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Thanks RBG

My love for the Notorious RBG is no secret. Besides her legacy and general wonderfulness, I admire her tenacity and perseverance. She has overcome several incidents of cancer-related adversity, and it has only strengthened her resolve to work hard and do what is right. I recently came across this quote that resonates so much with me right now:

“So often in life the things you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Thank you, RBG, for reminding me of the great strength we have to turn our difficulties into opportunities.



Material Reactions

Like many, when I move to a new home, I’m forced to acknowledge a painful reality: I have way, way too much stuff. People who know me well know that in my case, it’s pretty bad. I have a strong attachment to things — things of many different kinds. I’ve always been materialistic. I enjoyed shopping from a young age, but not because of an addiction to the transaction itself — rather I have an addiction to possessing items. Particularly pretty items.

I’m a homebody, and I find great comfort in being surrounded by my things. I’m sort of a hobbit, really. I like having my space and my things arranged just so. Organizing and decorating after a move is actually a dream come true for me. I’m sure this comes as a shock to no one.

But the actual moving of the objects, the lugging of boxes and small furniture and random bits and pieces to storage and then back out of storage, through halls, in elevators (thank goodness for elevators), and even in some cases rolling a few items down the street several blocks … it all gets to be a bit much. I had to come face to face with my addiction to stuff. My parents had to come face to face with it too. My dad loved that.

Before I moved, I started reading a couple of books on feng shui. I find the concept really interesting but didn’t know much about the principles. Maybe I could use my stuff and my space to create calm and healing energy. Hey, if there’s even a remote possibility it could help my health, I’ll do it. I mainly needed some kind of change from my dreary, cluttered, sad-feeling dorm room where I’d been lying in bed sick for weeks. There just wasn’t good energy there anymore. I didn’t know anything about chi or all that, but even I could tell.

Then I started reading Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, recommended by a friend who told me it was a “crazy book” that told you to get rid of tons of things and thank you shoes at the end of the day. Tons of people are going nuts over Kondo’s “Konmari” method, so I thought I’d give myself a chance to buy into the insanity. And with moving, it’d be the perfect time to de-clutter.

The book is indeed crazy. Kondo talks about starting her career in tidying when she was five years old and tried to organize everything in sight. I was like that too as a kid, but that’s just because I was weird. She insists that the way to go about getting your stuff clean and organized is to go through each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy. If it does not, you get rid of it. Instead of “what do I get rid of?” you’re supposed to think, “what should I keep?”

This is the part where the people who helped me move will read this and go, “why didn’t you do this BEFORE we moved all of your stuff??” I tried. I got rid of a bunch of clothes and a few small household items I knew weren’t worth keeping. But I had about a day and a half to pack after the bar exam, and so I didn’t have time to really try her method. But I’m trying it now, and so far, I have to say: it works.

I’m not going to be a minimalist. I just can’t see that happening for me. I still have a strong attachment to material things. But this method is helping me let go of that a bit. Really, it’s based on the idea that your possessions should exist only to your happiness and wellbeing — not just to be there. So, I can still like my things without being so materialistic that I must have all the things or keep things I no longer need or care much about.

So far, I’ve gone through my clothes, shoes, bags, and the like. I knew this would be difficult but probably the most rewarding category for me because of how much I like buying and wearing cute clothes. But between what I eliminated before moving, in my stock at my parents’ house, and the past two days since moving in, I know I’ve gotten rid of more than half my clothes. Possibly two-thirds. And I feel so happy about it. Everything fits where it belongs. I followed the Konmari method of folding clothes and actually enjoyed folding my socks. I’m not kidding. And it’s not just because I’m weird. Before this I would have told you that no normal person should ever enjoy folding socks (or really even fold socks at all). But this method is genius.

So, I’ll keep going with it and see where it takes me. I already feel less burdened. And maybe this will make more room in my life (and possibly my budget) for other great things.

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First Breakfast

first breakfast

First solo breakfast in my new apartment. Feeling somewhat calmer after a long flurry of activity.

I feel like everything has clicked and I’m in the perfect place. So many things have serendipitously worked out for the best, and so many other things have come together because of the immense kindness and generosity of my family and friends. I’m especially grateful to my parents, Mat, and my dear friend Max for helping me move. I’m so appreciative to have such conscientious and giving people in my life.

It is my hope that I can in turn pay the kindness forward and be more attentive to others’ needs. I feel like I’ve lost sight of this a bit the last three years. In law school, it’s easy to put yourself in an academic bubble. I’ll read about and discuss social issues, but only in an abstract sense. Seldom do I actually act to mitigate these problems. But as I sit here today, surrounded by comfort, happily fed, and with so many other blessings, I have the resources to make a difference. And I choose to try.

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I’m not really in the Christmas spirit. And sadly I feel like that’s an insult to the memories of my family members lost. They were full of life and happiness, and they enjoyed the holidays with family. This is especially true of my grandmother, who passed away three years ago on Christmas Day. I think this really was her favorite day of the year. Nothing made her happier than sitting in the living room, surrounded by family with children opening presents. Both she and my aunt valued family above all, and they would have cherished this time to be with those they loved.

I do cherish this time, and I’m so thankful to be with my family. But I don’t feel the joy I usually feel this time of year. I feel kind of empty. At least I have a big, gaping hole somewhere that I can’t fill up with Christmas songs and giving gifts and eating everything in sight (though I’ve tried).

Yeah, this is whining. And it reeks of self-pity. But I know a lot of people feel this way around the holidays for a variety of reasons, many of them in far less comfortable situations than I, and sometimes people just expect them to be a part of the cheer. Or worse, they just get ignored.

So many instances of violence, destruction, and hate have caused heartache everywhere this year. And there are people out there hurting. Ashamedly, during past holidays I very often have done the easy thing, turning a blind eye to the overwhelming suffering so I could enjoy my family’s holiday celebrations without guilt. We all do it, all the time. If we weren’t somewhat desensitized, we wouldn’t be able to live our lives. Good or bad, I think that’s the truth.

But man, what a shitty time for us to go into self-preservation mode. This can be the hardest time of year for people going through crises and dealing with grief and despair. That’s why programs that help people through the holidays are so particularly important. Alongside that, perhaps just as important is everyone taking the time to pay attention today, this week, this month. Listen and acknowledge. Let’s recognize what is happening to our fellow humans. Let’s listen when folks tell us they’re experiencing violence or discrimination. Let’s listen when we see anger and pain; let’s remember we don’t always see everything and we don’t always know someone else’s troubles in life.

Let’s not pass judgment but hear people out. Let’s be patient and seek first to understand. Let’s remember that people grow up in different places with different privileges because of who they are, and let’s resolve to change this inequality. Let us do this always, but especially right now, when it is so easy to do otherwise and so hurtful to our world when we do.

And specifically to those celebrating Christmas today: I know a lot of really great Christians who do some really cool things. I’m glad to know y’all. Let’s push that pursuit of Christlike love and  understanding to its ultimate purpose/ not here for the rich or for the privileged, but here to expose injustice, push for equality, and destroy a system that oppresses our fellow humans.

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Ramona Kay Cosby

We lost our Mona this week. With a terminal illness, you always know that day is coming, but I still feel like we weren’t really expecting it. Mona was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer and given just months to live — and that was almost nine years ago. To us, it was like she was invincible. Her determination and strength in fighting the disease was simply incredible. I still don’t know how she stayed so positive and courageous through every obstacle; she had more of those than anyone I know. But she focused on enjoying life.

It’s hard to explain what Aunt Mona was to me and my brother. She was sort of a combination of a second mother and a sibling. Nothing can fill that void. Clay and I wrote this to try to explain what her last years were like:

When Mona received her diagnosis almost nine years ago, she made a decision. She would live on her terms.

There were days when Mona’s family thought she was out of her mind for going to work after being at the hospital the night before, but she was determined to really live with the time she had. She loved to help people, and at the school where she worked her strength and love affected more people than she could’ve known. 

Stories have been pouring in recounting the difference Mona made. She was such a light. She brightened the lives of everyone who knew her. A teacher she worked with said she once saw Mona walking down the hall, slouched and slow-moving, and she knew it was a day when Mona was feeling pain. But when she asked how Mona was feeling, Mona straightened up, smiled brightly, and said, “I’m doing great!”

That’s what everyone around her saw: such toughness and positivity, even through the hardest times.

Other close coworkers called her “a miracle of sunshine for everyone that knew her,” “a dear, sweet person and so genuine,” and “the poster child for living life to the fullest.” They knew her as “a beautiful, amazing, creative, talented human being.” Her principal said, “I loved her spunk and quirkiness. She was classy. You would never know she was fighting for her life. She was cool.”

Mona pursued a degree in art history and realized her creative potential. She was always painting, quilting, and taking photos. She created beautiful artwork for many to cherish. 

Most importantly, Mona loved life and loved people with all her heart. Her family was the most important thing to her, and her love for them was absolute and unwavering. Mona truly became who she wanted to be: an independent, creative spirit and full of love. She lived deliberately, and she was so fulfilled.

Mona touched many lives with her strength, love, and courage. She admired her sister-in-law Jimmie and would sometimes joke that when she was in a difficult situation, she would think, what would Jimmie do? Seeing Mona live in such a loving, positive, fulfilled way has made us look up to her; she is an inspiration. Now, to live deliberately and with strength, we will ask ourselves in the hard times, what would Mona do?

Mona and Kelly