Gratitudes for 2020

On the eve of Thanksgiving 2020, I am grateful. 

I am grateful for my husband, my family, my team members, my friends. I am grateful for my health, for the roof over my head, for the food on my plate. I am grateful to still have a brand to nurture, to still have a job. 

I am also grateful for some very “2020 specific” people and things, which have made this “unprecedented” (may I never hear this word again) year not only a teaching year, but an interesting, and sometimes yes, even enjoyable, year. Here is my “special 2020 gratitude list.” 

  1. Thank you Black Lives Matter activists. For teaching me about systematic racism, white privilege, white supremacy, and what I can do differently. 
  2. Thank you Garrett Graff. For the books you have written (The Only Plane in the Sky remains my top book of 2020), but even more for the various articles you have written on the state of our country in 2020 which have helped me understand. Two stand out: this one from March in The Atlantic and the one from earlier this month in Wired Magazine that helped me better understand my adopted country.
  3. Thank you to my friends who have different political opinions than mine. While I do not agree with you, you expand my thinking and contribute to my understanding of what is important to people. 
  4. Thank you Hitha Palepu. I am grateful for your content, ranging from 5 Smart Reads to your book recommendations. I am grateful for the playlists you share. I am grateful that you love my skin care brand. 
  5. Thank you Victoria Hislop. I have consumed your books anytime I have needed to go back to Greece in my head (which has been quite often lately…). 
  6. Thank you The Weeknd. You are my 2020 soundtrack. Thanks to you, I got out of bed when I didn’t want to, I ran faster when I wanted to quit, and I danced when I needed to. 
  7. Thank you to my three passports. I have sometimes taken you for granted, even forgotten I had you. But not this year. Not this year. 
  8. Thank you Universe. You sent me two adorable sister kittens in mid-April. They have been my favorite pandemic-coping strategy. You knew what I needed even before I did. 

Recommitting to Reading

This is week 42 of year 2020, yet I am only on my 23rd book… While I usually read an average of one book every week or ten days, I have had a harder time reading over the last couple of months. This may have to do with the fact that I fell into the black hole of Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series (the original version, in Swedish, based on the amazing crime novels by Henning Mankell). Or it may have to do with the fact that my brain is so tired from dealing with our current reality that it has no bandwidth for reading.  

Regardless of why, I am recommitting to reading. And I have lots of books I am really excited to get in to. 

This week, I am reading Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock. I met Jane a few years ago, when she attended book club in Georgetown for her book Mortal Friends (still one of my favorites from book club), and she fascinates me – for many reasons including the fact that she is a professional poker player (and yes, Bluff features a female poker player…). 

Then, I will read the following (in which order I don’t yet know). 

Richard Branson: Losing my Virginity. This book has been traveling with me between DC, Hammond, Geneva, and Tinos for the last six months. It may be the best travelled book I own… 

Kelly DiNardo: Living the Sutras. Kelly gifted me this book over a year ago after she invited me to her studio Past Tense to attend a yoga class. And boy do I need more yoga and more calm in my life… 

Victoria Hislop: three more books because I love her writing that much and need to travel in my head… preferably back to Greece. The Last Dance (a collection of ten short stories set in Athens and various Greek villages), The Thread (set in Thessaloniki in northern Greece), and The Sunrise (set in Cyprus… I am really venturing out of my comfort zone with this one!).

Brenda Janowitz: The Grace Kelly Dress. Because I need a “summer read” even though we are technically in fall. (Note: this is not in the photo because it is on its way to me from Amazon even though I promised myself not to buy any new books until I had read all others…). 

Casper ter Kuile: The Power of Ritual. This was recommended by Seth Mattison on a webinar I listened to a few weeks ago, and is about crafting rituals that promote connection and wellbeing. 

Bill Murphy Jr.: The Intelligent Entrepreneur. This tells the stories of ten Harvard Business School grads who started their own businesses, and how they became super successful. One of them is Marla Malcolm Beck of Bluemercury

What are you reading right now?

Five Things I Can’t Live Without

Last week my friend Judith wrote about the five things that she can’t live without – specifically, the five things she can’t live without as informed by COVID-19, things which the past six months have either revealed or confirmed (not counting family, friends, pets, or facial coverings).

This inspired me to do the same. Here are my five things I can’t live without right now. 

  • Scented candles. I live by Aveda’s Shampure candles and love the ritual of lighting them first thing in the morning, and lighting them again in the evening. I have them on between 5 am and 8 am, and after 7 pm. Somehow, they have become signs of “this is not work hours” when working from home. 
  • Non-alcoholic beer. I committed early this year to not drink alcohol three days per week. And global pandemic or not, I am sticking to this! It’s hard, perhaps harder because of the current state of the world, so I trick my brain into thinking that my delicious Heineken 0 (my favorite of all of the brands I have tried) is just as magical as a glass of chardonnay. 
  • Fiction. I usually read 75% non-fiction, but have been reading mostly fiction for the past six months. I am still trying to finish the last non-fiction book I started two months ago… I think my brain needs to escape more than usual, and non-fiction is not an escape. I am particularly addicted to anything written by Victoria Hislop, whose historical novels set in Greece take me to my happy place. 
  • My 9-grids. I have planned and replanned 2020 about seven times, and we are only in early September. This planning and brainstorming tool which I love and have been using for years has been particularly useful during these times of constant change, and help me feel in control.
  • Webinars and virtual conferences from leading industry sources. I miss learning about my industry, I miss hearing from other brand founders and beauty subject matter experts. I have particularly enjoyed the events from CEW, Beauty Independent, and Glossy+ – from weekly webinars to day-long conferences (and the beauty of these events is the presenters are on camera, but I am not!).

What are the five things you have (re-)discovered that you can’t live without these days?