Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

Three weeks ago, I wrote this post about the importance of seeking out and considering multiple perspectives. At the time, I was thinking about the pandemic, the reopening debate, the culture wars surrounding masks and social distancing, and dissension about economic policies and social inequalities. After writing the post, I remarked to a friend that it felt like it had never been more difficult to navigate conversations outside our echo chambers. I had no idea that it was about to get so much harder.

The death of George Floyd has led to widespread protests, which have led to widespread debate and a variety of other reactions. Sadly, the discussions I’m seeing, reading about, and participating in have become even more polarized, with many people even less willing to listen to each other and consider alternate perspectives.

I’ve believed for a long time that it’s critical to engage in serious, respectful conversations with people who disagree with us, which is why I wrote that first post. The events of the past few months, and especially the past few weeks, have strongly reinforced that feeling. I also acknowledge that it’s hard, and can be uncomfortable.

So today I’m offering a few suggestions to make it easier:

1. Discuss Conversational Ground Rules

video chatEarlier this week, I had a two hour conversation with my friend Brad, who, as I explained in that previous post, is a very smart man who disagrees with me on almost everything. After discussing a wide range of topics, we began to talk about what made our conversations possible. Specifically, why have always been able to air contrasting opinions without offending each other or shouting each other down? I posited that some of it is because of our enduring friendship, and Brad responded by saying he doubted our friendship would have endured if we hadn’t figured out, a long time ago, how to navigate the conversations. We avoided the “chicken and egg” debate, and instead focused unpacking the unspoken rules and attitudes we bring to the table. To summarize:

  • We accept that each other’s viewpoints are valid and worth respecting, even if we don’t see things the same way.
  • We take turns and avoid interrupting each other.
  • We ask questions and make an effort to fully understand each other’s ideas.
  • We are cognizant of each other’s feelings, and offer empathy and support.
  • We’re careful about the words we use, both out loud and in our own minds. For example, we say “Why do you?” instead of “How could you?”, because we’re looking to understand rather than to judge.
  • We discuss “inconvenient” facts rather than ignoring them.
  • We are open to changing our minds.

So I asked myself if the unstated rules that Brad and I follow could become stated expectations in other conversations.  What would happen if we started these conversations by saying something like, “I do want to talk about this, but before we do I was wondering if we could try to agree on how we’re going to talk about it. I don’t want us to be angry with each other or walk away from the conversation without considering both sides.”

I tried it a few days later when a relative with whom I often strike sparks brought up the topic of the protests. We did take the time to set some expectations, and it did improve the discussion and the way we felt afterwards. I’m not suggesting it was a miracle cure, but we both believed, afterwards, that setting ground rules was beneficial.

2. Listen

ListenIn The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, habit #5 is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. No matter the situation, we should avoid dominating a conversation, because it usually has a negative impact on how we are perceived and how we build and maintain relationships. In a disagreement, it’s especially important to listen, with an open mind, to what someone else has to say. 

How to Communicate, by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning, contains a wealth of great advice and information, and the very first chapter is on listening. Part of the chapter focuses on twelve common blocks to effective listening, including feeling the need to be right, seeking an argument, and mentally rehearsing your response while someone else is speaking. It’s important to be aware of these behaviors and actively work to avoid them.

3. Remember that middle ground exists

Steam EarsWe live in a complex world full of complex situations, but too often our discourse completely ignores nuance. Moreover, we often try to categorize each other. The attitude of “If you think or support this you have to think or support this other thing” is illogical, dangerous, and disrespectful. This attitude pops up in a lot of situations, and has been especially pervasive during recent events. I’ve heard so many people argue that if you support the protesters or anything they stand for, you have to accept and embrace riots and looting, and if you support the police or worry about law and order, you have to accept and embrace abuse of power. However, forced polarization is not only untrue, but also unproductive. Applying this standard to others makes it difficult to have productive conversations, and applying it yourself makes it hard to have an open mind.

4. Commit to learning to be more effective

I want to acknowledge once more that communication skills and effective disagreements don’t come easy. I’ve been studying and practicing communication skills for most of my life (from competitive debate to my graduate studies to everyday situations), and I often feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. However, the more we learn, and the more we try, the more we improve.

In October of 2018, three time World Schools Debate champion Julia Dhar discussed this same topic, and her fifteen minute TED talk is a wonderful resource that I promise will be worth your time and attention.

Let’s not avoid these conversations, but instead seek to have them, and to have them effectively.

need to talk 2

Be safe, be well, and please share your thoughts in the comments.

This week, the United States passed 100,000 deaths from Covid-19. Shocking videos ignited tensions across the country, leading to questions about policy, justice, and race relations. Scenes of protests, both peaceful and violent, have dominated the news.

On a personal note, for the first time since March I physically entered the building where I work, because even though I’m still working remotely, there were things I needed to take care of and items I needed to bring home. Moving through the mostly empty building, waving and calling out greetings to the few others present, was a completely surreal experience.

For today’s post I planned to write, apolitically, about this week of emotional overload, but I just don’t think I’m up to the task. Instead, I’d like to share this David Knopfler song, which encapsulates a lot of what I’m feeling:

As always, I welcome your thoughts, and would love to know what’s happening in your lives and how you’re feeling. Be well.

are you ok

Here in the United States, tomorrow is Memorial Day, when we honor those who gave their lives in war. It is a sobering, and important, opportunity for reflection on sacrifice and gratitude.

army-burial-cemetery-cross-262271

And while we prepare to mourn those losses, there are also unprecedented losses in another struggle. This morning, The New York Times printed the names of 1000 people who have died from COVID-19. The entire front page, and two additional pages, were devoted to the names and brief details of their lives.

Screenshot 2020-05-24 at 8.05.28 AM

I’ve been reading the list throughout the morning, and it is a very emotional experience.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “memorial” as “serving to preserve remembrance”. Today, I find myself in a memorial attitude, focusing on remembering the tragic loss of life in both history and the present moment. I am also cognizant of the fact that losses in conflict and disease are not limited to my home country, but affect the entire world.

The need for remembrance is not an issue of nationality or politics, but a fundamental part of what makes us human. I hope that we all devote some time to reflection and memorial.

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Stay safe. Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other.

The other day, I had a great conversation with my friend Brad, who I’ve known for going on thirty years. Brad is one of my favorite people, and also happens to be one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Since high school, we’ve routinely engaged in discussions about political and social issues, and 90% of the time, we disagree. You see, while neither of us are “far right” or “far left”, we’re about the same distance from the center, but on opposite sides. 

ListenIf you’re wondering whether I’m the right-leaning or left-leaning person in my conversations with Brad, I’m afraid that’s not a question I’m going to answer. When I started this blog, I decided that I wasn’t going to talk politics. Maybe that will change someday, but today is not that day. What I want to talk about today isn’t my opinions on political or social issues, but rather some thoughts on political and social discourse. The point I’m hoping to make is that there’s a benefit to considering messages (conversational and otherwise) from people who don’t share your views.

Here in the United States, in addition to all of the other stressors involved in COVID-19, the crisis has intensified the already polarized nature of news media, social media, and culture wars. And it’s never been easier to stay in your echo chamber, because not only can we choose to limit our news programs, Twitter feeds, etc. based on our existing opinions, but we’re also much more constrained in terms of the people we encounter and speak with in our day to day lives.

All this makes me think about something Aaron Sorkin wrote (several times, because of his tendency to reuse dialogue): 

Smart People Who Disagree With You

This past October, John Baldoni published an article in Forbes where he addressed this very topic. He explains that listening to opposing viewpoints, with an open mind, allows us to examine our own beliefs, seek common ground, and work towards solutions. Personally, I believe that the first step to bringing people together is to confront the things that have kept us divided.

news flashI watch CNN and Fox News. I read National Review and The New York Times. In forming my opinions, I consider information, and analysis, from a variety of perspectives, and once those opinions are formed, I do my best to stay open to changing them. I cherish my conversations with Brad, not only because he’s a dear friend, but also because they help me examine and refine what I believe. Sometimes, despite our drastically different leanings, one of us changes the other’s mind. No matter what, we both walk away from those conversations better informed, more thoughtful, and more engaged.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’m planning to return to this topic soon. For now, I’d like to encourage you to seek out a variety of viewpoints and perspectives, whether it’s in the media or in your social and family circles. I firmly believe that what we need right now is an informed, open-minded public, and an elevated level of discourse. We can all choose to be part of that.

Let's Discuss 2

 

Last year, I wrote a Mother’s Day post that highlighted some of the most important things I’ve learned from my mom. It’s one of my favorite posts, and if you haven’t read it (or want to revisit it), you can click here.

This year, I’d like to add two more important lessons that I’ve learned from my mom’s incredible example:

Cherish your memories

My mother has never been a daily journaler, but she has always made a point of writing during significant events. Every year, she writes on family birthdays, major holidays, during vacations, and so on. She chronicles the highs and lows of life, and frequently revisits her entries, both for reminder and reflection. She bought me my very first diary when I was a child, and I credit her influence not only for my daily journal, which is one of the most important elements of my life, but also for my dedication to this blog.

Memories 2Mom has also been a huge collector of photographs, and-perhaps even more importantly-a huge organizer of photographs. Not only has she always made sure someone was taking pictures of important events and moments, but she unfailingly ensures that those visual memories are quickly and easily accessible. When we were young, every roll of film was promptly developed, and as technology moved forward, every memory card or cloud upload has been carefully inspected, with the best/most important images curated and assigned. Mom has shelves full of albums, so that if I suddenly want to see my fifth grade science fair project, for example, I know exactly where to look. She’s also embraced technology, with thematic digital photo frames and online collections. A few years ago, I had a small mention in a local newspaper, and Mom happily presented me with a laminated copy of the article, just in case I’d missed it (and of course, she had her own copy, which she hung on the refrigerator for two weeks before placing it in a scrapbook). My own collection of photographs is very important to me, and I’m glad that she helped me develop the right habits early in life.

Foster connections

Not bad how are youAs I mentioned in last year’s post, Mom has always encouraged togetherness. Being unable to get together during the pandemic hasn’t slowed her down at all when it comes to making sure we stay connected. She speaks to every member of our family on a daily basis, and if we haven’t talked to each other recently, she gives an update. This actually isn’t a new thing-Mom has always been the hub of our family communication, but it’s become even more noticeable, and appreciated, right now. And she hasn’t stopped with just family. She asks about, and shares, what’s going on with everyone’s friends and coworkers. She even contacts them directly to see how they’re doing. When I recently received a text from a friend saying, “It was so great to hear from your mom”, it really drove home how amazing she is. Her example continues to inspire me to be better about communicating with and supporting the people in my life.

Mother's Day 2020

I’ve been at home for about six weeks now, and while the state of Missouri is easing restrictions this week, the St. Louis stay at home order is still in effect until at least mid May. My employer intends for us to continue working from home for the foreseeable future, and I’m grateful we’re in a position to make that work. As some areas are beginning to slowly reopen, there’s a lot of talk about “getting back to normal” or “the new normal”, but the truth is that we’re a long way from feeling any level of stability. 

We value a feeling of normalcy because it helps give us a sense of control and purpose and keeps us from being in a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze. Being in crisis mode exhausts our minds and bodies and negatively affects our immune system (see this post for more on that). However, these days we have a lot of extra hurdles.

Instead of focusing on things getting back to normal, now is a time to recognize that there’s still a long road ahead of us, and that our focus should be on creating a feeling of normalcy and stability, so we’re able to cope with the challenges. Here are some things to try:

1. Evaluate your routine.

do with your lifeRoutines and schedules provide us with a sense of stability, security, structure, and control. From the beginning, experts have urged us to establish schedules, follow old patterns, limit our pajama time, etc. I’ve talked to a lot of people recently who say that they started well, but their routines have been breaking down as more time passes. Now is a good time to reflect on your current practices, and see if you need to adjust what you’re doing on a daily basis, or recommit to things you’ve let slide (and I want to urge you again to maintain a consistent sleep schedule). If your situation is changing, such as returning to work or beginning to resume other activities, this is definitely the time to think about how you’re going to adjust your daily life.

2. Take time to process your emotions.

how ya feelingEmotions help us recognize our wants and needs, and it’s important to do emotional check ins, especially since we’ve all been under consistent pressure. Covid has brought a unique wave of stress, anxiety, depression, and grief. What are your emotions and body telling you? As I pointed out last week, it’s important to validate your feelings. Take time out to process your emotions, and to practice coping skills.

3. Monitor your information intake.

news flashYou can choose how you receive and consume information about the outbreak. Start by really assessing how much information is good for you, because that varies widely from person to person. My father is one of those people who gets calmer the more he knows, so watching the news is actually a stress reliever for him. My sister Audrey, on the other hand, has found it difficult to emotionally process a lot of what’s happening, so she avoids the news and relies on others to summarize the important information for her. Find the level that’s comfortable for you, and stay there. You might consider stepping away from social media and TV for a period of time or limiting your daily intake. Also, I encourage you to seek out a balanced perspective, especially if you live in the United States, where the pandemic has become sadly politicized.

4. Utilize self care practices and coping skills.

self care 2.0Self care is always important, but right now it’s imperative. Make a list of things that give you peace, stimulate creativity, provide escape, feed your spirit and offer healing. Pursue your hobbies. Employ coping skills that help keep your mindset positive and calm, such as thanking yourself, forgiving yourself, or making a gratitude list. This can be a great opportunity to develop stronger coping skills and new healthy habits.

question mark

How are you handling things at this point?

What does it take to cause a group of compassionate, intelligent individuals to begin shouting and attacking each other? In the case of a recent zoom call between a collection of my oldest friends, it was someone asking how everyone is doing.

Although this has been asked and answered every time we’ve connected, this time tempers started flaring among the group as the different responses highlighted broad gaps in how everyone was handling the current crisis, and people began challenging others’ feelings and opinions. Here’s a brief summary of the major complaints:

  • Talking about positive effects of the lockdown was insensitive to people adversely affected by the crisis, and to those on the call who were having difficulty coping.
  • Continuously focusing on how difficult things are is essentially demanding that everyone be anxious and miserable.
  • People without children have it easy right now, and have no idea how stressful it is to be a parent right now.
  • People with children should be grateful that they have a family to help them avoid extreme feelings of loneliness and isolation.

need new friendsWhat was intended to be a supportive social interaction devolved with shocking speed into an angry venting of stress and frustration, directed not at the situation, but at each other. I wish I could say that I stayed out of it, but I’m going to be honest and tell you that when I felt attacked, I eventually struck back. To say that none of us were being our best selves would be a colossal understatement.

Thankfully, everyone agreed to take some time to cool off and then resume the call later. On the second try, we were able to talk about what had happened, and work through it together. I wanted to share some takeaways from that conversation:

  1. Our feelings are legitimate, and so are everyone else’s. We should neither attack others for their reactions, nor worry about criticisms of our own.
  2. Being supportive means listening without judgement, even when the other person’s words hit a nerve.
  3. Talking about who has it “the best” or “the worst” is a game where everyone loses.

we need to talkOne especially useful part of the conversation was when one friend quoted a line from a Matchbox 20 song: “I’m sorry about the attitude I need to give when I’m with you, but no one else will take this s*** from me”. From there, we agreed that it’s important to understand and forgive each other, but that we should also be careful how often we take advantage of that pledge.

In this time of high stress, I urge all of you to be patient, kind, and forgiving, but also to remember that your feelings, whatever they are, are legitimate and perfectly ok. Take care of yourself and your loved ones.

love

My comments section is a judgement free zone, so how are you doing? 

The first week of the St. Louis stay at home order, I stayed indoors for three straight days. I didn’t plan it; I just got caught up in dealing with work stuff, cleaning out closets, reading The Glass Hotel, and video chatting with everyone I could think of. When it finally hit me that it had been way too long since I’d seen the sun, I grabbed my book and headed for the patio, because just like we should resist the temptation to alter our sleep schedules, we also need to fight past the urge to sit inside all the time. Let’s break it down.

Why it’s tempting

couch potatoInertia is a powerful force, especially when it’s couch induced inertia. On top of that, the guidelines for social distancing can easily be read as “stay indoors at all times to prevent catching or spreading COVID-19,” especially in the early days when it wasn’t clear exactly what was, and was not, a threat. With everything going on in your home, it’s easy to forget how long it’s been since you were last outside, and the overwhelming fear of exposure adds an edge to the impulse to stay hidden from the world completely. 

Why it’s bad

The point of social distancing is not to avoid the outdoors. It’s to avoid getting too close to other people. Unless you live in an extremely high density environment, there’s nothing wrong with taking a walk, so long as you keep a safe distance from other people walking. It’s also perfectly acceptable to sit on your balcony or porch for a while. For one thing, avoiding the sun means avoiding Vitamin D, which is necessary for being healthy. There’s even evidence that it helps protect us against respiratory infections like the Coronavirus. Given that, even before the lockdown, as many as 42% of Americans had a vitamin D deficiency, it’s even more important to get sunlight and your dose of Vitamin D. 

hello sunshineAnd don’t forget the other benefits of sunlight. Mental health is as important as physical health, and in the age of lockdowns it’s becoming much harder to maintain proper mental hygiene. You know what’s really good for your mental health? The giant star that keeps our entire planet alive. If you stay indoors 24-7, you’re missing out on the mental health benefits that come from as little as 5-10 minutes of sunlight exposure. Daily sunlight will help you keep yourself in the right frame of mine, and help you cope with the stress of the current situation.

How to avoid it

beachSet aside twenty minutes a day to be outside. During the day. Plan ahead, like you would plan a trip to the grocery store or any other essential trip. Avoid places that will attract crowds. If you have somewhere that you can be outside and have complete privacy, like a lawn or a balcony, that would be your safest bet. If you don’t, pick places and times that won’t be high traffic. If you’re working from home, you might be best served going outside on your lunch break, for example. Again, only 5-15 minutes in the sun reaps rewards, so you don’t need to make this into a huge excursion. If, on the other hand, your living conditions don’t allow for you to go safely go outside with minimal crowds, take advantage of windows. When the sun’s shining, open a window, let in some fresh, and bask in the sunlight.

If your city or state allows you to go for a drive, that will let you stay safe and allow you to stay socially distant. With the windows down, sun streaming in, and your favorite music or audiobook playing, a drive can you help you de-stress in multiple ways. You still get sunlight, and being in the car means you’ll easily have six feet of distance.

air hugs

Are you getting your outdoor time?

The other day, a friend asked me if I’m still waking up super early now that I’m working from home. When I told her I am, she said, “That’s crazy. This is the time to stay up late and sleep in.” This was far from the first time I’ve been told that people’s sleep schedules are all over the place during the stay at home orders. However, you might want to think twice before you throw off your routine.

Why it’s tempting

staying in bedEven if you’re still expected to be “at work” at the same time, there are normal morning activities you no longer have to do. If nothing else, you get to skip the commute. My job is being super flexible in terms of when we get things done, as long as they’re done within a specified timeframe. I have several daily meetings, but the first one doesn’t start until 11am. Some of my colleagues have gone from getting up at 6:30 to getting up at 10:30. Sleeping in is a luxury we don’t often get, so it’s hard to resist hitting snooze, or changing the alarm. After all, the more sleep you get, the better…right?

Why it’s bad

so tiredEveryone has an optimal amount of sleep to get. For adults, it can be between seven and nine hours. For teens, it’s 8-10. Not getting quite enough sleep leaves us feeling irritable, groggy, and unfocused. The truth is that most of us don’t get that much sleep, resulting in a condition called sleep debt. Using lockdown as a chance to finally get enough sleep finally is absolutely a good and healthy decision. Getting enough sleep is vital for our health and well being, and it’s especially important for our immune system. However – and this is a very important however – you should be sleeping in the same timeframe every day.

Why? Because your body has a biological clock. In your ideal state, it should be tied to the day night cycle, but even lockdown life doesn’t always allow for that. So a sleep schedule helps you simulate that. You train your body when it should get tired and when it should wake up. The more regular you are about it, the better your overall sleep quality will be. Even if you are getting 8 hours a night, proper sleep routines mean you’ll get a better rest than you would if you have a poor schedule.

How to avoid it

bedtimeAlarms are your friend and ally here. Not just to wake yourself up, but also to remind yourself of when to sleep, and when to start preparing to sleep. If you’re like me,  your caffeine intake has gone way up during the lockdown. To combat this, I’ve set a daily alarm six hours before bedtime to remind me to switch to decaf. It helps to have another alarm three hours before bed as your “last call” for food, because eating too much before bed can keep you up, but going to bed hungry is also hard. Then the final alarm, one hour before bed, is when you stop screen time. Read a book, listen to music…anything that takes you away from a computer or TV screen. Then – and this can be the hard part – once that hour has passed, actually go to bed. Once you reach (or reestablish) the point where this routine is second nature, you might not need all the reminders, but early on they’ll help you set the habit.

good morningYou also have to have good habits in the morning. An alarm here is going to be important, even as your body starts adjusting to the point where it wakes up on its own. Once your alarm does start beeping, actually get out of bed. If you don’t get up, you’re likely to find yourself drifting back off to sleep, defeating the entire purpose. Oversleeping is almost as bad as undersleeping, and causes some of the same long term problems. When you get out of bed, do something that wakes you up. Preferably something you find enjoyable. Caffeine can be resumed here, or exercise if that’s your jam. A nice hot shower is always good, and if you’re working from home and therefore have more time, you could even indulge in a hot bath. Cook breakfast as opposed to blearily shoving a donut in your face. (Or do the bleary donut shove, I won’t judge – my donut love is well documented.) Whatever you do, have a routine, because your body will start associating those activities with waking up, leading you to actually perking up much quicker and feeling infinitely better about your day.

healthy helpful calm

How are you doing at keeping a routine (for sleep, or any other activities) while you’re at home?

In the past week, several friends and coworkers have reached out specifically to check on how I’m handling the stay at home order while living alone. I really appreciated their thoughtfulness, especially while their husbands/roommates/kids/etc. were driving them crazy. So before I forget, I’d like to urge you all to think of people you know who live by themselves, and consider checking on them, because total social isolation can be rough on people.

video chatThat having been said…I’m doing just fine. As an “extroverted introvert” (click here for a breakdown of that seeming oxymoron), I love spending time with others, but I’m also totally comfortable with, and really need, my alone time. I’ve been known to come home from work on a Friday and not leave the house again until Monday morning, by choice. So while I do miss seeing people, I’ve had a lot of practice hanging out by myself, and since I have phone calls and video chats, I’m pretty comfortable overall.

However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t, at times, gone a little ridiculous. Even though I’m nowhere near the “talking to a volleyball” stage, there are a few things over the past few weeks that have caused me to realize that I’m not immune to cabin fever moments. For example…

Party Like It’s 1989

A lot of my friends are big video game fans. I am not. I was, once upon a time, back in the dark ages called the 1980s/early 1990s. I actually spent a lot of time in arcades, and when my parents bought us a Nintendo, I played obsessively for several years. Then I started high school and started focusing on other interests. I haven’t owned a video game system since, and haven’t had any desire to, especially since I’m so far behind the curve. The few times I’ve tried to play with friends, I’ve discovered that the games (and the controllers) have moved way beyond my skill level.

NintendoFor some reason, though (probably because I have a lot of extra time these days), I found myself thinking about how much I loved those old NES games, so completely on impulse, I ordered the NES Classic from Amazon. This adorable miniature game console comes with thirty old school games, and I thought it might be something fun to play around with during quarantine, and a cool addition to the party I plan to have once all this is over. 

It arrived on a Friday, but I didn’t get around to opening the package until Saturday morning. I figured I’d hook it up and mess around with it for an hour or so, then do something productive. I made coffee, selected The Legend of Zelda, and settled on the couch. As I started playing, I was amazed at how well I remembered this game. It’s been about thirty years since I’ve played it, but so much of it came flooding back. I mean, I can never remember where I parked my car at the mall, but right from the get go I knew which walls to bomb and trees to burn to find hidden rooms and bonus items.

So did you know that with a decent level of familiarity with the game, it’s fairly easy to beat The Legend of Zelda in about eight hours? I didn’t…until I did it. My one hour of “messing around” turned into an all day marathon run, leaving me feeling both ridiculously proud and thoroughly confused. In the end, I chalked it up to cabin fever and decided I’d better set a timer for future forays into Hyrule (or Castlevania, or Zebes…).

All Dolled Up and No Place to Go

One evening, I was chatting with a friend and mentioned that I was feeling ambivalent about my free time. Since I have so much more than normal, I’ve hit a few points where I don’t feel like reading, watching TV, cleaning, or anything else I usually do during down time. She said, and I quote, “Maybe you should learn to do something with your hair”. For a second I was taken aback, but then she clarified by saying, “I don’t mean it looks bad, but you have so much that it might be cool to go beyond braids and ponytails”.

Well…fair enough. My hair goes almost down to my waist, and I typically either let it hang loose or just quickly get it out of my face. One reason for this is expedience, and another, I freely admit, is a complete lack of skill. So, challenge accepted. I went to the source of all knowledge (YouTube) and searched “long hair tutorials for beginners”. I decided to try a style called a “headband braid” because it would only involve part of my hair and didn’t look incredibly complicated. The tutorial is below, if you’re interested.

As we all know, though, lots of things look easy until you try them. After nine attempts, I thought about giving up, but sheer stubbornness kept me going. After fifteen attempts, I was seriously considering shaving my head. On my twenty-eighth try (by the way, I’m not making those numbers up…I actually kept count), I finally succeeded in a braid that looked…acceptable. I reveled in my victory, and then unbraided it because I wasn’t going anywhere and it was close to bedtime anyway.

I have tried to duplicate this feat twice since then, with dismal results, so I’ve decided that ponytails and basic braids are not only awesome, but I’m officially designating them my “signature styles”.

So Much Cake, So Little Company

Screenshot 2020-04-04 at 7.57.14 PM

Baking is an excellent way to spend an afternoon. Trying to figure out what to do with an entire cake when you’re by yourself is an excellent way to end up with a stomach ache. No, I didn’t eat the entire thing. No, I won’t tell you how much I actually did eat. Like the number of donuts I ate during that crazy week last May, that’s a secret I’m taking to my grave.

mario

Have you done anything crazy or unusual while you’re staying at home? Tell me all about it!