MONDAY MIX – 1/8/2018

A few years ago, I attended a conference presentation during which audience members were asked to construct a metaphor to represent our experiences as students.  No one had ever asked me to do this, so I was intrigued, but pretty stumped.  Then I remembered my old boom box, with its radio and dual cassette deck–I always kept a blank tape handy, ready to press “record” whenever something caught my ear.  I realized that I did the same in the classroom, gathering bits and pieces from various sources, often without an idea of how–or even if!–those pieces would fit together. That was the joy of making and sharing mix tapes; when crafted thoughtfully, they were greater than the sum of their parts.  

In that same spirit, I share a weekly “mix” of articles, recipes, book recommendations, and ideas in the hopes that something I share might fit into your own personal, ever-evolving collage. 

Have something you think I might be interested in?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share it here.

**

-Jill and I rarely make it to the movies, but when we were gifted some last-minute babysitting by our friend Kym, we decided to head to a theater to see Call Me By Your Name and I am so glad we did.  The movie was Jill’s choice – I’d heard of it, vaguely, but not read anything about it, so the whole film unfurled as an immersive experience for me, one which left me deeply moved (and also ready to jump on the next plane to Italy).  I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

 

-If you’re making yourself a reading list for 2018, or have an bookstore gift card to burn, I highly recommend Roxane Gay’s list of books she read in 2017.  With category titles like “A Memoir that Was Really Very Extra but the Writing Was Fine and the Book Certainly Held My Prurient Interest,” you’re sure to find something that you want to read, but also be amused in the process.

 

-And, on this day-after-the-Golden-Globes, as we move into awards season, I feel it my responsibility to endorse Go Fug Yourself, the only fashion/celebrity site I pay any attention to.  I do this because the writers behind it, The Fug Girls (Heather & Jessica), are whip-smart, witty, and really thoughtful.  They talk about pretty dresses, but also stuff that matters, and I just love them.  If you need a little entertainment in your day, I highly recommend checking them out!

 

MONDAY MIX (NEW YEAR’S EDITION) – 1/1/18

A few years ago, I attended a conference presentation during which audience members were asked to construct a metaphor to represent our experiences as students.  No one had ever asked me to do this, so I was intrigued, but pretty stumped.  Then I remembered my old boom box, with its radio and dual cassette deck–I always kept a blank tape handy, ready to press “record” whenever something caught my ear.  I realized that I did the same in the classroom, gathering bits and pieces from various sources, often without an idea of how–or even if!–those pieces would fit together. That was the joy of making and sharing mix tapes; when crafted thoughtfully, they were greater than the sum of their parts.  

In that same spirit, I share a weekly “mix” of articles, recipes, book recommendations, and ideas in the hopes that something I share might fit into your own personal, ever-evolving collage. 

Have something you think I might be interested in?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share it here.

**

Shiv was born in July 2012; that new year’s was his first night sleeping away from home, spending the night with his Nani (my mother).  New Year’s Day 2013, he had his first taste of solid food – sweet potato.  Since then, it’s become a tradition for him to spend the night with Nani while Jill and I enjoy an evening together.

Last night, as we driving back from our friends’ house (where we’d thoroughly enjoyed a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity), Jill asked me if I had any goals or aspirations for the new year.  We’re not necessarily resolutions people, but for the past few years, I have picked a word or phrase to focus on: 2016 was “discipline” and 2017, “courage.”  But I hadn’t yet thought of what 2018’s might be until Jill asked.

“I want to have more fun this year,” I told her, as we moved through the dark in the truck, the sky around us lit up as people set off backyard fireworks.  When I think about the memories from 2017 that are the most satisfying, what comes to mind are nighttime dance parties with Shiv, playdates with friends and their kids, time spent in art museums, reading, or enjoying delicious meals.  Those are the times when I am the most present and the least in my head.  Those are, as cheesy as it sounds, the times when I feel most alive, like I am living according to what I value: time with the people I love, good conversation about things that matter, learning new things.

So, I’ll be making a new notecard for my bathroom mirror today: MORE FUN.  What about you?

 

-I’m really excited to be offering a new writing course for 2018!  Come What May: Navigating Transitions with Grace is designed to give participants time and space to examine the changes, both big and small, transpiring in their lives.  Course materials will be delivered electronically each Saturday, from January 6 to February 10.  The cost is $25.  I’d love to have you join me if you’re interested.  You can also gift the course to a friend or family member – just leave me a note with their email address when checking out.

Learn more about the course and sign up here!

 

-Sometimes it’s important to take some time to look at beautiful things.  This piece from Edible Brooklyn features the stunning marzipan creations made at Fortunato Brothers, including the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes, but in marzipan form.  All made by hand and ridiculously beautiful.

 

-I appreciated the message of this piece from LitHub: How Fetishizing ‘Craft’ Can Get In the Way of a Good Poem.   I’ve tried in the last year to be especially mindful of how we English teachers can unwittingly cancel out students’ enjoyment of literature by analyzing it to death, and this was an important reminder to keep an eye on that balance.

 

-In the last week or so, we’ve been the lucky recipients of the generosity of so many friends and family members, who’ve volunteered to help with Shiv, deliver food, run errands, help move furniture, and the like.  The family of two former students arranged to pick Shiv and his best friend up for a joint playdate; when I arrived to pick up the kids, they sent me home with a trunk full of food, including this delicious vegetable lasagna.  I’m not sure I can really articulate how humbling and grace-filled an experience it is to have a young woman whom you’ve known since the eighth grade cook you dinner, but I can say with confidence that I’ll be adding this recipe to our family rotation.

COME WHAT MAY

It’s become kind of a joke with myself, that I wind up teaching about Buddhism right when I myself need to hear about it the most.  For the last four years, I’ve offered a Comparative Religions course, so it’s been my job to introduce high school students to the story of the Buddha and his Four Noble Truths, but it honestly ends it feeling more like a perfectly timed gift, every time.

As you probably already know, one of the core tenants of the Buddhist worldview is impermanence–essentially, that change is the only constant in the universe.  My students and I discuss the extent to which such an understanding, though we can all affirm its truth from life experience, feels negative or like bad news.  In a culture where we write “Never change!” in each other’s yearbooks, the notion that everything in our lives–ourselves included–is subject to change can feel a little scary.

Which is why, each year when the Buddhism unit appears on my lesson plan calendar, I think, “Oh man, I could really use this right now.”  Because the truth is that I could really use it right about anytime.

 

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I’m offering a new writing course for 2018 – Come What May: Navigating Transitions with Grace.  Like my Buddhism unit, it’s a set of materials that I’m excited to share because I’m called to them in my own life.

My sense is that most of us are attentive to the major changes in our lives, the ones with clear outward manifestations–job changes, relationship status changes, births, deaths.  But what of the more subtle changes?  The shifts in self, in perspective, in being?  The ways of thinking that no longer fit, the friendships that feel “off,” the sides of ourselves that we’re seeing for the first time–these are no less worthy of our attention.

I believe that we can learn a great deal by taking the time to examine the changes, both dramatic and subtle, unfolding in our lives and selves.  And I believe that the more we practice this kind of looking, the more intuitive it will become.

Come What May is a weekly course that will run from January 6 – February 10, 2018.  Each week, for six weeks, you’ll receive journal prompts, short readings, and supplementary materials designed to help you take stock of your present state.  This course will also include the opportunity to discuss & share with other participants if you wish.  Cost is $25.

What better way to start the new year than with some self reflection?  I hope you’ll join me!  You can sign up for the course here.

 

MONDAY MIX (CHRISTMAS EDITION) – 12/25/17

A few years ago, I attended a conference presentation during which audience members were asked to construct a metaphor to represent our experiences as students.  No one had ever asked me to do this, so I was intrigued, but pretty stumped.  Then I remembered my old boom box, with its radio and dual cassette deck–I always kept a blank tape handy, ready to press “record” whenever something caught my ear.  I realized that I did the same in the classroom, gathering bits and pieces from various sources, often without an idea of how–or even if!–those pieces would fit together. That was the joy of making and sharing mix tapes; when crafted thoughtfully, they were greater than the sum of their parts.  

In that same spirit, I share a weekly “mix” of articles, recipes, book recommendations, and ideas in the hopes that something I share might fit into your own personal, ever-evolving collage. 

Have something you think I might be interested in?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share it here.

**

So, this is Christmas–a strange one for us, as my mother-in-law died on Saturday evening, just after 7:00 pm.  Her death was peaceful, for which we are grateful, and she died at home, surrounded by loving family.

Naturally, our experiences over the past few weeks have had me thinking about the ways that we as a culture do–and don’t–process and deal with aging, death, and grief.  Though it’s an inevitability for us all, we tend not to know what to do when it happens to us or someone we love.

-Since the death of her husband in 2015, Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg has been on a mission to change that; along with Wharton professor Adam Grant (whose On Being interview is a favorite), she’s been advocating the “Just show up” approach.  Though most of us instinctively say “Let me know if I can do anything,” those words effectively shift the burden to the person already dealing with a difficult time.  In this piece for USA Today, Sandberg & Grant discuss what to do instead, and run through other common (if well-meaning) mistakes we sometimes make around the holidays when it comes to friends who are grieving or in crisis.

-Though I’d planned to spend the last week working through a large stack of exams and final projects, my brain was too distracted to effectively focus on grading.  Instead, as has been the case at other bedsides, I turned to fiction, specifically Victor LaValle’s The Changeling, which I have been eager to read for months.  A friend just generously loaned me her copy, and it could not have landed at a better time–it’s one of my favorite pieces of fiction in recent memory.  I’ve nearly finished it, but have left the final pages to savor, maybe tonight after Shiv goes to bed.

-I had some ambitious baking projects planned for this Christmas (like this amazing-looking trifle, which I may yet manage to pull off for New Year’s Eve), but they had to be set aside for obvious reasons.  Still, Shiv & I managed to do a little baking together–one of my favorite traditions–yesterday afternoon.  Since he & Jill both adore the orange-chocolate combination, I’d set my eye on this orange-chocolate madeline recipe and it did not disappoint.  They felt fancy, but weren’t difficult to pull off, which is exactly what we needed.

Sending everyone much love this Christmas Day.

(BELATED) MONDAY MIX – 12/19/17

A few years ago, I attended a conference presentation during which audience members were asked to construct a metaphor to represent our experiences as students.  No one had ever asked me to do this, so I was intrigued, but pretty stumped.  Then I remembered my old boom box, with its radio and dual cassette deck–I always kept a blank tape handy, ready to press “record” whenever something caught my ear.  I realized that I did the same in the classroom, gathering bits and pieces from various sources, often without an idea of how–or even if!–those pieces would fit together. That was the joy of making and sharing mix tapes; when crafted thoughtfully, they were greater than the sum of their parts.  

In that same spirit, I share a weekly “mix” of articles, recipes, book recommendations, and ideas in the hopes that something I share might fit into your own personal, ever-evolving collage. 

Have something you think I might be interested in?  I’d love to hear about it.  Share it here.

**

-I’m a day late with this week’s mix, and my post from this weekend might help contextualize why.  Jill continues to keep vigil at her mom’s side, along with a wonderful team of hospice nurses; since Jill’s mom was a nurse herself, they consider her one of their own and advocate fiercely for her care.

-For the last few years, I’ve looked forward to the Bitter Southerner’s Best Southern Albums of the Year.  The list always seems to arrive right when I need new music in my life (helllooooo giant pile of grading), and I’ve discovered so many now-beloved artists this way: Run the Jewels, Valerie June, Hurray for the Riff Raff, John Moreland, Leon Bridges, Shakey Graves.

-Another list I look forward to each year is Brain Pickings’ curated selection of Loveliest Children’s Books of the Year.  These books are always visually stunning, as well as substantive & meaningful in content, so it’s a great list to use when purchasing books for a birthday party or friends who are expecting a baby.

-Before things got really crazy, I managed to spend several hours in my kitchen doing some holiday baking.  I stuck to old favorites, to keep the margin of error low, and was able to mail some care packages off & deliver a few boxes of baked goods to friends and family, which made my heart happy.  Here are a few recipes I can enthusiastically recommend:  coffee + cardamom shortbreads (super easy to make & a brilliant flavor combination), hazelnut + dark chocolate meringues (I subbed in pistachios & they were still delicious), my most favorite rugelach of all time (super high-maintenance, yields a zillion cookies, TOTALLY WORTH IT).

Sending everyone love during this complicated, weird, wonderful time of year.  xx