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Why Providence is Wonderful: A Year in Review

As 2019 begins, I'm reflecting back on the things I did during the year I became Dr. Jamie J. Hagen when NOT working on my dissertation, book chapters, and job applications. Those are all things I'm proud of, but what keeps me more motivated to keep showing up as a feminist writer is getting out from behind the books here in the smallest state in the nation. 

January:  I went to so many incredible events at the Colombus theatre in 2018. Margaret and I started the year off with first row seats to see Neko Case. We also saw the "Benny's: The Musical" which was an quirky tribute to the now closed local department store. When Cameron Esposito came to town we saw her there too. Another incredible event was the "through the night: an evening of lullabies to benefit RAICES" in September. I snagged a copy of that CD because the music was so wonderful. 

 February: Discovering Knead Doughnuts was a game changer. While living on the east side of Providence Margaret and I were obviously regulars to PVDonuts. I'd heard there were some vegan options at Knead but it wasn't until I took the time to check it out for myself that I realized just how on point they were with their vegan doughnut game. They have vegan doughnut holes! We almost always get two doughnuts to share, osually one of them is the jelly doughnut (pictured). The downtown locations is so beautiful too! A win, win, win, win.

 In March Margaret and I had the chance to hear Roxane Gay give the MLK Keynote at RISD on March 2nd. Reservations for the event were at capacity but we took a chance. Before the event each of us were handed bookmarks with quotes from Roxane including: "Just write and love what you're writing. If you're not loving what you're writing take a look at why and fix that." And "when you can't find someone to follow you have to find a way to lead by example." Roxane talked a lot about her essays in Bad Feminist as well as her memoir Hunger, which I'd just read prior to the event. Maybe my favorite part of the event was the Q & A though because so many people shared how grateful they are for her work. 

April: Meeting the goats Salvador, Vincent van Goat, and Jean Ralphio in Roger Williams Park when going to visit the Providence Botanical Garden in April. According to the volunteer website (yes, that's right you can volunteer to hang out with these goats) they "help to control poison ivy and other invasive plant species at the Park". I love having the opportunity to be around so much greenery but saying hello to goats on the path to the greenhouses was the best bonus ever! I especially love going to visit the Botanical Garden because it reminds me of trips to the Krohn Conservatory in Cincinnatti with my dad. I know he would've loved to meet this goat trio too.

May: A visit to the cat parlour made my May. For the first six months of 2018 we were living with three cats. One might think that would mean we got our fill of cats however YOU WOULD BE WRONG! I've been to a couple different cat cafes so when I heard that one was opening for three months in Providence (well, technically Pawtucket) I made sure to sign us up to hang out with some adoptable kittens. Somehow we didn't come home with any, but it was sweet to see so many people lining up to spend time with the munchkins.

June: My birthday/graduation party Margaret threw for me at our place really takes the cake for most memorable Providence event of the summer! Not only was it my birthday and Pride weekend but it was also a day to celebrate my successful dissertation defense in May. Three celebrations in one! Some of the highlights from the party include smashing the Bobby the Beacon (the UMass Boston mascot) piñata  after which Smarties rained down on everyone, rainbow fruit cabobs, and the giant chaulk drawing that read "Happy Birthday Dr. Jamie J. Hagen!" 

July: This was the second year we were members of the woman-powered CSA Side Walk Ends farm. As you can see by this image of Pixel watching out our window as folks gather their goods, the CSA share pick-up is about as convenient as one could hope.  The small pleasures of picking up fresh vegetables next door, along with neighbors, was a welcome weekly ritual however, the vegetables for the CSA were grown at a farm in Sekonk which as of fall 2018 the women of Side Walk Ends sold so this was the last year of the CSA. We also were grateful to be able to snip herbs like mint, rosemary, and sage whenever we needed some as it grew in bounty next door. Curious to see what the Side Walk Ends folks do with the space next year.

August: I'll give this one to August but there were many brunch visits to Julian's all year long! We always get the same thing too. Margaret and I each order a half St. Jamez, coffee and if we're feeling fancy (we usually are) a virgin Bloody Mary. It gets very busy on the weekends (as it should) but fortunately they serve brunch all the time so we can basically walk over to enjoy this deliciousness any day of the week. I feel spoiled to have one of the best brunch places about a ten minute walk away. Certainly one shouldn't pick the place they rent based on how close they are to a vegan Benedict, "With Fried Tofu, Vegan Hollandaise, & Garlicky Baby Spinach" but who it is definitely a serious perk.

September: This year once again I was a clinic escort at Planned Parenthood in Providence, just as I was in Boston. As escorts we greet patients on the way to the clinic so they have a friendly face to look at while being shouted at by anti-abortion protestors. Fortunately thanks to dedicated volunteers this year the team found creative ways to continue to drown out the violent protestors, including new sets of speakers so we can blast Stevie Wonder tunes. I missed volunteering over the past few months as I was buried under deadlines but I look forward to making it to the clinic to volunteer again beginning this week. 

October: Margaret learned about a woman in the neighborhood who had extra sunflower seeds so decided to snag them to grow them in our front yard. And grow they did! By August they were peeking above our fence, making a real show of it. But it wasn't until the fall that several eye-catching Goldfinches discovered the delicious seeds, landing on top, swaying back and forth while snacking. They were so chatty every time they came to visit each time I'd have to get up from my desk to watch them out the window while they were enjoying the seeds. After our experience bird watching in Ecuador this summer it felt extra special to be able to bird watch such beautiful birds right out our window.

November: We participated in this year's "We Will Not be Erased!" - rally for trans rights. The rally was held at the RI state house and included speakers such as Ethan Huckle of the TGI Network, "the only statewide organization providing support and advocacy for the TGI community in Rhode Island and surrounding areas." The Facebook event page appealed to queer co-conspirators to attend, stating: "The Trump administration is fighting desperately to erase transgender people from existence. We are calling on all our queer siblings as well as allies to come together and stand with transgender and non-binary individuals. Share your voice, wave your flags and show your PRIDE."

December: I have to conclude this list with the Providence Feminist & Queer Happy Hour I organize and co-host.  I met so many people each month while learning about art and activism in Providence. Co-host Jana was with me throughout the year, showing up every month to co-host like a champ. Audi joined the team in the fall, making for a fab trio of feminists. I'm so grateful for the support from the community  including from Saint Monday where we will continue to host monthly events in 2019. 

Just as I'm feeling a real part of the community here, I'm making plans for three months this summer in London. I'm also on the job market, so it's unclear where I'll be living next year or even later this year. Even still, what I've found that in busy or uncertain times it is even more important to take the time to connect with my community, to stretch myself, to be present physically even while planning, planning, planning for the future.

I love you Providence! Thank you for taking care of me this year.

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