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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 joined by Will Sullivan, who’s the Dean of the Awesome Foundation DC, Treasurer and Board Member for the Institute on Higher Awesome Studies (the global Awesome Foundation parent organization), President of DC’s Virginia Ave Dog Park partners group, and a proud greyhound papa! This summer he’s been all about gratitude journaling, guava margaritas, giving back and more:

How do you usually feel about summer, as a season overall, and how do you feel about THIS summer, by comparison?

I enjoy Summer usually; it’s a period of high energy, long days, movement, exploration, and socialization, where just about anything seems possible. By comparison, this Summer has felt like a weird warm Winter. I’m worried how the actual Winter will pan out without a wide-spread vaccine or science-based government leadership and pandemic controls, but I’m doing my best to be optimistic and have hope for the future — especially for after November.

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

My partner, our dogs, and I are heading to a rural cabin on a small lake with no internet or phone to have our own mini-meditation, forest-bathing retreat and I. can’t. wait.  

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

#1 – Treat yourself — specifically, get a kiddy pool (or find a covid-pod friend with one). I’ve set one up in my tiny back patio for a few years now and in 2020 it has been especially valuable with the physical world (and pools) shutting down. I’ve upgraded a few features over the years and have one with a filtration system, and this year I’ve learned more about pool science, have a water testing kit, and sanitizing chemicals to keep it clean and fresh, so I don’t have to dump it frequently. I also built a DIY solar-heating system to warm the water using 500 feet of black irrigation tubing and a submersible pump to send water from the pool, up to the top of my garage to be warmed by the Summer sun, then back down into a bath-like oasis.

#2 – Give back. There’s a lot of folks struggling and no shortage of help needed doing good in the world with so many crushingly sad things going on. In times of darkness, look for the light and be the light. Find a cause or an organization you can help with time, money, energy, whatever to give back. It’s a great diversion and if you push through the crushing depression that is the doom scrolling reality show we are living, it can help someone else, as well as yourself. One of my side hustles is helping lead the Awesome Foundation DC has helped keep me positive and centered as we’ve persevered through Covid and continued to give $1,000 monthly grants to community, arts, and creative projects in DC. The team of Trustees has really stepped up, doubled our efforts and thus far funded twice as many projects this year than in previous years, and we’re making direct, actionable impact in the community right now. It helps build resiliency in a time where it’s easy to feel hopeless and crushed. (We’re also looking for some new Trustees, if you’re interested in making a difference!)

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

1- Gratitude journaling, while it sounds hokey, is helpful.

2- Spending time in nature (or previously mentioned ‘forest bathing’) is always refreshing.

3- Thinking about the constraints of these times and figuring out how to turn them into a new habit or benefit is also helpful. For instance — in normal times have social engagements around too much unhealthy food and drinks torpedoed your diet? Well, now you have an opportunity to control that very precisely. Think about who you want to be after we get through all this, and what you will regret not doing in these times and what healthy and productive habits you could create and structure in your life right now when we have possibly the most opportunity and control from distractions or outside influences that can sideline your aspirations.

4- Dogs. They are the best.

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

My mask is a custom homemade 4-layer 600-thread count cloth beauty made by my amazing fiancé, Elizabeth. It nicely complements my tshirts-sweats-and-sandals-livin’-the-wfh-dream attire.  

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

I just started, “Get Out of My Head: Inspiration for Overthinkers in an Anxious World” by Meredith Arthur and it feels like it was personally written for me in these times.

Do you have a go-to summer hang-out recipe that still works for a socially distanced gathering? And/or just a favorite general summer recipe that’s still a go-to, even now?

Since we’ve been spending a lot of time at home, I’ve dusted off my old side-offset smoker and been making Texas-style brisket every few weeks. It’s good for keeping the mosquitos at bay and feeding small groups of socially-distanced friends. I’ve been using a modified version of Aaron Franklin’s rub recipe (using 3/4 the salt and adding a few tablespoons of paprika).

What about great summer cocktail or mocktail recipe?

Guava margaritas on Sonic Drive-In pellet ice, served from this “Saved By The Bell”-style Coleman pitcher, sipped poolside if possible:

Recipe for 1 serving:

1.5 oz tequila

1 oz triple sec

½ oz. fresh lime juice (from about half of a small lime)

2.5 oz guava nectar (or any fruit juice you prefer, Costco has an amazing selection of bulk options)

(Optional level up) Li Hing powder (to rim your glass)

Multiply it by 4-20x and throw it on ice for a refreshing and relaxing afternoon.

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

The B-52s have filled the hole in my heart and head that has a need for high-tempo, sugary-surfy-new-wavey rock, with a little absurdity and weirdness that seems to fit with the times. I’m living in my own private Idaho 

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

My partner and I planned to go on a Summer coastal New England road trip up through Maine visiting family and friends but we had to cancel the trip after Covid for fear of becoming a serial super spreader, slowly killing off everyone we love. 

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?

Kingman Island, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and the National Arboretum are all amazing gems in DC that are often overlooked. They’re also all easily connected on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which is magnificent for biking or walking; I ride it and regularly see bald eagles on the trail, sigh wistfully, close my eyes and think of Obama.

The next Awesome Foundation DC monthly grant deadline is Sunday, August 23rd. If you have an actionable, weird idea to help make DC more awesome that needs $1,000 to make happen, apply now! They’re also currently accepting applications for a few open Trustee positions, if you’re interested in investing a little energy, time, and money into The District and its creatives.