There’s Always Hope

Ciao Readers!

Boy, it’s feast or famine with me and blogging….

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I recently became a federal court of appeals mediator – so it’s basically my job to try and help folks who have been disagreeing, usually for several years or more, to reach a place of agreement (or at least of compromise). On a soon-to-be-related note, I only half-jokingly say that the best thing my mom ever did was give me my name.

I can’t tell you how many puns have been made about my name throughout my life – and I love it – I like to say it’s hard to be pessimistic with my name. In my new role, people often tell me that they are “not optimistic” or that there is “no hope” – to which I always get to agreeably disagree by saying something like “with my name, I have no choice but to have hope” – which usually lightens the mood and (I’d like to think) maybe infects some hope to boot.

I’ve noticed during the pandemic how important hope is to people – I keep seeing murals and rocks with “hope” painted on them. Hope is what keeps us going when all seems lost and we want to throw in the towel. So here is some of the “hope” I have gathered – from a sign in NY to murals in Denver, to rocks in ABQ.  Even in the bleakest of times, there really is always hope!

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” Bernard Williams

Same Time Last Year

Ciao Readers!

I hope this blog finds you and yours doing as well as can be expected. It has been quite some time since I blogged…I suppose like many of us I have just been at a loss for words (I’ve also been transitioning to a new job and semi-living in Denver – blogs to follow). However, on this day-after-Thanksgiving, in the most bizarre of years, having eaten leftovers and watched the usual holiday classics, my nostalgia has taken over and I had to say something….

I got to thinking about all of the “usual” holiday festivities, especially the ones I blogged about last year. While I think I have become pretty mindful these past few years, I know if someone had told me last year “you won’t get to do this next year” I would have stared at the lights a bit longer, lingered over tea with a friend until they kicked us out of the tea room, and soaked in running in a large group with a bit more appreciation. So far this year’s festivities have consisted of venturing out to the Denver train station to see it lit up for the holidays. Photos from that are right below; following that is a repeat of my holiday blog from last year – wanna get a bit nostalgic with me?

Harmonious Holiday Happenings (with helpful hints)

Ciao Readers!  And happy and healthy holidays to you and yours!

Before we head off to Portugal to eat as much seafood as deprived desert-dwellers can (and I run the Lisbon holiday 10k – yay!), I thought I’d share some happy holiday happenings with a helpful hint or two.

It’s been an interesting month and from what I’ve experienced in the universe (and on the inter- webs) many people are suffering.  I try not to be preachy, so I will just share my experience – Headspace is a meditation app that is really all that and a bag of chips (and no, they didn’t pay me to say that).  It’s pretty much how I go to sleep every night, plus there are cool mini meditations (3 minutes) for everything from feeling “overwhelmed” to “frustrated” to fear of flying. If you’re finding yourself frazzled this time of year (or any), you can try it out for free.

So, now that that “public service announcement” is over, on to the festivities.

Almost every year we go to the River of Lights at our bipoapark – it is super sparkly and festive. I blogged about it, complete with tons of photos, two years ago here. Since you can see those photos, I’ll just add a few new ones and a helpful hint. They now sell tickets to what they call the “magic hour” – this means you get in at 5:00 instead of 6:00 when it usually opens.  Now, granted, it is more expensive, but if you can swing it this is the difference: on a normal night you wait in a line of cars to get into the parking lot for 1+ hours, you are then sent to the farthest reaches of a back parking lot located in another state, and then you trudge through the River of Lights like a sardine lined up end-to-end. Pay the few bucks more and you drive right into the parking lot and pretty much have the entire place to yourself – score!!!   It’s gotten so big they even went into part of the Japanese Garden this year:

Another thing I do pretty much every year, but did much differently this year, is attend the Festival of Trees. It’s an annual fundraiser for Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation which works with kids with disabilities. The Albuquerque Convention Center is stuffed full of 100+ trees and 200+ wreaths, plus festivities, a mini village, kids crafts, etc. You can go for free or donate any amount you like. While it’s over for this year, next year you can volunteer to help decorate!  That’s what I did this year – I had no idea they had to start in September or what a precise science tree and wreath decorating were.  I was mostly a “helper elf*” – for example, I made all the bows in the tree behind me in the photo (and sourced the supplies for the Hanukkah tree pictured). (*Okay, full disclosure, I relegated myself to helper elf as I don’t seem to have the decorating touch – the cool (at least I thought so) travel/foodie wreath I sourced and made (first photo) was in the silent auction – and purchased by me, the only bidder!)  Steve and I even went to the opening night shindig.  Fun, festive, and for a good cause:

Finally, what Festivus would be complete without a festive holiday run and an indulgent ooh-laa-laa fancy-pants tea at St. James Tea Room:

Whatever you do or do not celebrate Dear Readers, I hope you find a nice warm peaceful space this holiday season.  Here’s to a bright 2020!!!

Peaceful Pandemic-Times Pics (a photo anthology)

Ciao Readers!

How are you doing?  Strange times, no doubt.  I am doing fairly well as long as I stick to my morning runs, evening walks and chillaxing at home.  I know why we’re doing it, but as someone who’s used to reading people, all the masks make me feel discombobulated, so I’ve pretty much stopped going anywhere. There’s been some amazing scenery on my walks and runs, with the spattering of cool painted rocks to make me smile (and some look like they were put there just for me).  Here are some of the things keeping me mindful and grounded (as much as possible) – walk with me….

All the pretty plants, scenery,  and rocks brighten up my daily runs:

The Sandias always make me feel more peaceful, whether I’m looking at them or hiking on them:

And, last but not least, I can watch these adorable twin brothers for hours…pure joy!

Until next time Dear Readers, stay healthy, breathe deeply, and be well.

An Expat Interview with Me (or a self-centered diversion)

Ciao Dear Readers!

Since my last post I have been wanting to blog again, but I haven’t come up with anything original or better than all of the great uplifting and insightful pandemic-life posts out there.

Somehow in the middle of this, I was asked to, and did, participate in an interview with an online Expat website. I was kinda hoping there would be more edits and less type-o’s, but overall, reading it brings back fond and funny memories of living in Italy. I absolutely can’t wait to get back there once life starts back up. In the meantime, if you’re interested in my self-centered diversion: https://www.expatarrivals.com/article/interview-hope-american-expat-who-lived-florence

I hope you all are safe and mentally well. Until next time!

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine – R.E.M.

Ciao Readers!  I am happy to have this forum to reach out to you, wherever you are, say “hello” and offer my warm thoughts for you and yours.

So, I knew I wanted to say something in these strange times, but I didn’t know what. It just came to me on a long walk (one of many over the past weeks). I wanted to share my thoughts about the “silver linings” to the apocalypse. I completely understand that folks are suffering – physically, financially, psychologically – and I do not mean to diminish their suffering. But for me, I have to look ahead and try and glean the good that will come to stay out of the dark. So, in no particular order, here are some of the long-term “positives” I think will result:

U.S. Society: I think the pandemic is showing us where our societal structural fabric is weak and needs adjustments. This situation has shed (even more) light on the need for universal health care, paid sick leave, fair wages, childcare and more. It has also forced the justice system to ask questions like “should we really be keeping a 70 year-old locked up for inability to pay a jaywalking fine right now?” (which begs the question, should we ever?). On a more human societal note, I think it is making us appreciate our interconnectedness and motivating people to help others. Even the small things, like more patience at the grocery and a kind word for the cashiers, can start ripple effects of good in the universe.

Corporations: This seems like a “rubber hits the road” moment where we get to truly see if corporations are or are not good global citizens. When Amazon raised its and Whole Foods’ employees wages by 2$/hr., I felt much better about shopping with them. I am also very impressed with t-mobile giving unlimited data, Xfinity free hot spots, and Audible free books to help us all through. In contrast, when McDonalds actively lobbied against paid sick time in the stimulus bill, it reinforced the fact that it is good that I haven’t stepped foot in one since I worked there (ages 14 – 16, yes, against child labor laws). Don’t get me started on Hobby Lobby, which I was already boycotting before this (if you want to read their rationale for staying open and making people come to work, you can read it here). If I get to be preachy at all, I would ask that you think carefully in the future about the corporations to which you’re giving your hard earned money.

Global/Cultural: This one’s a little hard, because I know there have been many incidences of racism.  However, on the bright side, I think we have all been made more aware of what other countries and peoples are going through and what they have or have not done in response. Maybe we gain some empathy for suffering Italians and some appreciation for law-respecting South Koreans.  Maybe we also decide that the liberty/safety balance in China is more than we are willing to give; maybe not.  Regardless of what our personal perspectives are, we are probably getting more world news now than we ever have and learning about other countries and their people on a very human level. I am personally still mind-boggled by all of the photos I have seen of Italians queuing politely outside grocery stores (who knew they actually could?!).

Personally:  I could go on about this one for a long time (as I am guessing you can as well – feel free to share in the comments). For those of you who know me, you know I can be a bit of a control freak. I see this as the universe’s way of finally ingraining the old proverb about “learning what you can’t control” into my thick skull….we shall see.  And even though I am fortunate and still have tons of work to do every day (which I should be doing now instead of writing this), there does seem to be more time to stop and smell the metaphorical roses. So, I will leave you as I often do, returning to food – two days ago Steve and I made pasta from hand (something we keep “meaning” to do but never seem to get around to). I was too busy rolling and covered in flour to take photos of the process, but pretend you can smell and taste the final product (that’s Tuscan sausage/kale/white bean sauce)…….   Until next time!

 

Songs for Solidarity: Italians Unite through music from balconies, terraces and windows

Ciao readers!

So, I was going to blog about how amazing Italians are in the face of adversity – they’ve been having terrace “flash mobs” during this lock-down and I have seen pictures of them queuing in an orderly fashion at grocery stores (who knew?!), but this post from Girl in Florence already does the best job. Scroll down the post and you can see video clips from all over Italy. Grazie!    Source: Songs for Solidarity: Italians Unite through music from balconies, terraces and windows

Five Reasons to Boycott Valentine’s Day

Ciao Readers! Today’s re-blog post is dedicated to my friend who has almost made me rethink my stance on V-Day. She enjoys it so much and is so kind that I was inspired to make her a V-day present with my own two hands. But lest you think I have succumbed to big Hallmark, at this time I still stand by this – my most “liked” post of all time. The real test will be if you see it re-posted again here next year or not…..

New Mexico to Italy

Ciao Readers!  Happy belated New Year to you and Birthday to me!

So, I think I am making reposting this – my most “liked” post ever – a yearly tradition. Enjoy!

Originally posted in February of 2016:

So, today I go off on a tangent (i.e. mini-rant); one of my only posts not about travel or food. I figure, I have this grand public forum, why not totally abuse it?  If you don’t know this about me, I HATE (yes H-A-T-E) Valentine’s Day and have since I was a teenager.  I honestly think it is the worst, most sadistic/masochistic, commercialised abomination ever.  I hope you’ll agree and join my 3-decades long boycott.  Here’s why…. (in no specific order and somewhat redundant)….

  1. No one ends up satisfied.  Seriously, how many people are out there right now building up their expectations for Valentine’s Day and how many people are fretting about…

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