Go Write Your Manifesto (and Live It, Too!)

This project proved to  be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s easy to name off things we like (like, Starbucks, for instance). But it’s another thing entirely to write out your core beliefs, and the things that make up your foundation. I do recommend this project, though. Knowing what you stand for, what things you think are the most important in life, is so  important. Follow along to see my final manifesto, and grab some tips I’m using to live my manifesto every day.


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How To Live In Awe

Everyone, at one point or another, needs a break. We all reach that point where our creative juices have gummed together, and all our energy seems tapped. That’s usually a sign that you need to take a well deserved mental health day, but I don’t always have the luxury of taking a step back and regrouping.

Awe is an experience of such perceptual expansion that you need new mental maps to deal with its incomprehensibility.


Recently, I read an article about living in awe, and I’m convinced I need these small moments full of brilliant discovery or joy in my daily life. Researchers studying the effects of awe found that people benefited in some major ways by slowing down and taking more time to appreciate what’s around them.

Participants “who felt awe, relative to other emotions, felt they had more time available, were less impatient, were more willing to volunteer their time to help others, and more strongly preferred experiences over material goods.

There’s no clear cut video to watch, or book to read, that will inspire awe in everyone. The same study as mentioned above found that some topics ranked higher on participants lists than others, including “travel…gazing at the cosmos on a clear night or watching a sensation film, as well as anytime we encounter massive quantities…”

Think back, maybe to a time in your childhood, maybe something that happened yesterday. What sticks out in your memory as something awe-inspiring? For me, the first time I saw the moon through a telescope brought tears to my eyes. It made me feel like, here I was, another person wandering this planet who is partaking of the same awe Galileo must have felt upon looking through his first telescope. Hearing the radioactive tones of the planets is also pretty chilling. Teaching a child something new, bonding with a four legged buddy, or marveling at all the colors in the universe – awe is within our daily reach, but we very rarely stop to smell the proverbial roses (or real ones, if you prefer).

“Not being in a state of awe is a way to save energy. It is easier to run on autopilot. It takes energy to blow your mind, but being overwhelmed is worth it. It’s what gives life its luster.”

Don’t make something that’s hard even more difficult for yourself. Keep a journal of awe-inspiring moments, block time during which you allow your mind to wander. Talk to a coworker about their inspiring moments. Don’t limit yourself. Keep it easy, keep it simple.

Without awe, we simply turn on our coast speed and try to muddle through another work day. I have found this to be absolutely unsatisfactory. Give yourself time to talk to children, go to a park for lunch, or start up a craft or hobby from your childhood. The advice I’m giving myself is: think like a child, act like an adult. 

What’s your first awe inspiring memory? How do you find joy in the every day? Share your stories and advice in the comments!


Earth to Juno, Come In Juno

The astronomy gods have smiled upon all of the amateur astronomers in the U.S. Thanks to some crazy guys with a crazy notion of representation without taxation (and lots of wasted tea), 240 years later we can celebrate the orbit insertion of NASA’s Juno spacecraft without worrying about the wimpy wifi at work. What better way to celebrate this national holiday than to watch an amazing feat of human ingenuity (that I’m sure has all of the Juno team’s intestines in a grip).

“Of all eight planets, we believe Jupiter formed first.”

First, a bit of textbook info.

It might be surprising, but we really know precious little about the planets spinning with us in this system. This amazing craft will hopefully shed light on when exactly Jupiter was born, what it’s made of, and what drives it’s magnetic field. All of these things are incredibly important, because Jupiter is the first planet to form around our sun. Juno will hopefully tell us so much about how planets form, and about early solar system formation.

End textbook info. NASA has partnered with everyone’s favorite scientist, Bill Nye, for a new video segment called Why With Nye. Watch it. It’s definitely more fun than textbook info. I promise.

Don’t get all starry eyed; Juno has seemingly insurmountable hurdles to jump. I think the scariest thing about the 35 minute maneuver is that Juno will be on autopilot. So if anything goes wrong, the scientists nervously sitting at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory could do absolutely nothing about it. And if that doesn’t leave you with sweaty palms, then consider the amount of radiation that Juno will have to withstand if all else goes smoothly. Here we all thought New Horizons had some challenges…

“…the radiation dosage during the 1.5-year science mission is equivalent to a patient sitting in a dentist’s chair and being X-rayed every second of every day for three years.”

Now you can get starry eyed.

Even if Juno blows up tomorrow, NASA has opened a door I don’t believe they’ll ever be able to close again. Working with amateur astronomers as an idea as never gone over well with NASA, but amateurs are now being asked to help with Juno’s camera (JunoCam). In part, it’s meant to help keep the cost of the $1.1 billion craft down a bit, but I think it’s also going to open up NASA’s eyes as to how much talent and knowledge they can tap for free. So, whether you want to upload your photos and data, or simply vote on the best locations on Jupiter, everyone can have a hand in running one of the most ambitious projects NASA has unveiled in the past several years.

“We’re calling all amateur astronomers to upload their telescopic images and data of Jupiter. These uploads are critical…and will help NASA successfully plan the future of the mission.”

Consider how the founding fathers must have felt penning their names to the Declaration. They knew what they were doing amounted to treason, that they could be tried and hung. They did it anyway. Looking now at the result of hard work and dedication (and nights where you know they ate greasy pizza over desktop keyboards), I can’t help but think the scientists must have asked themselves the same “what if” question.

And we are all the better for it.

The Planetary Society has a full schedule of Juno’s insertion

NASA Eyes On Juno is a fantastic simulation of Juno’s arrival

Happy Fourth of July, fellow ‘Mericans…and Good Luck, Juno


5 Font Artists You Need To Follow

Get your brushes ready, people. These five artists are so talented, they’ll make you want to plunk down all day and practice curling your s’s. Keep your eyes peeled for some great tools to sharpen your lettering skills at the end of the post!


Without further ado, here’s my list of five artists you should absolutely, without doubt, be following!

Holly McCaig 

This chick proves that lettering is a true art form. She doesn’t just stop there, though. Holly also posts about branding, moodboards, and growing a social following. She’s basically a one-stop shop. Absolutely one of my favorites!

Alex Estes @ Prairie Letter Shop

Alex has such an interesting story that takes her from teaching, to opening her Etsy store, and finally to opening Prairie Letter Shop. Her style is light and airy, and so classic. The thing I love the most thought, is Alex’s belief in investing in other letterers. She doesn’t keep things a secret, but rather steps up on a podium and shouts about talent she sees in workshops and online.

The thing about neighbors is that they have a tendency to be pretty different. I love that the second most important commandment after loving God is loving our neighbors. Your neighbors may make choices that make you scratch your head. Your neighbor may share different values, traditions or religious beliefs–or ascribe to none at all. Your neighbor may act, think, sing, dance, eat, and vote differently than you do, but in the end, all of us are called to love each other. I can't imagine the pain and heartache felt by so many families and loved ones, and the LGBT community as a whole, in the wake of one of the most sorrowful days that I can remember. My prayer is that more of us stop to love and grieve and reach out, and above all, be reminded of our responsibility to act in real and tangible love, especially where our neighbors are concerned. ❤️

A post shared by Alex Bray (@prairielettershop) on

Find the rest of my list after the jump!

Continue reading “5 Font Artists You Need To Follow”

How I’m Working Books Back Into My Life

Shocking confession: I’ve kind of fell out of love with reading here recently. I spend so much time stressing out about books at work, that I found it hard to commit and bring one home to, you know, actually read. But that’s all going to change. I hope. And it’s all going to be because of a bookmark.

I once read an article about a professor who loved reading novels. Outside influences took more and more of her attention, but when she finally had time, she found that the idea of reading to be slow. We grow accustomed to a face paced lifestyle, but there is a lot we can gain from slowing down a bit. For one, I agree with Neil Gaiman; there’s nothing wrong with good, ‘ol fashioned escapism. There are about a billion other benefits, but I’m really looking for a stress reliever.


The problem I have is the same as that nameless professor; I find it too goshdarn hard to slow down. But, I’ve got a couple of things up my sleeve that will help me turn off my inner critic. Like:

  1. Timers – the Google Play store is full of them. If I’m not worried about watching the dreadful countdown ’til my shift, it would follow that I will be more willing to even pick up the book in the first place.
  2. Recommendations – I spend a good majority of my time trying to find books for patrons, but when it comes to finding something for me, I’m hopeless. That could possibly be because I’m trying to pitch stories to myself like I would for one of my teens. Expert advice: ask a librarian (who is conveniently not you). They have good recommendations or can point you to some great sites full of people who do nothing but read. I picked up Truthwitch by Susan Dennard at the suggestion of my Uppercase Box Postcard Swamp pal! If you don’t have a librarian in your pocket, you should hop on over to Revitalized Reading! I have the awesome opportunity to work with Danica, and can tell you from personal experience, she gives awesome recs! No, I will never stop shouting about her blog from my little mountain top!
  3. ENJOY IT – That’s a command! No, actually it’s something I used to tell my high schoolers all the time. If you’re reading a book you’re not totally into, you don’t have to finish it. Put it down. Give yourself the permission to be picky. Check out something different. Books are like people; you’ve got a match out there, it just might take a bit to find it.
  4. Pencil It In – Try scheduling time to read. If you have built your day around having free time to read, it will feel more like checking off something on your to-do list, rather than a guilty waste of time.
  5. If all else fails, turn it into a challenge. My problem is tuning out, so I created a sturdy cardboard bookmark with page challenges. When I hit page 20, I’m going to write a bit about my first impressions of characters. And since I’m telling you I’m doing this, there’s also a tincy bit of peer pressure attached.

It took me no more than five minutes to whip this up. Really. Mine is more about practicality, but you could add sparkle, washi tape, anything really that will make this your favorite bookmark. It should be like your little cheerleader whispering in your ear, “It’s only 2:00 AM, you should totally keep reading.”

Easy, peasy. It’s no-nonsense (ish) and will stand up to being thrown around in my tote bag all day.

If cardboard is too spartan for you, don’t worry, I found three other super fabulous bookmark DIY’s that could easily turn into jazzed up reading challenges.

Popsicle Stick Bookmarks

Idiom Bookmarks (links to Anthropologie, but don’t worry, you could totally do this).

Chunky Tassel Bookmarks

What’s your favorite book? Leave your recommendations in the comments and I’ll check them out!

It’s Hump Day, which means we’re halfway to the weekend, folks!

Happy Reading!