Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Role We'll Play

Last week Meg told me about an app called "My Talking Pet" which allows you to upload a photo of your pet and then speak into your phone and the app makes your pet's mouth move like it's talking. Obviously I immediately downloaded this app and paid the $1,600 monthly service fee for this and started using it nonstop.

Well on Friday morning Meg texted me and Skylar "We should do the Imagine video but with our dogs."

In case you've been avoiding the internet, which, if so, what have you even been doing? But in the event that you have not seen this yet, last week 20-something celebrities released truly the cringiest video on the entire internet of each of them taking turns earnestly singing a line of John Lenon's Imagine.

They made it as a gift for us--something to help bring us all together during this trying time. Well, it worked. Because everyone got unified around mocking the video relentlessly.

So when Meg suggested we use My Talking Pet to dub over the mostly off-key vocal performances to short clips of our friends' pets, we obviously had to cancel all of our responsibilities for the day and make this happen.

We started gathering photos of pets who wanted to participate in our imagine project. Meg and I used the sound from the celebrity video to make the individual clips. Then Skylar, who is going to be someone's doctor someday, used his video editing skills to put it all together. And we are honestly so proud of the result:

Truly, it was a nice distraction. Like probably many of you, I had a hard time keeping my anxiety at bay last week. This social distancing and uncertainty is not the hardest thing I've ever gone through--not by a long shot--but it has been challenging and a little scary.

I've been thinking a lot about how I want to write about this experience on Stranger. Obviously this is really crazy time, and I want to document what this period feels and looks like. But I also feel some responsibility not to add to the doomsday/sky-is-falling of it all. There's plenty of that sort of meltdown happening all over the internet already.

Years ago when I was serving my Mormon mission in Ukraine I met this elderly woman who was a teenager during the Ukrainian hunger famine/genocide in the early 1930s. It has been estimated that up to ten million people starved to death or were shot by Stalin's forces over about a two-year period. That was around one-fourth of Ukraine's population.

I talked with this woman for a while about what that was like to live through. She shared some truly horrific accounts of what her family had to do to survive.

I've thought about something she said probably nearly on a weekly basis in the 16 years since I heard it. Paraphrasing, it was something like: "When a bad thing is happening, everyone has to decide what role they're going to play--what kind of person they are going to be. I was a young girl, and I decided I was going to be a comfort to my friends and family when they needed it."

She said she refused to be a pessimist because that wasn't helpful to anyone. She used her time and efforts cheering people up and reminding them of all the good around them. Once that crisis ended, she spent the rest of her life proud and happy that that's how she had chosen to be during that time.

I've been thinking about that, and how if a girl could have had that kind of attitude during what must have been truly one of the most horrific mass tragedies in human history, I can surely do the same during a time when I've been asked to stay home for a while and knit in my pjs.

There will be plenty of places for us to go on the internet to read anxiety-inducing news, but I've decided I want Stranger to be a place for us to come and feel at peace together. Our little Stranger community is already trained in this--I think we owe it to each other to keep being that for each other.

When this has passed--and it will--I want us to be proud of the fact that we kept a record in real time of the role we decided to play. One where we chose to be a comfort to our friends and family and a bunch of Strangers on the internet.

To start it off, I would love to have us share with one another what good we have seen come out of this, or what good we expect to come out of this. In what ways is this experience making the world for you or for anyone a better place?

For me, I think I'm going to remember this as a time I connected more with my family. I've already seen my neighborhood come together more--we're calling and texting one another in a way we never have before, just to see how everyone is doing. I feel like this experience is helping me take a pause and a breath and think about what matters most to me, what I can live without, and what kind of person I want to be.

Please share your positive thoughts as well. Tell us what good you have seen from this or expect to see.

And while you think about that, please also enjoy a new episode of Strangerville:

This time in Strangerville, Meg and Eli are practicing social distancing. And a woman takes the Strangerville Live stage to tell the story of her first real kiss.
First Kiss, by Mara Lefler
Production by Eli McCann & Meg Walter

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Your memory of the women in Ukraine reminds me of Kurapaty (, which is a wooded area less than a mile from our house in Minsk. It is hauntingly beautiful - an incredibly sad graveyard from the Stalin genocide she talks of, and stories that need to be told. I imagine Ukraine has one too.
    I realize in many ways I have not processed the last week of my life - but as is often the case in the story of life, it is about perspective in the midst of unknown and keep moving forward one step at a time (one breath at a time if necessary).
    I am so impressed at how kind we are to each other - supportive, cheering each other on, and being a listening ear - connecting however we can. And like all stories, this story is important too.

  2. This blog has always been a source of comedy and comfort for me. As always, what a beautiful way to write, and make us feel straight to the core ❤️ That’s an amazing young girl / woman. I think I’d like my role to be fun and adventurous, because that’s who I am generally (when not bingeing tv and food in bed, that is). I have felt kinda bad being fun and adventurous during this season, but maybe there’s still a place for it. ❤️

  3. I’ve been checking this blog on an hourly basis for positive distractions, because everything else I usually check online has been depressing me. This update was exactly what I needed today.

    For positivity and inspiration, when my girl choir visited Estonia and Latvia in 2005 we learned about the Singing Revolution:

  4. I have one! This experience has made me stop and think about what I want my career to be. I'm normally too scared to make drastic changes but being forced to stop and do social distancing has sort of reset my mind. I've decided I want to go back to school after this. I think I'm going to look back on this experience with some gratitude (but also with sensitivity since I know there was a lot of hardship caused because of this). I hope that makes sense.

    1. This is amazing. Don't lose this. I work in higher ed and for years worked with non-traditional students. It's easy to make this decision now when you're forced to slow down. When life speeds back up - don't let it stop you from pursuing this.

  5. I'm spending more time with my kids than I've ever been able to. We have grown closer as a family and have learned about what we actually need to be happy. I feel like we're going to come out of this calmer than we were before.

    1. Love this so much. I think we’ll be calmer too ❤️

  6. We are being more gentle on our planet--giving it a moment to take a breath. I think that's been a very good thing.

    1. I LOVE all the good news about the dolphins exploring and the carbon emissions dropping. So happy for our planet. ❤️

  7. I've come to appreciate technology and it's role in society's creativity right now. Being able to connect at an instant is a gift we take for granted. We had a tornado warning this weekend in my community, and my mom was keeping my daughter for the night. All members of my family were texting and checking in with each other, and I knew minute by minute the status of my daughter's safety. (Thankfully, we didn't get hit with anything major.)

    Seeing celebrities producing new content to entertain their bored fans; teachers reading books and teaching lessons to their students via video; museums, zoos, and other educational institutions creating daily educational content for kids at home; dance and fitness studios doing daily free livestreams; friends having social hours and watching movies together via video hangouts...the list goes on and on and on. Every time I see an example of how technology is truly keeping us together in the most ingenious ways, I'm humbled and thankful that if I have to live this, at least I can live it right now.

  8. Also, the memes are hilarious.

  9. And Costco don't have to go into the store. That is awesome!!
    (Okay, this might be an old thing, but I just got back from Belarus - where there isn't even the thought of Costco...and I avoid Costco as much as possible!)

  10. This has been a tough time mentally and professionally, but I'm still kicking, so that's good. I have enjoyed spending more time with my dog, and she is thrilled that I am home all day, though less thrilled that my kids are. We have all been spending more time outside in nature, which is nice. It's the perfect time of year to be stuck home here in Atlanta. And when I do have to go into work, traffic is very light!

    Also, my son turns 5 today. He is sad that we had to cancel his party and he can't see his friends, but he seems perfectly happy being with family all day. He's so optimistic about everything we will do "as soon as the coronavirus germs are gone" so I am trying to stay optimistic as well. May we all have the confidence and hope of a 5 year old who feels a lot stronger today than he did yesterday as a 4 year old!

  11. I've been running Hot Guy March Madness on my Insta stories, so that's apparently my role.

  12. From Amy Rose:

    Here is an email from National Geographic and the link at the bottom to the Philharmonic Orchestra is the video we should all be watching instead of Gal Gadot. (Though, looking up more roast articles and reading them provided my afternoon’s entertainment.)

    Anyway, in the spirit of your looking for the good, I would copy and paste the link to that orchestra video if I thought my comment would survive.

  13. It’s almost as if life saw that humanity was go go go and it’s now forced us to slow down and reconnect with our loved ones and meditate on what truly matters. My kids may be driving me insane, but I get to hold them just a little bit longer and now have time to sit on the floor and play with them. I remember a snow day in my childhood wherein my brother and I played cards with my parents all day. 25 years later and I still cherish that day in my heart. May these be the days our kids cherish forever in theirs.

  14. I have a friend who every night is challenging people to post three things they're grateful for. It's really helped me to re-calibrate at the end of the day.

    Another friend re-posted this on FB (I don't know where he got it from):

    The reports are that the truckers are getting supplies to the stores. People are stocking the shelves all night and letting old people shop first. Carnival Cruise line told Trump “We can match those big Navy Hospital ships with some fully staffed cruise ships” GM said hold our cars and watch this; we can make those ventilators where we were making cars starting next week. Women and children are making homemade masks and handing out snacks to truckers. Restaurants and schools said, We’ve got kitchens and staff; we can feed kids.” Churches are holding on-line services and taking care of their members and community. NBA basketball players said, “Hold our basketballs while we write checks to pay the arena staff.” Construction companies said, “Here are some masks for the medical staff and doctors”. Breweries are making sanitizer out of the left-over ingredients. We thought we couldn’t live without Baseball, NASCAR, NBA or going to the beach, restaurants or a bar. Instead, we’re trying to keep those businesses open by ordering take-out. What communist China didn't count on was America saying "Hey, hold my beer and watch this." I think a Japanese Admiral in the middle of the Pacific said it best in 1941, "I think we have awakened a sleeping giant." Give us a few more weeks (maybe months) and we will be doing much better! And stop listening to the hysterical media!!

  15. Nicole, your comment was wonderful. Thank you! It reminded me of something I saw recently. This poem by a Catholic friar in Ireland is one of the most beautiful and uplifting things I’ve read in a long, long time. Enjoy:

  16. Love! I was so filled with anxiety when this all started, but after some fasting and prayer this last weekend I am now a little sad that this will be over... Because I travel a lot for work normally and I've got to spend so much time with my family now. I'll be a little sad to go back to that.