Rome: that’s amore!

The other day my son asked me why I didn’t write anything about our trip to Rome back in October. He said he thinks of these posts as a personal history book of our vacations and he was looking forward to reading it. Well, if that wasn’t motivation enough to sit down and document the trip, I don’t know what would be. Sometimes when you’re raising teenagers it’s hard to know if you’re reaching them or if they even like you anymore. You’ve got to take these moments as they come. He liked this trip! He likes me! I’m going to write about it. 

My daughter is spending her first semester at Northeastern University studying abroad and I have to say college ain’t like it used to be. She’s out there drinking prosecco and eating gourmet meals when back in the day I was downing 50 cent drafts at the Sunset Room and was excited about the 7 kinds of (dry) cereal I could get in the dining hall. In fact, a recent impromptu gathering of old college friends had us waxing nostalgic about ramen noodles and warm Buds smuggled into dank triple-double dorm rooms under the cover of darkness and oversized Champion sweatshirts. 

We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to live a little vicariously through a modern-day college girl and also sort of wanted to experience first hand what our hard-earned 529 was funding so we went for a quick visit this past fall. Here’s what we did:

The first thing I did was take this picture because I felt like it was an accurate enough capture of the entire vibe in Rome. So actually this blog post could be just one image with a simple caption but I do tend to be a bit long winded, so never mind. I’ll keep going.
Even on my best days I’m not really sure what I’m taking pictures of. I’m not good at research plus I have a terrible memory and this was months ago. All I know is I loved all of these ancient buildings. Rome has PLENTY of those. Who could remember all of them? If it’s you, don’t tell me because then I’ll have to be embarrassed.
In any event it would be super embarrassing if I didn’t know this was Trevi Fountain. Trevi Fountain is beautiful and there were a lot of people there. A LOT of people.
On our first day we were really jet lagged and because we couldn’t check into our AirBnB for hours and hours and more very hot hours (inserting a bit of drama for effect) we were looking for a shady spot to rest our weary bones. We found this hidden courtyard behind an old church (there are lots of old churches) and it was a perfect spot for a tiny catnap.
And speaking of cats, this is the Roman Cat Sanctuary or Cat City. It’s not really a cat sanctuary but it’s overrun by cats so everyone calls it that, according to my daughter, the local. Also still floored by these ancient ruins like this that exist on the edge of of roundabout, next to a McDonalds. So crazy.
And this is the Pantheon by night! See I know this one too. I’m amazed we stayed up late enough to see this in the dark, but no one goes to bed before 2:00 am in Rome, so you just gotta go with the flow, even if you haven’t slept in 36 hours.
Time to BeReal! (isn’t is always, though?) Also this restaurant was so good — the spaghetti vongole was amazing. I don’t normally take pictures of food, but in this place I should have. You’ll just have to imagine how good it was and admire my cute kids. Aren’t they so cute?
Day 2 we started at Piazza Navona (getting so good at these landmarks!) Doesn’t she look right at home here? I think this was the moment I wondered why the heck I didn’t study abroad when I was in college and also started to worry that she might not ever want to come back to Boston.
She missed her brother though, I can tell (and he missed her). For real.
I did take a picture of this coffee but I’m not sure why. It wasn’t even that memorable, aside from the fact that all coffee in Rome is pretty great.
I’d say that there was a role reversal going on here and she was taking the lead and showing us around the city for a change, but actually I’m terrible with directions and she’s been leading the way in new cities for years. She pretends to be exasperated by the fact that I can’t read a map but she probably thinks it’s super cute. Wouldn’t you think it was super cute if your travel companion kept getting you lost?
One thing we learned pretty quickly is that it’s ALWAYS Spritz Time in Rome. 
In Rome you’re either drinking an Aperol Spritz or drinking coffee, or eating pizza or eating pasta or walking to do any of those four things.
Or you’re visiting some super famous landmark that’s been around for thousands of years. Here we are at the Spanish Steps after finishing lunch which consisted of pizza and or pasta, a Spritz and coffee. 
Can I be honest here? I’m not sure what the big deal is about these steps. They are supposed to be the most famous steps in the world. But why? I must be missing something. They just seemed like steps to me.
A palm tree! I was surprised by how many palm trees there were in Rome. I probably shouldn’t have been but I was (lack of research, etc.)
Night 2 the kids took us out on the town. Weird but good. Really, really good. It’s a great feeling to see your kids happy and meet the people that make them happy. My son looks like he’s in college too but he’s only 14. Which reminds me, one night we were at a restaurant and the waiter told us that only the men could order the steak because it was man food. This was disturbing because 1) he thought my son was a man and because 2) omg.
The girls live in Trastevere which is an adorable neighborhood with a million amazing restaurants, a jillion hip bars, and a few cute shops (eating and drinking are definitely a priority). With all of these distractions it’s a miracle they even go to class. Tell me they go to class. Please.
If you know me, or if you’ve been reading for a while you know one thing I always do when I’m somewhere new is wake up annoyingly early and take a long run. It’s the best way to get the lay of the land and see things you might otherwise miss. One morning I ran up and down the banks of the Tiber. A lot of it is covered with graffiti and trash but this particular view struck me as very poignant for some reason. The curve of the river and the lady in her long dress. Something about it reminded me of my 9th grade ancient civilization textbook. Running along the Tiber! When I was 14 I would never have believed that I’d ever be doing that. 
I also ran down some cobblestone streets trying to find my way back to the AirBnB. Not so easy actually. But beautiful! 
And this is the street we stayed on (I found it!) and here is some of the graffiti I mentioned. I’m actually surprised that more of these photos don’t feature graffiti because the city is 90% covered in it. It adds something. Charm might be the wrong word. Character? Yes, it adds character. 
Here’s another beautiful street that I’m including because I really like this picture- the bicycle, the little Knome, the lack of graffiti.  
Here’s a question I’ve always wondered. Is a club where you go to pick up people a meat market or a meet market? I always thought it was meat market, but after seeing this I’m pretty sure I’m wrong. 
Here’s a not particularly good photo of the Vatican, but it’s the only one I’ve got. We went but we didn’t see the Pope OR the Pope Mobile. Too bad. Maybe we should have waited a little longer. That Pope Mobile is so darn cute. 
These guys are really hoping for an iPhone 14 Pro for Christmas. 
And here’s a picture of two dogs because I love dogs. The one lying on the road belonged to the local gelato shop and I think he honestly lives the best life ever. He just prowls around waiting for people who aren’t eating their gelato fast enough to drip some melty bits on the ground. Then he licks it off the cobblestones that probably 4 million people walked on and has absolutely no regrets about it. Then he shamelessly rolls over and demands (and gets!) some belly rubs. I envy him.
These guys again? Yep, sorry. I just really, really like these guys.
Here’s a picture of Julius Caesar. Or a statue of him anyway. Because it’s Rome and well, you know the story.
What is this place? Let’s google it.
Just kidding! We all knew it was the Colosseum. Pretty impressive, right? Very Roman if you ask me.
The Forum. I was really blown away by this site. The fact that this still exists, thousands of years later is honestly just amazing and so powerful. It really makes you think about just how very small we are, and what a teeny, tiny role we have in history. The people who strolled around here in their togas and sandals would never ever in a million years believe how the world is today. They didn’t even know about pizza! But yet, their mark remains… 
I should have added this picture after the Vatican picture but these calendars were everywhere and ironically (or purposefully) not found in Vatican City. I think it’s probably the strangest and therefore most awesome souvenir I’ve ever come across. There is just something so very, very wrong about a sexy priest pinup calendar. Or is it me? I dunno. I felt like it would be a sin to buy one (or NOT buy one). Which was it for me? I’ll never tell…
Ah to be young and beautiful and living in Rome. I mean you DO want your kids to have it better than you did, but we may have overdone it here, just a tad. It leads me to wonder what my son’s first year of college is going to be like. He’ll probably get to pay a visit to the moon or something. 
Normally the line for the Pantheon was wrapped around a few blocks so early on we decided to simply admire it from the outside. But one morning the square was empty and no one was waiting so we went in so here it is! I don’t have a lot to say about it except, when in Rome…
I could go on and on, but alas all good things must come to an end. Rome is chaotic and beautiful and has a life all its own– full of sights and sounds and people, and more people, It was really fantastic to experience it through the eyes of someone just beginning to find her place in the world, who is suddenly independent and navigating outside the comfortable confines of our family home. It was a fun trip for us and an amazing experience for her and I have to wonder, what will she take away from this, where will she go next, and can we tag along?  

Motherless, she persisted…

My mom taught me lots of lessons I didn’t think I needed, like how to balance on the wing of an airplane (very useful).

When my mother died last March, I was caught off guard by the depth of my grief and the sense of profound loss that I felt. My mom and I had a really good relationship, but we weren’t close in the way some mothers and daughters are. She was sick for a long time so she wasn’t able to dispense the motherly advice, or help with my kids in ways that other mothers could when their daughters became mothers themselves. And even before her illness robbed her of everything, she wasn’t really that kind of mother or grandmother anyway. That just wasn’t her style. She was more of a behind-the-scenes kind of mom. For a long time part of me resented that a little bit. I didn’t fully realize all that she had given me, all that she did teach me until after her death. So many friends responded to something I wrote about her with comments about how much my description of her sounded like ME and that was not something I’d expected to hear. It was really surprising because I never thought we were that similar. To some degree I felt like I was missing out on a lot because we didn’t have a “traditional” adult mother/daughter relationship. I didn’t realize how much she’d given me just by being who she was and loving me in the way she did.

She was always Ceci, never Grandma and her grandkids learned alot about how to be true to yourself and how to stay strong by observing her.

So much of who you are is not in the fine details, but in the imprint you leave on others. It’s true that people won’t remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. I don’t recall exactly all the conversations I had with my mom as a child, teen or even an adult but I do have a good sense of what she’d say or do in lots of different situations. Situations I currently find myself in, especially as a mom to two teenagers. I draw strength from her memory when I feel like I’m faltering. Her spirit motivates me to keep going when I’m tired or unsure. I hear her voice in my head and it encourages me to take a deep breath when I feel panicked. Her quick, loud laugh comes to mind when something joyous and unexpected happens and it reminds me to celebrate and embrace it.

On the back of this photo she wrote “Uraguay. I bought the bag but not the hat”

This has been a long year without her. It is a very strange thing indeed to be motherless in a world anchored by mothers. Mothers are the core of every human experience and without the physical presense of my own mother on this earth I have felt untethered and lost. And I have to admit that at times I have not dealt with that very well. But it has also taught me alot about myself, things I didn’t know I needed to learn. It has made me think about what kind of imprint I will leave on my children and what kind of legacy I might leave them with just by being who I am and loving them the way I do. It has allowed me to share with them the things about me that will help them be the best versions of themselves. But I have also given myself permission to embrace my shortcomings and let go of this notion that I have to be perfect for them, or anyone.

Mom taking a break from watering her plants to admire our stellar gymnastics abilities. She might not have taught us how to do a cartwheel, but she took pride in watching us figure it out for ourselves.

I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to always get it right. It’s ok that I am sometimes distracted, frustrated, annoyed, angry, sad, or selfish. Because these aren’t the moments that define me; they aren’t who I am. Because I don’t let them define who I am. 

You can’t control a lot of things that happen to you in life. But you can control how you react to them. I think we have all learned that during these last two challenging years. For me that means trying really hard not to focus on all the things that aren’t so that I can embrace all the things that are, both externally and within myself. I am getting better at identifying the relationships and experiences that are valuable, fulfilling and rewarding and letting go of and being ok with the ones that aren’t. And I am better at forgiving myself when I don’t react to things in the most positive or productive way. 

My mom didn’t know she was having twins. We came home to a single crib, and a life set up for one baby. She loved to tell us about all the creative improvising she did in those early days and I think that’s how we’ve learned to be happy with less.

The other day my daughter was dealing with a crushing disappointment. I didn’t know how to make it better, and everything I said seemed to make it worse. But I kept on doing what my mom would have done, which was to present her with reasonable solutions that she didn’t want to hear and remind her to take deep breaths because things always work out one way or another even though she didn’t want to hear that either. Of course it didn’t work. She remained inconsolable. It was frustrating and made me feel helpless and I ended up crying too. That was the only thing that gave her pause. “Why are YOU crying?” she asked. “This isn’t about you.” It wasn’t about me, but I couldn’t help her and I didn’t know where to turn.

I used up all the tools I had in my fix-it mom box. I had failed her. But by the end of the next day she had pursued one of the options she had violently objected to the night before and all was well. Better than well actually because she was so pleased with her new decision that she said she was relieved about the way everything turned out, and she was happier than she probably would have been otherwise. She never mentioned that the solution she chose was one of mine and possibly she thinks she came to the conclusion herself. But I’m ok with that. I can be a behind-the-scenes kind of mom too.  

I love this picture because it’s the last one of the three of us (taken pre-Covid when we took holiday gatherings for granted)

I think because I have embraced everything about my mom – the things I cherished and the ones that I didn’t appreciate so much – I can now allow myself to relax into who I am and what I want without apology. I know that I don’t need to get everything right to be a good mother, a good friend or a good person in general. And I don’t expect that of anyone else. I have flaws, but I also have a lot of qualities that I’m proud of. I think recognizing this allows me to help my kids embrace their strengths and acknowledge their weaknesses without dwelling on them. They are learning to build self-awareness by watching me work on my own. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself these days.

A friend recently reminded me that it’s actually good for your kids to see you emotionally vulnerable because it gives them context and helps them see you as more than just their mom. It opens up an avenue for you to connect with them when they are struggling with something because they see that you struggle too. It helps legitimize that advice they don’t want to hear because they (subconciously at least) understand that you actually do know how it feels and you might know how to help make it better. And they see that your struggles don’t break you. 

In my minds eye this is always how I see my mom even though she was probably 20 years younger than I am now.

I’m not done grieving (are we ever?) but I am in a better place now, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what the next year might bring and how I can use what I’ve learned about myself to navigate what’s next. The anniversary of my mother’s death comes just one day before a milestone birthday that I’d previously been dreading. It’s the one that’s loomed large these past few years, because it feels like a turning point. A turn I wasn’t prepared to make. But it also comes at a time when it feels like the whole world is emerging from a shared nightmare, a time when we can all start actually living fully again. So now I think, what’s the big deal? Getting older is a lot better than NOT getting older, because then I’d be dead and that wouldn’t be any fun at all. And now that fun is maybe going to be a thing again, I don’t want to miss out.

It’s the imprint you leave on others, the love you have for them and their love for you that tells the true story of who you are.

I used to think this big birthday marked the end of things – my youth, or whatever, but in reality it’s just the beginning. Maybe this whole long year and coming to terms with this loss has been the preparation I needed to move forward with confidence, so that I can find happiness in just being, so that I can embrace this life and all that it gives me for what it is and not what it was, what it could have been or what it should be. If this year has taught me anything it’s that even in the worst of times, even when your life path diverges, there is beauty and joy and constant discovery and love and so much living to be done in a perfectly imperfect way. 






Living Off Hope

There’s a new mural near my house in Providence that reads “Most of us live off hope”. It’s a lively, cheerful image depicting large, colorful flowers, vines and butterflies. It showed up late last spring, and was a welcome reminder that the world was still a colorful place in a time that seemed dark and grey. In the early days of summer actual sunflowers and other flowers were planted in the bed directly in front of the painted wall, adding a sense of promise of good things to come. The flower bed was dense enough that when the sun was shining brightly it was sort of hard to tell where the mural ended and real life began. As the long, lazy, mostly uneventful (by 2020 standards) summer days floated by, the sunflowers grew so tall they obscured the art completely. Maybe that was the point. Hope grows. But by October the flowers had all died and didn’t get cut back so the entire beauty of the piece was obscured by withered, dried and blackened blooms that felt like death.  

It’s hard to separate hope from despair these days (it’s such a fine line during a raging pandemic and roiling social unrest) and the dead sunflowers defiantly standing tall seemed to say “see, I told you so” just as Covid started rearing it’s ugly head again and the false sense of normalcy we’d all been warily enjoying gave way to a stark reality. We are not ok. At least not yet. At least not completely.  

The mural, painted by Joanna Vespia for The Avenue Concept, lives on Hope Street, and it’s a reference to a famous (RI famous?) Mad Peck poster from the 70’s. The poster reads “Providence, Rhode Island, where it rains two days out of three, except during the rainy season when it snows like a bitch. And Friendship is a one-way street. Rich folks live on Power Street. But most of us live off Hope.” Upon first read, it sounds like a pretty pessimistic view of a divided world, but maybe there’s something more to it.

Hope Street is a throughway that runs from the bottom part of the East Side all the way to Pawtucket. Hope is a very long street; some blocks are more beautiful than others. The blocks are, in turn, stark, leafy, peaceful, pristine, neglected, lively, colorful, and raw. Together they form one continuous pathway that connects several unique neighborhoods including Fox Point, College Hill, Freeman Plat, Hope and Summit. These neighborhoods are home to a wide variety of architecturally interesting structures in various states of repair (or disrepair) that date from the 1700s to present day, an eclectic mix of restaurants, shops, schools and people from every walk of life. Some businesses and people are thriving. Some are not. Others are somewhere in between. It’s a river of humanity in all its glory and shortcomings.

I love Hope Street. I love the ugly parts as much as the beautiful ones. In the early morning, when the sun is just starting to rise and the day still holds promises to come, I like to run from my house in Hope Village all the way down to the very end of Fox Point. The Multi-Family homes, American Four Squares and Bungalows that define my neighborhood give way first to grand Victorians and then to well preserved Colonials, Federals and Georgian homes. I run past the library, the bodega, the bakery, the Indian spice store, the florist, the bike shop, the Brown athletic complex, the specialty grocery store, the French school, the dome shaped observatory that I am intensely curious about but haven’t yet found the time to investigate. I am never tired of what I encounter along the way. There’s the guy putting a pile of unwanted items on the curb with a note that says “free, or best offer”. There are high school students trudging off the RIPTA bus, masks askew, faces lighted by the glow of their phones. Dog walkers, other runners, shopkeepers turning on lights. It strikes me that we are all living very different lives, but that we’re also inextricably tied together by at least one shared experience. We’re all living through this strange two-year hiatus from real life where we are both fully present and completely removed. And all of us, every single one of us, are currently making our way down Hope, one way or another. 

The thing is, some of us don’t notice that we’re still on Hope. We’re just putting one foot in front of the other, forgetting to look up or make eye-contact. We’re not even sure where we’re going anymore, or where we’re meant to be. We’ve lost sight of our destination because the journey has been long and we’re exhausted. But I think we’ve come too far to turn back now. This latest Covid surge is discouraging and depressing, and we still have mountains to climb if we’re ever going to be an equitable and inclusive society, but there is still reason to believe that this long (crazy, stupid, ugly, awful, frustrating, heartbreaking) trip is coming to an end. Can we keep going just a little bit longer? Can we make it a little further down the path every day? I know I said Hope is a long street, but I’d really like to think so. I really do think we can get there. 

It may rain two out of three days here in Providence, except when it’s snowing, but the sun does always come back. So what if it isn’t always sunny like it is in Philadelphia (wink) — maybe that can make us appreciate it a little more when the day shines bright.

And maybe Friendship isn’t a one-way street after all. Maybe it’s a two-way street with a dotted line running down the middle. We might not be in the same lane, or even going the same direction, but we can grasp hands on our way by and hold on with everything we’ve got until the light turns green.

And yes there are a lot of people still up there trying to make it on Power Street and maybe they can’t see very far down the hill, but it’s getting more and more crowded on Hope Street and I’ll take that as a sign of good things to come. 


Halló Iceland!

Oh! hello there… it’s been a minute hasn’t it? When we last left off we’d just returned from a fabulous week in Joshua Tree. That was back in the blissfully ignorant “right before everything went haywire” time which was late February 2020. Seems like a million years and a different lifetime ago, but I don’t have to tell you that. We’ve been through a lot since then, and I don’t have to tell you that either. Even if we’ll never get back to the way things “used to be” the world is still full of beauty and after all the ugliness we’ve endured recently I want to shout that from the rooftops. So, I’m back with my first travel post in 17 months. I’m a little rusty, but bear with me because I’m here to tell you about Iceland, which is probably one of the most magical places on the entire planet. Notice I said probably, because you never know ’til you’ve been everywhere and I haven’t been everywhere YET. But in any event Iceland has got to be pretty darn close to the top. Here’s how we spent our time in the land of fire and ice…

Reykjavik The weather in Iceland is pretty grey, but it’s still a very colorful country. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that. It’s also impressively progressive, with the first openly LGBTQ government leader. No glass ceiling here either, as she also happens to be a woman. That’s probably why it’s such a well run country… just sayin’ There are like a million and forty nine (give or take) churches in Iceland, but Hallgrimskirkja is probably the tallest and most impressive. I say probably, because maybe I missed a church or two and they could have been better. You just never know.Also, it’s not true that the only thing you can find to eat in Iceland is either a type of fish, or something smoked, or some type of smoked fish. There are a lot of other options, like the bread which is amazing and kleiner which is like a donut but way better. With kleiner in hand, you’re ready to explore…This was my Wes Anderson moment. I’m always looking for Wes Anderson moments because they make me happy. There are more than 100 public art installations in Reykjavik, which is pretty cool for such a small city. This is Þúfa, and we loved it, but were worried about the person who has to cut the grass.Every building seems to be a work of art in its own right.And the interiors are just as interesting and generally very cozy (probably on account of all the rain). This is The Icelandic Bar,  which we picked because we thought there was an off chance they’d have tasty traditional Icelandic food. Spoiler alert: we were right! You don’t have to go traditional if you eat here though because there are lots of other menu items like burgers and salad and other stuff that’s not Icelandic, but if you don’t have the salmon dog you’re probably missing out. Also, you won’t be able to say you had a salmon dog.

Community Opinion

The Time is Now

Last week my mind was on the fact that we needed to come together as a nation to combat a shared threat – the deadly COVID-19 virus. In my last blog post I pointed out that within this crisis we had an opportunity to foster real change. I said we had the chance to take these difficult circumstances and learn from them to make our world — our nation — a better place. I argued that toxic individualism was ruinous and that we desperately needed to move away from it.

All the while another, greater virus was roiling and churning and rearing it’s old, ugly head. It’s a virus that our nation has lived with and learned to falsely inoculate itself to for 400 years. Racism is a deadly, cancerous threat to the health and well being of our society and for far too long, too many of us have underplayed the enormity of it because far too many of us are immune to its lethal venom. But racism is a shared virus — those who are not directly affected by it knowingly or unknowingly (purposefully or indirectly) spread it to those most vulnerable to the symptoms of it, and are therefore infected by it in a different way. We’ve been working toward solutions that combat racism and bigotry for years but we have been kidding ourselves about how much progress we have been making. We have not really been part of the solution. By hiding behind the “progress” we believe we have made, we have become part of the problem. And by “we” I mostly mean White America.

I am an upper middle class white woman who has enjoyed all the opportunities and privileges that my race and socioeconomic standing has provided me with. These are not opportunities or privileges that I have earned in any way — I was just born with them. I could have just as easily been born into any other situation, could have been any other race, could have had any other life. But I wasn’t and I don’t. I was born white and simply because of that, my life is easier than others who weren’t. I have always recognized this as being unfair, and I am very conscious of it, but I have not done nearly enough to combat the absolute wrongness of it. 

peaceNow as our nation reels from yet another string of racially motivated murders during a time when our country is even more vulnerable to hate crimes and oppression because we’ve got a president who is seemingly hell bent on reversing every single gain and foothold we’ve made in our attempt to combat systemic and societal inequality, it’s clear that we are in desperate need of change. We need a movement. We need an uprising. And it needs to start with each and every one of us who have this unearned privilege. We need to take a hard look at our actions (or inactions), our thoughts, and our approach to life and ask ourselves what we can do to help other races rise and then we need to make that happen. We cannot just shake our heads and cast our eyes down when we witness oppression, racially motivated brutality or inequity of any kind, in any format. We must forcefully and loudly denounce it. 

People born into “whiteness” can change the narrative and raise up those who weren’t born into “whiteness” so that “whiteness” does not continue to be the driver of opportunity and privilege. 

I am fully committed to fighting this injustice by better educating myself about the history of racism and discrimination in America and arming myself with the knowledge I need to help combat it. I’m also committed to sharing that knowledge and ingraining it in my children. I’ve started to collect a list of references and reading material that I think will help inform and enlighten.  And if you have some to share, please do!

The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the Amy Cooper/Chris Cooper incident in Central Park are just the most recent injustices in a very long line of indecencies that prove that Black people in America have an enormous and unfair burden of having to prove their humanity. Over and over again, Black Americans bear the brunt of the workload for building a just and equitable society. They suffer the consequences of our failure to effectively combat oppression and bigotry and hate. These are not just names in the news. These are not just “situations”. These are people who have loved ones, they have hopes and dreams and triumphs and heartbreak. They are unique from each other. They have their own stories. But they are every story of racism in today’s America.

The color of your skin should not define you… it should be a big part of who you are and it should make up a big part of your story, but it should not predetermine your fate. It should not get you killed.

I fear that in the past we have been too focused on structural change in an effort to address our societal injustices. We cannot continue to think that progress means fixing our system to make it more equitable. We need to recognize that we have to first and foremost address the underlying problem that is causing our system to fail. And that problem is an implicit bias toward and uneasiness of “otherness”. image

I think by removing the negativity and breaking down the biases around “otherness” we can start to move toward real progress, real change. I’m committed to continuing to make sure my kids live with a deep appreciation for the fact that the thing that most makes the world such a beautiful, interesting place is the diversity of the people that inhabit it. I do not want them (or anyone) to live life “color-blind”. I want all of us to live life in vibrant rainbow technicolor, celebrating the unique beauty that each and every person brings to our world because of their culture, their traditions, their history. Every race and every ethnicity has unique subculture of art, of music, of stories, and food, and celebrations and rituals, and heroes and monuments and mores and beliefs and if we could just embrace them and use them to enrich our own lives and experiences, we can start to become the great and wonderful “melting pot” that America is supposed to be. If variety is the spice of life, why are so many afraid of it? Why is it so threatening?

I also think we need to be more vocal in our objection to oppression and racist behavior and thought. I vow to stand up in my personal and professional life when I witness a micro-aggression, see discriminatory behavior, hear a racist comment or read a disparaging post or “opinion” on social media,or anywhere. I promise to have those difficult conversations. I am, by nature, “non-confrontational” and I’ve used that as an excuse in the past to not speak up in situations where I should have. I’m not proud of that and I am vowing to myself to change that. Because it matters. It really does. I know it is not enough to disagree with someone’s racist remark, or to not laugh at someone’s disparaging jokes, or to delete a chain email containing xenophobic rhetoric. It is not enough to re-tweet an inspirational message from a human rights activist, it is not enough to hashtag and post about equality and that black lives matter. I know I have to raise my voice and make it clear — very clear — that racism has no place in my life, in this world.

14This is an enormous problem. We are deeply broken. We have so much to do. The things I mention above are just the tip of the iceberg, just a few of the things I feel I can do in this moment. They certainly aren’t even close to everything. We are not going to accomplish a fundamental transformation overnight. But, we aren’t going to accomplish anything at all if we don’t start somewhere. We have to start somewhere. This is where we start. And we have to start now. We have to start creating a world where Black people, Indigenous people, People of Color and White people — ALL people (gay, straight, bi, trans) not only live in equity, but celebrate each others differences and the unique beauty they bring to the world in equal measure. The wheels of justice, compassion, understanding and acceptance, groaning under effort to turn for so long, now need to be well oiled and put into motion, if not at warp speed, then at least at a strong, steady pace.

We are facing a crisis in the middle of a crisis. We’ve got a whole lot of crisis going on. But that means we also have a whole lot of opportunity too. Remember in my last post when I said that the Chinese word for crisis was derived from two western words — danger, and opportunity —  and that if we didn’t take this opportunity to change things in the midst of this crisis then we were in grave danger? Well, I still mean it. I just mean it even more.

Oh.. and I’ll leave you with this. I’ve loved the song For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield ever since I was obsessed with this movie called Where the Day Takes You back in the 90’s. I probably watched it 17 times or more (way more) so every time I hear that song — which was the theme song — I naturally think of that movie. I won’t waste time here telling you what it’s about but if you haven’t seen it, you should (and you’re probably still quarantining in some capacity, so you know you have the time)… but anyway, even though it was written in 1967, that song was the backdrop for this 1992 movie because it was still relevant and it’s been bouncing around in my head all week because it suddenly feels like 1967 (not that I was alive then, but you know what I mean). And also it’s still relevant.

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Community Opinion politics Uncategorized

All together now


The cover of Sunday’s New York Times was a jarring, depressing reminder that the pandemic has had a devastating and long lasting impact on our nation. The headline US Deaths Near 100,000–An Incalculable Loss was followed by a roll call of 1,000 names that spanned the entire front page and represented only 10% of those individuals lost to a virus that a few short months ago seemed — to many people — like some other country’s problem. As I sat and stared and digested the enormity of it, the positive, up-beat mood I’d been enjoying for the past few days evaporated into a cloud of despair. We are not ok.

As we see the country opening back up, and the images of beach-goers and boaters and back yard bbq-ers litter our social media feeds this Memorial Day Weekend, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. It’s alluring to think that we’re on the other side of the crisis, that we’re moving toward normal. But in reality there is no normal anymore, and we won’t be going back to the “before”.  And if we aren’t careful, there won’t be an “after” either.8EFEB4A4-C715-422A-BACD-93A748AF05A9

By now, almost everyone knows someone who has contracted COVID-19, knows someone who has lost someone to COVID-19, knows someone who has lost their job because of COVID-19 or is personally suffering loss of a loved one or a financial hardship because of COVID-19. That’s why to me it seems unfathomable that some people refuse to see this crisis as a shared problem.

Tempting as it is to head to the salon the second it opens, or get your “TJ Maxx” on, or invite all your neighbors over for burgers and beer, or whatever…we’ve got to recognize that the more we do that now, the longer it’s going to take to get our feet back on terra firma. If there is widespread disregard for guidelines and rules set by officials with access to data and predictive models, the worse off we’re going to be in the long run. What’s that saying… “a minute on the lips, forever on the hips”? It’s kind of like that. Choose wisely now, so you don’t regret it later.

IMG_5079Don’t get me wrong- I am as excited as everyone else about things reopening. Meeting friends for a drink, eating a dinner that I didn’t cook, popping into a store to pick up something on a whim all seem like a dream. And, I do think it’s important to relax the restrictions a bit now (where cases and deaths are declining) because in addition to protecting the health of our nation, we also need to protect the well being of our citizens. People are suffering financial devastation because the economy has been brought to a stand still with stores, restaurants and companies being closed and jobs being eliminated in alarming numbers. The longer we wait to get small businesses up and running, the harder its going to be for them to recover (especially if the government can’t or won’t provide the relief packages that have been promised). And we can’t have that. We cannot become a nation of chain restaurants and box stores. We can’t let the American dream die.

I’m grateful that I live in a state that has a governor who is approaching the job of reopening with a plan that’s based on science and data. It makes me feel more comfortable about venturing out of the little safe bubble I’ve created for myself and my family. It makes me a bit more hopeful that local establishments and small businesses will make it through, and eventually thrive again. But the thing that worries me is that the plan also relies on the total cooperation and adoption by everyone. And that’s where the “we’re all in this together” reminder comes in. I know, I know– that phrase has been tossed around way too much lately. But there’s a reason for it. IMG_5129

There’s a way we can do this. We all wear masks, we all stay six feet away, we all wait patiently in line to get into stores, we all practice good hygiene, we all only gather outside and only in groups of less than 10, we do all the things that the experts are telling us we need to do when we re-enter “real life”. I don’t see how asking this of citizens infringes on their civil liberties. I don’t understand why some people feel so threatened by it. Or actually, ok I do: and it’s the current Administration, headed by a President distracted by his re-election odds and his own personal gain who can’t be bothered to set an example, and worse has a fondness for spreading dangerous and destructive disinformation. There I said it. Why can’t we have clear direction and a unified coordinated effort at the federal level that would eliminate any doubt about what’s best for individuals and the nation? Why can’t we be New Zealand?IMG_4292

I hate how we look at each other warily as we pass in the streets. I hate how we instantly judge someone’s character or political leaning by whether they’re wearing a mask or not. I hate feeling guilty when I stop to talk to someone I know when I run into them at the grocery store or in passing on one of the 32 walks I take every day. I think a lot of this wariness and animosity could be solved if everyone had the same plan to follow, if everyone had a true leader to look to, if we had a consistent message that reinforced and reminded us why we needed to do these things. But we don’t. We are a captain-less ship, and we’ve got no clear course.

I don’t know if you saw the videos circulating of the pool party that happened at the Lake of the Ozarks on Saturday, but I can tell you it’s terrifying. The hundreds of people frolicking and climbing all over each other in a shallow pool would be gross even if we weren’t in the throes of a pandemic. But to see it happening now is just absurd. You don’t see these types of things happening in other countries. We used to be a nation that the rest of the world looked up to. But now we’re just largely regarded as a nation of fools. I look at scenes like this and it makes me angry, but it also makes me sad. It doesn’t have to be this way. We need to figure out how to move away from this toxic individualism our country is suffering from. And by that I mean this idea that “I can believe what I want, and if it doesn’t affect me personally I don’t care”. There’s a lot wrong with our system– the staggering inequity is profoundly obvious right now– and so much of it stems from this individualistic mentality.

Maybe through this crisis we’ve been given a chance to change that…or at least start to change it.

The Chinese word for “crisis” (simplified Chinese: 危机; traditional Chinese: 危機; pinyin: wēijī, wéijī) is frequently invoked in Western speaking as being composed of two Chinese characters signifying “danger” and “opportunity” respectively.

I learned this the other day in a stress management session I attended at work. And by “at work” I mean my dining room, and by “attended” I mean “logged on to Zoom” because that’s how we roll these days, but I digress…img_9993

I’ve been thinking a lot about it since. Does it mean that within a crisis you have both danger and opportunity? Like in a pandemic, you have a danger of dying and getting others sick so you stay home which gives you an opportunity to have actual conversations with your kids, discover (or re-discover) creative passions, do lots of yoga, make a ton of banana bread and finally organize your sock drawer? Or does it mean that there’s a danger in not using it as an opportunity to foster great change? Like when a pandemic hits during a time when your nation is deeply divided and you’re being “led” by a hate-mongering, self serving egomaniac with complete disregard for law and a disdain for democracy and you decide NOT to use it as a reason to unify and join together for the better good so that you don’t lose a large percentage of your aging and vulnerable population and your economy doesn’t totally collapse? Hmmm… for the sake of argument let’s say it’s the latter.

IMG_0491We could use this as a chance to move away from individualism and move toward a more collective, cooperative ethos. We need to move away from “How is this going to affect me?” to ” How can I help others and ensure this disease doesn’t spread?”

Right now we’re in a crisis. And if we don’t use this opportunity to come together, all of us are in grave danger.





Community Family Opinion

Strange New World: This Week’s Top Ten

IMG_3084Whatever gets you through, right? These past four weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion — moments where I’ve felt like yeah, ok, I can do this for as long as it takes, and others when I dive deep into despair and wonder how I’m going to do this for even one more day, let alone weeks and weeks. I cry easily. Those images of exhausted health care workers on the front lines in makeshift gear just completely gut me. And those pictures of messages left on doors of now closed restaurants and stores break my heart. And don’t even get me started with movies. I always cry at movies but the tears come fast and furious now. I forgot what a tearjerker Top Gun is. I might have ugly cried during the last scene when Maverick is alone in the bar but then Charlie walks in without him noticing and puts “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling” on the juke box and you just know they are going to ride off into the sunset together on his motorcycle looking totally bad ass and live happily ever after. Also, have you seen the end of Pitch Perfect 3? So moving.

I have to admit because of my volatile emotional state I’ve not consistently done a great job of modeling good behavior for my children or been super effective at comforting them. I have to remind myself that they too are going through some pretty serious psychological shit and they need me to be strong. And I’m trying. Because they are everything. But, balancing my family’s needs with mine, concentrating on work, and managing the household day to day (including grocery shopping which has suddenly become the most dangerous of tasks) is so much more complicated and exhausting now, even though in theory I have much more time to do it all. On the surface it sounds so shallow and first world-y — lamenting about being “stuck” in our comfortable home, where we’ve got every creature comfort available at our finger tips and way more snacks than we need. Where we are all healthy. Healthy!! We’ve always been healthy, but I’ve always sort of taken that for granted. But now it’s not a given. Now it feels like pure luck.

Yes, we are lucky (very, very lucky) and I think we all recognize this. But the staying home isn’t really the hard part, is it? It’s the the lack of human interaction, the feeling of being cut off and isolated. Living solitary lives. Being separated from people we love. Hugs we can’t give. Conversations we can’t have because let’s face it, handy as ZOOM is, it’s also awkward and weird. Anyway, I could go on and on. But I don’t have to. Because you get it. You really do. I keep reminding my kids of that– that’s it’s not just us, it’s the entire world that’s experiencing this and that fact should provide some sort of comfort at least. We are alone, but not really alone. Together apart. So what do until we can be together together again? How do we manage in this strange new life? We find the things that distract us. We focus on the good things. So, on that note: here are my top 10 good things from last week:


10. Writers & Lovers: A Novel This is the book I read this week and it was really good. Really, really good. (Shout out to my friend Kate who in all the 16 years I’ve known her has never failed me with a book recommendation–she is the reason I’ve read some of my absolute favorites.) I liked this one because it’s set in Cambridge, MA which I know very well from skulking around there in high school and living just outside Harvard Square back in my younger days. It’s set in the late 90s (which coincidentally is when I lived there) so there are a  lot of mentions about places I actually went to– i.e bars I drank at. But that’s not why I liked it so much. I liked it because the characters are flawed but endearing and completely believable. The prose is amazing. I’m very picky about how books are written — too many flowery or descriptive words and I’m out. One dimensional, stereotypical characters? Obvious dialog? No thanks. This book has none of that– just solid writing with fully developed characters and an engaging story. Plus it took me back to a time when quarantining wasn’t a thing and living through a pandemic was the furthest thing from my mind. A good escape. 


9. Fancy Dinner The other day my daughter was in a funk. Like not just a regular “this situation sucks” funk that seems to be a baseline for everyone these days, but a lying on the kitchen floor wrapped in a blanket, staring at the ceiling in despair funk. It worried me because she’s not usually like that. Also, she was blocking the fridge. I tried a million different ways to cheer her up but nothing was working. Then she turned her sad little face to me and said “I just want to dress up. Can we have a fancy dinner tonight?”  So we did. We exchanged the sweatpants we’d been wearing for days for party clothes, set the table with candles and china and drank rose out of champagne glasses. It worked. 
648905C3-51E2-4588-9B1C-7466B4BB229DThe act of grooming really does more for you than you’d think. It’s one of those things that we take for granted, because in normal life we do it almost every day. I hate the phrase self-care–it really grates on me– but there’s no other way to describe it. I didn’t realize how important it is for your psyche. It’s not vanity. It’s so much more than that. A good habit.

8. Games Both Kahoot & Evil Apples provided me with a bit of unexpected pleasure this week. Kahoot is a quiz platform that my daughter introduced us to. I think it’s mainly used by elementary school teachers to engage a classroom full of easily distracted adolescents, but I never said we were very sophisticated in terms of what we consider entertaining. We spent a few hours one night challenging each other by asking questions designed to determine how well we knew each other. You think you know your kids and your spouse really well (especially after three uninterrupted weeks together), but you don’t know them well enough. Until you Kahoot as a family and you learn things that maybe you actually want to unlearn.

Evil Apples is like Cards Against Humanity but you play it virtually. You still chortle and snicker guiltily with your friends as you slap down inappropriate phrase after inappropriate phrase. You just do it at home, in your pj’s, with your own stock of booze and salty snacks. Obviously, you still have to play it with the right people — the ones that will forgive you for being so gauche, so wrong, and so raunchy because they know it’s just a game and it’s not really a reflection of who you really are. It’s just a way to get yourself to laugh so hard that beer shoots out of your nose (not that that’s happened to me necessarily).

Also guess what — analog fun still exists! Some of our faves include “Weird Things Humans Search For”, Paradisio, a good old fashioned deck of cards, and Simpson chess. We also love playing the only gaming system we own, which is Atari. It’s not analog, but pretty close. A good waste of time.  


7. Some Good News I stopped watching the White House press conferences a week or so ago after realizing that they were directly related to how distressed (and disgusted) I was feeling and how much alcohol I was consuming. For my own mental health I made the not very difficult decision to ignore them until that glorious day when they don’t exist anymore. It’s a three ring circus come American horror story I can definitely live without. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not still happening, or that the state of our nation and our world is any less disturbing. That’s why John Krasinski’s decision to start his good news only show is one of the best things that happened this week. Real things that are actually good are really still happening in the real world! Thank God! I have to admit I cried through the entire first episode (again with the crying!!). His second effort, with the cast of Hamilton–well, what can I say about that except: more, please. So, thanks John for giving us #somegoodnews when we all need it most.  A good reminder. 


6. Wallpaper Back in October when I took a month off after what I thought at the time was the worst year of my life I ordered some wall paper to hang in my bathroom. Because it was going to be the project I accomplished while I was unemployed. The package arrived one day and I stashed it in the corner of my bedroom, thinking I’d get to it at some point. But then I went back to work and well, you know how that story goes. Anyway, I finally opened the box a few weeks ago and then last weekend we hung it. On the walls! It was peel and stick and it was ridiculously easy. It took me 7 months to open the package, one week to roll it out and two hours to put it up. There’s a lesson there in procrastination (or not procrastinating?) maybe, but in any event, here’s a picture of it and don’t you just love it? Now I’m going to order some more for my kitchen. And I might even hang it up. A good lesson.


5. Running I’ve never been more grateful that running is a part of my life than I am right now. Running for me is more of a stress reliever than anything else. I’ve never been really fast, and I don’t really love the physical aspect of it (especially as I get older and I feel it in my knees), but I love the way it makes me feel when I’m done. In real life I start most mornings with my running group. Getting up at 5:00 am is worth it when you’re meeting up with people who act as therapists, confidants and cheerleaders all in one. I’ve come to count on it & think of it as one of the most valuable parts of my day. Now, obviously we can’t run together and I haven’t seen 5:00 am in weeks (because without them, why would I?) But I still go every morning- after coffee & the news and before I settle in for a day of juggling work, zoom meetings and kids needs and all the other things. It really helps clear my mind and prepare me for the (long, long, long) day ahead.

I was thinking recently how when you go for a run the first mile really sucks (at least for me it does). Your breath is a bit ragged and you’re either going too fast or too slow. But then you head into mile two and you start find your rhythm. Your breathing evens out and your stride becomes consistent and  you settle in to a pace that works. And that’s kind of how I feel about navigating life from a socially responsible distance. Even though it’s been four weeks I don’t think I’ve quite hit mile two yet in this quarantine marathon. But, breathing comes a little easier day by day and my legs don’t feel so heavy. I haven’t hit my stride, but I know I will soon and even if I don’t, there IS a finish line. At least I hope there is. A good metaphor. 

4. Randy Rainbow Randy is what cotton candy would be if cotton candy were a person. Fluffy and fun. And he gave me my biggest laugh of the week with this video. I won’t say more– just watch it here. A good laugh.

3. Amy Walsh: @tacticalimagination I spent the first few extra hours of my week watching Tiger King. But turns out there’s only so much murder, mayhem and madness you can take, especially when it centers around the worst human beings that exist on this planet. Or at least it seems like they’re the worst. So… in my search for a better way to occupy my time I came across Amy Walsh’s Domestic Infinite Instagram challenge. It’s a series of 10-minute creative projects you can complete by using found things in your home. It takes just enough effort to feel challenging and it gives you an opportunity to look at all the things you’re sick of looking at in a totally different way. If you’re as tired of Tiger King (and Netflix in general) as I am, check this out! A good outlet. 

2. Text Messages & Zoom Meetings (obviously) I used to use texting much as I used to use phone calls, back when phone calls were a thing. Strictly for making plans or a quick hello. But these days I appreciate the group text strings that are now 28 days long and counting, the marathon conversations with my sister, and the random hello from an out of touch friend that I’d forgotten how much I liked. These texts have provided me with endless laughs, great advice, tasty recipes and helpful information in a rapidly evolving and increasingly complicated news cycle — you know all the things that I normally get when I meet friends for dinner or drinks in real life. Text notifications are now a very welcome part of my day.


And ZOOM. Haaa… I hate ZOOM in normal times. But now that it’s the only way I can see the beautiful faces of all the amazing people in my life I have a new appreciation for it. This week I got to check in with friends I hadn’t seen in weeks or months, visit with my nephew who somehow manages to energize a room even through a monitor, have a virtual 80’s ski weekend party with no skiing but lots of laughs, and a family cocktail hour that spanned 18 households in 4 countries on 2 different continents.  How cool is that? A good connection. 

1. A Postcard Do you ever get personal mail anymore? I mean besides during the holidays or when you’re celebrating a birthday? I don’t… or not much anyway. But the other day a postcard arrived and of course I burst into tears, because as we’ve established I’ve been crying a lot lately anyway… but these were good tears. Grateful tears. Because it was a postcard from my very creative and very thoughtful bestie who has been a constant in my life from our silly, reckless college days right up until our present day and for all the years and things that have come between then and now. It was a postcard with a photo of us plus lots of other people that I really love that make my life happier and better just by being in it. And its message was “we’re in this together”. It was exactly what I needed in that moment. A good message. 


Honorable mentions go to Instagram memes that used to annoy me but are suddenly relevant & relatable and make me laugh out loud or snort, or both; all my friends who got new puppies because their puppy pics are adorable; and my son’s snickerdoodle cookies which to my delight and dismay he’s perfected by making approximately 273 batches of in a 7 day time frame.

These are the things we’ve done to help us us navigate this new normal that is in absolutely no way normal. Tomorrow we’ll have to figure something else out. So, if you’ve got any ideas let me know because we’ve got miles to go before we sleep (and miles to go before we sleep)…



Opinion Wellness

Love in the time of Corona

Strange days indeed. Just now I found myself standing in my kitchen robotically spooning ice cream directly from the carton into my mouth as I gazed glassy eyed at my now eerily empty calendar. I don’t even like ice cream. I actually had to do a little head shake to wake myself up from my trance. I feel like such a cliche. But I don’t really have any idea how to deal with a real life pandemic. It’s my first one. Is it ok to eat all the ice cream now, or should I save it for when I’m quarantined for 14 days? I dunno. Help.

Wednesday night I watched Donald Trump’s ridiculous, worthless (and decidedly xenophobic) address and yesterday I read that even though he’s been exposed to COVID-19 (which he denies even though there are pictures–there are always pictures) he won’t get tested. And all I can think is that holy shit, we are totally alone in all of this. It is completely up to us, the general public–the American people–to heed expert advice, to follow the plans outlined by the WHO, to learn from what’s happening in Italy and to take matters into our own hands. If we are to flatten the curve here in America, we are going to have to make our own rules and agree to follow them as a united front. And in order to do that we are going to have to show each other a little love, because my friends this is going to be a lonely, nerve wracking, difficult and frankly exhausting task.

I don’t know about you but I hate the term “social distancing”. I am a social person. I like talking to people. I like being around people. I like hugs. Hugs are nice. Social distancing sounds like a punishment. But according to experts–scientists and doctors and public health officials–it is the very best way to help slow, and eventually stop, the spread of this extremely fast moving disease. It’s what we have to do in order to ensure we don’t end up like Italy. We have to sacrifice some human interaction now, so that this crisis doesn’t completely dismantle our health care system and implode our economy.

So here we are. This is our new reality for the next little while. It’s scary because it’s different and weird and changing every day and because lots of people are starting to panic. Because being told to stay home from work and keeping your kids home from school, shutting down the NBA, closing Disneyland, turning the lights off on Broadway, silencing music venues,  emptying college campuses and (weirdly) stockpiling toilet paper all sound like end of days. But we have to remember that we aren’t hiding from the disease because it’s going to kill us. For most of us if (when?) we get it, we’ll feel like we’ll have a really bad flu and then we’ll get over it. We’re not doing it for us. We’re doing it for the elderly and persons with compromised immune systems who won’t be able to fight it and who WILL die. We’re doing it for families who have loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes who are facing visiting restrictions or bans. We’re doing it for hourly employees who don’t have sick time who cannot afford to take time off of work. We’re doing it so that local small businesses–shops, restaurants, hair salons and local retailers–don’t shut down.  We’re doing it to preserve society as we know it. Because if we don’t it WILL be end of days. I mean, we won’t be zombies but we’ll be facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and we’ll be left with a healthcare system that’s in shambles which come to think of it might lead to all of us dying actually, so yeah maybe we will all be zombies after all. Yikes. So, there’s that.

Anyway, we agree, right? We have to practice social distancing and we have to take care of ourselves. But can we also agree to take care of others? If now isn’t the time for us all to put differences aside and work together for the common good, I don’t know when is. Loving thy neighbor has never been more important. Ironically, we’ll have to do it virtually or from a distance of at least 6 feet, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our hardest and do our best to maintain human connections.

What does that mean? Check in with people you care about or ones you know to be alone in this world, or ones who you think might be struggling. A phone call, an email, a text message. Or take a few seconds for an extra long elbow bump and engage in real, meaningful eye contact when you do get to interact with others. Use kind words. Encouraging words. Hopeful words. Remind your friends, your kids, your colleauges that this will pass and we will get back to normal. Accept that life is going to have to change for a bit. Model good behavior. Follow advice when it comes. Don’t panic. Don’t! Take deep breaths. Deep deep breaths. Drink lots of wine. Oops, how did that get in there? But yes, wine.

Also, support your local businesses. Please. Small businesses are going to be hit the hardest, and without support they may never recover. Instead of going out to dinner buy some gift cards- you’ll be able to use them in a few months, when things return to normal but it will help keep restaurants afloat now. Or order take out. That’s a little riskier, but still so much safer than sitting in a room with a bunch of people. If a small shop tells you they’re being diligent about sanitizing, and you aren’t sick, drop in and buy something. Bring your hand sanitizer, keep your distance from other shoppers, but don’t be afraid to go. Or buy from them online if that’s an option. Or best yet, call them up and ask if you can buy and gift card and have it mailed to your house. But, please whatever you do, don’t stop buying.

And, finally–just be kind to each other and yourself. Be gentle. Be patient. Be accepting. Be tolerant. Be a good friend. We’re all going through this, there’s no avoiding it for anyone. We might feel differently about it, but we’re all affected by it.  No one is immune (wouldn’t that be nice). But we’ve got each other (we really do). And we can come together, right now. So, let’s come together. Right. Now.





Joshua Tree

We’re back from a magical week in the California desert and I’m having a hard time facing reality. I’ve been to lots of places all over the world — and I’ve loved so many of them — but I have never felt about a place like I feel about Joshua Tree and the surrounding area. I can’t begin to put into words why I think it’s so special or why the trip was so amazing, so I’m going to turn to pictures to help. You might as well settle in for a nice long read, because if a picture is worth a thousand words, you’re gonna be here til next week.

The first thing you need to do when you go to Joshua Tree is secure an amazing homestead. We stayed at Rancho Morongo and I loved it so much I wrote an entire post about it, which you can read here. Be sure to check that out so you can experience the full magic of this desert oasis.
But in the meantime here’s a sneak peak. This is where I liked to sit after a day of hiking and exploring to read or catch up on Fleabag, which is my new favorite t.v. indulgence.
When you’re in the desert you should rise with the sun because you really, really, really don’t want to miss a thing.
No need to rush though–hang around a little because you ARE on vacation and you don’t want to over exert yourself. This is a good spot for coffee and morning reflection.
But don’t linger TOO long. Put on your favorite “I look cute in the desert” outfit and head out. Joshua Tree awaits!
Before you enter the park, if you’re coming from the town of Joshua Tree, stop here for supplies. Because as the sign indicates, you can get supplies here. You can also get LOTS of other useless crap that you don’t need like ceramic cactuses, rubber rattle snakes, tie-dyed bandanas and dream catchers. But for the sake of this post, let’s pretend it’s just an old fashioned supply store with real supplies like beef jerky and solar powered flashlights. It’s better that way.
Here’s a small sampling of what you’ll see when you get to the park.
Also this. There’s an entire cactus garden somewhere in Joshua Tree but we didn’t make it there. This is a mini cactus garden and I’m ok with just seeing that. Are you ok with just seeing that?
Rocks on rocks on rocks, with crazy trees on rocks, and sand and rocks and crazy trees. And rocks. It sounds weird but it’s not. Ok, it is weird. But in a wonderful way. Wonderfully weird.
Long story short, these rocks were formed millions of years ago by huge pools of magma that pushed sedentary rock layers up against each other that later cooled and eroded. Whenever I say the word “magma” I see Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. Does this happen to anyone else or is it just me?
Magma, baby. Magma.
It’s hot in the desert, even in February. Seek shade when you can.  Joshua trees are amazing to look at but not so great for protecting you from scorching rays. But it’s ok- form over function is kind of my thing.
And what a form it is! If we want to get all existential we can say these trees are a pretty good representation of  life in general. That is to say beautifully flawed.
And guess what? If you’re feeling like your beauty is flawed, you can get a makeover in the town of Joshua Tree. My grandmother had one of these hair dryers in her basement. I’m not telling you why or what my cousins and I did with it.
This place really is funky town, and I mean that in the best way possible.
It’s very Mad Max, but also cheerful.
You can hang here with some really cool cats. Just make sure to keep your head about you…
We just chillin’ and waitin’ for Coachella and Burning Man to happen.
While you wait, you can visit the world famous crochet museum. It’s definitely world famous. It says so right on the sign.
This museum is the kind of museum that makes you happy just by existing.
I mean, come on. How cute is this?
I don’t even know why I took a picture of this so I have nothing to say about it. But it does add a certain je ne sais quoi doesn’t? I don’t know…
But I know why I took a picture of this and that’s because there are a lot of people I’d like to sit right down in that chair until their soul has a chance to find them again. I won’t get too political but ya’ll know who I’m talking about and all of them have some ‘splainin’ to do.
Phew! A saloon. No dusty cowboy town is complete without a watering hole that serves cold beer (and/or mimosas?) I’m gonna be honest right here and tell you we didn’t have much luck in the food department on this trip, but that’s because we are terrible at planning in advance and didn’t make reservations anywhere on what we didn’t know was one of the busiest weeks of the year. We waited a lot. But lucky for us everyone in these parts serves beer and/or mimosas. The beers here were extra tall, extra cold and tasted extra good.
Hey- that’s our gang and that’s a pretty cool bus conversion. But don’t worry we didn’t buy it. We didn’t have THAT many beers. Also it wasn’t for sale (phew).
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…I really wanted to take a bath in this but it never happened.
I did spend a lot of time with these guys though. Our favorite hour together was just before sunset.
What is it about the golden hour? It’s seriously magic no matter where you are, but especially in spots like this. The danger of finding a really great place to stay on your vacation is that you might be temped to spend all your time there.
But then you’d miss out on so much…
Like Pioneer Town! This is an old movie set turned “real” town. Well, it’s supposedly a real town but we were kind of skeptical.
I mean for one, this wasn’t a bank and that wasn’t a bath house. Like, I didn’t see one single person walking around in a towel.
Also all of the stores seemed to be selling things like decorative soap and magnets and t-shirts. Which is kind of a red flag but ok, let’s pretend for the sake of pretending. My daughter who is maybe a teeny bit cynical from time to time pointed out that it felt like we were at Disney World or Universal Studios. Which actually it did. So maybe she’s not cynical, just observant. And also, it WAS a movie set. Which reminds me to ask- did you guys see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and if so do you think it was filmed here? I kept expecting to run into Leo or Brad, but sadly that didn’t happen.
The best thing about Pioneer Town is that it’s home to Pappy and Harriet’s which is THE place to go for music and spirits and food in the high desert. Except that if you want food you might have to wait 3 hours because not only is it THE place to go, it is apparently THE ONLY place to go (except this really great hole in the wall Mexican place in Yucca Valley which I didn’t take pictures of and don’t remember the name but highly recommend). I think every single person in the Mojave desert was at Pappy and Harriet’s when we were. We gave up waiting to eat after 2 1/2 hours, but luckily it wasn’t wasted time.
Because there was live music and cold beer and do you really need anything else in life?
Um yeah you do. You need cactuses (cacti?)
Luckily there’s Cactus Mart for all your cactus needs.
Mamas don’t let your cacti grow up to be pricks.
Gav, stand here, hold this and pretend your mom isn’t wicked immature.
Where we gonna go next? The moon seems possible. Anything seems possible after a few days of totally disconnecting from all the crazy shit happening in the world.
I tell you what though. We weren’t going anywhere without first buying a few cactuses (cacti?) to bring home. We got these lil guys because parting with the desert is such sweet sorrow. They’re now sitting on my kitchen window sill and they’re still alive! I don’t think you can kill a cactus very easily, but if you can I’ll probably be the one to do it. I try so hard to have a green thumb, but I’m so much better with cut flowers. Probably because they’re already dead.
Even if you spend way too much time embarrassing your kids at Cactus Mart, you can’t forget to leave time for a sunset hike. And Eureka Peak is a perfect place to do that.
Here it really is just is you and your shadow…
And shadowy trees.
Another golden hour, same golden boy.
But these ARE the days we dream about, when sunlight paints us gold.
I honestly cannot describe in words the beauty of this place and the magic you feel as you watch the sun drop down behind the distant mountains….
everything awash in this really pretty light…
and then the sky turns all shades of brilliant orange and pink and well, honestly it’s an image — and a feeling — that will stay with me always. Because this isn’t an ordinary place….
Even after the sun sets, the desert brings the magic.
The sound of silence…
and the overwhelming beauty of an unspoiled star filled sky. Obviously, it’s nice to have somewhere cozy to retreat to, but I’d totally sleep outside with nothing between me and the stars except a sleeping bag. Actually that’s a lie because now that I think about it: rattle snakes. I don’t think I’d like getting bit by a rattler or eaten by a coyote. Plus I do like a comfy bed and the beds at Rancho Morongo are EXTRA comfy so would be a shame really to not take advantage of that.
As temping as it is to spend every waking and (indoor) sleeping moment in the desert, the lush green allure of nearby Palm Springs and its own special kind of magic is too compelling to ignore. Especially because the special kind of magic you find there is mid century modern magic, which is an extra good kind of magic. You can read about our mod Palm Springs adventure here.
That was fun! Now follow me to Palm Springs

This was the type of trip that stays with you long after all the suitcases are put away and the laundry is done. It’s the type of trip your mind drifts back to  during your Monday afternoon team meeting, and when you’re stuck in Wednesday morning traffic. It’s the type of trip you wish you could relive over and over, but know you probably won’t. So what you need to do is appreciate the fact that you got to live the experience in the first place and hold on to the memories deep in your heart forever. Also, print out some of those pictures and put them on your fridge and tell yourself you ARE going back someday, because dreaming is good and you should never stop dreaming.


Decor Travel

Desert Dream: Rancho Morongo

Guys! We found it! The perfect Airbnb rental. I’m not kidding. Rancho Morongo is the epitome of desert chic– a lovingly renovated abode situated on a private lot with breathtaking views. It stole my heart the second we pulled up. It’s a beautiful blend of laid back luxury and rustic charm. And it has a ton of cactuses. Cacti? Either way, there are a lot of them. And they’re really cool. In fact everything about Kelly’s place is really cool. Being there made me feel like I should be walking around in a cowboy hat wrapped in a gently worn woolen blanket holding a snifter of really expensive whiskey plus an earmarked version of collected works by Ginsberg or Kerouac. Being there made me want to be a cooler version of me. Or maybe by being there I WAS a cooler version of me?

Anywho, this house in REALITY was a damn near perfect spot to call home while we explored Joshua Tree, Palm Springs and Palm Desert. It is truly a magical oasis and if you’re ever looking for a place to stay in the California desert I’d say don’t miss this one. Oh, and bring me with you because I’m ready to go back. I’ll bring the whiskey. And a cowboy hat.









See? I told you it was magical. If you want to read about what we did when we weren’t lounging around pretending to be way more fabulous than we actually are, check out my posts about Joshua Tree and Palm Springs.  And, remember if you’re planning a trip to Rancho Morongo, I look good wrapped in wool.