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February 23, 2018

February made me shiver… A few of the readings from this week are focused on reading itself, or about getting our attention back. That’s a topic I’m really interested in, and if I could I’d ask everyone in my life about how they approach the problem of over-stimulation and shallow, widespread attention. Meditation and mindful practices have benefited me a lot this year so far, but I still feel like I pass a lot of the day like a leaf on water, carried along from stimulus to stimulus. This blog has been a fruitful reading exercise for me. Enjoy!

  1. Conscious consumerism is a lie. Here’s a better way to help save the world. This was really challenging and worth reading. It encouraged me to take my feelings and turn them into action for good. “On its face, conscious consumerism is a morally righteous, bold movement. But it’s actually taking away our power as citizens. It drains our bank accounts and our political will, diverts our attention away from the true powerbrokers, and focuses our energy instead on petty corporate scandals and fights over the moral superiority of vegans.”
  2. I Have Forgotten How to Read. This one stuck with me all week! “Even Eric Schmidt, the erstwhile chief executive of Google, was anxious about the mental landscape he was helping to cultivate. He once told Charlie Rose: “I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information … is in fact affecting cognition. It is affecting deeper thinking. I still believe that sitting down and reading a book is the best way to really learn something. And I worry that we’re losing that.”

    And this tidbit is fascinating: “Great researchers such as Maryanne Wolf and Alison Gopnik remind us that the human brain was never designed to read. Rather, elements of the visual cortex – which evolved for other purposes – were hijacked in order to pull off the trick. The deep reading that a novel demands doesn’t come easy and it was never "natural.” Our default state is, if anything, one of distractedness. The gaze shifts, the attention flits; we scour the environment for clues.” I’d love to think more about this, because I’ve heard all the time that humans were wired for story – but maybe not necessarily reading? We know that story-telling has been an oral and community endeavor for longer than it hasn’t…interesting.

  3. Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read, the Atlantic. “The lesson from his binge-watching study is that if you want to remember the things you watch and read, space them out. I used to get irritated in school when an English-class syllabus would have us read only three chapters a week, but there was a good reason for that. Memories get reinforced the more you recall them, Horvath says. If you read a book all in one stretch—on an airplane, say—you’re just holding the story in your working memory that whole time. “You’re never actually reaccessing it,” he says.” It’s also telling that the folks that “binge-watch” something are less likely to have enjoyed it, compared to someone who’s spaced it out over the week.
  4. How to Break Up With Your Phone, NYT. I disagree on the usefulness of the tip to “use technology to protect yourself from technology,” because you’re basically inviting monitoring and tracking software into your phone…which…see #5. But this article otherwise has some really helpful tips on the subject I’m apparently obsessed with! 
  5. The House That Spied on Me. Engrossing and creepy, this person buys a bunch of smart-home devices, runs them all at once, and allows her colleague to see what kind of information can be hacked from the devices. “All of the anxiety you currently feel about being tracked online is going to move into your living room. Talking to the human who actually got to see and analyze my smart home’s activity made me realize just how deeply uncomfortable it is to have that data pooled somewhere.”

Bonus features:

  • Americans Are Terrible At Using Vacation Time, HBR (video).
  • Well-Being Index, 2017. “The stark difference in our country’s well-being today versus just a year ago underscores the need to understand, assess and nurture the health of our populations comprehensively and continuously. Regardless of your role in the community – be it an employer, civic leader,  private citizen or any combination thereof –investing in the well-being of others is critical, now more than ever.”
  • 25 Best Icebreaker Questions for Team-Building at Work. We have a new person joining our team next week, and I might float the idea of trying one or two of these!
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February 16, 2018

Happy week of love! Have you ever tried a loving-kindness meditation? It’s a way to show a little love to yourself and extend love to others, and I recently practiced the exercise for the first time. It’s a nice way to remember that everyone you meet is a whole person and wants the same basic things that you do – and that someone else’s happiness doesn’t take anything away from mine. It was a lesson I am glad I learned this week.

  1. Letter of Recommendation: Hysterectomies, NYT. This piece made me tear up. “Having a hysterectomy required me to let go of my fears and misdirected beliefs, yes, but also I had to arrive at a new awareness that I deserved to feel great. You can just cut out the thing that doesn’t work. Now I know.”
  2. What Is It About Costco? Buzzfeed. “The joy of Costco does not lie in thrift. It lies in bulk.” This is really an incredible essay – it took me by surprise. I want to leave most of the surprise there for when you click it.
  3. The Secret Lives of Color, Kassia St. Clair.  I am loving this book, which has short blurbs on the intriguing history of various shades. So much mystery and subjectivity in the creation and cataloging of color!
  4. What the Screen Time Experts Do With Their Own Kids, NPR. I’m interested in the idea of shared screen time. One of the chief joys of being married for me is flopping into bed at the end of the night and (bad habit alert) watching all the goofy vines, videos, and slideshows of memes that I’ve saved up to look at with David. Also curious about the pediatrician’s recommended formula: “5-2-1-0. That means five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, no more than two hours of screens, one hour of physical activity, and no sugary beverages.” Sounds like a 30-day challenge in the making.
  5. Does Anyone Actually Like Holding Hands? Man Repeller. “Strong advocate for linking arms over holding hands. Intimacy is in the elbow creases.”

Bonus features:

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February 9, 2018

Can I be real a second (for just a millisecond)? The past few weeks have been low for me. On Tuesday, I rested my head on my desk and wondered if I was trying not to cry or fall asleep. I think I’m starting to become the dreaded b-word*, and in the middle of a semester I’m not sure what I can do to shift the tide. Currently accepting any self-care tips & hacks you all may have.

*burned-out. not that b-word, I hope…

  1. Why Are There So Many Bra Ads on Instagram, Anyway?, Racked. “‘I’ve started feeling like maybe you don’t realize what being exposed to an endless string of half-naked, extremely thin women is doing to people like me?” writes Hallden. “You know, I mostly just came here to see pictures of my friends’ dogs and kids and shit, but every time I fire up the old ‘gram these days, I gotta waste a ton of mental energy comparing myself unfavorably to Kayla, here.’” This is so real…“Meanwhile, studies have linked Instagram use — and looking at “fitspo” images in particular — with negative body image, and found that people who are already prone to comparing themselves with others do so even more on social media than with traditional magazines or billboards.” There’s also a GENIUS tip at the end of this piece.
  2. Is Skincare Feminism’s New Salve?, Stuff Mom Never Told You. This one is a podcast (one of my favorite podcasts these days!), and talks about the trend of skincare – is it self-care or selling you something? Or a little of both? A good listen.
  3. Skincare is Good and Also Works, Racked (again). This is another voice in that “Is skincare a coping mechanism and/or a con?” conversation. “At the crux of the article is the argument that we — mostly women, mind you! — are all a bunch of silly pawns with no agency to overcome the stupidity of skincare thrust upon us by the industry. Trust me, I know what I’m getting myself into. Skincare has spawned a community of (mostly) women talking about it and bonding over it. It’s provided common ground. And it’s provided the chance for small victories, even if just over your wily pores.” That’s one thing I have loved about skincare – the community! The thing I have not loved is the expectation that we can all afford $150 jars the size of a mini-muffin, but that’s why I gravitate toward the budget skincare community, which has been a lot of (realistic) fun for me.
  4. How to Travel the World While Working Full-Time. This was a great interview, and is inspiring me to plan some mini-baby-weekend trips this year, to psych me up for some more courageous travel in future years.
  5. How to Brag on Social Media Without Annoying Your Friends, The Cut. This was the best advice from this piece, in my opinion: “The best braggers know to target their boasts to people who who have a vested interest in their goals, like funneling exercise updates to a fitness accountability group or posting creative successes in an author support forum, etc. That way, your audience will be more likely to swoop in with hearty support.” I’d be interested to hear what you think of this one, because a lot of the advice here made me squirm (see: pretending to quote someone who’s proud of you so you can reveal your good news). 
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February 2, 2018

Today marks 4 years together! I still remember the day we got together, which was lovingly recreated by my husband when he proposed. It ended, as all perfect days do, with spaghetti. My heart’s feeling as soft as this photo…Here’s some stuff I read this week:

  1. How to Maintain Friendships, New York Times. Some great practical advice here about how to nurture your friendships. “Ask questions that invite reveals (“How was your vacation? How’s your new job going?”) and avoid statements (“I hope you’re having a great day!” or “You’re in my thoughts”), which don’t tend to prompt meaningful back-and-forth exchanges.” I like the idea of bringing friends into some of the everyday routines you normally do alone, like exercise or grocery shopping. Also love the advice to just show up; that one has gone a long way in my best friendships.
  2. Not Every Hobby is a Side Hustle, The Cut. “Personal pleasure is what makes a hobby a hobby.” This is a good read and reminder to let some of the things you do be for the fun of it. I’m glad it also mentions how side gigs are a reality for young workers trying to break into a field and/or to supplement their paltry incomes (can you tell I’m exhausted this week, y’all). 
  3. Awkward, Funny Cookbook Covers. I laughed aloud at these, and I needed the laugh this week!
  4. Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies we Tell Ourselves, In the Library with the Lead Pipe. This is the first time in a while that a scholarly article has made me tear up. Inside libraries and out, librarianship is praised for its service orientation and daily (sometimes extreme) sacrifices, in pursuit of lofty goals like the defense of free speech and the guardianship of democracy. There’s sacred language that is used to describe libraries and librarians, and it’s made me uncomfortable for a long time but Ettarh does a fantastic job expressing this phenomenon with the phrase “vocational awe.” Here’s the part that made me cry: “Libraries are just buildings…we need to treat these people well. You can’t eat on passion. You can’t pay rent on passion. Passion, devotion, and awe are not sustainable sources of income. The story of Saint Lawrence may be a noble one, but martyrdom is not a long-lasting career.” [Emphasis mine]
  5. How I Got My Attention Back. “Take the morning. Hell, just take the first hour of the morning. Make a plan. Own your attention….Attention is a muscle. It must be exercised. Though, attention is duplicitous — it doesn’t feel like a muscle. And exercising it doesn’t result in an appreciably healthier looking body. But it does result in a sense of grounding, feeling rational, control of your emotions — a healthy mind. Our measuring sticks for life tend to be optimized for material things, things easy to count. Houses, cars, husbands, babies, dollar bills. Attention is immaterial, difficult to track. We deserve our attention.”
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January 26, 2018

Hey everybody, what a week! As I’m writing this I’m cold and dried out like a scaled creature and if you are too, drink and lotion up! If the world has you down, please see above photo of my dog’s perfect foot to boost your spirits before you get back out there.

  1. Octavia Butler’s intentions, written on the back of a notebook. “So be it! See to it!” It’s some amazing goal-setting.
  2. How to Rescue Your Dry and Cracked Winter Skin, Lifehacker. I’m taking furious notes on the guidance here, but I’ll add a shoutout to my favorite “my hands are wrecked someone send help” products – for greasy intense moisture I use Bag Balm (this does have lanolin, so watch out if you’re allergic), and for an everyday lotion that restores my skin but doesn’t make me an oil slick, I use Lumiere de Vie Intensive Hand Cream which is a little expensive but feels like velvet.
  3. 10 Must-Try Beauty DIYs, the Crafted Life. I really want to try making my own perfume, that sounds like so much fun (and like a much better use for vodka)! I’ve tried handmade lip balms before, but the rest of these are going on my Spring Projects list.
  4. I’m So Jealous of My Friend, Captain Awkward. One of the all-star Captain Awkward responses, about someone struggling to get over a friend’s success in the same field. The Captain shares some practical advice for focusing on your craft and re-framing how you feel when you compare yourself to successful people. I treasure these words.
  5. You’re Distracted. This Professor Can Help, The Chronicle of Higher Ed. This article might be behind a paywall for you, but I read it this week in my research on mindfulness and the college library and there are a few things that stuck with me. “…multitasking is actually rapid task switching, since the human brain does just one thing at a time…Mr. Mayr offers the example of watching television while doing homework from a textbook. While you’re trying to follow a story on television, you won’t be doing your homework, he says, and while doing your homework, you won’t get the TV story. Simple as that. What’s more, he says, you pay a price for switching—with moments of mental “dead time” unproductive for either task. For every activity, your brain must reconfigure itself to do a constellation of things required for the type of task.“ Ahh! Everything is telling me to stop multitasking and to show up for one thing at a time. I hope I’m getting better at it, day by day.

Here’s one more cool thing about basketball players moving in perfect synchronization.