore open.

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Nowadays we go to the public library just about every week.  Ours looks and smells like an ordinary library.  Quiet? Check. Books? Check. Cheerful librarians that are way too eager to help? Check.  But the tiny library, always busy, appears to be enjoying celebrity status.  It is surviving in a space that bookstores have failed. Here’s why:

Libraries keep retail hours, too.

All of our county’s libraries are open from 10am to 9pm on weekdays and are also open on Saturday and Sunday.  We can usually get to the stacks whenever the mood strikes.  We could wait until the weekend; but we don’t have to.

People still read books.

There is a strong camp of people who haven’t signed on to the digital trend.  They enjoy the feel and smell of books. When they want to know something, they to turn to books just as naturally as others turn to Google. They collect autographed books and display them like trophies.  They don’t ever lend books to friends (not books they care to see again, anyway). Instead they usher their friends towards  (you guessed it) the library.

gwen and zak library

Children will always judge.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is not advice followed by children.  Kids absolutely judge books by their covers, their art work, and their titles. The page count and the print size all figures into the selection process.  This is much easier to do in a library than on a website. It’s even easier to do after a passionate, highly energetic librarian has read it to them in a dramatic voice.

Libraries also have something for people who don’t read.

People who prefer to listen to books can borrow audio books or CDs in person or use an app such as Libby, Overdrive and Hoopla to borrow audio books, music, movies, and TV free with a library card.

Libraries have awesome adult programs.

Whereas bookstores are in the business of selling products, libraries are in the business of providing information.  Participation in library programming has been steadily increasing ,according to the Public Library Association’s 2017 Public Library Data Service Report .

Our county’s system has a “Do it Yourself” (DIY) education center to learn about anything ranging from repair and maintenance to adventure. The Center features a borrowing collection of small tools for home projects, such as bicycle repair kits, DIY classes and a “mess friendly” classroom and workspace for children, teens, and adults.  The library organizes free  book clubs, lectures, book signings, music lessons, foreign language classes, SAT prep classes — classroom style and online.


The children’s programs are even more awesome.

The library organizes children’s scavenger hunts, story hours, art classes, chemistry experiments, coding/STEM classes, homework clubs, sewing workshops, and more. Parents’ tax dollars allow children to explore their interests through the library’s programs without making a costly financial commitment.

Libraries are embracing technology.

A click will reserve and transfer books to your closest branch through inter-library loan. Avoid long lines with self-check out. Receive receipts and reminders by email.

Reserve books, sign up for activities and book meeting rooms through a dedicated account.  Use the library’s computers if you don’t have a device but need internet access.  Some libraries even offer automatic renewals.  No late fees. No questions asked.

Some libraries are destinations.

They have historical significance, amazing architecture or are just plain beautiful.  Make a point to tour New York City’s Schwarzman Library or the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. during your next visit.


So what are you waiting on?  Go to the library. What you find will surprise you.


Who Has the Body? How the Black Funeral Home Ensures our Dignity in Death

Just like the good memories we celebrate, we can also find inspiration in loss and tragedy.  Guest writer, Brittany Jones, Esq reminds us of the special role that Black funeral homes play in maintaining our dignity in death as she remembers the victims of the Atlanta Child Murders of the early 80s.

Atlanta has experienced some frigid temperatures and ice over the past two days. This time at home has allowed me to listen to the podcast Atlanta Monster, about the missing and murdered Black children in Atlanta during the early 80s, and to reflect on the passing of Edwin Hawkins as well as the dignity of Black mourning ensured by the Black church and the rapidly disappearing Black-owned funeral home.

The “end” of the Atlanta Child Murders predated my move to Atlanta by about 5 years; but I can recall the fear I felt and flashes of what I can assume was the 1985 film, The Atlanta Child Murders, and Monica Kaufman’s voice asking “Do you know where your children are?” I can’t say I recall the exact moment I realized the life of a missing Black child is not treated with the same level of importance as the life of a missing white child, but listening to Atlanta Monster touched this sore spot in my soul.

Patrick Baltazar, the first child mentioned on the podcast, was killed at age 11. When Master Baltazar’s brother recounted the battle he fought to hold a second homegoing service at a church in their Louisiana hometown, I began to weep. In 1981, a white church refused to hold Master Baltazar’s funeral service because he was Black. Even in mourning the death of a loved one, a child at that, his family had to fight, had to persist in a way that makes one weary to the bone. Master Baltazar made history in 1981 and not as a murder victim. He made history when he integrated the white church which ultimately relented and held his homegoing service.

Master Baltazar’s body was found, asphyxiated, in DeKalb County, Georgia. DeKalb County, Georgia is where I learned Black people could excel in any profession including as doctors, lawyers, teachers, college professors, principals, mayors of major cities and radio personalities. Mike Roberts and Carol Blackmon narrated my elementary school mornings on V-103. I could tell not just the time of the morning, but also the day of the week, when the first few bars of Edwin Hawkins’ “Oh Happy Day” crescendo-ed through my brother’s clock radio. 7 am on Friday. Black radio was still an institution in Atlanta with its pulse on the community.

When I heard Edwin Hawkins had passed, I immediately thought of those suburban Atlanta, elementary school Friday mornings and those questions Black folk carefully, respectfully pose when someone transitions. One will hear variations of “How’d s/he pass?” and “Who has the body?” Who has the body? Who has the body?

I thought back to being an expectant mother aware of the almost 300% higher maternal mortality rate for Black women in the USA putting my affairs in order prior to giving birth. When I wondered how would people answer “Who has the body” if I was on the wrong side of the statistics before, during or after giving birth. I recalled an article in The Atlantic, “The Disappearance of a Distinctively Black Way to Mourn,” that put into words what I experienced my entire life: the culture, practice and ritual of Black funerals. The setting up. The wake. The ride to the church from the home house of the deceased past significant locations in his/her life. The call and response of Guide Me, O Thy Great Jehovah in that distinct middle Georgia deep gutteral sound that embodies millennia of Black grief. The grave side service. The route from the graveside has to be different than the one you took to the graveside. The repast. The healing we find in food, fellowship and reflection.

The importance of the Black church and funeral traditions meant I could not leave the answer to chance. My estate plan *requires* the answer to the question “Who has the body” to be the name of a Black-owned funeral home. It’s my attempt to ensure I maintain a level of dignity in death that has been denied to Black people for far too long. Just recently Newsweek thought it wise to accompany a tweet with a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his casket. People rushed to blame social media and its effects on social mores, but this particular indignity isn’t new to us.

I recall Piers Morgan’s wonderment and awe during Whitney Houston’s homegoing service. I recall the pride I felt during Michael Jackson’s homegoing service. The Jacksons may have become Jehovah’s Witnesses who customarily have a 15 or 30 minute talk, but the elements of a southern Black funeral were unmistakable.

Our African American tradition, our culture has been a salve on systemically inflicted wounds. It’s ours to protect and continue. Weeping may endure for a night…..

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Brittany Jones, Esq is a practicing attorney in the Atlanta Georgia, specializing in health law and policy.  She loves a good music concert, spending time with her beautiful daughter and shopping for the perfect pair of shoes.

A Visit to Your Hometown Might Be Exactly What you Need

When I ask people what they feel when they return to their hometowns, they almost always say, “at peace.”  Folks from small towns talk about a pace that’s slower; having nowhere to be because there’s nothing to do.  It’s as if they’ve been given permission to “sit a spell.”  It’s easy to attribute the peace to the small town’s pace, but actually, something else is at play.

As a kid, I spent almost every summer with my grandparents in Tifton Georgia, then population 14,000.  It was a scene out of Nikki Giovanni’s poem, Knoxville Tennessee, complete with every cliché you ever heard in a country song.  I hated my grandparents’ willow trees for providing an unlimited supply of leg-stinging switches.  I also loved the largest willow — a reliable hide and seek home base that gave us shade, sprinkles of water and plenty of skeletons to play with (left behind by molting beetles).

Summer in Tifton was an unconditional fountain of love.  We were allowed to ride in the cabs of pickup trucks, to pick unwashed plums from the side of the road, and spent  unscheduled hours doing whatever we wanted.  Days were spent with cousins (and play cousins), walking to Mr. Sun’s, the neighbor who sold penny candy, pickled pig feet and huge dill pickles.  At night we stepped on each other’s shadows in the street where the few people who passed always waved.  Listening to grown folks fuss over a game of spades was a Saturday night highlight.

Every now and then we’d go out to “the country” (Ty Ty Georgia then population 620), where my great grandma lived in a single-wide trailer on a long stretch of Georgia clay. Miss Emma raised hogs and grew okra. She warned us about that lived in the blackberry bushes; then let us pick them anyway.  No matter how many switches we were made to retrieve, we felt loved.

All of us kids have become the “grown folks” and we now have kids of our own.  The old folks do more porch-sitting  than card slapping.  And the children should be thankful that thunderstorms have uprooted all of the willow trees.  When we return back home to attend graduations, Thanksgivings and funerals, somehow the good memories crowd out all of the reasons we left in the first place.  What follows is peace.  That peace comes from being around family again — those who know exactly who you are and they love you anyway.

Scenes from Tifton Georgia, USA

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Beyond the Full Moon Party: 8 More Ways to Spend a Night Under the Moon

The moon will enter its lunar phase, aligning directly with earth and the sun 13 times in 2018. A full moon is bold. It takes up space.  It’s feared, revered, and celebrated in ancient and modern society. New Zealand’s Maori people still plant food by the way of the moon, the tides and the elements, using the Maramataka calendar.  On the eve of March 31 (the last Blue Moon until 2020), some traveler in Thailand will be looking for the ultimate full moon party.

Luckily, enjoying the moon doesn’t require a flight. There are plenty of ways to take in the moonlight right where you are.

Watch the full moon rise.  Watching the moon rise over Lake Langano is one of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever seen.  Find out what time the moon rises in your town and pick a spot with a view.  Carry along a picnic and you will have created the perfect date night.

This video was originally featured on YouTube by thhedk. You can subscribe to his YouTube channel here.”

Full moon yoga.  In Havre de Grace, Maryland, Full Moon Yoga hosts special evenings in June, July and August, where students practice yoga class on a floating barge overlooking the river reflecting the moon. Set your intentions. Release. Let go.

Kayak under the moon.  If you live near water, find the outfitters that arrange moon-lit tours. For example,  Ayers Creek Adventures in Berlin, Maryland offer guided Eco-Tours led by paddlers with extensive knowledge of the waterways, wildlife, and history of the Maryland Coastal Bays. Full moon kayak tours can be found all over the state of Florida.

Full moon drumming circles.  Each new and full moon, the Florida School of Holistic Living has been known to host a drumming circle to help Orlando, Florida communities connect with the lunar cycles through drumming, dance, chanting, singing, and fellowship.  Drumming circles can be relaxing, spontaneous and can spark your creative side.

This video was originally featured on YouTube by Miami Fever. You can subscribe to his YouTube channel here.”

Full moon hikes. Find out if your local nature center has programs for visitors who want to study the plants and animals under a full moon. In Pennsylvania, the Wissahickon Environmental Center is hosting a moonlight toad walk, which coincides with the American toad’s breeding season.  Washington D.C.’s National Arboretum’s full moon hikes are usually sold out events. Oregon Ridge Nature Center in Maryland, will host a family-friendly night hike and campfire during the rise of the Strawberry Moon in May.

Full moon runs. To celebrate the blue moon (two full moons in one month), the National Aboretum is hosting a blue moon 5K on March 31.  Jersey City, New Jersey has opened a virtual half-marathon challenge urging us to run 13 miles over the course of the 13 full moons.  Complete the challenge before December 31 and receive a finisher’s medal.

Full moon sip and paint.  Take inspiration from the The Working Artist in New Jersey and create your own sip and paint experience.  Invite a local artist to teach or free hand on canvases in your back yard with friends.  Paint a moonscape. Admire your celestial masterpiece. Then head outside to enjoy your wine.

Full moon monument tour.  Washington D.C. History and Culture hosts full moon walking tours of the city’s most famous monuments and memorials.   Hit them all on a long stroll with a group of your fittest friends.  The King, Roosevelt and Lincoln Memorials are iridescent under moonlight.


Try them all and tell us your favorite ways to enjoy a full moon night. And if you have other ideas, let us know so we can update our list and share them with others!

The Snow Day Rules: Enjoying the Cold Weather When You’re Completely Over it

By late March, most of us are officially over the cold.  We are tired of the weather acting like a tease in a dive bar.  One day she’s warm, inviting and forcing tulips from the ground.  The next day, her cold shoulder breaks hearts without warning nor explanation.  It is a mean thing to do.  Why can’t she be loving all of the time?

On the morning of the spring equinox, the weather reports were calling for heavy snow — much to the delight of the children who now, wouldn’t have to see a classroom for a couple of days.  Despite being annoyed about the pending break in my routine, I knew we probably wouldn’t see snow like this for at least another year. So I decided to make the most of it by following the “snow day rules.” These are rules you should follow when the weather has got you stuck at home.

Rule #1:  Stock up on the essentials. Who needs milk and eggs?  No one. Not only will they spoil if the power goes out, snacks are way more effective at putting you in a good mood when you are tired of the cold weather.

If you have to work from home while everyone else is enjoying a day off, chips and guacamole provide excellent company.  Snacks can be used to bribe fighting, restless kids way better than eggs can.  Unless you plan to paint those eggs or use them in a cookie recipe, don’t bother.

Rule #2:  Give in to the snow.  Don’t let the snow stop you from layering up and getting outside.  The key to not freezing is to start moving and don’t stop.  Dig out your neighbor’s car.  Tie a rope to a clothes basket and drag your kids around.  Play snow frisbee.  Just don’t climb a tree. That’s a terrible idea.  If you don’t have any kids, borrow the neighbors’ . Your neighbor will thank you 10 times, because chances are, they bought milk and eggs instead of snacks. And now they are looking for something to distract their fighting kids. After thawing out, reward yourself by binge watching your favorite series while eating your delicious snacks.

Rule #3:  Plan for spring.  A cold, snowy day is a great time to begin planning for the activities you put aside when the temperature began to drop.  Plant your seeds indoors and watch them sprout under grow lights.  Plan your 10Ks, map your road trips, book your campsites, and get your music concerts lined up.  Start calling your friends and filling in your spring calendar.

The good part about a late season snowfall is that the next 20 degree temperature increase is probably not a tease.  It’s very likely that lady winter has moved on to a different bar. Warmer days will soon be here to stay.


Why Every Woman Should Spend Time Alone in the Woods

I recently took to the woods alone for the first time.  When I started my car preparing to return home the first thing I noticed was that the radio sounded way too loud, even though the volume was normal when I left it.  I turned the knob, shielding my ears from the Cardi B song, when all of a sudden I “got it.”   This is what happens when you spend time alone in the woods.

For the past few weeks I’ve been pouring through Jennifer Pharr Davis’ book, Becoming Odyssa, trying to understand what people get out of thru-hiking 2,180+ miles along the Appalachian Trail.  Davis had a similar experience the first time she went into a super-store in Virginia.  Having seen mostly woods and hostels since leaving Georgia, she was overwhelmed by the “tsunami of scents, sounds, and colors that crashed down. . . ” .

I didn’t need to hike hundreds of miles to feel the effects of unplugging.  Just 2.5 miles on the Rachel Carson Greenway Trail was enough.  The woods were scary at times. Everything was amplified.  I would hear a lumbering black bear but then realize that it was only a squirrel playing in the leaves.  I spotted 15 or so deer prancing single-file towards a pond in the distance.  Despite being camouflaged, they couldn’t hide from a set of eyes that had been focusing on nothing but forest for the past hour.  I even noticed when the stagnant stream that followed the trail on my right began to babble about a quarter mile later.

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It seemed like the forest made everyone friendlier, which in turn made the trail more approachable. The person that diverts his eyes in the grocery store will speak on the trail.  I passed smiling couples walking dogs.  I laughed with a woman prodding a reluctant and stubborn horse to cross a muddy path. “You go on around us” she ushered.  “We’re gonna be here for a while.”

The blue trail markers kept their promise and got me back out safely.  I returned home renewed and energized — like I had been let in on a big secret.   Not only did I find this beautiful space only miles from my home,  but that one peaceful hour put me in the mood to welcome the next 23.

There’s no doubt that everyone has heard terrible stories that make us reluctant to walk alone in the woods. But if you are smart and take the proper precautions (e.g., know your route, leave an itinerary, track your location, and match your trail with your physical abilities), I promise that the benefits will outweigh the fear.  Find a safe trail and walk it alone. Don’t miss out on the secret!