I had the most delicious dream, last night...
The fog and confusion of 2020 had let up. We were out, roaming, visiting, gathering. I dare say, thriving. Grateful, just so grateful, to be out and together.
I walked through my own town, and it was as if the hamlet I call home had been re-imagined - lots of cars all along the outskirts of the town center, but no spots on the streets. Overfull kiosks of fresh produce, food trucks, grassy areas, outdoor dining lined each street, troubadours and staged-music filled the air with art and culture and vibrancy. Puppet-shows and story-times on street corners for children and passerby. Locals walked freely, the streets belonged to pedestrians or cyclists - in town. It was open, clean, fresh, alive, and welcoming. An oasis - with patches of green, lots of life, water refilling stations, artisans, and welcoming storefronts.
Like a sacred heart - a center - for the community's people to gather, mingle, converse, dine, relax, shop, and enjoy each other. It felt like bliss.
And I imagined all of our large and overcrowded cities - made more sustainable, walk-able, with our vehicles circling these centers, making each little heart of commerce more people-friendly. A true marketplace. Maximizing foot traffic, minimizing vehicle congestion, and honking, and accidents, and worse.
And I woke, and I remembered... this was what I loved so much about my visit to Santana Row - the design. The architecture. The city-flow. A commerce center, with walk-ability, vendors and merchants of all kinds all around, and no competition between cars and pedestrians. Of course there are always provisions for those without the ability to walk, which is a very real concern, but it just felt so good and I wondered why we didn't do this large-scale. It makes so much sense.
And I researched this concept, as I do, (show me the info) and I came upon urban development and sustainable cities. And I gazed into the the examples I saw, that are practicing car-free streets:
...there were more...
And I thought... why couldn't we? And maybe we are... maybe, on the other side of this mess, with so much on pause, we can rebuild stronger and smarter. Maybe that's part of the plan, already... "Rebuild a New NY." I don't know.
And I get it. It's easy to fear the unknowns. When we aren't directly in control. Of course it is.
But what if it could be better than we fear? What if our cities could be improved to be safer, cleaner, smarter, and more geared toward a sustainable lifestyle, for everyone? I think it makes so much sense.
When I walk in these cities - with only other pedestrians, or special lanes for cyclists - I feel more at ease. I feel healthy, I'm moving my body, I'm breathing fresh air. Folks are walking their dogs. I have space around me, I don't have to wait to cross interscections at some light box - because there are no vehicles. I am...free. To wander, to mosey, to buy a gelato, to listen to a young man or woman with a guitar and throw some money into his/her hat. To dine under the stars, with my dog at my feet, which I'm seeing more and more, even now... as restaurants move tables outdoors to continue to serve their guests under strict health and spacing guidelines.
And I feel like it's so very possible. Inconvenient, for sure. Challenging. And this is not to say that's it's not heartbreaking seeing so many businesses suffer and close their doors. It can be heartbreaking to see favorite institutions shut down. It's bittersweet, and sometimes tragic, the amount of staggering loss that we've endured. That's real. Businesses are run by people, and people have suffered.
But what if some sincere good, in the way of re-imagined city centers for the duration, for the climate, for humanity, for the sheer simplicity in living a healthier and smarter lifestyle... could flourish on the other side of all of this? Simple. Healthy. Intelligent.
"When you know better, do better..." - Maya Angelou
And to be sure... it's hard not having access to things as we've always had them. It's hard. But change can be smart. Efficient. Exciting. Optimistic. And thoughtful, with the best of intentions and the best interests of all, at heart. It is possible.
Oh, it was a lovely dream. I lingered around the flower cart a bit too long... it was really something.
7 min read
9/11: Looking Back and Moving Forward - 9/11/2016
Today is one of those days that I do not anticipate very well. It's a day that, ever since the attacks, has been marked with such a kaleidoscope of emotions. Pain, fear, terror, confusion, loss, anxiety, heartbreak...anger. So much anger.
But on the other side of that, in the quiet moments, in-between, we found... strength. Resilience. Coming together, comfort of strangers, we bonded...in our sadness. We found peace and connection with each other, strangers on the street, in the peak of terror and tragedy.
And isn't this what it's about? Isn't this what we're promoting, building, trying to create? Harmony, oneness, kindness. We have it, friends. It's there, it's within us, always. We are a people capable of great Love, compassion, and altruism. But we only let it out, we only see it in others...when we are faced with great odds, turmoil, pain, and tragedy. Why reach out, why offer kindness and comfort...for "no reason?" Why extend ourselves, why become vulnerable...if there is not trouble? Why let that out, if it's "not needed." Perhaps, this is how we've gotten to this place. And perhaps, that's okay. Maybe...how we do it is OK. Maybe we find our greatest, most compassionate selves in our most difficult hours. I don't have the answers. Today, I'm just feeling...out loud.
I tried to stay off social media today, in order to not let it all in. I went to the water, I sat, I reflected, I remembered. I drank an iced latte. I watched the ferry load up and disembark. I wandered through an adorable crystal/metaphysical shop that smelled of intoxicating incense, and it was lovely. But I knew what I was doing. Ducking. Hiding from the Mack-truck of emotion that this day represents for me. I didn't want to feel it, so I built up a fortress of invisible middle fingers, extended all around me, in a protective circle. Not today! I won't feel it!
(Psst...this doesn't work.)
September 11 is one of those things that hits NYers especially, but many others, very hard. We all know or know of a volunteer or a worker who perished that day. Or at least, had a close call. Or still suffers with COPD from the inhalation of toxic smoke. It was here. At home. It was the first time that my generation witnessed anything like this. Our parents would go on and on about where they were when Kennedy was shot. Our grandparents told us all about Pearl Harbor. But that was all far away, distant, in a story. Intangible...not real. But this...my skin still crawls and puckers when I remember. Because it was...real. Too real.
What came back, as I sat by the water:
I was at SUNY Old Westbury. I remember being amazed at myself, that after all those years, after academic probation, after barely graduating high school...being a "lost in my head" n'er do well... I was doing it. And I was proud. At 26 years old, I was back in school, and I was doing it. The future seemed bright and sparkly and the world was my oyster. I was smiling on the inside...I believed in myself for the first time in a very long time.
The first class was wrapping up. Professor came back in. Her face sunken and pale.
"One of the twin towers was hit with a plane or something...I don't know, there's something going on." She seemed nervous. Class one ended. In the break between my first and second class...I sat in the car and turned on the radio. I heard it all, in live-time: radio tower hit, no big deal. No...wait. OH SHIT, A PLANE HIT THE TOWER, ITSELF! Smoke, sirens, confusion, yelling, panic...from the DJs, on the radio. ON Z-100! I was nervous, to say the least...what did this mean? How does a plane hit the tower, isn't it a no-fly zone? That means...it was...intentional? No... I went into my second class...had the same professor.
"The second tower has been hit," she said later. "I don't know what's happening...we could be going to war...I just don't know, I don't know." She was unglued, in a panic, and sent us home. "Find your loved ones..."
I drove home in silence. Shoulders in my ears. My heart racing, my palms sweaty. I was having my first-ever anxiety attack, although I didn't know it at the time. I needed to know what was happening. I would pass other drivers, stop at red lights: vacant stares, intense foreheads. They were listening. Waiting. Just like me. We were all scared, all of us. In a daze. I got home and looked for someone, anyone. Family. Dad was on the golf course. Brother was...I still don't remember. Working? At the firehouse? I know that I was alone, so I started calling people. Finally, my father got home and we watched the news. We watched it all unfold. Again and again...the same footage, again and again.
I found my old journal, from that day. I had a list of "buzz-words." Things that repeated over and over, that were etched into my memory, permanently.
The terror is still palpable, after all this time. "Will all the buildings fall?" "Will they attack us, here?" "Is this what it's like...on the other side of the world? All the time?" My heart broke over and over and over that day.
But as the days went on, as I returned to school...we had vigils. We prayed together. I witnessed first-hand, what concentrated energy and focused good intention, could do...to heal. I was forever moved by it. I encountered an older Black woman, on the way to an assembly, she was wandering around, seeming so lost. I could see it, in her face: scared. I reached out to her, "let's go in together." I merely offered my arm, as I would to my own grandmother, were she still alive. This older woman just pulled me into her and hugged me, hard. Like she's been searching for it for days, hours, sleepless nights. We talked and comforted each other.
Even years later, reuniting with people I hadn't seen in a long time...it was the first thing mentioned: "how did your family come through 9/11" It was hardwired into us. We are not invincible; we are vulnerable. But...we are resilient, we are compassionate, and we come together to aid each other like nothing you've ever seen.
We rise. Always, we rise.
Human beings are by nature... altruistic, loving, compassionate creatures. It is who we are, by design. Hate - is taught. Fear - is learned. Racism, bigotry, and cruelty, are taught. How about that? We teach it to our young, to perpetuate a cycle. Generation after generation. When is enough enough? When do we change what we bring forward? What generation, says...this far, and no farther? Or are we doomed to constantly repeat and repeat, without altering the course. Is it just a record, a flat circle, around and around? Revisiting, without changing? Shall we throw up our hands and just get drunk?
Fuck that. Kick the machine! Skip the record, disrupt the cycle! Dare to impart kindness and benevolence in your actions, to lead by example. Show compassion when it's easy to hate. Forgive when it's easier to hold a grudge. Live in love and kindness, engage in empathy, until it becomes a new habit. We can change our behavior, collectively. We can, one person at a time. This...is what we are doing. This...is our evolution.
Breaking the shackles of rigid belief and limiting, narrow ideologies. Embracing wholeness, oneness, unity, compassion, integrity, Love. [Perhaps we ought to] step into a time, live in a new world, that favors *humanity* and moral, ethical behavior.
We must lead with our minds, with our hearts, with our souls. Intelligent solutions, felt with compassion, with good intentions, for a greater good. It starts inside. With us. <3
<3 Dedicated to all the rescue workers and office workers who lost their lives, nineteen years ago. You are NOT forgotten. <3
I changed a few words that sounded bitter. But every bit of this still rings true for me.
Lead with Love. <3
8-10 min read
I'm technically in staycation-mode this week: home with my son and loving it. We have a few local excursions planned - nature walks, eating out once or twice, we took a drive out East this morning, but mostly we'll be home. Sleeping a little later, doing the puzzles and games we don't usually get to. Reorganizing and sorting the Legos - yep, ALL OF THEM. And what's great is that he's a little older and asks for alone time, here and there. To read, watch a science show, watch a fun TV show, not-step-on-lava... and I oblige.
And rather than cram in chores, I'm learning to take my alone time, too.
So, here's a little more backstory on me. I thought I'd let you out of the foyer, and a little further into the house. Let's hang in the living room...
So, I've been mixing and mingling a whole lot more in the virtual world lately, (thanks COVID), and I thought I'd peel back the layers a bit more and tell you who I am... off Instagram, etc.
What I do for a living, how I got here, why I love it, and why it matters so much to me. This is a second career, not my first. This career is the sea-change that I made. The coming home, the ideal lifestyle, the bliss that I worked so hard for.
And I seek for little, these days... as opposed to my youth... my dreams are different...
I'd like to buy a nice house in the outskirts of town with a wrap-around porch, maybe. (I rent.) Hand-wrought rocking chairs set up, that I bought at some country flea market in Pennsylvania, or something, while we were out exploring the falls. Yes, we. I'm looking to date again, soon. Once this pandemic has said its piece. I'm ready to start again, in the romance area. As ready as I'll get, anyway.
But back to my house... I'd like to have a pool table inside and an old school jukebox with my favorite songs loaded on it, but also, it won't look like an 80s museum. Far from it.
Farmhouse - boho - chic. Country, classy, elegant, comfortable. A huge kitchen, with lots of light, plenty of counter-space, sleek storage, room to entertain - a big open concept into the family room. I chop here, my son plays there (where I can see him and not helicopter him), the music plays from over there. A fireplace in the family room. Ah. Perfection.
And a big dopey, intelligent dog or two, to bark at squirrels and nibble on pizza crust and know instantly where to rest his head when I'm blue. A great bedroom for my son, with a proper study area and a desk and storage and lots of sunlight and decorated with all the things that feel cozy and inspiring to him. A spacious bathroom with an enormous bathtub, that adults can fit their bodies in, not just children. A micro-spa, is what we're going for, here. A yard space made for entertaining: a huge patio and simple furniture, a playspace for kids, more and more gardens for growing. Flower beds. A swimming pool. A hammock or two. A fire pit and a sky full of stars. And electricity in the garage to hook up speakers for all the music...
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, that my dreams are no longer about proving myself, or becoming a different "me," but about creating a better, more fluid and efficient, and more aesthetic and pleasing environment to enjoy the life that I've already made for myself.
To grow, prepare, and eat beautiful and healthy food - and share it.
To dance, sing, read, play, laugh, lounge, and splash with others.
To rest, to nourish myself, deeply, and live each moment more fully.
No, I don't want to become. I want to savor: life, health, family, friendships, art, music, and the great outdoors. I'm blissfully at a place where I've let go of the need to prove, and have embraced the desire to live - in all my sweet imperfections. Joy is a practice. It's a practice because we're taught the opposite, our whole lives - to chase, to prove, to exhaust ourselves into depletion and depression and worse.
I'm done with all of that. I've found the middle space and I love it here. I can take very good care of myself, and not do it on a rigid timer or to someone else's chagrin. I do it for me, for my life, for my son, for a healthy and vibrant future. And I do it in a way that works for me and my life.
See, I started on the other side... hustling in the business/marketing/retail world. I dreamt of landing a high-profile gig in advertising in NYC. Skirt suits, pumps, print ads, lattes, a loft in Chelsea or SoHo, clubs and drinks on the weekends with girlfriends, single for LIFE, no kids, ever. No car? No car insurance. No worries, more money for me. More money for Italy and the villa I would buy. The gigantic purple (yes, purple) Mercedes SUV I would one day own. (It would've been completely electronic/solar and had hover-capabilities. Get on that Musk.) I was a powerhouse, in hiding, waiting to break out. It was always just around the corner. One more course. One more step up, one more networking event. One more home-based business idea. One more workshop series. One more connection, at the right time. At the right moment, I'd ascend out of retail and into the corporate world, effortlessly, with the right idea and my big, bright, plastered on smile (and wildly unhealthy interior world.)
Or so I thought.
The truth was that I based this dream on cheesy movies from the 80s and 90s. I blame the following empowered characters in film: J.C. Wyatt in Baby Boom. Kate Mosely in Picture Perfect. Katharine Parker/Tess McGill in Working Girl. There were tons of examples...
I grew up inspired by a feminist grandmother who walked city blocks to work at and network with these huge firms: Estee Lauder, Helena Rubinstein, etc. She was a secretary, I learned later. It wasn't anything glamorous, it wasn't a CEO role or anything. But to me - she was a shining jewel in a sea of PTA moms and stained sweatpants and monotonous perms and brownie meetings and Avon ladies. This woman had color. Sass. Attitude. At the right time in her life, the brightest joy and laughter bellowed out at parties, because she was happy. Making her own choices, for herself. The women before her never had the choice. She was doing what she pleased, after a lifetime of dealing with what life dealt her - which wasn't so inspiring.
All of these influences in my youth drove me toward a deep yearning inside, for excitement, cities, commotion, productivity, endless creativity, lightning fast ideas, constantly studying and pushing myself to be the best in what I wanted to do - to get people to invest their time and money in ideas and products.
I played field hockey in school, and I got to be a scoring full-back (yeah, from way back there in defense, I'd get goals), by practicing - hitting balls against a brick wall - constantly, while the other girls made up cheers and talked about nail polish. I bit my fingernails into bloody stubs, I had no interest in nail polish. Our coach instilled that ambitious drive in me: "if you want it, you have to work hard for it. Sharpen your skill. Excellence comes with time, passion, and repetition." So, I did that. And I got very good. We were "undefeated," we never lost a game. Not one, and I was proud to be a part of that. I didn't play the sport after school, but I took the lesson with me.
And the truth is that we excel at what we truly love, if we allow it. It's hard to invest passion, time, and repetition into things that we feel are mediocre or not the right fit. It just won't come off right.
I gave my dream of being a hot-shot one more chance, when I moved to Boston in my 20s. I didn't have the credentials to level-up, in the Boston city scene - I needed a degree. All the bigger, more flashy jobs needed at least a Bachelor's Degree in some sort of business discipline. I had dropped out of school. I was broke. I had an eating disorder. I was becoming an alcoholic, drinking myself to sleep. I was unhealthy, deep inside. I was anxious and depressed and lost and always searching for something, late at night.
I can see it so clearly now, those days WERE my rock bottom. I've been healing and climbing back stronger and wiser and higher ever since.
After that moment, it all changed. I knew that I needed to live a life that opened more doors, that provided for a lifestyle that was healthier, slower, kinder, more abundant, and more beautiful and peaceful.
I was an artist at heart, but didn't have the cut-throat drive to go all-in for it. To turn my most precious heartfelt things into monetary goodies. That part of me had to stay wild and medicinal. I'm okay with it. So, I found libraries. There was something intuitive about it, for me. What I loved about retail was pointing people to what they wanted. Solving the dilemma. Finding the answer. Helping.
When I began working in public libraries, instead of persuading people to invest their time and money into products or services, I was encouraging them to invest their time and money into themselves and their dreams, their health, their curiosity, their education, their futures.
I scoffed at librarianship, early on, as a teen. I thought it meant being a quiet bookworm. I was loud. Passionate. I bounce a lot, I have high energy. And I didn't read all that much. I talked, I expressed, I organized, I lead, I learned. But would I fit, could I belong, in a library? Shhhhhh...
Even in that first interview, I remember being asked, "so...how are you with Reader's Advisory, do you read a lot?"
I was honest. My heart sunk, I felt bad about it, but I told the truth: "I don't read all that much. I love film, and I love story, in general. But I'm here for the people. I help people find what they want, when they need it. And I figure I don't have to read all the books in order to match people with the right ones to read. I can read reviews and summaries, and still find them what they're looking for...right?"
Well, spoiler-alert, I got the job. And to this day, I don't read that many novels. They really have to wow me, pique and keep my interest. And be available on audio. I read tons of self-help, personal development, creative genius, psychology, religion, some biography and memoir, spirituality, gardening, philosophy, and so on. I'm the non-fic girl. And I'm okay with that.
What I love about my career is that it's dynamic and multifaceted: the best librarians are not just avid readers. They're listeners. The greatest gift that we have to give, from behind that desk, is our attention. Our patience. Our understanding and interest in helping someone we've never met before to find whatever it is that they need. And sometimes, what they need is not even in the library. Librarians are listeners, among so many other things. Surrounded by eons of inspiration, motivation, rhetoric, facts and figures, possibilities, histories, and stories of wonder. Information. We sit within heaps of it, daily. If we're lucky. And it feels like home, to me - if I don't know, I can find out. There's so much hope, empowerment, and peace in that. And these days it's not just books - there is the digital landscape, as well.
And there are the fun, everyday parts, like recommending books, organizing stacks, reading reviews, giving computer tutorials, putting fun projects and programs together, hosting workshops and book clubs. True librarianship, in my opinion, requires empathy. We listen. We observe. We locate and provide and make someone's life a little bit better. We communicate. We hold space. We serve. And I really do love it.
I don't take job stress home with me, really, my work is a blessing. And I don't have to take my actual work home (with the exception of this year and quarantine...) I don't suffer long train rides and commutes. I work two minutes from my son's school and can be there in a moment if I need to. I get along with my co-workers. I work in a gorgeous and naturally beautiful area and can take walks to the water on coffee breaks. It's a great salary, the best benefits in the state, lots of paid time off. It's quite ideal, actually. I'd love a 4 day work week, but that's a story for another day...
Every career or business has its ups and downs, but I love what I get to do. Who I get to help. I love the pace. The steadiness. The integrity in it. The honesty. The purpose.
If you're curious about this field, in Public Libraries... here's what you need to know. It's way more than just loving to read books:
I'm grateful for where I'm at. What I've got. I used to feel as though I were behind, somehow, and I've seen - undeniably - just how good I have it. I'm happy. I want things, but I build slowly upon what I've got. My needs are met. It's a great place to be.
My priorities today?
Motherhood and work/life balance. Nutrition. Exercise. Aging gracefully. Budgeting wisely. Free and wild expression and meandering moments of bliss and wonder - whenever possible.
4 min read
Repost from earlier blog, 2018.
Crisis. Chaos. Urgency. Demands. Anxiety and fear. Social change.
There's been so much, lately... and while I unapologetically let myself wander into flow-zones and creative bliss and write into inspired mindscapes, I work - daily - in public service. My career has been in the study, tending, and serving of humanity since I was young.
And the two greatest gifts that working in service of others can give - are perspective and empathy.
And I love what it does for my writing, I love the deeper dive it gives me, into humanity. I love the widening lens I have on myself, on my relationships, my life, as I learn more about human behavior. But I've also become better and more adept at crisis management, in times of trouble - and more precisely, communication during crisis.
Energy can rage high during times of crisis, and we've been hit with crisis after crisis, lately. The fear, pain, grief, and tension all come to a head over wrongdoing, inequality, unfairness, crime, acts of hate, personal loss, environmental devastation, petty disagreements, perceived hurt, lasting uncertainty, you name it.
It's so easy to get swept up in the fear - and it can distort the way that we communicate, even when our intentions are good and just. It's easy to react with anger. It's harder to respond with compassion. It's a practice, and a worthy one. Anyone that works in service - at any level - ought to be practiced in responding with awareness, compassion, and a calm-assertive mindset.
Confronting someone from a place of grounded awareness is often uncomfortable. It's tempting to shout and rage and blame, though it comes with regret and a handful of misjudgments and mistakes and even unintended harm, sometimes.
We've all been there, in our personal and working lives - there comes a time when we all must speak up.
Personal situations put us in the center of confrontation so often in our lives: it comes up when we have to share sad news, like an unexpected health crisis or the loss of a loved one. It comes up when there is a betrayal of confidence, or a wicked misunderstanding. It comes up when we grow and want more for ourselves - and we need to voice it. It comes up when we have to speak out against something immoral that we witness.
As we journey through life, opportunities to practice confrontation pop up constantly. The minor ones come and go, easily:
But it's the big ones that shake us and make us uneasy - it's the ones we don't like to think about. The confrontations that may cause change.
In the workplace, it comes up in the form of professional disagreements. When a supervisor must correct staff, or enforce a rule or regulation. When staff must speak up to a supervisor. When changes sweep through an organization, and staff must be re-educated. These are simple bubbles of change that rise up, anywhere.
And these dynamics occur in all sorts of relationships. In romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, and larger scale relationships, as well. Government officials and the citizens who elect them. Between country leaders and other country leaders. Race, gender, ideology, religion, anything that denotes a kind of belief about oneself, their community, and the greater world engenders an idea of relationship. We are constantly in relationship - with ourselves and with others. We fight often, within ourselves, until we seek peace and find a resolution, and continue on down our path - and so it is outside of us, as well.
Any conversation that might result in an unpleasant emotional state, for one or both parties, can be unsettling. It's just the way of things and feeling nervous before a confrontation is normal. Not wanting to hurt someone's feelings is a normal, healthy reflex. It doesn't make us weak. But the truth must always come out if we want to ensure healthy relationships, on all levels. We must always say what needs to be said - sincerity is paramount, overall. When we swallow it down and over-accomodate others, we internalize and stifle ourselves, which is never healthy in the long run. And when truth must be spoken, those emotional soft spots should be respected, but not allowed to run the conversation.
"Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes..." Maggie Kuhn
When the moment comes to deliver the news or ask the question or raise the issue, a series of things can happen:
But stay with it. Speak the truth, deliver the goods, even if you tremble or turn red. Your body will have a reaction the first time you do it, as the rush of energy pours out, it won't feel good. You might sweat or cry afterward or feel anger or want to withdraw for a while. Sharing truth is vulnerable. But know that truth - most times - is always better on the outside, and that the waves of emotion that rush in for both parties, should subside quickly. Nerves will settle. The anxious feeling doesn't stay long and the liberation of not holding it in anymore will leave room for something new - for some growth, for some forward momentum, for some new inspiration in the relationship.
It's been a long quarantine, here in New York.
100+ days locked down, at home, virtual everything: schooling, working, coping, getting sick and thankfully healing fast. And back to work, in levels and layers, bit by bit. A little here, a little there, and then full-time and being in the center of the community, again.
No summer camp, and switching and maneuvering and juggling and accommodating, accommodating, accommodating. Big themes... flexibility, humility, creativity, gratitude.
There's a steady travel ban on, and if I, say... go see my Mama in Georgia for a week, that means about a month of vacation time. If you're a 9-5 er like me, that's definitely not doable. So you busy yourself, you connect in other ways, you check in. You keep breathing, though you miss people - FAMILY - terribly. You say a prayer of gratitude if they're all okay (they are.)
And then, maybe you get asked to house/dog sit, somewhere close. A different place, up and off the island. Still New York, still "safe." Family. And you breathe... because the chance to spread your wings - just a little - feels like magic.
But traveling with kids during COVID comes with some prep-work:
1. Pack sanitizer for the road, especially those unexpected rest-stop visits. I pack wipes for bathrooms - for germs and in case there's no paper in there. Be smart. Think ahead.
2. Charge up an iPad or something, if you're a single parent. Something to watch, listen to, being in the car for hours can get boring for littles. Boredom can lead to seat-kicking, yelling, and those big, awful, woe-is-me-I'm-bored tears. Bring things. Don't like gadgets? Mad Libs still work. Or picture books, if they're really little. But bring stuff. (Always keep a big Lego stash in your purse or man-bag.) Like any other road trip, basically.
3. Pack extra face masks. Don't leave the house with JUST THE ONE ON HIS/HER FACE. Kids are slippery, they drop things.
4. Load Mommy's playlist. Lay down the law: the driver picks the music. Kiddo can bring headphones and The Wiggles greatest hits, or watch Trolls 2 on the iPad. It's okay. Mommy (or Daddy) needs to focus on the road, and that focus needs the right music or audiobook or podcast, or whatever. Period. DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH THEM. THEY ARE CRAFTY. OWN THE SPEAKERS UP FRONT. You can do this. Stay strong. Be the pack leader. Like Cesar says.
5. Snacks. You don't know what you'll find at rest-stops. Pack road snacks. Cut grapes, carrot sticks, berries, pretzels, fruit gummies. Most healthy, some fun treats. I usually hit a place for coffee and breakfast on the road, first. We'll have a few goodies if that stuff runs out.
6. Sunscreen. No-brainer, but sometimes we're so overwhelmed with masks and germs that we forget about the basics. The Sun still burns. Pack the SPF. It's summer.
7. Keep your cool. While on the road, you may encounter the... UNMASKED. Some folks, for whatever reason, will not show the courtesy. If you pass them, understand that they have their reasons. A summer road trip with your kids isn't the time to educate them or spew statistics. Just keep your distance and walk on, I think. Our kids learn from us - don't pick unnecessary fights. Or if you are of the UNMASKED persuasion, I'm sure you have your reasons (though I don't understand them), but keep your distance from those who do practice these safety measures. It's common courtesy. Be cool.
8. Don't be on your phone that much. If you're getting away for a quick long weekend, don't spend that precious time scrolling. Enjoy the new digs, the fresh air, family, the nice slow pace. Share pics, post updates, and put it down. Cherish the time away. Unwind. Connect.
9. Plan activities and food choices. It's nice to have a few structured things planned for the weekend. A local farmstead to hit. Open restaurants. A local ice cream shop. Hiking around a nearby lake. Kayaking, maybe. State Parks usually have some wonderful recreational things to offer for families. You just don't know what'll be open and closed these days. Check it out ahead of time.
10. Grownup activities. Kids will go to bed and you'll have some time at night. Bring stuff just for you: a good book, some journals, your current project, a yoga DVD. Bath bombs. Something just for you. Make that time, even while you're away. You'll thank yourself later. There's no feeling quite like needing a vacation after your vacation. We've all been there. So don't overbook yourself, work in rest-time. Keep it simple. Make it sweet.
I'll see you next week! xoxo
4 min read
A young man came into the library today. He was looking for some books to read over the summer.
"What grade level?" I asked.
"Oh, I'm done, I graduated," he replied.
"Oh, so you were in the parade through town, celebrating..."
"Yep. Sure was..."
"OK, so let me see what I can pull up, here..." I looked up the reading lists for the school and found some AP suggestions. "Are you going to college, are you gonna work, do you have plans, yet?"
"Oh, I'm going to college, for sure. I'm not sure of my major..."
We chatted a bit more. Then he took Dubliners, by James Joyce, thanked me, and left. Great kid, polite, kind, curious. I'm excited for him. Glistening with potential.
After he left, I began to think about these graduates and the world that they are walking into, right now. As freshmen.
To the College-Bound Graduates:
I wish I knew what to tell you about all of this. About the state of the world, of the pandemic, and politics, and climate, and social injustices, and the economy. I wish I knew what to tell you to major in so that you'd soar, in these shifting times. I wish I had a clue... I don't.
And see, that's the thing. Even us, as adults, aren't sure of things day to day. We do our best. We just show up, stay kind, work hard, take care of ourselves, and do our best.
But I would tell you to try things. If you don't know what to major in, then don't. Take an assortment of classes, they're all for credit. You can major in Liberal Arts for two years and then decide. You can switch over. You can always take a class or two later to make up some credits, to round out a major. Don't feel that you have to know it all up front and then go in. Many students don't. It's okay not to know.
Some students know early on what they want to pursue. Medicine. Law. Biochemistry. Nursing. Psychiatry. Veterinarian. Political Science. Teaching. And many, many students don't have a clue, and they see college as a necessary step in their lives, that they want to take, but aren't exactly sure what courses to take. And perhaps, for them, it's the experience itself that grants them what they need...
The exchange of ideas with your peers, in a new and expanded setting. Healthy debate. New perspectives. New worlds of inspiration and reading and research. New friendships and clubs to join. Many students have the soul of an artist or philosopher and just need to try a lot of disciplines out, before they choose. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Try things.
This...is life. Not knowing, and having the mindset to just... start... despite not knowing, is what great success stories are made of. Diving in without a map shows a bit of adventure and curiosity and ambition, a desire to learn by doing, which is a wonderful, wonderful thing. It's a perspective that you can take further in to life, not just with school. This is the creative mindset and it's incredibly valuable, especially in the world that you'll be joining. Flexibility, creativity, adaptability will all be essential mindsets to hold onto.
Trust that you'll find your way and things will speak to you and teach you, as you go. You may figure it all out in college, and you may not. It's just a step, but walk ahead with enthusiasm. We are learning are whole lives through, and college is a wonderful stop along that road.
We're all fools on the road of life. Some of us didn't go to college. Some of us went out after high school and plunged into the world of business and never looked back. Some went head-first into their artistic dreams, and never looked back. It can be nice to have a passion, to know exactly what you want to do with your life. But it can also be a lifelong adventure to not know... to show up and continue to learn and grow and explore. And many of us who live in this way, become teachers, in one way or another. Life teachers. Way-showers. Leaders. Trust your choices as they come up and keep checking with yourself. And remember that you're living a story and don't get too mired down by one moment, because moments come and go that challenge us to the core.
Remember when those moments come - doubt, fear, paralysis, pain, loss, heartache, confusion - that they are temporary, and that you can get up and dust your pants off and keep going forward. And figure things out.
I know that you'll make the world a better place, in your own way. Take your time and explore yourself and how you feel about things. About life. And how you'd want to improve it or document it or enhance it or entertain it. And just start. Read voraciously. Educate yourself about what fuels your passions. Try things, over and over again. Just try things. Live your youth.
And we can't wait to hear what you have to say.
2 min read
Reflecting... from this morning's meditation:
"Walk with me
Beneath the Green
I'll show you a story
you've never seen
You will believe in
I wrote this quote back in 2015. The end - and the beginning. And I’ve come across a stack of old notes and declarations... and I’ll say that it’s probably time for some new ones. The green checkmark indicates that this goal was accomplished.
- I will quit smoking ✅
- I will understand this anxiety ✅
- I will learn to manage a new routine ✅
- I will write a novel ✅
- I will travel and see my country ✅
- I will sing some of my own songs in front of others ✅
- I will meet more and more new and inspiring people ✅
Ongoing effort...never done, but I've made progress:
- I will grow tougher and smarter
- I will learn to love and value myself as much as, if not more, than I do others
- I will trust in my own magic
- I will learn and grow and transform my mindset without spending a dime
- I will not take myself so seriously
- I will love my life, where it is now, where it’s been, and where it may be going
Do you believe in magic?
It’s often messy and we make mistakes and are misunderstood and we often get what we need over what we want - because we learn to create for everyone’s benefit and not just our own.
Write it down
And here I am again. At the top of the circle.
And I think that at some point, life becomes more about how many times you’ve been around the circle, and how you’ve grown through it all. What you’ve learned. Who you've met along the way. What they’ve learned. How you’ve evolved and what you need to learn next time. And it's less and less about the things and more about the people.
Learning to embrace the long-game is life changing.
A quick review...
4 min read
I was in a mood this morning. I did record a video about it for you, while I was walking, but the gods of sound weren't having it. The mic cut out, constantly. I should get a new phone, the XR has never worked right. C'est la vie. Moving on.
So, here's what happened:
I signed up to become a seller of a bath and body brand that I love. It's an MLM thing, I know you know. "Why not," I figured. I LOVE the stuff.
I read up, and all I had to do was click this and send that and I'd be good.
However, they tried something new. Relentless phone calls all week. I had to verify my identity if I wanted to proceed. I finally got around to checking my messages and they had deactivated my account.
Their customer service team would be offline the day that I wanted to correspond via email.... this was strange and unprofessional. I looked into my service rep and there was a filtered photo of a child with bear ears talking to me with typos.
Assuming I was punk'd or that this was some sort of spam racket, I bowed out. Strangest customer service experience I'd ever had.
"You have to talk with us on our terms or not at all..."
Usually, since I've been alive, service was always about the customer or client. So, as someone who's worked in the field since I was a teenager... I was disenchanted.
Also, of note, I had just received a congratulatory email for being a valued member of the team!
At this point, I am confused. This is the epitome of mixed messaging, if this were me and a fella, I'd lose his number by now. But this is a business.
Here are the things I'm thinking about:
I found the whole thing odd. I thought it was a joke, because where I come from and how I work that's not how it's done. Kindness makes sense. I'd always wanted to make everyone feel at home, like they belong, and that they should always, always come back - if they wanted to.
And today's customer service - and not in all cases, but many - falls so short. There's an air of entitlement. I'll get to it when I see fit. I'll respond when I choose to. You're just a number to hit on my form. I'm not working that hard, today. This is just a job.
And I wonder if these companies know about the level of service and how much better it could be. And I wonder if these younger generations are being trained in the ways of "the customer is always right," and "service with a smile," and "my job is to make your experience great." How as customer service workers, they are the front door, the foyer, the welcoming center for all guests and clients. They represent an entire firm, company, business, or brand.
Playing hard to get with a client is just bad business, it seems. Granted, I've been in the nonprofit sector for a long, long time now, and it's different in many ways. But at the core, it's the same. Service, in all forms, is about people. Sales is about people.
I feel like I've just left the Twilight Zone. And I'm not put-out or distressed about it, but questions come up, as they do... like how are we training these people? Your brand, your name, your reputation and success are really only as good as your customer care workers. And if they don't care about their customers, they don't really care about your business, either. Fun fact.
Consumers will build generational brand loyalty with a line of cars... if they receive great customer service with just one first purchase. Buying a car is a big deal, and if they feel safe, heard, respected, they'll come back. Their kids will often be back, too.
Kindness is not just about being nice, although it should just be inherent in people... but it's also about strategy. It just makes sense to build relationships with people that you want to come back.
Happy people stick around. Just as happy and well-trained workers...stick around and work harder for you.
Is this a generational thing? Or...did I wake up in the wrong universe again?
Going to my garden, now... xoxo
2 min read
I began flirting with helping local mom-preneurs and small biz-owners out with a little digital publishing, some time last year, and my plate was way too full at the time. Though I wanted so much to help them out, and I loved the work, I put the whole thing on hold for a while. I was overwhelmed and overworked when the idea first came up.
In the past few months, in the new space that has cleared by choosing to honor my time more wisely and to keep my life more simple, I've circled back around to the idea. I rediscovered my creative spark about 5 years back - and was virtually on my own. I learned to do everything from scratch: starting a Facebook page, exploring Instagram, Twitter, algorithms, engagement, social media norms, becoming super-addicted to my streams and accomplishing nothing... to learning self-control and producing two books on my own - start to finish. What I discovered was that I LOVE the technical process of creating along the way almost as much as I enjoy writing - the fun and free part.
I love to help other busy Moms, or just working women, out. I've already taught myself so much, and have a background of education in advertising, marketing, desktop publishing, as well as a career in customer and public service. I'm here to help you push your stuff out there.
I have this crazy notion - that women deserve to walk through their lives feeling confident, passionate and thankful. And I think that the simpler our lives get, and the more choices we get to make with integrity, the more empowered we start to feel.
Why these words? I chose them very specifically for what them embody, to me:
I make time for any mode of creativity that moves me toward that space - empowering women. From the workshops I've run to what I've seen in my career as Reference Librarian, I can say with certainty that there is a sweet synergy in sisterhood - I've witnessed the beginnings of many wonderful collaborations and life-changing decisions, and it can be incredibly gratifying to be a part of that.
I've announced that I am taking clients, and we'll see what life brings to my door... always curious. Always paying attention. Always writing about it. Enjoying the unfolding... more soon...
4 min read
by Stacie Hammond
A Modern Day Parable about the Magic of Communication and Relationship
"It's all happening!" She said, excitedly.
There was a woman, who - through some circumstance or other, came to live most of her days alone, on an island, in the Great Blue Sea. Sending out desperate messages in bottles about the state of the world as she imagined it - big issues, small issues, and everything in-between - in the wee small hours of the night, at the height of delirium and impending chaos and really having nowhere to be but at home. Under the moonlight, with a deafening silence and yet a heavy, forlorn, and chattering mind - a mind that wouldn't quit, devouring books, inventing and seeing potential futures and dreaming dreams that wouldn't stop - incessantly they streamed through her minds' eye... And she had only the glow of an iPhone in her hands as a true confidante - a portal - into other worlds.
Right there, at her fingertips - was the world. Anyone and anywhere and everywhere, at once - with a few words and few taps and bit of moxie and ton of faith, she sent her dreams and wishes and fears out into the void... and let go of it all...
A bit like a droid that could carry a message out into the unknown... hoping that it would reach a mentor, an aid, a teacher, a friend. Someone to take her seriously, someone to listen, someone, somewhere...
"Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope..." Star Wars: A New Hope
And then, some day, years later, she feels rested. She's well, now. At ease, with far fewer worries in her pockets. And far less chatter in her mind. Refocused. And she feels so much more like a person and so much less like a seamless and shimmering orb stuck inconveniently inside a slowly healing and quite dense body on an island in the middle of the sea.
And she finds herself having moved on - onto other simpler and far more prosaic things. Grounded things. Simple joys. Flowers. Gardens. Clouds and the shapes that they resemble. Horses and treetops in the wind. Safe harbors at twilight. Yoga poses and fresh fruit and drums and dancing. Oh, dancing. She'd forgotten about dancing and music and how it rooted her in. She wished there were someone to keep rhythm on the drum, while she danced, for she found that she could not do both at the same time. And what was dancing without music? Still, she danced to the music, within.
No longer privy to the wars and worries of her imagination, she lived her days in relative ease and simple gratefulness for what was already in front of her nose: a beautiful beach, songbirds, tropical fruit, waves and moonlight and sunshine and trees to climb. And a funny sort of creature that looked a bit like a giant gerbil, that she'd named Stanley. Stanley kept his distance, but was a good listener.
It was enough. And joy could be simple.
Until she looked up, one day, to see that long-lost and forgotten bottle of dreams and fears float back in with the waves. And she saw that the messages had been read - a bit dog-eared in the corners, at the parts that were re-read more than once. There were some notes in the margins. She wasn't entirely sure who'd read them, how could she be, but there were subtle fingerprints and whispers of scent and place and time that helped her to guess where the bottle had been in those years. And how strange for it to resurface...here and now. She'd let it all go, so long ago, in a great and grand surrender to the life that she'd been living. She'd found peace, already, she thought.
And then all in a moment, holding the small bottle in her hands, somehow, in a breath - she believed in everything again. And everything meant more than it ever had, and felt more powerful than it ever had, because now, she knew... that life could be a beautiful and wild adventure and that people really cared and that hope really did matter. And she knew that all those old and lingering fears, deep down in her subconscious, now - were being healed. And she wasn't alone anymore.
And it was a joy just to be alive in a world where people listen and respond and pay attention.
And she slept that night, in a hand-strung hammock, under a sea of stars. She slept very, very well.
And when she woke, she returned to the shore, again. And in the quiet, there, in the stillness of the easy tide - she saw more bottles. There were dozens, at least. She brought them in and stored them, all in a row, on the rocky sand - far enough from shore not to be washed out, again. And one by one, as the days went on, she began to read them. And to re-read the parts that she loved. And to leave her notes in the margins. And when she was ready, she'd throw them all back out to sea...and hope for an answer.