Listening Garden

MI Diaries teamed up with Inquiry Arts at MSU’s Science Festival in April 2022, to present a ‘Listening Garden’ of stories from the past 2 years. Take a listen through the stories here.

“When I Realized COVID was real” | Adults Diary | April 12, 2020

In a way I… I’m glad that it kinda hit me gradually. But I think I was really shocked when I went to Costco and the parking lot was filled, like, there was no spot to park. Like, you had to wait for a car to back out to get in. And then when I pulled in and got out, there were people and all they had in their carts was toilet paper. And I, and I was in just shock, like, what is going on? And then I went in the store and there was, like, maybe two carts available and I looked – and this is like fifteen minutes after the store opened – and I looked to the back of the, looked to the store and the line to checkout was snaking around the store and I just dropped the cart. You know, just, just, “I’m out of here this is, this is awful.” That was, that was the first time I realized, this is something – this is bad.

“Black Lives Matter Protests” | Adults Diary | May 31, 2020

This week has been particularly difficult because of what’s happened in the news. It’s, like, multiple stories of horrific, horrific violence and brutality against Black people in our country. And this headline of George Floyd and I couldn’t bring myself to watch more than, like, a little bit of the video with the police officer with his knee on his neck, suffocating him and murdering him. And this is all with other examples in just the last weeks with Breonna Taylor, as well, and Ahmaud Arbery. And as somebody who is white, you know, there’s a lot of weight and responsibility. So, you know, knowing that there’s a lot to be done and where to begin and I have resources so I know how to take actions. I’m somebody who’s dedicated to this. At my current school, I serve on a committee that’s trying to do anti-racist work. Anyways, I’m just thinking about everybody in my life who is Black American, a person of color.

“If Rapunzel can get by I bet we can too” | Kids Diary | June 28, 2020

I think that one of the things that I was thinking about, that kinda relates to being at home, is that the – if you think about some Disney princesses, like Rapunzel and Elsa and Anna, I really like those Disney princesses and those Disney princesses had to stay home. For example, ‘cause they were – they had to stay home, and Rapunzel was locked in a room for a while. But there’s a song in the movie Tangled, which is “When Will My Life Begin.” And it says all the things you did that day. I think that’s a really big inspiration because if you think about it, there’s a lot of things that you can do even at home, and if she could get by, I bet we can too. And nonetheless, yes, it’s very – can be very boring. But I really think that, like, that’s a good inspiration song, even if it’s probably – it was made way before any of this happened, it kind of relates

“Car parade to celebrate finishing chemo” | Adults Diary | June 14, 2020

So, this week, things that I’m really grateful for – I have a cousin that recently finished her final chemo and radiation treatments and got to ring the bell. And because of the COVID issues, we were not allowed as her family to be there to support her in that. So, we all gathered at a nearby church in a parking lot and there was about twenty-five of us in different vehicles, that we decorated our vehicles and did a parade, beeping and honking past her house. And she was outside and got to see all that and show our support and our love that way. So I’m really, really grateful that we all did that and I’m really grateful that she’s gotten this far in her cancer treatment and hopefully they – when they do another, her next surgery, they’re gonna find that she is still cancer-free. So that was what I am particularly thankful and grateful for this week.


“Burned out in the Healthcare system” | Adults Diary | December 6, 2020

How has my week been? Working in the healthcare system, I’m very stressed. I’m – I feel like I’m always behind in whatever task I’m assigned. The number of mobile or portable studies that we’ve had to do has gone through the roof, and that puts a certain strain on our department. And I know my coworkers are feeling the strain and the stress of it, just as acutely as I am. We’re all burnt out, we’re understaffed and because of the regulations that have been put in place, the normal things that our employer may have tried to do to show their appreciation such as, you know, letting us bring food into work and have a pot luck, or, you know, providing us pizza once in a while, something like that. Those regulations have put a stop to all of those.

“I wonder how Halloween’s gonna work out” | Teens Diary | September 27, 2020

I wonder how Halloween’s gonna work out. Honestly, personally, if I was a kid or if I had children, I probably would not let them trick-or-treat, ‘cause that’s like a whole — I mean, unless you wanna go through the process of literally getting every single treat, sanitizing it and make sure there’s nothing on it. But… I don’t know, I guess, how much trouble people wanna go to to get their children their candies, but I don’t know. I mean, it could work, but I don’t see it having too much of a turnout.

“Carving my first pumpkin” | Adults Diary | November 1, 2020

Today, I wanna tell the story of me carving the pumpkin for the first time. I never celebrated Halloween before and this is the first year I actually celebrated Halloween. So, my friends all made me carve pumpkins. I’ve never carved pumpkins before and it was a lot harder than I thought. It was fun if you wanna do simple patterns or just faces, but if I wanna do something complicated like carving tree branches or clouds, the pumpkin just falls apart. I had so much fun carving pumpkins and we roasted all the pumpkin seeds afterwards. So, that was a wonderful Halloween experience. My friends also made me watch the classic Halloween movies. We watched Young Frankenstein, um, what’s that called – The Nightmare Before Christmas and Hocus Pocus, so that was supposed to serve as my Halloween education. 


“Thanksgiving plans are very tentative” | Adults Diary | November 15, 2020

I think Thanksgiving plans are very tentative. I have my parents in their seventies who are hoping to drive up, they don’t wanna fly, and that’s the only people we’re gonna have, but we haven’t seen them since the kids started back in-person school. So, we’re really hoping to see them, they live in Pennsylvania and I guess it just depends, plans all seemed so tentative, but we are really hoping to see them for Thanksgiving and we, for the second year in a row, are hoping to invite another family from our area who is also very careful in kind of a bubble, except for school. We did this last year and it was just really fun. We decorated cookies and – hadn’t really – it was like a nice Thanksgiving tradition for the kids to do together, but we’re hoping to enjoy the time and my mom is a retired art teacher. So she said she even has an art project for the kids to do together, a little Christmas preparation. So we’re really looking forward to Thanksgiving and hoping to gather together as normal.

“Grateful that dad got vaccine” | Adults Diary | January 17, 2021

There’s one thing this week I am grateful for above all else, and that would be the COVID vaccine. My dad is in the sixty-five and over category, and he was able to secure his first vaccine shot on Thursday. And it gives me a small degree of hope that, uh, maybe I’ll be able to see my dad again, um, in person, in his house for an extended period of time. Um, I don’t think I’ve really – I think I’ve seen him once over the past four months or so, and that was in a Kmart parking lot in Marshall, Michigan, where we found out that there’s still, in fact, Kmarts that are open out there. So, I know the vaccine, um, has been a complicated unveiling and it has felt kind of distant. I haven’t really known many people who’ve gotten the vaccine aside from my friends in the medical profession. Um, so knowing my dad got the first go-around, the first shot, kind of makes it feel real and you can see a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere. It might be a faint light, but it’s there. Um, so I’m thankful for that.

“Ope just gonna sneak past ya” | Adults Diary | July 11, 2021

So, I guess that, that’s probably gonna be my grateful for the week, too, is just grateful to have family in the area where I can go in such circumstances. And my dad bought this beer from Bells. I hadn’t seen this one before. They call it “No, Yeah.” Which is potentially the most confusing name for any product. I thought I’d bring it up to Michigan Diaries ‘cause they put sorta, like, these stereotypical Midwestern phrases on the can. So the beer’s called “No, Yeah.” They say, “Yeah, no, for sure.” “Just gonna sneak past ya.” “Ope, ‘scuse me.” “Watch out for deer.” The “Ope, ‘scuse me” – I think it was, like, five years ago that I learned that was not, that was, like, a regional thing. That it’s just, you’re in the grocery store. It’s like, it’s just like, “Ope, ‘scuse me.” I thought everyone did that. Does everyone not do that? Apparently it’s a Midwest thing. I don’t know. Anyways, this is beer from Bells, they call it “No, Yeah.” I find it funny.

“Donating flowers to uplift people” | Adults Diary | January 24, 2021

Another thing I do in the community, and I don’t tell a lot of people about this, but as long as you’re asking. At my church, which we’ve been closed since last spring, we’ve been doing all our church services virtually. But I had been bringing flowers to the church in memory of my mom on her birthday, in memory of my dad on his birthday, and in memory of both of them on their anniversary. And when the church service was over, what I would do with the flowers is I would take them, because they’ll just die and somebody else has to get flowers. I would take the plant or the flower, whatever it was, I’d take it to a local nursing home and I would tell them to give them to somebody who probably should get flowers but never does. You know, there’s always somebody in a nursing home who’s forgotten or there’s no one in their family or no one that knows or no one that cares, sadly. And that’s a sad thing. But I do that, too, so I’ll bring a flower, hopefully that’ll brighten somebody’s day.

“Officially in my second trimester” | Adults Diary | March 7, 2021

Also this week, I am officially in my second trimester, which is a big, big step for my wife and I, so we’re both really excited. We’re really looking forward to getting to May when we can see an ultrasound and have a little bit more – like, being calm and feeling more safe and being able to start telling people. But it is really exciting to finally make it to the second trimester officially. We have started, you know, trying to making a private registry, so it’s really exciting to, you know, look at everything that you can have, and the world you’re gonna be creating for our new family, and all the possibilities. And just trying to have a positive momentum about pregnancy and starting our family. So, we’re really excited. We’re gonna be waiting kind of long, I don’t think we’ll be telling ‘til week twenty-one, ‘cause that’s when we’ll finally have our ultrasound, and so we’re trying to have our registry ready so that after we find out, we can tell people. So we can plan our Zoom baby shower and everything.

“There’s nothing like the Mackinac Bridge” | Adults Diary | October 31, 2021

Oh, I know. You gotta go across the Mackinac Bridge. I mean, there’s nothing like the Mackinac Bridge and the fact that our state is separated by that distance, and spend time in the UP. UP is the better half of Michigan. So, definitely need to go and do the bridge and see Mackinac Island. I mean, there’s, you know, iconic, historic treasure that we have with Mackinac Island. Has to be on the list of things to do that are unique to Michigan. And I’d add to that and say, you know, up by Petoskey, just hunting for Petoskey stones. Whether you find one yourself on the beach or not, you gotta go look for them and then all the rock shops up there, you have to buy a Petoskey stone if you don’t actually find your own. And, you know, with them polished and varnished, whatever they do to them, to make them so shiny and beautiful and bring out the pattern is really cool and unique. So, that’s another item unique to Michigan.

“Fulfilling year working in the door pantry” | Adults Diary | March 21, 2021

I’m thinking about the year of COVID and now that we’re in 2021, and I think I had a very different experience with 2020 because, whereas – prior to COVID, I had spent a lot of time in my home, writing books, so it was a pretty solitary life, sitting and writing and things like that. And the one thing I did was on Wednesdays, I worked at our church’s food pantry. That was my one day a week doing that. When COVID hit, many of our volunteers are elderly, and so when things started locking down, they needed to do so, as well. They either had health issues, or they were just at risk, so as the volunteers stayed home, we kind of – a few of the other volunteers and I decided that we would pull together a very small skeleton team and work the pantry through COVID. We were not going – we weren’t gonna shut the pantry because we knew people in our neighborhood were still gonna be hungry, and probably more people. So it started with just about five of us and I started going in every day, Monday through Thursday for the whole day, not just an afternoon a week, that I was doing. And we had to change our entire protocol. Instead of allowing our clients to come in and kind of shop through the pantry, we would help them. We had to just pack boxes and then load them in the car, as they drove into the parking lot, we’d ask them to raise their trunks and then we would put the food in. Mask wearing, of course, immediately happened, and gloves so that we wouldn’t contaminate anything. We would sterilize the tables that we would put the boxes of food on, and everything else in the area where we worked. And so the year of 2020 became a year where I was out almost every day and doing something that was so significant in a year that was so depressing and disabling of all of our brothers and sisters. So, I had a year that was full of worth and value. I was excited to get up, and to get to work, and pack boxes.


“During Ramadan we fast” | Teens Diary | April 25, 2021

One thing I’m grateful for this week is food because I’m Muslim and in the month – this is the month of Ramadan that’s currently happening right now. And during the month of Ramadan, we fast from sunrise to sunset. So I’ve been fasting and I’ve been, you know, as usual when you’re fasting, I was very hungry. I’m still hungry. And yeah, so I’m very grateful for food. And fasting has helped me realize what, you know, these unfortunate poor people have to go through every day with their lack of food and, you know, their hunger, which I can barely, like, barely go through. So, it’s helped me build a new appreciation and sympathize with them. “Anything that’s been particularly difficult?” One thing that’s been difficult this week is obviously fasting. It started off difficult, but I’m still getting used – I’m getting used to it.

“I think being a teenager is hard” | Kids Diary | October 18, 2021

“What do I think it’s like to be a teenager?” No curfew, maybe. Bossy, where they boss you around a lot. But not everyone. I think it might be hard, kinda just dating and having to go on a bunch of parties and dances and school, you get a lot of homework. I think it’s pretty hard to be a teenager. A lot of people might not think it is, but I think it is. I’m not really looking forward to much, but I’m looking forward to getting a phone, getting to be able to date, stuff like that.

“Oxford school shooting” | Teens Diary | December 5, 2021

I haven’t done one of these in a while, because I’ve been really busy. But today we have the day off of school because of that school shooting that happened at Oxford earlier this week, and I didn’t go to school yesterday, and they just told us to take the day off today. So I have free time and I decided to do this. So yeah, I’m grateful that I’m safe and all my loved ones are safe, and that everyone’s healthy and okay. I’m grateful that everyone I know and love is safe. If you could guess, something particularly difficult was the school shooting that happened. It was really tough and I was really scared to go to school yesterday, but thankfully my mom let me stay home and they just decided to cancel school once people got there. And it’s just really hard to feel safe somewhere that can be so unsafe so easily.

“Not getting a lollipop at the doctor” | Teens Diary | December 20, 2021

I think the moment I felt like I was no longer a child was when I stopped being offered a lollipop and stickers at my doctor’s office. It was – it was actually, like, a really sad day for me because I remember I had gotten – I think I’d gotten, like, a flu shot that day at the doctor’s office and then I’d also gotten a blood prick. And so usually, if you get like a blood prick or a shot or something, you don’t just get one box from the treasure chest, you get, like, two – you get, like, two toys from the treasure chest and I didn’t get any. And I remember, like – I thought everyone was, like, joking around with me and so I was waiting for them to offer me a gift and they didn’t. And then I remember being really sad on my way to the car, and my mom didn’t understand why I was sad. And then I told her and she started laughing, and she was like, “Oh, it’s because you’re older now, you’re like ten years old.” And I just remember being really sad because even now, like, I think everyone should get a gift when they go to the doctor’s office, you know. Like, it’s just – like, the shots still hurt when you get older, so I don’t know. If I ever have a doctor’s office, I will give – I will offer and give the option of stickers and toys for every, for every one of my patients.

“Me and the grill are social distancing” | Teens Diary | October 17, 2021

“Have you ever had an unfortunate kitchen mishap?” So, I’m known for my reputation for being a bad chef. I’ve blown up nine microwaves, burned two grills, and broken three ovens. And these are completely true statistics. My best story is the grill one. So, I remember my dad was grilling steak and he wanted me to keep an eye on them while he went to the bathroom, but he didn’t, like, give me a spatula or anything. So, I was watching the steaks and a bee came and sat on one of the steaks. So, he didn’t give me a spatula – I didn’t have a spatula. So, I grabbed this tree branch off the ground and I wanted to, like, whack the bee, but instead I whacked the steak, which fell, like, through the – through the holes into the grill, or into the fire. And then, I don’t know what happened, but a lot of things started falling and then something fell on the gas tank thing underneath the grill, which caught fire. And thankfully my neighbor had a fire extinguisher and, you know, stopped the fire. But let’s just say I got into a lot of trouble and I also got banned from being near the grill. So, me and the grill now maintain a good social distancing. Get it? Social distancing? ‘Cause of, like, the pandemic? Okay, you guys get it.

“Hearing farts during a lockdown drill” | Kids Diary | January 24, 2022

“In the nineteen sixties, kids did drills for nuclear, nuclear bombs” – nuclear or whatever – “but we don’t do those anymore. What kind of drills did you do in elementary school? Are there any memories that stick out to you about a drill? One of our team members once had a classmate get lost on their way to the safe location for a fire drill.” Oof. The drills we do are tornado drills, lockdowns, and fire drills. “Are there any memories that stick with you?” Yes. During a lockdown – this was actually recently. It was, I think, two weeks after spring break. Might have been last week or the week before that – I don’t remember the day. But it was, it was, it was pretty scary because they – my teacher didn’t know about the lockdown and it took – usually, it takes them about ten minutes to get to your classroom to, like, do that stuff, or whatever. The police and our principal come, and then, and that time it took half an hour. But what was funny was, I was in the back room with two of my friends, and there was nobody else back there because you switch days having the back room. It’s on, like, a calendar thing and it was my friend’s day. Yeah, it was my friend’s day. Yeah, so in the process, we were trying to keep calm but we weren’t and we were all, like, huddled up and we kept on hearing farts and nobody knew who it was. It was kinda weird. I can tell you it was not me. But yeah, I mean, I guess you had to be there.

“Gen Z – do we have a future?” | Teens Diary | January 30, 2022

“How do you think the world will look in fifty years?” Scary thought. Gen Z – do I have a future? Is the world gonna be around in fifty years? I think I’d be – I’d be happy with anything. I’ve always said that. Yeah, I don’t know – I don’t know why this question struck me so heavily. Like, everyone makes jokes that, like, climate change is gonna end everything, but when you really sit down to think about it, all of a sudden it’s very, very scary

“I want to feel hopeful again” | Adults Diary | February 20, 2022

I hope COVID continues in the right direction. I forgot to look up this week’s numbers. But I swear the numbers have been plummeting, just like we hoped they would. We saw the numbers of Omicron cases in South Africa go insane, like a month, month-and-a-half ago. And then they dropped off a cliff and people said, “Maybe they’ll drop off a cliff here too.” And it looks like that might be happening and man, please. But I’m gonna try to steer clear of falling into that trap, that trap called hope. But you know what? I wanna – I want to feel hopeful, even if I end up being wrong again, moving forward. I wanna feel hopeful, I wanna believe this is different. I wanna believe we have a way out. So I’m gonna use some positive vibes and hope that we’re gonna get there, guys. You know, all pandemics end at some point and I’m not gonna require that coronavirus disappear, ‘cause coronavirus existed before COVID. I’m not even gonna require that COVID-19 fully disappear. I just want to get to a spot where we can be more okay with it, you know. If it has to end up as a common cold sort of thing, that’s a win in my book. I’ll take it. I’m just – I’m so ready. Please, I’m begging you, COVID. But anyway, yeah, hope you guys are still staying safe out there, and I wish you the best this week.