A Matter of Place

Blue-gray morning and sun-obscuring clouds is my place

Place of home and creation

A home where words are birthed and where my body lives

Location of being

I make my place here by walking barefoot on the backyard dirt

By feeling the crunch of autumn leaves I wait months to remove

from around my home so the animals and ground critters can bask in them

as they desire

Placemaking on this land is to keep the peace between the canine and feline

I live my life with

To spend quiet moments observing and whistling to the native birds that daily

occupy the old oak trees standing strong all around me

Photo by Georgina Marie, Oak Trees in Winter, Lakeport, CA

Much less a poem, more of an observation of my place of home in this time. After attending a writing workshop this past weekend, the following prompt was offered, “What does place and placemaking mean to you?”. This is a glimpse into what my place has become for me during a worldwide pandemic. – Georgina Marie

Does COVID-19 Kill Compassion?

Most likely COVID-19 does not kill compassion. Probably four years of proactive modeling of toxic masculinity did kill some compassion. If it didn’t affect negatively, recognize that for many the toxic fallout from the Trump years is akin to PTSD, ravaging hearts, minds and spirits from coast to coast. In fact, few regular people could thrive under the conditions characterized by instability, lies, bullying and unpredictable rage—all the traits of David Koresh and other cult leaders used to control their followers. Now it’s not fair to blame the victims, but it is our responsibility to heal ourselves now that the tyrant is gone. In other words, time to relocate our moral compasses.

For me and many people, most of 2020 but the especially the last few months of the year and January 2021 have been traumatic and painful. The constant racial stress people of color have experienced combined with totally ineffectual response to the pandemic has led to distress and many socioeconomic problems. Compound that with sickness, food insecurity and isolation, and it’s clear that we need to reconnect with ourselves so we can help others.

Here are some steps you can take to heal society and yourself from the moral depravity of the last four years:

  1. Acknowledge the global pandemic and the toll on everyone’s lives in every country in the world. Accept that truth. It’s horrible. If you can help in some small way, you can be being to alleviate any feelings of helplessness and pain.
  2. Act in your community to protect your family and neighbors from casual COVID-19 spread:
    1. Wear a mask
    1. Distance from others wearing a mask
    1. Respect the six-feet rule around public ingress and egress paths; public spaces are for everyone.
  3. Take time out: Stay home with your family and cool off from social media.
    1. Watch a Disney movie, and turn off the news.
    1. Set up a family jigsaw puzzle table for the family.
    1. Have a weekly family game night after dinner.
  4. Work to reconcile with those you may have hurt. Start by toning down the volume even if you’re upset, a reprieve may bring a new perspective in the morning. Us the cool-down time for discernment. You may need to end some relationships that are unhealthy and cause distress.
  5. Engage in social activism to repair the damage. People are dying. Ask how you can help if you have extra resources, food and clothes. This is a global crisis. Many people need help in the US and abroad. Giving feels good. It also heals.

If you love me, hold me accountable. If you love yourself, be willing to be held accountable for your words and deeds. Accountability requires communication, compassion and desire for wholeness. We have a chance to bring about a new era in our society, one that demonstrates liberty and justice for all. Start with preventing the spread of COVID-19 and embracing the compassion that sees us all as humans worthy of life.

Edissa accessorizes a mask when she leaves the house to protect her family and community from COVID-19. She’s cool like that!

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A Better Dream

2021 has been such as been such an eventful year already. Who would have thought that Wednesdays could provide us with so much history and terror? Two weeks ago, on Wednesday January 6, 2021, I was on the road with my boyfriend for a celebratory staycation in the city of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia, PA), when he got a call about white protestors marching to The Capitol. We got a play by play of how they proceeded to take it by storm under the guise of a “revolution”. Mind blowing right? What was even crazier was that we were scheduled to go Washington D.C. two days following this protest. Thankfully, our trip went well and the only thing we suffered from was disappointment because we were unable to see the sights while everything was locked with a vigilance that should have been in place two days prior. I digress… This Wednesday, January 20, 2021, however, was full of moments that will be ingrained in my mind for years to come.

I watched my Instagram feed provide gifs and stills of Trump’s underwhelming departure, streamed the inauguration of our new President Joe Biden live from YouTube, and I celebrated the birthday of a friend via FaceTime (Thank God for technology). It was a truly glorious day! Big moments aside, what I loved the most, were the little things, the moments within moments. Within the presidential inauguration, I witnessed three things: 1. The unbotheredness of Bernie Sanders, which has become a meme unto itself, 2. The array of color amongst the women present, and 3. the moment where I was gripped by the very presence and words of Harvard alum Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first African American youth poet laureate. It was these three things that highlighted the dream of a promising future for America.

Unbothered Bernie

There aren’t too many pictures, I feel, that represent my mood for 2021 so concisely. The year came in, ignored my “Dear 2021…” post, and began to wreak havoc in ways that myself and other members of the African American population knew it could. I can assure you that on Wednesday January 6, 2021, most of us sat in our respective homes and watched the news with the exact face Bernie has in the picture below. There may have been exclamations of shock and reproach, but I’m sure there was one person in the room who sat back and said something along lines of, ” That’s some white privilege” and “That’s none of my concern” because they stopped peaceful BLM (Black Lives Matter) protests with mace and tear gas, but allowed a storming of The Capital for reasons I believe are all too obvious… They were White. Anywho! Let this Bernie meme be our mood all 2021: Prepared and unbothered. May our masks be raised high, and our stress levels low.

Monochrome!

Do you see what I see? I see a moment from “The Wiz” where all the people danced around the television for the Wizard. The comparison is uncanny! It was glamorous, vibrant, and monochromatic. I LIVE for a monochromatic moment! There is such a strength, stability, and confidence that comes with wearing monochrome that I am certain that this fashion choice was the right one. It spoke loud and clear of the vibrancy that lies ahead for this nation. Watching all these fabulous women, I felt like it was a representation of the people waking up from a dead sleep under the #45th administration. It was like they woke up and decided to put on their “Sunday’s best”. I loved every moment of it.

The Hill We Climb

Amanda Gormon, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, is a Los Angeles native whose words have won her invitations to the Obama White House and to perform for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and others. She also has work available for purchase, “Change Sings” and poetry collection “The Hill We Climb”, both being released by Penguin Random House this September. In addition to all these accolades, she is stunning! Her gorgeous melanin, complimented by her bright yellow trench immediately grabbed my attention as as she read her piece, “The Hill We Climb“. It reminded me of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech that inspired the nation, but there are so many unknown quotes from him that still resonate.

“But ever since the Founding Fathers of our nation dreamed this dream, America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself.”

“The American Dream”, Martin Luther King Jr. , July 4, 1965

With the momentous sightings of Wednesday January 20, 2021, a palindrome mind you, I feel so hopeful. Hopeful that our fear-driven society could become one of love and peace and justice. Things have been so disjointed towards minority groups in this country since its conception that it will take time to maneuver and eradicate some of these things. People have been avoiding the darkness of this country for so long that they forgot it existed and now is the time to shed some light on it. The most powerful words uttered by Amanda in her piece pertain to light.

“There is always light is only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”

“THE HILL WE CLIMB”, AMANDA GORMAN, JANUARY 20, 2021

If we can be the light that we seek, maybe the nights won’t be as dark, and if we remind ourselves of Joe’s quote from The Bible in his inauguration speech, “Joy comes in the morning” we can spread hope and love (light) instead of fear and hatred (darkness). Dr. King’s words and his life’s work may not have been fully realized in his time on Earth, but I believe we can achieve that dream in this new day and age. You’ve made it to the weekend, so have an amazing Friday my loves!

Five Steps to Farming With Your Fork

We are living in times of created scarcity.

Each reveal spots our vulnerability.

Food is essential – and we all know why.

Food can be used as a weapon – and we understand how.

Food is a tool to awaken us.

Food activates power.

Food is a gift that is shareable.

– Dovanna Dean

Are you looking to start a garden from scratch, re-thinking your current garden, or realizing you need a long term plan to keep food on the table and in your pantry?

Farming with your fork is creating a demand with each bite for the crops and livestock we want on our table but most important HOW they are raised.  It’s a powerful and simple action that bonds families and communities and solidifies self-reliance.  Farming with your fork also becomes part of your self-care regiment.  I’m applying these actions into my daily “to-do chores” and it has become a lifestyle. By sharing these steps my goal is to inspire you and yours to become activated at your own rhythm.

Let’s begin this beautiful journey.

Photo Credit: Kim Mendoza

EXPLORING THE 5 STEPS OF FARMING WITH YOUR FORK

1. IDENTIFY YOUR GOALS FOR YOUR SPACE.

Create your site plan to get clarity about what you need from your space.  Ask questions like do you want to compost? Should you invest in an irrigation system?  How can you extend your growing season? Is it best for you to start a garden in containers or in beds? Do you have space to store the bounty of your harvest?

Asking questions provides direction and focuses your energies towards reaching your gardening goals.

2. COLLABORATE.

Look around… You may be surprised at the under used spaces you have access to use. Talk to family, neighbors, and community groups who may have unused spaces along with resources and develop partnerships. Work out mutually beneficial relationships. Look into tool sharing collectives, seed saving groups, and start reading to expand your knowledge and build your confidence… I enjoy reading seed catalogs because seed companies want you to thrive so they offer an abundance of tips and resources.

With more space there is no limit to what you can nurture and learn to grow.

Photo Credit: Kim Mendoza
3. CHOOSE YOUR CROPS & LEAVE NO SPACE EMPTY YEAR ROUND.

Resist the urge to start a massive amount of seeds at one time. Instead get on a schedule to start seeds every two weeks for a staggered harvest. Most important is to always plant in season – do not start tomatoes at the end of summer and expect successful growth as the weather gets cold. If plants are started out of season much of their energy is used up working to combat unseasonable weather like cold, heat, rain, or drought. The plants are left with less energy for balanced growth and can become prone to diseases and insect attacks. There are many products and tips to extend your growing season. Grow a vast variety of veggies and herbs. Plant fruit trees and berry bushes. Grow all kinds of potatoes. Try growing grain crops like amaranth and beans you can dry and eat past the harvest.

This strategy ensures you are eating garden fresh year round.

Photo credit: Krista Sherer
4. REACH OUT TO LOCAL FARMERS, RANCHERS, AND FOOD PRODUCERS.

While you are setting up your garden and realizing your “green thumb” support the work of small scale farmers, ranchers, and food producers.

Next time you get to a farmers market start collecting names and numbers and keep connected. Also ask if they need help harvesting or planting in exchange for yummy farm grown goods.  Another priceless bonus from this action is that you get to take a day trip with the family and experience farm life. 

Keep in contact with small scale/local food producers like bakers, cheese makers, bee keepers, prepared foods, etc. In the event farmers markets are stopped you maintain a line of communications and you keep their passion of producing local foods alive.

Supporting the works and efforts of these small businesses creates a strong demand for their goods.

5. START A BUYERS CLUB WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS. 

In a buyers club, you work as a group to share the expenses of bulk items and yield buying power for good prices. Being part of a buyers club takes organization and a commitment of your time. In one buyers club I was a part of, we rotated responsibilities to give everyone the opportunity to know all the jobs associated with running the club. To avoid being charged delivery fees we worked out meeting the delivery truck at one of its super market stops.  To make it extra fun we had pot lucks on delivery days so we could try new items. This was a great opportunity to experiment with new ingredients before buying.

Forming a buyers club puts you in direct contact with suppliers and enables you to be an active participant in the supply chain. You become a link in the system.

Photo Credit: Kim Mendoza

5 steps to farming with your fork becomes a starting point towards food security and solidifying access to healthy foods. It does take work and collaboration.

Be creative and do not give up. You are on the path to farming with your fork!

Dovanna Dean is a practitioner of Permaculture. She is also a lover of animals, plants, house music.

How to Mend Miscommunication

Have you ever walked away from a conversation understanding one thing, but found out later on that the whole thing was misconstrued? I have multiple times and I’m here to tell you that even though the feeling of discomfort doesn’t completely go away, you can grow from each experience. There are so many layers when diving in the well of miscommunication and it can seem overwhelming. One misspoken word can be the end of a beautiful relationship or business partnership. Mending those broken relationships and exploring conversational rifts are intentional work that takes time, but here are a few steps to get you started.

Open Your Heart and Mind

When addressing miscommunication, you have to remember that each individual is coming into the conversation with their own perspective and a set of points that they want to get across. It’s not easy to be the bigger person, but if the relationship is of value to you, it would be in your best interest to be the bigger person and open your mind to their perspective and calm your heart when you hear their frustration.

As humans, we come into this world with these intense emotions that most of us have learned to regulate as we’ve gotten older. These regulated emotions are what keep us from flying off the handle at a moment’s notice or screaming obscenities at our neighbors for letting their dogs poop freely in our yard for the upteenth time this month. We have to remember that empathy is a necessity, no matter what, so listen intently to their concerns without the overwhelming desire to respond. Digest their words, mull it over, and respond accordingly.

Ask Questions

There have been times in my life where I didn’t ask enough questions or the right questions. Who am I kidding? There are days where I still don’t, but I now have a better frame of reference for when and how to ask questions. In my youth, when I would take trips to the doctor, I never inquired further about things pertaining to my body because I was of the mindset that they had already told me everything I needed to know. I thought, “They’re the doctor, they know what’s best. Case closed”. I saw no reason to press the matter further. In high school, I had moments where I was given an assignment where upon first review, things seemed straightforward, but upon further review, I found that all the requirements weren’t clear and I would struggle to complete the assignment that night. My mom would then ask me why I hadn’t asked more questions, and my answer would always be that I didn’t know I needed to ask more questions. I had walked out of the classroom thinking I had all the understanding of the subject that I needed, which time and further analysis proved false. It is within these crucial lessons that I’ve gained the understanding that sometimes, we are so uninformed on a topic that we don’t know what questions we should be asking. If you find yourself on the receiving end of miscommunication, meaning that your words were misconstrued, please practice empathy and remember that you too desire patience and understanding where proper communication is involved.

Respect One Another

Respect is a two-way street. It is also a form of currency. When I enter into a conversation with someone, I am exchanging my words, ideas, beliefs, and energy. The person I am speaking to is doing the same. Issues tend to develop quicker when the two individuals are on different frequencies of conversation. My ideals may not align with theirs and vice versa. For example, let’s say I am talking to a friend about getting some ice cream. I tell them I want chocolate and they say, “Yuck! Vanilla for me”. I could respond one of two ways: 1. Understand that they are expressing their opinion or 2. Take it as a personal attack and become defensive. Personally, I would inquire about why they don’t like chocolate, which allows me to walk away with a better understanding of them as a whole.

When we asks questions with respect and seek to understand one another, people tend to respond better and will be more likely to remain open in their responses. These open responses aid in getting you closer to desirable resolutions. Just the other day, I found myself in a misunderstanding. I found myself a bit flustered because I didn’t see where the miscommunication was. All I knew was that we disagreed on a matter and I wanted it resolved. I also knew that I didn’t want to respond impulsively, which could potentially ruin a great relationship. Thus, I waited, formulated a proper response that allowed me to get my point across while leaving room for an open conversation. Thankfully, the issue was resolved smoothly because I understood the importance of hearing the other person’s perspective and reevaluating it with my own. By doing this, we were both able to identify the breakdown in communication and were able to grow and move forward amicably. I have not always been as successful in my mending endeavors, but I hope to spread hope and share my experiences with the hopes of inspiring you to mend valuable relationships with those three steps. Have a wonderful day, loves!

Farming With Your Fork

At the beginning of the 2020 global pandemic, I reached out to neighbors, friends, and family to make sure folks where OK – physically and emotionally. The common thread of our conversations was a calling to get serious about gardening but beyond that – it was about living as a self reliant community . Garden related “wishes” we chatted about centered on gaining practical skills and further exploration into actions like putting up a greenhouse for year round growing, starting micro-greens, getting serious about composting, or preserving the harvest. I fueled the conversation by asking about their companion planting plan? How many harvest where they planning on trying for the season? Are they starting seeds in succession to have a continual harvest? What integrated pest management techniques they think they will try? Gulp – I think I got WAY too excited. However, at the core of each conversation was the desire to cultivate self – reliance by growing foods, medicine, and beauty. These chats have motivated me to outline my 5 steps towards turning your garden into a “farm” that becomes your “grocer” – in essence your garden becomes your farm with your fork as your grocer.

Growing up during the 80’s Brooklyn, gardening was the thing older folks from the South did and no one else paid attention to.  One day on the bus I sat next to a sweet elder lady who looked over at my biology textbook about the part of a plant and commented “I never had a book to tell me about plants – we always knew what each part did, how to use it, and which ones to stay away from.  I guess these days you have to learn somehow ‘cause you are no longer connected.  I looked up politely and she continued – “we had huge gardens.  We saved our seeds for the next season, we preserved and canned, we used the throw-away stuff to fertilize the soil, and we cooked and cooked and cooked – mostly everything we needed was in the garden our in our neighbors plot…” She looked off into the distance and smiled.  I asked “you didn’t have a supermarket?” “Baby”, she said,” our garden farm was our grocer! “- “and we hardly got sick, we never went hungry, and Sunday dinners was a fest that lasted for days.”  I smiled not understanding the power of her words.  As she got off the bus she sealed our connection by saying “So much power in putting your hands in healthy dirt.  It’s up to you kids to continue doing these things!”  And these words would have a profound guidance on me and choices I would make years down the road.

During the 90’s Los Angeles I was a college student in the middle of the reaction by the community to the Rodney King verdict.  The town was on fire, people frustrated, and I watched stores burn.   I went back to my dorm and decided to stop my formal college education and seek a more practical and hands on path to reliance and peace on earth one garden plot at a time.  Yes, that conversation on the bus years earlier jumped into my very existence and steered my life path.  I started studying and practicing Permaculture shortly afterwards. Permaculture is a coined phrase for a set of principals and techniques for the harmonious integration of our landscape to benefit YOU and the Earth. “Farming with your fork” is a powerful and simple action. We create a demand or market with each bite for the crops and livestock we want on our tables AND how they are raised.

“Control oil and you control nations. Control food and you control people.”

Henry Kissinger, US political figure

2020 has shown is that we cannot continue to depend on outside forces as the sole provider of food. If its not the changing weather due to cyclic earth changes / grand solar minimum creating crop loss, disruptions in the supply chains, or corporate greed feeding us products based on destructive mono-culture farming techniques – we are at the mercy of factors that are not sustainable. What a sobering reality…

We can take charge by creating a demand by supporting your local farmers and ranchers, creating food buying groups, working together to turn empty spaces into abundance with gardening, and preserving and sharing the harvest. Each step becomes your template for abundance, community and self- care from your loving labor. Gardening is humbling to me because these are no mistakes – only actions you don’t repeat or you need to modify for better outcomes. We create “food security” with passion, imagination, courage, and community. Continue the conversation with friends and neighbors. Work together towards your community food security.

Photo Credits: Kim Mendoza

Dovanna Dean is a lover of dirt, pets, plants, and house music.

On New Horizons: Shaping a Life of Goodness in 2021

What do you do when someone treats you kindly? How do you react to the “nice” person in the room? How do you treat your closest neighbors? These questions have been on my mind since October 2020. I’ve noticed how sometimes my acts of kindness, my greetings and my cheerful smile are met with suspicion; I’ve experienced how my joy hangs in the air like an unwanted odor instead of being met with generous reciprocity. When this happens, I retreat to the safety of long-time friends and marvel: What will a person get when they rebuff kindness, goodness and friendship? It’s akin to inviting a nightmare.

Sadly, it’s human nature to repeat patterns and expect a new outcome. This is partially attributable to mindset and habituation. When we do something long enough, it becomes comfortable, familiar and we form an attachment, possibly even perceiving a behavior or habit as an extension of ourselves. So we must first break out of these mental formations. We do this by recognizing that all of us, from the oldest person to the youngest, has something to learn. Embracing learning from a growth mindset will facilitate working and moving toward change. I taught myself to hang about the so-called nice people in the room and to avoid the dreaded pinch faces who populate every sector of society. It turns out that nice people really are kind. Like many of you, these lessons were so slow to come–a great fog obscuring my vision. Fortunately, the more I practice reciprocating kindness, the more I attract good and kind people into my life and let the others go their own way.

Over the years I’ve observed how my husband and i approach so many basic activities differently. As an observer of human nature, I’m fascinated by how often I judge (Okay, I’m an INTJ) these diverging behaviors as right or wrong. Some years into our healthy relationship, I’ve learned to drop that judgment and move toward a value system that recognizes contribution over process. The end result is itself the goal, not how we get there. On the other hand, my husband is cool as a cucumber most of the time. He smiles and waves at everyone. Sometimes I imitate him, because I fell in love with that quality. I do this when it matters, with the people I see regularly at work, school in my neighborhood. These shifts in behavior allow me to focus on what I need to change in and for myself rather than on external elements of my life, which brings me to 2021 and all that I want to leave behind, and a few things I wish to pick and cultivate along the way.

My 2021 Resolutions:

  • Reduce alcohol consumption (I’m human.)
  • Proactive stress reduction (Avoid chaos and toxic people.)
  • Increase eustress: Go back to school for my PhD (Embrace challenge.)
  • Adding a few good friends to my inner circle (Good people are good.)
  • Take care of the children in my life–all them, even yours.
  • Earning a living wage.
  • Create jobs for people in my community.

Make 2021 the year you smile back. Take a moment to return the salutation of a stranger or casual acquaintance. There really is enough time for this. In times of crisis, your neighbors–like it or not–will be the people upon whom you may have to rely. Don’t wait until there is a need. Cultivate a community of people who will nod back at you, give you ride in a pinch or leave a gift when you need one. People look for quick external fixes to their problems; someone to blame for their unhappiness; an excuse for why they keep doing that thing, whatever it is. This year try getting uncomfortable and extend your kindness everywhere you go. Your smile won’t open every door, but you will gain a few more friends and be welcome where they do.

Edissa keeps a mask handy at all times to answer the door and protect neighbors, friends, family and herself from COVID19.

We’ll Travel For Food

Vacations are looking more like staycations nowadays. Couples are huddled up in their living rooms with blankets, moscato, and the latest Netflix movie release, and honestly, I can’t think of a better way to do a date night in! I had however, hoped in 2020 to have a summer full of travel and delight, but was met with shelter in place mandates and disappointment. With the country on lockdown and states operating individually, it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel where travel was concerned. With states opening up, however, I have seen the light, and it came in the form of a road trip for food up the East coast to Philadelphia (Philly).

We began our food journey by doing our due diligence regarding the travel, Airbnb research, and general Covid safety measures. Sitting in the living room of our Philadelphia Sonder Airbnb that looks over the vast city landscape, I am in awe of the beauty of the city lights. It reminds me a bit of my hometown, Newark, New Jersey with the hustle and bustle and great eateries like Get Stuffed Jersey in Union, NJ. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big foodie, so finding the best food is a major part of the trip. We started our food journey with Jay’s Steak and Hoagie Joint in Langhorne, PA. We heard about this spot through JL Jupiter’s YouTube channel. You can call ahead to order and due to Covid measures they have outdoor seating, but we ate in the car. Jupiter raved about the beer dipped pretzel bread philly. That’s right, I said pretzel bread! Let me tell you, it was well worth the trip! It was utter perfection. So much so, that there was nothing left to post in the blog.

On our second day in the city of brotherly love, we continued this hunt for great food by stopping through the Reading Terminal Market. There was stall upon stall of deliciousness, but we ultimately settled for a breakfast sandwich from Smucker’s Quality Meat and Grill and a fresh squeezed cold press juice from Lancaster County Dairy, which was truly refreshing! The only downfall of this eating experience was the eating outdoor experience because it was early in the morning.

Reading Terminal Market

I was a bit full after that meal, so we decided to continue our stroll through the city down 12th street to take in the sights. What a beautiful city it truly is.

We closed this food trip with Luke’s Lobster Rittenhouse. They have pick-up and no-contact delivery options for your safety and convenience. We called ahead and ordered the chilled 4oz lobster roll, which was also recommended by JL Jupiter. I had my roll with chips and a Blueberry Lemonade, while my boyfriend ordered a lobster mac and cheese as a side, and my oh my! My beautiful readers, if you ever have the opportunity to venture down to 17th street, you should stop in this quaint establishment because it will truly bless your taste buds and your soul!

I know the world is a bit weird right now and the state of our capital is much to be desired, but I find comfort in knowing there is still some normalcy in the little things. I was able to travel safely across state lines and maybe you aren’t able to, but that shouldn’t stop you from venturing around your own city for some good eats even from the safety of your laptop. Go online, do your research, and order ahead for pick-up or delivery! There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy yourself and eat well when the opportunity presents itself. May the discounts from Grubhub, DoorDash, and UberEats be ever in your favor! Go forth, eat well!

Dear 2021, I Hope You Like Challenges

I implore you to come in, have a seat, and don’t touch anything because everyone is still reeling from 2020. Do forgive my rudeness, but this last year has been a wealth of… experience, to say the least and you have a lot of catching up to do. There was a pandemic that has us separated from loved ones and has caused the deaths of millions across the world. The economy is pretty shot and don’t even get me started on the election! Though many have complaints about the majority of 2020s experiences, I, however, have a list of joy. It was a year in which I’d moved, once again, across state lines into unfamiliar territory and once again I was surprised with love. Only this time it wasn’t just familial. It wasn’t just romantic. It was intrinsic. I love myself in more ways than I can count now and I wouldn’t have had the time to see it all- how truly far I’ve come- if it weren’t for 2020. So thank you, 2020 for halting my life along with the lives of others. I’m witnessing a world wide awakening to love in all its forms and an awareness of self and others in ways that I’ve only read about in books. Others may curse you, but I thank you. Thank you for the pivotal moments that caused my mother and I to relocate. Twice. Those movs have reconnected me to nature and creativity. Thank you for the shelter in place mandates that allowed me to sit quietly and enjoy the night sky. Even the Earth utters it’s thanks for the reprieve you’ve given it. I don’t feel that I have the vocabulary vast enough to describe my gratitude, but I do have gratitude, and in this day and new age, I believe it’s truly necessary.

To those reading this letter, I ask that you extend gratitude to yourself and others in this New Year. Extend gratitude to the people and things that serve you. While you clean and declutter thank the clothes on your back for clothing you, greet your home and thank it for sheltering you. Those of you who are familiar with the KonMari method will understand this. I thank my phone bill when I pay it because my phone serves me. It is a service I need for communicating and marketing for business via social media. This practice of thanking one’s possessions may seem like an odd task and some may think it to be an act of valuing possessions over people, but it’s not. Expressing gratitude in all things can be a useful practice in everyone’s life because it is a higher expression of love in a time where fear is so prevalent. I have learned to choose love in all situations. Sometimes love is tough and needs to be protected, while other times it calls for a softness that is to be shared. This is a lesson that I will carry into this new time in 2021. 2020, though you were much like an ex I’d never hope to see again, if I could say one last parting thing to you, it would be ‘Farewell and thank you for pushing me to be the woman I am today: healthy, healing, and well on my way to wholeness.’ Hello 2021, and so long 2020, it’s been real.

With love,

Sarai W.

The Christmas Top 5

Merry Christmas everyone! The holiday season feels a bit different this year with social distancing and families not being able to gather as one unit to celebrate, but thankfully there are still some comforting traditions in the midst of so much change. I love riding down the roads to see homes that are still glistening from head to toe with lights and I can’t resist stopping by Krispy Kreme when red light is on, but my favorite Christmas tradition is snuggling up with my mom to watching holiday movies, more specifically, my top five Christmas films. These films have held so much nostalgia and brought me so much cheer through the years that I truly hope they bring the same to you and yours this holiday season. Without further ado, buckle up ladies and gentleman, it’s about to get merry!

The Top 5

5. A Year Without A Santa Claus

My Christmas season wouldn’t be complete or officially begin, in my opinion, without this Rankin Bass classic. In this film, Santa is in desperate need of a break because he has a cold, but as we all know, Christmas must go on! So Mrs. Claus and Santa’s elves make a plan to save Christmas without him. This plan, however, doesn’t go over so smoothly and they soon need rescuing from the bed-ridden Santa when they find themselves caught in a world of trouble between the Snow Miser and Heat Miser. Will Santa get the day off he deserves? and Will he get the elves out of their mess? You’ve got to watch it to find out. From the whimsical stop motion characters to the campy musical numbers, this movie is fun for the entire family and a sure fire to win you over if it hasn’t already.

Released: December 10, 1974
Directors: Arthur Rankin, Jr.Jules Bass

4. Elf

This film is easily one of my favorite Christmas movies. The moment I saw it in theaters, 17 years ago, it immediately captured my heart. The soundtrack, the characters, and story had me before Bob Newhart said, “Hello”. This is the tale of Buddy the elf, who was an orphan adopted my Santa Claus. After discovering that his father is on the naughty list, he decides to go on a trip to New York City to find him and show him the true meaning of Christmas. With Will Ferrell in this role, you can be sure that comedy is to ensue and it’s worth every minute!

Released: October 9, 2003
Director: Jon Favreau

3. Home Alone

Need I say more? Seriously? Home Alone is a CLASSIC! It screams family comedy with enough snarkiness for the adults to enjoy as much, if not more so than the children. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed at this film even knowing what’s going to happen from scene to scene. It’s just that good! This kid gets his Christmas wish to be alone while fending off home robbers in the most slapstick way possible. It’s like Tom and Jerry meets It is totally my cup of tea and if you watch it, it just might become yours too.

Release date: November 16, 1990
Director: Chris Columbus

2. Home Alone 2

The debate about whether the second film is better than the first will not end here, I just feel I can throw my hat in the ring and say the second one is better. It’s inarguable that it measures up to the first, I just believe that they gave Kevin a bit more depth here and really allowed him to wreak havoc on those crooks in ways he couldn’t in his own house. Does it make me a bad person to enjoy watching the comedy duo of John Pesci and Daniel Stern be, humiliated by a child? I don’t think so, I just think it makes me incredibly human, which is an experience we’re all sharing.

November 20, 1992
Director: Chris Columbus

1. The Grinch

First off, let me say that I can’t believe this film has been out for twenty years! I’m also not sure if I was aware of Jim Carrey’s presence in this world prior to this movie, but it certainly endeared him to me. He IS the Grinch. His essence and charisma are unmatched and in my opinion, there will never be another Grinch, though that didn’t stop them from trying, unfortunately. I could-and I have- watch this film over and over and over regardless of the season. It does, however, hold a special place in my heart during this time of the year. The fact that it’s still available for streaming on Netflix brings joy to the depths of my soul. If you haven’t had the privilege of viewing this cantankerous yet loveable character steal Christmas, I suggest you start a watch party with the Netflix app and enjoy his completely relatable moments with the company of those you love and cherish.

Release date: November 8, 2000
Director: Ron Howard

Although today is Christmas, the season of love and nostalgia isn’t over. You can carry the spirit of it everywhere you go all day, every day and to start, perhaps you can have a watch party and watch one of these films with your loved ones in their respective homes. You’ve already seen a portion of my list, but what films are you and your family looking forward to watching this holiday season?