“I will never apologize for embracing joy and beauty – even when the world is falling apart – because joy and beauty are my fuel for activism.” - Karen Walrond, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto

Hi friends! I’ve wanted to write a blog post for weeks now, but haven’t been able to properly string the words together. The pain and hurt are so deep in the world right now that it’s easy to feel paralyzed by it all. I feel guilty seeking joy, when so many are suffering. Daily, I read about the bombings and mass destruction taking place in Ukraine. It’s hard to comprehend that in a matter of weeks, millions of people have lost their homes and been forced to flee; that families are being torn apart, with no idea if or when they will see each other again. It’s awful, the sheer evil of this brutal attack. I pray, I donate, I read. I feel helpless.

I look at my own children, safe and happy, and though we are far from the conflict, my heart hurts for the Ukrainian mothers holding their babies in bomb shelters, wondering how long the fighting will last. As an empath, I feel these things deeply. I’m taking a much-needed sabbatical from social media during Lent, and I try to limit my daily news intake, but I still feel the weight of it all.

AND. There are stories of hope. Of ordinary people staying in war-torn Kyiv and Mariupol to help: to run soup kitchens and deliver meals to people sheltering in subways. Doctors and nurses living at the hospital to care for the sick and wounded (and pregnant women and newborn babies). Bakeries staying open despite the bombing, giving away hundreds of loaves of bread a day. Hotels in bordering countries offering free shelter to refugees. Of Polish families taking in orphans. In spite of the evil, there is still so much good in the world.

Like many of you, I’ve also been processing the two-year anniversary of the pandemic. I celebrated my birthday on March 11, which, for me, marked the day in 2020 where everything changed. The last day the kids went to school for over a year. The last night I had dinner with friends (also for over a year!). The last day that felt somewhat normal before the pandemic took over our lives. Collectively, we’ve spent two years filled with fear and anxiety and isolation. Of canceled plans and the loss of loved ones, two years where every decision came with impossibly high stakes. It’s taken a toll on me (and all of us!), and as things open back up, I’m trying to learn how to navigate pandemic life in its current less-restricted but-not-quite-over-yet form.

AND. There are reasons to celebrate. Covid numbers in Nashville are finally low enough that Evie’s school lifted the mask mandate for the first time since 2020. Grayson is still masking (he’s too young for a vaccine), but as the risk is lower, he is now able to attend school 4 days a week. Which means I finally am getting some pockets of time to work on my book proposal. (!!) Also, it’s springtime, the trees are blooming, and the weather is perfect. Things feel hopeful.

So how do we hold all of this? The pain and the loss, along with all the good in this present moment? As Dr. Becky (psychologist, and host of the world’s best parenting podcast) always says: “Two things are true.”

There is so much pain and suffering in the world and there is also so much beauty and joy. Both are true.We must allow ourselves to feel the pain and the joy. Both/and. That creates a tender heart, one that can love deeply and fully.

I listed to an incredible podcast a few days ago that helped put things in perspective for me - a conversation between Brené Brown and Karen Walrond, author of The Lightmaker’s Manifesto: How to Work for Change Without Losing Your Joy. Though I haven’t read Karen’s book yet, she reminds us that we MUST allow ourselves to feel joy and acknowledge beauty, especially during a time like this. Because joy and beauty fuel us to be healers and change-makers in the world. Without these things, what are we even fighting for? I highly recommend that you listen - it will give you so much hope during a dark time.

Also a few practical things. To help support Ukrainians right now, here is a comprehensive list of places to donate. I’ve also donated to Together Rising, which has already sent over $2 million to support relief organizations in Ukraine (read more about what they are doing here).

Finally, as you all know, baking (therapy) always helps me cope during hard times. It’s something that brings me joy, and that my kids absolutely love as well. A few things I’ve been baking lately that might bring you some joy in the kitchen: Raspberry-Oatmeal Bars, Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie (my birthday cake this year!), and Orange Zest Scones with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote. Enjoy!

How are you? What two things feel true to you right now?

XO, Anna