We are living at the Holiday Inn. I felt like I lived out of hotels when Yoda and I drove around the country. And sometimes I feel like I live out of hotels with all the traveling Eric and I do. But this time is different. This isn’t by choice and doesn’t have anything to do with work, and we are only 10 minutes from our house and not in some far away location.

It started last Thursday night when freezing rain started flooding our basement. We spent hours bailing out the water until Eric finally figured out a way to temporarily divert the leak. Then Friday morning things got worse when a so-called “bomb cyclone” hit, bringing with it snow and, in some locations, hurricane force winds. Within a couple hours the storm had uprooted one tree, which knocked down our fence and landed in the pool. Then another tree fell and took out our phone line. Finally, a third tree fell and landed on the power lines over our driveway. Instantly we had no heat, no running water or flushable toilets (our well is powered by electricity), no lights, and no internet.

So we checked ourselves into a nearby Holiday Inn so we could continue to work. But within an hour of settling into our room, the hotel lost power. When it hadn’t come back on by early evening, we moved to a different nearby hotel that still had electricity, but within 15 minutes of us checking in, that hotel’s power went out. Because the Holiday Inn had a technician valiantly trying to fix the generator and had gotten to the point where they had limited power in the lobby, we decided to move back to that hotel with the hope that the generator would power some of the rooms.

With each move, we were lugging a cooler (in our attempt to save our food from rotting in our fridge), a guitar, suitcases and computer bags up and down the dark stairwells of the hotels because, quite obviously, the elevators weren’t working. By the time we got back to the Holiday Inn, we collapsed into bed. Right before we went to sleep, Eric fist bumped me and said “Disaster Buddies,” which was both hilarious and comforting at the same time as he reminded me that we were in this together. The storm was a doozy—at least five people died and 1.7 million people and businesses lost power.

The power came back on at the hotel Saturday afternoon. But not at our house. And not at many many other people’s homes. In fact, when a conference of 300 people checked out of our hotel on Sunday, there was a line out the door with people trying to claim the newly vacated rooms. People waited in line for two hours to get rooms, and some sadly had to be turned away.

It’s now our sixth day of living in the Holiday Inn. The hotel guests are all starting to recognize each other. People give one another a knowing nod in the elevator when they see someone carrying a bag of groceries, a cooler, or bottled water up to their rooms.

Our next-door neighbors are here and we’ve met many other locals who have taken refuge at the hotel with their families and pets. I’ve never seen so many dogs in a hotel (which, quite frankly, is totally awesome). Most of these dogs have never been in a hotel, and given they are here with their humans as fellow storm refugees, I’m not about to complain about the pile of dog poo in the hallway outside my room, or about the pile of poo in the elevator. Really, I get it. The humans are freaked out, and so the animals are freaked out too.

To keep myself from going stir crazy in the room, I’ve been finding little corners of the hotel to work in. We’ve also tried our best to make our room feel more like home. We brought our own coffee, coffee maker and mugs, a tea kettle, dishes, silverware, dish detergent, hand soap…and of course our brag-worthy disaster preparedness means we also have plenty of avocados and gourmet chocolate on hand.

But after six days with no sign in sight of our power being restored, I’m starting to struggle to spin positive. Especially given I’m sitting here writing this while the second Nor’easter in a week is hitting. Adding an even more surreal twist to the week, this morning I was on Good Morning America in a segment where they were warning people about this dangerous storm while also highlighting that there are many of us still without power from last Friday’s storm.

The smart people who do the weather on TV have been saying that this storm, with up to 14 inches of very wet, heavy snow, will likely take out more people’s power. This is bad news for us. We live in the woods with a downed power line that is only connected to our house. The rule of power restoration is to restore power to the areas where the most people are impacted.

Yet each time that Eric and I start to get down about our situation, we fist bump each other and say “Hey disaster buddy,” which makes us laugh. Then we talk about Puerto Rico, where there are still 400,000 people without power, almost six months after back-to-back hurricanes ravaged the island. Now that’s a reality check. Those people don’t have the luxury of living in a hotel, with comfy beds, lights, Wi-Fi, and plenty of fresh food and clean water. Puerto Ricans are living the true disaster, and it’s all too easy to forget that.

So until our power comes back on and we can move home, I’ll continue to fist bump my disaster buddy, while remembering that we aren’t really living a disaster. The old adage is true: Home is where the heart is. My heart is with Eric. And since he’s here at the Holiday Inn with me, it’s a pretty good place to be.

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Dear 2018,

You finally arrived. Nonetheless, it’s taken me a month to center myself enough to write my eighth annual letter to the New Year. Last year, 2017, will forever be remembered as my year of grief. The year was filled with loss—loss of sanity, kindness and reason not only in the White House but also in our country and throughout the world; the unexpected loss of a friendship; the loss of a business relationship I had poured my heart into for a couple years, and of course worst of all, WAY WORST OF ALL, the devastating loss of Yoda.

In other words, 2017 sucked.

Between the grief from all the loss and the constant shocking and negative headlines, I had trouble seeing past the intensity and volume of the anger in the world. As a result, it was a dark, sad, exhausting year where I struggled (largely unsuccessfully) to carry out my 2017 New Year’s resolution to be the light. I even stopped writing, a practice that pre-2017 fed my soul because it is often through writing that I’m able to let go of judgment and let words flow that teach me to live with shama, optimism and hope.

Last October I bottomed out and it scared me. So I forced myself to take a five day break from work, the news and from technology. Eric and I flew to Wisconsin for my sister’s wedding and I left my computer at home, turned my phone off and buried it at the bottom of my suitcase, and didn’t even turn on the TV or a radio. When I surfaced a week later, I felt a bit better. But only just a bit.

That’s when I decided to make some big changes in my daily habits. I stopped my compulsive deep diving into the news because I realized that all the horrific headlines were consuming my life. I initially planned to stop reading the news websites for a month, but three months later I’m still keeping an arms-length distance. I also stopped being chained to my phone. Now I turn off my ringer, or even leave my phone behind. And I am making a concerted effort to surround myself with positive people who inspire me to become a better version of me.

There’s a Japanese concept called wabi-sabi. In simple terms, this means finding beauty in the incomplete. I often think of it as finding the perfection in imperfection because nothing lasts and perfection doesn’t exist. Examples might be petals that have fallen on a table next to a vase that holds a bouquet of flowers, a single blade of grass growing out of a crack in the cement, a patch on the knee of my favorite pair of raggedy jeans, a gap between someone’s front teeth, the bald patch on Pedro the opossum who visits our front yard every night, or a scar on a person’s arm behind which exists a wonderful story that gives insight into his or her childhood. And how about Magic the deer with his one antler – it’s absolutely perfect, in a lovely imperfect way.

I’ve been attempting to embrace wabi-sabi with a new daily practice of sitting quietly and observing the world, which leads to engaging in life as it happens. This has weirdly been super hard to do. Now, when I am waiting for someone, instead of whipping out my phone and scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, I force myself to instead bear witness to what’s going on around me.

And oh my goodness is there a lot of wonderful going on around me! It’s not all doom and gloom out there. There is such joy to be had by watching a baby giggling with her mommy as they wait to board a plane, or a young man helping his grandfather load groceries into the car. I’ve found that watching the family of deer at our house, or seeing a dog proudly walking along side its human can bring about a profound contentment from simply getting lost in the moment.

The world remains loud and angry. Racism, hatred, white privilege, climate change denial, mass shootings, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, misogony…it’s all still there, at shocking levels. I had thought the history books proved that we as a people learned from the past and were growing towards becoming a better world, but we seem to be moving backwards by repeating the same monstrous mistakes all over again. Yet still, by working hard at integrating myself back into the real world by walking away from my devices, observing things around me, and making a daily attempt to embrace wabi-sabi, my mind feels a helluva lot less crazy and fatalistic. I’m developing a faith that people will come back to their senses and the world will hopefully soon feel safe and sane again.

So this is where my promise to the New Year comes into play. This year my New Year’s resolution is to embrace wabi-sabi. I’m going to take time each day to find the beauty in the world around me. It’s there to be found, even amidst the extremely imperfect world we live in these days.

In closing, Year 2018, I think I love you already.

Sincerely,

Kee Kee

 

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What My Dog Taught Me By Dying

August 29, 2017

It’s been six months. In the love letter I read to Yoda minutes before he transitioned to formlessness, I promised him I would find shama amidst the grief of losing him. A promise made on a deathbed is a promise one must keep. Yet I had absolutely no idea how to find inner peace while […]

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Yoda Pies: Mourning and Celebration

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Three weeks ago my precious Yoda left this world. Eric and I decided we wanted to set him free with a celebration of his large life. The last day of his life began with baking a “Yoda Pie” in his honor. The three of us ate the pie for lunch, and Yoda devoured his piece (an impressive feat, given we […]

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Yoda, Thank You

March 2, 2017

I said goodbye to my furry shama warrior on Tuesday night. My friend Dorry Bless, a Life-Cycle Celebrant, conducted a beautiful ceremony celebrating his life, and then he was set free in Eric’s and my arms in the studio next to the grand piano, his favorite place in the house. I read him this thank […]

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Breaking Bread with the Enemy

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Take a look at the guy in the photo with me. I don’t know his name, and I don’t know much about him, but I’ll likely never forget him. Last week I attended a rally in Flemington, NJ to protest the president’s un-American and un-Constitutional Muslim ban. The county I live in largely voted for […]

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Activism is the New Normal

January 31, 2017

A friend posted on Facebook that she wants to see puppy, kitten and baby photos and that she is going to unfriend anyone who posts anything political. She continued by saying “It’s gotten out of hand. We’re not going to save our country on Facebook.” Her post is a perfect example of how we have […]

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An Open Letter to the New Year

January 18, 2017

Dear 2017, This is the seventh year in a row that I’ve written an open letter to the new year. It seems especially important this year to start off on the right foot with you, given the state of American politics and the deep divide between the people of our country. In the wake of […]

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I Stole My Dog’s Xanax (aka Finding Inner Peace in Donald Trump’s World)

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I hit rock bottom the day I took my dog’s Xanax. Let’s be absolutely clear: I STOLE DRUGS FROM MY DOG. What kind of crappy human does that? Or perhaps my big low was the day I made myself a cake with cream cheese frosting. I ATE IT ALL. It’s pretty clear that my regular […]

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The Cranky Farmer Who Never Was

August 19, 2016

Two days ago I was walking Yoda early one morning around my parents’ rural Wisconsin neighborhood. Because I work from home, I’ve been fortunate that Yoda and I have been able to spend every August for the past six years here. It’s quiet, the people are friendly, and Mom and Dad live on a lake, so […]

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