October 19, 2018

There’s a hill at this park near my house that I’ve taken to marching up and down with Persey in the afternoons. I’m delighted to find that it’s crisp and even chilly out here, so I can indulge in long, rambling walks with my girl without worrying about either of us collapsing from heat exhaustion. Something about this incline, only about a quarter of a mile at a gentle but definite slope, has been fantastic for my mental health as well as my heart rate. And the reward of sitting in the sunwarmed grass, looking over the rest of the park with Persey panting at my side, has been so rich. What do dogs look at when they look over a great height?

  1. Get Acquainted with the Gorgeous Wedding Gowns of America’s Wealthiest Families, Harper’s Bazaar. Some gorgeous satin and dramatic veils at this link. As the article says, we may not have royals here in America, but we do have society brides.

  2. The One with the Embryo’s Friends Trivia Episode: A History. This is interesting: “The writers crafted the material, but the crowd decided whether or not
    it was good enough. If a joke didn’t yield the expected laugh, the
    writers huddled up, rewriting on the spot. The actors tried multiple
    line readings, listening to hear which one landed best. If the audience
    seemed uncomfortable or put off by a line, they fixed it and tried the
    take again — and again, if necessary. This meant shoot nights were a
    marathon, often going until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. (and sometimes required
    swapping out one sleepy audience for a fresh one halfway through).
    Sometimes producers would turn to the crowd between takes, asking for a
    show of hands to see how many got the joke.” I love this episode, because it reveals more little details about our friends than we knew before, plus the electricity of a high-stakes competition. This episode and the Thanksgiving one where they’re all yelling each other’s dirty laundry in mutual destruction (”The One Where Ross Got High”) are some of my favorite moments.

  3. Doctor Beth, who runs the Realms of Gold doll and stuffed animal hospital, has a wonderful blog that photographs her process recovering and restoring beloved and damaged stuffed animals to lovable glory. What I especially love about her process is that her goal is not always to make the loveys as good as new, but to stablize their seams, wash away matted fur, and get them back to their kids as soon as possible. Take a look at some of her posts, like this amazing Gorilla restoration or this sweet Winnie the Pooh, and you’ll see what I mean.

  4. I Think About the Princess Diaries Palate Cleanser A Lot, the Cut. The Cut has this series, “I Think About This A Lot,” which is sort of a personal essay about a really specific memory or moment that the author has keyed in on with loving attention. I am always a sucker for deviling the details, but these are also often funny. Check out the series, and especially this dessert from an iconic movie of my growing up.

  5. I Still Love My American Girl Dolls, Glamour. “Historical fiction is essential to young readers, especially girls; we
    have to be able to imagine ourselves and our foremothers as vital, even
    in a small way, to the story of our society. The American Girl books
    (and later, the Dear America series, another 10/10 rec) put young women
    at the center of history and said that virtues like bravery and honesty
    and friendship and hard work were the keys to happiness and fulfillment,
    rather than a sweet disposition and a pretty face and a nice singing
    voice, as Disney might have us believe.” [Emphasis mine] Same, girl.


July 6, 2018

Good morning, grey skies and a little relief from the heat wave! What a strange week with a day off smack dab in the middle, but I kind of enjoyed the bouncy, momentum-less rhythm of this week – like summer days of childhood where there’s absolutely nothing that needs doing.

  1. The Bullshit-Job Boom, New Yorker. Interesting book review that doesn’t totally cosign the book. “Graeber thinks that a sense of uselessness gnaws at everything that makes them human. This observation leads him to define bullshit work as “a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.”
  2. Gossip is Good, The Atlantic. This is kinda wild, the positive social effects of gossip: “Despite gossip’s dodgy reputation, a surprisingly small share of it—as little as 3 to 4 percent—is actually malicious”
  3. The Way We Talk About Bodies, Lindy West for Self. “We’re supposed to be hot in all the old ways while appearing liberated in the new ones. We’re expected to devote ourselves to weight loss as much as our mothers and grandmothers did, while at the same time orchestrating an elaborate cover-up: this modern weight loss is always a coincidence, a byproduct of our “wellness practice,” an incidental surprise.“

    Lindy West is one of my heroes. “You don’t have to do this perfectly. But I hope you will afford yourself the same generosity and unconditional love that you so effortlessly extend to your friends and siblings and children. If you need to maintain a certain body size in order to feel like yourself, do it with kindness and self-reflection. Fight to remember that you are living inside of a cruel, toxic system, and when you hate yourself for gaining five pounds it’s because a billion-dollar industry conditioned you to feel that way for profit. Do everything you can to break that cycle for the next generation. Work to make the world a warmer, safer, and more accommodating place for bodies more marginalized than yours. Believe that you will be okay even if you get fat. Remember that is not better to be thin than to be fat: not morally, not aesthetically. Think about that until you really believe it.” Be right back, just crying over here.

  4. #1120: The Creepy Guy In The Friend Group, Revisited: Four More Geek Social Fallacies, Captain Awkward. Captain Awkward is always so good, but especially when she looks at how the dynamics in a group of friends can go awry, why no one wants to address it head on, and how you can start to fix it for yourself. “What if we could learn expensive and uncomfortable lessons much earlier, by saying “I believe you, let me see what I can do” to the victim of the bad behavior and “Hey, I like you a lot, can you knock off doing that gross thing so I can keep liking you”
    to the perpetrator? If someone you like is behaving badly, you probably
    couldn’t have prevented it, but could you at least not become their
    flying monkey after the fact? Could we reverse the current of social pressure that teaches victims
    not to speak up so that awkwardness flows toward perpetrators?”
  5. Letter of Recommendation: ‘Live Like a French Woman’ Books, NYT. “In recent years, the genre has grown to include hygge (how to be Danish) and lagom (how to be Swedish), and guides on being Greek and Italian too. The crazier things get here at home, it seems, the more certain readers long to escape into a culturally homogeneous fantasy Europe where everyone shares the same values, works a 30-hour week and is nourished by deep roots and routines that are also, somehow, supposed to be welcoming and inclusive — learnable by the likes of you and me. As a friend once pointed out, the implied subtitle of all these books is: If we only had a system!

Bonus features:


June 22, 2018

I saw Oceans 8 this week and I really enjoyed it. I think I like a heist movie with gorgeous costuming and absolutely no violence (best paired with a cherry coke).

  1. Just Write 500 Words, The Cut. “Lots of writers like to pretend they write for eight hours a day, but they are lying. They are on Twitter with a blank Word document open in another tab. That doesn’t count as “writing.” This doesn’t have to be torture. Just write 500 words, and then stop. Until tomorrow.” Also, I watched the Netflix movie Set It Up over the weekend and there’s a line like “But if I want to actually be a writer, I have to stop making excuses not to write.” Everything is telling me to just do it and I’m doing it! 500 words a day is a very doable goal if you’re writing a novel and maybe other types of prose. I think figuring out the time of day that my writing is the closest to the surface really helped me, so I am incredibly indebted to Daniel H. Pink’s When. But reckoning with my phone and social media use in the past year has also really helped me see the ways I was dulling my brain and making myself feel bad. Is there something you feel like you’ve always wanted to do but never get around to it? Look around to see what’s getting in your way, then set a doable goal for each day. So far, so good.
  2. How Netflix Swallowed the TV Industry, Vulture. “It has replaced demographics with what it calls “taste clusters,” predicating programming decisions on immense amounts of data about true viewing habits, not estimated ones.” This is such a (long) interesting look at the mechanisms behind Netflix original content.
  3. Rihanna’s Perspective on Her Weight Changed How I Think. “Within a few months, I began to see my obsession with my weight as not only unhealthy and hurtful, but delusional. As I learned to speak to and treat myself better, I literally began to see myself differently.”
  4. Burnout Strategies for Librarians, Kevin Harwell (paywall). I read this in preparation for my presentation later this summer on mindfulness and workplace wellbeing. His definition breaks down the three components of burnout (which only takes place in work contexts): exhaustion, cycnicism/detachment, and a sense of ineffectiveness/lack of accomplishment. Here are a few parts that really struck me: “Certain job characteristics are known to be related to burnout. These include the following: high workload; time pressure; conflicting demands on the job; lack of adequate information to do the job well; lack of social support, especially from supervisors; and lack of feedback.”

    And: “One way to consider contributing factors for burnout is in terms of job demands and job resources.” Job demands can burn you out, but job resources like performance feedback, rewards, job security, participation in decision making, and support from supervisors can help. “In case studies where job demands were high, but job resources were also high, employees did not experience high levels of burnout.” If we’re getting the support we need, we can handle the high workload. Is this shocking? No, but it’s nice to see the dots connected.

  5. Home,” Warsan Shire. “who would choose to spend days /and nights in the stomach of a truck / unless the miles travelled / meant something more than journey.”

Be good to each other this week. Love you.


June 1, 2018

Happy new month! Spending (or not spending) money has been on my mind lately. Last month I bought a car, and that seriously depleted the feeling of a plush cushion in the lumbar region of my bank account. I think since moving out and experiencing the relief of a two-income household, I’ve been in a mode of buying things I need (or “need”) when I want them. I’m actually glad to feel like I’m sitting on a cold, hard plastic folding chair these days; I’m back in the habit of sleeping on a purchase, asking myself if I really want it or if I have something like it at home already.

This past weekend, my husband and I went to public parks, cooked at home, played board games with friends, and watched a million movies from the library. For what I would typically treat as a shopping weekend, I feel pretty good about that. Boosted by constant advertising and spon-con, there’s still a ridiculous urge all the time (new pajamas? a wrap dress? yet another set of markers with such fine tips they could puncture the paper? endless takeout?), but as with many areas of my life, it feels more manageable now that I can see it mindfully. To quote Aminatou Sow, my third eye is wide open.

  1. An Algorithmic Investigation of the Highfalutin ‘Poet Voice.’
    This is so funny and strange. “It’s easy to make fun of Poet Voice. But its proliferation across the space of academic poetry may have more serious implications as well. In a 2014 essay, “Poet Voice and Flock Mentality,” the poet Lisa Marie Basile connects it to an overall lack of diversity in the field, and a fear of breaking the mold. The consistent use of it, she writes, “delivers two messages: I am educated, I am taught, I am part-of a group … I am afraid to tell my own story in my own voice.”

  2. Kim Kardashian’s Beautiful, Sinister Weight-Loss Sponcon
    . This is a perfect example of why people feel so dang miserable on Instagram! Ugh, gross. I’m sure a lot of you have already heard about this sneaky Kim K ad shilling “appetite suppressant lollipops,” but reading through this piece that breaks down what’s especially irresponsible about Kim’s “endorsement” helped me connect some dots that have been bugging me. First, the article points out that the Kardashians don’t emphasize the amount of support they receive (or pay for) in the form of trainers, chefs, nannies, stylists. And so to suggest in ads that a tea or lollipop is all it takes to look like these women is a real misrepresentation. But we all fall for it! And the biggest click moment for me this week is how gross it is for weight-loss advertisers to target Instagram users at all, given that people are often experiencing their lowest body image on that app. Feeling very conscious of the invisible strings this week.

  3. Is this life-giving? Questions to Reflect On
    . “What drains you but you keep returning to it?” Hmm probably Instagram. Both the title and quoted questions are great journaling prompts.
  4. Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready. I read this in one shaky, emotional day. I identified a lot with O’Connell, when she references “panic-Googling” all of her fears and insecurities, and when she talks about her struggle to come back to Earth after an untethering season of PPD. There are moments of feminism, body horror, and relatability in this book, but a few days after I was left feeling like the book wasn’t totally “done.” As in, there might not have been enough space between the events and the memoir-ization of them. I would recommend this book to all but the very squeamish.
  5.  We need a new kind of HGTV. I am so on board for Kate Wagner’s recommendations for new/old HGTV programming, almost enough to consider watching the channel again. One thing I remember about HGTV in the early 2000s was how much how-to there was, and I thought that was valuable and inspiring, as well as relaxing to watch. (Don’t most people have this channel to keep them company?) And on a general note, I have lately felt like that as the companies and content creators I follow become more successful, their taste and definition of “affordable” has changed. A perfect example that I’m sad to mention is the wedding-planning, feminist resource website A Practical Wedding. I relied so much on the clear-headed writing, budget-breakdowns, and focus on “what really matters” in planning my wedding, but the sponsored content and increase in scale has made it hard for me to see myself there at all anymore. In part to maintain healthy spending habits and curb a sense of material dissatisfaction, I’m trying to be thoughtful about withdrawing from online areas that have become “too rich for my blood.”

Bonus features, for something a little sweeter:


May 4, 2018

I got to the beginning of this month and realized that I don’t have any set goals

last month’s big goal (buy a car) really preoccupied me, and now I’m not sure how I want to structure this month in terms of ongoing personal projects. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Spend time in nature everyday
  • Rebuild my savings account (ouch, buying a car…)
  • Get my heart rate up for 10 minutes a day
  • Cover and repaint a piece of furniture I’ve been putting off
  • Just…have more fun?

We’ve got a lot planned for the weekends in May, and I kind of like the idea of setting a goal to HAVE FUN.

  1. Orbiting Is the New Ghosting. ORBITING! What an annoying concept. But as I think about it, it must be totally new territory to try to write romantic comedies about the intricacies of modern dating. I wonder how you’d try to capture chemistry when everyone’s just hunched over smiling (or hyperventilating) into their phones though…
  2. ‘I Feel Pretty’ and the Rise of Beauty-Standard Denialism, NYT. “I suspect it’s also simply too painful to address head-on. The amount of brainpower I spend every day thinking about how I look is a monumental waste. The sheer accumulation of images of celebrity bodies in my browser history feels psychopathic. I like to think of myself as a pretty smart person, but the truth is that I can’t seem to think my way out of this. The only way I’ve found to banish momentarily that shadow of the idealized self is to pay for it to go away — with a Sephora shopping spree or a spin class.” This is a review for a movie I’m not very interested in seeing, but I really like this quote. Sometimes my anxiety about my appearance feels like a literal obstacle in my path to doing the things I actually want to do, and know that I’m capable of.
  3. This Woman Shared One Of The Wildest Birth Stories You’ve Ever Heard. What a story, and thank goodness for Youtube tutorials that come through in times of need. What a badass!
  4. Living In: When Harry Met Sally, Design Sponge. I really like Design Sponge, they’re doing some really inclusive and thoughtful writing about design lately. But I also love their “living in” series, where they pull inspiration from TV shows and movies with a defined aesthetic that you can bring into your own life.
  5. You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Women, Friendship, and the Power of Conversation, Deborah Tannen. I just started this book after devouring about a week’s worth of light and fun romances, and immediately realized I’d have to slow my pace down to absorb the familiar wisdom and findings from this book, which uses linguistics and interviews to explore a variety of female friendships. It’s really good so far!