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A couple years ago we received a secondhand copy of the board game Guess Who? It’s kind of like a visual version of 20 questions, where you try to be the first person to guess who your opponent’s person is by asking questions about facets of their appearance.

We’ve played it many times, although every time it comes out if the box I get irritated that so many of the characters are white men. Zeke agrees with me, and we’ve tossed around the idea of replacing the cartoon faces with images of people with a wider variety of characteristics. Tonight we finally did it.

We started yesterday by brainstorming a list of people to include. Zeke decided we should use famous people instead of people we know. That way it would be easy for us to find pictures of them online and other people besides us playing the game would know who the people are. Because of the current and crucial resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests, activism, and awareness, and because this is Pride month, we decided to focus on Black and queer people, but we wanted to include lots of others too. I also wanted to make sure Zeke knew who the people were. So anyone I suggested who he couldn’t immediately identify, I shared the back story or showed him videos. I was slightly surprised that one of his nominations was George Floyd. I asked him, just to make sure, if he knew who George Floyd was. He told me that George Floyd was a man who was killed because a police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. He understood that this murder was one of the reasons we’ve been making Black Lives Matters signs and reading anti-racist books.

Here are the new faces in our Guess Who? Remix.

Bobby Berk (we love Queer Eye)

Beyoncé (Queen Bey)

Simone Biles (best gymnast on earth right now)

Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther)

John Boyega (Star Wars)

Karamo Brown (Queer Eye)

George Floyd

Tan France (Queer Eye)

Frida Kahlo (Zeke loves art and learning about artists and he recently studied Frida Kahlo and Yayoi Kusama)

Yayoi Kusama

Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton)

Barack Obama (our favorite president)

Michelle Obama (our favorite first lady and so much more)

Antoni Porowski (Queer Eye)

Megan Rapinoe (we love US women’s soccer, and Rapinoe is amazing personally and professionally)

Taylor Swift (Zeke is almost as much of a Swiftie as his sister is)

Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars)

Jonathan Van Ness (Queer Eye)

Emma Watson (Harry Potter plus activism)

Jacqueline Woodson (author we all love and recently saw on The Brown Bookshelf’s Kid Lit Rally 4 Black Lives)

Letitia Wright (Black Panther)

Gene Luen Yang (author we recently discovered while watching The Brown Bookshelf’s Kid Lit Rally 4 Black Lives and Zeke devoured the first volume of The Secret Coders and I’m reading American Born Chinese)

Malala Yousafzai (role model for all of us)

Zendaya (Spiderman and Greatest Showman and so much more)

Zeke and I split up the list and found photos online of each person and cropped them to focus on the face. Just so you know, he is equally capable of doing this as I am. He only occasionally asked for help spelling people’s names. Autocomplete is a gift for a seven-year-old on Google. Then I dropped all the photos in a template on PicMonkey and added each person’s name. I had to print the collage out a few times to find the right size to go onto the cards in the game. We used the laminator my mom recently gave us to laminate the photos. Then I cut out three sets of the photos. Zeke glued one of the sets onto the cards from the blue game board. I glued the photos on the red cards and the yellow cards from which you draw your card for each round. I trimmed all the photos and maneuvered the red and blue ones back into the little slots on the game boards.

And there you have it. I realized near the end that we are missing one yellow card. So unfortunately Bobby Berk is floating around in the box without a card attached. I am hopeful that someone who has an old unused Guess Who? game in their basement can hook me up.


After I put Zeke to bed tonight, Zoe wanted to play our Guess Who? Remix. The first round we played the traditional way, just asking questions about obvious physical characteristics. Then I suggested we make it more challenging, and ask questions whose answers were not apparent. Turns out, this is harder and much more interesting. Questions like, “Does your person get up in front of crowds?” Or “Has your person written a book?” Or “Was your person born in America?” Sometimes we still ended up asking “Is your person female?” Or “Is your person gay?” Or “Is your person Black?” but we tried hard to go deeper. And we had to look up some information online to make sure we were answering accurately. I imagine tomorrow when I play with Zeke he will have a few more gaps in his in-depth knowledge of all the people, but he is curious and I think we will learn together.

Here are things I need to be reminded of:

I cannot save or fix everyone and everything. Or anyone and anything. In recent days and weeks I find myself increasing feeling frantic, as if I have to act urgently to keep people I love safe and healthy, and I have to buy things and order food to keep businesses and restaurants I like from going under. I have to find things to do to help. I have to find ways to keep my kids busy and engaged and not on a screen all summer. What I actually need to do is take one million deep breaths. It is not all up to me. In fact, very little is up to me.

Why is this so hard to remember?

I’m sure I’m not the only person whose feelings of anxiety and despair manifest in weird ways. I know I’m not the only parent desperate to figure out a plan for their kids for the summer. When you’re isolated with your family it’s easy to forget that you aren’t the only one spinning in this vortex of stress. I text and talk and zoom with friends and family, but most of the time I’m just in my head. Also, my head hurts. Often.


A friend pointed out to me recently (in a conversation via Facebook Messenger) that one thing we’ve lost to the coronavirus quasi-quarantine is informal connection. I don’t get to see and chat with the other parents and kids and the awesome staff at EvolveAll while my kids are doing martial arts. I don’t get to engage in unplanned conversations before or after church or get hugs from friends there or run into people in the parking lot and say hello or smile. I don’t see parents and teachers at school drop-off or pick-up or chat with parents when delivering my kids to playdates. None of these interactions is replicated with a zoom call. A lot of life’s most interesting moments happen by accident. Not that life isn’t still interesting, but it’s much narrower now.


I’ve been spending way too much money lately online, but all in the service of education, family togetherness, and food. I must be Outschool’s new favorite customer, as I’ve signed my kids up for a zillion classes. I decided I need to cut myself off from any new registrations for a while. Today I ordered supplies from Michael’s for several of these classes. Perhaps if we’re lucky we will have a house full of embroidered, knitted, and hand-sewn creations by the end of the summer. Not to mention stunning photographs and other works of visual art.

I was super proud of myself because I ordered a four-bike bike rack (on sale) from REI and consulted with a mechanic about the hitch required to install on our van to attach the bike rack to. The mechanic recommended a hitch but suggested I consult with the manufacturer of the bike rack to make sure it was compatible, which I did, and it was, so I ordered it. The mechanic is going to install the hitch when it arrives and then we can take our bikes…somewhere…to ride them down a country lane while we breathe in virus-free fresh air far away from other humans.

In an attempt to simultaneously encourage Zeke’s love of reading and support my local independent bookstores and used book sites, I invested a significant amount of time soliciting recommendations for new books for him to read, and then ordering a bunch of them from different places. Man, do I miss the library. I really really really miss the library. I am excited for the arrival of all these books, none of which Zeke knows about yet. It’s always fun to talk about books with teacher friends and parent friends and booksellers. And books are always worth spending money on. In my opinion.

But now I need to rein it in. I don’t need to spend any more money for a long while. Except, of course, on food, since everyone in my house seems to want to eat constantly. And somehow I still forget to feed them sometimes. We have everything we could need right now to educate and entertain us. We have each other. We could honestly use a little more space. The 12×12 tent I bought and put up (with the kids’ help) in our backyard is nice, but not without its challenges. Since our townhouse is part of a condo complex, the condo association hires a landscaping crew to take care of maintenance. This is great except that we don’t know when they’re coming or what they’re going to do. So this morning I was sitting in our family room trying to work when I heard the mower approaching out back. I ran outside and unstaked the tent and more or less held it up and scrunched onto the patio while the guy went back and forth with the mower. Meanwhile, he moved the hammock out of the way because I couldn’t move the hammock while holding up the tent. I really can’t do everything. I know that. I’ve just got to learn to stop trying so hard.

Some of the subtle and unsettling changes in daily life that you notice 65 days into quasi-quarantine:

Instead of searching through the piles of clean laundry on the couch looking for some underwear or the pants that still fit, you’re mostly looking for a clean mask that fits.

You don’t realize until nighttime when you’re on a zoom call with friends that you haven’t looked in a mirror all day and had no idea that your hair looked like that.

Instead of showering at your convenience, you have to negotiate shower privileges with your spouse because both of you roll out of bed and start the day without bothering to shower until a) your first zoom call of the day or b) you need to leave the house to go to the grocery store or pickup takeout food.

Even though you can’t see it behind the mask, you still put on lipstick before leaving the house. Some habits stick around.

Instead of attempting to clean the house, you engage in micro cleaning. If one kitchen counter is wiped down, or one table cleared, or one shelf tidied, you count it as a victory. It is impossible to clean the whole house when everyone is in it all the time.

You realize that Target brand toilet paper is actually fine. Even though you’ve always been a toilet paper snob, both a Charmin loyalist and disdainful of Scott, when you found shelves filled with Target brand you snapped it up and have been pleasantly surprised.

You are grateful to three different friends who generously gave you gifts of dish soap. When you ran out, before your friends came to the rescue, you ordered dish soap online. Then it arrived and now you are blessed with dish soap to last for a while, which is good because your family continues to eat and drink with gusto.

You cannot concentrate on anything for mire than 30 seconds except when you are alone, which typically happens only after midnight or before 9am if you are able to wake up at 8. You seldom use these hours wisely, but that’s nothing new. Occasionally you meditate or write, and that has to be good enough.

So I went a little berserk this week signing my kids up for classes on Outschool and evangelizing for Outschool and checking our Outschool account every five minutes. I worked hard to convince the parents of my kids’ friends to enroll their kids in Outschool classes with my kids.

I’m not sure why I became so obsessed with this platform all of a sudden, except that perhaps it seemed like salvation. We haven’t had real school in our house in a while now and word on the street is kids won’t be going back to school in pre-pandemic fashion anytime soon. It’s likely that all of the day camps I carefully researched and scheduled and paid for for Zeke will be canceled. Zoe now has no summer plans at all. Especially with everything else in the universe feeling so tenuous and uncertain, this company that offers short, interactive bursts of creative and intellectual stimulation and challenge was irresistible.

Part of me just enjoys scrolling through the course offerings. I get that same rush that I experience when I walk into an art supply store or even a hardware store–even though I’m not handy and I don’t build things–that there is unlimited possibility all around me. I could (or someone could) create anything. Browsing the Outschool classes I feel the same way, even though I personally cannot enroll in any of the classes. But theoretically there is so much out there to learn! Mandarin! Astronomy! Ventriloquism! Animation! Hip-hop dance! Criminal law! Knitting! Medieval castles! Raising chickens! Don’t you feel like if you just learned about all of those things, everything in life would just be better? Or maybe that’s just me.

Zeke’s second class–on how to design a superhero costume–is tomorrow afternoon. He is super excited about this because his career ambition is costume designer for Marvel. There is a vast amount of space between spending one hour chatting online with a costume designer and making a sketch to working for Marvel, but perhaps it’s a start. Or even if it isn’t, if Zeke does something fun and creative for an hour, that’s good enough for me.

Tomorrow morning Zeke is taking a class about lemurs and I am super excited about it. Seriously. My friend Dana said her kids were going to try out classes on Outschool and demystified it for me. I’ve seen ads for Outschool on Facebook for months and months–way before pandemic time-but never needed to add another thing to my kids’ schedule. And also they were in school! And learning new things there! But now, as learning has slowed to a crawl and “school” will end in a month and it’s possible that all the camps will be canceled, I’ve gotta do something. Dana explained to me that some of the Outschool classes include several sessions over the course of a week or several weeks, and some are just 45 minutes long! And they cost $10 (the short ones).

One of the reasons I have been lamenting the prospect of no camp (other than the obvious one of my kids being out of the house for several hours a day interacting with people outside their family) is that camp is where they try new things. Camp is where they learn and practice things that we don’t know how to teach them. Camp is where they explore subjects and activities that that interest them and not necessarily their parents. Turns out that Outschool does this! Of course Outschool also includes classes in reading and writing and math, but for my purposes my kids can take digital SLR photography and consumer finance and superhero costume design and, starting tomorrow, Lemurs, Monkeys & Apes! I have no idea what the classes will be like, but I am optimistic. Did you pick that up?


Today included a variety of small, happy moments. Zoe and I unexpectedly found toilet paper at Target. Randy made a delicious dinner of sausage, peppers, and polenta. We used to eat polenta all the time but then we stopped. It was so lovely to see polenta on my plate again. Zeke did the whole lesson plan I created for him today with no actual complaining.

His video was a collection of images by Yayoi Kusama, who he learned about when we were looking through the Outschool course offerings (we signed him up for this class which I am definitely going to be taking with him but silently off camera. He made it completely on his own by googling Kusama and taking screen shots of photographs of her and her work. At the end, he showed it to me and I asked him if he could add the artist’s name to the first screen. He couldn’t remember how to do this so he looked up instructions in iMovie help and on YouTube and he made the edit, 100% on his own. I was super impressed.

While he was playing with the Sculpey, Zoe joined in and made this adorable little pig.

front view of pig
rear view of pig
top view of pig

AND in an special post-Mother’s Day treat, both my children played (or perhaps hung out?) outside in our micro-back yard for a while this afternoon. I don’t know what they were doing except that involved the hammock and funny accents. But they were laughing and they were together and they were outside and that filled me with joy and delight.

(Another post-Mother’s Day treat was my husband using the plumbing snake kit I ordered online to snake all of our sinks, none of which back up anymore! It’s a Mother’s Day miracle!)


Our family decided today to cancel our beach vacation scheduled for July. We’ve gone to the beach together–in various combinations of extended family at various beaches up and down the East Coast–since I was a baby. These are not glamorous excursions to fancy resorts. But they are familiar and fun and something we always look forward to. It’s hard to imagine not going, but I understand that it’s too risky for my parents. At least we have tomorrow’s lemurs.

Ordinarily I am distracted by looking at myself on zoom calls, but tonight at UUCA’s congregational meeting where we announced our call of Rev. Amanda Poppei to be our next senior minister and she accepted, I was beaming. I couldn’t stop smiling.

There are few endeavors I’ve been a part of that have been as demanding and singularly focused as the ministerial search committee. The two that come to mind are pregnancy and childbirth. While those experiences were definitely more physically taxing, I think serving on the MSC may have been more emotionally and intellectually challenging. Of course since it’s been 7 years since I was last pregnant I could be misremembering in that way that the details of childbirth become hazy when you’re removed from it.

In one of the books I just read, Writers & Lovers, the narrator—Casey—talks about how all the male writers she’s known have been unwaveringly confident that they have at least one great book inside, ready to be written. But neither she nor her female writer friends ever seem so sure, even when they devote their lives to writing that book. In one scene, Casey is talking with her obnoxious landlord and he says to her about her book something like, “I can’t imagine you have anything to say.” Which makes Casey wonder if she does.

I was thinking tonight about this and about a conversation I had with my friend Art from church at a leadership retreat a couple years ago. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about except that it had to do with my writing, and what was keeping me from sharing more of it with the world. I think he asked me something like what was I afraid of, and I didn’t know. I realize now that this is vague and doesn’t sound particularly motivational, but whatever he said made me feel braver.

At first I resisted the nomination to join the MSC, for a variety of good reasons. Then my friend D, who is also a writer, and who served on a previous MSC, told me that the heart of the search process is storytelling, and that’s why I needed to serve. She explained that the first part of the search is listening to the congregation’s stories and crafting a narrative from them about the church. The next part of the process is listening to the stories of the ministers who apply for the position. And finally, you have to tell the story of your candidate to the congregation so they will see in the candidate what you saw and vote to call them as your minister. Of course this is a significant oversimplification, and she didn’t mention how many thousands of hours the whole thing takes, but what D describes was true. And I thought, that’s what I’m good at—listening to people and helping tell their stories.

Often when strangers ask what I do for a living and I say writer, they ask if I’ve written any books. No, I haven’t written any books, I explain. And most people move on or tune out after that. But if they actually want to know more, I tell them. And I am really proud of what I do. I’m proud of the people who I interview and write about and they say, “you made me sound so much more interesting than I actually am.” But they really are more interesting than they realize. I’m proud of the stories I write about nonprofit organizations that educate and inspire people to get involved or contribute. I’m proud of the essays and poems I write that people can relate to, or that make people laugh, or think about something differently. And I am proud of everything I wrote for the ministerial search committee because what I wrote helped us find a spectacular new minister. Of course I didn’t do it alone. Our team was made up of some of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and hardworking people I have ever known. The rest of them have skills and insights that I do not possess. But I am proud that my skills and insights mattered. D was absolutely correct that the search process is about storytelling. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to be a storyteller for this community that I love, especially knowing that the person we found to be our next minister is going to change people’s lives and those people will change the world, in ways large and small. To know this, and to know that words I wrote are catalysts, like the object at the beginning of a Rube Goldberg invention that gets the ball rolling to cause a spectacular chain reaction, fills me with joy.

I think girls and women are often told, subconsciously or overtly, to stay small and be nice, and are criticized when they stand up for themselves or proudly stand by their hard work. Elizabeth Warren, Taylor Swift, Megan Rapinoe, and Glennon Doyle are women I admire who come to mind, but there are a million more examples. I will probably never be famous, but I am a role model for my kids, and I’m a writer, and I’m proud of what I do.

My Dad ventured out for 6am senior hour this morning at Harris Teeter to get supplies. Despite the tornado watch, he and my mom bravely delivered a fabulous early birthday present to me this afternoon: toilet paper and paper towels! Also 10 bell peppers (one of the only vegetables my entire family will eat) and some guac. Also a couple bottles from their personal stash of Martinelli’s sparkling cider. My sister and I used to make fun of our parents for their tendency to stockpile food and other items. But no more. They have enough Raisin Bran crunch on hand to last through several quarantines.

My mom asked me this morning what I wanted for my birthday and my only answer was an end to coronavirus. I forgot momentarily about toilet paper, but that is a close second.

I spent 30 minutes on the floor playing Legos with Zeke today. And we read a chapter and a half of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at bedtime. As a family, we also made yet another new schedule to try tomorrow. This schedule involves significantly more school-ish work and significantly less tv and Xbox time than has been happening recently. It was spring break, but tomorrow it’s not, and knowing this is going on for the rest of the school year means we have to lay down some rules. I know, I know, we’ve tried this before and it didn’t work. But we have to keep trying in order to maintain our (my) sanity. Maybe if I provide more structure for Zeke he will feel safer and calmer? Or not? We shall see.

Zoe and I are observing the amazing regenerative power of skin. Her injuries already look much better than they did last night, although the overall soreness has definitely kicked in. I ordered more first aid supplies online today and organized the inventory we have on hand. I feel more confident dressing the wounds and Zoe is less shaky. She’s been an extremely polite and grateful patient. I am a grateful parent that she didn’t break anything, and that Zeke said he still wants to practice on his bike. I was afraid after seeing his sister’s injuries he would be scared off. I am reminded that sometimes I just need to give him space to process.

Meanwhile, he is still producing art at an impressive pace. I am eager to see what he comes up with on his own once he has mastered all these drawing tutorials and books. I am trying not to push him because I know that tends to end badly.

The dog from Coco
Anger from Inside Out
A hedgehog

Someday we will publish a book of his quarantine art. Until then I will tend to his quarantine heart.

Tonight we watched a makeshift team of superstars use their powers for the greater good.

Last week when I heard about a televised concert being hosted by Elton John and featuring an array of pop stars and celebrities, I figured it was another goodwill effort by musicians to bring cheer into our quarantined and anxious lives. Turns out, the concert was perhaps the most important public service announcement I’ve ever seen.

The iHeart Radio Living Room Concert for America not only delivered heartfelt performances direct from the living rooms (or diving board, in Tim McGraw’s case) of talented musicians, but included scene after scene of doctors, nurses, hospitals, EMTs, and firefighters working to help people through the pandemic. The show highlighted video clips of impassioned pleas from medical workers sharing what they’ve seen and beseeching the public to stay home. Elton John encouraged viewers to donate to Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization that is working to make sure millions of families are able to access nutritious food, especially when they’ve lost their jobs or are facing illness and to the First Responder Children’s Foundation, which supports children and families of first responders.

We’ve been reading the news obsessively–perhaps Randy even more than I have because he’s a news junkie to begin with–and we have watched and read devastating firsthand accounts from doctors and nurses. But the horror of this situation is still fresh, and seeing these people–still in their scrubs, with masks hanging around their necks–describe what they had just lived through was heartbreaking.

Watching this concert gave me hope, however, because it was being broadcast on Fox, on YouTube, and on the IHeartRadio app, and I suspect that millions of people who have not been obsessively reading the news–perhaps even some of those people who ignorantly and inexplicably attended coronavirus parties and crowded Florida beaches on spring break–were watching too. And I hope to God that what they saw shocked them and shook them and will make them stay the hell home and away from people they might unwittingly infect or be infected by, for the greater good.


This morning I watched something entirely different, although it was also created and shared by a team of heroes. Because of the pandemic, my church–along with many religious congregations around the world–has moved to conducting Sunday services online. UUCA has a long tradition of live-streaming services on Sunday morning so people can watch from home, but now that we’re literally not supposed to be together at church, they’ve had to come up with new ways to create the Sunday morning experience. Before I joined the UUCA ministerial search committee two years ago, I was a member of the worship team at UUCA and I absolutely loved contributing to Sunday morning services. I know how much goes into planning and conducting a service, even under ordinary circumstances, so I was profoundly grateful to the ministers and staff and worship team who made today’s service happen. Board of Trustees representative Amy offered a welcome from her front porch, with cherry blossoms blooming in the background. Gail, (another) Amy, and Gay shared reflections about how they are finding love and light in this unbelievably confusing and difficult time. Gail’s daughters Carmen and Kamila told the story “We Are Not Afraid,” about the illegally integrated Highlander Folk School in Tennessee and the students’ response when armed white men broke into the school. The girls sang “We Shall Overcome” so sweetly. Gail and Gay quoted the Persian poets Rumi and Hafiz. Gay read the Maya Angelou poem “Continue.”

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”

Maya Angelou

And there was beautiful music by our accompanist Sophia, an original song and a wonderful rendition of “Meditation on Breathing” which I LOVE, by the talented Kristin Cotts. And so much more. It was all so much MORE than a regular service could be. We had the opportunity to see people and hear from them in their own homes, to meditate to photos and videos of the ocean, and to experience a deeply reassuring coming together of voices and faces of people I love.


In the middle of these two moments, I experienced a moment of shared joy as I watched Zoe pedal confidently around and around and around the (completely empty) church parking lot. Zoe technically learned how to ride a bicycle a few years ago, but she never felt comfortable enough to actually ride for fun or transportation. She even made her own bike (which she was riding today) through a cool program in our community that teaches kids how to fix bikes and enables them to earn one of their own after putting in a certain number of hours. Until now, however, there were always things she wanted to do more than practice riding. She agreed to get back on the bike today, and after just a little while she went from riding a few feet and then hesitating to zooming around the blacktop with a huge smile on her face. After we went home, she asked Randy if he would take her back to the parking lot so she could ride some more.

Zeke has not yet arrived at this state of grace, but he will. He spent about 20 minutes working on gliding around on his bike, which has no pedals right now, but which we will reattach the pedals to as soon as we can borrow the right tool. After that he decided to return to the car to read his book, which he was content to do while Zoe rode.

One kid at a time…

Today was a better day.

I made plaster things with Zeke and I made a chocolate pound cake with Zoe. I bought groceries to last us for the rest of spring at Target, which was reassuringly deserted. I made baked potatoes with turkey chili for dinner. I have a call with a new client scheduled for tomorrow! Zoe spent a lot of time talking and laughing on zoom with various friends, which made me happy. Zeke was super excited to use his new Sharpies.

Notably, I spent little to no time reading upsetting things online. All the bad news will still be there for me later. Zoe and I ended the day by watching an episode of Queer Eye. It is impossible not to feel hopeful about humanity when you see the Fab Five work their magical positivity. I definitely needed a dose of that.

 

questionsI haven’t been blogging as much in recent weeks as I would like, not because I don’t have plenty I want to write about–I do–but because much of my creative energy has been devoted to my Five Questions podcast.

The podcast started as a fun project suggested by a friend after she watched videos of me interviewing Zeke. I’m having a great time coming up with the right questions for each guest and conducting the actual interviews, but I recently had an epiphany about the higher purpose of the podcast.

At the crux of our society’s crises right now is extraordinarily deep disconnection. We are disconnected from each other in terms of politics, religion, race, economics, sexuality, ethnicity, etc etc etc. We are afraid of each other. We feel contempt for each other. Maybe this doesn’t describe you exactly. Maybe you are confident that you’re one of the good ones, and you try to do the right thing and treat others with kindness and respect. But chances are there are some people or groups or ideologies you are averse to and afraid of. Am I saying you should rush out and try to befriend a gang of white supremacists? No. But I am saying that if we were able to have conversations with each other as human beings, you might find some common ground with those people it is easier and more palatable to distance yourself from. You might understand them, or they might understand you. At least a little.

I am not claiming that my podcast is going to lead to world peace. That would be nice, sure. But I feel strongly that any efforts to connect with others are worthwhile and usually bear positive fruit. So far I’ve produced (with the help of my sound engineer Chris Salazar) 14 episodes of Five Questions. I’ve recorded nine interviews that will air this summer and fall. And I have more than half a dozen guests lined up to interview. (I’m always looking for more guests! Sign up here!) Making this podcast has given me a great reason to talk with friends I haven’t talked with in years or even decades. My most recent interview was with someone who I went to writers camp with in 1989 and I have not seen or spoken with him since, but I do follow his life and creative genius on social media. Other guests have been people I see nearly every day. But whether I know the guests well or only a little–or I knew them well once upon a time–I find out something new about them in every episode. Their answers surprise and delight me and give me glimpses into ideas I would never have come up with on my own.

I’ve learned about how Harry Potter is used as a tool for faith formation for Episcopal youth. I’ve learned about how the decision to travel from a remote mountain village in China to the nearest big city two hours away to take a test changed someone’s life. I’ve imagined one person’s vision for a museum honoring the unsung Black women who take care of business behind the scenes. I’ve been inspired by another person’s dedication to daily artistic endeavor, including sculpting self-portraits out of food that quickly melt away. It is a privilege to hear these stories and to share them with others.

Another realization I’ve had during this project is that some people don’t think they’re interesting enough to interview. This baffles me. I’m not asking people to describe feats of daring or record-setting achievements or their road to fame. I’m simply asking what they think, feel, remember, wish, or desire. Anyone with a heart and soul can answer these kinds of questions, and every single answer is worth listening to and savoring. As Glennon Doyle Melton frequently reminds us, “We belong to each other.” Asking my five questions and soaking up and sharing their answers is an essential illustration of that belonging. We have to start understanding that we all belong to each other, and make those connections that lead to belonging. Five Questions is my small way of doing just that.

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