This week I’ll feature a variety of folks thinking about life in America in the time of corona, and I’m happy for Kalinda Fisher to lead us off! She has one of the coolest July 4th stories I’ve ever heard. And such an earnest, hopeful voice. Sometimes – in moments I’m not proud of – I am tempted to despair for our country. But not today. 

Hi Kalinda! Thank you so much for spending some time in the Bacon Neighborhood! 

What will you do to celebrate July 4th?  Would you call yourself “patriotic”? Or is that an embarrassing word. 

We typically pack a picnic and go down to a local park, to watch the fireworks. This year I don’t believe that is an option, but we will proudly fly our American flag and honor our country. I come from a family where my grandfather fought for so much of what we have today so yes, I am proud, and yet I am saddened. Patriotism to me is not alignment with leadership, but support of our democratic roots and our ability to bring together diversity to make one strong nation. In that regard, I am very much a patriot and very proud of our country. We have work to do to take us from ‘here’ to ‘there’ but we can get there through conversation and fostering empathy that leads to building community. That, to me, is being a patriot. 

What do you remember about July 4th as a kid?

My favorite memory was July 3rd, 1976… our local village, Ellicottville, NY, had their fireworks display early… maybe it was a weekend or maybe they always did, I don’t recall, but I do recall that night. It was hot, first of all, incredibly hot and sticky… my older cousin was in town and we all went down to the local ski resort to watch the fireworks. It was my mom, two older brothers, my cousin and me. It was an ‘okay’ display, we were a small town, after all, but it was a big year and my mom didn’t think it did justice to the occasion so she said, ‘you know what we should do… let’s go to see them in D.C.’ And so we did. We left that evening and drove through the night, all five of us in my cousin’s small car… with no A/C, and we go to D.C to see the incredible display for the 4th of July, 1976. I remember the drive and my Bambi pillow I propped against the window, or my brothers’ shoulders to get rest. I remember said Bambi pillow was flat as a pancake when we arrived from the sweat I released from my little 6 year old head along the way. I remember my mom and my cousin chatting so comfortably away through the night and in their comfort I found peace in that moment. And, to this day, I swear I remember seeing a flag in the sky made up of various fireworks, and it remains in my heart as the best fireworks display, and the most incredible 4th of July I ever experienced. 

Please tell me about “The Great Reset” – I am intrigued –

There is so much to tell and it’s difficult to capture in print but let me try as best I can. It is a passion project born out of a desire for conversation, real conversation, not just surface speak. I invited people to join in around my dining room table to have a conversation and within a couple days I had four people who wanted in, not just in to have a meet and greet, but in to do the work that led to a real conversation. We talked that day about where we get our news, what informs us, what is the lens through which we look at the world. I thought it would be ‘a conversation’ but within 5 minutes someone asked, ‘the next time we meet could we talk about x, y or z’ and by the end of it we decided we’d meet monthly to discuss relevant topics of the day, education, healthcare, opioids, the intersection of church and state and now, most recently a deep dive into the conversation on race. The Great Reset is now across the US, and even global, capturing voices from over a dozen states and countries such as: Rwanda, Kenya, Colombia, UK, Spain and Italy. 

How have things changed in the time of corona for you?

For me, professionally, not much. I started Advocate Market Research about 20 years ago and have always managed it from my home office. However, that being said usually my days are my dog and me… now they include my husband, who is working for a local bank, CapStar, and his new office is just up the stairs from me, and our two daughters, one of whom is a senior in college and the other starts college in the fall. So, it’s a full house but we are all well, as are our families and loved ones. We are fortunate. 

This time has, however, been a gift in that our conversations of The Great Reset have been a touchstone not just for me, but people across the screens. We have now offered opportunities to connect, across the screens, every other week and our topics range from handling the isolationism of a world-wide pandemic to finding the silver lining in what has become a ‘great reset’ for our globe and now the deep dive into race. You can check us out at where I also posted many videos from those conversations.

How has your summer been so far? What’s been the hardest thing about life in the time of corona? What has been the best thing?

As I mentioned, we are okay. We are fortunate. The thing I constantly remind my daughters of, when they claim things are so bad, is that we are living in a moment of history that will be talked about for generations to come. We are living in a moment where we have come to realize our connectivity to one another be it our neighbors or those across the globe. In that moment of ‘whew… we are okay’ we need to realize it gives us opportunities to reach out and help those for whom things are not okay and this has been the ultimate gift, if you will, that chance to literally live this life lesson with my family. It’s not about us… it truly is about others.

How is your family doing?

We are doing well and have had many moments where memories have been made that would otherwise not have happened. We’ve shared dinner every evening, we’ve played games and built puzzles, we have gotten back to the basics and connected over the small moments that bring us together… and bring us joy.

What do you worry about most right now?

I am most concerned over the growing division in our country. I believe our leadership has set an example that isn’t helping us come together, but rather putting a spotlight on our differences as if to set some above others. I fear that if we don’t come together, soon, we will feel the effects of this for years to come, through policy affected along the way or simply empowering those, at the far end of the bell curve, to use their voice to push their own agenda instead of that of a united people. Now is the time we must come together across any ethnic, racial, gender or ideological groups that can divide. We must realize that it is our diversity that makes us stronger. It is our differences which help us foster empathy and expand our view of the world. A divided nation cannot be a beacon of hope or an example of how we honor our basic humanity. 

How do you relax?

My go to is paddle boarding with my husband, Tony Cassiol. There is such peace to be found on the water. I love the sound of the sailboats in the marina and the clang of their instruments on their masts. I love the silence in the pockets and bays we find as we move through the lakes. I love the waves of passing boaters, kayakers and other paddle boarders as we give each other that relatable look of understanding that we’re so fortunate and happy for our moments of solace, and also unity, on the waterways of Middle Tennessee.

Also we love to ride our bike rides together, and I love walking our dog Olive.

Will you travel this summer?  

We would love to and actually had trips planned to ‘deliver’ our eldest to Normandy, France for a study abroad opportunity and a trip to Puerto Rico which would have served as our youngest’s launch trip before heading off to college. Those have both been cancelled, or at the very least postponed. It saddens me because we love to travel and have instilled in our daughters the importance of not only seeing how others live across the globe, but also to be ambassadors for the US as we connect with those we meet. This is missing and sadly I’m not sure when it will resume, and now with the EU hinting that they’ll ban American travelers I am even more distressed that I truly don’t know when this will resume. In the meantime, possibly, we may take a road trip, but as of now, with the growing cases, the increase in hospitalizations and the great vast areas of unknown yet to remain with Covid-19, that may not come to fruition. We’ll wait and see.

What are you reading/watching/listening to?

Reading so much right now and they are so varied. Before my husband and I went to Kenya and Rwanda in January, I read nothing but books on gorillas and elephants and the role of conservation in the world today, and on the genocide in Rwanda. When we returned, life quickly shifted, and so did my books, I took a lighter look at the life and history of The Vanderbilts and other prominent American families. I was cocooning along with the rest of the world. And then, as soon as I pivoted to a slighter lighter reading list, I shifted again to books on race, education, justice, healthcare and religion. Some of the titles on my nightstand table are: The Color of Compromise, Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence, Shake Hands with the Devil and The Book of Joy, which I highly recommend. The Book of Joy reminds us that joy can, and need be found even in the most difficult of times, and the book, itself, is quite joyful as Bishop Desmond Tutu and Dalai Lama are like two children together teasing and playing off one another in a way that you swear they must have known one another for years… if not lifetimes.

Do you think it is possible to come out of this period of time with greater cohesion as a society? Or do you think that’s unlikely?

YES! Not only can we… we will. There is a change that is apparent to me that is different than anything before. There is a unity across the races. There is an empathy, displayed beautifully and largely from our younger generations… but the older ones are catching on (I say that because I now fall into that category). There is an intersection of ‘our bubbles’ that will afford us the numbers needed to effect change. It is no longer just Whites and Blacks trying to move the needle of change, in their own spaces, and in their own ways. It is now a coming together, in the same conversation, learning how to work together toward equity in healthcare, as we’ve seen our Black and Brown brothers and sisters bear the burden of Covid-19, and also toward justice as we have seen far too many die in an unnecessary and violent way. The time is now and we are experiencing the perfect storm. All that has come before, the whispers, or the outright shouts are no longer buffered. The deaths that happened once a year, the higher incidence of negative outcomes in our healthcare system, the other things which served as ripples or growing waves have converged in this moment and we are in the middle of the storm. We have seen the impact of inequality first-hand and we can no longer turn a blind eye. Now we must make amends and work toward a better tomorrow. Because we are living in the world today and this confluence of conversations is swirling it is our responsibility to be on the right side of history and break the silence, and yes, even the apathy, or our past.

Okay let’s wrap up with the speed dating round!

Favorite beverage in the time of corona? Prosecco

Favorite comfort food? Anything my children make… they take turns making dinner every single night, and they never disappoint. Those moments, around the table, eating food my daughters have lovingly created, brings me more comfort than just about anything. Anything on my plate, therefore, becomes true comfort food.

Dinner by Sophia – Cauliflower steaks on a bed of arugula, with spicy cream sauce – “Delicious!!”

Macaroons made by Delaney – “Outstanding!!”

Greatest aggravation? Technology

Favorite weather? Blue skies, no matter the temperature.

Eating out yet? We have once (on a patio) but we do take out… one of our favorites was from a local NSH restaurant, Chauhan’s. It was incredible!

Most proud of? My daughters and my incredible marriage of 23 years to Tony. I am so fortunate.

Least proud of? My moments of frustration and disappointment because it detracts from what I could be doing to somehow make things a little better than I found them.

Most encouraged by? Humanity. My husband always jokes that one of the first things I said to him is, ‘I love people’ and he’s right, I will always come back to that. People have the greatest ability to be agents for change and when I can watch that, or better yet be in that space, it gives me hope. 

Thank you so much, Kalinda – xoxo