Commencement

Dear Class of 2020,

Born in the late nineties and early 2000’s, your childhood and lives have been marked by September 11th, the birth of the iPhone, digital age, and social media, a recession, ongoing war, climate change, and the election of Trump. And, whether from college, high school, junior high or elementary school, you now find yourselves graduating in the midst of a pandemic and in a time unlike anything the world can remember.  Full of promise, looking out at what can only be described as a fairly bleak and grim landscape, here you are.  So, a bit of advice from an almost middle aged adult looking at her own life and telling herself the same.

Always take the trip. Choose the adventure. Buy the ticket. I’ve only ever regretted the trips I didn’t take.

Hug your parents, when you can.

Appreciate the good times as they are happening. Look up from your phones and devices. Moments of happiness are not the beginning of ongoing happiness, they are happiness and it is happening right now. It will pass and then come again. Don’t miss it*

*Always  remember that this too shall pass (the good and the bad).

Realize no one knows what is going on. You have just as much ability to become one of the “adults in the room” as anyone else does if you put your mind to it. Let this motivate  rather than scare you.

Find a hobby that feeds your soul. You never know when you will be locked in your house for nine weeks and need something that is fun, creative, or relaxing to fall back on.

Let go of the “rules” of how you thought it would be or how it should look. This is one that most people seem to finally realize in middle age, but the sooner you get there, the better for you!

Literally never take anything for granted ever, it could all change in the blink of an eye. Haircuts, toilet paper, child care, visits with family, nights out with friends, cozy restaurants, pedicures, school days, employment, sporting events, handshakes, dancing at concerts, graduation ceremonies, vacations, your health, having anything feel casual and relaxed, going to the movies, parades, amusement parks, swimming pools, job markets, saving accounts, museums, air travel………

My wish for you is that you see the beauty found here and now, as it unfolds, and appreciate it as it does; that your generation will never take anything for granted, always remembering how quickly everything can change; and that you never forget, even as you strive to move forward and upward in your own lives, how interconnected we all are.

I have faith in your generation and that the trials you have been given as young people and children will only serve to grow your creativity, compassion, motivation, ingenuity, and empathy. I’m sorry that previous generations are just learning these lessons now.

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Home

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Smize

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1. After a gorgeous and warm early spring, it is snowing today. Not unheard of for April, but a 40 degree drop from two days ago. Buds hide and try to stave off a hard frost. I am grateful for these beautiful flowers.

2. I ventured out to the grocery store this morning and now have a fresh loaf of rye bread. I am eating toast as I write this and it is possibly the best thing I have ever eaten.

3. My creativity has returned, albeit in ways I didn’t expect.  I began sewing again after a many year hiatus and it’s one of the few things that prevents my mind from going into pandemic anxiety spinout. Masks, masks, masks, a skirt, another skirt, and more masks. Using my hands to calm my brain.

4. People must be getting bored of their sweatpants because after not selling any vintage clothing on my Etsy site in well over a month, I just sold three things in one day.

5. Raking, planting, digging, and pulling weeds are some of the few activities I seem capable of completing.

6. Health care workers are applauded nightly at 7 o’clock and it makes me cry every time. Thank you.

7. Thank God for KCRW, KANW, and KUNM radio stations. Great music, interesting and insightful news and interviews, these radio stations save me on a regular basis.

8. Chalk art. Huge fan.

9. The meme/tweet/humor/post game is strong. Thank you.

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10. I look forward to reading all of the forthcoming scientific studies about what happens when the entire world stops at once.

11. I now wear a mask in public and am working on my “smize”(smiling with my eyes), though find many people avoid eye contact all together. Fear has caused my desire to control the uncontrollable to rear its head in unexpected ways and I am sure I’m not alone.  Last night, after taking a quick tour of all of massive problems we now face, my anxiety chose to focus on fear that the United States Postal Service could go out of business and  I knew that no matter how many letters I began to write and send, they would likely not be enough. I love real mail. I realize the privileged position I am in that my immediate safety, hunger, and finances are not the cause of my insomnia.

12. Food! Cooking! A daily smorgasbord of recipes and photos of bread, pasta, soups, and veggies bombard me every time I open my computer. I love it. We made baguettes last week and, for a first try, they weren’t bad. Everything tastes good with butter.

13. Seeds and baby chickens sell out everywhere. Those able to, now bake bread, plant gardens, and sew. I grew up doing all of these and it feels like a homecoming of sorts. Helping to homeschool a first and third grader 2-3 days a week feels totally foreign and I resort to arts and crafts.

14. There are more helpers than haters in this world. I am sure of this. Amidst the chaos, the love is so visible and triumphant. I have faith in people.

15. Dolphins and fish in the canals of Venice. Bears waking and emerging in an empty Yosemite. Sheep wandering deserted streets in Wales. Was this pandemic simply nature’s way of getting the break it needed while giving us the warning we need? A glimpse of things to come, should we continue on our current trajectory.

…Judging by the speed with which the public heeded the orders to shelter in place, it seems we all knew we needed this stop. There will be no going back to “normal”, of this I am sure. Normal never worked for too many. Normal left too many out and behind. Mile long lines of cars wait in line for Food Banks while just a few miles away equally desperate farmers plow over crops they are unable to sell because of mass disruption to our system of distribution. It is hard to find the silver lining in such suffering, but I do believe we are being given an opportunity; to turn towards each other, even if from six feet away, to slow down instead of always needing to keep up, and to remember our interconnectedness to each other and to the earth. Yet again, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. To all of the doctors, nurses, moms, dads, grocery clerks, mailmen and women, essential workers, scientists, mask makers, comedians, journalists, optimists, recipe swaps, memes, movie makers, governors, restaurant owners, authors, puzzle designers, meditation instructors, food bank donators and volunteers, artists, thinkers, and to those choosing to act rather than react, Thank You.

Don’t forget to Smize.

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Also, if you are in need of a cloth mask, please comment below and we’ll figure out how to get you one.

 

Pandemic Party Tips/41

37677B5D-56F3-40B2-8F0F-553409D55643I’ve had some strange birthdays in my life, many actually, but something tells me 41 might be the most bizarre yet.  Stranger than sitting through a five hour long Wagner opera with the flu while on a trip to Germany when I turned 18, weirder than turning 15 in London with my English pen pal, and more bizarre than my 31st, when I was yelled at by a not to be named First AD for “talking behind camera” and ended up crying in a porta potty (just so we are clear, the camera department was wishing me happy birthday and I was simply responding thank you, but anyway….)

So, as I sit in my house, pondering life, cake, and puzzles, I thought I would give not only my Aries cohorts some birthday party tips, but also, from the looks of it, my Taurus and Gemini friends as well.

*First, wash your hands.

1* wear something you haven’t worn in the past three weeks or preferably in the last year. I’m wearing a dress I’ve literally never worn and it goes perfect with my old purple slippers.

2*bake a cake with whatever weird ingredients are still in the pantry.

3*shamelessly tell everyone that it’s your birthday so that they call you, then act surprised when they do.

4*make a party hat.

5*listen to music, not the news.

6*dance in the kitchen.

7*wash your hands.

8*collapse on couch.

9*stare at wall.

10*stare at Pinterest and pin exotic trip locales to your post pandemic visionboard.

11*remember that it’s all going to be okay.

12*dump puzzle onto table.

13*alternate staring at puzzle pieces and at wall.

14*make cookies to go with cake.

15*laugh because if you don’t you’re going to cry.

16*breathe.

17*go for another walk. (I’m so sorry that some of you are unable to partake in this one, truly.)

18*buy yourself a present.

19*attend zoom birthday party hosted by your awesome sister.

20*cry.

21*remind yourself that it’s all going to be okay.

22*open champagne that’s been in your fridge since your boyfriend brought it over on New Year’s Eve, 2018.

23*turn up music.

24*dance some more.

25*remember that this too shall pass.

26*wash your hands.

27*don’t touch your face.

 

 

Back to the Basics

4F71E75C-F2FB-4963-B0A2-3F8B4ADC915DOh, how quickly things can change!

For the past five days I have, in equal measure, sat in catatonic shock staring at the wall while listening to the news, cooked, eaten, and cleaned. Repeat. Go for a walk. Repeat.

The project I thought I was coming home to shut down until further notice, like so many others, and instead of jumping into any number of creative endeavors I thought I would want to begin, I find myself mostly spinning in circles.

Recipes and cooking seem to be the only things grounding me at the moment, so… so be it. Because I want to limit grocery store deliveries, I currently have more food than my small house and cupboards know what to do with, which isn’t saying too much as I am famous for bare cupboards. But, now an overflow of grains, beans, and pasta sit on my counter waiting to inspire.

Yesterday, while outside raking the leaves I never raked in the fall, I noticed green chard sprouting in my raised bed garden. With absolutely zero attention from me for the past five months, these little leaves did what plants do; reseeded, went dormant, and waited until spring to begin to grow again. Just when my fresh produce is beginning to run low, a reminder of nature’s perfection! I proceeded to order several packets of organic vegetable seeds online. I hadn’t planned on planting a garden this year because of upcoming work and travel, but…looks like I’ll be home!

My boyfriend and I have been much better about checking in the fridge to see what needs to be used and being creative with what we have, knowing that just running out to the store is not an option. I am inspired daily by so many friends’ posts of creative ways to use canned goods, bake bread, and hold cooking contests within families self isolating together, everyone looking for a way to make something both fun and delicious and also to ease a bit of anxiety. It is truly amazing how quickly we come back to the basics.

Tonights menu-

zucchini fritters

yeast free bread   (I can’t find baker’s yeast, or toilet paper!)

Leftover lemon chicken

And, I have already made two batches of these almond flour chocolate chip cookies. Kinda chewy, a little bit salty, they are soooo good. And they’re healthy, so you won’t feel guilty eating an entire batch while listening to the news and staring at the wall, in shock.

Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other. Stay home. And remember that this too shall pass.

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Image seen on my walk today.

 

 

 

Chaos

It’s a strange thing to turn your phone off for a sixteen hour flight and to wonder how many new catastrophes may have occurred by the time you turn it back on.

We arrived back in the United States this morning and were shocked at the ease with which we entered JFK airport. No temperature screenings, no questions about where we’d been, empty containers of hand sanitizer throughout the arrivals area; nothing like the preparation we saw throughout Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Before leaving for Africa, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to overcome my anxiety enough to enjoy the trip. But, I did… There was a calmness there that I found reassuring. It seemed that everyone was informed, knew what was going on, but no one appeared to be panicking.

Yesterday morning, in Zimbabwe, I sat around the breakfast table listening to stories of fuel and water shortages while a contractor worked to install solar panels on the roof in hopes of combatting lengthy power outages. The country doesn’t have a functioning currency and people don’t know how much their money will or won’t be worth when they wake up in the morning. But, life goes on.

This crisis illustrates just how dependent we are upon each other and how interwoven our lives and communities are and have been for decades. This realization seems to have taken Western, developed nations by surprise whereas those less developed or developing have always known this to be true. As wealthy countries find themselves on the flip side of a virus run amok, our true colors are oozing out; toilet paper brawls, stock market crashes, mask hoarding. We are not responding well.

How to stay calm while taking the risk seriously, steer clear of panic, socially distance without isolating, and be of service to your loved ones and community as a whole?

Namaste, palms together in front of heart, instead of shaking hands.

Spiritual well-being leads to emotional and physical strength. Prioritize it.

Healthy food, lots of water, zinc, vitamin C, exercise… keep your immune system strong.

Compassion. For yourself and others. Check in.

Support your neighbors and local businesses as much as possible. This to shall pass and we need our communities to be there when we all emerge, which we will.

The sun will rise again tomorrow.

Animals

Hot Day/Drink of Water
Striped Nibblers
As he runs away, one tail feather falls in the grass.
Mud Bath

The animals of Addo National Park outside of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I ride in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser with three German tourists. Our guide plays reggae and tells us about the industrial outskirts of town as we make the 30 minute drive to Addo.

Pee now, once in the park you can’t leave your vehicle until you reach the lodge for lunch. Lions. Though there are only seven living on over 400,000 acres, they are not to be tempted.

An American tourist rolls down her window and asks our guide if we see the leg wound in the zebra over there? We do he says, I hope he makes it. She looks horrified by this lack of interference. We continue on. We see the lions, a couple, napping in the shade down below. Buffalo, zebra, and elephants, and so many more animals, living their life, ignoring us.

Oh, hi.