I've never been great at keeping a gratitude journal. Every time I sat down to write, I felt cheesy or even bored and stopped. But last Tuesday evening, after an incomprehensible explosion devastated Beirut, Jonah and I sat together and spoke out-loud the many, many things we have to be thankful for right now. I could feel the day's frustrations shrinking as we listed them off: We are healthy, our family is healthy, our friends are healthy, we are employed, we have a beautiful apartment that keeps us comfortable and safe. We took turns until we ran out of the big things, and dipped into the small: The new recipe we made for dinner was a new favorite, we both love the books we're reading right now, our cat Meesh is extra cuddly today. The next night, we did the same thing. And the next night after that. Nearly a week has passed, and we're still listing our gratitudes at the end of each day—and guess what? It makes a difference. The more grateful I feel, the more inspired I feel; the more inspired I feel, the more energy I'm able to pour into people and causes I care about because I'm taken care of. Here are a few things I really loved (and feel grateful for!) this week:
My favorite hyper-curious radio producer Latif Nasser, of RadioLab, released his Netflix show last week and suddenly summer 2020 is looking (at least incrementally) up! In each episode of Connected, Nasser examines the surprising ways nature is connected to technology through themes like surveillance, numbers, clouds, and even poop. There are some episodes that acknowledge sex, but I still think this would make a great show to watch with kids or family depending on your comfort level!
P.S. I also watched Bad Education on HBO per Jess' recommendation this week and loved it.
The Chicks' (formerly Dixie Chicks) new album Gaslighter came out a few weeks ago, but it only became one of my favorites after I had time to really listen to the lyrics. In the song "Sleep at Night," Natalie Maines addresses the woman who had an affair with her husband. When she asks "How do you sleep at night?" it's not from a just-wronged Carrie Underwood-type place, but from the perspective of a self-realized woman who's in the process of her own internal work. She sings about raising her sons through her divorce:
"My husband's girlfriend's husband just called me up - how messed up is that?
It's so insane that I have to laugh.
But then I think about our two boys trying to become men - there's nothing funny about that."
For as much as I love Taylor Swift's Folklore (a comparison I make because it was also largely produced by Jack Antonoff), Gaslighter is, to me, a more powerful album. It's vulnerable, catchy, strongly written, and has a great arc ("Boy I know exactly what you did on my boat" in the first song is explained eight tracks later).
P.S. If you're looking for another great summertime album, I've been really enjoying Honeymoon by Beach Bunny!
Esmé Weijun Wang is the bestselling author of The Border of Paradise, but I came across her work through happenstance, after the bookstagrammer Kelly included at the bottom of her July book post, @jjoongie, mentioned taking a class of hers on "Obsession and the Creation of Fiction." The topic sounded so fascinating, I immediately signed up for her newsletter, With Love & Squalor (great name!). The first email was filled with treasures, including "five words," definitions to English words I'd never heard, or used (like "atomy — (n) a skeleton or emaciated body") and links to terrific writing, like this. Each newsletter is thoughtful, informative, and inspired creativity (and, as you know, I love a newsletter)—and is especially great if you're a writer yourself!
Wang's also written extensively about living with what she refers to as a "marriage of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder." You can view more of her courses and free resources here—just be prepared to dedicate your entire day to exploring her site and its generous offerings.
Leila Slimani's novels, The Perfect Nanny and Adéle aren't intended as a duo, but when I read them—one right after the other—clear complementary patterns emerged. Each is about motherhood (and how it can feel like the opposite of a calling), the places we live, the strangers we trust with our secrets, and our relationships with spouses. They also stare unflinchingly at the darkest moments. The Perfect Nanny begins with the murder of three children in a Parisian apartment, and the protagonist of Adéle repeatedly inserts herself into reckless, and often dangerous, sexual experiences. The translation (by Sam Taylor), from French to English, maintains the beautiful language Slimani has woven into each. Don't be surprised if you finish each in a day.
P.S. I started Paul Auster's 850-page tome 4 3 2 1 and am getting through it much more quickly than I anticipated. I also finally purchased The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom and have heard incredible things about Lacy Crawford's Notes on a Silencing.
1. Third-party pasta shapes for the Philips Pasta Maker (I just about jumped for radiatore joy).
2. How the media we consume shapes us.
3. My experience with video games began and ended with The Sims, but I'm looking forward to trying this conservationist-driven game, Alba Wildlife.
4. Step 1: Buy this house. Step 2: Invite me over.
5. L.A.'s underground food scene, by way of Instagram.
6. Just came across this 2019 release and playing it on repeat.
7. These swimsuits are beautiful.
8. See what the recommended YouTube videos look like for other people...
10. Donate to Beirut relief efforts here.
11. "The toll of being in a cycle of resilience burnout can be incredibly heavy, especially if you're a Black woman."