A few things: June 2021

“And what did you learn from that experience?”

Sam Sanders (via Twitter), regarding the best interview question to ask

Sometimes, Twitter is worth the trouble, especially when Sam Sanders is involved. He’s as funny and thoughtful in his Tweets as in his interviewing, and I never regret checking in to see what he’s up to. Every now and again he’ll offer something extra special that keeps me thinking, like this nugget from mid-June:

When I read those words, a story popped into my mind, something that happened about five years ago: I was talking with a co-worker, who’s a clinical psychologist, telling her a story about something my children had said at dinner the night before. (Side note: Want to get feedback on who you really are? Have children; they’ll tell you the unvarnished truth about yourself.)

Anyway, I was telling a tale on myself, something I had done that was a tiny bit lamentable. And my colleague told me something helpful: In the longest-running longitudinal study focused on risky adolescent and teen behavior, the researchers looked at an extensive list of “bad” parenting behaviors. And what they found was that kids who turned out emotionally balanced, healthy, and maturing well had parents who did everything on the list – all the “bad” parenting moves. But they did them only once, learned from the experience, and adapted. The kids who were not doing well had parents who did only a few “bad” things repeatedly.

“So the fact that you’re telling this story on yourself, acknowledging that it’s something you don’t want to do again,” she said, “is actually pretty healthy.”

I’ve thought about that encounter over and over again, particularly as I’ve watched my children grow through middle and high school years. I’ve thought about it outside of parenting as well. Stopping to examine an experience – good or bad – offers the opportunity to reflect and grow, to expand awareness and knowledge, to behave differently based on experience.

The notion that any of us ever arrives at all-knowing, perfectly-evolved completion is simply ridiculous. Our human brains are marvelous things, and the most marvelous thing about them is that they can continue to adapt and change in ways we don’t fully understand, until our very last breaths. Learning is a constant state, if we’ll only remain open to it. And the ability to continue learning about ourselves, from our own experiences, is a particularly magical gift.

So don’t fuck it up.

(I say this, to myself, quite often.)

And remember: Your values are the foot you keep on the ground when you pivot. As General Milley suggested recently, learning and becoming are two entirely different things. Changing, evolving, adapting, and growing requires remaining true to the true self. Don’t fuck that up either.

A few other things on my mind as we saunter into summer…


Reading

More on the same theme: “We’ve Been Coddling the Wrong Minds” (Medium)

“Law as Code” (interesting in general, but probably particularly so for lawyers or anyone interested in AI)

“Fighting Backlash to Racial Equity Efforts” (MIT/Sloan)

“Cooking for Kids: Chefs’ Go-To Recipes for Picky Eaters” (WSJ – paywalled)

“Art as Civic Repair” (NPR) (Side Note: #ARTHARDER already – I’ve been telling you for YEARS!)

“Do These AI-Created Fake People Look Real to You?” (NY Times)

“How Do We Catch Up With Friends When We’re Still Figuring Out Who We Are?” (Nadia Bolz-Weber, The Corners)

“The ‘two societies:’ 97% of New COVID Cases Are Among People Who Haven’t Gotten Shots” (Seattle Times)

“Silver Linings: The Unexpected Beauty of COVID Hair” (The New Yorker) (Side Note: I’m seven years in and never going back to coloring my hair)

Pulitzer Prize Winner: “Twelve Minutes and a Life: How Running Fails Black America” (Runner’s World)

“What Really Happened on Juneteenth” (Forward)

“What Her Body Remembers” (Abigail Thomas, via Dorothy Parker’s Ashes)


Cooking

A neighbor was heading out of town and brought over a huge load of fresh herbs: parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, and chives. What else was there to do but spend the day making pistou (no tomato in mine), salsa verde (I used parsley and oregano), chive buttermilk dressing, and thyme simple syrup?

Meanwhile, my daughter is discovering her baking skills: These peanut butter and jelly cookies were so delicious they disappeared before any photos were taken. Ditto this banana bread (the best banana bread recipe I’ve ever used, and I love banana bread).

Feeding hungry people – say, college boys staying in your house for the weekend? Classic potatoes au gratin to the rescue.

It’s late, and you’re hungry, and you have limited supplies on hand? That’s why it’s called midnight pasta, silly.

Here’s a great idea: A Burrata Bar. Do it.

And, because it’s worth revisiting, here’s what I was writing, and cooking, exactly six years ago (and what I’ll probably use as a guide this year, only without the sausage):

summer eggplant

In a declaration of my own independence, at least in my house, I’ll be making eggplant caponata this week, a dish no one in my family will touch. And since they won’t touch it, no matter how I make it, I’ll be using the very strange but very delicious recipe from Todd English’s 1997 The Olives Table cookbook.  I’d forgotten about The Olives Table and its bad boy author – good cookbook, naughty chef. For this week’s line-up I would share some other recipes from that re-discovered treasure (chorizo mashed potatoes with scallion cream, tomato salad with feta cheese and cumin, and corn cakes with whipped goat cheese would all have made the list), but sadly the caponata seems to be the only recipe from that book that is available online. So I turned to the tables at the farmers market for ideas, and here’s what looked inspiring:

Eggplant Caponata | Grilled Bread | Green Salad

Since this caponata is much heavier than other recipes (because of the sausage), it’s easily a main dish on its own. And since it’s full of flavor, it really needs nothing special other than bread (I like to grill it, or at least toast lightly) and a green salad.

Shrimp and Sausage Stew

This recipe is an experiment for the week, inspired by three things at the market this week: shrimp, andouille,  and celery. And it lets me use the last remaining bag of lima beans from the freezer before this year’s harvest starts rolling in.

Green Beans | Okra | Roasted New Potato Salad

Fresh green beans are good just about any way you prepare them, as long as they’re not overcooked. Here’s a recipe from Real Simple for green beans with an easy mustard dressing. Although many people don’t like the slime of boiled okra (that would be people who are missing out on good okra, in my opinion), here’s a recipe for roasting that eliminates that particular quality. For the potatoes, I cut them into bite-sized pieces, toss in olive oil and some seasoning (salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence)  and roast at 370 degrees for about 25-30 minutes – until they’re crisp on the edges and tender inside. I’ll let them cool, slightly, then toss with thinly sliced fresh onion rounds and dressing (usually olive oil, vinegar, brown mustard and a pinch of sugar). Pickles or celery pieces (or both) are also good.

Tomato Pie | Grilled Corn on the Cob

It isn’t summer until I’ve had a tomato sandwich and made a tomato pie. The tomato sandwiches have been lunch every day for a week, so now it’s time for a pie. Here’s a recipe for the classic Southern version (from Southern Living, of course). Serve with some fresh corn (here’s a link to Bobby Flay’s instruction for grilling) and maybe something green (or not). NOTE: homemade crust is only better than store-bought if you know how to make pie crust. Seriously. And while it’s really not hard to learn to make a proper crust, it does take practice and suffering through a few unpleasant, tough-tasting results. There are plenty of crusts available at the store, and they work just fine for tomato pie. It’s summer; don’t stress over this.


Final Note

Five years ago this week I was getting ready to start a new job, knowing almost nothing about the organization I’d been tasked with leading. The pure, dumb luck of falling into work at a counseling practice that focuses on child development and family dynamics at the same time my children were middle and high school ages was (and continues to be) an extraordinary gift.

Also: Five years went by fast. Really fast. So fast I can hardly believe it. Wouldn’t have been the same without my truth-telling muse at my side. I don’t write often enough about how much I have learned and am still learning from my children. Such a lucky mother, am I.

One thought on “A few things: June 2021

  1. I enjoyed this post a lot. At the beginning of our parenting, we’re often so afraid of making mistakes, but in the long run, it’s the mistakes that help shape our parenting skills. I know one of the strongest feelings when my kids left the nest was I’d just spent all these years learning how to parent, and now they’re gone! However, it certainly makes being a grandmother much easier!

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