Can I Be a Polyglot?

YouTube‘s algorithm is strong. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of videos. But it made me realize that I want to be a polyglot.

In high school, I studied French. I continued during my freshman year of college, but stopped after that. I regret not going further in my formal French studies. But it was not helping my already fragile GPA and I decided to cut my losses. I reached an intermediate level and really could have done much more with it.

Anyway, life happened and it wasn’t a priority. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed the season of my life changing and want to expand my language skills again. But my language focus has been Korean. The spring before last, I found a free online course with Coursera called First Step Korean.

The first week or so of the class seemed doable. But then it seemed like I was supposed to have already learned Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, within three weeks! Ha! No.

The timing was also not in my favor. I was in the process of organizing and clearing out my mom’s house to put it on the market. I didn’t have time for the class and decided to focus on selling the house and getting my mom moved. That process took most of my time and energy last year.

This year had its ups and downs, but things have settled down a bit. I decided to try a Korean class again, but realized that I needed a more solid foundation with Hangeul. So I found a class called The Korean Alphabet: An Introduction to Hangeul. I may need to take this class twice, but it’s a start. It’s not like I have a deadline or need to worry about my GPA.

I’ve also wanted to improve my French skills and truly become fluent. It could help with increased work opportunities and I would just like to be fluent for myself. But is it possible to study two languages at once? Especially such different languages. Is that a thing?

From watching dozens of YouTube videos, I’ve discovered that being a polyglot is a huge thing and yes, I can do it! There is a huge polyglot culture with people learning multiple languages at once and becoming fluent in all of them within just a few years.

So I’ve decided to jump in! Years fly by so quickly. It took almost a decade between when I first toyed with the idea of law school to quitting my job and doing it. I may take a long time deciding on something. But once I do, I persevere.

For French, I’ve started using Duolingo to help refresh my basic skills and get in the habit of practicing. There are three months left in the year, so by January I should feel more solid with my French. I may take an advanced online French class and/or possibly hire a tutor as well. I’m excited to see where this language journey brings me!

I’ve also decided to try again with a plant that I could never keep alive and eventually gave up on — African violets. I was over a friend’s house and she had two gorgeous ones. They are so lovely and I do so well with most plants. Surely I can grow these now! It’s been about 20 years, so maybe it’s a new season.

Korean Dramas & Air Quality in Massachusetts

How did watching Korean dramas get me thinking about air and water quality in Massachusetts? Let me tell you.

During the pandemic, I dove into the treasure trove of Korean dramas on Netflix. After watching several, I started recognizing the sounds of certain words. I began matching them up phonetically with their English meanings from the subtitles and keeping a written notebook. I wondered about the daily lives of regular South Koreans and wanted to expand my vocabulary beyond written scripts.

YouTube provides an easy gateway into people’s lives. After watching many videos, I learned that South Koreans are very aware of fine dust. The first few times I heard it mentioned, I didn’t think anything of it. However, it was repeated so often I could no longer ignore it. I wondered, “Is this a thing?”

The vloggers I’ve watched check daily dust levels, wear masks outside, and often keep their windows closed. A Korean vlogger now living in the UK, remarked on the clear skies without fine dust. It’s definitely a thing.

Now that I think of it, I don’t recall any dramas mentioning fine dust. Sometimes you find what you’re not looking for.

A not so quick search revealed an article giving insight and noting the health hazards when fine dust particulate matter (PM) reaches certain levels. Since I’m interested in visiting South Korea at some point, I’ll probably do what the locals do and wear a mask.

In my normal daily life, I hadn’t thought about PM levels too much. Then early this summer, because of the wildfires in Canada, the Boston area received air quality warnings and advisories. Was this like the fine dust in South Korea?

I’ve been very COVID cautious compared to most and only stopped wearing a mask indoors this past winter, after the numbers dropped. Rising numbers still have me reconsidering.

As I’m writing, I looked up the air quality in Quincy a few times. Over the course of about 15 minutes, it changed from moderate to good. The moderate PM2.5 reading is “2.9 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value.” Should I be wearing a mask? I don’t know. I’m doing what the locals do and that appears to be nothing. Overall, we’re mask averse in this country and seem to live in perpetual denial.

But it’s not just air quality causing concern. It’s also the ocean. This summer, it seems like far more beaches than usual in Massachusetts have been closed for extended periods of time due to high levels of dangerous bacteria. That’s not even considering microplastics found in the water.

Then we have extreme heat causing wildfires. This record-breaking heat forcing people to remain indoors could be impacting mental health as well. Most of us have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and how it impacts some during winter months. A summer version exists too. With wildfires in Hawaii forcing so many to lose their homes, some don’t even have the luxury of being indoors. Heat is becoming increasingly deadly, yet FEMA has never issued a disaster declaration due to heat.

Climate change is real. It’s happening now and seems that it will only get worse unless everyone in the world gets on board with solutions.

Hadassah Margolis will teach a new course at Brandeis University this fall called Climate Concerns: Eco-Anxiety, Grief, and Resilience. It will focus on wellness in the face of eco-anxiety. I’m glad I’m not alone in my feelings of environmental angst and that more people are talking about this. Misery may love company, but that doesn’t help the bigger problem. I wonder what solutions may be found in this classroom.

I’ve heard people describe the years we have left in our lives as the number of summers. As I inch closer to the end of my 50s, thoughts like this are more on my mind. How many summers do I have to enjoy carefree days out in nature? A walk in the woods by a pond or a simple beach picnic. How do we stay optimistic?

Some recent news inspires. In Brazil, the Wari’ people sought help protecting the Komi Memem River. Legislation passed giving the river personhood protection rights as a living entity. It’s a step in the right direction.

Michael J. Fox said, “With gratitude, optimism is sustainable.” Which feels like grounding in the present moment. And remembering that there are still a few more days left in this summer.

When It’s Your Season

squrirel and acorn season

It’s September! I love summer and never wish it away, but September is a favorite month. As my birthday month, it’s also my personal new year – a time to reset. When we were kids, September was always back to school season, so it was a time of new beginnings for everyone.

The change from summer to fall is also a big time of transition. Right now I’m in the midst of a big change and transition. After 19 years in the same apartment, I’m moving to a new one in a few weeks! I’m so excited!

As a Virgo sun and Taurus rising, I tend to dig in and stay put. I haven’t lived many places because I usually  stay somewhere at least five years. But 19 years is a record. It’s the longest that I’ve ever lived in one place. That was never even the plan. This was supposed to be a transitional place. Ya just never know!

This is the first time that I have no plans for how long I will be at the next place or where it will take me in my life. The longer I live, the more I see that while we do have some control over our lives, we also need to go with the flow of it. When we make a decision and have to fight for it at every turn, it might not be the right plan for us. Sometimes the Universe has decided otherwise.

We can feel the difference when we decide to make a change and everything easily falls into place and flows. This change feels right. As much as I thought about moving over the past few years, it didn’t feel right until now.

* * *

A new favorite podcast is Breathe Go Flow with Tracye Warfield. I started listening at the end of July or beginning of August. I’ve listened from the first episode, which was pre-pandemic, up to August 2020. She’s so uplifting and has been a wonderful motivating force for me to make this change. An episode from February 2019, called Are you a Clinger has some real gems.

“You get to keep what is yours in your season.”

~ Tracye Warfield

It’s important to know what’s for us in our current season and let go of what isn’t. This resonates so much with my word of the year. Another quote that I recently found is a new favorite as well.

“Ripe fruit falls quickly.”

~ Mari Andrew

I don’t think she said it first, but I found it on her Instagram. It goes back to feeling that when the time is right, what’s in season for us will be available without such a struggle. These last few weeks of summer will be full of change and I’m here for it. Let the packing begin!

Pandemic Surrender

thinking about surrender

During the last year and a half, I’ve done a lot of thinking about surrender. That’s why I chose surrender as my word of the year.

I believe that surrender is not about giving up, but making peace with reality. Because I’ve learned that what you resist persists and the fighting is emotionally exhausting.

A few days ago, I did a selfie photo shoot of my new look. Normally I’m not one to share many pictures of myself. But I do change up my photos on this blog and my social media every year or so. This change is dramatic, so I thought I’d blog it too.

My hair has been thinning for years and has been a constant source of stress and anxiety. Society places so much importance on thick long luxurious hair. What do you do when you don’t have that no matter how hard you try?

You do the best you can with what you have. You try to overlook comments that people make about other people’s hair while wondering what they think of yours.

Then you just get exhausted by the whole thing. Because life is short and what’s the point of worrying. I can’t control other people’s thoughts — only mine. I need to be comfortable with myself. I’m 56, soon to be 57, and want to age gracefully. Wigs, weaves and braids have never been my style, so I started looking at the other end of the spectrum.

Several of my aunts have embraced the bald look and some well-known glamorous women like Christine Platt and Ayanna Pressley rock it as well. Ayanna Pressley is such an inspiration and powerhouse that I’ve especially taken strength from her and see her as an expander. I don’t have alopecia, but many women in my family have thinning hair, so it’s almost certainly genetics.

My mom had a stroke at the end of February and I’ve been helping her get back to her life. It’s been a long journey for both of us. Through all this, we both were vaccinated. PSA — Get vaccinated!

The day before I became fully vaccinated (two weeks after the second dose) was also the day that I picked up my mom from rehab and brought her home. It’s also the day that I got most of my hair chopped off. I only have so much physical and emotional energy and focusing on my hair is not how I want to use it.

The pandemic has given many of us time to think about what’s important and what’s not. At the beginning of the pandemic, I vowed to myself that if I survived it, I wasn’t leaving it the same way I went in. None of us will. Intentionally or not. Time will reveal other changes that I probably can’t imagine yet.

What about you? How are you leaving the pandemic differently than you went in?

Boston History: Mayor Kevin White & My Father

Boston Mayor Kevin White
Left to right: Barbara Christopher (8th grade), Boston Mayor Kevin White, Mrs. Gardner, Dallos Perry (8th grade), Thomas Johnson. (February 4, 1971)

Last week, while looking through photos at my mother’s house, I found this rare gem. A picture from 50 years ago!

Since my father’s passing in 2018, it’s especially nice to find “new to me” old photos of him. And this one is for the history books. He’s with then Boston Mayor Kevin White.

I’m not sure exactly what the occasion was for this photograph, but it must have had something to do with his work as a Boston school teacher. He taught in the Boston Public School system for more than 20 years. Writing found on the back of the picture gives the names and date.

The timing of finding this picture seems especially poignant. Sometimes it feels like overall not much changes in the world. But it does. Step by step.

The week that I found this picture, showing one of Boston’s most influential mayors from last century, Kim Janey made history as the city’s first woman and first Black mayor of Boston. Janey is the 55th mayor and White was the 51st.

And the way it happened was completely unexpected! I remember being so excited when Michelle Wu decided to run for mayor back in September. Then just weeks later, Andrea Campbell put her hat in the mayoral ring. Boston could have a woman of color as mayor!

Then several others decided to run and there’s been speculation about even more. With so many people, it wasn’t as exciting anymore and I was over it. After all, I don’t even live in Boston, so I wouldn’t actually be voting.

But then, out of the blue, President Biden tapped Mayor Walsh for Secretary of Labor. Suddenly, we have a Black woman becoming mayor during Women’s History Month. And the mayoral election had nothing to do with it. Plot twist!

When the time is right, change happens in ways we can never imagine. Like the way the first woman mayor in the United States was elected back in 1887. It was supposed to be a cruel joke — only Susanna Madora Salter won.

My father loved politics and was quite the conversationalist. When a major event happens, I always wonder about conversations we would have had. Which makes me think even more about this picture.

Since the opportunity presented itself, I’m sure my father must have said something to Mayor White. I can only imagine. But on that day back in 1971, Mayor White got the chance to have a conversation with Thomas Johnson. Which is something that I now miss everyday of my life.