Still Work to Do: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Still Work to Do: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

In middle school, I memorized Martin Luther King, Jr.’s infamous “I have a dream” speech, and recited it in front of the class for an assignment. His words moved me as a preteen, but I did not fully understand their importance. And I certainly didn’t realize that racism was as much alive then as it is today, a truth that has become undeniable to even society’s most inconversant.

Today’s Google Doodle, illustrated by artist Cannaday Chapman, celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. King, who was arguably one of the most influential figures in modern history.

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Google Doodle, January 15th, 2018. Artist: Cannaday Chapman

In a Q&A with Google, Chapman shares several thoughts on what Martin Luther King, Jr. Day means to him in the present day and invites us to ponder the following:

I would like people to reflect on this moment in history. I would like people to remember that current events and our actions today will shape the future generations of tomorrow. What kind of example do we want to set for our children and our children’s children?”

As I ask myself those questions, I’m also asking what more I can do in the days, months, and years to come.

In times past, my brand of quasi-activism would nudge me to post a quote to Facebook (often out of context), reflect for a few minutes, and leave it at. But for many of us previously “inconversant” white folk, a lot changed in 2017. Previously ignored truths — like the fact that racism is still frighteningly widespread in this country — became no longer ignorable.

Many will wake up tomorrow, January 16th, and in the frenzy of daily life forget about the significance of today. But if we are to truly do MLK’s legacy justice, I believe we must remember. And I believe we start doing that by admitting we still have a problem.

This afternoon, I received an email from The Economic Policy Institute with the subject line, “Dr. King’s work is far from over.”

How true that is.

According to the EPI, “There are three major indicators by which we commonly measure racial economic inequality: median hourly wage, median household income and median family net worth or wealth.”

Here are some sobering statistics from 2016, the most recent year for which all of these data are available:

  • the median black worker earned 75 percent of what the median white worker earned in an hour ($14.92 for black workers, $19.79 for white workers);
  • the median black household earned 61 percent of the income the median white household earned in a year ($39,490 for black households, $65,041 for white households);
  • and the value of net worth for the median black family was just 10 percent of the value for the median white family ($17,600 for black families, $171,000 for white families).

You’ll find more figures from the institute’s full report: Racial inequalities in wages, income, and wealth show that MLK’s work remains unfinished.

So yes, as difficult as it may be for some to admit, there is still immeasurable work to be done before Dr. King’s dream is a reality. If you haven’t already, please read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, for further context into his life and mission. It’s 23 pages long, but worth the read (or you can listen to the audio via the link).

As Martin Luther King Day comes to a close, I invite you to join me in thinking deeply about Chapman’s words and “how our actions of today will shape the future generations of tomorrow.”

The lives of our children and our children’s children depend upon it.

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Sunday Funday: The Cheese Edition

Sunday Funday: The Cheese Edition

Behold the (addictive) power of cheese.

A few years ago — right around the time a study revealed the stuff triggers the same part of your brain as hard drugs — I realized I had unwittingly become a cheese-hound.

It all started innocently enough.

As a child, I knew and loved the squeaky cheese made by the Swiss Village Cheese Factory near my Boise home. Then, decades later, Idaho passed an ag-gag law (recently deemed unconstitutional by the Federal Appeals Court) that sought to prohibit photographs or filming at farms or agricultural facilities without the consent of the owner.

In an effort to support the organizations willing to remain transparent about their practices, I (and a number of ethical-farming crusaders) boycotted the majority of the Idaho dairy industry. In the years that followed, our little group grew to a formidable force of conscientious buyers who tries hard to support farms that 1) abide by the most ethical standards and 2) prioritize the humane treatment of their animals.

Changing purchasing habits required both research and determination. And now I will usually only buy cheese if I can trace it back to the original farm or dairy where it was produced. I can still do better, but I buy a lot more cautiously than ever before.

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Follow me to… cheese.

That said, I spend more money on cheese than items from other food groups.

Friends tag me in cheese memes on Facebook near constantly.

Last Christmas, cheese-related paraphernalia outnumbered all other gifts.

Ten percent of my iPhone’s camera roll consists of screenshots depicting Instagram’s most lust-worthy cheese boards.

I even threw myself a cheese-themed birthday party last year (and plan to do so again).

And in my house, “Kraft” is a dirty word.

On any given day, I keep about seven different varieties of cheese on hand. Right now you’ll find several cheddars (one made with Welsh brown ale and mustard seeds), a sublime truffle gouda, and a particularly offensive camembert. (The rank aroma from the latter is a fool-proof way to prevent unwanted guests from raiding your fridge.)

But I find the words of a certain celebrity chef and world traveler to be particularly fitting:

“You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.”
― Anthony Bourdain

Maybe it’s not healthy for either me (or my cheese-loving Siamese), but I’ve come to terms with this obsession. And because it’s one of the finest things in life, I’d like to share my homage to fromage.

Cheese Adventures — at Home and Abroad

When traveling, my friends know I will go out of my way to find a new-to-me artisan cheese shop, buy from a cheese vendor at a market, or meet a cheesemonger.

Here are a few of my favorite fromageries and cheesemakers I’ve stumbled upon (or sought out) in recent years. Please note: because I am merely an enthusiast and not an expert, this list is growing daily.

Cheesin’ in the U.S.A.

  • Cheese+Provisions [Denver, CO]
  • Beecher’s Handmade Cheese [Seattle, WA and New York City]
  • Wheyward Girl Creamery [Nevada City, CA]

Fromaging Abroad

  • L’Ubriaco Drunk Cheese [London’s Borough Market]
  • Laurent Dubois [Paris, France]
  • Artikaas [Netherlands]

On the Cheesy Bucket List

Some of My Favorite Varieties

If staying close to home is a little more your speed, I’d recommend meeting one of your local cheesemongers (if you have one). If not, visit your local co-op or nearest Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s with an open mind and an adventurous spirit.

Because I’ve received so many winning recommendations, I’m willing to try almost anything — with the exception of casa marzu, a Sardinian sheep milk cheese that contains live insect larvae.

Here are some of my (maggot-free) favorites right now:

  • Wyke Farms Ivy’s Vitage Reserve Cheddar
  • Guilloteau Saint Angel
  • Artikaas Klare Melk Truffle Gouda
  • Any variety of Sartori Reserve cheeses
  • Somerdale Red Dragon with mustard seed

Do you have anything to add to these lists? Tell me more in the comments below. I’ll happily talk cheese with you for hours.

Lessons on Living — from the Dying

Lessons on Living — from the Dying

“Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is just a passing shadow of a cloud.”

—Yann Martel, Life of Pi

A few times a year, I find myself in the shadow of a cloud — and I feel a little bit lost and a little bit broken. The cloud usually either passes on its own or with time and self-reflection, but every time the shadow appears, the cause is the same: loss.

We’ve all suffered the pain of loss, whether due to choice or circumstance. It is a part of life. But every time a once-involved character in my life makes an exit, I grieve that absence in one way or another. We all do. In fact, I think we are all in some stage of grieving for someone who is lost to us.

But the law of perspective states that the loss of kinship between friends or family members (who have caused hurt or otherwise parted ways) is minimal in comparison to the almost unbearable loss of friends and family members who have taken their last breaths.

A few years back, a friend posted a heartbreaking yet moving update to Facebook — three years to the day of losing his young son to cancer. As I read his words again, for what might be the hundredth time, I feel like I finally have the space in my heart to feel his pain — even though I didn’t know what to say to him at the time (and still don’t) other than, “I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.” An excerpt from his post (with permission, though a long time past) is as follows:

It was three years ago to the day that my beautiful little man left my side in this life while lying in my arms at 6:38 a.m. So much has happened since. I’m forced to stop and take stock of my life… on this day every year.

I’m grateful every single day for the years he and I enjoyed and I treasure those moments literally every day as there are reminders all over of him in my home, my car, my town, and my friends. I’m so grateful for the people in my life and my family…

I think this year, though, I want to give some of YOU the benefit of what I’ve learned from my loss.

1. Live PURE, FAST, and HARD! You never know how long you have or the others that are with you.

2. Love everyone with everything you have to give. Not everyone will receive it and those people you can let go of, but don’t hate. Hate kills you, destroys the ‘light’ that makes us a beautiful human that others are attracted to. The ones who don’t receive your love are closed inside to feeling and hopefully someday they will open up and be able to enjoy the freedom and joy that comes from being so.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot — about a friend whose father is in hospice care, a friend who said his final goodbye to his wonderful wife a year ago this weekend, and the brave mothers I know who continue to revere the names of their stillborn sons and daughters. And these dear ones are reminders of how delicate and how transitory life really is.

The truth is, the inconveniences and frustrations and heartbreaks I (we?) choose to obsess over every day are so very minuscule when placed at the foot of the hulking beast that is death. Our existences are so brief and yet we waste so many days in either a state of rushed anticipation or mournful regret. (If you’re me, usually it’s both.)

As if to address the melancholy any of us may currently be experiencing, a poignant letter went viral earlier this week. It was written by Holly Butcher, a woman who was, at the time she penned it, dying of Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Her parents published the letter on Facebook last week when she succumbed to the disease at the tender age of 27, so I have included a few excerpts here. (I invite you to read it in its entirety if you haven’t already.)

She opens with the following:

“It’s a strange thing to realize and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; Until the unexpected happens. I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey- most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.

That’s the thing about life; It is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.”

She continues:

“I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared – I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to it’s inevitability… Except when I want to talk about it and it is treated like a ‘taboo’ topic that will never happen to any of us.. That’s been a bit tough. I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit.”

If you need some perspective (as I often do), continue reading:

“You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. Your new fake nails might have got a chip, your boobs are too small, or you have cellulite on your arse and your belly is wobbling.

Let all that shit go… I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.”

This part nearly brought me to my feet in applause:

“Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body… work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. That way you might realise just how insignificant and unimportant having this stupidly portrayed perfect social media body really is… While on this topic, delete any account that pops up on your news feeds that gives you any sense of feeling shit about yourself. Friend or not… Be ruthless for your own well-being.”

The part that made me decide to move heaven and earth to plan a trip:

“Use your money on experiences… Or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit.

Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.”

And here are Holly’s words that make me think we would’ve been great friends:

“Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo… enjoy the bloody moment, people! Stop trying to capture it for everyone else.”

I often find the prospect of my non-existence perplexing, and I also still ache for my loved ones who are no more. It’s true, death is simply unavoidable. And sometimes it hangs dark and heavy over our lives.

But when a 26-year-old woman — with so much life that should’ve remained— tells you how to make the most of your days, you wave the cloud away, you “let all that shit go,” and you “enjoy the bloody moment.”

Here’s to living, friends.

Friday Feel Good: Science, Street Art, and a No Pants Subway Ride

Friday Feel Good: Science, Street Art, and a No Pants Subway Ride

The second week of a new year can be a bit rough for anyone trying to change a habit or meet a goal. While the prospect of a fresh start often stirs up hope and enthusiasm during the first few days of January, it’s all too easy to slip into a funk soon thereafter.

The news cycle is not much different.

After the new year, cheerful, hopeful holiday-themed stories give way to accounts of lives lost, rights trampled upon, and of course more political gaffes. But while they can be tricky to find, stories of hope and enthusiasm — the same ideals most of us start out the year with — are out there.

Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite news stories from the past week.

In the (Good) News

Last Sunday, thousands of people from around the globe participated in Improv Everywhere’s No Pants Subway Ride. And call me simple, but going pantsless = comedy. The prospect of engaging in such a stunt both excites and terrifies me, so major props to participants — especially because New York City saw 17-degree temps that day. (Which meant there were a lot of people in their skivvies rocking pale-skinned legs, thick socks, and bulky boots.) Here’s some of the video footage:

In case you need another reason to love our teachers, there’s fourth-grade instructor Donna Hoagland. After finding out the mother of one of her students was in stage five renal failure and had a slim chance of a transplant due to her rare blood type, Hoagland learned she had the same rare blood type — and donated one of her kidneys. Read or watch the story here.

If my mama taught me anything, it’s that when Oprah speaks, you listen. She gave all of America another reason to listen during the Golden Globes when she accepted the Cecil B. deMille Award — and paid tribute to both Sydney Portier and Recy Taylor, a black woman who fought tirelessly to bring the six white men who raped her to justice. One of Queen Oprah’s most moving statements:

“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell and this year we became the story. But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry — it’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics or workplace.”

You can view her speech in its entirety below.

In news down under, Melbourne just created its first street art precinct. Six artists are coming together to transform part of the city’s electrical sub-station in a large-scale project that brings colorful, eclectic works to an overlooked part of the city. Read the full story and see some of the stunning imagery here.

Great news for science nerds (and humankind): the band is getting back together! After their group was dissolved by the U.S.’s current presidential administration in 2017, several top climate scientists are again joining forces to study the effects of climate change. Despite a lack of financial support from the federal government, other entities (like the state of New York) are supporting the effort.

In Turkey, a photo of a 12-year old Syrian refugee —  wearing sandals in the middle of winter, carrying shoe shining equipment, and gazing through the window of a sports center — recently went viral. The owners of the center were so moved they gifted the boy with a lifetime gym membership.

Lastly, here’s Abigail, the dog that was rescued from abuse and now receives adorable hats and bows from people all over the world to help cover her scars.

Happy Friday, friends.

6 Cold and Flu Comforts for Overachievers

6 Cold and Flu Comforts for Overachievers

As hard as I tried to fight it (I didn’t try that hard, just generally want to think I’m invincible), I woke up this morning with telltale signs of the seasonal… something. Cold or flu, I’m not really sure yet — and won’t know until dreaded day two. But I do know I feel a lot like someone of the undead looks, so at least I’m self-aware.

Another thing I’ve got going for me: my fridge and cupboards are stocked. (Knowing the next few days are going to mean couch time, emptied tissue boxes, and trips to the medicine cabinet, I rushed to the store to stock up on supplies. Because out of the hundreds of people over the years who offer to bring soup to your doorstep, you’re a lucky soul if someone you know actually does it.)

When I’m prepared for it, I actually don’t mind getting sick. I’d like to think catching a bug is nature’s way of telling me to slow down, nap all day errday, and enjoy my Netflix membership. It’s one of the few times a year I can truly indulge in life’s creature comforts.

So, whether it’s you or someone you love who’s down with the sickness (or soon will be), here are six reasons to find comfort in it.

1. Alllll the soups.

Choose your flavor. Heat it, slurp it, bathe in it. Anything goes when you’re laid low and can garner sympathy. Plus, this is one of the few times you can get away with paying little attention to your sodium intake, so eat up. There’s a great pho place dangerously close to my house, which means I can sometimes convince my sick arse to get in the car and drive there for some takeout.

2. Cuddle time.

Whether it’s from a significant other or the furry friend who roams the hallways at night, usually you can convince the special people (and pets) in your life to feel bad for you long enough to sneak in some cuddle action. If you’re petless and the humans in your world are less than inclined to expose themselves to your illness, consider proactively adopting a mutually needy friend from your local animal shelter. Remember: cuddles are great — not just during sick-time but all the time.

3. Hot toddies.

The magical powers of bourbon, cinnamon, and honey are unmatched in their ability to aid in the recovery from illness (or at least do so somewhat enjoyably). A friend recently told me about the orange hot toddy, so I’ll be trying this recipe tonight. If you prefer your toddy sans alcohol, a virgin version of this hot beverage still sounds quite comforting.

4. Time to heal.

I’m a firm believer that getting sick is my body’s way of telling me to stop, listen to what it needs, and take better care of myself. As much as I hate to do this, a cold or a flu is a signal that it’s time to clear the social calendar, cancel the weekend travel plans, take a day (or two) off work and from other obligations, and accept that it’s time to heal. I have to remind myself that most clients, friends, and family understand that getting sick is a perfectly legitimate reason to slow down.

 

5. The Zs.

When I’m sick, I usually get more sleep in a few days than I get in weeks. That alone almost makes navigating cold and flu season worth the battle. And what better excuse to lounge around in a robe/onesie/pajamas all day?

6. Compassion.

I realize I’m, for the most part, relatively healthy. But there are plenty of people who suffer from chronic illness or disease and can often use a kind word or helping hand. Pain gives us perspective, and when that pain comes from illness, it tends to be a good reminder that not everyone around us is able to operate at max capacity at all times. Maybe our own down-time is a good opportunity to be thankful for (mostly) good health — but also to reach out to those who may not be so fortunate.

– – –

I hope this season’s most nasty colds and flus pass right on by your households this year, but if you’re in the Boise area and find yourself in need of soup or a hot toddy during the weeks ahead, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

 

Andy Goldsworthy, Incoming Tides, and Relinquishing Control

Andy Goldsworthy, Incoming Tides, and Relinquishing Control

“We often forget that WE ARE NATURE. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”
—Andy Goldsworthy

Recently, I watched the documentary Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working in Time. I was struck by both the transitory quality of the British sculptor’s work and how he welcomes — even invites — nature’s interference with his carefully arranged installations.

In Goldsworthy’s works, you’ll see leaves, stones, branches — anything he deems sculpture-worthy — carefully juxtaposed in their natural settings, the arrangements a nod to the artist’s hand.

Painstakingly placed leaves adorn a haphazard outdoor landscape in a visually intriguing formation, at least until a windstorm disturbs the composition.

A serpentine pattern, dug into sand, remains there until the incoming tide washes it away.

Goldsworthy’s installations often make me think about the human need for control — over our own lives, especially, but sometimes over the lives of others, too. It’s only natural we’d want some measure of authority over our careers, our finances, and our relationships, but this often comes at the expense of our ability to accept the laws of the universe (and all other things outside our control).

In examining his numerous works over past decades, I also thought about the many aspects of our modern world that are in direct contrast to the natural world — and to the world of Goldsworthy.

Social media, in particular, is perhaps the antithesis of his ethos. Placing us at the center of our own universe, our highly curated Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. profiles allow us to control nearly every aspect of our identities — or rather, what we portray of our identities. And in the digital space (much unlike the natural world) there’s no incoming windstorm or tide to wash away our carefully contrived notions of ourselves.

In reality, there are a vast number of external forces that affect our lives. We are shaped by our surroundings, our universe. (Not the other way around, as much as The Secret would have us believe otherwise.) As soon as we’re able to accept that, I’d venture to say we’ll see the world less through a computer screen and more through the eyes of Andy Goldsworthy.

Travel Tuesday: A Place for Global Storytelling

Travel Tuesday: A Place for Global Storytelling

We’re nine days into 2018 and I’m nine days into daily blogging. (This may not seem like much, but I’ll admit — it’s been work.)

When I created this blog several years ago, its original purpose was to be a place for sharing stories. I was working as an editorial writer, and in my professional exploits, I continually found myself rubbing shoulders with interesting and talented people — people from all over the world, people with big hearts and even bigger stories.

But in my transition from writing editorial content to writing marketing content, I stopped telling some of life’s most important stories. And this blog quickly became a catch-all for some of my most scattered thoughts and random rants. In recent years, it’s contained diatribes, in memoriams, and obfuscations. And it has meandered far off-path from its original intent: inspiration.

While I haven’t officially returned to the editorial world — or ever moved out of my home state of Idaho — I haven’t lost my love of storytelling (or my insatiable need to be inspired). And, like most inspo-junkies, I often need a fix that comes from outside my comfort zone.

That’s where travel comes in.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Seeing the world is, inarguably, an immense privilege, both financially and culturally. If you have the funds and the circumstances to do so, it is one of the most fruitful ways of restoring one’s internal balance and clarity.

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”
― Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi

And while embarking on a international adventure is a worthwhile approach to self-discovery, it betters the world around us, too.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain

Twain’s words about travel are profound and applicable amidst our country’s current political climate — “people need it sorely.”

However, if you are one of many who must vegetate in your “little corner of the earth” for the time-being (due to limiting circumstances, finances, etc.), believe me, I get it. Nonetheless, in the name of engendering “broad, wholesome, [and] charitable views” of people and the world around us, I will be sharing travel stories and inspiration via this blog in the weeks and months ahead. (If you haven’t yet read last week’s piece about my friend Courtney and her bespoke travel company, Courting Adventure, you really should. She’s amazing.)

In recent years, there has been increasing awareness surrounding the environmental impacts of international travel and the socioeconomic impacts of voluntourism. That said, I am committed to acknowledging these big-picture issues moving forward. Traversing borders may be personally fulfilling, but if we don’t do right by humanity in the process, what is it all for, anyway?

To be clear, this is not a travel blog, but it will most definitely be a space for global storytelling — and to challenge myself and others to embrace the new and different, whether it is in our own backyard or on the other side of the world.

I invite you to join me in discovering our big, beautiful planet — bravely, soulfully, and ethically.