A few things: January 2023

I’m writing from the warm, cozy library in a favorite hotel in cold, rainy Portland, where I’m staying for a few days on an impromptu trip to visit my daughter. And yes, I know, it’s already February. Yes, I also know that I missed posting the three ways of working on goals that I promised for last week. That’s coming. But first, let’s talk about January.

A conversation I overheard at a restaurant here sounded very much like things I’ve heard friends say recently and also like thoughts in my own head, all of which go something like this:

You know, I started the year with the best intentions for ____.
But then ____ happened.
And now I’m just _____.

And, so, a reminder:

Though we tend to think of January as the time of fresh starts and new beginnings, “beginning” is a constant state. There is never a wrong time to start anew, looking — like Janus — both to time past and to time ahead, connecting what’s ahead to the experiences of before.

By now, the first full week in February, most of the shiny, bright new year’s resolutions have dissolved into the muddle that is real life, and we arrive at the crossroads moment of either starting again with fresh intent or letting go of ideas, decisions, or commitments that seemed worth chasing when that spark of new year energy lit up.

You might expect here, if you’ve been following along with this “First 100 Days” work, and especially if you’ve been reading along for several years, that I’m about to offer guidance to get back up and start fresh. The time is always now. Simply begin again.

And you’d be right about that, except first I’m going to offer the questions I’m learning to ask myself, in any complex situation and especially when two of my possible choices are “begin again” and “let it go.”

  • What will I want to have done? When I look back on this decision, in a week, a year, or 10 years, what will I *want* to have done?
  • What would young me look up to? What would make her think, “Damn; I want to the *that* one day!”?
  • What pattern am I repeating, and how do I want it to be different this time? (Or: What good lesson from the past can I apply to this similar situation?)


Beginning anew requires letting go so the past won’t get in the way of the future.

I’ll give an easy example. When my son was, briefly, playing competitive tennis, we went to a tournament where a sports psychologist gave a terrific talk for parents (mostly) and young players about mental fitness. In the talk, he asked if anyone noticed the on-court behavior of a specific (and very successful) professional tennis player. (No, no one knew the answer.)

The coach went on to describe how this particular player, and others, used a physical movement to separate a lost point from the start of the next point. “They turn the other direction, away from the point they lost, and they skip a little happy step — like this (he demonstrated) — and then the next point is fresh.”

Reader, I tried this very silly-sounding technique, on the tennis court, in real life, and it worked.

The point here is that in between falling down and getting back up there is an opening. And in that opening, you and I, and all of our friends and people we love, have the option to shake off the past before launching forward into the future, before beginning anew.

So, today, after skipping down the sidewalk in the cold rain to feed the parking meter, I’m beginning anew on some things that are still important to me, like completing projects that I wanted to complete in January, even though it’s now February.

How about you?

Other notes: TEDx, reading, and cooking….

TEDx Memphis TRUTH OR DARE? is Saturday, February 11, at Crosstown Concourse, and I’m on the slate along with a terrific line-up that includes Roshun Austin, Kelly English, Kirk Whalum and many more. (Memphis friends, you can get a wee little discount on your tickets, if you haven’t already purchased yours, by using the code TED_DARE_23)

My talk title? The cave we fear to enter. Yes, it’s a Joseph Campbell reference.

“Hey, Jen, what’s that about?” you might be wondering. Well, it’s about art. And AI. And humanity.

Here’s a clue:

I call her “AI Graffiti Botticelli”


My book group (which you’ll recall is not a book club) is reading No One Is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood (read/listen to the NPR review here: https://www.npr.org/2021/02/18/968718574/you-actually-will-be-talking-about-no-one-is-talking-about-this).

“Like Didion — and Nora Ephron – Lockwood is a master of sweeping, eminently quotable proclamations that fearlessly aim to encapsulate whole movements and eras: ‘White people, who had the political educations of potatoes – lumpy, unseasoned, and biased toward the Irish – were suddenly feeling compelled to speak out about injustice. This happened once every 40 years on average, usually after a period when folk music became popular again,’ [Lockwood] writes.”

Heller McAlpin, for NPR

Last month, breaking from our usual habit of selecting/reading only newly published works, we read Annie Ernaux’s Simple Passion.

Of the latter, I can offer only that until the very end of the novel (novella, really), I wished I hadn’t wasted the time to read. The final pages erased that feeling completely, and I re-read the entire (very short) work with a fresh outlook. (See a theme here?)

Of the former, I can offer only that I feel a little like I did when I tried (and failed) to get through Finnegan’s Wake. But this deconstructed, experimental novel by Lockwood has the distinct advantage of being only 224 pages. Will report back.

Other interesting reads that might be worth a click:

The Only Real Way to Detox Your Body (Popular Science, via Pocket). Hint: There’s nothing to buy here, and you already know this answer, even if you want to pretend it’s something else.

We Are in Trauma’: Memphis Reels from the Latest of Many Blows (Richard Fausset for The New York Times). It’s always interesting to hear an outsider’s view of something personal, and this piece about Tyre Nichols’s death and Memphis is as insightful as anything I’ve read about my hometown.

‘Schoolhouse Rock’ Premiered 50 Years Ago — and Shaped a Generation (Frederic Frommer for The Washington Post). Yes, I can still sing every single word/note of every single Schoolhouse Rock offering. I do that in public sometimes, just to embarrass my daughter.

Fatphobia is Killing Us. What Will It Take to End It? (Kim Wong-Shing for CNET) “Despite the many studies warning of the dangers of fatphobia and the misguidedness of judging health by body size, the so-called ‘war on obesity’ continues as valiantly as ever, and fat people always seem to end up as its biggest targets.”

A Total Amateur May Have Rewritten Human History With a Bombshell Discovery (Becky Ferreira for VICE). NOTE: There’s a reference to this in my TEDx talk.


When my children left for college last summer, I began anew (theme…) with my home cooking.

Since I’ve been getting weekly deliveries from Hungryroot (yes, that’s a link that, if clicked, will connect your interest with my recommendation — if you want to explore without clicking a link, just type in hungryroot dot com), I’ve been cooking, and eating, more of what I enjoy. Just me, by myself, not cooking to feed or please anyone else. What’s the sweet spot, for me, between effort and reward? What makes me feel well fed and well? If you like to cook, and like to eat, and haven’t asked yourself those questions recently, today’s as good a day as any for that.

There are plenty of things I enjoy eating but would not enjoy preparing for an ordinary weeknight meal. Example: black bean burger with green chile and Boursin cheese on a toasted brioche bun. Example: baked egg with chives, caviar, and chanterelle cream. (Yes, I’ve enjoyed both of those pure delights while in Portland.)

What I’m enjoying both cooking and eating, when I’m at home, without children to feed, looks like this:

Creamy Mushroom and Orzo Soup with Lemon and Parmesan (Eating Well)

Crispy Roasted Broccoli with Tahini (bon appétit)

Bittman’s dinner salad formula (note: the full post is for subscribers only, but the essential info is in the part that’s available to read for free)

(That salad formula was going to be this week’s ridiculous Kitchen Dispatch video, so you could once again have a peek into my messy home kitchen. But I’m not in my kitchen rn so you’ll have to wait for that particular edition.)

The next time I cook for a crowd (which will likely be my book group), I plan to recreate this dinner party menu from David Tanis (NYT, probably paywalled – if so, you can recreate the menu by searching “winter citrus salad with shaved fennel,” “riso al forno (Italian rice casserole),” and “almond cake” — and who knows what you might find when you do that!).


Those three posts I promised ages (10 days) ago will pop up later today, all as one post, getting ready for the last module in the “Your First 100 Days” work.


If you know me, then you already know I am, in fact, going to try and recreate that egg/caviar/chive/chanterelle cream thing. How could I not? As a warm-up exercise, I’ll probably do something like this: https://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Oeufs-Cocotte-aux-Girolles-Coddled-Eggs-with-Chanterelles/