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A Short List of Everything That's Inspired Me This Week

Plus, my new favorite board game and some required reading.
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Maybe it's the beautiful weather and flowers blooming everywhere in Portland, but I felt such a boost of creativity and inspiration this week. To celebrate, here's a short, incomplete list of places I've found inspiration this week in the hopes that it spurs your own boost of creativity:

  • The CSA Jonah and I recently signed up for, and a new crop of cookbooks I recently picked up in search of new recipes.
  • The optimistic weekend trip I just booked to visit friends in June. (Have you started booking trips for this year yet?)
  • Khadija Horton's fun and smart graphics in the latest issue of Cosmo magazine (like in this piece by Amanda Mitchell).
  • The ASL class I started at Portland Community College, via Zoom for now.
  • Conversations with Jonah's 102 year-old grandmother on her birthday last week. (Her favorite innovations over the past century-plus? Sliced bread and Scotch tape.)
  • The rug I just bought from Poly and Bark, which means I'm that much closer to our living room being *finished*. (For those keeping track, I ended up returning the yellower-than-expected rug from West Elm.)
  • A run of really good books (I finished five this week!)
  • Jonah and I created a master budget on Saturday for the summer, to plan for upcoming house costs and restaurants opening back up (remember those??), that left me feeling super motivated to save.
  • I recently bought a new XXL Soft Cover Moleskin (my favorite journal) after filling my last one. There's just something about starting a new journal!

Here are a few other things I loved this week: 

1

The Portland, Oregon Mitchell S. Jackson grew up in is almost unrecognizable from the Portland I moved to late last year. In Survival Math, he provides a harrowing and necessary account of growing up as a Black man in the Northeast, a once predominantly Black neighborhood where he now sees, "construction crews[...] erecting odes to privilege." 

At its core, Jackson's account of growing up—which includes being arrested, evading arrest, cooking and selling cocaine, playing basketball, cheating, and finally moving to New York to be a writer—would be gripping. But Jackson goes a step further and shares his personal story within the context of larger societal themes, offering the history of marriage, cocaine, sex work, and racism in America. In a chapter called "The Scale," shorthand for the scale of offenses womanizing men fall on, Jackson provides a history of womanizers from Casanova to himself, including interviews with women who "suffered the most egregious and-or numerous of my misdeeds." Between his own recollections are those of Black men who narrowly survived death or long-term prison sentences. It's a dynamic memoir unlike any I've ever read that reframed some of the NE Portland streets I frequent—Williams, Alberta, Mississippi—in a richer context that's all but been erased by gentrification. If you live in, or have ever visited, Portland, it's a must-read.

2

I'm hoping there aren't too many "quarantine phases" to go before we're all vaccinated, but my latest is watching three episodes of a new show before abandoning it completely (see "Riverdale" and "Firefly Lane"). I recently started "Ginny and Georgia" with the same mindless intention, but it stuck like a pig in the mud, as Georgia might say... The show could easily be compared to a darker, more self-aware "Gilmore Girls." Lorelai, I mean, Georgia, is a young white mother who wields her beauty and Steel Magnolias charm like a weapon, raising Ginny, her biracial Black daughter. When they move to a small town they hope to grow roots in, Georgia's questionable money-making schemes and dark side ("I love a good scam") come out. It's addictive quality is in it's genre-spanning; it's part sitcom/drama/thriller/high school romance all rolled into one.

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Jonah and I recently picked up a used box of "Tikal" on a whim from a board game shop, and have played it nearly every night since. Reminiscent of "Settlers of Catan," with a similar plot to my favorite two-player game, "Lost Cities," each player is the head of an expedition to uncover Mayan temples and treasures. You set up camp, create secret routes, and score points in a number of just-complicated-enough ways. 

(Is there any interest in a post on my favorite board games, or are we all past that quarantine phase?)

4

TW: Suicide

The concept of this dark, yet heart-warming novel by Matt Haig is simple: When Nora Seed takes her own life, she's sent to a library in limbo, where she can try out another life she might have lived, starting at midnight the night she died. Her regrets are innumerable: That she should have stayed in her brother's band, become an Olympic swimmer, studied glaciers, stayed with her fiancé—and now she gets to see what would have happened, if she'd chosen differently. The book is in part so interesting because it's impossible to read it without reflecting on your own regrets and even curiosities (While I don't have any regrets, I do have a ton of curiosities: What if I'd gone to a different college? Taken French more seriously? Moved to Guatemala?). Or maybe, you're exactly where you're meant to be. 

I recently received an advanced copy of Haig's forthcoming book The Book of Comforts, which is similarly encouraging, and a worthy partner of Ross Gay's Book of Delights

Update: An earlier version of this post used the phrase "commits suicide," and as many of you wrote to me in the feedback form (thank you to all who wrote in!), using the term "committed" creates a stigma around mental illness that can lead to condemnation rather than compassion, as this article points out. I've updated the language above and am sharing this here in the hopes that it educates others on the importance of using the correct language when referring to suicide ("died by suicide" is an appropriate alternative to what I originally wrote). Thank you to those who wrote in to teach me. I feel incredibly lucky to have so many compassionate people, who are passionate about mental health, reading this column. This reader, in particular, put my error poignantly (and gave us permission to publish her response anonymously):

"I just wanted to draw your attention to the use of the phrase "commit suicide". Before I lost my mother to suicide and had my own mental health issues, I used the same term. However, it is aligned to when suicide in some countries was a crime, and evokes associations with ‘‘committed a sin’ when it is about untreated illness. I really appreciate mental health being talked about on C&C - it all helps to destigmatising asking for help, but it is important to make sure to be sensitive to people's experiences with the language we used to discuss it."

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1. Really enjoying the songs from Taylor's "Fearless" vault

2. I used to keep track of my favorite books in a notebook, but things were getting a little out of hand, so I created a new, up-to-date Bookshop, where you can easily find the books I've reviewed on The List this year, favorite cookbooks, vacation reads, and my TBR.

3. Facts: Buying stuff for your pet makes you happier (keep an eye out for a roundup of pet products later today!).

4. For anyone else playing the fun game of "allergies or COVID?" (via Girls' Night In)

5. Now's the time to stock up on beauty, because Sephora's spring sale just started! I'm picking up a few favorites like ILIA mascara and concealer, and new-to-me products like Dae's Daily Shampoo (yes, I've been #influenced). 

6. I learned a lot from this piece, "Forget what you know about MSG."

7. Intrigued by this beauty brand, alleyoop. Have you tried it??

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