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 8, 2018

Well, this was one of those weeks where I feel like I’ve been pestled into a fine powder. I hope I make a soup much spicier than the chef intended! I only have short reads this week, because I’ve been comfort-food reading (mostly reading cookbooks, like this one and this one). Aren’t cookbooks just like magic spellbooks?

  1. Pretzel Bites Recipe – King Arthur Flour. I’ll start by sharing a magic spell that was super successful for me the other week. I think homemade pretzel bites are going to become a tradition around here. These came out nicely, and the instructions walked me through a process that I had always assumed was beyond my abilities.
  2. Millennial Pink, Gen-Z Yellow and the Truth About Color Clickbait, Man Repeller. “I racked my brain for some other association that would peg this unique shade of green to this particular moment in time and encapsulate its underdog-like combination of alienating and appealing and offensive and charismatic, all at once. That’s when it hit me: This color is such a Miranda.” People trying to predict color trends is so interesting. I also kinda wonder why all the recent trending colors are so milky-bright? Not quite pastel, but full brights, and certainly not jewel tones – all four colors mentioned (millennial pink, “Gen-Z yellow” lol, melodramatic purple, and Miranda green) are (for me anyway) firmly in the “too light to be a pants-color” camp. You know, you watch these near-future speculative films and everything is shiny, silver, and black, but it’s kind of funny to imagine our future as candy-colored. I’m sure there’ll be a 90s-primary-colors normcore reaction in about 4 years anyway.

  3. An Ode to the Strange (and Lost) Intimacy of Shopping With Friends
    , Elle. This is a nice personal reflection on shopping with friends. I have my own complicated feelings about being in a dressing room with various friends, but I do think this is a type of socialization we lose when we shop exclusively online. However, in my circle of friends anyway, the dressing-room experience is going nowhere thanks to thrift stores!
  4. Interesting Patron Questions, OCLC/WebJunction. These made me laugh. “May I please have half a David?”
  5. “Steps,” Frank O’Hara. Such a lovely, “I do this, I do that” poem.

Bonus features:

  • I recommend the Netflix “The Toys That Made Us” episode on LEGO. It’s very good!
  • Prince George’s County Public Libraries have a great Summer Reading video out, it made my day!

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!

April 27, 2018

My husband was out of town on tour all week, so I’ve been in a super weird headspace – eating a lot of lazygirl cheese plates and re-reading a certain princess-diary-based YA series of my youth. It’s been nice to spend some time on myself, but I’m ready for the boy to come back. Besides the anxieties of Mia Thermopolis, here’s some stuff I read this week:

  1. Going ‘green’ is more than shopping at Whole Foods and driving a Prius.  After talking to a few people who are trying to live plastic-free lives, I went on a weird Google-question spiral that went something like this: how to use less plastic? > 300 Easy Ways to Replace Plastic In Your Life > how much are disposable bamboo plates? > $39.95 for a pack of 25?! > how to be environmentally conscious and poor at the same time > This article: “The environmental movement needs to do a better job of connecting issues of race, class, poverty and sustainability; in short, it has to become a broader social movement. And people of color need visibility in the movement…Ultimately this is where the citizenry of the planet can and must come together in order to move forward.”

  2. ‘She has nerves of steel’: The story of the pilot who calmly landed the Southwest Airlines flight. Wow, this story is intense. But I kind of love to read about people having “nerves of steel” in a moment of crisis.

  3. Is It OK to Drink the Water You Left Out Overnight?
    ALL MY CURIOSITY ABOUT DUSTY WATER IS SATISFIED. But this headline is misleading, because I have never once wondered if it’s ok or safe to drink that water…because I’ve never considered drinking it. That is the drink of the desperate at 3am, and then it is the drink of my houseplants at 8am!
  4. How Do We Write Now.  “But the pure concentration that you live in when you write a poem is still there, is still just beyond us as the green dimension. It can still be accessed through the door of yourself, you can still swing it open, though the hinges scream. Because it is a place of pure concentration it can wait forever for you.”

    Patricia Lockwood is super weird. I relate and don’t relate to this essay/poem/talk in turns, but I’m glad I read it. This part is so great too, and says in poetic language something I’ve been reading in social science articles all spring

    “The feeling you get after hours of scrolling that all your thoughts have been replaced with cotton candy — or something even nastier, like Runts or circus peanuts — as opposed to the feeling of being open to poetry, to being inside the poem, which is the feeling of being honey in the hive.”

  5. No Makeup on My Wedding Day. I wore very little makeup on my wedding day, and prioritized really clear, healthy, dewy skin

    and I’m happy with how I came across in photos and how much I felt like myself on that blurry, busy, beautiful day.

    However, this quote is bananas: “Weddings are performative,” Ms. Stribula said. “You’re up there to be viewed and judged. Not wearing makeup was a natural representation and a natural extension of me. I’m publicly proclaiming my love, not my beauty.” I feel like New York Times weddings might be performative…and maybe a whole bunch of others…but yours doesn’t have to be!

Have a great weekend, friends. Be a little weird, and be good to yourself.