The Best Parts of Autumn

There is a stillness in the air now. You can smell it when the cigarette smoke lingers a bit longer around the woman on the bench. You can see it when you look at how the leaves overhead reflect on the lake in the morning glow. You feel it when you step outside, and there is no breeze, but the air for once feels refreshing. Now it is time for everything to taste like mulled wine, tart apple pie, spicy pumpkin bread, and fun-size chocolate pieces. You can hear it in the way that slow, acoustic ballads personify the best part of the year.

Today is the Autumn solstice, and it is finally my favorite time of the year. The apartment is full of pumpkin decor, I have stuffed the pantry full with pumpkin treats, and the sweaters have moved their way back to the center of my closet. Now when I go on walks, I reach for a flannel button up or a hoodie. I dusted off my doc martins, lit every candle in my apartment, and started saving all of the best hearty stew recipes I can find.

Like most autumns, I am unfortunately entering the year with an ailment—I rolled my already compromised ankle, and I find myself sporting a walking boot for the fourth year. But this year, the apartment is not only decorated with all the autumn decor I could find, but also a sweet little pup. Last week, my partner and I adopted Smudge, a one-year-old Bulldog Mix. The energy in the home feels different. There’s now a lightness and warmth to our home, the same way the sun illuminates a small section of the wood floor beneath my feet.

But unlike most autumns, travel bans make me wonder if my favorite activities are still possible. I’ve come to love stopping by a farm, going to a u-pick apple orchard, or wandering wide open fields filled with hundreds of pumpkins waiting to go home with you. There is nothing better than feeling the stillness that hangs upstate this time of year, watching how the forests burn with rich and firey colored leaves, and cozying up next to the ones you love. What is it that all of you look forward to this time of year?

14 Septmember 2016

I had to share this shot because it gave me major Taylor Swift folklore vibes, except I did it first in 2016. There are times I miss Colorado while living in this city. I miss the air’s freshness, the mountains acting as a backdrop, and the way the trees fill the empty spaces around you. These photos capture some of the last moments that I had in the state. I knew in a few days. I would leave my vacation in Aspen and return to Denver to pack up what remained of my life in Colorado and drive back to Florida. 

I had spent the whole summer preparing for an internship that would never manifest. I had entered a new relationship and planned to fly to him when I returned home. I had all these plans, but I didn’t know then that Colorado would always hold some of my heart, and I would not ever get that back. This state will always keep some of the most formative memories, friendships, and growth. 

I think a lot comes when you pick up and move away from your comfort area. Colorado prepared me for my move across the pond, and then my move to New York. Colorado prepared me for my long nights studying in my Master’s. My professors played a role in molding what my future could look like as a writer. Colorado has always set the bar high and prepared me always to push myself to that level. 

I waited eight months to return, and I returned for what was supposed to be my graduation year. I watched my friends have their moment in the sunlight of Folsom Stadium as the chancellor gave recognition to the various schools and graduates. At some moments, it felt like the longest time, but then I waited two more years to return, but when I did, I remembered everything that I missed. 

I missed the way the flatirons came into focus in every direction, the taste of Illegal Petes on a sunny afternoon, or the weight of a stein at the Biergarten downtown. There is still so much that I miss when I think about Colorado. The friends I have who still live there, the Saturday football games, and weekends are spent in the mountains. 

National Literacy Day

This national holiday means so much to me. Last year, when I first discussed the importance of the day. As international Literacy Day occurs every September 8th, this year’s theme is incredibly unique to 2020. “International Literacy Day 2020 focuses on ‘Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,’ especially on educators’ role and changing pedagogies.”

This year we are looking more into what lifelong learning perspectives exist in youth and adults. I found the below stats somewhat surprising: 

  • 773 million adults and young people lack basic literacy skills;
  • 617 million children and adolescents are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics;
  • During the initial phase of the pandemic, schools were closed, disrupting the education of 62.3 percent of the world’s student population of 1.09 billion;
  • Adult literacy and education were absent in initial education response plans, therefore many youth and adults with no or low literacy skills have had limited access to life-saving information.

The global crisis has done so much to highlight what entities of our world are broken and need improvement. As many more students across the globe have their very first day of school after the summer and holiday weekend, now is not the time to neglect the expanding minds of children, the incredible effort reported by the school’s teachers, and the stark reminder that there is a gap that negatively impacts learners. 

The UN Page goes on to discuss: “During COVID-19, in many countries, adult literacy programs were absent in the initial education response plans, so most adult literacy programs that did exist were suspended, with just a few courses continuing virtually, through TV and radio, or in open-air spaces.” They also ask some valuable questions to put a perspective on what we should examine while understanding literacy during a COVID-19 world. 

What is the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on youth and adult literacy educators and teaching and learning? What are the lessons learned? How can we effectively position youth and adult literacy teaching in global and national responses and strategies for the recovery and resilience-building phase? 

I think glaring holes exist in resources that children and adults miss out on now that unperson learning importunities are limited. I think the expectation that so many have disposable or flexible income that allows for technology, both as a computer and wifi, is readily available for all students, does not consider those living in poverty, and unable to follow suit and transition to online schooling. 

I think the lessons we all learn from this are that teachers do so much for their students and don’t give them nearly enough credit. There are teachers all over the globe always willing to chance their wellbeing for our children, yet so many don’t see why teachers may have a hard time teaching “as normal” as if children and adults are not dying every day during this pandemic. 

Again, I urge my readers and followers to pick up a book today. I want you to read a page, a chapter, or the entire thing. I want to know what book you choose, what you learned from your moments reading, and how it made you feel. I also urge my readers to write something today for yourself. Write down your grocery list on paper, an encouraging quote on a Post-it note to place on your computer screen, or a letter to a loved one.

Goals For the Season

“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.”

MARK VICTOR HANSEN

Four years ago today, I sat overlooking the Rocky Mountains on an afternoon trip to Estes, Colorado, with one of my best friends. We spent the day hiking around the lake, driving through Rocky Mountain National Park, touring the Stanley Hotel, and photographing our journey along the way. I held my mother’s film camera tightly—just like I had in London, Paris, and Italy, right before this trip to Colorado. I still didn’t understand aperture, f-stops, or what to set my lens speed to, but that didn’t stop me from snapping through a film roll. I had always wanted to understand the rawness that film captured, and at the time, I was learning to love the light leaks and imperfections my processed photos held.

Right before this trip, I had let go of my biggest goal of the season and focused on what would come of grad school and writing. Around this time, the idea for my first novel came to me in the parking lot of the Elementary school where the kids I nannied each day attended. That idea later manifested into my fascination with the love that hangs in the words of a handwritten letter and how that interest and prompt would then become the thesis for my master’s degree. When I spoke about grief this time in September four years ago, I had no idea that later I would experience my grief more than ever before.

At the time of this photo, I was in a brand new relationship with its issues. I struggled each day to see the longevity of that love. At the time, my trustfulness gave power to the process of just following what felt right. I knew little of my callowness, but I later would learn that I did know something—I was trying to navigate the same raw and imperfect emotions that I would one day learn to love. I did everything I could to make the view come into focus for photography, but I needed my personal view to focus on what I was experiencing.

What I needed to improve on in 2016 sometimes feels like the same thing that I need to improve on in 2020—allow myself to be imperfect. 

For the first half of 2020, I began setting goals and then painstakingly laid the foundation of who I want to be and where I want to see myself in 2021 and 2025, and 2030. These goals became my benchmarks for recognizing change within my life. This included goals like “make two new friends,” “get a job,” and “start paying down student loan debt.” I have kept track of these goals in my 2020 planner—something many believe was the worst purchase of 2020, but for me, it was one of the best investments because it set into motion the process of becoming the person I most wanted to be.

My planner allows space for me to track my goals and to feel productive with my time. I feel best when my day is full, where I am productive, and I am working towards who I want to be. I hold myself to this standard because I know how good I feel when I get up early and tackle the day. At the end of those days, I feel tired and sleep better than any other day. At the end of those days, I look back at all the little red checkmarks and believe I made something of myself.

But because of that, the biggest challenge I face is allowing myself the space to be imperfect and making room for error. I look at an empty week in August and wonder what happened? Where did the desire to be productive go? Why wasn’t I proactive for my future? 

My negative self-talk can be all-consuming. Sometimes, I get angry at the girl from 2016 who was learning to love raw and imperfect emotions. What happened? Where did your desire to be productive go? Why weren’t you more proactive? Why didn’t you think of me, our future, and how your impulsivity brought me heartache?

I knew I would curse that Hannah for years to come. How disappointed I was in her for just rolling over on one of our goals and forging through the warning signs that she ended up internalizing. But something I am learning to understand is just how important those decisions in 2016 were for a growing me.

What I was learning in September 2016 is the same goal I am setting for myself this autumn. The goals I have set for this season include focusing on how I spend my time and allowing myself the space to learn from the past and what I deem as “imperfect traits.” 

Journaling and tracking my days are just some ways where I feel like I can take control of what I want for my future. I have found that I lose track of time quickly—weather it is scrolling aimlessly, binging the next season of a Netflix series, or cleaning all day while I put off what I really should be doing. A goal is to spend shorter intervals of time on tasks and breaking them up into sprints instead of marathons. And with that goal comes the responsibility to allow room for rest days.

This trip to Estes feels like a lifetime ago, but it was one day that put my future into focus. When you overlook the world’s vast beauty, it changes the way you view how small the imperfections are in your life. At that moment, I didn’t think about what I should be doing to better myself for the future; I was thinking about how beautiful a moment could be. So here’s to finding the beauty in imperfections and setting ourselves up for futures we sit in awe of when we set out dreams in motion.

September Update

With the pandemic still looming like a black cloud over the United States, my life has stayed eerily the same since March. My phone alarm rings out at 7:00 am most days with me snoozing until the very last moment. Then at 8:00 am I open my laptop and begin my next day of work. Instead of in an office, I work from the couch, or from my new desk, or my green armchair pushed into the corner beneath the window overlooking Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Mornings for me are quiet. There’s no bubbling, drip coffee machine filling the room with the smell of roasted beans, or coworkers shuffling into their desks after a jam-packed morning commute. At home, I open the curtains, so light floods over me and my laptop screen. The only white noise comes from the tower fan in the corner blowing the air conditioner’s cold air in my direction. The only interruption to their motors’ sound is the patter of my fingers pressing hard against my keys while I type my early morning email replies. With all of this staying the same, I am still looking forward to change.

What a year whirlpool of eight months you’ve been, 2020. Spring lingered the same way an unsettling feeling of being watched stays with you when walking home alone. How that feeling never subsides until you’ve locked the door behind you—but we can’t just lockout time and the way 2020 has gone thus far no matter how much we would like to.

However, July & August blew past me like the last gust of wind from a powerful hurricane. I spent spring and June hunkered down, expecting this summer to be the gust that knocks me to the ground. I prayed that the walls would remain standing after the beating they took in spring. Surprisingly, they did. This summer faded away quickly like a storm not willing to hover long before moving on. There was destruction left in its shadows, there is no doubt about that, but I am hopeful for growth.

I don’t know what to expect for this autumn. If it is like the past decades of autumns that have come and gone, then 2020 will bring me some change to my life. 

With the pandemic still looming like a black cloud over the United States, my life has stayed eerily the same since March. My phone alarm rings out at 7:00 am most days with me snoozing until the very last moment. Then at 8:00 am I open my laptop and begin my next day of work. Instead of in an office, I work from the couch, or from my new desk, or my green armchair pushed into the corner beneath the window overlooking Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Mornings for me are quiet. There’s no bubbling, drip coffee machine filling the room with the smell of roasted beans, or coworkers shuffling into their desks after a jam-packed morning commute. At home, I open the curtains, so light floods over me and my laptop screen. The only white noise comes from the tower fan in the corner blowing the air conditioner’s cold air in my direction. The only interruption to their motors’ sound is the patter of my fingers pressing hard against my keys while I type my early morning email replies.

When the work is done for the day, I tie a surgical mask underneath my hair and lace up my pair of black Nikes whose soles are practically worn thru to my toes. I walk the same path to Central Park to meet my boyfriend after his day in the lab, passing by strangers cloaked in the same masks. When I am home, the evenings are filled with conversations, cooking a new dish for dinner, reading a new book, or binging the next Netflix series that caught my eye. Once midnight begins to creep closer, I tuck into bed and set both the 7:00 am & 7:15 am alarms, close my eyes, and start the loop over once more.

Sometimes I throw a wrench in my routine. I spend the day baking, exploring a new city in a rental car, or simply losing track of time reorganizing my bookshelves. I have started five new hobbies during quarantine: calligraphy, candle making, letter writing, graphic design, and gardening. At this point in time, I still think my calligraphy looks like a dolled-up version of my cursive, and I have practically gone through 10 pounds of wax. I gained seven new pen pals across the world and purchased an iPad to try my hand at Procreate fame. Lastly, I have killed all of my edible plants, but the remaining inedible ones are still *thriving*.

With all of that being said, it’s jarring to realize it’s already September.

Like many of you, I had so much planned for 2020. And as it continues to slips through the cracks, I wonder how and when I will catch my breath. I don’t know if I ever will have a chance to do just that this autumn, but I have dedicated this season to what matters in this ever-changing normalcy.

Ever since November 30, 2019, I have figuratively crossed off the days until I would be met by autumn’s change once more. And its finally here: the months that end in “-ber” have arrived and the last thing I want is for them to do is fall out of reach. 

This autumn, I am looking forward to debuting my writing and honing in on my craft. I have spent the summer diving into books, working on projects as a freelancer, and developing my publishing world experience. There are so many projects I would love to work on, places upstate that I have been itching to drive through, and just general self-building practices that I have put off during this quarantine. The one thing that I love about autumn is that no matter the change, both good or bad, it still sparks this light inside of me. For me, autumn is the physical embodiment of how the change is personified by the dusted firey-hues before winter comes to blanket the senses.

In opposition to popular demand, I am not ready for 2020 to be over. I think there is still so much we can do to help communities such as promote change systemically and within ourselves in the same way our seasons change. The way time can blur is the best reason for us to see that there are still four more months left in the year to do something. I hope all my readers, new and old, enjoy what I have prepared for this month.

I look forward to the change with myself and this platform, but also for whatever else may come from a new month. Plus, autumn would be a great time to arrest Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove.

I Miss New York

I miss long lines for boa buns at Smorgasbord and trying to find a spot to eat on a crowded lawn. I miss sweeping views on top of the World Trade Center and staring out at how small everything looks down below. I miss fighting my way on the 8:04 am train at 79th Street Station just so I could make it on time for my internship on Wall Street. I miss the way locals shuffled past me and how the tourist’s wishful faces stood in my way as they stared up of the buildings above. miss coming across new places, and I miss you what makes you, you, New York. But as NYC wakes up from this COVID slumber, can’t the rest of us across the country learn from NY and just wear a mask?

I miss long lines for boa buns at Smorgasbord and trying to find a spot to eat on a crowded lawn. I miss sweeping views on top of the World Trade Center and staring out at how small everything looks down below. I miss fighting my way on the 8:04 am train at 79th Street Station just so I could make it on time for my internship on Wall Street. I miss the way locals shuffled past me and how the tourist’s wishful faces stood in my way as they stared up of the buildings above. I miss the anxiety of fending my way past dirty Elmos in Time Square and the feelings of regret when I found myself walking down Broadway on a busy day. I miss rainy afternoons spent staring at a Rembrandt at the MET and dodging umbrellas that stay at eye level under scaffolding. I miss dinner dates at the same Ramen restaurant in Midtown and visiting friends at work on my off days. I miss the cobblestone streets of downtown and discovering gems across the Burroughs. I miss the breweries in LIC and bakeries in Brooklyn. I miss mornings spent working in cafés and smelling like roasted coffee beans for the rest of the day. I miss evenings at a dive bar and the first sip of a cool Guinness after an exhausting, meeting packed workday. I miss buskers on street corners and live punk shows in The Village. I miss coming across new places, and I miss what makes you, you, New York. But as NYC wakes up from this COVID slumber, can’t the rest of us across the country learn from NY and just wear a mask?

I’ll never understand why compassion for fellow humans is so difficult for some people. And as I see how the rest of the United States is trying to play catch up with the numbers that New York saw, I wonder why so many struggle with the notion of doing something small to care for others. Its a piece of cloth, something my boyfriend and all of his coworkers wear for 12 hours straight at work as healthcare providers. Why can’t we wear them for the hour-long trip to the store? Or the 30-minute walk outside?

It’s hard to describe what the City felt like these past few months while our numbers climbed to the height of skyscrapers. It’s hard to express the feelings of grief that blanketed the hollowed blocks and empty avenues. How I could suddenly wake up in the morning to chirping birds, but soon hear how that calming sound was replaced by the passing noise of wailing sirens. Sidewalks were quiet, strangers passed with caution, and there was a stillness to what remained of New York.

When COVID settled into the city, I told my friends that I wasn’t sure what to expect. I toed the line of how serious I should be taking this virus. I wondered if going out to the grocery store to stock up was necessary. I asked if this was being blown out of proportions. We heard rumors about the bridges shutting down, the city going into lockdown, and stores and schools closing. But they were all “rumors,” and no one knew what to believe.

“My friends, friend works for the government.” 

“My dad reports on pandemics.” 

“There is nothing to worry about…” 

We heard the terrors of China and Europe, but we didn’t heed their cries. “Was this really worth worrying about?” 

Part of me is mad. Mad that so many didn’t take this situation for what it was until the bodies stacked up inside refrigerator trucks. I saw how the world saw NYC. I responded to concerned texts from my family and friends around the world. They were seeing how The City was struggling. They saw the numbers double and the deaths that swept across their news outlets. I was mad that we didn’t know more. Mad about how I wasn’t scared. Now I want to remember what the privilege felt like to not know “if this was something to worry about.” Now I want to remember how scared we all are. And I want everyone else to remember that. Understand how I am at an advantage with starting a new job the day the city shutdown. Remember how the people around me are worse off than others.

But then as NYC started to wake up, the country decided to say they were over all of this. I saw friends in Florida, filling the beaches and bars. I saw how, when the summer came around, people demanded their freedom. But none of them in a million years would see themselves visiting the city anytime soon when our doors closed to the crisis. I see you all, the ones begging for others to be caring—the ones calling friends out for not doing their part. I see how you are all doing your best to not see the numbers that New York has seen. I see you sharing reasons why masks could work, and how even if they didn’t then what’s the issue with wearing cloth across our mouth and nose for a bit. I may miss New York and the charms the city has always had, but I know that this new normal will bloom something so beautiful in the city if everyone else could just do thier part and protect others.

Film from the Past

As you may have guessed it, these photos aren’t “new.” It’s been a little while since I stood in the shadows of Mount Rainer, watched the sunset in Naples, or enjoyed the newest rotation at a brewery. However, this quarantine has allowed an ample amount of time for me to find more things to tidy within my 600 square foot apartment in Manhattan. This weekend, I decided to go through all the film I’ve developed since I moved to New York and annotate the back with memories.

I feared that going through these photos would make this quarantine harder. That I would miss the cross-country drives, being able to hug my loved ones, and spending my days off discovering new towns. I worried that seeing the forgotten memories immortalized would make the walls close in. Instead the opposite happened.

Yes, I am the woman who takes a disposable point and shoots on vacations. I typically receive the same, “I haven’t seen one of these in a long time,” comments when I pass my camera to a stranger on the street, but in this digital world, I like taking one photo of someone, something, somewhere and winding the film to the next shot. Sometimes I blow through a camera, and other times the camera spans multiple trips.

When you line up a shot, you never know if the lighting is just right, if the subject will be in focus, or if a stray finger will linger in the viewfinder. There is no instant satisfaction, but the film will always transport you back to happier times once it is developed. I had so much fun trying to remember when and where the photos were taken. In its own way, this film that I haven’t seen since it was developed, let me travel back to some of my favorite times.

Some of these photos have sat in a bin for the past three years, waiting for me to rediscover the memories. So, here’s to dusting off a few of my favorite memories, and sharing them here to make sure they don’t get lost in a bin again.

In case you missed it, I pretty much have stayed the same, but David’s hair and beard changes provide a little insight on when these were taken.

 

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Welcoming Change with Spring

Winter is “behind us” although it snowed yesterday, the country, for the most part, is preparing for spring. When I think of spring, I think of flowers cut into a bouquet on the coffee table, where the light slips through the shades and casts horizontal spotlights on the glistening hardwood. I think about barren trees being dotted with fresh green buds of sprouting new leaves that will soon coat and shade the branches and trunk below.

When I think of spring, I think about the smell of freshly cut grass, lavender hand soap, and clean countertops. Spring, to me, symbolizes new growth and beginnings. It’s a time where we pack away our heavy winter coats and pull out the shorts and dresses.  Its where central park reopens the fields and lawns — where groups gather on blankets and share a glass of white wine and a charcuterie board. When I think of spring, I think of all these things, except this year, Spring is slipping through our fingers.

Sure we can open the windows to our fire escapes and feel the breeze, but with the epicenter of the virus being on the streets of New York City, Spring is, in turn, becoming isolating. Sure, now we have time to spring clean, where in years past, we put off the daunting task of going through our closest to spend time outside. This year I have to burn candles that smell like fresh flowers but borderline overpowerful, elderly women perfume.

There is a lot of change happening across the world right now. What I am trying to do with that is instill new habits that I can carry into the months when we can transition back into civilization. I am being smarter with food waste and limiting letting produce go bad, given that I can’t just jog down to the nearest bodega and pick up something that I am missing. I have kept my space tidy and clean, given that I have spent nearly two weeks living out of place without leaving. I have prioritized my health, both mental and physical, with stimulating activities to help distract me from the way walls of a small new york city apartment can feel like they are caving in. I decided to write more people, catch up over facetime, and rekindle more friendships that I haven’t shown the proper time and care to.

There is always something new that can throw a rut into our situations, but it is all about looking at what elements in your life you can change for the better and ensure that you welcome a new situation with something other than fear, anxiety, and stress. My contact page is always available for you if you ever want to reach out and talk with someone during this difficult time.

More Than a Pet

Today would have been my first pet’s thirteenth birthday. Although it was rare for an English Bulldog to live that long, his passing before his seventh birthday meant I have missed him so much these past seven years. For as long as I could remember, every birthday up until my eleventh, I wished for a dog when I blew out the candles. Until I was eleven, I pet every dog I could, cried after I left pet stores and shelters, and wished for the companionship that a dog could bring.

Then, May 2006 brought Cooper into my life and changed the way I cared for dogs. All the fish I tried so hard to keep alive were pale in comparison to him. He was this wrinkly mess that plopped himself down everywhere his little legs would take him. He loved peanut butter and carrots, although not together. When I had my tonsils removed, together, we ate banana popsicles and lounged around. He didn’t like going for walks, but he loved sunbathing in the Florida heat.

He posed for all my embarrassing photoshoots, dressed up with me for Halloween, dealt with my constant pulls for attention and desire to carry his 60-pound mass around the house and on to my bed. He loved the toys that made honking sounds; his carrot was his favorite, of course. He taught me responsibility, and he taught me loyalty. When I came home from school, he was there. When I propped him up on my wicker chest for training lessons, we stayed still for the treats. As I grew older, he was the best dog. All my friends loved him and his funny nuances.

During my senior year of high school, he became sick. My parents had left the two of us alone, and I found him in his crate seizing. I was scared, eighteen, trying to balance high school and college classes, and watching one of my best friends in pain. For a week, the two of us lived at veterinary offices. I missed classes. I cried in parking lots. I was scared he wouldn’t be okay. For a little time, he was, until he wasn’t. I blamed myself for his passing. I felt responsible for the week we were alone together. We spent nights sleeping together on my parent’s bed. The medicine was helping until it didn’t. My friends left him alone one night, and a seizure left him in an unstable state.

We took him to the doctor I found for him, and they tried to help, but they drugged him to the point he couldn’t move. I blamed myself for what the doctor did because I was the one who took him to the doctor. For a while, I teared up when I saw a bulldog on the street. I couldn’t get past the grief of losing my first little buddy. It took years for me to stop blaming myself, and still some days I get sad that our time was so short.

During those days, I realize he was more than just a pet. He was the best first dog I could have ever had. Cooper loved giving kisses and sneaking treats. He loved ear scratches and to be with his people. I now have this undying love for English Bulldogs because of him. I can’t help but smile when I see them on the street. I can’t help but give them all the love I wish I could have given Cooper these past seven years. Here is to always loving dogs in the same way that they unwaveringly love us.