NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

Tag: Conservation

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts from a Homeschooled Homeschooling Mom

I sat down to write one post on homeschooling, but soon realized I have a mini-series in the making.  So… this is the first of many posts to come on how we do homeschooling at our house.

There are so many different options for school and no one-sized fits all approach!  Public schools, charter schools, private schools, and homeschools are the most common options for us to choose between in the United States.  The best fit for our family in this season is homeschool.  But like parenting, and so many other things in life, we homeschoolers all have to find the groove that fits our family.  I feel like that is a moving target, especially as my kids grow older and we add more babies to the mix, but that’s part of the fun of life.

I was actually a homeschooled kid for most of my school years.  This was a weird thing in the ’80s and ’90s. When I started public school in high school, no one knew what I meant by “homeschool”.  My peers thought it was  some type of remedial or correctional program – I am serious, they actually thought that!  I think they learned otherwise as I soon rose to the top of the class and graduated salutatorian.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Some hands-on learning at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

I  love how homeschool helped mold me into the person  that I am today.  Homeschooling allowed me to learn at my own speed (which was actually very slow at first – I didn’t read until I was eight!) and pursue things that interested me – which was pretty much everything.

Homeschool instilled in me a universal love of learning that I still have today.  I learned to love every subject, mostly due to my parents’ love of learning and reading.  My mom and dad read out loud to us for years – years longer than was necessary.  I cherish these memories of family reading time, huddled together on the old family room couch, on a family road trip, or around a crackling campfire.  These books opened up so many opportunities for us.  I only hope that our own homeschool can do the same for our family.

When my husband and I had kids, he knew right away that we were going to homeschool them.  In fact, he told everyone that.  (He was never homeschooled himself, but he saw the benefit of it.) I wasn’t so sure, only because I knew how challenging it is to be a homeschool parent and that the majority of their education would fall on me.  However, as our oldest grew older, I started to look into our options.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

A field trip to the local zoo – the kids love any chance to see animals up close!

Our local schools are good schools and the teachers and administration are very good people, so I was not concerned there.  However, as I saw my young and very impressionable son interacting with other kids at the park, I noticed some things I did not like.  He learned to copy other children’s behavior, especially bigger “cool” kids, just from an hour or two at the park.  And that behavior was more “Lord of the Flies” than it was good Sunday School kid.  I didn’t like it.

My husband and I knew that we wanted to be the biggest influences of our children, not some cool kid on the playground.  We wanted to know what was going on with them everyday and to be able to pour life and love and grace into them throughout the school day.

I knew from my oldest’s personality and learning style that going to public school would be tough on him and we decided when he was only three and a half that homeschool would be the best thing for him.  We have not regretted it at all.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Making a recycling truck out of recycled boxes during a unit on recycling.

Homeschooling gives us the ability to allow our kids time to be kids.  At most schools today, kids are not allowed the time to just play that they need for their cognitive development.  Many, if not most, schools have all-day kindergarten.  Homeschooling has let my kids be kids.  Kindergarten work takes 1-2 hours of our day and the rest of the day can be spent exploring nature, running around, building with Legos, and just letting their imaginations go!

I love that my little boys are not made to feel bad or be punished for being wiggly kids.  My kids don’t come home from school with a “frowny face” for not being able to sit still or wrestling with another kid.  I can give them the time they need to wiggle and move and wrestle.  For most little boys, and many little girls, this is normal and not something to be punished or medicated.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Our first day of homeschool EVER! The boys had some fun with math and trains practicing numbers, addition, and subtraction.

Now that I have a third grader, we spend more than 2 hours a day doing school, but it is still much shorter than the time his peers spend in public school.  He is starting to be able to work independently, for a short time, and I love to see how his brain is developing.  His attention to detail with science and history just astound me.  I am so honored to be able to spend this time with him and see him grow into the man he will become.

Another reason homeschooling fits our family is because it allows my kids to have a very special and tight bond.  Although my kids all have friends their ages, they are also very best friends with each other.  And although they do fight on occasion, as all kids do, for the most part, they get along very well.

It was the same for me and my siblings growing up.  If we weren’t friends with each other, who were we going to play with during the day?  Sure, we had other friends, but not “at school” with us.  I think the sibling bond is one that should be cherished and nurtured.  Siblings just tolerating each other, fighting constantly, and making each other miserable is just not acceptable.  We work hard to maintain that bond between them.  It is worth preserving.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Becoming Jr Rangers at Lassen Volcanic National Park

The final reason we have chosen to homeschool is because we can integrate our faith into our daily studies.  We open each day with a prayer, allow the kids to take turns praying, and practice Bible verses.  And although we don’t use Christian curriculum (more on that in my curriculum post coming soon), I make sure to integrate our faith whenever I can – which is often!  The opportunities abound to share the importance of God with our kids and I try to be intentional to take these opportunities when they come up.

So, were you homeschooled or is it something that you have chosen for your children?

I’d love to hear about what works best for your family.

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Why I don’t want a “successful” blog

You may have noticed that things have been quiet on the blog for the last couple of weeks and I have not posted anything new.  I wanted to apologize to my loyal readers (Hi, Mom, Dad, and Grandma!) and let you in on the why…

I started this website because I love to write (and had not written for fun in way too long) and I love to teach and share; I wanted a place to share my passions and I have really loved this new experience.  I loved being a mom and a teacher and I loved my life, but I wanted an outlet – something that was just mine – to be able to share my heart.  This blog is the result of that longing.

However, I also did a lot of research on how to make a blog successful (i.e. attracting large numbers of visitors and making an income) and I started to feel very overwhelmed.  I spent a good amount of time trying to make sense of the world of successful blogging and the more I read, the more I felt in over my head.  I am not a business woman and I have no desire to sell anything.  In fact, I want people to buy and consume less, yet the world of “successful” (read money making) blogs is about selling products and essentially become an advertiser.  Annoying popups and flashy ads make money.  I started to feel like I needed a degree in marketing and business to be successful.  I felt like I needed to be flashy and impressive to draw in an audience and the whole thing was making me feel sick to my stomach and very uncomfortable.  I started to stress about the number of visitors on my website and likes on my Facebook page and as my anxiety grew, I realized I needed to take a step back to remember who I am and why I started a blog in the first place.amy crop

I am a teacher at heart and an encourager.  I believe in living a simple and lighter footprint life by consuming less and loving others more.  I love to eat healthy, get outside into nature, and create sugar-free recipes. I want to encourage people who find my site no matter where they are in life.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think there is anything wrong with monetizing a blog and working hard to increase an audience. Most of the bloggers I love are monetized and it does not bother me, but it just isn’t for me.  I may occasionally promote a product that I really, really love or become an affiliate of a company that I truly respect and admire (like Trim Healthy Mama, the one company I am affiliated with currently), but that is not why I started this blog and it is not what makes me happy.  

The second reason I have stepped back a bit at this time is I am finding it hard to get back on track after my miscarriage. Everyone told me to take time to heal and grieve and process the loss.  But, I am the type of person that wants to jump back into everything immediately – I’m fine, I’m strong, etc. – but when I tried, I just felt overwhelmed and I cried – a lot.  So I have had to take some time to quiet my soul and to allow myself space and time to heal.  I am getting there, but I am not there yet…selfie

I will get back to writing some posts soon, I promise. I have several in the works currently.  Plus, I have been listening to some great audio books recently and am feeling inspired to write some more about living simply.  I will also be writing more about our journey to live greener lives with less negative impact.  And, of course, there will be more recipes and healthy living tips.  And, hopefully, some great guest posts, as well!

This blog has only been around for three short months, but I am blessed beyond measure with the number of shares and pins my posts have gotten and the positive feedback I have received.

Thank you for reading, my friend,

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Smaller Footprint Challenge #1: Saying goodbye to bottled water

The first small change with a big impact I am suggesting for the Smaller Footprint Challenge is giving up bottled water.   (If you want to know why, as Christians, this is something we care about, read this.) This is actually something that our family has done for a long time, but only recently have I discovered what a big difference this one small change really makes…

So… What’s so bad about bottled water?

On the surface, bottled water may seem healthy and harmless enough – and it really is when you compare it to drinks full of high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals, and empty calories.  Water is arguably the best and healthiest thing to drink and it is the beverage of choice at our house.  Water bottles are made of plastic, but they can be recycled…so what is the big deal?

Hmm… let’s take a closer look. Did you know that in the USA alone, we throw away 60 million water bottles per day (Go Green, Save Green)?  Considering all of those bottles could be recycled, that is astounding.  The energy that goes into making a single one of those water bottles is being tossed out, 60 million times today!  Each 1 liter bottle (most commonly made from PET plastic) is made from 100 ml of crude oil,  1.5 cubic feet of natural gas (often from “fracking” which creates a world of environmental problems), and 83 grams of coal (Detrashed Zero Waste Living).  If Americans gave up disposable plastic water bottles (not even counting other plastic bottles) the savings of crude oil alone (17 million barrels of fuel per year) would be enough fuel to power 1.3 million cars annually (Ban the Bottle)!  If we add the fuel used to transport the plastic bottles to be filled and then transported to the store, the number gets even higher!  Considering the fossil fuel crisis we always seem to be fighting about, that seems like a pretty easy way to free up some resources!

Okay, okay – so each plastic bottle takes energy to make, but as long as I recycle it, it’s all okay, right?

Recycling plastic bottles is a very good thing and I am SO glad that we have the ability to do it.  However, there is a couple problems with recycling plastics.  The first is that people really don’t do it that much… About 23% of plastic is recycled across our nation. Even in a “progressive” recycling state like California, where I live, the recycling rate is a very sad 40% (Detrashed Zero Waste Living).  Most other states are even lower…  If recycling is not convenient, people often will not do it.  I have fished bottles out of trash cans to put in the recycling bin that was 10 feet away – in fact, some of my friends in high school would torment me by tossing recyclables in the trash just to see me freak out and dig through the bin… (gotta love how mature high schoolers can be…)

Smaller Footprint Challenge: Saying goodbye to bottled water - NatureAmy.com

If a water bottle is not recycled or thrown away, it will most likely find its way to the ocean…

However, just recycling your bottle does not solve the problem. Much of the negative environmental impact of each bottle is created during manufacturing.  Recycling plastics is an intensive process and only about 10% of the energy originally used to make the bottle is recovered.  The process also degrades the plastic, so it can no longer be made into water bottles, but instead is used for other things.  Recycling also takes more energy and a lot of water. Recycling helps – please do it – but it does not solve the problem.

But I can’t give up bottled water. It is so much healthier than tap water.

Maybe, maybe not… Did you know that two of the most popular bottled water brands (Dasani and Aquafina) are actually made from purified municipal water(Ban the Bottle)? Some brands are actually mountain spring water, but many are not. A filter at home (we use one built into our refrigerator – of course, make sure to replace the filter periodically) will do the same thing those expensive water bottles will do for fractions of pennies on the dollar!  You can buy water filter pitchers or a filter system that hooks to your faucet quite inexpensively.  If you are really concerned that even filtering your water won’t make it palatable, you can still buy your water, just get a couple large 5-gallon containers and refill them for only $1.25 at most grocery stores.  Or you may consider a company that delivers the water and reuses the containers.

Drink water and think ahead

Please drink water and drink enough water throughout the day, but try to bring your own reusable water bottle from home instead.  Glass and stainless steal options are great, and quite inexpensive.  We also use plastic Nalgene bottles, which are BPA free. However, many people choose to avoid plastics completely, because of the potential carcinogens associated with them, which I completely understand.  I try to use glass around the house, but I just love my Nalgene bottles for hiking and backpacking, plus they are kid friendly. (Anyone else have an expensive glass bottle shattered by their toddler?)

Encourage your friends and co-workers to also say “goodbye” to that bottled water bad guy – in fact, please share this article with them (shameless self promotion, I know!)  Let’s spread the word and save our country millions of water bottles being thrown away today.  Let’s reach for the slightly less convenient option and think ahead.  But if you do find yourself thirsty and in need of some water, but without your trusty water bottle friend, go ahead and purchase some bottled water – it is much healthier for you than a coke – just remember to recycle it afterward!

Please note: Although it may seem like a good thing to refill disposable plastic bottles over and over as a cheap water bottle and a great way to re-use – don’t do it! Most plastic water bottles are made of plastic that is not made to be reused.  When you reuse it, especially over time, the plastic degrades, potentially leaching harmful chemicals from the degraded plastic into your water – not a happy thought!  Better to be safe. Use a reusable water bottle instead – glass and stainless steal are considered the safest options.

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paperless-kitchenUp next: Our next small change that makes a big difference in this Smaller Footprint Challenge: A Paperless Kitchen

 

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The Challenge: Smaller footprint, larger hand print

All people have a responsibility to care for God’s creation and this earth; it is the first instruction God gave man (Genesis 1:26, 2:15) and part of the greatest commandments to both love God and others.  (Read more about this here.) I want to do that, but sometimes I feel like it is just too much with the constant pressures of this fast paced world.  Perhaps you are like me and want to find ways to live greener with a lighter footprint (negative impact) and a larger hand print (positive influence) on our world, but are at a loss of how to do it.

This series is a chronicling of how our family is attempting to do just that – lessen our impact and live in a way that blesses God and others.  You are probably familiar with the phrase “leave this place better than you found it.”  I know my parents drilled that into me whenever camping or visiting friends and I am guilty of saying the same things to my kids and students.  That is a great philosophy for life. But wherever we go, we make footprints – even just existing on the planet creates an impact. That is not a bad thing – that is just a reality of life. I know that I will have both a positive and a negative impact on my environment, my neighborhood, family, community, planet… My hope is to increase the positive while decreasing the negative, and, in so doing, glorify God.

The Challenge to strive for excellence in how we treat creation - one small change at a time.There are many things our family already does to live a greener, lighter footprint, life, but there are so many more things we can, and should, do.  I often justify our “less than perfect but better than average” way of life by saying that “at least I am better than so-and-so”.  I don’t know about you, but I am tired of comparing myself to others and being merely “better than average”.  That is no way to live my life! I want to run this race of life with excellence in all that I do.  I know I will be far from perfect and  will make many, many mistakes, but unless I strive for excellence, I will continue to live a complacent life in “better than average” land.

THE CHALLENGE

The challenge I am extending to you, dear reader, is to join my family on this adventure.  Let’s stop coasting through life being somewhat better than average.  I don’t want to live my life that way.  I want to – I need to – be constantly learning, improving, striving to be more.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV

We are adopting new habits and trying some new ways of doing things in our household this year. Hopefully these things will inspire you to follow in our smaller footsteps.  Because honestly, my one family making a few changes isn’t going to make a big difference overall. Unless… if we all start to adopt small changes, one step at a time, these small things will add up and change our world.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

So… who’s with me?

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bottledwaterCheck out: The first small change with a very big impact – saying goodbye to disposable bottled water…

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Why Christians should be the best environmentalists

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” Psalm 24:1-2 NIV

I recently spoke to a group of Christian college students about why they should care for God’s creation. The students were interested and engaged and there were several thought provoking questions. One student in particular made me really stop and think…

This young woman was very concerned about the poor. Like many Christian college students, she had spent time in third world countries on mission trips and had seen the suffering first hand, as I have.

“Caring for creation is a good thing,” she said, “but it’s not the most important.” She went on to say how the poor cannot stop to think about how their actions may be affecting the environment – they are simply trying to survive.  Caring for the poor is certainly a higher priority than the environment… A Christian Call to Environmental Action

Ben Lowe, the Senior Director of Outreach with the Evangelical Environmental Network, had a similar take on protecting the environment as a teen. When asked if he would pursue an environmental degree, he stated, “I’m a Christian – I have to do something that matters more than that.” (Watch his speech  “The Gospel Call to Creation Care” here. You won’t be disappointed.)

So, how can I be a Christian and focus so much on the state of our world – on caring for God’s creation? Does that mean that I care less for people and for their salvation?

Absolutely not! Let’s take a look at scripture to see why I believe this.

In the book of Genesis, the very first instruction that God gave to man was to care for creation. In Genesis 1 God created man for the purpose of ruling over the other creation.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26 NIV

Some people have argued that this “ruling” over creation gives people the right to abuse the earth and treat it in whatever way we want – giving us license to use the earth’s resources selfishly and without concern for others. This is not so. The command to rule was given to a sinless world and carried none of the negative connotations that the word now holds. When God made humans rulers of creation, He did not mean we were to act like tyrants or abusive slave owners. No, we are to rule righteously in a way that serves and protects and cherishes creation – just as Christ rules in our lives. We were given the highest position in creation and are the image bearers of God – as such, we have the greatest consequence for ignoring God’s command.

But Jesus said that the greatest commands are to love God and others. How does recycling, picking up trash, and using less energy accomplish those things? Isn’t that focusing on the material world and not the spiritual?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matt. 22: 37-39 NIV

We cannot love God with all our being – all that we are – without also loving that which He created – everything from the silent flower to the unborn baby. In the same way, since we all live on this interconnected planet, I cannot truly love my neighbor – all of humanity – without doing what God first commanded man to do – care for His creation.

You see, our neighbors, and especially our poorest neighbors, are affected by our actions. The poorest people on the planet, whether in the slums of India or the streets of San Francisco, are the ones most affected by the degradation of our planet. Half a million people die from polluted drinking water per year, according to the World Health Organization – still more die from air pollution, starvation, and disease. Climate change is causing drought, famines, and flooding. People who once fed their families from the land are unable to do it anymore.

Caring for the poor by caring for the earth

To address my student’s concerns, yes, the poor family struggling to provide cannot focus on whether their actions are causing pollution. They must, and should, focus on the immediate need of feeding their family. But, we can focus on those things for them. If we make an effort to live more simply, to use less energy, to not over consume the earth’s resources – if we make an effort to recycle and compost and pollute less – if we are supporting ministries and organizations that work to make things better, we are doing things to help the poor. We are glorifying God with our actions.

When it comes down to it, Christians should be on the forefront of the environmental movement. Because of our love for our Creator, we have more reason to care for creation than anyone. By doing so, we are not only a witness to God’s love for creation, but also to our love for Him and for our fellow man.

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Glitter in the Snow

We reached the popular sledding hill and bundled up head to toe.  We Californians are wimps when it comes to the cold and 25 degrees Fahrenheit was a bit too chilly for us.  Nevertheless, we tumbled out of the car and headed up the hill ready for some snowy fun.

I stayed at the bottom of the hill with the baby as my hubby took the boys up the slope with the sleds.  My easily distracted five-year-old did not make it very far before he stopped in his tracks, dropped to his knees, and dug at something hidden in the snow. Soon, he jumped up and ran down the hill to me, obviously overjoyed.

Children are the hope for the future and light in the darkness. - NatureAmy.com

“Look! Glitter!”

“What’re you doing, Buddy?” I asked as he thrust his treasure into my gloved hands.

“Mommy, look!  I found glitter!” he gushed – proud of himself.

Litter, aka trash, or “glitter” to my five year old, is unfortunately common on this popular hillside.  I was proud of my eco-minded child who could not pass up litter in the wilderness without picking it up – no matter the call of the snowy hillside. Definitely a tree-hugging parent’s dream.  I quickly praised his efforts.  Beaming, he went on a hunt for more “glitter” and kept returning to me with more trash to fill my jacket pockets.

As I was reflecting on this moment, I realized how many more lessons there are in this precious story than just a child’s enthusiasm to cleanup our planet.

Everywhere we turn today we are reminded how terribly dark this world is… The media bombards us with stories of murder, terrorism, famine, disease – the list is endless… As Christians, we are called to be light in the midst of the darkness.  But I, for one, sometimes feel like I would rather stay in my safe little house and shut out the world around me.  The darkness is scary, so instead I sometimes want to hide in the face of it all. But then I am reminded of the words of Jesus

Does the darkness of the world seem to be too much? Here is some hope - some glitter - in the dark. - Natureamy.com“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. “  Matthew 5: 14-15

Am I guilty of doing just that?  Hiding my light out of fear of the darkness around?

As a mother, I know the idea of bringing an innocent child into this scary world can seem bleak. I know many people who have hesitated to have children – or more children – for this reason.  However, the very reason we should have kids is because of the darkness.  Without children who love God and others and want to make the world a better place, there is less hope – there is less light – less glitter in the dark.

Children are the hope for the future and light in the darkness. - NatureAmy.com

Our makeshift mittens… at least she kept them on!

The ironic thing is, by hiding my light, or keeping my kids secluded and safe at home, I only bring the darkness into my own home. 

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Spread some glitter to lighten the darkness in the world around you.  It does not have to be hard – even picking up litter on a hillside is a start.  If we all take the time to peak out and shine our light, then one-by-one, we will make the world a brighter place.

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Welcome Friends

Welcome Friends,

I’m Amy, a Jesus loving, somewhat crunchy, homeschooling mama of three.  I am trying to find the balance between living healthy and environmentally responsibly in this fast paced materially driven world – without going crazy in the process.  I don’t do everything right – my kids eat the occasional packet of Top Ramen or (gasp) hot dog.  I lose patience with them more than I would care to admit, and I don’t buy everything organic.

Recently I have been inspired to step up our “green”.  I generally rationalize our less than perfect environmental impact by saying that at least we are better than most.  We recycle, try to buy from bulk bins to reduce packaging, bring our own grocery bags, buy local and/or organic whenever we can afford it, cloth diaper, turn off the lights and conserve water.  We live in a small house and have a low PG&E bill.  But there are so many things we could do better.  This is our journey to step up and do more.

What you will find at NatureAmy:

A safe, encouraging, and helpful environment where  moms parents people can be encouraged to live healthier and more sustainable lives.  I am an encourager – it is who I am and what I do.  There is no judgment here.  None of us are perfect – far from it – but we can help each other along the way. My family is on a journey to lessen our impact and increase our health and you are invited to join us in the process.  But we are busy, my husband works long hours, and I am NOT SuperWoman.  I will be sharing how we do things without going crazy in the process…hopefully…

I will share

  • Tips we already do to live greener and the new things we incorporate along the way.
  • My healthy eating journey on Trim Healthy Mama and how I have kicked my sugar addiction for good.
  • Healthy sugar-free recipes the whole family will love.
  • DIY crafts using reclaimed wood and things you have around the house.
  • Hiking and camping with kids.
  • Fun field trips and activities for kids.
  • My attempt to start running (with cantankerous  knees – yikes!)
  • Tips for simplifying, reducing, and decluttering. (This does not come naturally for me! So if it is hard for you, too, I understand!)

What you will NOT find on NatureAmy:

  • Popular culture – unless it has to do with Star Wars, we probably don’t know about it.
  • Politics – enough said.
  • Fashion and makeup advice – my idea of fashion is a quality pair of jeans and my tennis shoes!
  • Home decorating – unless it is a fun DIY

Thanks for joining me in this great adventure I call life!

I hope you enjoy the journey,

 

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