Top 5 of 2015

I’m kind of over lists. My world is awash in them from the social media news feed to the careful curated blog roll, news digests, BuzzFeed click bait, and of course, the ever ubiquitous to do list. Lists of things to do to be mindful, ways the tie in book to the Force Awakens reveals important context/clearly needs an editor for prose style, lists of things to get for yourself, loved ones, things to do in the new year. On and on. Even my course calendars are another form of list making, ordering readings into daily and weekly digestable bits for students, never mind that a reading schedule rarely reflects lived reading practices.  It seems like our data driven lives–does one really need information on bites per second from one’s fork?–are ever more dependent on this ancient form of making meaning about information.

But the one list I look forward to every year is the list Walter, Dan, and I put together of our top 5 moments of the year. It allows me to reflect on things big and small that mattered the most in the year. And it lets me hear how some of my closest and oldest friends have spent their years. Because of a rushed brunch–we had people giving us the stink eye–I only got three of Walter’s five in person and he only got one of mine. But here’s mine, in reverse order:

5. I won a research award from my university. I knew I was getting nominated for it, and doing the application brought back all the horrors of the promotion portfolio. Yet, even though I knew I had a good chance of winning–my promotion portfolio had garnered the highest praise from my former provost, which he actually told me, so it’s not just hearsay–I still didn’t expect it. Winning gave added confidence to the Blackwood’s essay–now awaiting word at an edited collection I was invited to contribute to. It also gave validation to the amount of work I do, especially since I don’t always think it’s enough.

4. The year of little boys stealing my heart–Matthew’s delight at mud puddles, Connor holding my hand trick-or-treating, knitting a baby hat for Henry with the yarn I bought in New York City with his parents, and holding my friend Sarah’s new baby boy Samuel. I even got a whooping cough update for that one.

3. Listening to Jason when he encourages me to rest. I’m not always good at this, and he’s also really good at taking care of me when I say I need to work. But resting, truly taking breaks from my work isn’t easy, but I felt so burned out by the end of the spring that I took his advice and did nothing for two weeks in May. My goodness was that the best radical self care imaginable. I actually got bored.

2. Running a 10K with my brother. Running in general helps me stay sane, but getting to share a race with Jordan meant a lot to me. It was such a cold day, and we actually got to run on the Margaret Hill Hunt Bridge. We’re doing it again this coming year. I like making it a tradition.

1.Travel with Jason. We did a lot of travel this year, and while every trip was an adventure in new places, friends, or relaxation (please put me back on a beach), mostly what I adored was how easy it was. I’m an introvert, so travel can be exceedingly tiresome. All those people. But never with Jason. It felt effortless and freeing. I had someone to help me navigate it all. I loved exploring the difference between a trip and a vacation with him, new tastes–foie gras pots are always a yes, and new rhythms of being. We learned our limits for doing things and just how much we need to be with each other.

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Commonplace: Christina Rossetti, “A Christmas Carol”

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter

Long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him

Nor earth sustain;

Heaven and earth shall flee away

When He comes to reign:

In the bleak mid-winter

A stable-place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty

Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim

Worship night and day,

A breastful of milk

And a mangerful of hay;

Enough for Him, whom angels

Fall down before,

The ox and ass and camel

Which adore.
Angels and archangels

May have gathered there,

Cherubim and seraphim

Thronged the air,

But only His mother

In her maiden bliss

Worshipped the Beloved

With a kiss.
What can I give Him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd

I would bring a lamb,

If I were a Wise Man

I would do my part, –

Yet what I can I give Him,

Give my heart.”

~Christina Rossetti, “A Christmas Carol”

Chocolate Fraud

I love a good con story. I love them even more when they’re about art or food, which is why Peter Maylie novels amuse me so. I prefer my con stories with marks who can afford to be duped and minimal violence.

 This seemingly true story about the Mast Brothers and their early, phoney “bean to bar” chocolate business has all the best twists: artisanal chocolate credentials to burnish, wallpaper like wrappers, Brooklyn location, hipster beards, and a dogged Dallas based food blogger with a nose, or tongue as it were, for trouble in paradise. It’s a long, 4-part read, but worth it. You’ll also learn a lot about bean to bar production and the equipment necessary for small batch chocolate. Oh, and Thomas Keller shows up on Christmas. For more on the story, this article also has some great, snobby quotes.