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Inspired by New York Times writers who shared their “One Bright Thing” last week, our Network team members took pen to paper to share their one bright thing—a special moment, a ritual, a person—bringing them joy during this challenging, uncertain time.  We share them below.

Sunset on the Roof – Chris

As the initial change of being at home all day has worn off and started to feel more like the norm, my wife and I are trying to incorporate different little things into parts of our day to break up the monotony. This week we started to go up to our roof for sunset (we bring up a bluetooth speaker and alternate who gets to choose the music!). We both are busy at work (which we are thankful for), but the physical act of going up to our roof and watching the sunset has been great in so many ways—it is a 15-20 minute break; it is a little tradition we can look forward to every day, and as we look out on our view, it is a reminder of everything going on in our city. I am not sure if we will continue this every day, or if we will find other new ideas to incorporate, but the idea of breaking up the day to day with even a tiny event like this has been a helpful bright spot for both of us.

Cooking Dinner – Tim

It may sound silly, but cooking dinner is one of the most enjoyable parts of my day—screens are away, music is on, focus is required as well as creativity. Usually, there’s a glass of wine to fuel the activity. Often there is an ingredient missing or there is something in the fridge that maybe wasn’t your first choice for that night but you gotta make the meal work somehow—a lesson that lends itself to life in general. Of course, the happiest moment is when I bring out the food (nicely plated . . . don’t forget about the presentation!) to my girlfriend and she exclaims “oh wow!” as if I have pulled off some sorcery in a laboratory. Then it’s on to tasting the food and the best reviews are when everyone is quiet and too busy eating—that means the food was darn good.

Neighborhood Walks – Jessie

I had just returned to work from maternity leave a few days before our schools closed and we began working from home indefinitely.  In some ways, this made the transition feel less intense—I was used to being at home most of the time—but in others, it made it even more stark—I went from spending all day caring for my infant son to diving head first into an extremely busy work environment, where the world events made our mission and work feel even more urgent.  During maternity leave, I found that leaving the house at least once each day, even to grab a cup of coffee at the cafe on my corner, made the days seem much less tedious.  During this period of self-isolation, I have continued to make a point to get outside each day (while maintaining social distance).  Each evening, during a brief period between the end of the work day and my son’s bedtime, my husband, my son, and I take a walk around our neighborhood.  I am struck daily by the contrast between the dark, scary events occurring in our city and around the world and the vibrant joy of spring erupting all around us.  Our neighborhood is full of cherry trees, magnolia trees, daffodils, and hyacinths.  They remind us that even as our lives and world have changed in extraordinary ways, the world continues, and there will be light after this darkness.  Our walks often have us outside at 7 pm, when many in our neighborhood join in the city cheer for essential workers.  Each day, we experience this moment on a different block, giving us insight into the micro-communities of our neighborhood.  Some blocks have cowbells and noisemakers.  On some, neighbors clap from brownstone stoops and third floor windows.  Some days, cars honk as they drive down the street.  I am moved by the unity that this moment creates, connecting us all in our love for our city and our appreciation for those who do not have the luxury of working from home, but who are sacrificing their safety to keep us safe.

Songs of Comfort – Emily

I have found myself lately in a loop of doing—working, cleaning, baking, exercising, teaching and spending time with my kids—and feeling constantly like I’m not doing enough on any front.  I’ve puzzled over this feeling of constantly working and yet not being as productive as I would like.  In some ways, it’s a feeling I am accustomed to because there is always more to be done; in other ways, it’s a new feeling, the constant nagging sensation that I ought to be doing more in a completely different arena than I am currently focused on.  As I’m working on my laptop, out of the corner of my eye, I sense acutely the pile-up of papers and junk on the table that needs organizing, the dust bunnies starting to form in the corners of the living room, my 3-year-old spending a little too much time on a laptop, albeit on an educational app.  So I’m caught in this loop of doing and yet not doing enough.  But then my bright thing that breaks the endless loop:  I have discovered the most beautiful music being created all over social media—Yo Yo Ma creating #songsofcomfort, two members of the Chicago Symphony playing a special arrangement of a beloved classic, and so many others.  It’s hard to tell if the music is particularly beautiful or if it is fulfilling some great need for joy and peace at this particular moment of our collective struggle.  Whatever it is, for a moment, time stands still without any demands, and the music instead gives to me, for which I am deeply grateful.

Crossword – Samreen

I keep reading and seeing how everyone is so “bored at home,” and lately I have felt frustrated that I haven’t had the luxury of feeling bored at home. I feel like I can always be doing more—at work, checking in with family and friends, cleaning and cooking, working out, and apparently learning new skills like some people are doing? Most of my day feels like I am checking off items from a to do list, going to bed, and doing the same over and over. The bright thing this week is that my boyfriend and I started to do the NYT crossword together before bed each night. We used to do this every night without fail until a couple of months ago when things got crazy and hectic for us both. Before he moved to NYC, we would do the crossword throughout the day and text each other answers, and by the end of the day, we would have finished the crossword. It reminds me of all the things that his brain is full of—every single movie and TV fact, all things politics and sports, and strange trivia. It’s a bright spot to my day to pause and get a little ‘us’ time—mostly because we don’t attempt to do the Saturday puzzle!

Moments of Engagement with My Kids – Paola

Anyone who thinks being home with young kids during this time is easy is not working or not honest! It has been such a challenge to try to be productive while refereeing, mediating, teaching, potty training, and generally making sure no one gets hurt. I pride myself on being a relatively quick worker, but have struggled to maintain my own levels of expectations for myself in this new world.  While I am worried about the academic progress of my own kindergartener, this has been so much harder for my three-year-old, who doesn’t really understand why things have changed. His sister also has online school and Facetime with her friends. She is generally more independent while he struggles to understand why everyone suddenly expects him to be able to do things on his own.   A bright spot for me this week is letting go of the worry and trying to make sure that he gets small bits of undivided attention that celebrate what he loves—five minutes watching him do a puzzle, or celebrating a house that he built with Magnatiles and blocks has brought calm to both of us.  While I was so focused on making sure his sister is completing her leveled reading, I now take a few minutes each day to remember to read one of his board books. He feels more secure this week because I am intentionally giving him what he wants: watching him grow, participating in what makes him happy and learning, even though it takes very little time. I feel like it might not be perfect, but we are making moments of joy and peace in a time that can be incredibly scary.

Finding my Green Thumb – Angela 

I’ve been forbidden from bringing more greenery into my apartment until I become a better plant caretaker.  I decided a few days ago, the time to learn is now.  My mother gifted me a large pot of succulents a couple years ago. It was vibrant and varied when I got it . . . well landscaped/designed with various stones, strings of pearls hanging from the sides, and numerous varieties of Echeveria and a small cactus.   I put the pot in a south facing window and left it alone other than to water it every couple weeks. About 6 months later, I noticed that the strings of pearls were drying out and some of the other plants started growing in odd directions exposing long woody stems. I watered more.  I watered less. I shifted the pot into different levels of sun. Nothing seemed to make the string of pearls come alive or the rest of the plants grow on a regular trajectory.  Eventually, several plants died.  The ones that remained were the truly sturdy, unkillable kind—the little cactus and a few of the heartier Echeverias.  I Googled a couple days ago: why do my succulents bend in different directions?  I learned this is called “stretching” in response to lack of sunlight. I watched several Youtube videos on how to prune the stretched succulents and replant the cuttings. I did it!  And, now have two pots of healthy looking succulents in the brightest window in my apartment.  My new succulents are my bright spot.   I enjoyed working on a hands-on project (that I can eventually migrate to my roof in the nice weather), and I hope this brings me closer to having the plant-ban in my apartment lifted so I can acquire a more challenging variety of plant to work with in the future! 

The Dog Park – Melanie

Our local dog park is truly the brightest thing for me these days.  Maybe because it’s the only place I go besides the grocery store.  But, more likely, it’s because my five year old son is so excited about it lately.  He spent the first few weeks of isolation not wanting to go outside, even though we’re in the very fortunate position of having a yard with a swing set and a pond.  One day I convinced him to take our dog to the dog park with me, and from then on, he’s made it our thing.  Our favorite time now is right after breakfast, so around 7:15/7:30.  No one is there, and the light is getting more and more vibrant as the days get longer.  We really can’t get enough of it.

Charity Cycling – David

I used to cycle a lot (100+ miles a week) and ride the Houston MS 150, an annual 150 mile ride to raise money to fight MS, every year. One of the sad things about my move to NYC was not participating in that ride anymore and generally reducing the amount of time I spent on a bike (stationary or moving). However, in quarantine I have been able to find a lot more time to ride my bike and have decided to start my own charity ride to replace the MS 150 – in the first few days since I launched it, we have already raised over $2100 for Direct Relief to fight against COVID-19. The donations and enthusiastic support from my friends has been a bright spot for me in my day. 

One Bright Spring Thing – Tyler

I always look forward to a few events in the spring that help ground me, pull me out of the winter feels, and offer a little reprieve from city life. This week, I was supposed to be on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. Spring is also a busy time along the Atlantic Flyway and, as a birder, it pains me a little to not be able to go on a weekend trip to Cape May or Hawk Mountain to witness the migration this year. As a substitute for some of this, I’ve been bringing my camera and macro lens on walks around the neighborhood to take photos of plants in bloom, which has become one bright thing for me to look forward to. Rather than identifying birds, I’ve been learning a lot about ornamental plants and their care. I’ve also gotten into gardening videos on YouTube, which are also really soothing.

Bed Bug Free Furniture – Kelly

Last June I convinced myself I had bed bugs. I kept getting “bites” on my legs and arms. After three sleepless nights, I went out and bought all new furniture at Pottery Barn on the 4th of July. I tried to remove all my old furniture to the curb, but 1) realized I wasn’t able to move it by myself, 2) after a quick Google search realized this was not allowed. Two days later the exterminator came to my apartment. Needless to say, there was no evidence of bed bugs. But now I have all new comfy furniture, and it brings me joy during this quarantine. I am also thankful that I don’t have bed bugs, because that would be awful right now!

Sunbathing – Jenni

I have moved around quite a bit and landed in New Mexico about two years ago. Prior to this, I lived in Seattle for 10 years. I love many things about Seattle but truly struggled with the gray skies and lack of light for eight – nine months out of the year.  Other than the wild beauty, one of the main reasons I came to New Mexico was to see and feel the sun again. By chance, where I am living has a strange little private rooftop area that I have ignored for the last year that I lived here. A few weeks ago,  it occurred to me that I should clean up the rooftop space and use it. I now spend a little time everyday out there, consciously doing nothing other than enjoying being outside in the sunshine. It is one of the best parts of my day.

New Apartment – Jourdan 

As many of you know for the past two weeks I have been in the process of moving. It has had a lot of ups and downs dealing with no Internet and moving companies cancelling last minute. So when we finally moved in and were able to settle down, enjoy the extra space, and eat dinner at our new table it was a great feeling and huge weight lifted off our shoulders. There are so many things to  be excited about and thankful for. We have our own washer and dryer, there are beautiful parks in walking distance, and there’s parking! I also bought a new TV for the living room, and let’s just say I haven’t moved from the couch much. 

Bad Movies – Julie

With my wife not feeling well over the last few weeks we have embraced some of the best 80s and 90s flicks, many of which are fantastically bad, but also “oh so good” when it comes to feelings of nostalgia.  Even while she was in isolation, we were able to use movies as a way to continue to feel connected. I would watch the movie downstairs from the living room and she would watch it in the bedroom, timing it just right so that they would be synched, creating a surround-sound like experience in our house. Since she has been able to leave isolation we have watched all three Jaws movies, and the first to Jurassic Park movies. Did you know Jaws 3 was in 3D? It made for some strange visual effects. While these movies are a bit ridiculous they always seem to lead to great commentary and some much needed, very hearty, laughs.

Family Time – Jen

My bright “thing” is family time. This transition during the busiest months of recruitment and enrollment has been challenging. I previously shared that although I am at home with Kevin and thankfully my mom, I haven’t truly been able to spend time with them. As of this week we started doing lunch and/or dinner together. We talk, laugh, share what our day is like and are just able to enjoy time together. Kevin and I have also started trying to incorporate play time. We watch a movie/show or enjoy some board games. 

Music Everywhere, All the Time – Kruti

I find endless joy in music, something I share in common with my parents and brother. I had forgotten how lovely it was to be around others that feel so deeply for it as I do. I usually wake up to my parents making tea and singing. My brother is also a classically trained singer, and we share an attached bathroom, so at about 10 AM every morning I listen to him belt out Italian operas (if any of you have been in meetings with me during this time and I randomly go on mute, this is why. I keep reminding him that I’m home but I don’t think it has sunk in yet). My dad’s empty nester hobby has been to put speakers in every room, including our backyard. So as soon as my parents start preparing dinner, the house echoes with hindi songs from the 70s and our favorite symphonies. There is just a constant hum of beautiful melodies – whether from whistling, humming, singing, playing the piano or from putting on a record – that fills the home. It takes me to another place, which is especially needed and welcomed right now.

Clyde – Josh

Clyde is a 2 year-old Australian Shepherd-Poodle mix. Nearly every night, I take Clyde out for the last time of the day before everyone calls it a night. We started this routine months ago and it’s nice to have a sense of normalcy on a regular basis, no matter how small. When I’m done taking Clyde out, he knows it’s time for bed and he waits patiently in the hallway as I take off my coat and shoes. I pick him up, carry him to his bed, and drop him off for the night where he habitually stays until the morning. I try to make time to be with Clyde during the day. But on the days where time is flying and my focus is elsewhere, I often forget and this daily ritual shines brighter. As I trek up the learning curve, I have felt productive but naturally a bit unbalanced over the last week. Going up a hill requires that you lean forward.

Baseball Cards – Andrew

Every time my family has moved over the past 15 years, my objects must compete for my true love and affection, as Mother and Father place a hard limit on how much gets to go with us. This last time around, my room and my objects faced the toughest test yet, as the new house technically didn’t have a room for just me anymore. I was still granted two boxes of things I could pack up and take with us, and one was filled with books and the other filled with baseball cards. 

You might think of them as purely a collectible or purely trash (my parents think they fall into the latter category), but for me, every time I take them out to look through them, I learn something new, notice something different, or gain a sense of wonder that I haven’t felt for a long time. I even bought new ones this time around. Fun fact for any sports folks: the NFL’s rookie rushing TD leader in 1996? Karim Abdul-Jabbar (look it up).   

Kids’ Class Meetings – Kate

Throughout this period of isolation, I have felt terribly for my kids: they are missing out on so much more than we are.  They don’t get to see their friends, they are missing out on aspects of their education, they lack the important socialization, warmth, and comfort provided by school and their daily routines.  Not to mention the fear and anxiety they are feeling due to all of the changes and sense of loss and isolation.  So when I have the chance to see each of them connect to their former lives by joining their daily or weekly class meetings on Zoom or Google hangout, it melts my heart.  To see the sweet smiling faces of all these kiddos on their various screens–many who have left the NYC area during isolation—joined together through this new, remote means of communication we have all come to rely so heavily upon—it just brings me so much joy.  They are all making do, participating, eager to learn and share together, completely adaptably in face of this displacement.  These are truly small moments in our hectic, often difficult days, but they give me great hope and always raise my spirits!

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