Something Important to note…

world-map-painted-with-watercolors_G1Vve6c__LAn important disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Ethiopian Government.

i.e. Everything posted here has been filtered through my world view, and is based on my opinions.

All photos are mine, are public domain, or have the source cited.


Winter Storm Stella


It snowed!


Stella was a good snowstorm that didn’t melt in a few hours. A bit icy, not super fluffy and easy to dig out of, but wonderful nonetheless.

I’ve been wanting one good snowstorm this winter since November. Just when I decided that Spring was sounding nice, it snowed. A lot.

There is a poem that always floats through my head when I’m walking through the snow. I usually only remember a few lines – “Let us walk through the white snow / In a soundless space / with footsteps quiet and slow / under veils of white lace”. I looked it up (see below) and found I mis-remembered it a bit.


The stillness of winter, the way the snow muffles all sound…it feels inherently magical. Perhaps it’s the association with Chrismas, or my birthday, or the childhood excitement of a snow day off from school.

Whatever it is, I’m glad I got to see one more snowstorm before possibly moving to the desert.




Velvet Shoes

winter countryside view


Let us walk in the white snow

In a soundless space;

With footsteps quiet and slow,

At a tranquil pace,

Under veils of white lace.


I shall go shod in silk,

And you in wool,

White as white cow’s milk,

More beautiful

Than the breast of a gull.


We shall walk through the still town

winter forest viewIn a windless peace;

We shall step upon white down,

Upon silver fleece,

Upon softer than these.


We shall walk in velvet shoes:

Wherever we go

Silence will fall like dews

On white silence below.

We shall walk in the snow.

– Elinor Wylie


Happy International Women’s Day!

Only one day feels so inadequate; just like only a month for Black History??

Today has been a good day to sit and think. (And write.) And as always, drink copious amounts of coffee.

This past year I had an epiphany/realization/re commitment to being unapologetically intersectional feminist. I’ve always been a self-labeled feminist, but my idea of what that means has become clearer, and more inclusive over the years. (When I was seven, I simply wanted all the women to win at jeopardy, and all the princesses to slay dragons a la The Hero and the Crown – Robin McKinley; or even save the princes like in Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine.)

Sometimes even I am questioning why I’ve just signed up for 2.5ish years in a country that will ask me to give up some of my freedoms as an unmarried woman. The only answer I have is that “it’s worth it”. Whatever “it” is – this experience I’m on the edge of.

It feels like I’m about to jump out of an airplane for the first time, hoping that the parachute in my bag is packed correctly. I know I’ll be able to pull the handle to open the chute,  but I’m hoping I have the guts to jump out of the plane with my eyes open, enjoying the ride. I’ve read stories of other people’s experiences, I’ve heard about the common challenges, I’ve visited places without running water or electricity for a few weeks; but there’s really nothing that can prepare me for what this transition is going to be like. I’m coming to terms with that. I’ve mostly made peace with that.

I’m really trying.

Anyway, in honor of International Women’s Day, to celebrate small victories, here are some women breaking ceilings that I didn’t hear enough about.


Catherine Cortez Masto is in the Senate representing Nevada. She’s the first Latina senator, and she’s the granddughter of a Mexican immigrant.

(photo credit: NBC)


Tammi Duckworth, in the Senate for Illinois – she’s the first female senator who has seen combat, and the first Thai-American woman ever elected to Congress.


Kamala Harris – She is only the second African-American woman ever elected to the Senate. Representing California, she’s also the first Indian-American senator. Before being elected to the Senate, she served as Attorney-General for CA.

01222016-Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal is representing Washington State, and she’s the first Indian American in the House. She immigrated to the US at 16.

(photo credit – Seattle Times)


Stephanie Murphy is the first Vietnamese-American woman in the House of Representatives, representing Florida.

Other notable women I enjoy following:

Samantha Bee, because everything.

Ana Navarro, Republican Strategist, because she’s a fearless leader in calling Trump on his bullsh*t. Almost everyone else I follow, I follow because I agree with them on policy. She is very clear about what are policy disagreements between political parties, and what are human rights, civil rights, basic common decency and constitutional rights being trampled.

Valarie Kaur – powerful, powerful speaker. If you are ever feeling hopeless, watch her on YouTube.

There are so many more – from Audre Lourde to Roxane Gay; Linda Sarsour to Caitlin Moran. And Jenny Lawson. (The book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened made me sob from laughter. Sobbing. Tears running down my cheeks, clutching my stomach from laughter. Reading that book is some serious self-care.)

The list is endless. So I’ll leave you with a playlist of inspiring TED Talks, if you’re interested.


One Last Time

Every job, every industry has idiosyncrasies – pros and cons – but I’d argue (tiredly, over a cup of black coffee with two add shots) that there isn’t anything worse than working retail during the holidays.

I happen to have had the dubious pleasure of working at the King of Prussia mall – a “retail destination” – aka a really really big mall that most people get lost in, for 4 years. Book rush at a college with only one bookstore (looking at you Villanova) is pretty bad, frappy hour at a busy Starbucks comes close too, but in my biased opinion, Black Friday through to the second week in January at KOP mall is worse.

Tea in glass cups
*internal screaming commences*

It’s not a week you can gird your loins for, or a few hours each day that you just have to keep breathing through. It’s a hellish day that you can never quite recover from, where the music keeps grating, and just when you think “it’s getting better!”, you get slammed with angry people returning things they didn’t want and who are pissed they still hate their families just as much as they did last year. (The week after Christmas? Unequivocally worse than the week before Christmas – which is filled with people looking to buy something, anything, and who then get angry with the sales people that things are out of stock. New Years Eve is the real celebration for people in retail – it’s almost over!!!)

Prior to this, I’ve found it hard to write about retail because I’ve been “stuck” in it so long. It’s been a self-imposed “stuck”, but it’s been too depressing to spend time writing about it when I’m living it. I usually just want to recover during my free time with Netflix, my dog, several warm blankets and a mug of something that may or may not be alcoholic. Before I got back into my vocal training, this season was THE time to smoke. Now I just get jittery with caffeine.

This year though – this could possibly be the last holiday season ruined by working retail. This thought is so painfully hopeful, I’m having trouble trusting it. It’s like an ankle injury that’s been hurting for so long, you don’t want to put your weight down too fast on it – just in case it rolls again. It seems like a fantasy that’s too perfect to be real. Like Santa, or a good book-to-movie translation, or a thoughtful and respectful presidential debate.

(Side note – can we just vote already and get this done? As much as I love watching the late night talk shows – let’s just do this please.)

If you’re reading this and thinking “what??? it isn’t even Halloween??” good for you. You don’t work in customer service. My store put up Christmas things last week, and we weren’t even the first ones I’ve seen.

Anyway, last holiday season in retail – thinking about it I get a turning in my stomach, and a painful leap of joy in my heart. So to my fellow customer service workers who aren’t out yet, here is my oath:

I hereby promise to never forget my roots; to always be nice to sales people, to never sell them out to their managers, to always try to make their day better, and to never never never never ask them to check the mythical back closet for hidden inventory.

So one last time, one last season. Before I retire to my vine and fig tree.

And fly to Ethiopia (!!!!!)

Here we go.

Hidden Magic

Philadelphia has quite a few inconspicuous marvels, and the Barnes museum/foundation is definitely one of them. If you are a fan of French impressionist painters, put this on your itinerary.

I was face-to-face with Degas sketches, quite a few Renior paintings, a few by Van Gogh (which made me star struck), and I found a new love – Cezanne. The colors seemed to dance – it was mesmerizing.

My favorites :