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SUMMER RULES is a series where we ask people to share with us how they’re staying safe and sane during this very different summer season; from mask suggestions to soundtrack selections, we’ll take a peek into how others are making these challenging times work.

Today we’re touching base with Malaka Gharib, deputy editor and digital strategist of Goats and Soda (NPR’s global health and development blog) and author of I Was Their American Dream; she’s been keeping it together by flower hunting, working out with The Fitness Marshall, cooling off with the occasional pineapple agua fresca and more:

What is your summer shaping up to look like?

I’ve been watching a lot of really good TV: Season 4 of Issa Rae’s Insecure, Michaela Coel’s new show I May Destroy You, plus Unorthodox, Run, Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend and Normal People. They all feature strong female characters and heartbreaking storylines. 

And I’ve been obsessed with hunting for new flowers in bloom on my daily walks around my neighborhood of Capitol Hill. Since spring, I’ve tracked irises, tulips, wisteria, roses, lillies and now the sunflowers. Every day there’s something new. It’s beautiful. 

I’ve been trying to stay creative but it’s so hard. I get easily distracted by the news or eating ASMR videos on Instagram. But when I can draw and make something, it feels nice — even if it’s just a little throwaway drawing or a sentence in my journal. 

Is there anything in particular you’re actually looking forward to this summer?

We end the summer with a cabin trip in Deep Creek Lake in Maryland with six of our closest friends. The quarantine plan is set: We will stay indoors and limit interactions for two weeks before we enter the house. Then we can all finally hug for the first time since March. I can’t wait for that moment! 

What are some of your tips for staying safe and sane right now? 

Be your own best friend. Give yourself the pep talks you need to hear.  

Go-to summer wellness practice advice? Any spots in particular that have been helping you on that front?

I love The Fitness Marshall. His zumba routines make me laugh out loud. He has goofy dance moves like “the snake” and “hide your face” and “tell that boy bye.” There are a lot of body rolls and twerking. For a start I’d recommend the Missy Elliott “Lose Control” workout. Do five of these videos and you’re sweating and also laughing at yourself. 

Where did you get your mask from? And what, aside from that, has been your more or less go-to summer uniform?

I bought a pack of neon masks from Official at the beginning of the pandemic. I like them because they’re made out of a thin but tightly woven fabric. And my summer uniform: natural hair, no makeup and a dark tan, which I haven’t seen on myself since I was a teenager living in sunny California, and a lot of skirts and dresses. It feels nice to dress up a little bit, even if it’s just at home. 

What (if anything) are you reading right now, and why do you recommend it? (Alternatively, just share a favorite book.)

The writer Nina MacLaughlin has a series of essays about the sky, running all summer in The Paris Review. I’ve been reading them slowly and savoring them. They are stunning and unnerving: “Where does the sky start? What a simple question. How obvious. But it unsteadied me; I was walloped by the force of how much I did not know.” I’ve also been reading works by Black writers: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir The Beautiful Struggle and Homie, a book of poetry by Danez Smith.  

Do you have a go-to summer cocktail or mocktail?

I live near H St. NE so a real treat is to go to Fresca Taqueria and get the pineapple agua fresca. It is crazy good and there are huge chunks of fruit in it. 

What’s on your summer playlist this year, or are there three songs that are permanent summer favorites for you?

I’ve been listening to a lot of soundtracks from TV shows: Devs, which features Low, John Martyn, Free and Billie Eilish; Insecure Season 4, featuring Blood Orange, Thundercat and Steve Lacy; and The New Pope, which has Nils Frahm, Flock of Dimes and some good electronic music to listen to while working. 

Where do you wish you COULD GO this summer, if there were no restrictions or safety risks?

More than anything I wish I could go to the Portrait Gallery and draw in the atrium like I usually did before the pandemic. It was one of my favorite things to do in D.C. in the summer. I’d get a coffee and put in my headphones and doodle for a bit, walk around for inspiration, and doodle a little more. 

And is there anywhere you’ve been safely going that you could recommend for people who live nearby? Any day trips or local spots worth mentioning, for example?

I’ve found some creative ways to get out of the house. Earlier this summer my husband and I treated ourselves to a night at the Kimpton Lorien in Old Town Alexandria. There was no room service but there were a lot of outdoor restaurant options, and a Jeni’s Ice Cream. We went swimming at Sandy Point Beach in Annapolis — walk away from the parking lot and there are stretches of beach that are pretty empty. We’ve gone hiking at Raven Rocks in West Virginia, and gone on bike rides to Navy Yard to get smoked corn hummus and turmeric lemonade at Yellow Cafe. Against all odds I’ve had a summery summer.