Sedona, Arizona

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Sedona, Arizona

“Wow Even the rocks in Sedona meditate!” Ilchi Lee

Plan to be amazed.  As the sun started to set, the red rocks started to glow in the light.  We sat on the hotel terrace restaurant with Mexican food and margaritas, watching the color of the sky change with rocks. I would have forgotten that there was a Corona virus except for the masked waiters. 

As you drive through the mountains to enter the town, you can clearly see the outlines of Sedona because of the distinct shift between the typical brown/beige desert surroundings to the intense red color of these rocks.  

 We had a very different  trip planned the week everything closed for quarantine in March to the Mii Amo spa in Sedona.

This time we were masked and social distancing so the spa was out of the question for us.  Everyone else was using it. The most dramatic red rocks of Sedona’s Boynton Canyon  set the tone for an experience beyond compare.

  Enchantment Resort is a little pricey but there isn’t a more beautiful hotel to stay in.

When we arrived it was crowded and no one was wearing masks, except the staff. It felt unsafe as far as the virus was concerned. All the rooms have beautiful views of the red rocks so just hanging out on your terrace is amazing. The rooms are “casitas” and have both a kitchenette with a table and an outdoor table and grill. You have different options for  room service both cooked and ‘raw” if you want to do it yourself.  Somehow with all the different hikes, spa treatments and activities that they have,  we were able to avoid crowds of people and eat in all the restaurants at off hours, hike, walk and feel safe.  Doing yoga, qi gong and meditation on the terrace facing the red rocks was a spiritual experience.

  The Bf was off hiking and mountain biking.

The activities at Enchantment were limited because of safety. There were no large classes or group hikes. You had to hike on your own or hire a private guide.

Our guide was George, a 76 year old Apache who started the mountain biking experience and cut many of the trails that people hike on.

There was no one more concerned with masks and social distancing than George – except for me. He was horrified by all the hikers who don’t wear masks.

With his Apache spirit he guided them away from us and made us wait for the air to clear when a group passed by.

It was a special treat to see “The land of the red skin” with him.

And then there are the stars. Sedona has strict rules about lighting at night because the skies are ablaze with stars. Being a city girl, the night skies are one of the marvelous splendors of the area. 

We will definitely come back to Sedona to have the full experience when this is over. But during these uncertain times, finding beauty is a necessity. 

Stay safe,

JAZ

Gratitude In The Time Of Corona

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Gratitude In The Time Of Corona

“Enough” is a feast.” Buddhist proverb

Some days are great. Things go as planned and you bounce from meeting to appointment to lunch and you feel wonderful inside.

Then there are the other days. Like being in the house for four and a half months quarantined with no end in sight – wondering  if things will ever get back to the way they were in the old world. There are days when you do not feel motivated at all.

I’ve done gratitude lists before.  Writing five things I am grateful for in quarantine became rote because I did the same thing every day. I realized that if I wrote one thing a day and really thought about it, it worked better. Here are some of the things I have written down. Maybe they will resonate with you during these times.

The easiest thing to be grateful for is having a roof over my head. I live in an area with a lot of homeless people. I fear it will become worse from this virus.  I choose not to take this for granted.

 I am grateful for easy access to good drinking water. We can’t really drink from the faucet like in Iceland or New Zealand, but we do have tap water that we can boil in our homes. One eighth of the world’s population do not have access to safe drinking water.

 I recently read that the  ancient Greek philosophers  started their day outside in Nature to feel calm and grateful.  I try to spend at least a few minutes having coffee outside looking at the beach. Being in “prison” for four months with people not wearing masks here, has made my relationship with the beach complicated. But every morning, when I sit and look out at the ocean, I am so grateful that I get to see this and smell the ocean air to start my day.

I am grateful that everyone I know is healthy. They have either recovered from the virus or not gotten it.  While I do my part to stop the spread  of coronavirus by staying home, others are going to work, risking putting themselves and those they love in danger of exposure. My gratitude toward these front-line professionals not only is well-deserved, but it also helps relieve stress which suppresses our immune systems.

I am grateful for the time to read good books. i wasn’t allowed to watch TV as a kid and getting lost in a book was a familiar feeling. Now with so many options for entertainment, focusing on a book is harder.  But now I read every day and when a book grabs me in, I remember the feeling I had as a child. 

I am also grateful for access to the internet during this time.  Can you imagine going through this without the internet? We are able to order food, medicine, clothes and any random thing we can think of – mostly with free shipping. We can take classes with our favorite teachers, talk to friends, family, doctors  and work on ZOOM.  We have access to a crazy number of TV shows and movies from all over the world. We get theatre productions and we can still look up every thing that comes into our head. There is instagram and facebook to stay connected with the world. 

I am grateful for Banksy my dog. He is my constant companion through this time and is endlessly entertaining. He keeps me sane during this time of social distancing. 

I am grateful for small kindnesses. A person who actually puts on their mask when they walk by me, a pretzel delivery from my daughter, a funny youtube video sent from a friend or the perfect eggplant parmesan prepared by the BF all help me get through this.

I am grateful for my friends and family. We are all in this together and when we are reunited it will be even more special.

I am grateful to be spending this time with the  BF.  Day 145 is definitely different then Day 1 in quarantine. It is our first year of living together.  What we were able to tolerate easily before is a bit different now. Trapped in close quarters, tense moments are inevitable. But we get through it with communication, laughter and hugs and we are really lucky to have found each other.

Stay Safe,

JAz

Don’t Defund The Police – Fix Them – And This Time Make It Stick

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Don’t Defund The Police – Fix Them – And This Time Make It Stick

“In my own lifetime, I want to see the fighting cease. In my own lifetime, I want to see my sons enjoy the fruits of peace. While I’m still here, I want to know beyond a doubt that no one can lock us in or lock us out. We have climbed higher. much higher than I thought we’d climb. It’s a long journey, and even though the end’s in sight, there’s not much time.  I want to know we haven’t built on sand, in my own lifetime “ Sheldon Harnick “The Rothschilds”

The Police  Force is considered to be the most corrupt of governmental  institutions world wide. Fundamental systemic changes, including anti-corruption reforms, are needed in countries all over the world to prevent police abuse.

George Floyd’s death is the latest in a long series of brutal encounters between the American police and the people they are supposed to serve.

We need to make meaningful changes to address police misconduct.  When something calls attention to their faults (like murder), they implement change for a while. As public attention shifts and politics moves on, the police reform efforts eventually stop. 

We need to get rid of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a judicial doctrine that protects officers who violate someone’s constitutional rights from civil-rights lawsuits unless the officers’ actions were clearly established as unconstitutional at the time.  Just throw it out and make them as accountable for their behavior as the rest of us are.  They have clearly abused that privilege.

Police officers should keep better records of what they do and how they do it. Why were they in a high speed chase down the freeway? Who got injured along the way? etc. They looked like an invading army during the protests and many instances of unnecessary brutality and meanness were reported. Was any of that investigated? 

The most important thing to spend money on is better police training and screening. Train parking enforcement to deal with most traffic violations. Get rid of traffic cops.  If I get stopped outside of Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles, police act very differently. I did not need four officers with guns surrounding my new car because it didn’t have a front license plate at the time that law changed.  When I yelled at them for doing that and scaring my daughter (and me), they took forty five minutes, to write up the ticket. (Yes, I know what white privilege is but once I am in a non white neighborhood, they think I am Hispanic or Muslim).  Screen for psychological disorders, racial and  gender prejudice, homophobia, bullying, depression or violent, angry personalities. Get rid of stop and frisk and racial profiling.

 Police see the worst of humanity, the most depraved, and they do so at risk to their own lives. I think they are so used to thinking everyone is a bad guy and might have a gun and kill them, that they lose their humanity.  They treat certain neighborhoods as war zones and seem to forget human beings live in them.

 Police are rewarded  for “collars” (arrests – yes I’m obsessed with watching Law and Order) and how many traffic tickets they give in a month. What if they got rewarded equally for people they helped and the kindnesses they did in a community? What if they got rewarded for the humane way they dealt with lawbreakers?  They seem to have a problem telling the difference between an African American man walking home from work or a student running  home from college and a criminal. So it is best if they find a better way of dealing with arrests. Make their pension not a guarantee but based on constant re – evaluation.   

This “Blue Wall Of Silence” has to stop. This is the informal rule among  police officers not to report on a colleague’s errors, misconducts, or crimes, including police brutality. It has to be part of a new kind of training.

 Somewhere during the quarantine of the corona virus and the protests against police brutality, an African American friend sent me a picture of her brand new grandson. We have to do better. We have to fix this and keep at it this time. No more slacking off when things quiet down. 

Stay safe,

JAZ

Returning To The Places You Love

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Returning To The Places You Love

“I believe that each person has a favorite place, a tree, a mountain, or a beach which they want to come back to, even if the return can only take place in the boundaries of their imagination.” Sana Szewczyk

I’m always afraid to return to places that I love. There’s a danger for me that comes with returning to these places. There’s always an underlying fear that on a second visit, it doesn’t feel the same; that either I’ve changed or it’s changed or maybe both.  There are so many places in the world to see, how could I justify a return visit?

 I have revisited countries but I focus on different cities and I just spend a short time in the cities that I have been to. I often find that second and third time visits are much more relaxed, spontaneous and enjoyable. Going back to a place lets you dig a bit deeper and uncover another layer of the place.

I’ve already done the famous sites and waited on the long queues. The nice thing about return visits is the I can concentrate on exploring the off the beaten track parts of a city. I don’t feel bad about spending an entire day shopping, eating and drinking since I did the museums and tourist thing on the last visit. 

If I visit during a different season, the city can have a whole different feeling. Many cities are transformed for special events like festivals or holidays at certain times of the year.. Bad weather, bad luck and bad choices can turn you against a destination that might deserve a second chance. 

I cancelled two trips over the last few months in quarantine. I don’t know when i will actually be able to travel again. Researching trips, which is something I do extensively when I am home, is not an option right now. When the world feels so uncertain, maybe it is just  easier to reminisce about the past than to plan something new. Istanbul, Venice, London,  Sydney, Tel Aviv  anywhere in South America, Portugal, Croatia and Japan look pretty great to me right now.

Stay Safe,
JAZ

Comfort Food In The Time Of Corona

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Comfort Food in the Time Of Corona

“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness.” Eli Brown

Americans are cooking more than they have in the last fifty years. Not only are we cooking but we are maximizing what we already have in our kitchens and reducing food waste. We are buying fruits and vegetables that last longer and using up what we have in our freezer. With three meals at home every day, even I am making an effort to cook something. We are getting ideas from sharing recipes with friends and family.  Talking about cooking is a way for us to keep busy and calm ourselves during all this chaos. Here are some comfort foods from all of us. Special thanks to my friends and family for sharing their food with me.

Heritage Chicken, Baked Apples and Roasted Carrots

Eggplant Parmesan

Hot Dogs from Brooklyn, Homemade Baked Beans and French Fries

Tofu Stir Fry

Ham and Pineapple Chunks

Spanakopita

Turkey Meatloaf

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Grain Bowl

Lasagna

French Toast

Spaghetti A La Scarpetta

Braised Chicken Thighs with Spinach and Chick Peas.

Turkey, Sweet Potatoes, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce

Steak, Baked Potato and Tomato Green Bean Salad

Stay Safe,

JAZ

 

 

Where Am I Going Next Really?

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Where I Am Going Next Really?

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” Joni Mitchell

Before the corona virus became a thing, I had written a blog about where I am going next. I hadn’t posted it yet. It doesn’t seem very postable at this moment.   I will probably be going to the place I should have been now. Traveling seems very far away.  So instead I started to think about what I would really want to be doing next. 

I want to eat in a restaurant with a comfortable ambiance, delicious food and great service. I want to be having an interesting conversation that doesn’t involve who is doing the dishes and what protein do I want to eat tomorrow. 

I miss museums, art galleries and street art. The white walls filled with art are as calming to me now as they were in my childhood. I miss seeing the city as an open canvas for urban street artists. 

As much as I love being able to go through all of Netflix, I want to go to the movies. There is nothing I like better than sitting in a dark theatre with subtitles. It combines some of my favorite things –  reading, movies and foreign countries.  The best thing is to be sharing a large tub of movie popcorn. I believe it has less calories if you are not the one who has actually bought it. I bring my own water because buying water at the movie theater is a rip off.  

I want to hang out with my girlfriends.The hour long phone conversations and daily texts are not enough. Most of my emotional and mental strength comes from deep bonds with the strong females in my life. I treasure the long conversations we have over lunches and dinners.

I miss shopping. I miss wandering into stores, picking up and putting down items I can’t possibly afford, talking to salespeople, and eventually settling on the item I had to have at that moment. I want to focus on a new lipstick or a beautiful dress to wear somewhere fabulous. 

I love theater. My mother is to blame for this. I normally prefer plays but with all this real life drama I miss going to see a musical. The very premise of  musical theatre defies all reality.  It attempts to imitate life (as theatre tends to do) and then suddenly, a character bursts out in song and everyone on the street knows the words.  Secretly, I  have always clung to the hope that I will someday be able to break into song at the market, department store, a parent-teacher conference,  a restaurant or during a mammogram and everyone will know the words.

Basically, I miss my boring life – the one I am always leaving to go somewhere different.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Corona Days

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Corona Days

“She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.”  Zelda Fitzgerald

It is twenty something days in. I often lose track of what day of the week it is as every day is the same. I’ve developed a bit of a corona schedule for my day. They are not always  in this order and sometimes I mix it up – nor do I always get up at 8. 

8:00  Breakfast and internet time. I try to work on my blog for a bit but not traveling makes it more difficult. Play some scrabble. 

9:30  ZOOM Yoga every Friday with Michelle Azar Aron or her face book yoga  on other days.  I haven’t done yoga in a year and a half and I can feel it. I try to switch off every other day with Pilates so it doesn’t hurt so much.

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/351065504?pwd=SnV3UzIxd2xVNS9ieUp0aGtHNkJWQT09

Meeting ID: 351 065 504 Password: 914811

11:00 Tai Chi / Qi Gong with Olivia Rosewood. Olivia is doing a 15 minute Qi Gong Tai Chi warm up which is a great way to start the day. 

https://www.facebook.com/oliviarosewood

11:30 if I can get it to work, I do another twenty minutes of QI Gong breathing  with Samuel Barnes on his face book page .

12:00  Spend time brushing my dogs hair because he is starting to get matted and dreadlocks are forming. After, we go out on the deck and run around. Today i spoke to a nice man at Mobile Groomers who told me what tools and shampoo to buy to detangle my dog and taught me what to do. This should be interesting.  He felt that cutting the nails and expressing  the anal glands was above my skill level. He was right. Soon I will learn how to color my own hair.

12:30 Lunch  is whatever we have in the house. It usually involves peanut butter.

1:00 I am taking this Yale class online.. It is an interesting time to be taking it but when do you have this kind of time? It is called The Science Of Well Being and I’m really enjoying it. I spend one to two hours a day on it.

https://www.businessinsider.com/coursera-yale-science-of-wellbeing-free-course-review-overview

2:00 This  is a good time to get  dressed or at least change into a different pair of sweat pants,  clean up the house and make the bed.

3:00 We go for a walk with the dog on the beach or  the Speedway. The Speedway is less windy but more crowded with bikers and skateboarders. It is easier to navigate the six feet thing there than on our less crowded but very narrow streets. Everyday we have more  and more quarantine gear. Almost everyone is wearing masks now. The bikers freak me out because they come so close. It feels good to get out of the house. 

4:30 Meditate for half an hour. 

5:30 Treadmill and some TV for half an hour. We don’t walk so fast because I have a little dog who likes to stop a lot.  I’m binge watching the Gilmore Girls- anything light  and mindless to avoid the constant corona virus news coverage. 

6:00 Check in on family and friends – some I haven’t seen in a long time but I find myself thinking about people and wondering how they are doing.

7:00 Dinner.  The BF has taken on the quarantine cooking challenge and our dinners are always creative and delicious. We have made it more interesting by comparing dinners with a couple of friends. It is not supposed to be a competition but…… We are also trying to support our favorite restaurants that are still open by doing some take out.

9:00 TV and Reading. Three seasons of Silicon Valley and Unorthodox. Now we are watching Top Chef.  I have read Angle Of Repose and currently Americanah. 

We have started Corona Catering for our respective kids. It is nice to do something for someone else during this time. There  is a lot of me time. But instead of hair, skin and nails it is more about calming my brain, being grateful and being in the present. I wonder what changes I will make in my life and what new habits I will  take with me when this is over. 

Stay Safe,

JAZ

 Travel  In The Time Of Corona

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 Travel  In The Time Of Corona

“Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you from getting me sick” unknown

Eventually all those people stocking up on supplies at Costco are going to have to leave their houses and the Corona Virus will still be here. It will lighten up in the spring and summer as viruses do, and come back in the winter. It is something we will learn to live with like Aids and Airport Security.  If you have not been addicted before, hand sanitizer is the new normal. Someone you know or maybe you will get it and next year there will be a vaccine and things will calm down.

The decision to travel or not is a tough one. I just had to cancel my month long trip to Germany and France in mid April.  The first part was a tour with the Jewish Heritage Museum though the Alsace region. I was particularly excited to go to the baths in Baden Baden – a bucket list thing for me. Afterward, I was meeting the BF In Lyon and we were traveling to Marseille, Cassis, Aix and later staying in a beautiful winery in the region. We would  have  ended up in Paris for a few days. It was a lot of planning and involved planes, trains and cars. I have not cancelled part two yet. 

I know it is the right thing to do at this time but when it comes to travel-all reasoning disappears. I have terrible travel envy and the cure for me is planning a trip. I always have something to look forward to and now I don’t – other than maybe not getting sick and dying – which is big. 

At the moment it feels like I am sitting at home thinking about traveling a lot more than I am actually traveling. 

I’ve always had anxiety and lived my life in fear so this collective fear doesn’t feel strange to me. The best we can do is to wash our hands and avoid people who are coughing. I’m germaphobic so I do this anyway. I was way ahead of my time with social distancing.  I am no longer weird and can proudly touch things with my elbow and not hug hello. 

Life is tough and unpredictable .No matter how well-thought-out your plans might be, they’re bound to be disrupted at some point. Don’t take it personally, it’s just life and like everything else this will pass.

And by the way, thanks for freaking out and buying all the toilet paper.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

How To Not Get The Corona Virus

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“Wash your hands like you just got done slicing jalapeños for a batch of nachos and you need to take your contacts out.”Unknown

As the Corona Virus spreads around the world, health officials are saying washing your hands a minimum of twenty seconds with soap is helpful to prevent infection.

Here are some things  you can do in your head for twenty seconds while washing your hands.

Sing Happy Birthday twice.

Sing the chorus of Jolene. Dolly Parton.

Recite as much of the Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll as you can remember or any other poem you had to memorize in school.

Sing the first verse of God Save the Queen, the British National Anthem.

Hum Grieg’s In The Hall Of Mountain King.

Sing the chorus of Africa. ToTo.

Recite the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence or any speech you had to memorize in High School.

Hum Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

Sing Mambo Number Five. Lou Bega.

Sing the chorus of Raspberry Beret. Prince.

Hum Ravel’s Bolero.

Sing the chorus of Truth Hurts. Lizzo.

Hum the March Of The Toreadors from Bizet’s Carmen.

Sing the chorus of Owner Of A Lonely Heart. Yes.

Say the famous Star Trek speech. “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Fly safe,
JAZ