Tag Archives: science

Of Love Languages & the Power of Physical Touch

If you’ve not read psychologist Dr. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages yet, make that the first thing you do after reading this post. Yes, it’s kind of a “girly” book, but I’ve gotten a few of my male friends to read it and they’ve admitted that they learned a lot from it.

Within the chapters, the author speaks of how teaching people to find their own and their partner’s love language can save a relationship. At the core of any association between two people, communication can make or break their union. We show people we care about them by way of a love language and we also know that people care about us when they speak our love language.

Chapman believes five universal love languages exist, and that we should learn to speak each of them. However, we tend to want and give some more than others. You can take a quick quiz to find out which language you speak. The five languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch


I didn’t need to take the test to know that my dominant love language is words of affirmation. The saying “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” has never been true for me.

But words of affirmation isn’t my only love language. I’ve spent a lot of time (maybe too much time) analyzing my past relationships, and in many of them, my love language wasn’t spoken (literally). However, more recently, I’ve realized another love language missing in my daily life: physical touch.

Most people automatically assume physical touch equates to sex, and therefore many couples assume that this must be their love language. That is often not the case. However, it’s important to note that physical touch means so much more than sex.

From hand-holding to hugs, from a passionate kiss to a peck on the cheek, physical touch is something we all crave to some degree in life.  In a famous experiment by psychologist Dr. Harry Harlow, baby monkeys were placed with one of two fake mothers that both offered milk, a “mother” made of wire and another covered in soft terry cloth. The babies with terry cloth mothers clung to them after nursing and were well-behaved little monkeys, unlike the others. Harlow’s experiment showed that tactile comfort offers emotional reassurance.


Few can come up with an argument to debate this study’s findings. Physical touch can be both positive and negative–a terry cloth or a cold wire. Most of us have seen or experienced how both a slap and a kiss can be exclamation points that make words superfluous. Physical touch exudes strength and power.

In the past few months, I realized how little physical touch I have in my day-to-day routine. Seattle is the first city I’ve lived in. Everywhere else has been little towns where everyone knows everyone’s business, but where everyone hugs one another after four hours apart like it’s been four years.

Snuggling and head scratching and spazzing on each other happens a lot with my Florida Keys friends and my college and gradeschool friends. My best friend and I have a relationship built upon physical touch. Ten seconds can’t go by without one of us jumping on the other’s back.

friends hugging

But when I’m not around these people, I’m lacking this emotional reassurance, and it’s not just because I’m single. Physical touch isn’t always guaranteed when you’re dating someone, and in fact, I recently wrote about how one of my relationships actually caused me to flinch in response to certain corporeal gestures.

Some people just aren’t huggers, and in city life, it takes longer to build the level of friendships you made in college or small town living. It’s harder to find those people that feel comfortable doling out the kind of bear hugs that knock you off your feet.

After going through some recent hardships, I realized how much I just needed a good hug. When I got that hug–a wave of hugs–my struggles seemed to momentarily melt away. In so many of my trying times, I have felt utterly alone. I have always had wonderful, dear, true friends who will make a routine out of talking to me for hours, on the good days and bad, to get me through. But too often, they’re still on the other end of a phone line. Their words of affirmation can only help me so much.


I wonder if any of my past pain would have been easier to bear if I was also able to lie next to someone I cared about (and who cared about me) while watching a movie on the couch. I’ve realized how many times I have simply needed a friend to hold me while I cried. I’ve realized how electric a handhold can be, how soothing it is to feel a reassuring thumb rub on my forearm.

I’m working on recognizing my needs. As I do, I’ve begun verbalizing them to the people who surround me. I tell them my love language and ask them to tell me theirs, and then we begin to practice speaking each other’s.


My Favorite Part About the Solar Eclipse Wasn’t the Eclipse

Here in Seattle, we skirted the line of totality capturing a 92 percent partial eclipse. It’s nothing like the two-and-a-half minutes of daylight darkness that consumed Madras, Oregon just south of us, but it was enough to warrant stepping outside of the office to look at the sky.

I didn’t have any eclipse glasses of my own, but I stumbled upon a crowd outside the hilltop library just down the street from me. The community had gathered to pass around homemade cereal box viewers and pin hole paper plate designs, as well as the coveted certified eclipse glasses that sold out from stores weeks ago.

I watched shadows get crisper. I marveled at the little crescent moons on the sidewalk from the leafy trees. I saw the orange sun nearly obscured.

Watching this phenomenon was a memorable experience, but it wasn’t this magnificence in nature that astounded me so. It was the people taking it all in.

The crowd was filled with young and old, future budding scientists and grandparents who told of the eclipses they’d seen in their lifetime. It was filled with sharing and small talk and a genuine appreciation for Mother Nature.

Science–my career, my passion–is under so much attack in this country. People are filled with so much rage and hate in this world. But here was a moment where everyone for miles stopped what they were doing and looked toward the sun.

As I rode my bike to work, the sidewalks were still flowing with faces turned upward, brief moments taking in the sun and the moon as time seemed to stand still. As people passed their eclipse glasses from stranger to stranger and explained–educated–to the curious just exactly how this celestial marvel was possible, a sense of unity overwhelmed me.

You’ll notice I didn’t take any photos of the eclipse. Some experiences are meant to only be captured in our hearts and our minds. For me, the calming feeling that surrounded me couldn’t be captured through a lens, yet that is the part I’ll remember most.

I’m Going to Meet Dr. Temple Grandin!

When I was rescuing animals in the Ecuadorian Amazon, sitting in a monkey-poo stained hammock in a bamboo hut after a 12-hour work day, I read Dr. Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation by candlelight.

The book details how Dr. Grandin’s autistic mind allows her to understand animals, literally putting herself in their shoes. She crawled through mud down cattle chutes to revolutionize the livestock industry. Half of the slaughterhouses in the U.S. and even more throughout the world now use her humane design, giving respect and dignity to these farm animals up to their predetermined end.

Dr. Grandin’s book was pivotal in my decision to commit to a vegetarian (and now vegan) lifestyle. It is a conscious choice I make every day to offer respect to the beautiful, entertaining, comforting, inspiring, impressive, and innocent animals that make up this great big world.

And now I get the chance to go to a Q&A and book signing with one of my idols, a woman who has battled countless odds to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves or are misunderstood. Not only is Dr. Grandin world famous in the livestock industry, but she is also a leading spokesperson for autism.

I received a press pass to go to the Vashon Sheepdog Classic (VSDC) this summer. Read more about Dr. Temple Grandin and the VSDC here.

“Animals in Translation” was a reprieve each night from the manual labor I put my body through in the Amazon, and helped me escape my anxiety and homesickness after being robbed on my first day backpacking solo in a foreign country.

When I was back in Ohio, I used to pull the book out from the shelves and stick my nose in the pages that forever captured that distinct and remarkable rainforest smell, transporting me back to the first glimpse of both my addiction to solo female travel and my future animal career.

Humans + Minds + Mother Nature

mountain hike

My friend Sarah snapped this candid shot last weekend on my birthday hike as four of us caught the last magic of winter before it fades softly into summer. When she got my attention, she asked me what I was thinking about.

For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t really thinking about anything. I was just listening, to the chirping birds and the rushing waterfalls. I was just existing, a mote of bones and flesh in a breathing cosmic arena.

So much has happened in 29 years. So much has happened since I moved to Seattle. I have met incredible, diverse, and creative friends. I starred in my first film. I wrote a frigging book. I pulled 80-hour weeks. I went to Ikea and Costco for the first time (!). I learned how to wear a sari. And I’ve done it all while being shaken by a past that I knew and a past that my mind had blocked out.

The mind is a powerful tool, a wonderful and equally fascinating and disturbing gift. The human mind is unique.
We will never be as big and vast in our existence as Mother Nature. But we can lead meaningful, significant lives. We can use the power of our minds to create, to engage, to learn, to protect, and to really, truly live.

Sometimes I turn to the beauty of this planet when I am feeling broken. And sometimes I turn to it for no reason at all other than to stop and smell the flowers. But I always appreciate this planet, this life, and my role in it.

Almost a Published Author: A Reflection of My Journey Writing My First Book

Today my book title is being registered with the Library of Congress. As I edited the final 254-page draft this week with a sprained wrist, it was (painfully) evident just how damn hard I worked to make this dream come true.

Last month, my editor asked me to write a preface for the book. This was an opportunity to fit into 500 words what writing these pages meant to me. It was a chance for me to tell my story in first person.

I sent the intro to one hand-picked person to look over, someone who knows me about as well as I know myself, someone who I knew would give me honest feedback. He read it between his busy schedule and told me it was nearly perfect. But that was the problem. He couldn’t hear my voice.

He said one of his favorite things about me is how I am open about my vulnerabilities and imperfections. He knew how much I struggled to turn this dream into a reality. I erased and re-wrote nearly three-quarters of my original words, this time sharing snippets of my heart and my hardships. Before I even sent it to him, I knew what he would say.

Because he was exactly right. It needed to be imperfect to be perfect.

I wrote this book during two of the most challenging years of my life. Many of my struggles many of you know; a few of my struggles only a few of you will ever fully know. Right now, I am dealing with a past that cuts very deep, facing things that no one should ever have to experience. But this is my imperfectly perfect life, and these are things that happened to me. It’s not my past that shapes who I am; it’s how I choose to handle it. Part of that is therapy, self compassion, and maintaining strong and meaningful friendships. Another part is choosing to keep putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward to follow my dreams even when I feel my feet being pulled in the opposite direction.

Sometimes I stumble, sometimes I scrape my knees or reach for a helping hand. Somehow I get back up again.

In a few weeks, you’ll be able to hold in your hands the dreams of my 7-year-old and nearly-29-year-old selves. My biggest hope isn’t that you learn everything there is to know about turtles. What I really hope is that this book, one of my many dreams, inspires you to always, always follow your heart—even when the odds are stacked against you.

With deepest gratitude, respect and sincerity,


I Don’t Want to Live Forever, But I Want to Leave Behind Something That Does

An ex-boyfriend once asked me what I want to get out of life. My reply came so quickly you’d think I’d been mulling over the perfect response for a week.

But in truth, I think I’ve just always lived my life this way. I’m pretty sure the response was actually hard-wired into my developing brain before I even came out of the womb.

I told him:

“I want to be happy… I want to have beautiful, true relationships with people… And I don’t want to live forever, but I want to leave behind something that does.”

Some people will mention success, but I believe happiness precedes success, and that success is subjective.

Many people will rattle off a long list of milestones and accomplishments.

I could have said I want to see the world, to have grand adventures, to tell my story and learn the stories of others. I could have said I want to write and act and save animals and get married and raise children. But those are all just forks on a path leading to the same destination.

I could have said I want to change the world.

Because I did, I do. And in my own way, I believe I am.

At the heart of it all, I want to be remembered when I leave this earth. Not by name, not by face, but by what I do with my passions.

I want to be significant.

I want my life to have significance.

I want to create significance.

As both an artist and a scientist, I am making my mark on the world.

Humans are often depicted as either left-brained or right-brained, but I constantly find myself smack dab in the middle. I am equally as analytical as I am creative. I used to think it was such a strange combination, opposing forces rolling around my synapses.

But I can’t think of any two fields of study that are more actively engaged, that are more actively leaving something behind on this planet.

Scientists are working so that future generations can exist. Centuries ago, they made discoveries that we are still appreciating today.

Artists are writing stories, shooting films, choreographing dances, playing music, painting pictures, taking photos. Millenia after it was created, we are still appreciating art.

I want my great-great-great-great grandchildren to spot sea turtles in the ocean because I helped save them from extinction. I want my children’s children’s children to know empathy because they felt it in the movies I made.

I want the future generations to chase their dreams because I wrote about chasing mine.


Andrew Rossi: Fossils, Dinosaurs and Funny Bones

Andrew Rossi had his fair share of plastic dinosaurs growing up. Like many kids, he dreamt of fossil digs and seeing T-rex in the flesh from a safe and secure distance. While Andrew went on to follow those childhood dreams, he also discovered many other passions along the way.

The beauty of writing is that it can be done anywhere at any time.  -Andrew Rossi

It was comedy that brought Andrew and I together. We met in college at Ohio Wesleyan University. Similar to David Reitan, the other “funny guy” I interviewed, Andrew and I were members of OWU’s Babbling Bishops Improv Comedy Troupe. While we were not in the troupe at the same time, we have had our fair share of moments improvising together on-stage. One thing about the Babbling Bishops: any and all of us are family for life.

I live each day knowing the greatest accomplishments of my life are still ahead of me. -Andrew Rossi

A Euclid, OH native and 2013 Geology and Theatre graduate of OWU, Andrew now lives in the beautiful mountain west boonies. He works at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, where he is actively combining his acting prowess and scientific knowledge. When Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” came out, the cinematic crew wanted to have an exclusive interview with a geology professional. With Andrew’s theatre background, he was the perfect candidate.

The real world is chaotic; try as you might, you’ll never be able to anticipate everything, or even most things. -Andrew Rossi

In the DVD extra of “The Good Dinosaur,” you can catch Andrew’s impressive, educational and, as always, entertaining video talking about all things dinosaur.

I’ll light my candle from the flame, and spread it as far as I can. -Andrew Rossi

After watching the video, I learned from Andrew that it was all on the spot improv due to a glitch. As an actor, I know all too well about the mishaps that go on behind the scenes.


Those setbacks often create the most memorable on-screen moments. And Andrew pulled it off like a champ! But really, I’m not surprised. He is David Attenborough reincarnated.

I like being spontaneous, and at times I’d rather see a group or institution share more glory than myself. -Andrew Rossi

I think one of the reasons Andrew and I have reconnected of late is because we have a lot of similarities. We are both chasing our dreams and merging our passions–which also happen to be the same: science, acting and writing! Plus, the man makes me laugh and inspires me on the daily.

The world needs scientists; it needs experts to learn more about their fields and increase our understanding of our dynamic world. -Andrew Rossi

We can all learn a thing or two from this brilliant and hilarious man. Check out the interview below for some insight (and chuckles) into the life of Andrew Rossi.

S: What is your most rewarding accomplishment?

A: Only one? No singular accomplishment comes to mind. I live each day knowing the greatest accomplishments of my life are still ahead of me. There are certainly big ones that immediately pop up–the Pixar interview, graduating college, having the job I’ve always dreamed of.  But there are smaller ones that give me just as much pride, like being best man at my friend’s wedding, a friend I’ve known since I was twelve years old. I feel it’s the small, intimate moments that make the greatest impacts on our lives. Too profound to start?


S: You work with fossils which is like, woah, super cool. A lot of kids dream of doing that. Have you been on a path towards working with fossils since childhood or what sparked your interest?

A: Yes and no. I’ve been into dinosaurs since before I can remember; it was my second or third word as a toddler. And I eagerly read or watched everything dinosaur-related I could get my hands on as I was growing up. I suppose it has been a fairly linear path, but one with a lot of diversions and more than a few doubts. I don’t know what caused the spark, but that spark lit a fire that’s only gotten stronger as time has gone by.  

S: You are an alumnus of the Babbling Bishops, Ohio Wesleyan University’s improv comedy troupe. How did college improv prepare you for “the real world?”

A: The real world is chaotic; try as you might, you’ll never be able to anticipate everything, or even most things. Or some of the things. I’ve always lived in the moment, to my benefit and detriment. Thanks to improv, I am a lot more comfortable with chaos.

A lot of people tend to buckle under pressure, especially when they’ve developed a plan to get them through it. But that goes against every doctrine of improv. You have to let go and trust that you’ll get by. It’s not easy, and there’s always the latent desire to plan. But to no avail! Once you accept the fact that nothing is controllable and you let your mind roam freely and spontaneously, you become better. And you get funnier!

But improv isn’t a personal pedestal either; it’s all about the group dynamic. Good improv troupes work well as a single entity, rather than a collection of personalities. You can bring your personal quirks and talents to the troupe, by all means! But personal showboating makes everyone look bad. You rise and fall based on the strengths of everyone around you, and how they–and you–support everyone else. Again, not an easy lesson to learn, but one of the most important things to learn, regardless of where you go.

I like being spontaneous, and at times I’d rather see a group or institution share more glory than myself. I learned these things with the Babblers; easily one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. And it was so damn fun too! So, three things I learned, actually: spontaneity, selflessness, and just having a good time with incredible people.

S: Your interview for “The Good Dinosaur” combines your degrees in theatre and science. And, cool beans, it features you and only you! How did this opportunity come about? What was your reaction when you found out about it?

A: Well, so much for the selflessness . . .

The Good Dinosaur was a dinosaur movie (GASP!) based on the landscapes of Wyoming. The State of Wyoming wanted to capitalize on the movie as part of their new ad campaign: That’s WY! So when they wanted to talk about dinosaurs in Wyoming, there was really only one place to go. (That would be the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, where I work.) That’s when they reached out to my boss for an interview. She was out of town on those dates, but by this point she knew I was not only capable of being a “personality” in front of a camera, but that I would professionally represent our museum. My initial reaction wasn’t one of immense pride or joy, but not nervousness either. I was definitely excited to be a minor DVD extra celebrity, but I immediately planned to use the interview as a platform to show the world how great the WDC is and what kind of opportunities we offer for kids and adults to partake in the world of paleontology.


S: What was it like working with the Pixar crew?

A: Quick and painless. They arrived with a convoy of vans and trucks, full of camera equipment and an army of technicians. This is where the improv training REALLY comes into its own. A few pages of questions sent a week before the filming failed to reach me, so the entire interview was unrehearsed and unplanned. I had only a few seconds to process each question and provide a detailed, informative, and–yes–entertaining answer. And, thanks to my background in theatre and improv and their editing skills, it sounds pretty well-rehearsed and coherent. They were thrilled and relieved to work with someone with a background in theatre, as it made all of our jobs easier.

All in all, I had a great time doing it and they had a great time filming it . . . although I wish I had said “impressions” instead of “suppressions” . . . I totally did. Go watch the interview again, when I’m talking about the dinosaur trackway. Suppressions in the mud? The footprints aren’t suppressing anything!

S: Do you think you’ll seek out more film/stage gigs or will you kind of just check them out if something good comes along?

A: Hmm, that’s tricky. I would definitely like to try my hand at professional acting someday, since I know I’ll regret not trying while I’m still young. There’s a lot of uncertainty in my future, which I know is true for most people our age. A lot of opportunities have presented themselves, in a bunch of different areas–all I have to decide is where to go, and it isn’t easy. The reassuring fact is that I know I’ll succeed, wherever I choose to go. It’s not so much a confidence in my talents as it is knowing that I’ll give it my all. In the meantime, I get my theatrical kicks by writing . . .  not dancing, despite the use of the word “kicks.” (I’m as graceful as a hippopotamus on roller blades.)


I discovered playwriting in college, and I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of plays performed as an undergraduate. The beauty of writing is that it can be done anywhere at any time, so it gives me a more ludicrously creative output to channel my theatricality.

UPDATE: Andrew can be seen online hosting Fossil Fridays live at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Andrew will be Lumiere in Cody Community Theatre’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” I can’t think of a role more fitting!

S: It seems like your heart is in more than once place, science and theatre. I think a lot of people can relate to that, but perhaps feel like society forces us to choose one career path and nurture it for the rest of our lives. Do you have an opinion on that? Do you think it’s important to remain well-rounded or would you rather become an expert in one field?

A: Yes.

Okay, serious time.

I don’t know if I’ll ever become a full-fledged paleontologist (aka get a Ph.D.). To tell the truth, I’ve always had difficulty with “hard science.” Writing papers, doing research . . . it’s all very tedious, and I struggle. It was heartbreaking to finally realize this about myself, as it was my aspiration since I was a child.

But I know science, and I know paleontology! I also know theatre. Then came the epiphany: I can teach, I can interpret, and I can inspire! Now, it’s what I do on a daily basis. I know dinosaurs, but I can also communicate dinosaurs, in ways that simultaneously entertain and educate. It seems trivial, but being able to speak with crowds is a skill a lot of scientists either fear or deliberately avoid.


The world needs scientists; it needs experts to learn more about their fields and increase our understanding of our dynamic world. But our world also needs to engage in and share science, and somebody has to light the sparks of future scientists. And with the current climate of our world (pun somewhat intended), we need communication more than ever before. I will probably write peer-reviewed papers and give technical talks in the future–no doubt–but I don’t think I’ll discover the next new species of dinosaur – but I’ll tell its story, and the story of the scientists who found it. And I’ll do whatever I can to make the world understand “this matters.”

And now I have the opportunity of a lifetime to make that happen. The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is planning a major expansion in the next few years. Tripling our exhibit space, re-imaging our programs and mission, trying to create a world-class museum that encourages hands-on learning and unforgettable experiences.

Because of my background, my passion, and my imagination, I am one of the visionaries of this project: I get to build the dinosaur museum I’ve always dreamed about. This comes hand in hand with becoming the public face of our new vision; when the world wants to know more about the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, they come to me. And that’s when the work really begins. This might be my biggest mark in the world. It’s daunting. I can’t wait to show the world what we’re planning.

I’m not aspiring to be the torchbearer; I’ll light my candle from the flame, and spread it as far as I can.

Now reread this entire statement in Neil Degrasse Tyson’s voice. It’s that much more epic.

S: What do you do in your free time?

A: Free time?

That’s all I got.

Thank you, Andrew, for your insight, comedy and honesty. And for reminding us all that science is vital to the betterment of this world’s future.

All photos via Andrew Rossi, aka Sir David Attenborough (reincarnated).