Photography

Succulents

Another component in my garden is the collection of succulents I have. There are several living under my covered patio enjoying the Georgia summer heat.

 

 

Their soft pastels are easy on the eyes – and their symmetry is pleasing.  They’re also not needy at all and a spritz from the mist setting on my hose keeps them happy.

I think I might try propagating a few of the succulent petals towards the end of the summer – which would mean I’d have entire families of echeveria — my favorite plant of this type.

Growing anything in your garden?

Photography

Cosmos & Zinnia

This year we built two garden beds and I filled them with Cosmos, Zinnia, and Sunflowers. The Cosmos and Zinnia flowers are from my childhood – a memory of a garden between my parents’ and my aunt’s home in 90’s Roswell, GA.

The gardens have done really well – and I am blessed with abundant blooms from the cosmos! Going a little slower but looking super-promising, the Zinnia have popped a few pretty colors.

 

 

Something I really like about this garden is that it attracts tons of insects — bees, grasshoppers, beetles, and ants.  They all find something beneficial in this miniature ecosystem  – and take it to enrich the greater natural world in a little way.

Also it super helps that the cosmos is an endless supply of cut flowers to bring inside the home.

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I feel the cosmos is going to be a yearly staple in this backyard. :)

Photography

Pie

Jeremy’s straight up gotten into Pie’s and he kinda skipped the beginner phase? Two dog themed pies for some good friends went out yesterday!

Anyway – I love his baked goods but I think I’ve put on a couple lbs out of the ordinary since this has become a habit. It’s been a joy to photograph them too – I love putting my little sprinkle of love for him into the photographs of his passions.
We are pulling all the good we can out of the days this year. Counting our blessings, and baking a few too.

Life

Looking Up

A few things have happened lately that has me smiling.

First, my husband has turned into an amazing baker.  Jeremy’s always had a great cooking skill and passion within him but the recent extension into baking has been pretty great. Two things he’s made lately that are delicious and also a hit with friends are the Cinnamon Star and a Chocolate Babka. In fact, we’ve opened up a little ordering business –  @thebakingstone – and I am hoping we can fill orders for our friends and loved ones.

Second, I am no longer furloughed. Although it’s meant that I’ve found a job somewhere else, I am ready to feel a sense of productivity and structure again.  I’ll post more about this great new position soon, once I’ve started. :)

Travel

Missing Travel

Travel was a big part of our lives. We were just getting ramped up to attempt to hit a major destination every 3 months. We’d both worked our careers to get to the right amounts of time off and worked on our finances so it was going to be a consistent pattern through the remainder of our 30’s. Then came the unexpected pandemic, my furlough, travel bans and quarantines.  But.. I am thankful we got to go to Hawaii the couple of weeks before the pandemic really shut down travel. It was a lucky break… but now, after two additional trips we had planned have been cancelled, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss.

I can’t wait until I can hop into a seat on an airplane, again.

 

Entertainment

Animal Crossing

I’ve been having a lot of fun playing Animal Crossing. It’s an unassuming game with no real time constraints and loads of community interaction.  You design and setup your own island, complete with neighbors and plenty to build.  Visiting other friends’ and strangers islands also provides enriching gameplay with builders recipes to collect and island after island of customized layouts to explore. I’ve really enjoyed it. At first I tried playing it like an economy game – planting money making trees everywhere and fishing, catching bugs, and digging up everything that could net me a few “bells” – the in game currency. I have taken it down a notch and now play it a little more like it’s intended – slowly and intentionally. Here’s a few scenes from my gameplay!

I built my own dim sum restaurant in my basement in game. I miss going to real dim sum.

They have indian kurtas as available fashion wear in game! Of course I found a field of flowers to show it off in – Bollywood style!

I was excited to see the in game computer allowed you to customize it so it had an IDE on it.

I went to my friend Brotherton’s island and bought myself some night vision goggles and took a romp in his golden rose field.

I don’t get to see my mentee and friend Akira in real life due to COVID so I see her in her Animal Crossing house. :)

 

Lockdown is hard –  but small things like this make it a little easier. :) Comment if you’re playing and want another friend!

 

Life

Coronavirus Week 3

I am going to be 100% honest on here. I am of two minds during this Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent effects on the economy.

I am grateful.

  • My family has been sound of health so far, and we don’t have any infections and therefore no deaths. I can’t emphasize how thankful I am for this.
  • My home is safe, my finances are safe, my husband is still working, and my brother is also working – even though I am not working.
  • I have every service I could want delivered to my home. Food, books, medication, distractions… all to my front door.
  • I have the ability to connect to others in a multitude of ways. I am talking to them on the phone, texting them on so many different messaging platforms, video calling, playing multiplayer games, having virtual happy hours, and teaching web dev classes to help others.
  • I have pets that show up and bring moments of calm and joy because unlike me they live in today, in this moment. Their life is being engaged wholly with the now and to interact with them – you have to be that way too. It’s unbelievably helpful.
  • My home has provided me space to both be by myself, or enjoy things like cooking, gardening, or just hanging out with my husband and brother. I’m grateful for space that I can use in those ways.
  • The weather has been beautiful.  Sunshine, breezes, and an open, lush, private backyard are a sanctuary.

I am stressed.

  • I worry about the future state of my family’s health.
  • I wonder where the economy is going – and if I need to consider a different way of life.
  • I am furloughed from my job so I am doing my best to work at sharpening skills in the time that was usually devoted to work.
  • My schedule is all messed up, and my sleep is impacted.
  • I have nightmares every night and I can’t seem to pinpoint why.
  • I am talking to recruiters, applying for jobs, wondering if I am going to wind up going back to work for a dying company.
  • I miss in-person interactions. Not seeing anyone for weeks really produces an emptiness inside me in a place that’s never been empty before. It’s weird.

And it’s okay to have that dichotomy.  I also have a lot of faith both in my God and in myself.
I have the shoulders of many people in my history to lean on. The blood of survivors, opportunists, of hopeful and strong people — it runs in my veins – and I believe I belong in that line.
I have decided to allow myself to steep in the gratitude I have but also allow myself to feel the strain. Supressing those feelings because I “should be grateful instead” is just going to give me further issues later down the line.  Wholly allowing myself to feel them lets me face them.. and helps me be free of them in time. I have learned that you have to ride life like the ocean that it is… and that it’s okay if your boat is on the swell or the dip, only that you don’t stop steering.

One of the coping mechanisms I have developed is expressing myself creatively. I have picked up ProCreate again – and last night I drew a little mandala over about 30 minutes. It helped me release a lot of tension from yesterday, where I went from walking coworker through a mock interview, to myself getting on a phone interview, to studying, to finding out a coworker I care for a lot has found a new job elsewhere, to discovering that my local government has decided to reopen high-risk jobs prematurely. I ate a lot of carbs yesterday… but I also did this:

And afterwards, I felt much much better.

It’s a ride. I am on it.
It’s my hope that everyone else is doing as well as possible. You are in my thoughts – and I am here to talk if you need an ear.

A Rainy Night in Osaka Japan
Life

A Moment Back to Osaka

Last year, on this day, I was meandering the streets of a wet Osaka, Japan. We had just walked though a rainstorm from the train station and I spied Japanese fashion footwear from below my umbrella as we crossed street after street. Concrete behemoths displaying high end wares flanked our journey to Dotonbori. Once we arrived at the busy district, the crowds, lighting, and late city atmosphere stuck to my skin. The murmur of Japanese being spoken by thousands of voices at once mixed with the slushy sounds of the river ferries surrounding me.. it was an experience I can’t forget.

Jeremy and I are talking about how we can make it back to those streets in the future. Two weeks felt like it would be a long time, but honestly, in a place like Japan it feels like an offense to have such little time to absorb all the things the country offers to a traveller.  I think of it over and over. Time is passing and Japan is calling me, from inside my own head.

Photography

Coronavirus

Since my last post, an awful lot has happened. Instead of talking about the cousins trip on my itinerary, I am talking about a global pandemic! In about 2 months the markets have tanked, unemployment has skyrocketed. Major industries have come to a screeching halt. I have been furloughed from my job for what looks like at least 2 months, so I am navigating some new waters myself.  I wanted to write down a few things about how we are handling this, how past decisions are impacting our current days, and what we hope is the outcome.

There are two lifestyle habits that I think really set us up to handle this turn in events due to COVID-19.

  • Setting up at least one year’s worth of living expenses as an emergency fund in case things like this happened. I remember having conversations with people about how it’s smarter to invest that money rather than save at my age, but being moderate and investing some and saving a year’s expenses has made this transition considerably less stressful. I have Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich for this. Money wasn’t really a topic we comfortable spoke about in my family growing up. My parents made sure we were taken care of and that was the extent of our money conversations during my childhood. Arriving in my early twenties with a financial blank slate had me searching for mentors and methods to live my financial life by, and a combination the idea of not being in debt to others wherever possible and Ramit’s book on growing our income helped me reach these goals.  Essentially –
    • Carry no debt whenever possible, with the exception of housing ( and even then, housing well well within your means and fully covered by emergency funds ).
    • Do not have more expenditures than a single income can cover, no matter how many incomes live in the household.
    • First give to community, then put aside an emergency fund, then submit a percentage of all income to investments, and only then live off the remainder.
    • Generate a second income stream using a secondary skill you develop.
  • I decided to prioritize postive, respectful relationships and cut out self-centered ones.  A few years ago, I hear a friend say ‘Empathy without boundaries is self destruction’. It really hit home. I gave some people a pass becasue they always had some excuse or another for their shitty behavior. I changed my mind about that and I learned to never excuse toxic behavior, regardless of the underlying reasons (mental health, illness, past abuse). I learned to value myself enough that those are never reasons anyone can ever have to abuse or misuse me. It led me to cut out certain relationships and put some distance in others, and with my newfound mental and emotional space, I was able to invest in the wonderful, kind, thoughtful, positive people that would actually be there for me. It’s not that these people didn’t have problems, or never suffered abuse, or didn’t have mental health issues. These were people who had dealt with all these things, but had chosen to respond to those things with a growth mindset. They didn’t let those things turn them into abusers. Knowing that I wanted to be surrounded by survivors who chose to do better, I made some decisions. I removed people who did not value our relationship but valued what they could get out of me for themselves.  I removed people whose mood was an excuse for abuse.  After I had what I called “relationship layoffs”, I found it easier to take all that energy and invest in kind, empathetic people. In return, they were respectful, expressed gratitude, and appreciated what I did for them. I was able to make a positive difference.  Now, during this isolation period, those same people are reaching out and caring for me.  Benefits include sending books, phone calls, sending recipes, encouraging my healthy activities, remote movie nights, genuine interest in me as a person and my state of being.  Best part is that I have the opportunity to do the same. Its filling a huge space in my heart and life right now and I want to thank my past self for changing course!  It took a while to believe this: I deserve a community that gives back to me too.

Here are the habits I’m building in the middle of Isolation:

  • Take medical authority seriously. I am not going anywhere at all except to get groceries. I am wearing a mask and carrying disinfectant wipes for my hands and surfaces I touch.  We get enough food that groceries are a 2-3 week activity. I have chosen not to have a giant head and assume I know better than everyone. I’m approaching this situation with curiousity for the truth and consideration for my fellow man.
  • Not watching 2000 hours of TV. In fact I in the last 4 weeks, I’ve seen 10 hours of television total. Seven of those hours were Tiger King, but since then I’ve written off watching shows about stupid people making selfish decisions.
  • Moving. I am taking long walks in the evenings away from others and using my workout equipment at home. Asking for a full weight set, bench, and padded space for Christmas was the best decision I think I’ve made this year.
  • Learning, training, doing! There are going to be few times in my career that I will have 40 – 60 solid hours a week to dedicate to sharpening my craft. I am so excited about using this time to learn more things for my FED career.
  • Making social activity a priority. I’m calling family and friends. I’m sending fun letters to cheer up people I care about. I’m attending remote Netflix nights where we make fun of terrible pandemic movies.  Animal Crossing has been on my switch giving me lots to do in my downtime.
  • Cooking!! We are cooking together and producing some nice dishes. I am proud of us, and it’s something we can look forward to.
  • Reading. I have a set of books to settle into at night. It eases my tension to escape into another world for a while.
  • Not panicking about my job situation. The reason for having emergency funds and a conservative lifestyle is so I’m not a slave to the job hunt. I hope to find myself back at Macy’s eventually since I enjoy their culture. If that doesn’t happen, I want to find good opportunities not any opportunities. I’ve been talking to recruiters and assessing the Atlanta area job market but I am not jumping into anything right now.

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy! So far I am grateful my family and my friends have not been infected with COVID-19. Fingers crossed it stays this way until we are on the way out of the woods. There’s also a lot of people who do not have the safety nets I had the opportunity to build. I’ve been looking for ways to support our community and I keep coming back to Nicholas House. The biggest benefit of a financial way of life that I’ve listed is that it allows for supporting the community during rough times.  Please consider donating to Nicholas House in Grant Park, Atlanta. They are a very successful program that gets people out of homelessness permanently with an amazing success rate. They address a lot of the underlying issues contributing to homelessness and they are outcome centered!
For every $20 donated to Nicholas House, I will send you a matted print of one of my works – just shoot me an e-mail with the receipt. :)