A few things: September/October 2021

Update at noon(ish) on Sunday: If you were here for the early, late night edition last night (even if you read it in the morning), and you came back to see if I added the promised update, then just scroll down to where you left off and you’ll see it. See? I can make things easy when I want to.


I know; it’s almost November. But we haven’t done one of these monthly (ish) round up things since the first week of August. And even with writing almost daily instead of monthly, I think these digests have a place?

Yes. And we’ll discuss that.

Let’s do it.

The Unbearable Lightness of Trying on a Perfect Dress

In the most recent (and my favorite) of her memoirs, Save Me the Plums, Ruth Reichl shares a story about wandering into a vintage dress shop in Paris and being encouraged by the owner to try on a dress that did, in fact, fit Reichl like a glove. Better than a glove. It was a perfect dress. It fit her perfectly, and when she saw herself in the mirror, she felt transformed. But the price of the dress was staggering, and she just couldn’t rationalize buying it.

Later during that same Paris trip, in an encounter that can be described only as pure serendipity, Reichl met the widower of the woman who had owned that dress. And with that encounter she was able to resolve the lingering longing for that magical dress.

When I first read that story, a couple of years ago now, I was transported back to 1987, to the Bergdorf Goodman dressing room where I tried on, at my mother’s insistence, my perfect dress — except for the staggering price tag.

The lesson my mother hoped I would learn from trying on that dress was a particular kind of patience. She wanted my sister and me to wait for quality, not to make impulse purchased of cheap, trendy items.

That lesson has taken decades to settle in. Popular culture, at least in the U.S., skewed heavily toward mass produced, cheap, trendy goods for decades. It’s been slowing moving in the opposite direction (hastened now, perhaps, by the pandemic supply chain issues), but waiting patiently, saving up, and buying quality over quantity requires discipline and practice. It also requires basic stability and safety. As the 2018 replication of the famous Marshmallow Test showed, anyone who is constantly worried about basic needs has a much harder time delaying gratification.

(Controversial opinion: The cure to poverty is money. Not money to organizations serving poor people, but money directly to the people who don’t have enough of it to meet basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and healthcare.)

This one’s a topic we might revisit, and maybe more than once. But today we’ll move on to…

Cooking

Want to know what I’m making for dinner on Sunday (that, in all likelihood, only I will actually eat?)? This winter squash and spinach pasta bake. Want to know why? Sure you do.

First, it sounds like something I would enjoy making and eating. Simple, right?

Second — but maybe actually first — reading Deb Perelman’s account of clipping this recipe and saving it and losing it and rediscovering it made me feel connected to the world. She is the source, you’ll recall, for those magnificent salted brown butter crispy rice treats, which might be my favorite indulgence (and I don’t typically like anything with marshmallows, ever). What’s not to like??!

Other things that have caught my eye and are on my list:

Palmiers. I’m practicing these so I’ll be ready for Thanksgiving weekend when my son is home and both kids are planning to have company over.

Crispy Lamb Meatballs with Chickpeas and Eggplant (DO NOT tell my daughter that there’s eggplant involved)

Chicken Skillet Pot Pie (because I’m not going to make that many palmiers, and I need to use the rest of the puff pastry)

Whole Grain Salad with Jammy Eggs and Shallot Yogurt

Red Lentil Soup with Garam Masala

Reading

My book group that is not a book club is reading Matrix by Lauren Groff. I have not finished it. I’m not even halfway through. Which is why I’m going to cut this short and read instead of writing more. But I’ll come back, I promise I will, and I’ll add some more links to stories I’ve clipped over the past two months that I think you might enjoy reading. I’ll do it. So if you’re reading this post at midnight on Saturday, maybe come back at noon on Sunday. Because things will have changed. I promise. And I’ll have a few other additions, too; so come back if you came here early. K?

Addendum: 10/24/21 (Sunday)

More Reading

A nod to one of my former partners and colleagues Robin Derryberry for her contribution to this Forbes run-down on getting the most from brainstorming sessions: Diplomatic Ways to Weed Out Bad Ideas in Collaborative Brainstorms

From Bill Murphy Jr., writing for Inc.: Why Emotionally Intelligent People Still Follow Colin Powell’s 13 Rules for Leadership

Vanity Fair November cover story: Dwayne Johns Lets Down His Guard (must add here: If you’re in Memphis and you have a thing for Dwayne Johnson and you also are in a position to do this, then maybe you’ll join my Kindred Place team and board for A Kindred Night Out on Saturday, November 6 – outdoor movie at Shelby Farms featuring Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which stars, of course, Dwayne Johnson.)

And speaking of fundraising and philanthropy and the state of the world… From Vu Le: Democracy is Dying. Philanthropy Needs to Stop Its Toxic Intellectualizing.

For something different (but very current): Brandi Carlile on touring during COVID and extreme weather.

From The Atlantic: The Secret to a Fight-Free Relationship (how couples who save disagreements for scheduled meetings show a more patient approach to conflict)

From PBS News Hour: What Science Tells Us About Improving Middle School

From The Guardian (and from April, but relevant, sort of, to the next story): Empathy, compassion, personality, attitudes: can people change?

From NPR Weekend Edition, Scott Simon’s tribute to Julie Green, the artist who painted ‘last suppers’ of people on death row. When you listen, and I hope you will listen (or read the transcript), I wonder if the detail about the birthday cake will affect you the way it continues to affect me.

Listening

I have trouble keeping up with my podcasts, newscasts, and audiobooks now that I’m back to working in my office and not from home, because when I was working from home I took dog-walking breaks throughout the day, and now that I’m in my office all day I don’t do that. (This is a topic for another day.)

So I’m pickier now about what I will listen to in my limited listening time, and I’m never disappointed with the Ten Percent Happier podcasts (also never disappointed with the app, which I recommend wholeheartedly). Favorite recent episodes:

The Awesome Power of ‘Touchy-Feely’

Stoicism 101

The Science of Making and Keeping Friends (yes, I already suggested this one in an earlier post, but it’s worth recommending a second time)

Recent Purchases That Were Worth the $$

The Laundress #723 detergent (It’s an extravagance, yes; but I like the way my clothes smell when I use it, and though I do wish she’d convert to making eco-friendly detergent sheets, packaged in paper, I’m willing to wait patiently until she takes that leap and recycle my bottles in the meantime.)

Made In Cookware’s Stainless Clad Saucepans (expensive and worth the $$) (and yes, I also recommended those in an earlier post)

Green Cariuma low top sneakers

Topics for another day

  • Art (including the Titian show, which I’m still thinking about)
  • Pancakes
  • Potatoes
  • Carbs (in general)
  • Parenting

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4 thoughts on “A few things: September/October 2021

  1. Your mother was a wise woman indeed! My mother was like that with shoes. She hated all the cheap shoes available that usually don’t fit or fall apart. One good pair can last years and years, she said, and she was right, this coming from her daughter who has a pair of 30-year-old Birkenstocks!

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