What I’m into, August edition

New month, new list. August tends to inspire a lot of “summer’s almost over” laments (or cheers, depending on perspective), though around here, that’s not true. School starts after Labor Day. There are a good 5 weeks to go. The kids have only been out of school for a little over 6 weeks, so we’re just past the halfway mark. I am hoping to enjoy the month. We’ve got a week of vacation coming up, which will not require an 11-hour car trip, so there’s that. Although it still will be with the 2-year-old, who is continuing in a bit of a difficult phase. He’s been waking up in the middle of the night, and if he makes it through the night, he’s up at 5 a.m. again. It had been getting better, and then it got worse. It is frustrating. He can be so sweet and loving, and his vocabulary and thought processes are pretty astounding. We were in the car and he was trying to wriggle out of his seat belt. I told him he had to stay in. He said “I could fly out of the car?” Yes, that could happen in an accident. “I’d wear a jet-pack!” Then, next thing you know he might be deliberately pouring out water on the floor, throwing food, and biting his siblings. I have been attempting to go a bit Dale Carnegie on this issue, trying to “arouse in the other person an eager want,” pointing out that no one wants to play with you when you bite them, and he loves when his siblings play with him, but I guess he is still two.

Anyway, in the midst of that, here’s a short list of things that I am enjoying right now.

Oui yogurt. Reminiscent of a continental breakfast on a vacation to Europe. I always love peeling off the foil tops on those little glass containers. Now I just need a baguette and a big hunk of cheese.

The evening bike/run. My 7-year-old likes to take his bike out for a loop down our street and on the paths that circle a nearby retirement community. We sometimes go — him biking, me running/walking — around 7 p.m. It’s a better way to spend that post dinner time than random email checking, and I know in another 2 months it will be getting dark too early to do it (!) So a fun summer treat.

Box Office Mojo. My 10-year-old is obsessed with the highest grossing movies. This website updates the box office tallies — and the rankings — daily. I cannot believe that daily earnings of movies in theaters are available without any subscription required, but sometimes the Internet gives so much for all it takes.

Shutterfly. I made a photo book for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Shutterfly makes scrapbooking possible for those of us with absolutely no skills in this area. Look at these people!! Pro-tip: Always look for coupon codes at RetailMeNot (or even posted on Shutterfly). The photo books I created would have run around $35-40 apiece with shipping, and I got it down to $15/each. Shutterfly must make all their money on the handful of people who don’t know to look for coupon codes.

Podcasts. As part of my goal to listen to something other than Andy Grammer songs on Sirius XM radio in my car (where I average an hour a day) I’ve been listening to more of them. They really are a fun way to spend the time, and you feel like you’re listening in on a conversation with the host(s). As with video, I know platform building is about people feeling like they know you. So, more on this later, although I really do not like the way many do ads and sponsors, with the hosts talking about the product. I think I find the format of TV or radio commercials much less objectionable. I know that may sound odd given that I just recommended commercial products and websites in the previous few paragraphs, but the idea of money changing hands for me to do that goes against the journalist lurking inside whatever you’d call my profession now. Much to ponder with the new media landscape.

Instagram. Speaking of me discovering something about 5 years after everyone else. It’s the part I like of Facebook (baby photos!) without all the other stuff.

Team of Rivals. I really enjoyed reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals last month. I’ve been pondering much after reading it. First, how little time in history we are removed from death being much more a part of daily family life. Abraham and Mary Lincoln lost three of their four sons as children or young people (one died after Pres. Lincoln but the other two before). Edward Bates, Lincoln’s Attorney General, had 17 children with his wife Julia; only half made it to adulthood. Salmon Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury and later Chief Justice, lost 3 wives to illness in 11 years. That time period isn’t ancient history, but medically it may as well be. Thank goodness. Another topic: I’m really curious about what life was like in the Confederacy, and what the thought process was there at the time. Most people in the South didn’t own slaves, and before the war it appeared that the compromise on the table was simply whether some of the new territories would allow slavery and some would not. Why was this not acceptable to the powers that existed then, to the point where they entered a war that within a few years would result in the abolition of slavery and the destruction of big chunks of the south? So I picked up James McPherson’s Embattled Rebel, which was billed as a biography of Jefferson Davis, to learn more about what people were thinking. Unfortunately, it’s proving to be just an account of the various infighting among generals in the south, and not much about the lead-up. I welcome other suggestions.

Running goals. Still going with the streak. I did a 7:34 mile on the treadmill the other day. After a short warm up, I put the ‘mill at 8.0 mph, kept it there for 5-and-a-half minutes, lowered it to 7.5 mph for about a minute, and then cranked it back up to 8.0 for the last minute. Maybe in another few weeks I’ll try for a few seconds lower.

Quickie swim lessons. Yesterday I gave the 7-year-old and the 5-year-old half hour swim lessons. They can both swim, but need to learn the strokes if they’re going to swim competitively. I hadn’t really thought about how to break down the arm and leg motions of everything, but it came back to me, literally from when I was on summer swim teams when I was about their ages. I guess it’s like riding a bicycle. (Well, not butterfly. I am useless on that).

This speech on time and memory. I saw Lila Davachi give this speech at TEDWomen last fall, and some of the material wound up influencing a chapter in Off the Clock.




22 thoughts on “What I’m into, August edition

  1. I really like these monthly round ups Laura and they make me think a bit harder about my cluttered life. What I’m into currently is trying to prepare for just over two weeks out of the office at the end of the month on holiday in northern Scotland. feel like I am wading through treacle there. Battling against that I am also about to be into 11 days of the World Athletics Championships in London. We are actually going on Monday night but will also watch a lot on TV bringing back memories of the London Olympics in 2012. I can’t believe that is 5 years ago now. We went several times to the Olympic events with our daughters then 8 and 12 – now they are 13 and 17. The days are long but the years are short…

    1. @Katherine – two weeks out of the office is a great thing to be getting ready for. I’m aiming for a 2-week vacation next summer (we generally only do a week at a time, but with little kids that’s about all we can handle. Little guy will be 3.5 next summer, and hopefully better…)

  2. Not everyone in the antebellum South owned slaves, but the entire society revolved around it–law, social convention, class, etc. It doesn’t specifically answer your question, but you might enjoy Drew Gilpin Faust’s “Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War,” which gives some insight into why people who were not slaveholders themselves supported succession and war, and were intimately engaged in perpetuating racially based slavery.

    1. @J – I will add that one to my list – it sounds like it might be closer to getting at what I’m curious about than this current book. Thanks for the suggestion.

    2. That’s the first book I thought of also 🙂 Another one is The Plantation Mistress by Catherine Clinton. One of my favorites (because it focuses as much on the lives of enslaved people) is The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon Reed.
      For fiction, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, is about Angelina Grimke, from a Southern slave owning family who became an abolitionist. (Also the non-fiction, the Grimke Sisters of South Carolina by Gerda Lerner). If you like speculative fiction, Kindred by Octavia Butler, is a great story of how we view slavery and how it was lived.

      1. Kindred is a great book. I think it should be required reading in high school! It certainly made me understand slavery better than anything that I read in high school did. If anyone is on the fence because it is speculative fiction and Octavia Butler is best known for sci fi… don’t let that stop you. The speculative aspect of this one is light.

  3. I completely agree with you about podcast ads, and for much the same journalistic integrity reasons! I’m in the process of launching a podcast, and while sponsorships aren’t part of the short-term plan, it’s something we’ve started discussing. The plan right now is to have a friend read the ads, but there’s also the question of which companies we’d accept (I have eco-issues with Blue Apron, for example).

    Team of Rivals is so excellent! I also was fascinated by the family lives, and by Kate hmmm … it’s been a while since I’ve read it. The daughter who was her father’s secretary and assistant. The situation — though not the woman — reminded me a bit of William Pitt and his niece Lady Hester Stanhope (herself a fascinating woman).

  4. “J” above states the truth. Many times I’ve seen modern-day Confederate apologists argue that most Civil-War-era Southerners were not to blame for the war b/c they themselves did not own slaves. But this misses the crucial point, that almost all Southerners supported and contributed to the war effort and to its rationale, which was the perpetuation of slavery. One of the best works ever written on the Civil War was Shelby Foote’s _The Civil War: A Narrative_. It’s 3 volumes, but Volume 1 might give you the background you’re looking for. Good luck!

    1. @M Tiro – looking at Amazon, it seems a lot of people are recommending McPherson’s best known book, Battle Cry of Freedom, as going deeply into things like southern newspaper editorials and the like. That vs. Foote, if anyone’s read both? I’m unlikely to make it through two more epic Civil War histories, so curious on people’s thoughts. I guess I really am looking for a southern history from, like, 1840-1861.

      1. My husband, who reads history extensively (he’s the only person I’ve ever met who read Thucydides for fun), recommends Battle Cry of Freedom, too. If you get into the Civil War reading, his favorite book of all time is Grant’s memoir. Julia Dent Grant, his wife (and daughter of a slave-owner) also wrote a memoir, which I have but haven’t read. It may shed some light on the subject, too.

        1. @Meghan – since Grant’s memoir was only 99 cents on Kindle, that was an easy call. I will try it and see. Actually, I just downloaded Battle Cry of Freedom too — I have potentially a lot of reading time tomorrow.

      2. I like Battle Cry of Freedom better than Shelby Foote. At least I would start with Battle Cry of Freedom as the background and Foote’s for the additional detail (if you feel you need it afterwards).

  5. Oo, please do a podcast!! For what it’s worth, I don’t have a problem with ads on podcasts – everyone has to make a living. I bet the newspapers and blogs you write for have advertising so you could consider it the same. Look forward to hearing more about your plans!

    1. @Alicia- thanks for the encouragement! Yes, certainly, everyone has ads of some sort or another. But the way many podcast ads are formatted (with a message read by the hosts, talking about the product in glowing terms) it would be like every third David Brooks column in the New York Times being about, say, Blue Apron, or Third Love bras, and discussing how much he loves those products and services. Very different vibe.

        1. True!

          I am a devoted podcast user and some do ads better than others. I love when the hosts actually have tried things and then recommend it (like the Happier with Gretchen Rubin one, and Happier in Hollywood). For the ones that feel fake, I forward 🙂

  6. I know you’re looking for book recommendations, but I think the pbs documentary on the civil war is the most comprehensive, plus it’s easier to imagine a “rebel cry” in that medium. http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/civil-war/#/

    I actually rewatch it every few years. My understanding is that there is a race argument for getting into the war and there is an economic argument for getting into the war.

  7. I’m a born and bred Southerner. I come from a long line. My family moved from England to Virginia to Mississippi/Tennessee line. This may not be a documented fact, but I can vouch for the truth of it–Southerners are proud. And we are stubborn. And we do not like being told what to do. Even if we agree with it. I realize one might not think a whole war would be waged due to obstinance, but I would dare say it played into it!

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