This year from July 26th- 28th Readington, NJ held their annual Festival of Ballooning at the Solberg Airport. This field at a town in New Jersey transformed into a playground for people of all ages and backgrounds. Vendors from internationally recognized brands handed out samples and sold new products in between classic fair style rides. The festival also featured performances from groups such as The Band Perry and The Beach Boys.
The main event, of course, is watching 100 hot air balloons float across the sky, and for half an hour thousands have a reason to keep their heads held high. They stop thinking about the problems at home, the pain on the ground, all the reasons they stare at the sidewalk. Right now they can look all the way up.
I often wish I could fly away from everything on my mind. I feel like if I could climb into a hot air balloon and float off into the sun, I wouldn’t have to ever look back. But that’s not how hot air balloons work. They go up above the crowd of hate and negativity, dropping the weight of sand bags that keep them tied to the ground. Then they just float for a while. They get to rise and see things from a new perspective. Eventually, they must come back to the ground. When they do, they can touch down knowing how to get a little closer to the sun.
Standing in the crowd I heard at least 5 different languages, saw people of all ages around me dancing, laughing, and taking pictures. We were all so different, still on the ground, and yet so lifted during the experience. Taking the time to stop and drop the weights of whatever is weighing you down for even a few moments can be so freeing. Instead of running away from your problems, float above them for a little while. Then come back down with a clear mind, and a warmer heart. You will rise above whatever is hurting you, and you can float towards to sun, where ever you’re at.
A few weeks ago, I came across a concept that was put in a different context, but the way it was phrased resonated with me. I knew I needed to share it. It was a screen shot of a Tumblr post I saw on Pinterest, and the essence of the piece was this: Stop saying, “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” Instead, change your view point to something like “the things you are doing now matter.” This type of language is equally, if not more important and validating. Please remember that.
Don’t get me wrong, having the courage to pursue your dreams, to live your passions is beautiful. I do believe that we can reach the stars with hard work, determination, and love. It’s also important to set goals and look to the future. The problem lies in only setting goals, only looking to the future, only working for tomorrow.
Sometimes, we need to take a step back and validate the work we are doing at the moment. The things you are doing right now matter.
We live in a time of final products. We consume a constant stream of media, from all different outlets. We idolize finished products, and we never see the work that went into creating those ads, stars, songs, films, photos, books. We never see that all successes began with a seed of an idea, and likely took months to years of labor to bloom.
We don’t realize that the things we do everyday are what matter. Your smile at the stranger in the grocery store. Going the extra mile at the job you might resent. Writing one page of a book a day. Completing one piece of art for a portfolio a week. Cleaning off the table after putting it off for a month. Doing what you can, when you can. The things you are doing now matter.
Living with this mind set, alleviates some of the pressure to eventually reach some most likely unattainable standard set in your mind. The small steps you take each day are what will get you to a place you want to be anyway. Recognizing your own power and importance allows you to act with intent and love. To make choices that will actually help you feel good about yourself. To keep yourself healthy. To keep yourself sane.
We are always growing. From the time we enter this beautiful world, we grow. We will continue to change and develop until we leave this world, and when we do, what will have mattered most is how we felt and made others felt while we were here. Our actions everyday make a difference. The way you drive- aggressively or compassionately, the way you talk- kindly or spitefully, the way you worked- honestly or hastily; these are what change the world. If you put your mind to it, you really can do anything. But always remember, that every moment of your life matters. That doing your best even when you feel you can do better is still something to be proud of. You don’t always have to be working to some greater purpose. You change the world. Exactly as you are. Exactly where you are at.
Clarks Summit serves as the central hub for the Abingtons in North Eastern Pennsylvania, and each year for the last 15, the Abington Business and Professional Association has presented a stunning display of ice sculptures for a weekend in February. The Clarks Summit Festival of Ice attracts residents from across the region who fill State Street to get a glimpse at the icy art. They can see how the pieces are sculpted and warm up in any of the several small business that open their doors with special merchandise, and have activities that correspond with the festival’s selected theme.
Many came out in full costume- braving the frigid temperatures to participate in the fun of the Star Wars inspired festivities. All the attention brings a spotlight to the local shops who join in on the fun.
I always make an effort to get out to the festival at least one day of the weekend. It’s one of my favorite parts of living in Clarks Summit. In all honesty, I would much rather live in a city. Somewhere always busy, always working, always creating, always moving. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. To find the places, the creativity, the inspiration, right where I was. The ice festival is exactly the type of event that lures people to want to live in more urban areas. No cover charge, just find a parking spot- if you can- and explore what the hard working minds the area created. But it’s not set in a side street of Brooklyn, NY, or in Adams Morgan in D.C. It’s right here, for me. It’s so worth while that it gets me, someone who hates winter in the depths of my core, to bundle up and walk the main street of my town to look at frozen ice every year. It’s exactly what I’m looking for from a community.
Watching a live carving, snagging a selfie with Chewie, and warming up talking to local shop owners, brings me a feeling of pride to live in my town every year. We have so many unique places here, that if you didn’t need to go to a hospital, you theoretically could live your entire life with out leaving the Abingtons. Grocery stores, both local and chains, tatoo parlors, clothing stores, art studios, diners, coffee shops, cooking lessons, salons, candy stores, and so much more. All squeezed on State Street in Clarks Summit.
Traveling is a beautiful and important experience. Sometimes for sanity’s sake it’s best to pack up your Millennium Falcon and go explore a new planet. You don’t always need to go to a galaxy far far away to experience something you’ve been craving though. Sometimes you just need to look around at the beautiful minds, the hard work, the creativity, the passion already around you. Sometimes you are meant to be exactly where you’re at.
Monuments around the country memorialize the creators of the past, and inspire those who pave the path to the future. The United States boasts beautiful architecture across the country as reminders of the possibilities of hard work, determination, and courage. The major monuments that first come to mind are massive tributes like The Statue of Liberty, The Washington Monument, or Mount Rushmore. The nation is scattered with smaller and equally as important pieces throughout the countrysides. This week, Stephanie Juarez takes us to her hometown in Grant County, Washington. Her written details and pictures bring life to the uniqueness and beauty of her home.
“Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies also known as The Wild Horses Monument is a sculpture of 15 life-size steel horses. Located in Grant County, Washington. It was a sight that mesmerized me every time my family would drive by it. I’ve only been there a couple times but now that I’m older I can really appreciate not only the view, but the craftsmanship and the hard work that went into each horse. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend a visit to the monument. Getting to the sculpture is a steep but short hike that you will not regret. My only advice would be to stay low to the ground. I would even suggest crawling. The trail has many lose rocks and if you think it’s bad going up the hill, coming back down will take extra precaution. Watch your step! Be mindful of the little ones if you choose to take them up with you. It’s quite the view from the top but you’ll find yourself wondering why they feel so comfortable getting TOO CLOSE to the edge! Whoever you chose to take with you, it’s a breathtaking experience.” – Stephanie Juarez.
Beautiful art, breathtaking views, and lifelong memories are all around us. Take the time to visit your local landmarks. Breathe in the air of your surroundings. Check out the trails, and shops, and plaques, and sculptures you pass on your commute everyday but never stopped to look at. The diversity of this country’s landscape is incredible. The entire world is full of wonders I’m sure I can’t even imagine. It would be impossible to see them all, but the best place to start is by learning to take in the beauty of exactly where you’re at. Wherever that may be, there is magic around you- of that, I am certain.
Special thank you to Stephanie Juarez for sending me this piece! If you want to see your hometown featured head over to our contact page and send us the details. We would love to read your story!
When I talk to people in my area about career goals, the first response I always get is, “There’s nothing here, get out as soon as you can”. Living in a small town- especially one outside of a declining city like Scranton can feel uninspiring and limiting. The opportunities in a small town are not as vast as those available to the urban communities. Even further than career opportunities, finding things to fill free time seems impossible too. We’ve all seen the meme floating around “You know you’ve grown up in a small town when Friday nights meant driving around the same streets for hours.” It’s true. While I firmly believe smaller areas offer unique benefits that cannot be matched in the city, big dreams die fast in small towns. Below I’ve compiled a very short list of the many tools you can use to begin turning your dreams into reality exactly where you are at.
Education is power, and no one can ever take away the knowledge you have gathered. The first step to growing your future and working on seriously pursuing your passions is to learn as much as you can about the field you want to enter. Even if you cannot afford advanced education, there are so many resources you can utilize for free or at a low cost. Here are some of my favorites:
Beyond learning about achieving your aspirations, you also need tools to put your plans into action. Here are some fun sources that might come in handy for anyone who has an interest in starting a business, building a brand, and growing your passions into a career.
I also found a few sites to help you focus and work on productivity. Simplifying your life and getting organized can clear away room in your mind to begin working on more important, bigger goals.
Finally, I found some great resources for when your environment isn’t providing the inspiration you need to keep creating and working towards your goals.
The physical opportunities available to you might be limited due to your location, finances, or situation. The internet has a variety of useful tools that you can take advantage of for free or at an extremely low cost to start taking over the world, even if you live in NoWhereVille right now. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Reach out to people in your community who have found success, and learn from them. Reach out online to the people you admire and learn from them. The internet has opened an unlimited resource of knowledge and connection for people to be whatever they want to be. You might not be able to move to LA and become the next Food Network Star, but you can amass a huge following on YouTube with your own online cooking show, that might even bring in more viewers than the T.V. chefs. You can create an album and release it on Sound Cloud. You can open an e-commerce store if you can’t afford to rent out a building, or don’t live in an area where you would get enough traffic to sustain a brick and mortar store. You can do anything you want, right where you’re at.
If you have any favorite online resources for personal, creative, or career growth, leave them in the comments! We would love to see what else is out there to explore!
This past weekend I took the 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Scranton to the town of Bethlehem, PA- a perfectly named place to find some Holiday Cheer. They say there’s no place like New York at Christmas, and while I will admittedly also be traveling there this upcoming weekend, this PA market will be a life long memory. Celebrating 26 years, the Christkindlmarkt features over 150 vendors. After paying an entrance fee of 10 dollars, you enter lavishly decorated tents, all exploding with the scent of cinnamon and butter.
The tents are packed with a wide range of businesses selling everything from alpaca wool socks, to local art, to gourmet peanut butters, and so much more. The fascinating parts of markets like these, is their ability to create personal connections with unique products that can’t be found in one place anywhere else. Even large corporations get in on the fun like Crayola, who had a creativity booth set up, perfect for young kids to design their own Christmas dreams.
My favorite tent was the German company Kathe Wohlfahrt display. I had taken German for 6 years through school and have always wished to travel there and experience a real German Christmas market. I never knew I could get so close to the real thing without a passport. My former teachers would tell stories about the traditions of the German people, and their incredible artistry that is unmatched at Christmas. Detailed cuckoo clocks, nut cracker men, and wooden displays, all hand carved and painted lined a maze through the tent.
I took home a stunning handmade ornament of a glittering green snail- my favorite animal, made in Germany. Never would I have dreamed of combining two of my favorite and seemingly random interests into one, but unique markets like these allow for those exciting connections to be made.
We also found a stand specializing in creating family trees. The company would take the names of each member you wanted to include, and write the meaning of their name a next to a pressed flower. My dad has spent hours and hours and hours researching his family history, and piecing together the people of his past. We even took a trip to Canada a few summers ago to find the places where his family was buried and lived. I have a slight obsession with flowers and this small stand was an interesting way for us to connect with each other.
On our way out, we got stuck in a crowd which turned out to be a line for a Danish desert called Stroopies. We decided their aroma was too enticing and since we were apparently in line anyway, to give some a try. The young woman in front of us gasped with excitement as she realized what she was inline for. My dad asked her if they were good then, and she went on to tell us about her recent trip to Copenhagen where she first encountered the cookie. It’s essentially two thin waffles with caramel sandwiched in between. When you’re ready to eat, you heat up a cup of coffee or tea and sit the pastry on top of the mug, letting the steam soften the caramel. To see a stranger have a beautiful moment of bliss as she found a connection to her life she never dreamed of finding in “nowhere Pennsylvania” was incredible. The Stroopie Co., are a Lancaster, PA based Sweet Shoppe that runs their business by employing refugees resettling in the area. This small business is taking their talents and creating good through extending opportunities to those in need while bringing immeasurable joy to customers.
The market beamed with beautiful decorations, live ice sculpture carvings, and more elaborate booths than we could visit in one afternoon. Going into the market I had planned to write about the interesting finds and activities that can be found in my own backyard, but I didn’t realize how personal the experience was going to be. I challenge you to look at what’s close to your home. Who is making a difference near you? What opportunities can you find? What magic can you create?
Feeling limited by the area you live in can be frustrating. When you focus on all the things you can’t do, you close off opportunities for things that you can. I find we tend to limit ourselves in this same way not only with physical location but where we are psychologically and emotionally. We get in our own heads with thoughts like “I could never do that,” or, “I’m not as talented as so and so,” or, “I’m not going to try because I don’t think I will be good.” We cling to the familiar while aching for change. We can’t have it both ways.
I am not particularly good at drawing and painting. I’ve always loved it though. My mom tells me stories how in preschool my friends would have to drag me away from the coloring table to play outside. Now I draw for a distraction, or as a form of self expression, or just to pass the time. I don’t practice frequently or try to actively improve my skills. It’s just something I do.
Most of my pictures like the one above don’t have any type of deeper meaning, they just came out of my brain and onto the page. I think there is a toxic misconception out there that to engage in the arts, or gardening, or math, or cooking, or science, or writing, you need to try your best to be the best. You don’t. If you like to do something or want to try it out, do it. It’s okay to just do something because you like. Overtime you will probably get better at it because that’s what practice does, but if you don’t that’s okay too. If you love to bake but your kitchen concoctions never taste to delight, keep doing it. If you want to become a bird watcher, but don’t want to memorize encyclopedias of every genus, phylum, and species, don’t. Just watch your birds and soak up their songs.
I could fill a sketch book with unfinished drawings like the faint outline of this would be elephant. Sometimes I have an idea but I don’t think I can do it the way I want, so I just don’t do it at all. This picture could have turned out beautiful. We’ll never know.
Almost three years ago I made my first and only New Years Resolution ever. I decided to “Stop telling yourself you can’t”. I wrote it down on the first page of a new sketch book and told myself whatever went on those pages would not end up in a garbage bin, no matter how awful. I also needed to change my mindset about my life. I have so many ideas for what I want to do in my life, but I don’t think I could ever check off half my list. Then again, why couldn’t I? I have kept myself contained in a box built by what I perceived my limitations to be. If I want to publish a book I can. I can be a hair dresser. I can be a motivational speaker. I can be an actor. I can be an artist. I can be an explorer. I can do whatever I want. Other people do, so why not me too?
There was a stretch of time that I stopped drawing. I stopped writing. I stopped exploring. I stopped acting. I stopped dancing. I stopped smiling. I stopped everything. I was so afraid of making the wrong choice, that I didn’t make any choices at all. We can not allow ourselves to shy away from what calls to us because of our perceived skill level. We miss opportunities we didn’t even know were available because we never try anything new.
Most of the things I gave up weren’t even career aspirations. Hobbies are supposed to be fun. They help bring joy and purpose and love to your life. I think because in many hobbies there are particularly talented people who make money off their passions, we think we all do too. If we aren’t good enough at it to do so then we just don’t do it all. I wrote a poem a few months ago that expresses what I’m trying to say much better than what I’ve written so far.
Don’t stay stuck up in your head. Try out what you want, and leave behind what doesn’t resonate with you. You can do more than you think, what matters most is that you are happy doing it. Go build a robot, write a novel, direct a play, take photos of clouds, draw the flower. It doesn’t matter where you are at, it matters what you do while you are there.
One of the major inspirations for this blog came from walking a trail near my home. It’s not a particularly noteworthy hiking spot- more of a walking path really, but I always seem to find something incredible there. There are no mountain top views, no waterfalls, no caves, just some gravel through the woods. Yet whenever I feel angry, or upset, or frustrated, or uninspired, I find myself seeking inspiration from the trees in my backyard.
Once I pass the baseball fields at the entrance I am submerged in a place brought to life by detail. Every visit I find something that reignites the dulling flame in spirit. I am in awe of the creatures that peak out to watch as people pass over their home without a second glance. The sporadic flowers that fill the fields on either side of the pathway change every year. The forest floor is covered in moss and leaves and rocks and stumps and it’s all blended together harmoniously.
My forest has brought so much clarity. The details of my forest make it beautiful. Details are what make life special. At first glance I wouldn’t think of this trail as anything more than a place to get some fresh air. Picturesque views from mountain tops and sandy beach sunsets, couldn’t provide the same sense of amazement about the delicate intricacies this world has to offer. The uniqueness this town has to offer.
When we discredit the everyday, we miss out on the details of life that make it worth living. The beauty of saying good morning, unexpected afternoon naps, cooking dinner, planting flowers, cleaning out the basement, slipping on socks fresh from the dryer, gets lost in the idea that most of life is unremarkable. Your life doesn’t need to be flashy or attractive for you to create something beautiful.
I tend to romanticize the way other people live their lives in my mind. When I think about how they grocery shop, or study, or write, or eat, or play with their pets, it always seems so different and magical compared to the way I do it. Of course in their minds, they are going through the routine of their day, but to me it’s fascinating. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. From handwriting, to style, to home décor, to pet names, the most personal and telling information about ourselves is reflected in the details of our life. In movies with the perfect background music, we watch characters get ready for the day and it all seems so much cooler the way they brush their teeth than how you do. What they eat for breakfast is the same old Mini-Wheats they have everyday, but it seems so much more appetizing when we see their life played out in quality lighting with a carefully selected playlist. That’s how I see the details of everyone else’s life.
The details of your life are unique to you. Make them count. Examine how you spend your day and take time to appreciate the incredible way you operate. Your thoughts, your preferences, your choices no matter how small are so powerful. To get to where you want to go, you need to know where you are at right now. You may feel ordinary, but you are filled with the most intricate details that make your presence remarkable. Go out and seek the spots of your home that are packed with inspiration. Go and admire the details of those around you. Go and take note of the fantastical ways you live. Stare at the floor, look under, look over, look beyond what’s right in front of you.
I have wanted nothing more than to escape the mundane life of a small town just outside a not so major city. The problem with small towns is most people feel the same way. We all want to run away to places where “there’s always something happening.” We don’t even know what that “something else” is most of the time- at least not specifically. We want better jobs, better homes, better parks, better art, better night life, better food, better anything. What job, what food, what to do, we don’t really know. We just want better. Life in a small town seems so insignificant when everyone doing anything of importance seems to be somewhere else. Small town America while seemingly unexciting can offer unique experiences with their own kind of magic. You just have to look for them.
I live just outside the Scranton area, and everyone seems to hate living here. Our own local news reported on a Gallup pole ranking the city as the 13th most miserable city to live in the country (placing first within the Commonwealth). Some people want to leave but don’t have the option, others stay and just complain. I can’t help but think if everyone spent their energy on building up the good in the area instead of bringing it down, what it might look like. The area has so much to offer. You just have to look for it. I have a feeling other towns in a similar position as us are the same way. We have incredible hiking trails, a vibrant artistic community, a rich classically American history, and several universities throughout the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. The pieces are here, so why aren’t they coming together? I think it’s a lack of appreciation for the resources at our finger tips.
Place has a lot to do with our mindsets as well. We get so stuck in putting off our dreams for the right time and place. People don’t think they can manifest their ideas where they are. Physically, they might think they have to move to LA, NYC, DC, Chicago, Seattle, or Portland to begin their journey to success. They put off starting a project until they can save to move away. Or they put it off until Summer starts, or until they get a new computer, or until they start school, or until they end school, or until the time just “feels right.” The time wont ever feel right. You won’t ever get past your initial idea if you place constraints on yourself from the beginning. To get where you want to be, look around at where you’re at and see what you can do today. Film that video on your phone. Write a few chapters for that book. Teach yourself the piano. Do what you can with what you have. There are resources in your neighborhood you probably don’t know exist. Go to your community centers, talk to the small business owners in your area. Pick their brain. The only way to realize your dreams is to begin working on them. Right now. Don’t wait for tomorrow, because you won’t start it then either.