August 16, 2019

I’m prepping this post early because I’m taking off Thursday and Friday to can tomatoes with my mom! I’m so excited. It’s gonna be so messy!

(Also please note: A couple of my reads this week are about the recent incidents of domestic terrorism, just a heads-up.)

  1. Family Meal Planning for Real Life, NYT. Meal planning during the week is something I struggle with. It’s very easy for me to fall into a rut of essentially the same food, or to fall back onto my fainting couch and insist we must get takeout because my nerves couldn’t possibly take it. David does most of our cooking, really. But it’s the thinking about what to eat, what groceries we need on hand, that gives me the vapors, I guess. Anyway, there’s good advice and a tasty looking meatball recipe in here.
  2. Ask Polly: My In-Laws Are Careless About My Food Allergy! “Every now and then, a group of people assumes the traits and behaviors of sociopaths. Maybe one person in the group completely and permanently lost their doughnuts several decades prior, and slowly, each member of the group learns that playing along with this singular menace is the only way to survive. Eventually, the members of the group are so utterly confused and gaslit by each other that they enforce the will of the group and nod along with bizarre opinions until they can’t even remember what it means to think logically or have free will or behave like other regular human beings on the face of the planet.” This letter to an advice columnist (Ask Polly) is WILD, and makes me glad I have great in-laws.
  3. More Than Friends, Gay Mag. Ah, this is a gorgeous essay about more-than-friends and almost-lovers. I’ve felt what she writes about, and I love this piece. “Can you have a break-up if you never have a real date? When the engineer started to pull away, he stopped inviting me over and asked me, instead, to meet him in public places. He declined invitations for movie night at my house. It was easy to understand what was happening, even if the vocabulary didn’t exist for us to talk openly about it.”
  4. A Lynch Mob of One, The Atlantic. “Today, no white-supremacist organization is needed for a ready-made lynch mob. No false rumor is needed. There is no need to assemble a large group of coordinated white supremacists. Any young white male can become enraged listening to Trump’s racist ideas, or reading the racist messages on 8chan. Any young white male can become the raging lynch mob, the next Crusius. All that’s needed is an assault rifle, and the assault rifle of racist ideas—two weapons of war manufactured, offered for sale, and bought legally and easily in the United States of America …Being racist suspended him from reality, and he ended up targeting his own livelihood in targeting Latino immigrants. Being antiracist brings Americans back to reality.” This is a letter to the editor and I found it a compelling way to contextualize these incidents of terror within our history. It’s a careful compare and contrast, with plenty of sources to point out how much easier it is for racists to become radicalized online, access deadly weapons legally, and devastate a community. Also, I did not know that Woodrow Wilson was a vocal supporter of the Ku Klux Klan (that’s on me and my memory of history, because it is a defining part of him as a person). I recommend this read even though it’s hard, because it connected some dots for me.
  5. What an American Terrorist Looks Like, Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz for Yes Magazine. The data here really put things into perspective for me. Did you know that in 2018, 98% of extremist-related killings in the US came from the radical right? The numbers and trends in this infographic article are chilling but also clarifying. The connection between mass shooters and domestic violence, for example, is stronger (54%) than the connection between the shooters and mental illness (25%). This isn’t the fun stuff that I like to share, but I think it’s important that we focus on facts in a conversation that is incredibly emotional and divided.

August 9, 2019

Earlier this week, my dad and I were talking about hope. It is a surprisingly difficult word to define in your own terms. He said that hope is a future-looking word, different from “wish” or “want.” We talked about how it’s imagining that something could be different than the way it’s always been, that the impossible could happen. To me, feeling hope is essential for showing up to work tomorrow, for believing that our work has purpose. But sometimes our supply of hope gets low, eroded by acute chronic pain, or wiped out by tragedy. And while belief in an eternal hope is important, we also need to build up our stores of ordinary, everyday, on-earth hope. I see that as a community effort, so I tried to gather that kind of story this week. If you have stories or moments of hope, I would welcome them in return.

  1. Ethiopia plants 350m trees in a day to help tackle climate crisis, the Guardian. Ethiopia, in pursuit of an environmental initiative called #GreenLegacy, encouraged every citizen to plant 40 seedlings. That final number, somewhere around 353 million, is just so impressive! “Trees not only help mitigate climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the air, but they also have huge benefits in combating desertification and land degradation, particularly in arid countries. They also provide food, shelter, fuel, fodder, medicine, materials and protection of the water supply.”
  2. Be Water! Seven Tactics that Are Winning Hong Kong’s Democracy Revolution, New Statesman. This is such an inspiring look at successful protest built on unity, ingenuity, and care for one another. The tactics listed here, such as a leaderless movement (to protect protestors from being singled out and imprisoned) and coordinated hand-signal communication through a crowd, are actionable and exciting to read about.
  3. The Happiest Design Ethics Article You Will Ever Read, Modus. “The whole spark of design comes from our seeing another human being attempting to do something, not having a great time doing it, and thinking: I bet there’s a way to help them do that. And then figuring out what that is. That’s it, that’s the whole thing. Whether we’re helping someone fill out a naturalization form in their own language, keep better track of their finances, find the right charity to donate to, keep in touch with someone they love, or just find the right cat gif, everything we design should be in service of making people’s lives easier. Feel free to replace “easier” with “more efficient,” “delightful,” or any other positive word you prefer.” Design ethics is not a subject I’m familiar with, but what he’s talking about here is using design to make people’s lives better in some way, not to trap or trick or manipulate them (to purchase, vote, etc). The above quote about the spark of design reminds me of my urge to teach, and that’s why this piece made me feel hope.
  4. Want to Change the World? Talk to Kids, Glamour. “Did I write this for kids? Of course I did. Grown-ups don’t want to read books about nervous chipmunks, and otters named Duffles and Nudge. Their loss, honestly—they are solid otters who make some really good points. But I also wrote it because, in my heart of hearts, “welcome someone new” and “kindness is stronger than fear” are what I want to tell adults. Kids encounter new things all the time—new kids at school, new experiences, even new foods. It makes sense to be a little fearful of them. But unlike adults, kids are open to change. If you give them new information, they don’t immediately get defensive or call it #fakenews. They take it in, and if it makes sense to them, they try to incorporate it into their lives.” This is sweet. I’m gonna check out her kid’s book.
  5. Mediterranean Blue,” by Naomi Shihab Nye. “They are the bravest people on earth right now, / don’t dare look down on them. Each mind a universe / swirling as many details as yours, as much love / for a humble place. Now the shirt is torn, / the sea too wide for comfort, and nowhere / to receive a letter for a very long time. / And if we can reach out a hand, we better.” Emphasis mine.

August 2, 2019

You ever have a day where your thoughts are racing with ideas, worries, and your to-do list, to the point that you are essentially useless until your brain calms down? Yesterday my strategies (deep breaths, making sure I’ve eaten protein, a quick walk) didn’t work like they usually do. So I tried something we did in college when a train makes you stuck at an intersection: focus on a space in front of you and count the railcars as they cross your vision. I just sat still and counted the individual thoughts that crowded out my ability to function. Eventually the train will pass and the light will turn green, and in the meantime I will crank the air conditioning.

  1. How to read the news without frying your tender circuitry, Courtney E. Martin. “Don’t feel obligated to take in the headlines on a daily basis. I don’t. I still find out the most important things via a sort of strange and very modern osmosis–my friends, the guys shooting the shit outside of the donut shop, my social media feeds, overhearing the radio. But otherwise, I store up all that saved energy and heartache for a deep dive on Sunday with the print edition of The New York Times. It allows me to stay informed, but in a more contextualized way.” I’ve been doing this with the Frederick News-Post and it’s been a helpful practice when I stick to it!
  2. These police dogs are trained to help survivors, Los Angeles Times. (TW: Types of violence and abuse mentioned in passing.) This story will most likely make you cry but not in a bad way. This is the part that got me: “Adam Roulston, a Corona police patrol sergeant and one of Raider’s handlers, said that while it’s up to the trainers to decide where to take their dogs, he’s learned the dogs usually decide which person to approach. When everyone else is focused on the primary victim, Raider often heads in the direction of someone experiencing secondary trauma. “He’ll lay on their feet or sit on them. Then they’ll break down,” said Roulston, who learned of police facility dogs after reading about Scottie.” Dogs are so, so good. And I just learned that Frederick therapy dogs are doing this kind of work too! Read more about that here at the Frederick News-Post.
  3. A Very Low-Key Summer Checklist, A Cup of Jo. I love the ideas Joanna sets up for a fun, meaningful summer with her kids. They’re things that will get you out of patterns, but nothing so ambitious that you feel guilty about not checking them off. I really like the idea of trying an ice cream flavor you’ve never had, and taking breaks to intentionally do nothing at all. What’s on your summer checklist?
  4. The Meaning of All Caps in Texting and in Life, Wired. Ooh I love when someone walks me through a niche part of language. Here McCulloch is talking about the history of talking in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, and it’s a fun read: “Rather, our interpretation seems to flip depending on whether we read the text as formal or informal: HOME in a website’s menu bar is a mere graphic design choice, while HOME in a message like “ugh I want to go HOME” is typographical tone of voice.” Her book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, is next on my list!
  5. Why Do Kids Have Imaginary Friends, the Atlantic.  This article about imaginary friends is so interesting. “Imaginary companions are giving kids a sense of control,” Carlson says. “They get to conjure them up, they get to make up the stories, they’re not being intruded upon by others. It’s something they can own all to themselves. It’s an interesting way to take a little bit of control back. But it can be very frustrating for the parents.” The article talks about an imaginary friend named Salad which reminds me that kids’ creativity is the best kind. I (lol) had an imaginary boyfriend in middle school. There’s a lot of sweet quotes in this piece, you should read it! Did you have an imaginary friend?

Bonus features:

  • House for Booklovers and Cats – This house is adorable. My favorite photo is the one of the cat emerging from a trapdoor in the bedroom.
  • All About Xoloitzcuintl, the Mexican Hairless Dog – I just discovered a new favorite Youtube channel, Dogumentary TV, which has well-produced videos teaching about different breeds (and as far as I’ve seen, doesn’t have any sad dog content, but use your best judgment based on video titles).

July 26, 2019

Ezra Jack Keats

Ezra Jack Keats

I’m back in the reading saddle this week! After browsing some cool bookstores in Colorado, my to-read list got ridiculously long and I ordered a whole bunch of books from my library. Of course, they all come in at once and now I’m sitting on 13 books to get through! My weekend is (wait for it) booked. (nice)

  1. The Rich, Complex History Hiding Within Chinese Plate Designs, Thrillist. This essay about the iconic Chinese plate design talks about “the nostalgic element of going to a Chinese restaurant and seeing certain plates on the table.” I also liked their thoughts at the end: “I think that’s why that red bowl pattern appeals to me so much: it’s an honest admittance that the way I grew up wasn’t fancy or exotic. Rather, the fact that it’s a gorgeous cultural art product condensed into a mundane housewares design feels right to me, as someone who feels like a simulacrum of a real Vietnamese person, after being estranged from my family’s origin point my whole life.” The ceramic artist mentioned is Stephanie Shih, here’s a write-up of her work!
  2. Whole 60, Laura Lippman. This piece has some weird moments (watch out for some specific weight numbers and diet habits early on, though they are critiqued) but overall the message is so great, about embodying yourself exactly as you are right here and now, against all odds. “All the women I know look at old photos and say, “Da-yum” or words to that effect. […] But if you believe you looked good when you were younger, then simply imagine your future self in a parallel universe, studying 2019 photos and saying, “Da-yum” at how you look now. Stop waiting. Stop entrusting praise to others, especially to sad deluded men who think our bodies are theirs to judge. It is not the trolls or the blunt dance teachers or even our partners who get to tell us we are beautiful. No one can lift us up until we choose to leap.” There are a lot of great lines, but that section was one of my favorites.
  3. If Men Carried Purses, Would They Clean Up Messes? The Cut. A lot of women in my feed/newsletters were talking about this article this week. It made my blood boil here and there, as with quotes like “A new study shows that visitors to a disorderly home will judge the female inhabitant if they believe she’s responsible for the mess but give the male inhabitant a pass.” I like the idea that not only should men start carrying a bag (be it tote, laptop bag, or backpack), but that women, if they want to, should enjoy some purse free days. I especially like to travel light on a day where I’ll be walking a lot, and for me that’s easiest in the winter, with my coat’s deep pockets. One source is quoted, “I do it to be free. […] To walk fully. After you carry a bag and then you don’t, you feel like you can fly.”
  4. A Last Look at Ebony’s Archives, Before They’re Sold, NYT. Photographs are my favorite kind of archival material. I think they make history so immediate and intimate. “You can’t really tell the story of black life in the 20th century without these images from the Johnson archive. So it’s important that whatever happens in this auction, that these images are preserved and made available to scholars, art lovers and everyday folks.” As of yesterday, it was reported that the materials will be donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is great news! Highly recommend looking through the photos collected in this article!
  5. The Crane Wife, CJ Hauser. I loved this short story. A woman breaks her engagement and goes on a crane-watching research trip, but the story is more than that, as the best short stories are. “Even now I hear the words as shameful: Thirsty. Needy. The worst things a woman can be. Some days I still tell myself to take what is offered, because if it isn’t enough, it is I who wants too much.” It reminded me of past relationships and making myself and my needs smaller so they were less inconvenient. I can definitely relate to feeling ashamed of needing so much, a need to define the relationship or talk about where it’s going, the need for reassurance about silly things, over and over (thanks, anxiety). I am afraid of being called needy, as if it’s the worst thing someone can be. But this is not a sad story — it ends with community and the healing process. Everyone has needs. And we’re responsible for each other. The story made me want to be kinder to myself and other people.

Bonus features:

  • Whitney Catalano’s weekend challenge – “My homework assignment for you this weekend is to be radically messy and try to have a little fun while you’re at it. Cry in public. Tell people how you feel. Let your belly hang out and go eat some ice cream. Do what you gotta do to break your own rules”

July 19, 2019

Daisies

Hi! While I was away I read so much that my eyes crossed, and walked miles and miles of Colorado sunshine, and I’ve come back to tell you that, well, I just don’t have it in me to share anything serious or grim this week. So here’s another round of the nice and the interesting:

  1. A Toast to When Harry Met Sally..a Romantic Comedy for Grown-Ups, Vanity Fair. This week was the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite movies! This author expresses my affection for the film well: “Watching When Harry Met Sally… as an adult, it feels as if the movie spills some secrets that grown-ups aren’t supposed to share—about the messiness of attraction, the circuitous path of romance, the erotic tension in spirited antagonism. It’s about how another person can become a part of you despite your best intentions. Behind the film’s wryly entertaining tone, there’s a wild liveliness that animates the characters, a combination of deep-seated longings and carnal passions.” I also really love this line, about the author’s marriage: “When Harry Met Sally… has served as this example I could keep in my pocket of what love should feel like—an endless, unspooling conversation with a partner who, like a counterweight, provides equilibrium.”
  2. In the Future, Everything Will Be Made of Chickpeas, The Atlantic. “In a country increasingly wary of meat, more open than ever to non-Western ingredients, and anxious about climate change, the chickpea’s expanding role in the American diet is less a trend story than a logical inevitability.” Chickpea!! David loves a hummus and I am experimenting with other uses for chickpeas in our cooking too, so if anyone has any recommendations I’m listening! Also this makes me smile: “Chickpeas just aren’t an intimidating bean,” Kennedy says.”
  3. The Frankfurt Kitchen Changed How We Cook — and Live, CityLab. “the only fully-outfitted kitchens were, prior to the 20th century, true workspaces where household staff labored in the service of a well-to-do (or even middle-class) family. For the poor and working class, dwellings generally had no discrete kitchen. In a one- or two-room home, be it an apartment or a farmhouse, a large cast-iron stove was likely to be the only major appliance, and might also be a family’s primary heat source. A table or set of shelves might serve to house utensils and tools, but there were no standardized cabinets or kitchen “furniture” as we know them today.” Interesting look at the history of something I’d never considered! The original designer of the apartment kitchen took inspiration from the dining cars on trains. There are a few photos in this piece worth checking out. It’s also cool how gender politics comes into play as architects design kitchens — Schütte-Lihotzky created a kitchen for the working wife and mother to do housework more efficiently, and in the 1920s that was liberating on its own.
  4. Where’s Simba’s mom? In real life, female lions run the pride, National Geographic. “Females define their territory. They’ve grown up there and have been listening to neighbors roaring their whole lives […] And if their pride gets too big, the females will even carve out a new territory next door for their daughters to take over and start their own pride. Ninety-nine percent of all the members of a lion pride are related females.” Lionesses are so cool.
  5. The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need to Go Away, Serious Eats. This article busts a bunch of myths about cast iron pans, which I use but barely understand. “Cast iron is tough as nails! There’s a reason why there are 75-year-old cast iron pans kicking around at yard sales and antique shops. The stuff is built to last and it’s very difficult to completely ruin it.” That’s a big reason why I like them! Although he also points out that they don’t conduct heat evenly, so it’s good to have other cookware too, in my opinion. Some controversy here about soap though. Read with caution.

Bonus features: