From the time I left school in the eighth grade till I married at age 25, I worked in my father's construction business (I was also discerning priesthood for about four years). He had come to America from Germany when he was sixteen and so we did things more primitively and traditional than most. I learned to build a house from beginning to end. After the birth of our daughter and subsequently our son, and while Molly finished her master’s and pursued a doctorate, I began homeschooling which has lasted for the last eighteen years, now. This I think is my greatest accomplishment. Over the years I have written children stories and essays, mostly for our entertainment, but also to help guide ourselves through this world. These among other things contributed to us becoming critics of the screen-culture and advocating outdoor and open play. A large part of the reason for starting My Natural Playce was to separate people from the screen. It is why, when Molly was director of the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) I (along with our two children) frequently volunteered there. We three built the children’s play area, the loose parts play area, the fire pit and so many other things. After she left the ELC, I put together a small wood shop in our garage in order to continue this work and experiment. So far, we have learned about alternates to the “treated lumber” phenomenon, joinery that will hold up against the weather and much about European and American folk art (this mostly from Eva-Marie). I grew up in California, married in Indiana, had our kids in Michigan, bought our first house in Pennsylvania and now live in Florida. I took classed from five colleges in three states. I love America!
Poverty and difficulties of life are worthy of the title, 'education'.
Prior to making the transition to the non-profit and government arenas, I taught undergraduate and graduate courses at several universities, including Ave Maria University and Miami University (Ohio), in subjects including human anatomy and physiology, animal behavior, conservation, and education. My volunteer leadership roles have supported the Society for Conservation Biology’s Religion and Conservation working group, the North American Nature Photography Association’s environmental and youth mentorship programs, and the Ecological Society of America’s arts and communications strategies. As a self-taught photographer bringing attention to the small-scale beauty in often overlooked places, I have been recipient of several national and international awards and fellowships, including selection as "1 of 7 emerging females artists from around the country" at the Sundance Film Festival, published in magazines, books and music albums, and my work exhibited in botanic gardens, community centers and in more than 100 households in several countries.
I grew up in New Hampshire, the third oldest of 12 children in a large, poor family, that had a long history of military service and a more recent focus in the liberal arts. I am the daughter of a philosophy professor turned founder of a Catholic book publishing company, Sophia Institute Press, and a highly artistic mother with a high school education, who died when I was 9. Growing up in a household plagued by alcoholism, depression, and financial strain, and a survivor of a high number of adverse childhood experiences, I am a passionate and determined advocate for the healing power of nature's beauty, simple kindness and love, and ultimate belief in God, to persevere and devote one’s life to doing good for others. I am delighted that we have successfully homeschooled our children, now happily 15 and 17, screen-free, air-conditioned-free, and closely connected with their parents and this beautiful earth.
Hello, my name is Eva-Marie. I’ve been interested in needlework for most of my life, albeit that’s not very long. After I learned to crochet, I was drawn into historic methods of sewing, knitting, embroidering and all things in between. Learning these methods led me to read and study fashion history as a whole. This has complimented my knowledge and ability at needlework, which has resulted in my desire to make my own clothes. Also, I make historical costumes for my brother and my reenacting.
My familial ties to Germany (my grandfather came to America when he was 16) and my enjoyment of Classical Ballet has lately lead me to the European folk costumes, designs and the methods of making one of my own. I have always had an interest in American historical costumes and this joined to my enjoyment of camping and hiking in the woods gives me hopes of one day participating with my brother in a Revolutionary War reenactment. My banjo would feel at peace nearer the Appalachians and clear streams where I can put my feet in the water without fear of an alligator or some other toe-eating animal and practice some folk tunes.
My brother and I are nearly continually together, explaining how he has passed some of his interests on to me. He is responsible for my curiosity with black powder firearms, military vehicles and warplanes, especially World War II era. Here my learning of German language plays a useful part.
And then there's Auguste:
Hello, I’m Auguste. I have been deeply interested in the outdoors, firearms, aircraft and military vehicles for a longer time than I have been interested in anything else. As I learned more about these subjects, I naturally began to learn about the time periods and environment that particular weapons or vehicles were operated. Over time, my interest and knowledge began to encompass World War II, the Civil War, the black powder era and the weapons and wars of the twentieth century. My love of armored vehicles and military aircraft has also introduced me to modeling, and I enjoy building, painting, and especially, weathering these models, and they also allow me to expand my knowledge about how a particular plane is built, for example.
However, despite all this talk about military things, what I enjoy perhaps even more than a good airshow would be catching frogs, snakes, turtles, and what have you at a muddy little northern pond. I caught my first snake when I was one and a half years old, and I have continued to further my interest in reptiles and amphibians, something that Florida has been amazing for, as it is crammed with interesting native species, and even more interesting nonnative/invasive ones. Florida has also proved to be much more fertile in the fishing point of view, and inshore fishing has yielded plentiful results, although we unfortunately lack a proper boat capable of going offshore, our only vessel at the time being a leaky 10 ft Jon boat that we are in the process of repairing.
Also, I have a telescope, which I use to observe deep sky objects, the moon and planets.
And finally, (not the last of my hobbies by any means, but merely the last important one) stop motion animation has allowed me to combine not only the previously described hobbies of all things military, models, herpetology, fishing, boating, and astronomy together, but also some of my other hobbies, such as sci-fi movies, Godzilla, RC cars and tanks, dinosaurs, and hunting, and blend them together into a short and highly comical movie.
There is no substitute for nature. When we are out-of-doors, we are surrounded with growing things, things creating things, things living and things dying. Nowhere are there more ironies. Nowhere is there more peace. Beauty and wonder are some of the gifts nature gives copiously and easily but hard earned anywhere else.
The screen has the ability to bruise our souls. The screen has the ability to take most of our time away. The screen is not our friend. The screen is a tool and we must ask ourselves if there are other means of accomplishing a task before reaching for a screen. Joy is necessary for life. When we do those things, which we have unique inherent abilities; we do them well and with joy. When we are surrounded by those whom we love, we are joyful. Face-to-face conversation is the best way to communicate. From face-time to phone call to text and finally email we lose a little bit of our meaning. How easy it is to be misunderstood with emails and text. We promote the idea that unless it is impossible we ought always converse face to face with the person. We promote talking to as many people in our daily life as possible, often they and we are happier for it. The answer is in front of us. Fixing a thing instead of buying a new one, giving our time to what’s most important and creating a novel solution to a problem by using the means or parts we have on hand.
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