Edition Number 26 - GREETINGS FROM LA
Hi Everyone,

Are you going crazy yet? Have you accepted this new crazy? The word crazy often gets tossed around casually: “I’m crazed,” “That’s crazy,” “He’s crazy,” “What a crazy idea!” and so on and so forth and, yet, for now, life truly is crazy. It’s been a strange, maddening FIVE months in this god-forsaken pandemic and life as we all knew it has been forever toppled, dismantled and thrown out the window. I have friends who literally abandoned apartments in NYC, said buh-bye and don’t know when or if they’ll ever return let alone when we will see each other again. One friend moved to Sweden, pandemic groceries still in the refrigerator. (Despite their failing herd immunity strategy, he shares it is much less crazy than NY, even quite sane.) 

Speaking of NY, TBD Mama has left the building. For LA. Which is where I’m from and, for now, quite grateful to be. While the mythology of NYC will live on for me in heart, spirit and mind forever, the reality of life in the city felt insurmountable, even dangerous, especially with a new baby and no family nearby. LA is where I was born and my roots here run deep. Plus, sunshine + beach time is my favorite remedy, and LA has plenty of both, easily distanced and for free.  

Here’s what else has been happening. My Rainbow Medicine baby was born, or returned, at the peak of the virus, on April 24th. She was born in New Jersey, we won’t tell her that, and it was surreal-slash-stressful for many reasons related to COVID and then for reasons not related to COVID, as hospital birthing in general in most parts of the U.S. remains stubbornly clinical, outdated and downright hostile to birthing people. The most important thing, however, is that she and I are safe and healthy! She is thriving. Her name is Amara which has several meanings but we choose it for the Sanskrit one, which translates to Eternal One. She’s a fierce little warrior who jumped through fire to come through to me. Once she did and we were back home in Chelsea, we decided it was time to leave. 

Around her, the world has continued to unravel. Perhaps it must in order to be put back together again in a saner, more loving-kind and sustainable way. The protests have revealed the other virus plaguing the country and like so many of you, I alternate between feeling sickened to my core and deeply hopeful in my heart. 

In this very belated edition, I’ve included some Covid and non-Covid food for thought including a piece in The Atlantic proposing the not-so-radical idea to move school outdoors; a New York Times article which breaks down how we can stop the ferocious backslide working women, particularly moms, face today during the lockdowns, and a piece on five unconventional five-minute ways to physically relieve stress. I’ve also included an article summarizing which countries will take Americans these days (not many) and one of many good essays on how to think about anti-racism in order to raise an anti-racist child. Note to self: It starts within.

On a final note, I am trying to embrace living without a plan. Which feels so uncomfortable! There are no more plans anymore, only hopes, goals and intentionsor as a friend put itonly yesterday, today, and, hopefully tomorrow.  

With hope for a better tomorrow,

Learn outside. At least that’s the suggestion coming from a growing group of activists and educators referencing best practices from alternative Forest Schools, yes, schools that take place in the forest, to the way school is resuming in Italy, Denmark and how it has been taught in less developed countries around the globe, pandemic or not.  

It might sound counter intuitive, doesn't going back to school imply being inside a tiny building with tiny desks and uncomfortable chairs and poorly ventilated classrooms? Not necessarily! If we consider the benefits of outdoor learning, even if it can’t be on the beach or in the woods and is held, say, in a tented parking lot, the current science states that outdoor transmission is 20x less than indoor which is a far less risky proposition for parents, teachers and students who are understandably terrified about potential rampant spread.  

While this model isn’t tenable in intemperate climates or cramped cities there is collective desperation for new solutions to antiquated, broken education models. With some chutzpah and imagination the idea could be implemented, at least part time, given all the under-utilized real estate in cities (think office courtyards, playgrounds, even rooftops) and far more obvious spaces in the country. For regions that can do this fairly easily and consistently, I’m talking to you CALIFORNIA, why isn’t this seriously being considered? We all want our kids going to school with other humans, safely. We all are making tough choices whether we choose to send kids back to physical school, opt for 100% online learning, a hybrid model, a homeschool model, a pod model, or none of the above. 

Who really knows the risks vs. benefits of any of these “choices?” Who knows if all-day, screen-only “learning” or isolated, homogenous home “pods” will give kids an advantage or set them back? We won’t know until we try. Teaching outdoors sounds like something more cities and suburbs should try. It sounds FUN for our kids too. Now, don’t they deserve more of that? 

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the pandemic, “is having devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls.” Not shocking. Approximately 60% of the jobs eliminated at the onset of the pandemic were held by women. The percentage of women in the U.S, workforce has dropped below what it was in 1986. Women all around the world are disproportionately taking on additional labor for child care-slash-schooling and are being penalized by employers for having to do so. 

Single moms have been particularly hard hit, as have women of color who have been slammed with a confluence of lost income that may never return, stalled or ineligibility for unemployment benefits, higher-risk jobs, additional responsibilities at home, and no reliable, affordable, in-person schooling in sight. 

So what’s a working mama to do? Here are some solutions proposed by Allison Robinson, CEO and founder of The Mom Project, a leader in helping businesses attract and retain female talent.

GET FLEXIBLE - Tech company workers shouldn’t be the only ones to work flexibly. This should apply everywhere, across all income brackets, and when working at home isn’t an option let’s rethink the dysfunctional five day, 9-5/6/7pm model. If you’re the boss, model the schedule yourself and adjust humanely.

BE COMPASSIONATE - Create a human-centric workplace. If that place is “remote” then tune in to your people more and show them you are present, willing and available to hear their evolving needs and challenges. You know, be a real PERSON.

TRAIN YOUR TEAMS - Over communicate, listen and repeat. Don’t expect people to figure out solutions to multiple problems on their own.

EXPAND INCLUSION & DIVERSITY - Now is the time to double down on lip service and IG posts with transparent actions that build better brands with authentically inclusive people and practices.  

Brands have a unique challenge and opportunity right now to build the right type of legacy tomorrow. Let’s hope they consider the value of working mothers into their post COVID equations.
Gone are the days when a U.S. passport was a proud ticket to anywhere. After the nation’s operatic scale of federal bungling slash negligence slash insert your own word choice, I wouldn’t want me either! But if you are curious who will currently take us, despite the State Department strongly advising against leaving the country at all, or dream of a trip farther than your backyard, read on. 

Not on this list: Most countries everywhere. Especially in Europe. And Asia. And don’t forget Canada. Oh, but the United Arab Emirates welcomes Americans with open arms which is awesome since I’d love to risk a dose of COVID-19 with a side of Sharia law. Most of the Caribbean is open too, with minimal restrictions, but this speaks more to desperation for dollars than credible safety or science.  

Listen, I sure would love a vacation, anywhere! We deserve one! Or three! But I already flew on a plane in the Pandemic, once, on Delta (it was actually fine) and I think I’ll take a hard pass to repeat the bizarre experience again. For now, I’ll opt for the backyard, or someone else’s within driving distance, for the foreseeable future!
If I could draw well, and I can’t, my brain might look like a dozen exploded eggs—one sticky, sprawling, scrambled mess. I imagine many of you may feel similarly these days, explosive and ready to explode, overloaded, messy. While I tend to be skeptical of five minute anything let alone solutions to stress, I’m game to try anything at this point in the long Corona game. These tips might be head-scratchers at first glance (the idea of submerging one’s head in ice water to calm down seems totally nuts) but then I remind myself to practice what I preach to my son and, well, be open to new things. 

Here are five stress-relieving methods offered by Jenny Taitz, author of “End Emotional Eating” and assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at UCLA:

One - Music as medicine. CALM music is key rather than music that you “love” or that validates your current emotional state (i.e. aggro, lonely, insane etc.)

Two - Mini Plunge Pool….for your face? Apparently, plunging one’s face in a bowl of ice water for 15-30 seconds activates the “dive response” reflex that, in turn, “dampens your physiological and emotional intensity.”

Three - Pace Your Breath. This is a familiar, and effective tool for me I’ve used ever since I struggled with TMJ years ago. There are a range of ways to practice this but one way is to inhale for five seconds, hold for five seconds, and exhale for 5 seconds. Keep repeating and you will feel calmer.

Four - Anchor Your Body. This is a good one too. Dig your heels into the ground, earth is preferable but a floor works, and center your body. The practice forces you to return to the present moment which is a better place to observe, and ideally release, anxious thoughts.

Five - Hyperventilate. Now this one I have not tried. The practice apparently helps if you struggle with physical manifestations of anxiety, like shortness of breath or muscle tension. By intentionally replicating these uncomfortable sensations, the body trains itself to tolerate the real stress better. Reverse psychology. Hmmm.

Let me know how and if any of these work for you! Full list below via the New York Times. 
There have been several (overdue) articles, essays and posts on this crucial topic, many of which are very unsettling to read because they challenge and disrupt our own assumptions about what it actually means to be racist and live in a world that is fundamentally a racist one.

I’m including two critical pieces here although I could share many more. The first is penned by Kaerie Daniel, a black mother, advocate and writer and it's published via the CBC (Canadian Broadcast Corp) which publishes an excellent section on parenting. The author breaks down specific ways for non-black parents to raise anti-racist kids, firstly by looking in the mirror ourselves to ask if we are racist parents. It's not a black or white answer.

I’m also including this insightful glossary of racism-related terms via the Conscious Kid since I too am learning how to become racially curious, accountable and literate. But I’m not racist, I reflexively cry! I’m married to a black man! I have black friends! I support BLM! Yet none of these equate being actively, intentionally anti-racist, nor do they begin to negate all kinds of “white” privilege I have inherited and enjoyed even though I am a multi-racial woman. I have certainly spent most days from a privileged perch in a White-centered world. Does that make me a bad person? No. But does that provide me with an opportunity and obligation to care and do more? For me, the answer is a resounding yes. 

White privilege, as defined by The Conscious Kid, “refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally, white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it. White privilege is not the suggestion that white people have never struggled or had it hard, but that race/skin color is not one of the things making it harder.” 

When I re-read that I am overcome with guilt, some shame, plenty of anger and sadness. Being “not racist” I have realized, isn’t constructive, supportive, or enough. Being anti-racist, I am learning, is active, intentional and requires work. Being anti-racist takes acts of kindness, curiosity, critical thinking and compassionate listening, a humble willingness to support, validate and center black people’s stories and experiences before jumping defensively to my own. Being anti-racist is uncomfortable and takes much more work than I ever have done. 

There is so much work to do as a Euro-Centric world in order to understand and unpack the collective privileges too many enjoy on the backs of black and brown people, inherited privileges bestowed without having had to lift a finger. There is so much work for me to do, privately and publicly, in order to actively become anti-racist myself, before I can raise anti-racist kids. I hope we all can stay open-minded, and hearted on this topic, and consider the suggestions offered by the writer below.