THE MOURNING CAMPAIGN

 
 

By Abdullah Hammoud

As my community was congratulating me for my election to state office, I was celebrating them — the individuals who inspired me to seek a career in public service.

The most frequent question I receive is, “Abdullah, what possessed you to run for office?” I have always said that my community, the Dearborn, Michigan community, provided my family with everything — from social freedoms to financial opportunities. My mother immigrated to Dearborn with her family in 1974 from Lebanon, the year before the start of the Lebanese civil war, in pursuit of security. My father immigrated to Dearborn in the late 1970’s, along with his brothers, in search of better job opportunities. No matter your reason for immigrating, Dearborn was the destination — an up-and-coming city that is now the home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the nation.

Our mosques neighbor our churches, and our burger joints sit side by side with our falafel shops. Driving through the city, you can feel that the residents embrace the diversity of culture, language and religion; it is the strength of the community. And running for this office of state representative was a way to give back, a way to ensure that the next generation has even greater opportunities than I ever had in the city and state I call home.

While that was and remains the truth, there was a piece of the story I had not shared, until now. In October 2015, I lost my older brother and best friend, Ali Hammoud. For those who have ever lost a loved one, you especially understand what it is like to ponder life’s greatest mystery — our purpose. In the months that followed, I reflected on that very topic with my brother top of mind.

Among an ocean of lessons about making people laugh, living to the fullest and staying true to who you are, he taught me how to be a thoughtful advocate for others — continuously demonstrating the potential every person has to make a difference through purposeful action. Ali was the individual who made you feel that the stars were an arm’s length away — all you had to do was reach out and grab them. Personal stories surfaced after his passing about his kindness and his impact on people’s lives. It was only fitting that his former employer created an annual award in his honor given to an individual who works hardest to better those around them.

 

“Our mosques neighbor our churches, and our burger joints sit side by side with our falafel shops. ”

 

Three months after Ali passed, I had the opportunity to put into action all that he instilled in me. Before this unfortunate event, I was interviewing for a new job and contemplating a return to graduate school to earn my MBA. The idea to run for office was not one that had ever crossed my mind, and yet at this time in my life, it felt right.

In the most difficult year of my family’s life, I announced my run for public office, Ali’s memory driving my bid. His voice, his values, echoed in every decision I made, proving to be most crucial to the success of the campaign. Listening to the concerns of my neighbors, speaking up for the voices that often go unheard and empowering individuals to be the change they want to see: These are all lessons Ali lived by.

My swearing-in ceremony was December 20, 2016, what would have been Ali’s 29th birthday. To the outside world, the ceremony represented a milestone in my professional career. However, to me, the day signified Ali.

As my community’s State Representative, I took my oath with my hand laying on the Quran gifted to my family after his passing. This day marked a gift to Ali, for even in his absence, he encouraged me to be an advocate for my community in the same way he was an advocate for me.

There were many struggles on this journey to find purpose, but God says, “Certainly with hardship comes ease.” I stood proud and content knowing that my purpose is my community.

There really is no place like home. And I’ve been bestowed with the honor of representing my home’s values, principles and families in our state Capitol.


Abdullah Hammoud, who was born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, is the son of immigrant parents and a product of Dearborn Public Schools. Whether as a volunteer, advocate or community activist, he has consistently given back to the community that fostered his growth and success. Following a successful bid for office, Abdullah now serves as the State Representative for Michigan’s 15th District, the city of Dearborn. He is the first-ever Muslim Arab-American to represent the district, which is home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the nation.

DEATH BY INSTAGRAM

 
 

By Charlotte Bailey

You know those people who post that life is going SUPER AMAZINGLY FANTASTIC no matter the situation? You ask them about their most-liked posts, and when shit gets real, you realize their so-called #blessed times were actually disasters. They spin their stories into magical evenings so no one can see the reality: Sometimes, life is terrible.

I am not usually one of these people. But for a night, I was, and this is a story about how I spun a potentially deadly incident into a half-assed “The Lord of the Rings” joke. Because, you know. Likes.

I have a life-threatening nut allergy. When I swallow cashews or pistachios, my throat swells, suffocating me. Giving myself my EpiPen isn’t a quick fix — it gives me about 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive with more medicine. Any longer and the adrenaline from the EpiPen wears off, and my throat starts swelling again. I’ve had three full-blown reactions in my adult life, and they’re incredibly scary, uncomfortable and panic-inducing. Unsurprisingly, when you’re pumped full of adrenaline, knowing that the ambulance only has a set time frame to come or you might die is not a calming experience.

I have to be careful, but I love trying new foods. Because my friends feel the same way, we’ve set up a monthly dinner club where we try new restaurants. Last year, we chose a Moroccan place with a homegrown vibe that seemed charming.

Ordering shared food can be an ordeal — I need to ensure nuts are kept away from me. So my friend Sophie (who has a mild almond allergy) and I spoke to the restaurant owner before ordering about keeping some nutty pastry separate. When a different waitress brought our food, we asked what plate had the pistachio and almond pastries on it. With a bored look, she told us that the plate she’d set down was nut-free. Sophie and I quickly put it between us, and I put a pastry on my plate.

 

“I spun a potentially deadly incident into a half-assed 'The Lord of the Rings' joke. Because, you know. Likes.”

 

I took a bite of it, and as I saw it move away from my mouth, I saw the filling — bright green. Pistachios.

I spat it out immediately, and my mind started racing. I ran to the bathroom and rinsed my mouth out twice, trying not to be so self-conscious about how my throat felt. I’d gone to the hospital once because I bit (but didn’t swallow) some pistachios. My throat had closed up anyhow.

When I got back to the table, I told Sophie what had happened, and she called over the restaurant owner. As she explained the situation, I was mostly silent, still wondering if I should call an ambulance. My throat wasn’t closing — I knew what that felt like — but what if it started soon?

That’s when things went from bad to worse. The owner called over the waitress, who denied giving us the wrong plate. He took her at her word and turned to us. He told us that we simply had gotten it wrong, and I shouldn’t have eaten the pastry I did. He and Sophie got into it in heated French — the owner not admitting there might have been a mistake on their part, just blatantly denying that they had made any mistake and accusing us repeatedly of taking the wrong food. It felt like being called a liar.

After what seemed like an eternity of speaking to the owner, we realized we weren’t getting anywhere and got the chef involved. He understood the severity of my allergy and assured me my main course had no nuts, bringing it to the table himself.

Whenever I’d felt panicked before, I’d always found a way to calm down. But almost getting poisoned, then called a liar, all the while worrying that dying was still an option made this evening feel different. I tried deep breathing, naming things I’m grateful for, drinking water — all of my usual go-tos for calming down. Nothing was working.

 

“My throat wasn’t closing — I knew what that felt like — but what if it started soon?”

 

I’m a self-admitted people-pleaser, but my staying in the restaurant went far beyond that. My anxiety over ruining the night for my friends by leaving and causing a scene had me glued to my seat. I also didn’t know if there was anyone at my house. What if I went home and had a reaction alone? What if I passed out before I could call an ambulance? What if I died? I couldn’t leave my roomies to deal with a dead body. I figured the best choice was to stick with my friends, pick at my main course and wait to feel calmer.

My one saving grace was dinner progressing as usual, without any lingering attention on the nut incident. My friend Tom had noticed how anxious I was and started talking to me about stuff that didn’t matter: comic book movies, his new girlfriend and work. I still felt jumpy, but after almost a half hour it turned into a kind of giddiness — like if I started laughing, I wouldn’t be able to stop. I noticed a bottle of wine called Morador with two mountains on it and grabbed a pen, snapped a pic and put it on Instagram.

And somehow, I felt a bit more relaxed about things. I showed Tom, who gave it a small chuckle. I realized I was OK; I was with friends, doing my regular monthly meal and making my usual nerdy jokes.

I tried to keep that feeling going when the waitress brought the bill, with an extra 20 percent gratuity on top of our costs (a rarity in London, where servers make a living wage). I tried to stay positive-panicky when Sophie looked at me and said, “They can’t be serious, right?,” which led to another dispute with the owner about what had happened.

The night was a disaster, and it’s one I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

But if there’s a lesson to be learned here, I’d like it to be this: If you’re on a bad date, at a lame party or are anywhere else uncomfortable, and there’s no reason that you have to stay (like having a deathly reaction and fearing being left alone), you can leave. If the little voice inside your head says you’ll spoil everyone else’s good time, it’s probably wrong. If your friends really care for you, they’ll understand (and if they don’t, they weren’t real friends to begin with). There’s a big difference between feeling like you can’t leave without it being awkward and actually not having the option to leave safely.

For the rest of my life I’m pretty sure nothing will come close to the discomfort of worrying about death, getting called a liar by a restaurant owner, then being chased down for less than £5 I decided not to tip the waitress. For death, I’ll stay. For everything else, I’m heading home.


Charlotte Bailey lives in London, England and has successfully gone two years without ending up in the emergency room for any food-related travesties.

UNLEASH YOUR IMAGINATION

 
 

By Derek Blalock

Most of our lives are bound by only two limitations: death and our imagination. Other limitations are ultimately constructed out of self-doubt.

To me, that's insane to think about. So often we refuse to act because of the stupid notion that we might fail. Or, even worse, others think we might fail, so we don't even try. But trust me, you don't know what you're capable of unless you put forth the effort.

When I was a senior in high school, my friend Thomas Smith died suddenly of cardiac arrest caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle abnormally thickens. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, this disorder is the leading cause of sudden death in young athletes.

Following Tommy’s death, with the help of my family, I was able to raise about $10,000 through a T-shirt fundraiser and spaghetti benefit dinner to contribute to the costs of his funeral and tombstone. However, as life took me to college and through numerous internships, there was something telling me that I could do more — I needed to do more.

Tommy had an infectious personality and an amazing thirst for life that inspired me to have the same thirst. Knowing there are many young athletes who face similar fates as Tommy, I decided I wanted to help limit the number of athletes impacted by this condition. I came up with the idea to bike across America for Tommy — specifically to raise awareness and money for the Thomas Smith Memorial Foundation, which works to ensure young athletes have access to free heart screenings by raising funds to provide local hospitals with mobile cardiac equipment.

 

“Tommy had an infectious personality and an amazing thirst for life that inspired me to have the same thirst.”

 

The idea was formulated when I was working at a youth sports summer camp in Massachusetts in 2012. I felt my life spiraling out of my control — time seemed to be passing way too fast for my liking, and I didn't want to wake up in 30 years and have little to show for it. I've heard it way too often from older generations: “I wish I would've done this,” and “I wish I would've done that ...”

That was not going to be me.

☐ ☐ ☐

Armed with the knowledge of charity bike trips from my time as a reporter at Michigan State University's student newspaper, where I once assisted a colleague with her story about Bike & Build (which leads bike trips to benefit affordable housing), I started dreaming about how I could help this foundation. I was going to create my own bike route, raise my own funds, do my own marketing — I was exhilarated.

But what was one of the first things I heard when I shared this idea with many of my "friends?"

"Have you ever even biked long distances before?"

I told them no.

They laughed in my face and told me that it was a pipe dream: "We'll believe it when we see it."

They called me naive.

Fuck you, I thought.

A certain amount of naiveté is fine with me. I think it's necessary to succeed. If we're not just a little bit naive, then we fail to imagine the wide-ranging possibilities, and we risk letting naysayers limit our potential.

That's how I came up with my bike trip. Naiveté allowed me to not only raise money for a worthy cause, but it allowed me to see some of our nation’s natural and historical beauties: the Grand Canyon, continental divides and Philadelphia landmarks, to name a few. It also allowed me to put my degree in advertising to actual use even before graduation by marketing, fundraising and blogging to reach thousands of readers and donors online, as well as in person by hosting dozens of functions throughout more than 25 states.

☐ ☐ ☐

Growing up I always heard from teachers, friends and family, "You can do whatever you want in life."

Deep down, my thought was always, Bullshit. I, like many others, thought natural ability mattered, where you were raised mattered, how much money you had mattered. But after my trip, I realize so often those are just excuses for people unwilling to put in the hard work or overemphasized roadblocks for those unaware of the real power of their imaginations.

 

“A certain amount of naiveté is fine with me. I think it's necessary to succeed.”

 

While there are only so many Beyoncés, Benedict Cumberbatches and LeBron Jameses in the world, you can still live out your dreams of working in their industries or in the millions of other jobs and paths and purposes. Don't be afraid to use your imagination to dream — and to plan.

I was just a kid with a sense of obligation — an obligation to help others, as we all should. I was also a kid who needed to find himself. I had no cycling experience — no clue how to change a tire, no clue how to fix a chain, no clue what a pannier was. The thought of my sporting the skintight suits cyclists wear was laughable.

Countless indoor cycling sessions in my dingy basement, as well as the prep trip I made to Indianapolis to see my Michigan State Spartans in the Final Four helped prepare me for my trip, but I knew traveling 7,000 miles in less than 90 days would be a different animal than the four-day, 300-mile trip I took to see my school play basketball in the NCAA Tournament.

But guess what: During my actual trip I biked up mountains, hiked up another, rode through extreme heat and rain; I blew 20 tubes, went through three sets of tires, lost my front saddlebag and pushed my body, but more importantly my mind, past what I thought I was capable of handling. I met some truly amazing people who gave me more support than I ever could’ve asked for. I hated myself for hours on end when I was in the middle of America with no one but myself and my thoughts. But I was also more proud of myself than ever before for throwing myself into this adventure — like I imagine Tommy would have.

In the end, I had the best damn time of my life. My imagination was reignited. I started dreaming again.

Now, I have dreams of writing a bestselling book, selling a screenplay, motivational speaking and more. You might call my dreams naive, but I would like to ask you, "Why not me? … Why not you?"

I might not achieve all of these goals. But then again, I just might.


Derek Blalock is a writer and recent college graduate and was the commencement speaker at his university’s graduation ceremony. He is a passionate storyteller with a plethora of tales to tell about the many foolish situations he finds himself in.

IN SEARCH OF THE RIGHT WORDS

 
 

By Trey Williams

Early on, I thought writing was supposed to be simple. You sit down and write what is true. You let the words pour out of you the way yolk escapes a perfectly poached egg when you cut it. If that image makes you scrunch your nose in disgust, too bad. I really like eggs.

Poaching an egg has always seemed to me the most masterful culinary act, involving a high level of difficulty. The art of it, like writing, is hard.

I’ve spent nearly the entirety of my life writing and thinking about the artistry of it. Both of my parents were writers — journalists — my mother still is. I, too, am a writer, a journalist. I followed in their footsteps.

I’ve always been a good writer — usually the best in class. I don’t remember ever thinking about my writing when I was in school. I don’t remember tormenting myself over the words. They would just flow, and I loved it. There was little question that I would write when I grew up (except for the brief period in fourth grade when I wanted desperately to be a sports agent — I had watched “Jerry Maguire” a few too many times).

Writing always seemed so simple, that is, until I stepped into my father’s shoes by trying to complete the book he left unfinished.

☐ ☐ ☐

When I was growing up we ate dinner as a family every night. It was OK to miss a night if you were at a friend’s house, or if you were going to be late and the rest of the fam couldn’t wait. But dinner, for the most part, was a Williams family affair. My younger brother Jordan and I did our homework, and Dad would call my mother at work to ask what she had a hankering for, then Jordan and I would help cook. I was always sous chef.

 

“Writing always seemed so simple, that is, until I stepped into my father’s shoes.”

 

After the table was set and the clanking of forks on teeth began, current events were the topic of discussion, and our journalist parents made sure to include Jordan and me. They would grill us on what was happening in the neighborhood and surrounding metro area, as well as the world at large. We were required to contribute thoughts and analyses too.

Pops also encouraged my brother and me to read the dictionary when we were young.

“When I was your age, I would read the dictionary for fun,” he would say.

“Yeah? How many times did you make it through?,” I would ask.

I was a smart ass. I think my brother enjoyed reading the dictionary more than I did — my vocabulary is shit by comparison. Growing up, my mother used to tell me cursing was for people who had poor vocabularies. She had the propensity to curse like a sailor and simply wanted to challenge me.

When encouraging me to read the dictionary didn’t work, Pops would purposefully use words I didn’t know and refuse to fork over the definition: “If you want to know what it means, look it up,” he’d say.

These were my parents. Words were important, and writing became an immeasurable part of my life.

☐ ☐ ☐

For the majority of my youth, my dad worked as a journalist, professor and high school teacher. But by the time I was in high school, he had become a stay-at-home dad. He had quit his job as an editor at The Kansas City Star after having an argument with his boss, losing to his pride. Work became hard to come by. He’d freelance and do odd journalism jobs, but for the most part, he wasn’t working. He had a lot of free time and decided to write a book.

He said he was writing it for me, his firstborn  — it reads as a bedtime story to me, albeit a rather long, sometimes inappropriate bedtime story. It was his life in love, loss and lessons learned. He starts it by saying he was afraid of being a no-good father like the one he had. I never knew how he felt before reading his words.

 

“Words were important, and writing became an immeasurable part of my life.”

 

But the book wasn’t easy for him to write. Watching my father struggle to write a book is when I finally realized writing is hard, and writing a book is damned near impossible.

Here was the man I looked up to, the man who could turn monotony into tragedy, struggling to do what had always come so easy — struggling with his truth.

He never finished the book. He died when I was a sophomore in college. It was unexpected. A pulmonary embolism, a blood clot, killed my father. My mother was devastated; so was I. I offered to drop out of school stay home and help out. I don’t know a word strong enough for how glad I am she didn’t let me. I stayed in school and that summer had the opportunity to go to Kenya to write for a newspaper there.

☐ ☐ ☐

It’s weird, but when people die, you go through their shit — sometimes it happens almost immediately and sometimes it takes years. You decide what to give away or throw in the trash and what is a treasure. Before we even found the pages, we knew we had to keep his book — what he’d written of it at least. He only made it through a few chapters, and I don’t think he’d given it a title.

It wasn’t until a year or so ago that my brother found the book after rummaging through computer files some late weekend night.

“Trey, I read it. It’s really good,” he told me. “I think we should finish it.”

I thought about how much work that would be: tracking down some of the people who had been in his life, traveling to them, interviewing them, the daunting task of piecing together a story we don’t already have in our heads. Writing a book is damned near impossible, not to mention there was no way I was even ready to read it.

By then Dad had been dead maybe three years — I can never remember — and I still thought about him every day. Often I thought about our connection through writing, and here I was face-to-face with him — with his demons and my own — in the form of his labored, honest words.

It took me a year or so and some important life events to build up the courage to read the book. It’s good. I want to try to finish it.

But writing is hard. And writing a book is damned near impossible.


Trey Williams is a writer-journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. He writes about media and entertainment companies and sometimes the marijuana industry during the day, and he writes about how little in life he understands for his journal at night.

ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER

 
 

By Kate Jacobson

I knew I was lonely when I started cozying up to the disheveled man who always seems to be stationed outside my neighborhood CVS.

“What’s your problem?,” he gruffly asked me as I hustled toward my car one afternoon. I slowed down and stared.

“Do you really want to know?,” I asked, coming to a stop. Before he had the chance to say no, I shot off into my diatribe.

“Well, so, I ate some recalled hummus, and I’m pretty sure I have listeria.” He sat in silence while I continued, “But I don’t know what listeria is, and I’m too afraid to Google the side effects.”

“I have crabs,” he responded matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, so, you get it.”

One thing no one tells you about being an adult is how lonely you will be. People tell you about the responsibilities, the hard work in front of you, hell, they even tell you all the possible STDs you can get from unprotected sex. But for some reason people seem to gloss over the fact that it’s really, really hard to make friends as an adult. And, as a result, a lot of people I know are lonely.

Romantic relationships are arguably easier to find because there’s a physical attraction — or at least the promise of one. People are motivated to find romantic relationships, so they’re more open to talking to strangers in restaurants or at kickball leagues who they find intriguing. But if I’m in a dimly lit bar one Saturday night and I see a woman my age across the way, and I want to get to know her (strictly on a platonic basis), what do I do? Buy her a drink? Compliment her outfit? Try to get her number?

 

“For some reason people seem to gloss over the fact that it’s really, really hard to make friends as an adult.”

 

What do you do when you move to a new city, or all your friends leave your city, or — even worse — all your friends get married and you’re left contemplating whether four cats is one too many?

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2016 with my boyfriend for a new job, at least I had him. And while I love him dearly, my life couldn’t revolve around him. Instead of just taking a risk and putting myself out there, I held on tightly to my old friendships from Florida through phone calls, texts and Gchats and made zero effort to find new ones initially. The only social interaction I had (besides talking to my boyfriend) was watching other people’s friendships unfold on television.

“Tamra said the funniest thing today,” I’d tell my boyfriend as we would sit down for dinner, pretending that I wasn’t referring to Tamra Judge, star of “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” “She and Vicki are in this huge fight right now and sh--”

“Who are these people?,” my boyfriend would ask.

“Just some people ...”

“Are these women on TV?”

“... No.”

☐ ☐ ☐

In a world full of #squadgoals and selfies, it can be hard to admit you’re lonely.

I’ve moved to five different cities in five years for different jobs, often without knowing anyone. I’ve wallowed in my misery; I’ve spent Saturdays in my apartment alone; I’ve even cried to my mom countless times on the phone. She frequently had to cut our conversations short — she was out with her friends.

But what I’ve learned is, despite how uncomfortable and scary it seems, other people want friends too, and most people are more than happy to chat or exchange numbers if you just ask.

 

“The only social interaction I had (besides talking to my boyfriend) was watching other people’s friendships unfold on television.”

 

I’ve been trying to strip away the fear of being outside my comfort zone and let relationships flow even when it seems a little strange. I’ve messaged old acquaintances, joined continuing education classes and stood in bars by myself while checking out a band or a comedian who I wanted to see. I’ve struck up conversations with perfect strangers — some of whom actually became really awesome friends — and I’ve shamelessly invited myself to parties, including a time where I ended up at my friend’s family New Year’s Eve celebration and had one of the best meals (and craziest dance parties) I’ve ever had in my life.

Mostly, I’ve learned in order to bring people into your life, you need to be open to receiving them.

☐ ☐ ☐

Last summer, at my going away party in Fort Lauderdale, it was interesting to look around the room and see all the people standing there. There were my friends I met through comedy classes, my friends I met after joining a journalism group for women I found online. There were work friends, kickball friends, friends I met through friends and friends from university. Little by little, in all the cities I’d lived in, I really had managed to eventually make friends.

Each and every one of them brought something rich to my life, and as we all got wasted in my pool, the fear of leaving them and moving somewhere new started to slip away.

“You worried about making friends?,” a friend asked me before I embarked on my new journey.

“Yeah,” I said, “but I think I’ll be OK.”

It’s just taken a while to realize that.


Kate Jacobson is an editor and writer living in Los Angeles, by way of Chicago, Washington D.C. and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

STARTING WITH STORIES

 

From the Editors:

 
 

Welcome back, Cropped readers!

We took a recess during the winter holidays to celebrate with family and to do some high-level thinking about Cropped. Marina came to New York in January so we could work together in person, and we’re pumped up about what’s to come in 2017.

Already, we’ve been making moves to bring you (even) better issues in the future, along with a few new products we’re excited to tell you about soon.

For me (Maria), this time off from Cropped has been emotionally exhausting, mostly because of the political tension in the U.S. right now. It feels more important than ever to read and report the news, which has been professionally energizing. I’ve also been challenging myself to speak up more often in private conversation about these controversial topics. It’s not easy for me — sometimes I like to hide behind the “journalist” title so I don’t have to say what my opinions are, even to my own family and friends. So far in 2017, as so many readers undoubtedly are, I’ve been thinking deeply about professional responsibility and what effectively bridges our differences when we disagree on so much.

I think storytelling is a great start. For the stories I write for my full-time job, I’ve been striving to talk to more individual people: Not just the experts who explain what is going on, but to the consumers and citizens affected. Sometimes in a quick news cycle it can be difficult to make that happen, but I’m trying, and that’s one of my ways of making a difference right now.

Cropped is such an awesome community, and I’m thrilled we’re back, sticking to that storytelling mission, which feels newly relevant in 2017.

This issue features more beautiful stories of love and understanding, in the U.S. and abroad.

Look out for Abdullah’s story about becoming the first Muslim Arab-American to represent Michigan’s 15th District — home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S. — as its state representative.

Love,
Maria (and Marina)


ON OUR MINDS

Maria

I was reminded this winter of how much I love seeing a movie in theaters. It had been a while! I’m slowly making my way through as many Oscar-nominated films as I can (next on my list is “Moonlight”), and I highly recommend “Manchester By the Sea” and “Fences” if you haven’t seen them yet. I got lost in both, finding myself absorbed by the stories of individuals in sometimes tragic circumstances, exploring the limits of “family.”

I had mixed feelings when I found out this week that Sam Zabell, the host of the great podcast “Adulthood Made Easy” will be changing jobs within Time Inc. and no longer continuing the podcast. Sam was one of the first people who believed in Cropped, and I know her having us on the podcast brought in so many readers who never would have found out about us otherwise. Thank you, Sam! Fortunately for us, we can still listen to previous episodes of the show online and on our podcast apps. Give them a listen.

Marina

I just love the girls of "Girls." February 12 marks the first episode of the very last season of this HBO show, and I am having a lot of feelings about it. Earlier this week, New York Times Magazine reporter Jenna Wortham (another one of my lady crushes) hosted a live TimesTalks discussion with cast members Lena Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet and Allison Williams. Their thoughtful and open and humorous conversation about what the show has achieved and how its contributors have grown was a treat.

I recently stumbled on the Instagram profile of Alaina Sullivan, a designer at Bon Appetit magazine and a prolific home cook who often posts her #kitchensketches to her feed. Seeing another home cook in action is always inspiring, and as someone who also subscribes to the idea that food is medicine, I really appreciate Alaina's use of veggies, seeds, spices, oats, raw honey and more. When I had a cold a few weeks ago, I made this stewed pear, and it was quite magical — a form of self care that felt rightly indulgent and soothing. This is care I recommend for us all in the months ahead.