How to Break Up With Your Phone

by Kelsi in , , , , , ,


 

I'm not sure where I first saw the image below but it resonated strongly with me. Often when I have a break teaching and walk down to the coffee shop I pass person after person looking down, only to open the door to a room full of people again looking down, and stand in line to order my coffee behind a handful of people each one, again, looking down...

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Our lives are what we pay attention to.

I hope this slim and life-changing book by Catherine Price becomes as ubiquitous as another slim and life-changing book I love. Read more about it here and also here.

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At home we follow a 24 hour "tech sabbath" beginning Friday at 8pm until Saturday at 8pm (which Price mentions) which has been a game changer. I first learned about the idea of a "tech sabbath" from Tiffany Shlain and her converstation with Krista Tippett.

Do yourself (and your kids) a favor and read this book.

 

Brain Pickings - 10 Learnings

by Kelsi in ,


 

The following list is written by the incredible Maria Popova of her incredible site Brain Pickings (I also mentioned her here). I can never get over how much she reads, researches, and contemplates and how she can articulate it all so beautifully.

"Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life."

This is a list to revisit often, and a "code" to live by.

***

1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.

2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed, “prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.

3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.

4. Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.

Most important, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking momentdictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?

5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as important, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.

6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

7. “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.

8. Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.

9. Don’t be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture — which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands — give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” — a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.

10. Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively. Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but is categorically inferior. Unlike that great Rilkean life-expanding doubt, it is a contracting force. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, unconstructive, and spiritually corrosive. Life, like the universe itself, tolerates no stasis — in the absence of growth, decay usurps the order. Like all forms of destruction, cynicism is infinitely easier and lazier than construction. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of largehearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit, continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance.

 

The Poetry of Ordinary Time

by Kelsi in , , ,


 

THE GATE - Marie Howe

I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world
would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man
but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,
rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.
This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.

 

Take a moment to hear Marie Howe read it below. It is beautiful.

Listen to the her full On Being conversation here.

 

Priorities

by Kelsi in , ,


 

MS. TIPPETT: Do you have compassion for those of us who want to cook more, but have jobs and children and life feels hard enough as it is and food is one thing that you can buy in packages and bring home? [laughter]

MR. BARBER: Yeah. You know, you’re not making me compassionate…

MS. TIPPETT: Maybe not. You don’t have much compassion. [laughter]

MR. BARBER: You know why? Because then you’d have to say — if I said to you that 25 years ago, you know, with all the time spent on TV, we’re going to spend another four hours a day on average on the Internet, and you would say, “Wow, I can’t believe we’d find four hours in the day.” And I’d say, not only people are going to find four hours, but 95 percent penetration of Internet use for 4.5 hours a day or whatever it’s up to today average, you would say that’s absolutely crazy. Nobody will spend that time, nobody has that time in the day. Well, we figured out how to do it. So the question comes down to priorities. To what extent is cooking and eating and all the rest of the things that are attached to that, to what extent does that become a priority? And if it is a priority, you make the time.

It goes hand in hand with the amount of money you spend because what we’re talking about — and I don’t want to skirt around it; I think it’s a big issue. It’s more expensive. There’s no question about it. You’re paying the real cost of growing food. Locally, it’s usually more expensive. So the question is, again back to the Internet example or cell phone use, 25 years ago, if I said there’d be 95 percent penetration in cable television, you all would have said, “That’s nuts. We have free television. Who is going to be able to find $125 a month extra?” You all would have agreed with Krista, right? I would have said, not only that, you’re going to find another $125 for cell phone use in disposable income. Everyone would say, “Oh, $250 extra? Nobody has that money.” Well, of course, we found it because we found it indispensable without those things. So can we excite this issue around food and pleasure to the extent that people feel the same way about dinner?

[Applause]

Listen to Dan Barber and Krista's whole conversation here.

 

School Days

by Kelsi in , ,


 

It certainly feels like fall. We are getting into the groove with school, the still sunny days now have enough of a chill to warrant a sweater. Football is on and we've been loading up on a new crop of apples at the farmer's market.

With September also comes the need for a new pair of "school" sneakers which for me is always a pair of Sk8-Hi Vans. These classics are still my favorite...

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I've also been harvesting the last of my tomatoes and freezing them whole in Ziploc bags to use year-round for my favorite Marcella Hazan sauce and tomato soup. I learned this super easy alternative to canning from David Tanis. Thawed on the counter the skins slip right off. Read more here. Frozen tomatoes will lose their texture/structure so use them only for sauces and soups etc. (Sidenote: if you're using fresh tomatoes instead of a 28 oz can of San Marzanos as listed in both recipes, the equivalent is 2 lbs. of fresh tomatoes.)

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I'm not shy about my love for Melissa Clark and I love my Instant Pot so I cannot wait for this book to come out this fall. I already know it's going to be a winner...

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Getting ready for my son's first day of Kindergarten, I made us matching friendship bracelets. It's been over 20 years since I made one and I had to look up a refresher tutorial...

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I had so much fun making it and now with all the beautiful DMC floss available I'm picking up a new hobby...

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I recently upgraded my well-loved Clare V Gosee with this multi-colored strap that is rad...

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I also just devoured Dani Shapiro's Hourglass. I can't recommend it enough. Now I'm waiting for this and this from the library...

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Earlier this summer I mentioned these Everlane tanks that I love. They just came out with a few other styles in the same fabric. I'd like to have this...

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And this...

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Doing the Work + Responsibility

by Kelsi in , , ,


 
Letter board in my house from  Letterfolk

Letter board in my house from Letterfolk

Spot on advice from Cheryl Strayed in Tiny Beautiful Things on doing the work...

I’ve written often about how we have to reach hard in the direction of the lives we want, even if it’s difficult to do so. I’ve advised people to set healthy boundaries and communicate mindfully and take risks and work hard on what actually matters and confront contradictory truths and trust the inner voice that speaks with love and shut out the inner voice that speaks with hate. But the thing is—the thing so many of us forget—is that those values and principles don’t only apply to our emotional lives. We’ve got to live them out in our bodies too...Real change happens on the level of the gesture. It’s one person doing one thing differently than he or she did before. It’s the man who opts not to invite his abusive mother to his wedding; the woman who decides to spend her Saturday mornings in a drawing class instead of scrubbing the toilets at home; the writer who won’t allow himself to be devoured by his envy; the parent who takes a deep breath instead of throwing a plate. The work is there. It’s our task. Doing it will give us strength and clarity. It will bring us closer to who we hope to be.
 

Sunday Inspiration

by Kelsi in , , ,


 

A little inspiration for your Sunday. Watch this video...

I subscribe to Maria Popova's incredibly thoughtful weekly digest. You can read today's here and then subscribe for yourself.

If you've never been on Brain Pickings before, be sure to set aside some time to explore. I learn so much from her, especially book recommendations. The recent favorite being this one, Cry, Heart, But Never Break.

Speaking of books, I just finished Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark. (Maria Popova happens to have a review of it here.) I'd also highly recommend listening to Rebecca's conversation with Krista Tippett

On the flip-side of dark, I've added this bright and sunny hair-on Clare V clutch to my wishlist...

Happy Sunday!

 

Opening to Our Lives

by Kelsi in , , ,


 
We call ourselves homo sapiens sapiens. That’s the species name we’ve given ourselves. And that comes from the Latin sapere, which means “to taste” or “to know. “ The species that knows and knows that is knows. And now maybe we need to live ourselves into owning that name by cultivating awareness and awareness of awareness itself and let that be in some sense the guide as to what we’re going to invest in, how we’re going to make decisions about where we live, where we are going to send our kids to school, how we’re going to be at the dinner table. Whether we’re going to take our bodies and our children and our parents for granted, or whether we’re going to live life as if it really mattered moment by moment.

The more we can sort of learn these lessons, the more we will not be in some sense running towards our death, but opening to our lives. There’s a huge distinction between the two. And all the scientific evidence is suggesting that when you choose life in the way I’m talking about, your brain changes in both form and function, your immune system changes, your body changes. I mean, we start to really take care of what’s most important. And there are very, very tangible results at the level of the body, the mind, and the heart, and most importantly our relationships with the world and with our loved ones and with our own bodies.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn