What We Can Do

“I think frankly, our biggest enemy is giving up, saying, ‘well, this is just going to happen. There’s nothing we can do.’ I think that is the biggest threat, because the fact is there remains a lot we can do.”

-Dr. Céline Gounder
This post is an excerpt from Shelter in Place Season 2, episode 8: Trust the Messenger. Listen above or wherever you get podcasts.

When wildfires and pandemic living temporarily pushed us from our home in California, my family and I road-tripped from one side of the country to the other to be closer to extended family. Because our kids are young and we had no urgent reason to rush, we took our time, driving for three and a half weeks before we reached our destination in Massachusetts in late September.

We visited a few friends and family along the way, but we were careful to travel safely. We made the kids wear masks, and did a lot of hand washing and using hand sanitizer. We stayed only in places that implemented extra cleaning precautions, and spent most of our time outdoors, away from people. 

But there was one moment in Utah when things got tense. We stopped at the only gas station for miles around, and the sign on the door said, “wear a mask if you want to—or don’t.”

I put mine on and went inside to use the bathroom. When I came out, my husband was letting our 3-year-old wash the windows with one a squeegee, the kind next to the pump that everyone uses and I’m guessing never get cleaned. 

I lost it. I wiped her head to toe with disinfectant wipes and even made her change her clothes. Even then, I didn’t want her to touch me. 

It took miles of road behind us to realize that my overreaction in that Utah gas station was rooted in more than paranoia. Beneath the mask/no mask conversation is an uncomfortable truth: if we accept that this virus can kill us, then even the people we love most—the people who make us feel safest—are potentially dangerous. Putting physical distance or even a mask between us and our loved ones forces us to view each other through a lens of fear. 

But last month I talked to someone who says it doesn’t have to be that way. Dr. Céline Gounder is an infectious disease specialist, epidemiologist, and medical journalist who was recently appointed to Biden’s COVID-19 task force. People Magazine named her as one of 25 Women Changing the World. We talked a lot about COVID-19—what we know now that we didn’t back in March (some of which surprised me), why the virus hitting black and brown populations isn’t just about where they live or how much money they make, and how we can make informed decisions about the holidays. It was a great conversation, and I encourage you to check it out here. But the thing that has stuck with me most was what Dr. Gounder had to say about fear.

“I think the problem with fear is it’s very disempowering,” she said. “It makes you feel like you’re helpless. I think frankly, our biggest enemy is giving up, of saying, ‘well, this is just going to happen. There’s nothing we can do.’ The fact is there remains a lot we can do. The biggest threat to people’s health right now is do they buy into that or not?” 

Dr. Gounder doesn’t believe that having a functioning economy and protecting people from the virus are mutually exclusive. Something as simple as wearing a mask can make a huge difference, and if we can shift our perspective to see mask-wearing not as a limitation, but a tangible way to take action, then we take one small step to conquer fear and helplessness. Dr. Gounder says that focusing on what she can do helps her to stay positive and hopeful even as the numbers of COVID deaths climb.

“Having that sense of purpose, feeling like I am making a difference in my small way, makes me feel empowered,” she said. “I know that we can control this. I know we can. And so knowing that gives me hope. I think what we’re seeing is the loss of hope and action. That’s why we’re losing. I think we need to have hope in order to win this. And I am hopeful that others see that, and put that into action.”

As we head into the holidays, I’m thinking a lot about Dr. Gounder’s words, and trying to figure out specific ways to take action in my own life . . . not just wearing a mask, but getting creative about how to reach out to others and encourage them in a season when it’s easy to lose hope. At Shelter in Place, we’ve dreamed up an idea that we hope will help with that: for twelve days, we’ll be sending daily delights to the inboxes of everyone who is signed up for our newsletter. Coming up with these gifts for our listeners has been the highlight of an otherwise cold and dark month. And Dr. Gounder is right. Taking action helps us to feel like we’re making a difference in some small way. It gives us a sense of purpose and makes us feel empowered. And knowing that gives us hope, even on the days when hope is in short supply. 

Hear my conversation with Dr. Céline Gounder and sign up to receive our 12 Daily Gifts of Delight here

Eating is Poetic

I am a poet, but I make my living as journalist, and I write predominantly about food. Sometimes these endeavors are in conflict. In my poetry, I focus primarily on environmental degradation, on humans’ problematic relationship with the planet, on “Western” culture’s Cartesian insistence that we are other than the Earth, that we are special, separate, above it all, and that it is our right to exploit every other thing on this orbiting rock we share. In my books, New Jersey and The Bottom, I have examined our abuse of the earth and the oceans, in our desire for more, more, more. I argue for a collapse of the Cartesian split, for a re-merging of human consciousness with the planet, and a healing of the divide so that the planet, and hopefully us upon it, can survive. My poetry has been deeply environmentalist and political.

That has not always been the case in my food writing. Often our exploitative practices happen around the very thing I address in my journalism: food. The food writing I have done has oftentimes been about cultural identity, as I travel around the world meeting with chefs, farmers, producers, and home cooks, and learning about their backgrounds, their lives, and their work. But the publications I have written for have not always addressed the hierarchies and exploitations of labor and natural resources involved in food production and consumption. Traditionally, these publications have been designed so as not to inconvenience readers in their pursuit of vicarious or (through recipes) actual culinary pleasure.

In the past several years, however, there’s been a shift in food writing toward acknowledgement of the political, social, racialist, globalist, environmental hierarchies of food production. The #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter, the emergence of immigrant voices and identity politics in food, the regenerative and biodynamic farm movements, farm workers’ and food factory workers’ rights campaigns, and the deepening conversations around climate change have transformed the type of journalism we do around food. This is particularly the case in the context of Covid-19, as the pandemic has surfaced hierarchies of hunger and abundance, and has bared the fragility of our problematic food system and the dining, distribution, and other industries that have grown up around it. No one—not food writers, not our readers, and certainly not our subjects—can ignore how deeply political food is, and how very much it is part of our exploitation of each other and our environment.

For the past year, the artist residency program Residency Unlimited has been addressing these issues, through a Covid-safe, virtual residency program called “Thinking Food Futures.” As a co-organizer and presenter for Thinking Food Futures, I have been able to bring all my current reporting on the plight of small producers, on earth-friendly farming, on issues of racial justice in the food world, and more to discussions about the future of food.

I can see the immediate impact of my journalism on these issues, as the things I report on get talked about more broadly, or to bring it right down to earth, as a small farmer I highlighted gets a needed economic boost in sales from readers of my stories. But where my poetry is concerned, it has led me back to a question I have often had about poetry: What are its uses?

I believe that poetry is meant to witness. It is a chronicle of our times from a deeply personal perspective, which is the perspective that must matter if we are to reinsert the human into the natural world, heal the Cartesian split, and rectify a consciousness that has caused so much damage. We must take personal stock, speak our experiences, accept personal responsibility, honor each others’ experiences, and together, find new, healthier paths.

So when Residency Unlimited invited me to curate an event for Thinking Food Futures’ final symposium, which is happening this weekend, and which you can attend online, I turned to poetry.

I believe that, while food is political, it is also deeply personal. It is about survival and hunger, pleasure and fulfillment, work and family and community and self. It implicates mind, body, and soul in the broader hierarchies of economy, society, and resource extraction. At the base of it all is personhood. There is no better way to center the person in the discussion than poetry.

Through a series of poet/videographer collaborations from around the world, my collaborators and I will be bringing attendees a meeting of the personal, political, and artistic around food. The four poetry video works in the hour will be introduced by the artists and followed by a moderated panel discussion between the artists and the audience.

We hope you will join because, we believe, poetry and art are useful as we reimagine our relationship to each other and the planet.

Betsy Andrews, poet and journalist

Here is the information to attend:

Eating is Poetic: An Hour of Visual Poetry 
When: Dec 13, 2020 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83673580493?pwd=Z0FUU0FOcWI5WE15amozRE5ObXhXQT09
Passcode: 167895 

Or iPhone one-tap :   
US: +16465588656,,83673580493#,,,,,,0#,,167895#  or +13126266799,,83673580493#,,,,,,0#,,167895#
Or Telephone:    Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):       
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Webinar ID: 836 7358 0493
Passcode: 167895   

International numbers available: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kdEwMUvaF8

Natural Hair and Spirituality: I Am My Hair

In 2006, soul and R&B singer India Arie, released I Am Not My Hair. The social climate at the time held a lot of misconception about a Black woman’s skin, hair, and her identity. She addressed this issue when she spoke of a separation of one’s identity from their hair and skin tone. She sings, “I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am the soul that lives within.” Existing as a spiritual African American woman, however, has taught me the exact opposite. I am the sum of the complexities of my hair and skin that when well managed and cared for, flourishes. It requires water for moisture, oil for sealing in moisture for length retention, and quiet as kept, daily words of affirmation for intentional hair growth. Everything I am sharing here are things I wish I knew when I began my natural hair journey.

In 2009, I began my journey down the natural hair rabbit hole. There was a limited supply of information on the subject because back then, it wasn’t as accepted as it is today. All I knew was that I was tired of picking scabs from my sensitive scalp. My mom suggested I transition my hair with protective styling until it reached a length I was comfortable with, but I was very impatient with my hair and thus decided to have a Wal-mart stylist chop off my relaxed ends. In short, I hated the results, the way my curly hair looked like a mushroom, and how uncomfortable I felt. I didn’t know what to do and a few weeks later, I had my mom relax my hair. There weren’t many stylists advertising a specialty for natural hair, or platforms like Pinterest or Youtube to gather ideas for styles. There were no google searches catering to the natural hair community, which highlight the different textures of hair and levels of hair porosity. It was this lack of information and self-esteem, that caused me to go through three cycles of “Chop, Grow, Relax, and Repeat”. It was a truly draining process, but looking toward college, I was determined to grow in my spirituality and my knowledge about growing my naturally curly hair.

Thankfully, six years ago, I came across the video Praying to God For Long Hair by Dephne Madyara. Finding her page was a game changer. Prior to her video, I had never heard the concept of praying or speaking over my hair. I knew the Word spoke of a woman’s hair being her crowning glory, but I didn’t know I could speak a word, and see growth. It was soon after watching that video, that I stood in the bathroom mirror of my mother’s old apartment, and made a conscious decision to give my hair to God. That sounds kinda deep because for me, it was. I told God to show me what He was doing in my life through my hair and He did just that. I would notice subtle changes that would communicate what was taking place in my spiritual life. I noticed how my hair grew when I followed my intuition, but also when I was impatient and rushed into decisions. The last time I ignored my intuition concerning my hair, shortly after, I regretted it. I sitting in my grandmother’s guest room when I felt a heaviness come over me and immediately, I knew it was about my hair. I thought I could wash the feeling away and the moment reminded me of Solange’s Cranes in the Sky. When I felt the same heaviness the next day, I knew I needed to cut it. For those of you who have been consistently following my hair journey, I hope this gives you a deeper understanding of why I cut my locs.

Hair, unbeknownst to me at the time, holds memory. It also carries frequencies/energy that hair can retain when it’s loc’d. Thus, transforming my hair into an antenna for higher frequencies, that when tampered with, causes issues. I had that moment of clarity while cruising in the car the other day, when the thought hit me that every time I let a stranger do my hair, I had to cut it because their frequency didn’t match mine and their energy was off. For my 27th birthday, I decided to have a loctician style my hair. I had done some research, but didn’t follow my gut that told me “not her”. The loctician was in a mood the day she did my hair and it transferred to my hair. My loves, don’t ever let someone you don’t know and trust intuitively work with your hair. My impatience and ignorance was my downfall. Having someone in such an intimate space should be held with high regard and and shouldn’t be invaded by any and everybody who wants to get a feel. The best way to combat the politest of requests to touch your hair, is to give a firm, yet respectful “No”. If you’re patient enough to explain why, bless your heart! lol but if you’re not, a “Sorry not sorry” will suffice because at the end of the day, it’s your hair.

To this day, I am actively working to do the due diligence for my hairs optimal health. I no longer use the aforementioned prayer I came across six years ago, but I find using mantras to speak over myself to be as effective. If you want to do more research, I came across an article by Chris Jeffrey-Hall that you may find helpful.

4 Word Mantras (affirmations)

  • I have healthy hair
  • Shiny, long, silky hair
  • My hair is growing
  • My hair is long (curly, healthy, use your own adjective here)
  • I love my hair
  • I have abundant hair
  • Love my hair regrowth

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/4429006

I want you to know that properly caring for your hair isn’t something you have to do alone. There is a community of men and women out here pulling our knowledge together to share freely because knowledge is power. Until next time, I love you all!

The Breakdown

Gratitude is good. But sometimes it’s not enough .

This is an excerpt from Shelter in Place season 2, episode 10: The Breakdown.

Every morning for the past couple of months, I’ve gotten up before my family, usually before the sun, not because I want to but because I’m unable to sleep past a certain point. For the first time in my life I’ve come to love the dark, those pre-dawn hours that are mine alone. No matter how tired or discouraged I am, there is undisturbed quiet, coffee with a splash of cream, a soft blanket across my lap–everyday miracles that I jot down in my notebook. This week I read studies about gratitude as a predictor of better physical health, gratitude as an antidote to anxiety. And it’s true, especially now. Gratitude helps a lot. 

But for the past few weeks, no matter how grateful I feel at the start of the day, by evening a sadness edged with despair settles over me like a low cloud. 

In this month’s Wall Street Journal magazine, Yale Professor Martin Hagglund wrote, “What is both interesting and challenging about breakthroughs is that you can’t have one without some sort of breakdown. Progress only happens because certain things start calling into question our paradigms.”

The other night as I was putting my kids to bed, my 3-year-old said, apropos of nothing, “I miss our cozy little home.”

It’s been a year of breakdowns for my family and me, that ultimately led us to abruptly leave our home in Oakland, spend a month on the road, and settle for the foreseeable future in Hamilton, Massachusetts, the town where my husband grew up and where his parents and two of his siblings still live. Though the journey here hasn’t been easy, we don’t have any doubts that it was the right call, and there isn’t a day that goes by when we don’t feel deeply grateful.

And yet each day, even as I’ve made my morning list of things to feel grateful for, that fog of sadness creeps in. It comes out in snippy conversations with my husband, or overreactions with the kids, or passive aggressive comments around my in-laws. It’s a painful reminder that no matter how grateful I am, I fall short on a regular basis of being the person I’d like to be.

The other night as I was putting my kids to bed, my 3-year-old said, apropos of nothing, “I miss our cozy little home.”

The comment surprised me. She’s been happy here, delighted to have Grammy’s daily attention, and access to baby dolls and art supplies and princess dresses.

And that’s when it hit me. This has been a year of breakthroughs, but as a family, we’re still very much in a breakdown. We’ve been trying to have a good attitude about our life now–and it is good, to be near family, to have support in a time when we desperately need it. 

My mom often told me growing up that change–even good change–is almost always perceived as loss. Being near our Massachusettts family during the pandemic is a good change. 

And I miss our cozy little home. My mom was right. Even good change still feels like loss. Gratitude helps, but still, we’re in the breakdown. I have to hope that a breakthrough is coming.

Listen to the full episode of Shelter in Place or read the full transcript here.

Slow Burn

Relationships are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get. According to Hallmark, they’re like cheesy late-blooming romances with a stranger from a small town that you never knew you needed. The stories are wholesome where most plotlines are cheesy and follow the same formula of a person falling in love after coming from a big city to a small town for business or family matters. It’s almost a fairy tale ending with the inevitable miscommunication and the hurt making up with the misunderstood, but they make falling in love look quick and easy. Relationships on social media, however, are a mish-mosh of everything from couples who only post their happiness to others who post everything from the conception of the relationship to its death. It’s so easy to get lost in the muck of it because even when the happiness you see is authentic, chances are you’re still sitting there trying to figure out why you’re still single or how to bring the spark back to your once vibrant relationship. There is also the chance that you’re like me in a new relationship trying not to self-sabotage due to unrealistic relationships you saw on TV.

A lot of us are subconsciously programmed to look for our relationships to start with the emotions of happiness and warmth we feel while watching a heartwarming film, TV show, or youtube couple. This warmth is something to desire, but it shouldn’t be everything we seek. In the Black culture, I’ve observed an emphasis on emotional intensity in association with the idea of falling in love. There’s a push in the media to look for immediate magnetism when connecting with a potential partner. Also, there’s almost an urgency to hurry up and find a love that is all-consuming in what I believe to be the worst of ways. Songs like Let it Burn by Jazmine Sullivan and Heat by Chris Brown ft. Gunna speaks of the heat one feels while falling for someone. Whether it is in love or lust is yet to be determined. Alternatively, songs like Burn by Usher describe the pain one feels at the end of a relationship. The common thread of intense emotion seems to be the desired symptom of falling for someone. It is what I call a red flame relationship where everyone can see the heat, the chemistry, and obvious attraction. With these relationships, as easy as it is to see the flame is how easy it is to extinguish it. This misconception that relationships need to start with an intensity of emotion and longing to be with another individual overshadows the truth that most sustainable relationships are built slowly on a foundation of fondness and a desire to get to know someone deeply. It is what I call a blue flame relationship or the slow burn. These relationships are not devoid of emotion, but they have balanced the logistics (the mind) of building a sustainable partnership with the emotion (the heart) required to nurture a relationship. All in all, they’ve counted the cost. If only I had had some of this wisdom in my early twenties.

My early twenties and even my late teens were full of what most would call “chance meetings” which led to short spurts of infatuation. I now call those chance meetings purposeful. They were introductions to key players in my journey to emotional maturity. Every lie I was told and every false hope I held onto in belief thinking “oh, he’ll change” were building blocks because I chose to change my perspective. When he didn’t want to choose me, I chose myself, and when my emotional needs weren’t being met, I voiced them. These choices led to the end of those relationships and I thank God they did! I chose to look at each individual as a teacher and I was determined to learn each lesson so I could move on because my cut off game is quick! But it was through those quick spurt relationships that I cleared my throat chakra, developed my voice and boundaries while keeping my heart open to love. I learned that open and honest communication about core principles and values like faith, child-rearing, and politics are the table our conversations about emotions and shared interests rest on. Being armed with all this knowledge and experience I find myself in a healthy relationship that I know I couldn’t have sustained had I not had those experiences and made adjustments to my mindset along the way.

As I mentioned before, there was a period where I almost self-sabotaged because things weren’t progressing how I had seen them on TV or as quickly as I had seen them manifest in other people’s lives. I will be the first to say I had unrealistic expectations. I was looking for the fiery magnetism and instead found a sweet calm and stability. Let me be the first to say that as an ever-adventurous woman, stability is far from boring. I find myself with someone stable who loves their family, makes me laugh from my core, compliments my personality, and shares my values as well as interests. I have such a fondness, appreciation, and love for this man that I can only attribute to knowing what it means to have had a bad one. These nuances are things that aren’t so readily discussed in everyday conversation about relationships. They are the things we hope to figure out and grow from along the way. Community is important to me, so I hope to inspire conversations among other young women who are as lost as I was and are slowly but surely finding their way. I am in no way an expert on all things love, I’m merely an observer and reporter on the subject and I pray my observations find you well.

Standing in the Gap

This post is an excerpt of Shelter in Place Season 2, episode 5: Standing in the Gap. Listen to the episode above or wherever you get your podcats.

Everywhere you look, there’s a lot of fear about where we are now and what’s ahead. So for the past month, I’ve been gathering stories from people who are facing fear with courage–often in surprising ways. They represent a wide range of politics, but they share one very important thing: in the face of fear and a nation divided, they’re working hard to create communities that can cross that division.

Jimmy Graham has spent his life thinking about how to keep other people safe. He’s a former Navy Seal and CIA bodyguard, and the founder and CEO of the Able Shepherd program, an elite self-defense program that equips people to handle guns safely in high-stress situations like being in a building with an active shooter. When I spoke with Jimmy, we mostly sidestepped the conversation about if we should be carrying guns, and instead talked about how to make using them safer. 

“75% of people will shoot the wrong person when they’re excited or scared,” Jimmy told me. “It doesn’t matter if they’re FBI, they’re police, if they’re military.”

So he created a training system that used the reality-based scenario training he’d learned from his time with the Seals, where they wore protective equipment and used real guns that had been converted to fire training ammunition.

“I absolutely support law enforcement, but if you’re a bad apple, we need to get rid of you and sing it from the rooftops.”

Jimmy Graham

“The best way to learn how to shoot people is to shoot people,” Jimmy said. “And you do it over and over, and you create neural pathways. A lot of times the person who does the right thing isn’t the bravest or the fastest or the smartest. It’s the one that’s most familiar with it.”

Jimmy says that this is just as true of law enforcement as it is of citizens. He does a lot of work with the police to get outdated training systems up to date. But he’s also troubled by the way bad cops have given a bad rap to the entire system. 

“I absolutely support law enforcement, but if you’re a bad apple, we need to get rid of you and sing it from the rooftops. We don’t protect criminals. You belong in jail. Period. It protects the guys that are out there doing it for the right reasons.”

Jimmy’s work isn’t just about guns. He helped launch the Stand in the Gap Initiative, which seeks to bring communities together by developing what Jimmy calls “a root cellar mentality.” If the power goes out or there’s a blizzard or a hurricane, communities are prepared with food, water, a radio for offline communication, and a pre-established network of neighbors or friends who are ready to be at each other’s homes in a matter of minutes.

I used to think that the root cellar mentality was a little extreme. But then a year ago PG&E shut off our power for four days to prevent wildfires. And then COVID-19 happened and suddenly the shelves in our grocery stores were empty. I was lucky to live in a place where community already existed. When the power went out, our neighbors who had a generator invited us to come over to charge our phones and computers. They fed us dinner. But my neighborhood is unusual; Jimmy is trying to build communities where that kind of connection becomes typical. 

“It’s a good way to live,” Jimmy said. “We just got comfortable. We needed each other before. Now we don’t because of Amazon and Walmart, right? And that’s cool, but we left a good way to live. That, I think, is the answer: take care of one another in communities. That’s the way we were designed to live anyways.”

This was an excerpt from Shelter in Place, season 2, episode 5: Standing in the Gap. Hear the full story here or visit shelterinplacepodcast.info to view the full transcript.

These Changes

They say hindsight is 20/20 and as I look back over the year, I can honestly say that things could have gone far worse for me. I am beyond grateful to say they didn’t. This Thanksgiving had me a bit nostalgic remembering all the experiences I’ve had leading me to this point. Most of them were great and some were less than desirable, but they were all memorable and taught me to live from a place of love, humility, and thankfulness.

Take my Thanksgiving experience in 2017. This particular year, I spent the holiday among friends and community I had built while living in a young adult shelter for four months. I had since moved out and found stable housing with a friend, but we decided to spend our time with those we had grown so close to at the Lark-Inn youth drop-in center on Golden Gate Ave. It seemed like any other day where we walked to the center and waited in line to sign in, but instead of walking into the center as patrons, we were entering as welcomed guests. In a way, we had graduated because we got out and were successful in housing ourselves and remained independent. That day, I was thankful for the company and the food, and the freedom we had to move about the city. Most thanksgivings preceding that, I found myself road tripping with my mom and brother to some relatives’ house for a day full of family, meal prep, taste testing, and love and laughter. At Christmas time, the whole ordeal began again, with the bonus of gift-giving and the possibility of snow. It’s crazy how different experiences can be and easily things can change, but with Covid, the holidays are looking so much different this year.

Instead of large family gatherings and friends-givings, many people are sheltering in place or in quarantine alone. I can’t help but think of those I was sheltered with. Are they safe and warm? Did the presence of Covid change their relationship to their circumstances at home? Or are they having to face this hardship alone? The lucky ones are sharing space with our partners, pets, or technology and it’s days like today that I thank God for technology. It gives me peace of mind knowing that people can meet and remain connected to one another in ways we never thought imaginable just a few decades ago. We can see and hear one another in real-time even though we can’t touch one another or directly feel the warmth of their energy. And even though we are separate, I feel like we’re finally understanding the meaning of oneness and interconnectivity. I believe there is the Spirit of thankfulness and love that surrounds us every day and reminds us that all things are possible when we remain united and show love to another.

This year has been a whirlwind for me. I find myself with a new job in a new town of a new state, which usually leaves me feeling somewhat drained and over the transition, and somehow this move felt different. It felt like the end of a cycle I was so desperate to be free from because for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like I’m homeless or just passing through. I am home. A word which I ascribe to the feeling of security and stability. I don’t use the term home lightly and have only prescribed it to people before this summer, and I am so thankful for the change, which seems to be the main constant in my life. I don’t know the entirety of what the end of this year holds, much less the future, but I believe that facing it with an open heart and an attitude of gratitude- that most people only acquire for the holidays- could carry us a long way.