creativity

The time I almost put my dog down

I almost said goodbye to my beloved dog, Phineas, on June 30th. He wasn’t able to eat or drink that morning. I got scared and called my local vet. They said to bring him in to assess. The vet was so kind. She said this decision is never easy, and there is no wrong decision. I’m still processing the series of events that followed.

I signed all the papers with the vet and crematorium. Then we inserted the catheter in Phin’s front right leg. After the light disappearing from his eyes this morning, he rose up and screamed out loud “NO!” He was so loud even the nurses were alarmed. I looked in his eyes, and they were wide and wild and full of light again. He began to shake.

The nurses gave me some time with him. I held him and looked into his beautiful marble eyes. Something in my gut said I would regret doing this. It wasn’t a fear. It was an emphatic “ABSOLUTELY NOT! He has more time.” I felt him say, “Not yet. Not like this. Mom, please don’t do this.”

This reminded me of the time I was in the hospital for my severe allergy to a chemo drug that nearly killed me. All the doctors wanted to send me to the ICU and have me intubated because my oxygen levels were falling. I was terrified because the ICU was filled with COVID patients and vaccines had not yet rolled out widely. 

An ICU nurse was called to take me down, and she fought to not send me. She wanted to try one more machine to see if my body would take up oxygen. 

“You have 10 minutes,” said the attending physician. 

“Then let’s give her 10 minutes,” said the nurse. 

Against all odds, within 10 minutes my oxygen levels surged on the new machine. 

“Holy shit,” said the attending doctor as she stood at the foot of my bed watching my monitors.

That ICU nurse saved my life. I’m certain that if I had gone to the ICU and been intubated, I would have gotten COVID and died. Now, I was that nurse for Phin. He needed me to protect him just as that nurse protected me.

As the doctor was about to come in and administer the final medication to put Phin to sleep, I ran to the lobby of the vet’s office and said, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I’m not ready and neither is Phin.” Instead, we gave him some injectable medication in an attempt to stabilize him and get him eating and drinking again. 

I walked out of the office with Phin in his carrier. We both breathed a sigh of relief. We got home. He drank some water, ate a very small meal, and rested. There are so many other details to this story that I will write about eventually. The signs to not do this presented themselves and I didn’t see them. Phin did, and he spoke up. I can only see them now in retrospect.

I don’t know what tomorrow, or even today, will bring for my boy. But I do know that June 30th was not Phin’s time to leave this plane. I would have regretted not trying to give him more time to come out of the sedation he got late last night at the ER. He’s still here, still with me, not in pain, and I am at peace, glad and grateful to my gut for getting him extra meds, extra care, and extra time.

A few pictures of me and Phin over the last few days:

creativity

JoyProject podcast: The Joy of Old Time Radio Shows with Zachary Lennon-Simon

The Joy of Old Time Radio Show with Zachary Lennon-Simon

Travel back in time with JoyProject as we delve into the world of Old Time Radio Shows, a form of entertainment from the 1920s to the 1960s that had families and friends gathered around the radio to tune into their favorite mysteries, drama, and comedies. Zachary Lennon-Simon, a comedian and storyteller in Brooklyn, New York, is our guide through this delightful and light-hearted audio-forward history for the latest episode of the JoyProject podcast—The Joy of Old Time Radio Shows.

At the end of the podcast, I share something that brought me joy this week related to the episode. I found a bunch of free online resources where you can tune into all kinds of old time radio shows with just a few taps on your computer or phone. I also share my two favorite apps where you can access thousands of free audiobooks through your local public library.

Topics discussed in this episode:
– How Zach discovered old time radio shows as a kid and rediscovered them after college
– Zach’s favorite shows and where to find them today
– The differences between old time radio shows, audiobooks, and narrative podcasts, and some good ones to check out
– The importance of sound design in old time radio
– Stars who made old time radio popular

Links to resources:
– Zach on Instagram – @lennonhyphensimon
– Zach on Twitter – @zachlennonsimon
– Zach’s short film, frantic delicate summer – https://vimeo.com/63383000
– Christa on Twitter – @christanyc
– Christa on Instagram – @christarosenyc
– Christa’s website – ChristaAvampato.com
– Old Time Radio Archive – https://www.youtube.com/c/OldTimeRadioArchive
– Old Time Radio Shows – https://www.youtube.com/c/OldTimeRadioShowsOnline
– MakeUsOf article – https://www.makeuseof.com/listen-old-time-radio-shows-online/
– Internet Archive – https://archive.org
– Relic Radio – https://www.relicradio.com/otr/
– RockIt Radio – https://rokitradio.com/
– Internet Radio – https://www.internet-radio.com/search/?radio=old+time+radio
– Pumpkin FM – https://pumpkinfm.com/
– RUSC – https://www.rusc.com/
– Libby App for free audiobooks – https://libbyapp.com/
– Cloud Library for free audiobooks – https://www.yourcloudlibrary.com/

A little bit about Zach:
Zach Lennon-Simon is a filmmaker and storyteller who was born & raised in Brooklyn, NY. He has told stories for many different shows such as Kvetching & Kvelling, Everything is Bad, Beaver Helmet, and The Teacher’s Lounge. In his spare time, he tries his best to sing both parts of Judy & Babs’ “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again” medley. 

creativity

I can’t stop thinking about Yellowstone

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

On Sunday night, I sat down to work on my novel-in-progress. All I could think about was the devastation in Yellowstone that could take years to restore and cost billions of dollars. You’ve got to write what’s in your heart and on your mind. This is what poured out of me:

Many of us are watching the recent flooding in Yellowstone National Park with horror, and rightly so. To see whole structures carried away as if they were weightless is terrifying. What struck me is how quickly the devastation came and went from the top headlines. Did any of us change anything about the way we live after seeing the footage? Very few, if any. The reason, unfortunately, is science. 

Though scientists across the globe have largely rallied around data that supports the impacts of climate change on our planet and the rapidly closing window of time left to truly stave off the worst consequences, scientists have also been reluctant to draw direct connections between catastrophic events like Yellowstone’s flooding and climate change. Their reluctance is so common that media articles and reports often reference it in environmental coverage. 

For example, in a recent New York Times article, the reporters say this in the opening: “It is difficult to directly connect the damage in Yellowstone to a rapidly warming climate — rivers have flooded for millenniums …”

With sweeping statements like that, the well-intentioned reporters have given climate deniers all the fuel they need to shrug their shoulders and go about their day exactly as they have every other day. Or worse—this is a simple explanation they use to convince others that scientists have no idea what they’re talking about and that everything is just fine. This behavior is destroying the planet and will ultimately destroy us.

Our hand-wringing about “direct connections” is going to cost us our lives and livelihoods. It’s time for us to get off the sidelines and stop taking the role of being our own worst enemies. Climate scientists can look to other areas of science to see how to inspire action, namely medicine. 

Very little in the field of medicine is certain. A lot of medicine is educated guessing. Standards of care often read something akin to “given your situation and what we have observed with those who we believe are similar to you, we believe this course of treatment may help.” I know this first-hand because I’m currently taking a medication after beating early-stage breast cancer that is still experimental with some studies showing that it has a possible chance of reducing the risk of recurrence for someone like me. 

There are caveats all over that statement, but you know what? If it can’t hurt, might help, and my insurance covers it, I’m taking it. I want to live a long, healthy life. Most of us do. For that singular reason we exercise, eat healthy food, try to manage our stress level, don’t smoke, limit (or eliminate) alcohol, go to the doctor for check-ups and exams, and take medications that could help us. Is any of that advice perfect? No. Are we guaranteed a specific outcome if we do all those things? No. But why not give ourselves every possible advantage we can, right?

Climate scientists could model their approach on medicine. Even if they can’t make a perfect case for cause and effect between climate change and a single catastrophe like Yellowstone flooding, does it seem likely that the two are related? Yes. Could an increase in wildfires, droughts, and more severe storms be related to a warming planet? Yes. Could an acceleration of species extinction be driven by deforestation and the pollution of our air, oceans, and water ways? Yes. Could the continuous and increasing supply of greenhouse gases being pumped into the air be destabilizing our atmosphere? Yes. Then why not do everything possible to mitigate the impacts that could have such dire consequences on the life of every living being on the planet?

We want to live long, healthy lives so we do everything we can to try to make that possible. Why not do the same for the planet that we all need? Even if you and I do everything right when it comes to the health of our bodies and minds, if the health of the planet as a whole suffers, what we do for our own individual health will be for naught. 

The planet needs a standard of care—limit or eliminate pollution in all its forms; reduce, reuse, and recycle; replace fossil fuel consumption with clean, renewable sources of energy; stop food waste; stop deforestation and replenish the forests we’ve lost. 

None of these changes will be simple nor pain-free. We have to reinvent how we live and the systems that make our lives and economies function. The transition will be difficult, expensive, and, for a while, inconvenient. But you know what’s more difficult, expensive, and inconvenient? Having a planet that’s in such poor health that it can no longer sustain life—ours or anyone else’s. Why take that risk when there is another way? Why not give ourselves and all those who (hopefully) come after us the best chance to live and live well?

We don’t need certainty and one-to-one causations for climate action. If a high probability and correlation is good enough for the science we use to sustain our bodies, then it’s good enough for the science to sustain our planet. By the time we have inarguable certainty, it will be too late for all of us. That’s a risk none of us should willingly take. 

creativity

Joy Today: Mary Oliver

Yesterday the world lost Mary Oliver, a person who taught me how to write and how to live. Rest In Poetry, Mary. We will certain rest in yours.

Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate.
Give in to it.
There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.
We are not wise, and not very often kind.
And much can never be redeemed.
Still life has some possibility left.
Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world.
It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty.
Joy is not made to be a crumb.

creativity

Joy Today: The beauty of time

“Time’s chief beauty is you can’t waste it in advance. The next year, day, hour lie ready for you, perfect, unspoiled, as if you’d never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose” -Arnold Bennett

Today you get a whole new start. You’ll also get a fresh start in an hour, even in a minute. You are never stuck. Every moment is a chance and a choice to change.

creativity

A Year of Yes: The most personal interview I’ve ever given is now live on the How Humans Change podcast

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 10.19.44 PMIf you want to really know me, listen to this interview. The big question for me in this lifetime is, “Does everything matter or does nothing matter?” A few months ago, I gave the most personal interview I’ve ever done. My friend, mentor, and storytelling hero, John Bucher, introduced me to Josh Chambers and Leiv Parton, hosts and producer of the podcast, How Humans Change. My interview is now live. our wide-ranging conversation includes career, science, sustainability, the health of the planet, biomimicry, dinosaurs, product development, therapy, curiosity, change, the economy and capitalism, time, technology, work, culture, implicit bias, life-changing moments, storytelling, writing, poverty, trauma, writing, my book, mental health, strength, resilience, therapy, fear, courage, my apartment building fire, how my plane got struck by lightning, and so much more. Despite these dark topics, there is a lot of light, fun, laughter, and healing in this interview. It’s the most personal interview I’ve ever given, and some of the details I reveal about my personal path and past I have never discussed publicly before now. I hope you enjoy the podcast episode and that it inspires you to live the best life you can imagine.

creativity

A Year of Yes: Why I gave up perfect

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ~Gilda Rader

The older I get, the more I’ve learned to love the imperfections of life and of people. The crooked path, the flaws, the messiness. Those things are what I remember. Those are the things that taught me what I needed to learn. Perfect hasn’t given me anything except anxiety and fear. Imperfect has given me possibility, opportunity, empathy, and compassion. Which would you prefer?

creativity

A Year of Yes: Getting personal about time on a podcast about change

Yesterday, I did an interview for a podcast called How Humans Change. I spoke with hosts Josh Chambers and Leiv Parton about change, transformation, death, trauma, writing, mental health, choices, poverty, technology, career, the passage of time, therapy, science, dinosaurs, biomimicry, super powers, and how healing, while difficult, is the best motivator of all. It’s my most personal interview to-date.

Some people who hear it will be surprised, and others will have answers to some long outstanding questions that I have rarely discussed in the past. I’m making a more concerted effort to address these topics thoughtfully, authentically, and often.

I always love meeting members of my tribe and these guys are definitely part of it. Thank you to my amazing friend and mentor, John Bucher, for connecting me to them. I’ll share the episode link when it’s live. Until then, give their first season a listen by clicking here.

creativity

A Year of Yes: You never know how much time you have

If there’s something you’re burning to do, do it now. Last night I learned that a man I greatly admire, someone who was an enormous help to me during my job search last year, passed away of a sudden heart attack. He went out for his morning jog, in seemingly perfect health, and didn’t come home. He was only 49 years old.

His advice and introductions were a tremendous source of encouragement to me at a difficult time. I had just moved back to New York after two years away, was doing a full-time job search, and was dealing with a heavy dose of change and uncertainty. Though I wore a brave face, I was constantly worried about just about everything. The first time I met him in person, I was having a particularly low day.

I went to his office and despite the fact that he was insanely busy, he gave me so much of his time. He was completely relaxed and didn’t rush me at all. I felt right at home talking to him, as if I had known him all my life. That’s the kind of person he was. He listened to my dreams, and immediately started introducing me to everyone and anyone he knew whom he thought could help me.

When I got my job offers, he helped me think through them so I would make the best choice. All of his advice was spot-on. The last time I saw him, he gave me a big hug, and said, “You know it’s all going to be okay. It always is. You just keep working hard and it’ll work out.” And he was right.

The best way I can think to honor him is to follow his advice to the letter. And I will. Don’t wait to do what you love. You never know how much time you have.