Communal Living Is Back — For Some, It Never Went Away

Communal living opportunities are popping up nationwide, appealing to everyone from singles in their 20s to retired couples. Sky Blue loves communal living. And, yes, that’s his real name. “My parents were hippies,” says Blue, 37. And he appears to be following in their footsteps, quite literally. Blue’s parents met at Twin Oaks Intentional Community, a 350-acre piece of land stretching a mile up from the South Anna River in Virginia. The community currently houses about 90 adults and 15 children. Ages range from newborn to 80 years old. Here’s where it gets unconventional: they share everything, from clothing to the residences, which house 10 to 20 each, to their 18 vehicles. They also share income, which goes to a collective. They’re all dedicated completely to communal living. “In some respects, it’s like a 100-person family,” Blue said. These strangers-turned-families who live in intentional communities are popping up throughout the        …read more

9 Festive & Quirky Christmas Traditions from around the World

Christmas traditions

From crashing your neighbors’ homes to noshing on KFC Christmas dinner, maybe it’s time to add some international Christmas traditions to your celebrations. All across the globe, people celebrate the holidays in creative and some downright quirky ways. As you prepare your own holiday festivities this year, take note of these nine unique Christmas traditions from other countries. 1. The Gävle Goat in Sweden In 1966 a man named Stig Gavlén decided to build a giant version of the traditional Swedish Christmas straw goat. Ever since then, the goat has become a symbol of Christmas in Sweden, and it has even been crowned the world’s largest straw goat in the Guinness World Records. The goat is over 40 feet high, and it’s inaugurated every year on the first Sunday of Advent. However, the most interesting aspect of this tradition is another ritual that accompanies it. Every year people try to        …read more

6 Strange Jobs around the World

If you think your line of work is hard to explain at parties, imagine having one of these strange jobs. Want to make a living shoving people around? Maybe you’re looking for something more service-oriented, like helping people evade traffic tickets. One of these six strange jobs just might be for you. 1. Toqueros (Mexico) Looking for a job where you can shock people? In Mexico customers line up to pay for a shock (or toque). All you need is a box with six rechargeable AA batteries, an inverter and a transformer that controls the voltage, and you’re in business. The shock can reach up to 100 volts, and the toque is a more controlled version of sticking your finger in an electrical outlet. After having their victims grasp one handle in each hand — the positive and negative charges — the toquero flicks a switch, keeping the dial at        …read more

8 Gift Ideas for the Minimalist in Your Life

The minimalist in your life may not want much, but a unique gift will show how much you care. What do you get that person on your list who has everything? Easy. More things. People who have lots of stuff tend to crave more stuff. But what do you get that person who has nothing and wants nothing? No thing (not to be confused with “nothing”). Most people know gifts don’t have to be tangible objects, but with minimalism on the rise, especially among millennials, it can be challenging to think of meaningful presents. Here are some thoughtful, creative gift ideas for that minimalist in your life. 1. Experience Would your beloved minimalist enjoy going to an Escape Room? On a hot air balloon ride? Zip-lining? Parasailing? Skydiving? Or perhaps something slightly less adventurous, like going to see a musical, a sporting event, concert, comedy routine or public speaker? Take        …read more

Feeling Like an Old Dog? 5 Tricks to Learn Music as an Adult

learn music

It’s never too late to learn music! My piano student Jane is nearing a nervous breakdown. To help her learn music intuitively, I’ve just explained that I’d like her to experiment by holding down the sustain pedal and improvising with random black keys, which form a pentatonic scale. In an attempt to inspire her, I suggest the dulcet, though accidental, harmony of wind chimes in the breeze. She tenses. Her fingers curl into fists. She narrows her eyes at me. “I hate wind chimes!” she says. Did I mention that Jane is 54 years old? Most children don’t have a problem improvising, perhaps the purest form of “playing” piano — until they’ve taken formal lessons from a teacher who doesn’t emphasize or even touch upon improvisation. My unfortunately uninspired 54-year-old student had taken lessons from such a taskmaster as a child, and when she came to me as an adult        …read more

7 Strange Services and Items You Can Get Online

strange services

Have you searched for any of these strange services or items? Think you know what you can buy, rent or barter online? Think again. Here are seven strange services and items you may not have Googled before. 1. Invisible Boyfriend Looking for a handsome beau to tell your friends about? Look no further. Invisible Boyfriend, a popular new online service, invents a boyfriend just for you so that you can make your girlfriends (or boyfriends) jealous and pacify your pestering family and friends. After signing up for the service, you can design a boyfriend (or girlfriend) to your particular specifications. Want a short guy with blond hair? A tall guy with green eyes? No problem. The app allows you to even specify his personality traits and age. And if that’s not enough, once you pay the $25 charge, your newly designed beau begins texting you. Who’s actually texting you, you        …read more

How Hiring a Qualified Person with a Disability Serves Everyone

October is National Disability Employment Month (NDEAM). Here’s what everyone should know about the value differently abled people bring to the workplace. I recently returned to the field of education after an eight-year stay-at-home-mom hiatus. In addition to the typical reentry jitters and pondering over whether my favorite coral blazer is still in style, some more significant questions surfaced as I signed my contract: How will I travel to trainings and meetings after the closest bus routes to my house were just cut? What if one of my students or parents is allergic to my guide dog? And how many sessions with my accessibility specialist will it take for me to confidently use all the technology required to do my job? As a person who is legally blind, these are legitimate questions to ask, but they’re also relatively straightforward to solve, especially when compared to the invisible barriers people with        …read more

Storm Chasers: A Close-Up View of the High-Stakes Job

storm chasers

We talked with pro storm chasers about one of the most exhilarating and dangerous jobs in the world. Storm chasers. They don’t curl up on the couch and wait for a storm to pass or head for the basement when a twister’s coming; they jump up and get outside, excited to witness what Mother Nature has cooked up. Storm chasing isn’t a modern-day phenomenon. In 1755 Benjamin Franklin chased a tornado on horseback, according to the American Meteorological Society. Storm chasers may seek out hurricanes, lightning and hail, but the main objective appears to be witnessing tornadoes. They can happen anywhere if the conditions are right, but living in or near Tornado Alley, which encompasses eastern South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, northern Texas and eastern Colorado, is ideal to catch supercell thunderstorms, which often produce violent (EF-2 or greater) tornadoes. Even with the destructive nature of severe weather storms, they’re        …read more

How to Come Out for National Coming Out Day? It’s Complicated

National Coming Out Day is October 11, 2017. For many LGBTQIA people, the issue of coming out is both loaded and complex. But on one day in October, we often attempt to make it more straight(pun intended)-forward. I’m referring, of course, to National Coming Out Day, which occurs on (or near) October 11 each year. Armed with the truth that closets can be extremely harmful and painful, National Coming Out Day (or NCOD) encourages us to live our lives out in the open. What if we all came out, each year, on the same day? It’s a beautiful idea, but the way that queer folks interact with the day, and the very concept of coming out in the first place, is of course more complicated than the surface veneer would make it seem. Please note that in this piece I use the acronym “LGBTQIA” rather than “LGBT” whenever I’m not        …read more

Forest Bathing: The New Meditation Trend

forest bathing

Any person at any age and any fitness level can participate in forest bathing, which helps the mind and body. Every Friday afternoon, rain, snow or shine, Nicole Sumida and her two eight-year-old daughters step out of their busy Illinois suburb and disappear into the forest on the outskirts of town to do their form of forest bathing. There they look at the deer, rest on logs and touch trees. After about three hours, the therapist and her daughters emerge, refreshed and ready for the weekend. “It’s their downtime when they can be away from people, be with the trees and just be,” Sumida says. “It’s our decompression time.” Sumida is part of a growing national movement practicing forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku (meaning “taking in the forest atmosphere). The Japanese practice was developed in the 1980s, and it’s essentially a deliberate walk through the forest to engage with nature using        …read more