Five Favorite Things: Finding Joy

Five Favorites

On January 1, 2020, I wrote little notes to myself, reflecting on the night I had and looking forward to the next year. I didn’t really write any resolutions, but I did challenge myself to spend this year finding joy. This year has not been easy for anyone, but finding little spots of joy has helped tremendously. So here are my five favorite things that sparked joy in my life recently.

Music. I’ve rediscovered Spotify playlists recently. As I’m working from home and not bothering anyone else, I can put on tunes and take a dance break between data entry or a FaceTime with a friend. My favorite joyful Spotify playlists right now are Feelin’ Good, the Cleaning Kit playlist, and Songs to Sing in the Shower.

YouTube. I’ve found it really difficult to laugh recently – it just doesn’t seem right. But I give myself a reprieve sometimes and it makes me feel a little better. One of the ways I do that is by watching YouTube blooper reels. Many shows post their blooper reels on YouTube (or fans put them up for everyone’s enjoyment) and I often times find them funnier than the show itself. Can 10 out of 10 recommend. Another bonus of YouTube is a British show called Taskmaster, which has been uploading an episode each week.

Plants. My love for my plant roommates is not new. They’re a core part of my adult life and seeing them grow genuinely makes me happy. At last count, I had fourteen individual plants living with me, soaking up sun, and giving me structure. Once a week or so, I spend time watering them, checking for dead leaves, and making sure they are happy. And it brings me joy.

Reading. This year in general, I’ve reached for books more frequently than in the past. Perhaps because I don’t have academic reading in the way or maybe because I’ve been spending so much time staring at a computer screen, but the ability to spend an afternoon with my nose in a paperback has been really calming. Recent reads include We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Normal People, and Things You Save in a Fire. (If you are searching for new reading material, check your local library for an Overdrive or online rental account or buy from local bookstores through Bookshop.org.)

Yoga. Sitting all day has wrecked havoc on my back. But my weekly yoga class has moved to Zoom. While I’m not a huge fan of Zoom classes, doing yoga twice a week has made my back a lot happier and given me a reason to put on a sports bra (the only type of bra I’m even considering wearing right now) and get a tiny bit sweaty. Though I may get frustrated with my class, I genuinely feel better when I get up afterwards. (If you’re interested in yoga, YouTube is a good place to start.)

Basically, it’s little things everywhere. Where are you finding joy right now?

Bonnaroo 2019: A Photo Diary

photo diary, Travel

In June 2017, I made my first trip to the Farm in Manchester, Tennessee. I was volunteering at Bonnaroo, a music festival that brings in names from U2 to Chance the Rapper to Joseph. Because I was volunteering, I arrived early, had free entrance to the festival, had showers (also free!) dedicated to volunteers, and met incredible people, all while jamming to some of my favorite bands.

I returned to the Farm in June 2019, volunteering again and brought a disposable camera along with me. I figured in honor of summer rolling around soon, I would share my Bonnaroo experience through photos:

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Everyone who visits Bonnaroo is greeted by C’roo members at Tollbooths. Tollbooth volunteers camp separate and this is the marker we use to find our way home each night.

Tip: If you want a camping spot close to Centeroo, leave your car behind. No car camping is right in front of the main entrance!

The Bonnaroo Arch marks the main entrance into Centeroo – the main venue for the festival. The Arch was a long-standing monument to festivals past, but unfortunately wasn’t in great shape and was replaced in 2019.

Bonnaroo is a colorful place filled with colorful characters. From the Ferris Wheel to the giant disco ball in the sky to the Christmas barn that doubles as a late-night house party, the Farm has it all.

Last year’s shows included the Lumineers, Hozier, Illenium, Griz, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Cardi B, Post Malone, and way too much Phish.

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The Farm hosted its first Pride Parade that finished at Kacey Musgrave’s set.

Because it is summer in Tennessee, it’s hot. The Grove is the only real shade you can find. Each year, they string up hammocks, put up interesting art installations, and have soft music playing.

Nothing quite beats the setting sun on the Farm…

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As you wait in line to go under the Arch, there’s a tradition of high fiving everyone you pass.
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And just like that it’s time to go home…

See you on the Farm!

Roadtrippin’ 101

Travel

Whether you’re headed for the beach or a music festival, someone somewhere deemed summer the perfect opportunity for road trips. Immortalized in films and tv shows as a freeing experience, there’s few things as painful as being shoved in a car with a friend and all of your worldly belongings, hoping traffic isn’t this bad for the rest of your 12-hour journey. Despite my distaste for the realities of road trips, I figured I’d share how I’ve managed to survive them thus far.

Plan accordingly. Factor in bathroom breaks and rush hours into your drive time. If you’re gonna hit a major city at exactly 5 p.m., maybe a bathroom break before the mayhem is appropriate. Or maybe you’re visiting a friend on the first weekend of summer vacation – maybe avoid those roads that head straight to the beach. I also have a rule that if you’re making multiple stops, you never want to drive more than three or four hours a day in a row. Sure, that final day may have to be a horrible six-hour drive, but if you can avoid three days in a row of seven hours in the car, you should.

Dress appropriately. Sure it may be chilly at home, but cars heat up. People are hot and sweaty, and it’s pretty gross when you hop out of the car at Grandma’s house to give her a sweaty hug. Short sleeves and layers are your friend. If you run cold, grab a blanket. Wear shoes that aren’t too smelly and are comfortable. Comfort is important because if you’re anything like me, you will inevitably end up snoozing at one point and it ain’t fun to nap in your tightest jeans. I also recommend socks, even if you’re in sandals, but my toes are always cold so I might be biased.

Snackage is key. Hungry people require more stops on the road, so be prepared. A salty snack and a sugary snack will cover basic cravings. I’d avoid chocolate in case of meltage, anything particularly stinky, and anything too messy like Baked Cheetos or powdered donuts. This isn’t to say you should bring a full twelve-course meal. Instead, these snacks should cover you between gas and dinner stops. Hydration is also important. A bottle of water for each person will cover basic needs. I avoid coffee or anything that’ll spill and leave my car smelling of bad milk, but up to you on that one. I would also leave the straws at home; not for environmental reasons necessarily – just because I drink five times faster with a straw and then have to pee five times more frequently.

Pack an activity bag. My mom instilled the power of an activity bag in me since I was a wee thing. Bring along technology and technology free entertainment. Kids might enjoy a toy or a coloring book, while adults might like a Sudoku puzzle or that magazine you’ve been meaning to read. Knitting needles or a crochet hook for those crafty folks will keep your hands busy. Grab a notebook for keeping track of every state license plate you spot or to do a quick game of hangman in the backseat. Boredom can kill a road trip in thirty minutes, trust me.

Music is crucial. I’ve probably said it before but I don’t trust technology. I’d rather go old school with a few prime CDs than rely on my phone. Plus I’d rather save the charge for directions and finding the closest Dunkin Donuts for my random cravings. I recommend having everyone in the car contribute a CD or two that they enjoy (if people still own CDs like my family) and avoid CDs of contention (in my family, the Beatles and Grateful Dead stay out of road trip playlists). I’m a big fan of Stadium Arcadium by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sam’s Town from The Killers. Other good ones are Hozier‘s first album, Signs of Light by The Head and the Heart, Lord Huron’s Strange Trails, and anything by Elbow or Passenger. Or make your own mix CDs – really lean into the throwback. Anything you enjoy and can sing along to or jam along to.

Five Favorites: Amplified Voices

Five Favorites

I started this blog to talk about traveling and my experiences abroad, but being an American abroad means never escaping American politics or celebrities. The number of questions I get about my feelings on Trump or the Kardashians negate the ocean between me and the place I was born and raised.

Yes, I have feelings on the current American political system and its visible (but not new) flaws. Yes, I have feelings about the idiots folks donating so that Kylie Jenner can go from having 900 million dollars to a billion dollars as a “self-made” millionaire. I’ve got a lot of feelings, but my words just don’t seem to cover them.

So I’ve stuck to safe topics, like how I pack for trips and my happy walks around London. My tweets have transitioned from funny daily occurrences to retweets of people whose voices I believe need to be amplified. I don’t want to be silent and I don’t want to be just another voice screaming into the void, hoping for recognition for my insight.

Instead of penning my political thoughts in extensive rambling form or spending the rest of my life apologizing for the stupid things I’ve thought and said as I learned about the world around me (No, but really. I’m so sorry if anything I’ve ever said was ignorant or misguided. I’m still learning. I think about my mistakes every single day and am working towards being a better, more informed human being.), I thought I would share some favorites of mine from right now. These are just five of my favorite voices that I am choosing in this moment to amplify.

Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette

Recommended by a friend, Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix comedy special is an hour-long, but worth every second. Hannah speaks her truth, shares her frustrations, and thoroughly entertains, while weaving her personal stories with art history in such a clever way. She brings a new perspective to what it means to be a comedian, especially now. If you have an hour free and access to Netflix, Hannah Gadsby’s special is worth the watch. It’s heartbreaking and honest. I’m not a huge fan of stand up comedy, but I’ll be watching this again so soon.

Simone Giertz’s TedTalk

One of the great disappointments of my life has been my utter inability to do anything sciencey at all. I’ll never understand space, despite my love of stars, nor will I fully understand how the human body works or why some things go boom when others sizzle. But science can still bring joy to even those of us without a science bone in our bodies. Simone Giertz is an example of bringing joy to the experience. Simone creates “shitty robots”. I’m sure you’ve seen a video of the alarm clock that smacks her awake or the robot that spills soup on her instead of feeding her. They’re amusing and wonderfully flawed.

Simone has a YouTube channel worth subscribing to, but she also recently did a TedTalk. Now just like I hate comedy specials, I also hate TedTalks. This one is an exception. TedTalk is marvelous, insightful, clever, and a love story to the best parts of science. While I won’t be learning to program robots anytime soon, I can’t help but be infected by the joy she brings to these shitty inventions (even while dealing with a brain tumor named Brian). Maybe her shitty robots won’t change the planet, but if they inspire someone to try something new — you never know what might happen.

Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls at the Old Vic

I have read two Patrick Ness novels, The Rest of Us Just Live Here and more recently Release. He intertwines the Young Adult genre with a sweet SciFi in easy to read and clever stories. The rest of his novels are on my to-read list, but when I saw that he had a play in London, I gave it a quick look and quickly forgot about it. (I hadn’t read the book that inspired the play, nor had I watched the film that recently was produced.)

It wasn’t until I was doing a search on TodayTix for cheap entertainment that I saw the tickets for A Monster Calls were for sale and within my price range. A Monster Calls tells the story of a teenage boy visited by the yew tree outside his house. As the boy deals with his mother’s breast cancer and her worsening condition, the yew tree monster tells him stories. The yew tree is brought to life beautifully by ropes strung from the ceiling in one of the most stunning productions I have ever seen. The stage is so minimal and yet so expressive; the story is magical, yet honest; the acting is lovely and raw. The music and words from the stage were joined by the sniffles of the entire audience brought to tears by such a wonderful play. (If you’re in London, it is playing at the Old Vic Theatre and even the highest seats are worth the show.)

dodie’s rainbow

I discovered Dodie Clark on YouTube a few months ago. She makes quirky, sweet music that I find very calming, so I’ve added her songs to my Spotify. (Give In the Middle a listen, as well as Would You Be So Kind and Sick of Losing Soulmates.) She has a unique voice and her videos provided me with a lot of joy upon discovery and introduced me to other lovely musicians as well.

Recently, for Pride month, she posted a song titled “rainbow“. In the middle of figuring out who I am and volunteering for Pride in London, dodie’s song was a gem. The words spoke to me in a time of confusion and loneliness. Give it a listen.

Shaun King’s Twitter

I’m exceeding aware of just how white my five voices are so far. Yes, they represent minority voices and new perspectives, but I’m still questioning how much of my media intake is white. This is where Shaun King comes in.

I actually had to unfollow Shaun King on Twitter because it wasn’t a healthy mindset for me to be in. To pretty constantly see everything wrong with American politics flashing by was both frustrating and upsetting. I didn’t want to ignore what was happening but seeing it every time I logged on wasn’t good for me. I’ve since refollowed in my disuse of the platform, so that when I randomly pop back in, I am getting some reliable news. Shaun King is a great source for the constant inequalities that exist in the United States and around the world. He shares his educated opinion, as well as sharing the opinions of others and facts, and he isn’t afraid to tell the truth.

Other Twitter accounts worth a mention: Mari Copeny (Little Miss Flint), The Associated Press, Terry Crews, Gene Weingarten, and WeRateDogs (because we can always use a little joy in our lives, no matter how horrible they may get).

Just because I am choosing to amplify other voices today does not mean I will be silent, but sometimes it is best to just listen. What voices do you want to amplify today?