Love. This. Quote.

Daniel PInk quote

The massive outline for my book is complete.  I am now in the writing phase.  I show up everyday to write something - from one paragraph to pages of writing.

I am banking on this quote.




Sabbatical Update: Spoiler Alert! I love it!

Fun belt from Sue - Be Awesome!

The title of this post gave it away.  I am loving my sabbatical.  LOVING.  In my Jen style, here's a list of why - some of which will be totally obvious; maybe some a surprise:

  1. I am digging all the research.  DIGGING.  I could read research all day related to the topic I am studying - engaging others (to maximize learning).
  2. I have a 20+ page outline going and I LOVE it.  LOVE.  I've realized there is so much I've wanted to say for years and this book will be the opportunity to seam it all together.
  3. I am adoring working from interesting spaces - my vehicle, my sister and brother-in-law's cool office, with a friend, by myself (technically with Jedi by my feet), and coffee shops.
  4. Speaking of coffee shops, sometimes while I am researching and writing I listen to this.  I love the background noise.  In fact,  I am listening to it now.   Latte, anyone?
  5. I've had to shut up that voice that says, you can't write a book!  You aren't an author! a few times.  That voice pisses me off (yep, I used "pisses" in a blog post).  I actually now think there is a book in all of us.  Everyone single one of us.
  6. This sabbatical is a great metric of my ability to stay focused and on-task.  I would say my skills are fairly good at this until yesterday.   Procrastination visited and she wasn't helpful.  My cure was to take an hour to get out of the house and come back and get back to work.
  7. Work.  It's actually hard to call this sabbatical work because I am enjoying it so much.  Makes me think of this Dear Abby quote I blogged about a while ago.

Right now, this sabbatical feels like a dream job.  DREAM.  I'm digging deeper into a topic I love.  I believe the end product will add value to the world of education.   And I'm getting more in touch with my voice.  

Which apparently has much to say.

Off I go to work...Have a stellar weekend, fantastic blog reader,




After exactly two months of being away from Maryland, we are back.  Back to Merryland (typoed on purpose).  Back to the heat, which is my nemesis.  Back to our normal programming - school, graduate school, work, friends, family, life.  I can't say I'm too, too sad about being back.  After all, I choose to live in Merryland for many awesome reasons.  To bring our summer to a close, our family embarked on a 10-day roadtrip.  Here's were we went....

We started our trip driving north out of Colorado and entering into the gorgeous state of Wyoming. We camped one night in Grand Teton National Park at Colter Bay. Holy moly is this place gorgeous.  I think the Teton Mountain Range is one of the most stunning in the US.  We enjoyed a picnic dinner by the lake's marina before heading to sleep and enduring a thunderstorm most of the night.  Fact:  Mr. UpCyclist and I eloped in the Tetons ten years prior.  It's a special place to us.

Grand Teton National Park - Colter Bay

After a very brief stay in Grand Teton NP (I'll explain at the end why our stays in the National Parks were so brief), we drove up through Yellowstone NP from South to North so we could see the entire park in one day - or at least the main areas of the park accessible by road.  This park was Lil O's favorite.  There is so much to see, do and explore in Yellowstone.  One day is certainly not enough there, but since our roadtrip was more like a taster's roadtrip, we enjoyed the time we could spend.

The geysers in Yellowstone are plentiful.  Their explosions can last for 1-30 minutes - it's pretty entertaining stuff.

Geysers at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is such a diverse park - from hot springs to geysers to gorgeous waterfalls.  I didn't snap any photos, but the wildlife there is crazy - bison (commonly known as buffalo), antelope, bears, and mule deer roam that park freely.

Yellowstone Waterfall

From Yellowstone, we entered the amazing, to-die-for state of Montana.  Seriously, it has taken me two decades to get to that state and it was totally worth the wait.   We spent a night in Bozeman and our entire family fell in love with that town.  Mr. UpCyclist keeps telling Lil O she is welcome to go to college there at Montana State University.  We had a delicious meal at Sweet Chili on Main Street; seriously, it was one of the top ten meals of my life.  We wanted to hike the next day, but the rain kept us indoors.  Thankfully, Bozeman is home to the Museum of the Rockies, which has the largest dinosaur fossil collection in the US.  In fact, the Smithsonian in DC recently acquired a new T-Rex and it is from Bozeman and this museum.

I don't know about you, but on roadtrips, we tend to eat some pretty junkie foods.  Here, Lil O and Jedi are enjoying cool treats (Jedi is munching on a cup of ice).  I love that dog.  He is a roadtrip expert.  By the way, I really want to teach Jedi how to drink from a straw.  Any thoughts on that?

We left Bozeman and heading to Glacier National Park and camped right outside the park at the local KOA (which Lil O said felt like a village community).  That KOA campground had every conceivable amenity - pool, cafe, ice cream store.....  It may have been a bit too "Truman Show" for me.

Glacier National Park was incredible.  Stunning.  Awesome in the biggest way.  I've visited many national parks in the country and Glacier may be the most stunning I've seen.  It is not my favorite (my favorite is Arches National Park by Moab, UT), but it is so divinely stunning that you literally can't speak.  The photo below doesn't do this park justice at all.

Glacier National Park

Mr. UpCyclist biked the 50-mile, very narrow Going to the Sun road through Glacier.  Lil O, Jedi and I drove it.  I'm pretty certain Mr. U earned his nickname that day - again.

After a brief visit to Glacier, we headed to Kalispell and spent two nights there.  The impetus for our roadtrip in the first place was Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC).  They invited me to give a keynote and lead a workshop for their faculty and staff.  Boy, do I like FVCC.   Their staff/faculty is so energetic and youthful.  I loved their spirit and creative programs.  I liked it so much I didn't want to leave.

But, since Montana is super far from Maryland, we did need to keep our roadtrip moving easterly.

Roadtrip activities

We headed Southeast and met Sue in Missoula for a quick hike and doggie playdate.  Isn't that crazy we saw Sue in Montana?  It felt surreal to see a friend (and my coach there).  Next, we kept the surrealism alive and visited dear friends - whom we haven't seen in over a decade - in Billings.  I taught with these friends when I lived on the Navajo Nation.  It was SO good to be back with them.  I adore this couple and their family.  Plus, Lil O learned how to make traditional Navajo fry bread and Mr. UpCyclist learned all about Navajo traditions (he had many curious questions).  Just an aside:  You know how I adored teaching on the Navajo Nation.  If you want to live and teach there, check out this blog post I wrote about it.  I would live there again.

Next, after leaving Billings, we headed east to this iconic place - Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota! Molly was correct. You really only needed 30 minutes there.  I know that sounds cheesy, but once you've seen this PBS documentary on the monument, visiting only requires a short amount of time.

Mt. Rushmore photo

Spending just a bit of time was fine because we wanted to drive Needles Highway in Custer State Park, which was pretty and we saw more bison, but after visiting three national parks at this point, we could have skipped the Needles Highway - especially since the next day we visited Badlands National Park.

Look at this park below?  Badlands National Park looked like something from another planet.  And although I love stunning mountainous parks (like Glacier), I actually prefer parks like the Badlands. They are so unique and so incredibly strange.

Badlands National Park

You could tell the Badlands doesn't have as many visitors as the other parks we visited.  They barely had marked trails for hiking (though the park ranger said I could look online and get some GPS coordinates) and the Badlands two visitor centers were small (unlike Yellowstone's many visitors centers which are massive).  However, I still loved the Badlands.  Although, "if" I had to choose a cluster of national parks to visit in the US, I would gravitate to the national parks in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.  I would do Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon - just in case you were wondering.  Plus, now you know where to find me/us in our RV one day.

After leaving South Dakota and its Badlands, we hightailed it east and then south.  We spent a night in Illinois (but, didn't see any sights as we arrived at 2am!).  The next day, we visited Black Dog Rescue in Lexington, Kentucky.  We really wanted to thank Becca in person as she rescued Jedi almost three years ago.  We are forever grateful for Becca's rescue work.  We also wanted to play with the puppies.

I mean, look at them?

Black Dog Rescue Lexington

Our visit was a good one, but I realized how many puppies need a good home.  You just see two puppies in the photo above.  There were almost 40 puppies and dogs at Black Dog Rescue that need a home.  40.  If you know someone looking for a dog/puppy, consider Becca's rescue.  She is incredible and her love for these dogs and puppies is unending.

Our roadtrip was really a great, whirlwind one.  Our summer in Breckenridge was divine.  My goal was to be in the present moment as much as possible and I actually did it.  I actually just savored the moment and didn't think about much else (hence, my lack of blogging and crafting this summer).

Hot springs at Yellowstone

Thank you for still hanging out with me and Upcycled Education in spite of not blogging much. Thank you for your kind words on Instagram and Facebook.  I'm back in Merryland and ready for what's next, which includes....

Enjoy the last bits of summer....



Love. This. Quote.

Play quote by Dr. Stuart Brown

With a new school year ahead of you, how will you incorporate play (or playfulness) in your classroom - both in a preK-12 and/or your college classroom?

According to Dr. Stuart Brown, an expert on play, play is essential in learning for all ages and stages. Essential!  Funny how most USAmericans think of play as something completely separate from learning or completely separate from working.  What if play co-existed with either of those - learning or working?  Would you believe me if I told you the research says your learners and workers would be more productive?

More productive?  Yep.  We need play.

Now, go and add some playfulness into your students' (or employees') day.   Leave a comment after you do and let me know its impact.

All the best,

Jen - master of play :)


Sometimes You Have to Go Big

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

Recently, Lil O, Mr. UpCyclist, and Jedi hiked a 13er - a mountain over 13,000 feet.  The mountain they hiked, called Bald Mountain, is one our family is very familiar with as we stare at it daily from our balcony in Breckenridge, Colorado.  See?  I think it is so pretty and grand.

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

I'm guessing the summit is obvious to you, but in case you think the ridge line is an optical illusion, here is the highest peak (the summit) circled.  Actually, I just wanted another reason to get fancy with my Studio app on my iPhone.  Do you love that app like I do?

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

Lil O, Mr. UpCyclist and Jedi hiked all the way to the summit.  To date, this is the highest mountain Lil O has summited.

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

Jedi, a pretty seasoned hiker himself, apparently loved all the rocks and chipmunk chasing opportunities.  I love how his coat blends into the environment.  That Mother Nature sure is sophisticated, isn't she?

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

Our family loves cairns - they are those piles of rock that mark trails and summits.  It feels like you are part of this universal communication system when you spot cairns or build them.  I think there is a lot to learn from cairns (I'm feeling another blog post coming on....).

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

This photo of Lil O is one of my favorites.  I love the view and vantage point, but mostly how gingerly her body placement looks while hiking.   Just an aside:  Can you see the Breckenridge Ski Resort in the background?

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

This summer is (or should I say "was" since the summer is ending) the summer of new hikes.  I am way proud of Lil O, Mr. UpCyclist and Jedi's trek up Bald Mountain.

After all, sometimes you have to go big....


PS - My sabbatical is off to a great start.   I will be laptop-free for a bit because of our upcoming road travel, but thankfully, I still like to use paper and pen for writing projects.  It is the happy, old-school in me :)


It's Sabbatical Time

Sabbatical drawing Jen Lara

Time to celebrate and get down to business.  My sabbatical starts today!  As you know, I am a teacher and college professor.  Engaging others in learning is my business.  The book I will begin researching and writing during my sabbatical will be about just that - engaging others.  I won't be actually teaching this semester, just researching and writing.

And writing some more.  And some more.  And then some.

Though I still have about two weeks of travel left this summer (follow my Instagram account to see where I'll be), the drive times will be fantastic for brainstorming chapter themes and mapping out the table of contents.

I certainly will miss teaching this semester, but I'll be back on campus in 2015!

Let's do this.  I'm totally psyched.

All the best,


PS - I am incredibly grateful my college supported my sabbatical request & wild dream.  My dean, director, and department chair have all been over-the-top amazing and my department colleagues are fantastic supporters.  Thank you all!


Why Jedi is a Starbucks Fan

Today's blog post is dedicated to Sue's sweet dog, Chester, who passed away this week after a magical 13 years of life.  This one's for you, sweet Chester!

Puppuccino for Jedi

When Jedi was just a puppy and we were in Breckenridge, our family stopped by Starbucks to get drinks.  Mr. UpCyclist jokingly (or so I thought) asked me to get Jedi a puppuccino.  I ordered our three human drinks, but did not order a puppuccino for Jedi.  I mean, really?

When I came out with the human drinks, Mr. U and Lil O were quite disappointed in me.  What?  You were serious?   So, I marched back in and ordered Jedi a puppuccino - a free cup of whipped cream from Starbucks.

Jedi's been a fan every since and it seems like he's not the only dog who digs a puppuccino (see more photos of other dogs enjoying their puppuccinos here).

Puppuccino for Jedi and Lil O

By the way, I swear Jedi recognizes the Starbucks logo all over the US.

xo to all the amazing dogs out there and remembering Chester,


PS - Breckenridge's Starbucks is rated as one of the top coolest Starbucks in the world by USA Today. See the original article here.  Just another reason to adore Breck.