Sunday, July 26, 2020

Out of this world

Pic of the week 


During our space-themed Story Pirates camp this week, I turned into an alien.  It wasn't so bad.

What's going on?

Had an unusually busy week this week.  Story Pirates is putting on a virtual summer camp and I was a cabin leader for a couple of groups.  It was a lot of fun!  We made up planets and aliens and designed space ships.  It was good to have something of a schedule for a few days.  

I've been working with a family who used to come to Kidville to teach/interact with their kids for an hour a week and it's been really fun.  We meet in their backyard all masked up and I play a few songs on my ukulele, read some books, and then we do an activity of some kind.   This week our theme was all about food, so I had them taste different things in the four flavors - bitter, sour, sweet, salty - and the overwhelming favorite was sweet.  Though the 4-yr-old girl fully devoured her bitter lemon peel.  We made our own trail mix and then I taught them how to make ice cream in a bag.  It was a hit!  Last week we talked about plants and planted some seeds.  A few of them had sprouted when I came back this week and the kids were so excited.  Now if only the seeds in my planters were as willing to live...

I did a double-feature hike yesterday with two different friends and ended up hiking nearly 11 miles!  It was great.  My weekly hiking excursions are quickly becoming one of my favorite things.  This week's hikes features some steep terrain, a charming creek, the consumption of ~2 litres of water, and a tuna sandwich!  We also passed an abandoned wheel barrow, and a bowling ball.

I was inspired by my reading of "Grit" a couple of weeks ago to start memorizing an inspirational or meaning quote or passage every day.  If you've got any you especially love, send them my way!  I started yesterday with this one which I learned from Brene Brown, and which I will now attempt to type from memory:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

-Theodore Roosevelt

I double-checked and got it almost word for word - I only missed one - but I had to edit the punctuation because ol' Teddy loved a long and grammatically complex sentence.  

What I'm watching


This is a new Australian dating show on Netflix featuring people on the Autistic spectrum and is honestly just a heart-warming delight. 

What I'm reading

First, watch this video of Representative Ocasio-Cortez deliver what is truly an incredible speech.



Then read this fascinating take on the cultural surroundings of the speech.  We have a long way to go, folks. 

What I'm listening to

Spotify playlists that feature French pop music from the 60s.  Honestly, what a delight.  Thanks to my friend Jon for introducing me.

What I'm puzzling


I'm in love with this artist.  They've made a bunch of puzzles out of his work and I might just have to buy them all.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

You betta werk.

Pic of the week 


Just a little inspiration from this week's hike.

What's going on?

Once, twice, three times a lady who tested negative for COVID.  All of my tests have come back clear, so I apparently survived the gauntlet of airports and airplanes and probably too many hugs for friends. I am now back to spending much of my time inside my apartment or outdoors away from people. Dejectedly watching as our country continues to ignore science. *sigh*

I ended up having conversations with two different employers in the same day about the future of those businesses and my role within them.  

First was Story Pirates.  Since we as a country can't get it together, essentially all of our live programming is on hold indefinitely.  It is very unlikely that we'll be doing any live school shows this school year.  We have a couple of outdoor public shows planned for later in the year, but that's about it.  Since the job I was hired for was basically coordinating live programming and training people, my job is a little bit...pointless.  My bosses emphasized, though, how much they value me as a part of the organization (which was lovely to hear - please provide positive feedback to your employees when you can) and they want to keep me involved where they can, so basically they're scaling back my role and looking for opportunities for me to still be involved.  That also means scaling back my pay - but that won't happen until the end of the summer, so I've got time to make some other arrangements, and honestly what with schooling being up in the air, opportunities are abundant - imma be fine.  It kind of sucks because I was good at my job and REALLY enjoyed it, but I also understand that we are living in a bonkers time and there's not really anything we can do about that. Hopefully my job will be back up and running before too long, but until then, we'll roll with the punches.

Secondly, I texted my boss at Kidville to see if/what the plan was for reopening.  I stopped by Kidville a few days ago to borrow some books and honestly didn't know if I'd find a fully-stocked bookshelf, or an empty building.  We haven't been open since March, but presumably we've still been paying the rent.  Anyway, my boss called me and informed me that the CEO of Kidville had to file for bankruptcy - and not the restructuring kind.  Kidville is no more.  This also makes sense as the whole business model is built around in-person activities and who knows when we'll be able to do any of that again.  It's possible that once things get back to normal - whenever that may be - that they'll start over from scratch, but for now the windows are shuttered.  It's wild to think about because I've been working there pretty consistently for almost 8 years.  It's been a bit of a second home here in LA and a consistent source of supplemental income.  I'm gonna miss it.  Though my wallet will probably appreciate not being around so many delicious, but overpriced foods. 

Also, I started therapy this week!  Yay!  #normalizeit Had my first session on Monday and I think it went well.  I'm working through some stuff related to the interesting mix of my personality, the nature of a high-demand, authoritarian religion, and my parent's parenting style.  Everyone has their own unique blend of influences and reactions and nature and nurture, and I'm excited to deconstruct mine a little.

What I'm watching



This is an interesting show.  It's sort of a mystery, sci-fi, comedy. The idea is that when you die, you can be uploaded to the cloud and live digitally.  It's a hot take on the afterlife concept, along with the usual discussions about socio-economic inequality etc.  The lead guy is a very classically handsome fellow, but in a surprise twist for Hollywood, he's also a decent actor.  He makes the main character likable and relatable - which I find refreshing.  There is some language, so buyer beware, but overall my roommate and I both really enjoyed this one.

What I'm reading



This one is great.  It approaches racism from the dichotomy of racist vs. anti-racist.  There is no "not racist".  And it's not that you are one thing or the other permanently, it's that in any given moment you are either behaving in ways that are racist, or anti-racist.  You are either actively working against racism, or you're not.  Usually I don't love either/or black and white thinking (see above, re: going to therapy), but it actually makes a lot of sense in this context.  And I think there's enough nuance in the idea that any given person is not entirely racist or anti-racist, but that each action, each moment falls into one of those categories.  And hopefully we're all working toward more and more of our actions and moments being anti-racsit.

What I'm listening to


The TED Radio Hour with Manoush Zomorodi.  This episode was all about apologies and forgiveness and I LOVED it.  Give it a listen.  

What I'm puzzling

This is an infinity puzzle.  There are no edge pieces, you can kind of keep moving pieces around and creating different shapes etc.  I bought this puzzle for myself a couple of years ago, and it's been hanging on my wall for a while, but I decided to revisit it and play around with it a bit this week.  It's a fun one!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

That bath was the bomb.

Pic of the week 


I am plant-sitting for a friend while she's out of town, and she has a bathtub that will fit me - a full-grown, but average-sized man - which is harder to find than you might think. So I took full advantage of that - bath bomb and all.  It was glorious.  I might even do it again.
 
What's going on?

It's been a couple of weeks!  I'm not always good about the weekly check-in when I'm out of town.

Happy 4th of July, y'all.  This was an odd year for patriotic celebration, I have to admit.  We're grappling with a lot as a country right now, and I think it felt a little...disingenuous?...to say, "Yay America!"  But I keep thinking about the idea that we live in a country where hard conversations can happen and change is possible and where we're allowed to fight for something better, so even though we're deep in the fight - and perhaps BECAUSE we're deep in that fight - I still think there is reason to celebrate.  

I tested negative for COVID again, which means that I didn't pick it up on a plane or in an airport on the way to Utah or a 4th of July parade or a family BBQ.  My roommate is relieved.  I was perhaps a tad irresponsible in my social distancing practices while in Utah, but now that I'm home, it's back to leaving my apartment only for exercise and grocery store trips.  *sigh*

I had a GREAT time in Utah.  It was so nice to spend time with so many people I love (mostly in a socially distant way).  Good conversations, too many treats, fireworks, so many laughs, more treats, and even a 5k!

Now I would like a vacation to somewhere tropical, with beaches and frosty drinks and cabana boys and sun.

What I'm watching


Finally got around to watching this.  Great show.  While Lin-Manuel Miranda is a straight-up genius storyteller, writer, and musician, I would like to see this show A - live, and B - starring someone with more acting/signing chops.  Don't get me wrong, ol' LMM was fine, just clearly not the most skilled performer on the stage.  Anyway, I think pieces of art like this are important for starting conversations and sparking an interest in history and telling powerful stories through unconventional lenses.  More of this, please.

What I'm reading


Took a little break from anti-racism because I got a "skip-the-line" copy of this gem from the library and had to read it real quick. Fascinating look at the importance of hard work and discipline.  It's sparked some internal conversations for me about how to get back some of that drive that I once had.  Unmet life expectations mixed with a global pandemic have left me feeling a bit melancholy and listless of late.  But reading through this has given me a little hope.  

What I'm listening to


GREAT podcast from the New York Times.  It's only 5 episodes long, but gives some amazing context to the moment we're living in.  Give it a listen.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Brownie bites and baby bumps

Pic of the week 


I went to a zoom baby shower for a friend this week and there was an activity where you had to put a piece of paper on top of your head and draw a baby.  This was my baby.  

What's going on?

I'm COVID negative, y'all! Or was as of Tuesday, anyway.  I'm planning to get tested again as soon as I get back from Utah and then a week later to make sure I didn't catch it on a plane ride or in a cookie shop while traveling.  Watching the numbers steadily rise this week makes me wish I'd reserved a rental car instead of buying a flight, or that the Good People of Utah™ had been a little more careful about social distancing and wearing their masks.  But here we are.  Two flights to Utah on Friday (Somehow American Airlines has no direct flights anymore?) and two flights back the following week.  Sending prayers for not a full flight.

A friend of mine left town for a month or so and asked if I'd water her plants while she's gone.  It's a nice excuse to get out of my apartment for a while!  Plus, she has a nice big bathtub at her house that I fully intend to take advantage of while she's gone. AND she lives just down the street from one of the best pizza places in LA.  :)

A current goal is to get in my 10,000 steps every day.  That's about 4 miles' worth of walking every day.  Bring it on!  It's fun to get around the neighborhood and discover cute houses and out of the way treasures and such.  Plus I now have another neighborhood to explore while watering my friend's plants.

What I'm watching


It's on Netflix!  This is widely agreed to be one of the better Star Trek series, so I decided what with finishing Discovery and Picard that I'd check it out. Plus it's a great series to watch while working on other projects - photo archiving, puzzles, laundry etc.

What I'm reading


You guessed it, another perspective from the Black American experience. This is a quick read, check it out.

What I'm listening to


The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown. I listen to this once a year.  It is LIFE CHANGING stuff.  Seriously.  This is basically a 6-hour version of the stuff she talks about in her TED talks (which you can find here and here.)  Cannot recommend this highly enough.  Bonus - since I've listened to it 3 or 4 times now, I played it on triple speed and got through the whole thing in one day!  Usually it takes me a few days to get through the whole thing.

What I'm puzzling


Finally finished that 2,000 piece BEAST and am moving on to this little gem that I found at Target.  Antique Advertising by Milton Bradley/Hasbro.

What I'm cooking


Brownies.  In fact, one of the best brownie recipes I've found to date. Enjoy.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Feelin' Just Peachy

Pic of the week 




This week's hike took me halfway up the trail to the Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel mountains.  It's a 14-mile round-trip loop, but I decided that might be a bit much for this weekend, so I just went halfway.  Gonna try for the full loop in a few weeks. It was a BEAUTIFUL trail and lucky for me, it was overcast so the uphill half was nice and cool.  Don't worry, I still got plenty sweaty.  AND!  I saw a real live rattle snake!  Another hiker alerted me to its presence, and it just crawled away into the bushes and didn't bug anybody, but that's the first time I've ever seen a rattle snake in the wild.  It was pretty cool.

What's going on?

Happy Father's Day!  




I've been on some pretty awesome adventures with this guy, and even though life has a funny way of laughing in the face of any plans you might have for your children, or that your children might have for themselves, I think I still turned out pretty okay, and that's in large part due to my ol' Dad.  Thanks for all the good times, and the hard times, and the mistakes, and the apologies, and the laughs, and the tears, and the many many many desserts.  Thanks for teaching me to work hard, play hard, and love hard.  Love you, Dad!

One of the most important things we do at Story Pirates is called Story Love.  It's our program where we provide personalized feedback on every story we receive - and that's well into the tens of thousands of stories.  To make sure we can accomplish that foundational goal, we partner with corporate sponsors for volunteer events.  The current state of the world what with the pandemic and all lends itself rather nicely to holding these events virtually and we had a BUNCH this week and I was able to help out with some of them.  It was really fun, and so nice to have something to do!

And then I spent a lot of time reading and working on my puzzle (still doing the 2,000-piece Cinque Terre puzzle, it's a beast.) and napping and trying to stay isolated as much as possible since I was at that march last week and want to reduce my chances of spreading the COVID if I happen to have picked it up in the giant crowd.  I have a test scheduled for this week to verify if I have it.  Fingers crossed that I don't because A - I'm not trying to spread that mess around, and B - it might mess up my travel plans to Utah and I need to come to Utah.

What I'm watching



If you haven't taken the time to watch this one yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.

What I'm reading


Turns out that though there have been notable gains since the civil rights movement in terms of racial equality, the systems that disenfranchised and othered people back then are still alive and well today.

Also THIS ARTICLE.  Which makes me continue to wonder why The Church™ is so reticent to acknowledge and grapple with its own history.  And why as an institution it is so against apologizing - not just for its racist past/policies/culture/present, but for the pain it has caused and continues to cause for essentially every marginalized population.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to bash The Church™, I think it does a lot of good, and is a bright and important part of my own history, but it could, and honestly should, be SO MUCH BETTER.

What I'm listening to

Vulfpeck Radio on Pandora.  Giving me some chill vibes to drown out the noise of it all.
And continued advice to wear a mask, socially distance, etc.  Let's not take chances, people.  

What I'm cooking


Peach Ice Cream.  Y'all, peach season is in FULL swing and I could not be happier about it.  Fresh peaches are one of my absolute favorite foods, and some peach ice cream just sounded so good.  I also threw in some chopped up cherries just for fun.  However. My ice cream maker failed me in a very disappointing way.  Not sure what happened, but it did not create ice cream.  So I just stuck the liquid in some containers in the freezer overnight and called it good.  It still tasted incredible.  Especially with some fresh sliced peaches.  Next time I may even add some granola.  :)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Days of Action

Pic of the week 


Went for a hike on Friday and this is the view from about halfway along the trail.  Despite that lovely layer of haze, the view was pretty stunning.  It was nice to get out into some fresh air and take a breather from EVERYTHING that is happening in the world right now.  #rechargetofightthegoodfight

What's going on?

What.  A.  Week.  It's been a week of lots of reading and questioning and digging into reputable sources and listening and watching documentaries and hearing stories and learning how to approach conversations from a place of curiosity as opposed to combat and checking my knee-jerk reactions and clarifying my beliefs.  Y'all, we have a lot of work to do.  I know half of you are rolling your eyes while reading this, but here's the thing - you understand the position.  When something is important to you, when you believe in its value to society at large, you share it.  I've been doing my best to confront attitudes, fragility, privileges in my own life and figuring out how to leverage my position to help lift those around me who don't enjoy what I do.  There are better ways to do things.  We have to keep fighting - as humans, as brothers and sisters, as children of God - for equity and love.  Ya know?

I compiled this lovely list of statistics last weekend because I'd heard and seen a lot of numbers flying around and got curious about what the actual story was behind it all.  Interesting stuff!

I was having a conversation with a friend this week who is studying - as part of research for his Master's Degree - what conservatives believe and why, and he said, "Conservative political ideology is largely just opposition to liberalism." Which I found interesting.  Obviously that's not something that applies to each individual #notallconservatives, but I do think it speaks to the general direction of that side of the political spectrum in an interesting way.  He also said that on the more progressive side, you don't find the same thing.  Progressives generally have a clear articulation of beliefs.  Something to think about.

I made myself a spreadsheet/calendar this week for 365 days of action.  I want to be more involved in shaping the future of the country, even in small ways.  Anything from reading a book with a perspective I haven't explored yet, to watching a movie with a diverse cast or unfamiliar viewpoint, to signing petitions and emailing government leaders and marching in parades:

(There were SO MANY PEOPLE at this march. Maintaining social distance was essentially impossible, but everyone was wearing a mask and there were so many people along the route handing out hand sanitizer.  It was pretty great.)

Also, I got some killer Chicago-style deep dish pizza this week.

What I'm watching

Lots this week...


Some unbelievable acting from Ms. Kerry Washington in this one.  It's a play adapted for film and explores questions of race in a very layered way.


This show is not for everyone, but if you don't mind a little "content", it's great.


They're back!  More ugly-cry-worthy makeovers.  I think the first episode of this season was especially impactful.  Please watch it.  It showcases so beautifully the power of an institutional apology.

And just for kicks and giggles:


This is a documentary from 2007 that explores the intersection of faith and being LGBT and I think it brings up some beautiful things and showcases some ugly things and there are things in here that I think everyone can learn from and grow from without changing any of your core beliefs about the nature of God.

What I'm reading


This is a perfect follow-up to "White Fragility".  It's a 28-day workbook for, as it says on the cover, combating racism, changing the world, and becoming a good ancestor.  Get it.  But it'll probably be a sec because everywhere is on back order and all the libraries have a weeks-long hold list.

What I'm listening to


I thought this week's episode featuring a former DOJ official and his thoughts on the criminal justice system was an especially interesting take on what's going on in movements across the country re: policing.  Just to put my own thoughts out there, I believe in the idea of defunding police.  That doesn't necessarily mean abolishing the police, rather reallocating funds to better-equipped professionals.  i.e. police handle so many things they don't need to and aren't equipped to: mental health, social work, education etc. So let's spend money on those services - which are all proven to reduce crime - and stop putting that in the hands of people who are under-trained and carrying guns. Also, can we please demilitarize the police?  It's absurd.

What I'm cooking


Roasted beet salad.  I actually just used this recipe as a starting point.  I got some beets in my produce box this week a day after I bought beets at the farmer's market, so I had a lot of beets to use.  I sauteed the beets, put them on some red lettuce, added goat cheese crumbles, blue cheese dressing, sunflower seeds, and fresh cherries.  It was bomb.

And that's it from your friendly leftist friend/family member for this week.  Love you all! ;)


Monday, June 8, 2020

Camping for the Cause

Pic of the week 



Camping trip with some friends this weekend! It's a bit hard to see because of all the fire, but I've got my leg propped on a GIANT log that I dragged to our campsite to burn so we didn't have to pay for firewood.  That log lasted us until midnight and even then wasn't fully burned through.

What's going on?

Happy birthday to Mom!  I would normally probably do a little shopping and have lunch in her honor on her birthday, but since everything is shut down at the moment, I took Mom for a hike instead.  It was beautiful.  Very few people, incredible scenery, fresh air, peaceful atmosphere.  And I stopped on the way to get some of the best cookies in LA.  So.  Win-win-win.



I have honestly been quite wrapped up in reading and preaching the good word of racial justice on the social medias and educating myself about how I can do better and totally spaced writing this yesterday.  It's been a busy week.  

What I'm watching


Is this a good show?  Not really.  It's basically a soap opera in space.  But it's entertaining.  AND the cast is wonderfully diverse in almost every way.  Support shows like this, please.

What I'm reading


Get your hands on a copy of this book as soon as humanly possible.  I will most likely be buying you all a copy for Christmas, so. It will change your perspective for the better.  I promise.  We've got a lot of work to do, my White People.  

What I'm listening to

This podcast from the Salt Lake Tribune.  Specifically episode 132: What society and the LDS church can do to erase the sin of racism, which talks to two black members of the LDS faith and their reactions/thoughts on the current movement.