Four Eyes: by Allie Farris


I have horrible vision.  Vision in the literal sense, that is. My vision for making America "great again" on the other hand is second to none.

My eyesight is particularly poor in my left eye.  This was discovered in elementary school when I got a black eye from catching a Foxtail Ball with my face.  My astigmatism is so profound that I have never been able to wear contacts.   Unfortunately for my shins, I've never really warmed to the idea of wearing glasses on a regular basis either, and therefore spatial awareness has never really been my thing.  

I opt to instead magnify when reading from screens and to see the rest of the world in a bit of a blur, my own personal Instagram filter.  I kind of like it that way.  That is, except for on the rare occasions that I happen to catch my own reflection with my glasses on.  It is then that I realize the serious damage that squinting so consistently is doing to the skin on my face....and also how desperately I need to pluck my eyebrows, and how, "Wow! this counter could really stand to be wiped off."

Out of sight out of mind.

It's times like that when I begin to think my resistance to wearing glasses possibly stems from just having never found the right pair, and that maybe it's worth another attempt.

As anyone who wears glasses knows, it is very difficult to try on sample glasses with the temporary fake plastic lenses when your actual lenses feel much heavier and thus impact how the frames will actually fit and feel.  Plus, there's the fact that you are looking at yourself in "glasses" without the added perk of having real glasses on... being able to see

This has consistently resulted in me feeling "meh" about nearly every pair of glasses I've ever had. This is an issue because my eyeglasses typically cost approximately one arm and one leg. The high price is due in large part to the fact that the vision in my left eye is about 6x worse than the vision in my right eye and therefore I need to order the absolute thinnest lenses to avoid the appearance of a permanent Popeye expression; and althoughTarget clearance clothes makes up a large portion of my closet, when it comes to eyewear I am somehow always drawn to the Burberrys and the.... other fancy brand names that I can't even think of because that's how much of a style expert I am. 

Eyeglasses Online 

Last year I tried to order from the hip new affordable site, Warby Parker, but after submitting my order, a customer service rep. contacted me to report that my vision was too poor for any of their frames. So I opted again for the LensCrafters route, and again was feeling "meh" with the results.

Recently, I stumbled upon, a similar online website for buying affordable eyeglasses.  There return policy seemed really great, and their frames looked cute and very affordable so I scrolled through the numerous options before landing on the perfect tortoise shell plastic frames.  I saw no disclaimers for specific vision prescriptions and placed my order only to hear quickly from their customer service representative who reported that my selection was not an option for my prescription.   This time however, rather than reject me altogether, they provided me with three specifications which included a specific frame-width, and that they must be full-framed and wire-rimmed. 

Not exactly what I had in mind.  

The upload-a-photo option didn't exactly do much to sway my opinion either: 


Regardless, the price was so inexpensive, so I bit the bullet and ordered them.  Upon their arrival, the at-home do I like these!? selfie binge-fest began.

Same couch, different day

Let's see how they look from this angle, and do they go well with my KC Royals garb?    
Trick question. obviously they do. Everything goes with KC Royals blue.


Now, how about this exact same angle, on the same couch with the same blanket on a different day, but now I'm holding a glass of wine....  Much better


Honestly, I'm not sold on the appearance of these frames, but I can say that they are the clearest/lightest (and cheapest by about $400) glasses that I have ever had, and because of that, I'll do my best to hone a John Lennon vibe to go with these new circular wire frames.

15% off your first order

Lastly: If you check out eyebuydirect, you should probably use the code: IFX2ZX1X5W at checkout to save 15% on your first purchase.   


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A Heart To Help by Allie Farris


Awhile back I watched the entire 4 1/2 hour broadcast on CSPAN of the Planned Parenthood President, Cecile Richards, testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (here). It was my first experience watching CSPAN, and it was surprisingly very entertaining.  The dramatic accusations and passive aggressive banter was no doubt comparable to a Real Housewives episode.  Although this hearing conjured up many thoughts and opinions, I'll stay away from most of those for now and instead focus on one particular aspect of the hearing.  Cecile Richards was sufficiently grilled by the republicans, especially Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  At one point, he brought up Ms. Richards salary.  A salary that he clearly felt was far too large.

The next morning I overheard someone saying how they heard on the morning news that Cecile Richards makes over $500k, and "Can you believe that?! Think how much more help she could be providing to others if she wasn't so greedy and would just take a lower salary."

The more I thought about this, the more frustrated I became.  Why is it that if you have a heart for helping others, our society feels that you yourself must live on very little? Dan Polotta's TEDTalk speaks so perfectly to this point:

Why have our breast cancer charities not come close to finding a cure for breast cancer, or our homeless charities not come close to ending homelessness in any major city? Why has poverty remained stuck at 12 percent of the U.S. population for 40 years?

And the answer is, these social problems are massive in scale, our organizations are tiny up against them, and we have a belief system that keeps them tiny. We have two rulebooks. We have one for the nonprofit sector, and one for the rest of the economic world. It’s an apartheid, and it discriminates against the nonprofit sector in five different areas, the first being compensation.

So in the for-profit sector, the more value you produce, the more money you can make. But we don’t like nonprofits to use money to incentivize people to produce more in social service. We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people. Interestingly, we don’t have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money not helping other people. You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.
— Dan Pallotta, The way we think about charity is dead wrong

When looking through the CNN article for lowest paid college majors, I read:

While students may want to follow their hearts, do what they’re passionate about, and make a difference in the world, their bank accounts may suffer. The report, which looked at annual wages for 137 college majors, found that over the course of a career, the salary difference between the lowest- and highest-paying majors amounted to $3.4 million dollars.
— CNN Money "10 Lowest-Paying College Majors"


Can you please take note of how many times various forms of "education" are listed above?  If you would like a really special treat, take a second and read through some of the comments.  Unfortunately, it proves my point that much further.  "Dontbefooled" would like you to know that ACTUALLY teachers get like, a lot of vacation time, and the commenter two spots below would like you the know that educators put in much shorter work weeks... so you know, it all evens out.

I won't go too far down this rabbit hole, but just a few comments to the above points that I hear ALL THE TIME:

  • The educators I know arrive early and stay late.  Sometimes for planning purposes, but often for meetings (on specific kids who are struggling) or with worried parents.  Their planning periods are usually consumed with meetings as well.  So then they go home, spend time with their own families, and then finally find the time to grade papers and make lesson plans.  I work in education, and can easily put in a 60 hours on a slow week.
  • I'm sick of hearing how awesome a teacher's schedule is.  You know what the vast majority of educators that I know do during the summer?  They work. If their school has funding for summer school, then they work there or they get part-time jobs to make ends meet because they are one of the LOWEST PAID college majors, and can't afford to support their own families if they don't.

Two separate rule books

To the people that dedicate their lives to helping others, we as a nation repeatedly say, "Dedicating your professional life to this cause isn't enough, You must also sacrifice your own livelihood, and your ability to potentially provide for yourself and your own family.  If you are a "giver" then we expect that you give everything and take nothing."

I was so impressed by Cecile Richards' unwavering professionalism, and cannot imagine the overwhelming responsibility that comes with assisting in running such a large organization. Not to mention that in addition to their responsibilities they also must deal with death threats and violent acts.  Why shouldn't she make over 500K?  Hell, why shouldn't she make more?  How is it that difficult to understand that in order to make money for causes you have to spend money.  

Do we as a nation suggest that athletes, actors, or CEOs of for-profit organizations should make less than what they do for what they do? 

Take a moment to thumb through our highest paid athletes.  Can you guess which athlete made $300 million last year?  Or thumb through the Highest paid CEO's and see who made (according to Forbes) $131.2 million total annual compensation? 

My argument is not that you shouldn't be able to earn a ridiculously large amount of money, obviously this is 'merica, and that's the American Dream. My point is only that the same news media and the same water cooler commenters will announce the salaries of the highest-paid athletes with a smile and a shake of the head stating, "Wow! Wouldn't that be nice!"  Which is not exactly the same accusing tone that might suggest their salaries could and should be better used.  It's quite the opposite.  We instead are in awe of athletes/singers/actors who stop by a children's hospital.  We say, "Oh wow! look at this star visiting sick kids in hospitals!  They are such an amazing person!"  

But if you spend your life WORKING to support a great cause then your salary better be what "we" think it should be, and your charitable organization better allocate funds with 99.9% of our donations going "towards the cause."    

And we think of this as our system of ethics, but what we don’t realize is that this system has a powerful side effect, which is: It gives a really stark, mutually exclusive choice between doing very well for yourself and your family OR doing good for the world,
— Dan Pallotta, The Way We Think About Charity Is Dead Wrong


I understand that issues such as these are larger and far more complex than the words I've written here today.  Nonetheless, my idealistic self still hopes for a day when helping professions aren't synonymous with self-sacrifice.  


I'm stepping down from my soap box now. 

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I Am Malala by Allie Farris

Education is very important to me.  

I think this is partially the case because my mother wanted it to be important to me.  Neither my mother nor my father attended college, but that did not stop my mom from spending tireless hours with me as a young child focused on learning.  Every evening she would quiz me on my spelling words, assist me on class projects, support my speech therapy goals with flashcards so that I no longer said my "r's" and "s's" incorrectly, and she would also cry alongside me as I struggled through the hours it took for me to complete and comprehend the math problems I'd been assigned.  Remembering specific facts has always been difficult for me, so she developed "workarounds" to help with my recall.  I still remember the majority of my state capitals because of the silly things she would come up with (e.g., Mom: "Aunt Joy-sie sounds like Boise, and Joy-sie likes to eat potatoes."  Me:  "Boise, Idaho!").  Somehow that worked.

I am very lucky to have had her, but obviously there are thousands of mothers and fathers in our country who lack the resources and skills to provide for their own children in the way that she was able to provide for me. There are organizations that work towards enhancing the capacities of these parents, and I greatly wish for their expansion.  I believe so strongly that high-quality education is an equalizer and can end the seemingly never-ending familial cycles of poverty.  It is so vitally important for the overall welfare of our nation to educate children and to educate them early

Our nation's issues surrounding education are minute compared to that of others. Have you read I Am Malala?     Malala was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Price on December 10th, 2014.  Malala accepted the prize on behalf of the world's children and continues to work for educational rights of all children.  Upon further investigation, I learned that the poorest girls in the world get an average of only 3 years of education, yet with only one extra year of education they can earn 20% more as an adult.  I learned that child marriage, harassment, and violence are key reasons that girls drop out of school early.  I learned that educated girls invest 90% of their income back in their family (compared to 30% by men), and a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5 and two times as likely to go to school.  I learned that less than 20 percent of girls in developing countries complete lower secondary school (8th or 9th grade) yet girls with 8 years of education are four times less likely to be married as a child. 

If you are interested, I would encourage you to visit and sighn up to stand #withMalala. You could also check out the National Bestseller: 

The Book(s)

I just purchased the young-adult version as a gift for the 6th grade girl that I mentor:

Malala Binge-Session

I've spent my morning binge-watching and reading everything Malala-related, including her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, and the trailer for the He Named Me Malala Documentary (playing in select theatres now).  After reading the book, it was difficult to keep a dry eye as I watched the pride in her father's eyes as she spoke to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. 

I'll end with a quote from the October 2013 Washington Post Book Review by Marie Arana:

Ask social scientists how to end global poverty, and they will tell you: Educate girls. Capture them in that fleeting window between the ages of 10 and 14, give them an education, and watch a community change: Per capita income goes up, infant mortality goes down, the rate of economic growth increases, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection falls. Child marriage becomes less common, as does child labor. Educated mothers tend to educate their children. They tend to be more frugal with family money. Last year, the World Bank reckoned that Kenya’s illiterate girls, if educated, could boost that country’s economy by $27 billion in the course of a lifetime.

Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls are its greatest resource. Educating them, as economist Lawrence Summers once said, “may be the single highest-return investment available in the developing world.
— Marie Arana, Washington Post Book Review: ‘I Am Malala’ by Malala Yousafzai

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Learning To Surf: Mind Full or Mindful? by Allie Farris

Mindfulness has been an area of high interest for me as of late.  According to Dr. Amy Saltzman, author of A Still Quiet Mind, Mindfulness is, "the universal human capacity for paying attention with kindness and curiosity."  Eline Snel, author of Sitting Still Like a Frog:  Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and their parents) defines Mindfulness as, "nothing other than present-moment awareness, an open and friendly willingness to understand what is going on in and around you.  It means living in the present moment without judging or ignoring anything or getting carried away by the pressures of everyday life." 

You Cannot Stop the Waves

A favorite passage of mine by Eline Snel discusses this with a fantastic metaphor.

You cannot control the sea.  You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf on them.  This is the central idea underlying mindfulness practice.  People have problems.  Such is life. We all experience sadness and stress and there are always things we simply have to deal with.

When you are really present in such situations in life, without supressing anything or simply wishing that they weren't happening, you can see what might be needed.  When you focus your attention and see the "waves" for what they really are, you can make better-informed choices and act accordingly.  At such moments you become aware of your irritation as soon as it rears its head.  And once you realize that you have run out of patience or that you are tempted to hit someone, you have a choice.  You are then less likely to get carried away by either your own emotions or those of others.  You can pause, wait, take a breather; look at the situation and note what you are feeling, thinking, or wanting to do.  You become aware of the forces that whip up the waves, aware of your tendency to react automatically, and perhaps find that you are less preoccupied with how the waves "should have been."  (Sitting Like A Frog, pg. 10-11)

Like all things in life, the ability to reign in your thoughts to the present moment takes practice. A lot of practice.  It's a skill that many, if not all, adults (and children) struggle with, myself included.  Maybe you've heard of the phrase amygdala hijack?  A term coined by author and psychologist Daniel Goleman. This speaks to what happens when we are emotionally triggered and let the 'waves' of intense emotion carry us out to sea.  It's when this happens that we say and do things that we later wish we hadn't. 

Sticking with the wave metaphor.  Have you watched how surfers sit out in the ocean on their boards waiting for the perfect wave to approach? They use all of their senses to feel a wave coming and then watch as it rolls below them and continues toward the shore. With practice, you can do the same with your emotions.  

A personal experience. Recently, my husband said something that made me really angry.  I paused and without even meaning to, began paying attention to my body.  I could feel the tightness in my chest, how my skin became hot, how my mind became a tangle of wires. The words that formed in my mind were far more snarky and rude than what he had said to me.  The pause I took to focus on how my body felt was enough for me to see the wave for what it was.  I responded instead by saying something to the effect of, "I'm going to take a shower and get ready" in a terse tone. I walked upstairs, and as I did I began thinking of six rude things that I could have said. Once I reached the bathroom door I thought, Whatever. Forget this. I'm letting him have a piece of my mind. I turned around with tight fists to head back down the stairs but stopped myself once again.   An unbiased spectator probably would have thought I was straight-up mentally unstable.  Pacing back and forth like a fool.  I eventually showered and then was able to have a calm conversation afterward that lasted two minutes and was no big deal. 

I cannot emphasize how difficult it is for me to do that.  I have a long history of having heated emotional conversations that rarely ever end well for anyone involved.  I think I can attribute my mindful automaticity in this scenario with my recent (and somewhat intermittent) practice with meditation. I've been using the Headspace App for awhile now.  Don't get me wrong, I still get carried off to sea, I'm just working on it becoming a less frequent of an occurance. 

Meditation sounds cheesy, I get it,  but the science behind it is is undeniable.  The more you practice paying attention to how your body and mind feel in a calm state, the easier it is for you to notice when a 'wave' is approaching, and the less likely you are to be carried away by it.

"It Is Easier To Build Strong Children,

Than it is to repair 'broken' adults."  I saw this quote recently on Pinterest, and it definitely resonated with me.  Especially with how extremely difficult it has been (and continues to be) for me to change my own emotional reactions this 'late' in life. Not to mention that meditation is actually really difficult to do.  My mind stays present for about 10 seconds before I begin thinking about something random. It's hard work. 

We expect a lot from children.  If you want to see an "amygdala hijack" in real time, watch one little kid cut in line in front of another little kid. There's a large possibility that you'll probably see the 'cutter' get immediately yelled at or shoved by the student (s)he cut in front of. What happens next is usually a teacher saying "We don't shove our friends!  Go to the end of the line"...   That student will then stomp to the end of the line angrily or shout with indignation, "but they cut!"   

Mindfulness programs and curriculums are popping up in schools all over the country and world. Teaching kids the skills they need at a young age to pause before reacting, and to be in the present moment is so extremely beneficial. I recently purchased two books that I've been exploring to use through my professional practice, both of which I cited above.  

Sitting Still Like A Frog

Sitting Still Like A Frog includes a disc of short meditation practices for kids, with one specifically geared towards bedtime for those children who have a difficult time calming their minds before bed.  The book speaks to being a mindful and present parent, as well as  how to instil these skills in your children.  It's a small book, and is not overly verbose, and simplifies the concepts in really nice and practical ways.  I also think this disc would be really ideal for teachers to integrate into their classrooms.  There are simple 3-5 minute practices that are fantastic for kids and helps to break down what it actually means to pay attention.  


This next text, A Still Quiet Place, is geared towards school counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other mental health personnel. Dr. Amy Saltzman emphasis that those who teach mindfulness must have a strong consistent practice themselves, and should have ideally completed an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training.  This text adopts the MBSR protocol for use with children.  I have not yet attended one of these 8-week trainings, and thus have not yet started using it personally.  I really want to attend one of these trainings soon though. I'll share more when I know more!

Emotional Intelligence 

Lastly, I've mentioned this guy before when I went to hear him speak.  I just wanted to include a link for your reference! 

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