Above and Below: Celebrating on World Oceans Day

Above and Below: Celebrating on World Oceans Day

Though the World is still reeling from impacts the SARS-CoV-2 has wrought on terra firma since December 2019, today is World Oceans Day. As far as I know, the ocean is one place the virus has NOT wreaked havoc. So, let’s divert focus for a while and celebrate life…teeming below the sea.

If you are lucky enough to live on or near the coast, then you know the power of looking out over the sea. It’s a vista that can be inspiring, breathtaking, powerful, calming and foreboding; sometimes simultaneously. Remarkably, the ocean covers 71% of our planet’s surface and contains 97% of all water on Earth. Furthermore, about 80% of it has yet to be explored, mapped or even seen. Though the ocean is one, continuous body of water, humanity has divided it into 4 geographic regions: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic; 5 regions if you also include the newly designated Southern Ocean, around Antarctica (facts courtesy of National Geographic). Maybe you already knew all of this. That’s awesome.

But did you also know that today, June 8, is the United Nations designated World Oceans Day?

The proposal to mark June 8 to celebrate the ocean came from the Canadian delegation, at the 1992 Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It didn’t pass an official resolution at the UN General Assembly until 2008. So, because June 8, 2021 is both the official relaunch of World Moms Network and UN World Oceans Day, I dedicate this post to both causes.

The theme for UN World Oceans Day 2021 is The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods. Because this is a post for World Moms Network, I’ll talk about how the ocean impacts my own family’s life.

Let me start by saying that the ocean has been a huge part of my life from inception.

I was born into a family of ocean lovers. My father served as a Navy Salvage Diver and my mother is an ocean devotee. As a child, I was surrounded by images, artifacts and elements of the sea. We spent lots of time at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, onboard boats and summering at the shore. In fact, when I think about it, I can hardly recall a family vacation that didn’t somehow involve being on, in or near the ocean. We spent hours at maritime museums, aquaria and gazing at painted seascapes in galleries near and far.

My college major had little to do with the ocean but one of the most impactful courses I took was Coral Reef Ecology. My college was located in Memphis, Tennessee. The lab portion of the course, however, was in The Bahamas. For one week in May, we lived at a science research station on the tiny island of San Salvador. We spent our mornings snorkeling and logging the biology of the island; and we spent our afternoons studying the geology of it. The sea enchanted me with the vibrant and complex societies just below its surface. I wanted to go deeper and learn more.

I knew I needed to get SCUBA certified.

In my early 20s, when I was living and working in Asia, I determined to get my diving certification so I could explore more of the world below the waves. Over the next decade, the journey took me to dive sites around Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Mexico and the Caribbean. Whenever there was time—and a nearby dive shop—I went.

When I met my husband in 2000, I encouraged him also to get PADI certified, so we could explore together. And we did. Early in our relationship, we spent a few days on a live-aboard dive boat in Thailand, in search of the ever elusive Whale Shark; we still haven’t spotted one. On our honeymoon, we did a wreck dive. Together we have seen reef sharks, barracuda, sail fish, and all kinds of rays. We have encountered pods of sea turtles, eels and octopus and infinite numbers of fish. Diving together was pure joy.

Then came kids.

In the past 15 years, we have dived just a handful of times; waiting for that day when maybe we could get our kids interested in diving too.

That day has arrived. This is the year, at 12 and 15, when our kids finally are ready to take on the adventure with us.

Though we all were born on one side of the Atlantic—the East Coast of the United States—we now live on the other side, the West Coast of Portugal. Back in northern New England, unless you’re diving for a lobster dinner, SCUBA diving isn’t a terribly popular past time. It’s COLD! And though the weather in Portugal is temperate and sunny year-round, the Atlantic here is even COLDER!

Diving in frigid, 17C/62F degree water with 7mm thick wetsuits, hoods and booties may not seem like ideal conditions but in Portugal, diving is a big deal. In fact, pretty much anything to do with the ocean is a big deal: surfing, kite surfing, wind surfing, boogie boarding, fishing, spear fishing, sport fishing, eating fish and, of course, sailing. The Portugese are a seafaring people. This is the home of The Discoverers after all.

In the middle of a pandemic, faced with social distance requirements, excessive screen time and lockdowns, what better place to escape than the ocean?

And that is what we did. We invested in getting our kids their SCUBA certifications; not because we plan to go diving every weekend nor even every vacation vacation. As World Moms, we’re all on a path to raise global citizens and part of that journey requires raising awareness at all levels. Sure, diving is a luxury—just like skiing or any sport that requires extensive gear—but when you experience an environment, when you truly spend time getting to know its surroundings and inhabitants, you become a citizen conservationist.

So today is World Oceans Day and to honor it, I’m happy to report that this past weekend, both of my kids did their first open water dive. When I descended 11m/33ft into the chilly waters off the coast of Sesimbra, Portugal and saw my kids kneeling on the sandy bottom, it was something akin to magic. I never got the chance to dive with my own father—the person who first planted the love of the sea deep within me—but by witnessing it planted in my own children, I know that I am passing on that legacy. I know that I am raising stewards of the sea.

Slide left or right for before and after

This is an original post to World Moms Network from our Managing Editor, Kyla P’an, who resides in Cascais, Portugal. All photos in this post are attributed to the author.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
Twitter

A #Heartfulness Journey with Tonia Anne

A #Heartfulness Journey with Tonia Anne

World Moms Network has teamed up with the Heartfulness Institute as a media partner for their upcoming meditation conferences in the United States. As part of this partnership, World Moms Blog will feature a meditation related post each week through the end of June. This week, World Moms Senior Editor, Kyla P’an, sat down (virtually) with Heartfulness trainer, Tonia Anne, to have a deeper conversation about meditation. Here’s what Tonia had to say about her journey:

Tonia is a terrific example of a World Mom: she is half-Irish, half-French, her husband is Indian and they live across the river from the Melting Pot of America, New York City. She is raising two children, ages seven and four, and has been practicing meditation for more than twenty years. Talking with Tonia is a little like listening to classical music, it’s melodic and soothing. She’s delightfully at peace and put together but she says her life hasn’t always been so.

“In my early-twenties, life seemed quite confusing. I was a sensitive young adult quite lacking in self-assurance. I was studying and working in the professional theatre and life felt complicated. In this context, my mom, who had started practicing meditation a few years earlier, encouraged me also to try meditation.”

When Tonia’s mom put her in touch with a Heartfulness trainer, Tonia was surprised to discover how easy it was to get started; all she had to do was meet with a trainer for 30-minutes each day for three consecutive days to learn how to do this heart-centered meditation. After the three sessions, Tonia knew how to meditate on her own. The trainer encouraged her to join weekly group meditation sessions, which she did. There was a lot of support.

buddha

But Tonia didn’t become a regular meditator overnight. Just as acquiring any new skill, it took practice. “I didn’t do it every day at first but I did find myself looking forward to the good feeling I got from meditating, so I found ways to fit it in,” she reflects.

“Heartfulness meditation is so utterly simple. There is nothing complicated about it. You connect with your heart, rest your awareness there, the ongoing thoughts recede into the background. You are still; and at the same time you are receptive to your heart, which enables you to capture its guidance. Progressively there’s a growing sense of clarity and peacefulness,” says Tonia.

“It feels like the most natural thing to do, like following an inner compass. Like bringing yourself back to yourself.”

To hear Tonia describe meditation makes you realize, perhaps anyone can do this successfully. She’s convinced they can. Meditation, after all, is tuning into a quality of being rather than making something happen.

To help non-practitioners better understand what happens with thoughts, Tonia provides a simple, visual image:

“Picture a river with a bridge over it. Crossing the bridge are lots of little cars. These cars are your thoughts and rather than focusing your attention on any one of the cars (thoughts), you can step back and notice that the river flows nonetheless. At any given moment you can choose where to direct your attention, here we rest our attention on a single point in the heart.”

“We work well with patterns and routines,” she adds. “If you create a place for your meditation (a comfortable chair, a room, a specific spot on the floor), and set a regular time each day to practice, be it 10, 20 or 30 minutes, then soon enough, it becomes a routine.”

Twenty years in, Tonia now meditates every day. Her practice starts when she naturally wakes up before 6 a.m., “before everyone else in my house gets up; before the hustle and bustle of the day; before the e-mails and schedules, when the mind is calmer.” This is the time she takes for herself and she does it by settling into a designated chair in her family room for a thirty to sixty-minute session. She says it makes her feel centered and gives her poise. It sets the tone for her day, and the whole family seems to benefit.

“We are constantly being solicited, especially as moms. We are constantly nurturing and attending to others’ needs. Meditation is my time to be nurtured. Setting aside time for myself in a deep way, where I am connecting with my deepest longing, helps me find balance and deal better,” says Tonia.

When asked how she decided to make meditation such an integral part of her life, Tonia’s answer was simple and beautiful:

“As a child I would wonder in awe at life, at this life that had been given and that I was in, and have a sense that there must be something to make of it…a sense of a diffuse dream. Meditation is like remembering the dream and living more on purpose.”

To learn more about the Heartfulness Institute and their upcoming US conferences, please visit their website: www.heartfulness.org

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
Twitter

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Fast Track

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Fast Track

readingLast week I took my daughter to a local book store to spend a gift card she received for her birthday. My daughter loves books and had a hard time deciding what she wanted most, to purchase the final books in one of her existing collections or get something totally new.

While I was in a different section, my daughter engaged the children’s department manager in a book discussion. Evidently sharing with the woman all of her latest good-reads, which included much of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, all of the Harry Potters, and several non-fictions like I Am Malala and A Long Walk to Water.

When I arrived back on the scene, the woman commended me for raising such a voracious reader and said she was amazed that my daughter went to public school, being convinced that only private schools could produce such a 3rd grade equivalent.

I didn’t know if I should be flattered or offended.

The woman, who was in her late 50’s, was a retired educator herself and clearly had a deep passion for books and strong opinions about appropriate reading levels. She impressed upon me that many of my daughter’s book choices were advanced for her age and encouraged me to consider steering her away from further indulgences.

This sentiment concerned me because, until recently, I had kept close tabs on what my children were reading and most of the advanced books were ones we read together. But lately, my daughter had been zooming ahead of me, finding pockets of reading time at school and also before lights out at night.

Admitedly, I hadn’t read any of the Percy Jackson books. Knowing that the books had been made in to PG-13 movies did have me somewhat concerned about content but was I really hearing this book specialist right? Was she really trying to stymie my child’s enthusiasm for reading by directing her choices?

The woman was trying to point out that my daughter is only a third grader once and there were plenty of sweet, age-appropriate books out there for her to indulge in. Didn’t I want to save these 6th, 7th and 8th grade books for later?

I really had to think about this.

After all aren’t I always trying to slow my daughter’s maturity? Aren’t I the same mother that won’t let her watch teen television shows because they’re too sassy and full of content ahead of her age? Could  books be presenting the same issue?

I’ve grappled with this for the better part of 7 days now. What are the demigods in Percy Jackson doing up there at Camp Half Blood? Aside from the reality of Malala Yousafzai getting shot point blank by the Taliban, what fictional characters might be playing out scandalous scenes in my daughter’s young mind from The Secret Benedict Society?

Does it make me a less engaged parent if I don’t keep my finger on the pulse of my childrens’ literary lives? Do I need to give up my own sacred reading time to be sure I’m on topic with my kids?

A writer friend of mine told me once that the difference between books and movies was that movies spoon feed us all of the images and visuals in a story whereas books let our imaginations fill in the scenery.

When kids read books with ideas or content beyond their experience levels, their minds fill in the pictures age appropriately.

I saw this first hand when My daughter read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in first grade without having bad dreams but when she saw the movie in second grade, she had nightmares about the final images of Voldemort for months.

I love my daughter passion for reading and I’m proud of her advanced and eclectic book selections but now there’s a little nagging voice whispering in my ear every time she picks up a new and unfamiliar novel.

And in the end, instead of helping us find a few new, good books, I think the well-intentioned saleswoman may have done more harm than good.

Where do you stand with letting your children read ahead of their age level? Do you think this saleswoman had a point?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog from our senior editor and mom to two, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
Twitter

Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

hong baoSolar year, 2015—celebrated in most of the Western world— is small potatoes  compared to its lunar counterpart starting today: The Year of the Goat, 4713.

Today, in many countries across Asia, people are celebrating Chinese New Year [CNY]. It marks the first day of the lunar year, which begins with the second new moon after the Winter Solstice.

CNY is the most important holiday for Chinese people world-wide and is celebrated in countries with significant Chinese populations (Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Mauritius).

Even right here in America, in ways both big and small, Chinese families are celebrating the Year of the Goat too.

My husband, a first generation Chinese-American, brought his  Chinese culture into our home and together we have established our own family traditions.

Both our 8 and 5 year old children attend Chinese Language School so our celebrations typically begin there. This year, each of our kids performed in a class skit—one doing a New Year’s song and the other both a song and dance.

Their Chinese school rents out a local auditorium and the celebration goes on for four hours, complete with traditional paper decorations, red lanterns and Chinese snacks of spring rolls, scallion pancakes and fortune cookies (the latter of which I’m pretty sure is a wholly American invention).

And though the four-hour Chinese school celebration feels long and drawn out, it’s nothing compared to the 15-day celebration going on over in Asia.

We live just outside of Boston, a city boasting a large Chinatown. If we’re really motivated, we can fight the crowds and view Lion Dancers, firecrackers in the street and dine on authentic Chinese fare surrounded by thousands of people.

This year, however, our city is buried under record amounts of snow (96.7in/2.5m) so we won’t be making any such pilgrimage.

Sometimes we have friends over and make homemade wontons, a symbolic food representing a pouch of coins, or Hot Pot. Other years we just make sure we eat some kind of Chinese food (either at home or in a restaurant).

We also make sure we always give our kids Hong Bao, little, red envelopes filled with “lucky” money. Since our kids don’t get an allowance, this feels special to them. We never give them very much because it’s the gesture that counts but if they happen to be lucky enough to visit their great-grandmother around Chinese New Year,   they might get upwards of $50.

I know these little traditions are modest compared to mainland China but we hope that in our small way we are instilling in our children a some sense of the deep culture they are part of.

恭禧發財 

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

How do you hold on to your cultural heritage? What are some traditions you’ve incorporated into your own family?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two in Boston, Massachusetts, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post was taken by the author.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
Twitter

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Educating Girls

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: Educating Girls

malalaI have long been an advocate of girls education. It is something I want every girl, wherever she is in the world, to have access to. I deeply believe educating girls is a major proponent in our quest to improve the world.

So when my daughter was born eight years ago, I committed myself to ensuring that she would always have the access to and support she needs in attaining the best education my husband and I can give her.

But along with the paramount importance her education is to me, so too is her understanding of how valuable having an education is and how lucky she is to have safe schools and multiple options available to her.

But how do you impart this to an eight-year-old?

Like the majority of other eight-year-olds in the US, my daughter takes it for granted that she attends school five-days-a-week, Monday through Friday. But she also attends school on Sunday, when she goes to Chinese School. And this she does not take for granted, instead she long viewed it as a hindrance to her free-time. Because, though she only spends 90-minutes a week at Chinese school, its homework load and test schedule far exceed that of her American school, where she spends more than 30-hours-a-week.

Whenever my daughter complains about the work load or Chinese school conflicting with social events, I find myself saying:

You have NO idea how lucky you are to have more than one school to attend.

But until recently, this was a phrase delivered with little impact. That is, until my  daughter started reading her latest book: I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai.

She received the book for Christmas, along with A Long Walk to Water, from her aunt. When she opened the gift, I was thrilled because, though I love Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, here were some stories that really mattered; finally, some glimpses into a REAL world, just one my child did not yet know.

I hoped, desperately, that she’d want to read these stories.

I was in luck.

Almost as soon as she picked up I Am Malala, she had trouble putting it down. It was filled with concepts she had trouble getting her head around: like the idea that a person could board Malala’s “school bus” with the intent to kill her or that having access to school was a privilege.

It had her asking all kinds of questions: about hardships and hurdles girls in other parts of the world have to face in order to get an education; about what it means to be a top student; about what sorts of sacrifices students (and their families) have to make in pursuit of education.

Reading Malala’s story is opening my daughter’s eyes to the opportunities and freedoms she takes for granted and it is giving her a deeper gratitude for what she has.

I don’t want my young children to worry about the injustices and evil out in the world but I do want them to understand better the many blessings they have and that not everyone has the same access to these opportunities.

Tomorrow, here in the US, our Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will air the third and final episode of #APathAppears. In January, when World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, World Voice Editor, Elizabeth Atalay and I attended the pre-screening of this series in New York, by invitation of @SaveTheChildren, it was episode 3 that resonated most with me.

The episode highlights Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya. But rather than showing us the desperate side of life in the slum, viewers (and readers of the eponymous book before) are introduced to Kennedy Odede and his wife Jessica and the organization they have built, Shining Hope for Communities(SHOFCO).

Like me, and so many others, SHOFCO knows that the pathway to hope is guided by educating girls. Authors Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn remind us that, if enough people walk in the direction of hope, ultimately A Path Appears.

You can watch the PBS series, A Path Appears online, by clicking here. Or read the book of the same title by husband and wife journalists @NickKristoff and Sheryl @WuDunn.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sr. Editor and mother of two in Massachusetts, USA, Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
Twitter