Fruits & Vegetables: USPS Forever Stamps

At no other time have I been more concerned about the USPS. The Postmaster General is seemingly trying to destroy it from within and the timing is especially harmful. The pandemic isn’t going away any time soon and the most important election of our lives is just weeks away. Reliable mail delivery is paramount.

I certainly can’t save the Postal Service on my own. None of us can individually. But each of us can support it in tiny ways. How? Make a few purchases from the post office.

When you really think about it, it’s so cool that we have a choice of different stamps. They’re colorful and pretty and whimsical. They don’t need to be. A stamp could be quite utilitarian. But we’re provided choices of new ones on a regular basis — practical pieces of art celebrating American culture.

Back in 2014, the Celebrity Chef stamps were a favorite of mine, along with the Farmers Markets stamps. Now, you can purchase USPS Farmers Markets Notecards, which include the stamps. They’re a nice gift for yourself or someone else.

I’ve never bought notecards from the Post Office, but I will in the future. However, I did recently purchase two books of the new Fruits and Vegetables stamps. They’re so pretty!

The stamp designs that we’ve known and loved over the years were created under the direction of USPS art director Derry Noyes. Noyes was interviewed for an article on Artsy, where she explains the process.

It all begins with the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC)—a 12-person panel composed of historians, educators, designers, and others who determine the subjects for each year’s crop of stamps. (Noyes actually served on the committee herself for several years, before transitioning to art direction in the early 1980s.) Their goal, she said, is ‘to pick a broad spectrum that reflects American history, pop culture, people, events—to try to get a good balance for each year.’ …

The stamp-making process typically lasts between two and four years, Noyes said, though it can go on for much longer—particularly if legal issues arise. During this time, the four USPS art directors meet monthly to discuss their ongoing projects and critique one another’s work. Eventually, they share their work with the CSAC to see if they like the direction. The committee eventually votes to approve the final stamp designs, which then must be approved by the postmaster general before they can be released. ‘Unlike a fine artist working for him or herself, doing whatever they feel like, this is a real team effort,’ Noyes said.

While most of us don’t send as much mail as we used to, we still do every once in a while. So buy some stamps that light you up, so the next time you send some snail mail, you’ll spark some joy in the simplest of ways.

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Photo Credit: USPS

Black Wellness Matters

The casual way George Floyd was murdered adds to the horror of it. The rawness of it. It was pure bloodlust. The police officer extinguished Floyd’s last breath in a way that seemed so mundane to him. As if he were wringing out a sponge after doing dishes. That’s the coldness of a serial killer. That’s the end result of systemic racism — going back to when Black people were enslaved in this country.

We were considered property, not human beings, so the owners could do whatever they wanted to a Black person’s body with no consequences. Think about all the permutations of what that meant over generations. Our bodies were not our own.

Seeing the video of Floyd’s murder on repeat is such a painful blow to our collective and individual spirits. For Black people especially, it’s been a tough few weeks. It’s been a tough year. It’s been a tough few hundred years.

I’ve felt hurt. Angry. Sad. And have been meditating more than ever, as a way to stop thinking about the current reality for a bit and gather myself.

Recently, I heard the word remember broken down —  “re” and “member.” Meaning to put oneself together again. I found meditation through taking yoga classes and find both perfect ways to center myself and gather strength. To remember myself.

Yoga is such a powerful tool for wellness. The term wellness gets thrown around a lot and seems to have different meanings to some. The World Health Organization glossary defines it as follows.

Wellness is the optimal state of health of individuals and groups. There are two focal concerns: the realisation of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically, and the fulfilment of one’s role expectations in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings.

Wellness moves beyond physical health to become more holistic and include every aspect of being human. In order to achieve wellness, especially as Black people, we also must heal the wounds of racism. Not just current racism, but intergenerational racism that traumatized our ancestors.

Our ancestors found ways to cope within a racist society and passed down those coping mechanisms to their children. Their children did the same and the cycle repeats. Those of us on journeys of healing are becoming more conscious of the ways that racism has caused us harm.

Meditation allows us to go deep and start reckoning with how to move forward and deal with things differently. Like most Black people, I have dealt with racism in the past and obviously continue dealing with it now.

At the end of last year, I reached a tipping point. I only have so much time and energy and dealing with racism is exhausting. It wears you down. As a Black woman, dealing with sexism on top of it is even more exhausting. In the past, I have let a lot of things go. One particular incident in the past, I regret not having addressed head on.

During law school, I had a co-op at a law firm here in Boston. I loved the work I was doing — ironically enough, researching property and land use. My supervisors were happy with my work too and wanted me to interview for an associate position. I had never intended to take the traditional law firm route, but I was interested.

Very soon after hearing this news, one of the white male attorneys at the firm, not anyone that I had worked with directly, made an off-hand comment to me about how affirmative action hires aren’t qualified. I would have only been the second Black woman attorney at the firm.

I was so shocked – like a deer in headlights. I don’t remember if I said anything back to him. I ended up not working at the firm, which no longer exists, but I didn’t tell any of my supervisors about what happened. Nor did I mention it to anyone in the school administration until much later.

Another incident happened on a different co-op that I also never mentioned to anyone. I was treated to a nice lunch celebrating the end of my co-op. I was the only woman and the only Black person in our small group. One of the men was talking about working in Africa, then casually mentioned all the sex he had while there. They all laughed. I was so uncomfortable. I don’t know that any of them noticed or cared about how the statement might have impacted me. These incidents were back in the mid-90s, but I still remember how I felt.

Late last summer, I was at a small public lecture. During the talk, I was rather dramatically singled out for being the only Black person there. I couldn’t believe it. I was like a deer in headlights — again. I didn’t say anything to anyone while I was there, but kept thinking about it. I only told a few people afterwards and was still upset.

A few months later, I was working on a new project and there was an incident where training for new employees went awry with a racist statement during the presentation. I wasn’t there, but learned of it after an email went out apologizing to everyone for the incident and strongly denouncing it. It was addressed right away and the way things played out, it made me wonder if I should say something about what happened to me at the lecture. Maybe I needed to give them a chance to do better.

I decided to say something. Maybe the organization would make some changes and nothing like this would happen to anyone else. At the very least, I wouldn’t have the ongoing regret that I didn’t say anything.

On a Friday night, I sent a very detailed email to the organization and heard back by early the next  morning. They apologized profusely and I later spoke with leadership about my experience. Training was going to be implemented along with other changes in their organization.

These experiences I’m sharing here are just the tiniest amounts of racism that I’ve dealt with in my life. I’ve been spit on and called the N word. If I reacted to everything all the time, it would take up too much of my life. That’s the same for most Black people. We just want to live our lives like anyone else. We want to rest like Breonna Taylor. We want to go jogging like Ahmaud Arbery. We just want to live and enjoy wellness.

Hopefully, sharing my experiences here might help someone see things from a new perspective. Even if it’s only one person, that’s enough. Black lives matter and I’ve been sharing mine by blogging since 2006. Being a blogger has coincided with finding yoga and meditation. I’ve learned to focus on my breath and how it’s something I can always depend on.

Back in 2009, I first learned about free yoga classes being offered in Boston and wanted to make sure others knew about these wonderful resources. So I founded Free Yoga Boston, where I share information about free yoga classes and more. It’s all a continuing journey for me toward wellness. And Black wellness matters.

Finding Flour: Where & Why

Bread has been vital to human survival for more than 10,000 years. Flour combined with water makes a dough for cooking over a fire or baked in an oven. These simple ingredients have sustained people for a long time. That is to say, flour may subconsciously signal life. Now finding flour has become a national obsession.

Since the pandemic began, people seem to have latched onto the idea that having enough flour is essential. Even for people who never baked at home before, so it’s not particularly logical. But nevertheless, many have latched on so tightly to this idea, that there have been flour shortages in stores for months. People are baking like crazy.

In the age of COVID-19, in many ways we are literally in survival mode and behaving on instinct. There is something primal about flour. Maybe in our subconscious, we as a species know that if we have flour we can survive. Also kneading dough is soothing — like a meditation.

Over the last week especially, as police brutally killed Black people, it felt like an attack on my spirit. I’ve gasped for air and felt pain in my neck. It’s times like this that I need to find ways to stay calm. That familiar combination of flour and water brings me back to myself.

I’ve baked cinnamon bread, scones, cookies and cake. I had a decent amount of flour at home to begin with, but then started to run low and didn’t see all-purpose flour on store shelves for weeks, so I bought cake flour to tide me over.

Because I wasn’t sure how long this flour shortage would last, I decided that sourcing locally and online would be the best option and also help support local business. Thankfully I’m now well-stocked with flour.

Below is a list of New England area mills with freshly milled flour, cornmeal and more ready to ship directly to you!

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One Mighty Mill (Lynn, MA)

Ground Up Grain (Hadley, MA)

Maine Grains (Skowhegan, ME)

Gray’s Grist Mill (Westport, MA)

Plimoth Grist Mill (Plymouth, MA)

Kenyon’s Grist Mill (West Kingston, RI)

Oprah’s Cecil B. de Mille Award Golden Globes Speech


When I was reading about the planned activism for the Golden Globes last night, I read that this was a movement, not a moment. From #MeToo to #TimesUp, things are definitely changing.

But I absolutely believe there are specific moments in this movement. Oprah Winfrey’s speech last night was one of them. It was part teaching moment, part rallying cry, celebration, gratitude and memories.

It was everything. It was so much that I don’t think any of us really know what it was. Yet.

It was the type of speech that needs to be read multiple times [here is the textwatched repeatedly, studied and looked back on.

In the future, when we look back on it, maybe we will understand the nuances based on what comes after. My blog has given me many gifts. One is the gift of perspective. I can look back and see myself growing and changing through my writing. This is why I keep blogging.

I can also see changes beyond me. Changes where I live, in this country and the world. Only time let’s us see things from a distance, along with keeping a written record of the present.

Part of the beauty of this speech is the way that Oprah speaks. It’s not just that Oprah is giving you a car. It’s how she says, “You get a car! You get a car!”

Merely reading the words doesn’t do the speech justice. The same words gather energy and intention based on her inflections.

These two passages below resonated the strongest with me. And I think with the audience as well. Seeing peoples’ reactions was just as powerful. Oprah truly moved the crowd. And a nation.

For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men, but their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up. …

I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who have withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon.

After this speech, many have said that Oprah will run for President in 2020. People love the hype of speculation and jump to conclusions over anything she does. I hope that she would want some government experience first. At least a run for Senate.

And to be truly honest, I have been very disheartened by her lack of speaking out against Trump. The last that I heard her mention about him was right after the election, when she said that we should give him a chance. That was like a punch in the gut. I was shocked.

The #MeToo movement reminds me that we don’t really know the stars that we admire. They are just people who happen to be famous. It’s hard, because their art can inspire so much emotion. Nobody should be put on a pedestal.

I have admired Oprah for decades. She’s only human too. People we love and admire will eventually disappoint us. Nobody is perfect.

So I cannot speculate about what Oprah will do next. All is know for sure is that her speech last night was a moment to remember.

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Screenshot: YouTube

Show Your Obamacare Rebate! Thanks Obama!

We made it to October 1st and saved the Affordable Care Act! The special rules in place to pass the legislation with just 50 votes, using Pence to break the tie, expired yesterday.

The Republicans frenzy to repeal the ACA was cruel on so many levels. The failure to repeal will no doubt save many lives. I’m sure that Jimmy Kimmel speaking out about his experiences had a lot to do with keeping Obamacare alive.

One of the many benefits of the ACA is that it places requirements on health insurance companies that benefit those of us who subscribe to health care plans. One of the most beneficial requirements is the 80/20 Rule.

The 80/20 Rule generally requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of the money they take in from premiums on health care costs and quality improvement activities. The other 20% can go to administrative, overhead, and marketing costs.

The 80/20 rule is sometimes known as Medical Loss Ratio, or MLR. If an insurance company uses 80 cents out of every premium dollar to pay for your medical claims and activities that improve the quality of care, the company has a Medical Loss Ratio of 80%.

Insurance companies selling to large groups (usually more than 50 employees) must spend at least 85% of premiums on care and quality improvement.

If your insurance company doesn’t meet these requirements, you’ll get a rebate on part of the premium that you paid.

Yesterday, I received a rebate check in the mail! It was a nice surprise and much needed. I’ve received a few rebate checks over the years and most likely many other people have as well.

Have you received an Obamacare rebate?

It’s quite striking to me that after just finishing their latest attempt to repeal Obamacare, now republicans are trying to give the richest of the rich a tax cut and raise taxes on the rest of us.

The Obamacare rebate is a boost to everyone regardless of income. I think this rebate should be more widely discussed. Shouldn’t we be talking about extra money in our pockets because of Obamacare?

How many of us are receiving it? Let’s share on social media if we receive this rebate and thank President Obama for the Obamacare rebate. Thanks Obama!