MONDAY MIXTAPE – 11/6/17

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 feel that it’s incumbent upon me to comment on yesterday’s horrific shooting, but I am honestly at a loss for what to say that hasn’t already been said before, and to no avail.  I’ll be thrilled if my cynicism turns out to be unwarranted, but I’ve read enough dystopian fiction to feel like I know bleak prospects when I see them.   Still, I believe that there is power in calling things like you see them–This is not acceptable, I do not accept this–especially when it comes to fighting against the creeping normalization of things that not-so-long-ago seemed impossible to even fathom.

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-Poet Donald Hall, who was married to the late poet Jane Kenyon, writes with wonderful clarity about the points of connection between their lives and their work, the surprise of her death when they had long assumed their age different meant she would lose him first, the way that he lost and then found his poetic voice when he found, then lost, her.  A longer read, but worth setting aside the time for.

“In the months and years after her death, Jane’s voice and mine rose as one, spiralling together the images and diphthongs of the dead who were once the living, our necropoetics of grief and love in the singular absence of flesh.”

Brains On! is a podcast for kids about science, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  With topics ranging from how volcanoes erupt to why humans cry, each episode is funny, informative, and engaging—clearly crafted with kids in mind (and a different kid co-host for each episode), but enjoyable for adults to listen to as well.  it’s a wonderful way to pass the time in the car, and I promise you’ll learn stuff!

This Buzzfeed article about a Sikh Motorcycle Club (yep, you read that right) in New Jersey is a wonderful examination of what it can look like to proudly claim one’s identity inside the tension of being both an individual and a member of a faith tradition, and the pictures are a delight.

“On the road, there are no group prayers, no scriptures to follow. But there is a clear, calm, quiet focus. There is the wind and a line of unyielding gray. There is this brotherhood. It is the ordinary things that we make holy.”

-In Battle Pancake v. Waffle, my kid is firmly on Team Waffle; I often spend Saturday mornings making a giant batch, then freezing the leftovers for easy weekday morning meals.  These have become our family gold-standard and they’re totally worth the effort.  I’ve even made gluten-free versions, and they always turn out beautifully.  Do you need some waffles in your week?  You might.

-Last but not least, a reminder that I am offering a fifteen-day journal challenge class!  The course is called Be Here Now: Gratitude, Poetry, & Presence and will run from November 10-24th.  Each day, I’ll send an email message with a selection of poetry, plus a journal prompt for your consideration.  The cost is $15 and registration is open through Thursday at midnight.  Learn more and sign up here!

BE HERE NOW

For the past four years, I’ve had the deep joy of teaching Creative Writing to high school seniors; during that time, I’ve developed a poetry unit for the class that includes a journaling component.  Because poetry often seems mysterious & inaccessible, I approach the genre by having students read and consider poems in a safe, low-stakes way– via their personal journals.

Along the way, students apply the techniques of poets–keen observation, mental stillness, the search for beauty in the ordinary and every day.  The poetry/journal challenge has quickly become one of my students’ favorite parts of the class.  Over the years, friends and acquaintances have asked to “come along for the ride,” so to speak, submitting their emails to be included on my journal challenge distribution list.  I have loved hearing about their experiences with the prompts and poems, and am gratified to know that it had sparked many people’s memories and sense of creative play.

This year, because of the way Hurricane Harvey has impacted our school schedule, I’m not teaching my poetry unit until second semester.  Still, I wanted to offer a way for folks outside of my classroom to enjoy and appreciate poetry and personal writing this fall.  Hence, I am offering my first (hopefully of many!) journal challenge course, specifically tailored for folks outside my classroom.  It’s called Be Here Now: Gratitude, Poetry, & Presence, and it will run from November 10-24, 2017.  The cost is $15.00- you can learn more about the course and purchase it here.

I am really excited about developing and offering this course–it is designed specifically for people who want to fit some thoughtfulness and creativity into their busy days.  I hope you’ll join me!

MONDAY MIXTAPE – 10/30/17

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 plan to 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. 

Found something you think I might be interested in?  Submit your recommendations here.

Baseball & indictments notwithstanding, here are a few things that have been bouncing around in my brain of late:

-Artist Carrie Mae Weems speaks powerfully about Nazis, white supremacists, & grace in this interview:

“I think that grace is much bigger than — it’s not turning the other cheek. It’s really understanding that someone has lost their humanity and you’re trying to offer it back.”

-My friend & fellow University of Arizona MFA alum Aisha Sabatini Sloan is a brilliant writer with a new book out.  You should buy it!  Here’s what Maggie Nelson (yes, Maggie. Freaking. Nelson) has to say about Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit:

“Sloan roves, guided by a deliberate, intelligent, associative logic which feels somehow both loose and exact, at times exacting. The implicit and explicit argument of these essays is that there’s no way out but through—and maybe even no way out. So here we are, so lucky to have Sloan as our patient, wry, questing companion and guide.”

This short story, published in the New Yorker a few weeks back, is about a father trying to connect with his twelve-year-old daughter and it is beautiful.  (Big thanks to Noa for recommending it.)

-Last but not least, I made shepherd’s pie on Saturday night for dinner using this Alton Brown recipe and the whole thing was gone by lunch on Sunday.  Jill declared it to be one of her Top Five Favorite Things That I Make, and Shiv ate multiple servings – I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up making it again this coming weekend.  Give the people what they want!

MODERN LOSS

The thing about losing a parent at age 23 is that you become the go-to person for when it happens to everybody else.  I truly do not mind this–after all, I am indebted to those who made themselves available to me when it was my turn–but I do feel disheartened when I see how little has changed when it comes to the way our larger culture navigates grief.  Essentially, we suck at it.

Enter Modern Loss, a website I desperately wish had existed in 2006.  The co-founders, Gabi Birkner & Rebecca Soffer, motivated by their own experiences, created the site as a place for people to speak candidly about grief in a judgment-free zone.  From personal stories of loss to advice about tackling your first day back at work, Modern Loss is practical, funny, touching, and thoughtful.  And now, it’s a book.

modern loss

I’m very proud to be one of forty contributors to Modern Loss: Candid Conversations About Grief.  Beginners Welcome., which will be published on January 23, 2018.  The collection has received advance praise from the likes of Mindy Kaling & Stephen Colbert and you can preorder a copy here!  Finally, a book about grief that you can feel good about giving someone – no soaring eagles or sunsets here.