Are you taking care with your input? A steady diet of anxiety provoking headlines, television that pits desperate people against one another in a deadly game of red light/green light, the rise/fall/rise/fall of covid numbers, political logjams, it all takes a toll. I know you know this; input = output. How in the world can we be creative, experience joy, project a bit of happiness into the world if we’re eating misery and pain and stress?
I’ve banished my phone (and news headlines) from my bedroom. I’ve been rereading comforting books (Laurie Colwinanyone?), listening to songs I can shout/sing along with, binging Brene Brown/Ted Lasso content, trying new recipes, going on field trips in my town, and doing bit of volunteering.
Input = Output. Pay attention. Be thoughtful. Here is something beautiful for you to see.
I read Stanley Tucci’s memoir, TASTE. Escapism is necessary. Italian food is a joy. Tucci is kind, funny, and self-deprecating. He’s a name dropper and a recipe dropper so you forgive him. If you have friends or family members that like a bit of Hollywood, a lot of Italy, some cocktails and pasta, some loss (because, well, who hasn’t had loss?), and humor, this is a great holiday gift book. Consider please:
A Negroni – Up
50 milliliters gin (1 generous shot)
25 milliliters Campari (1/2 shot)
25 milliliters good sweet vermouth (1/2 shot)
- Pour all the booze in a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Shake it well.
- Strain into a coupe.
- Sit down.
- Drink it.
The sun is now in your stomach.
(There are those who consider serving this cocktail “straight up” to be an act of spirituous heresy. But they needn’t get so upset. I never planned on inviting them to my home anyway.)
I also read THE SOUL OF AN OCTOPUS, by Sy Montgomery. Oh my. Just read it. A gorgeous and surprisingly moving book. Science, psychology, humanity, beauty… I underlined so many sections that showed me how to be a better human.
Just a quick reminder, I’ve created a read.write.eat. Bookshop Store, where you can find many of the books I’ve recommend in the newsletter.
I was listening to a terrific writing podcast the other day, FIRST DRAFT, and was intrigued by questions the podcaster asks of all her guests. First, she wonders about a passage by another writer that meant a lot to the guest. Next, she inquires after a passage in their work that was really hard to write. So, I thought I’d interview myself.
This passage in Cheever’s story, “The Season of Divorce,” has always stayed with me. The first time I read it I was moved by the stew of upset. I was moved by how well Cheever got onto the page the compost heap of insults and events, some that you cannot even remember, that can lead to amorphous unhappiness. Just before this moment, a husband has been awakened by his wife crying in the middle of the night.
She sat up and slipped her arms into the sleeves of a wrapper and felt along the table for a package of cigarettes. I saw her wet face when she lighted a cigarette. I heard her moving around in the dark.
“Why do you cry?”
“Why do I cry? Why do I cry?” she asked impatiently. “I cry because I saw an old woman cuffing a little boy on Third Avenue. She was drunk. I can’t get it out of my mind.” She pulled the quilt off the foot of our bed and wandered with it toward the door. “I cry because my father died when I was twelve and because my mother married a man I detested or thought that I detested. I cry because I had to wear an ugly dress—a hand-me-down dress—to a party twenty years ago, and I didn’t have a good time. I cry because of some unkindness that I can’t remember. I cry because I’m tired—because I’m tired and I can’t sleep.” I heard her arrange herself on the sofa and then everything was quiet.
Like the Cheever, my passage takes place in the middle of the night, but this is between a mother and her teenage daughter. It comes near the close of my story, “Children are Magic.”
Barrett leveled her chin, slitted her eyes. She was electric. Swiftly, falteringly, she strode toward Sheila, hammering the air with the plastic pony. “Did you know? Did you ever imagine that I might like privacy? You and your sisters are surveillance cameras! Every move I make is viewed and judged. I am always on display and yet, still, somehow I’m invisible. I had no idea how exhausting it would be.” She would regret saying this. She would regret this entire exchange. She felt the shadow of regret already growing.
“What’s wrong with you?” Sheila took one step back. “Are you okay?”
“Yes.” She felt the lying sting behind her eyes. “Nothing is wrong with me.” She looked at her hand, gripping the pony, shaking. How did she never realize the sting before tears was the same as the sting before milk lets down?
“Mom.” Sheila’s tone was both frightened and irate. “Are you drunk?”
“I could be.”
“This isn’t appropriate,” Sheila said. “You’re freaking me out. I’m your kid. You’re the adult.”
“I think, Sugar, I think you overestimate my maturity level.”
Please, interview yourself and let me know what work out in the world has inspired you? What of your own work has been particularly challenging?
In case I’ve encouraged you to try out some classes for yourself, hope over to my teaching page to see what’s up. I’ve got lots of opportunities for you!
You’re welcome. These cookies will see you through the fall and winter. Double the recipe, roll sections into logs and freeze them so you can make them in a desperate moment, a cookie emergency if-you-will. If, as I’ve posited at the top of this newsletter, input = output, after these cookies your output will be delightful!
Almond Butter Oatmeal Cookies
- 1 ½ c rolled oats
- 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 t baking soda
- 1 t baking powder
- 1 t salt
- 1 c unsalted butter, softened
- ½ c sugar
- ½ c packed brown sugar
- 1 T vanilla
- ¾ c almond butter
- 2 lg eggs
- 12 oz bag semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Guittard)
- 1 c (+/- depending upon your preference) slivered almonds or chopped pecans
1. In a bowl, combine oats, flour, soda, powder, and salt until well mixed.
2. In a mixer bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat well.
4. Add the almond butter.
5. Once well mixed, add the flour blend until just combined.
6. Add the chocolate chips and nuts.
7. Roll the batter into 2 or 3 logs, wrap in wax paper and chill for about 2 hours. Slice into rounds, place on a greased or parchment covered cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 8 – 12 minutes.