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June 2012 (119 posts)
Happy Friday, everyone! Here are a few things that made our week.
Robin Roberts faces a serious blood and bone marrow disease with the same optimism and toughness with which she faced breast cancer
Are you reading Wild with us this summer? Oprah and author Cheryl Strayed are answering YOUR questions about this unforgettable memoir.
Sue Dawson Asked: While you were hiking the PCT, did you think that your experiences could become a book?
See Cheryl's Video Response:
Do you have a question for Cheryl or Oprah about Wild? Ask away here!
50 Cent: artist, author, producer and...pedicurist
extraordinaire? Yep, that's right. Last week, he revealed to Oprah that he's
been doing his grandmother's toes for years, and he's really good at it. He
even throws in a foot massage. For more surprises, tune in for the Part 2 of
his interview with Oprah, this Sunday, June 17th, at 9/8c on Oprah's Next Chapter.
Last year, Lisa Bloom's book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World came out, and started a nationwide (and Internet-wide) conversation about how we talk to our little girls, and how simply saying different things to them (and encouraging reading and thinking) can help them grow up to be smart women. Boys, presumably, were doing okay. After all, men have it easy in today's world, right? I mean, they never have to wait in line for a public bathroom. How hard can their lives be?
Well, guess what. Bloom's new book -- Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture (can this lady rock a subtitle or what?) -- is out, and now she is telling us that our boys are in trouble too. (I know. Bummer.) Apparently, we are not expecting enough of our boys, and in this way, undermine their early development. Bloom writes for The Huffington Post, "The new cultural trope is that girls naturally mature faster, that they have better innate verbal skills, and so pushing young boys to read is unrealistic and vaguely unfair to their boyness...Boys today do worse on national reading tests compared to their own gender a generation ago." And what's more, "Poor readers -- mostly boys -- struggle to read textbooks and tests in all subjects. They get suspended, expelled, flunk out and drop out at alarming rates - the majority of our African-American and Latino boys (who have the lowest reading proficiency of all) drop out of high school, with white boys faring only slightly better."
I admit to a sinking feeling of guilt upon reading this. My son is only 14 months old, but I already hear myself saying things all the time like, "Oh no, he doesn't really have any words yet. His sister did by now, but you know - boys!" As if I accept -- even expect -- that this smart kid is nothing more than a hammer-, truck-, ball-obsessed little caveman. How can our low expectations begin so early? Knowing that kids rise to the expectations (or lack thereof) we set out for them?
Thankfully, one of Bloom's solutions is, you guessed it, reading to our sons. "Make your home a reading mecca," she writes. "Kids with parents who read for pleasure are six times more likely to do so themselves -- and their grades shoot up." This I can handle. As soon as my little caveman stops hitting his sister over the head with that board book.
Lisa Bloom on How to Talk to Little Girls
The Bond Between a Mother and a Son
It's a strange thing to be so unaccustomed to silence. To associate the sounds of leaves rustling and one's own heartbeat with ominous moments in horror movies. And that's just external quiet -- how many of us can imagine taking a vow of silence ourselves? We so often go through our days in a din, our ears plugged with music, our mouths talking talking talking. Wouldn't silence keep us from communicating, prevent us from connecting with our thoughts, and, you know, scare the crap out of us?
Writer Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston posed this question (sort of) to the Trappist Monks of Oka Abbey, in Quebec. Trappist Monks are known for being the only Western order that practices silence (it's not technically a "vow of silence," as he explains). Mesiano-Crookston explains that it was "their dedication to the enshrinement of silence" that compelled him to reach out to them. He wanted to know how the silence works, and what it does for them. So he interviewed them -- via email, of course.
Their answers are illuminating: "The silence does make me aware of my inner workings, however, what we call in the monastery, 'self-knowledge.'...Silence seems to keep me from idealizing myself...I've become very attuned to the sound of bird-song, the wind, water running through the pipes, identifying unseen monks by the sound of their footsteps—just paying attention to my surroundings."
Identifying unseen monks? Wait, does a vow of silence come with superpowers? As much as the idea of so much silence makes me feel, I have to admit, immediately claustrophobic -- the way the monk describe it makes it sound like it might just be the key to something, to way to some mindful way of living and connecting to the world itself, not to mention developing your own inner resources. Another wrote: "On yet another level, silence means listening."
The monks' thoughts on silence make me wonder whether my own country-weekend aversion to silence might have been standing in for some larger noisiness in our lives. As one monk put it, "Silence is an aid and not an end in itself. It aids prayer, communal and private, and seeks to reduce distractions." We are so unused to really contemplating our own thoughts, the world around us, or really anything -- could it be the enormity of this that made a country weekend of quietude feel like a daunting prospect? According to the monks: "When there is lot of noise or movement around you, it’s tough to take notice of what you’re going through." So that's every waking moment of my life. No wonder I feel so scattered and, you know, un-monk-ish.
How might some moments of silence help you to focus on what you're going through?
For more on how silence works, and for the surprising connection the monks make between the noisy life and loneliness, read the entire essay here at The Awl.
How Silence Can Make You More Creative
The Quest for Quiet in a Noisy World
Sometimes it seems like flexibility is the key to happiness, doesn't it? If you could touch your toes (and hold on to them), you wouldn't have strained your hamstring. If you would move some things around on your calendar, you'd be able to see your friends more often. If you hadn't been so specific about what you wanted to eat, you would have found something to order already. And if you hadn't been so focused on your monthly objectives, you might have come up with that brilliant, counter-intuitive solution before your coworker did.
That's why we're so taken with this advice from Marlo Fisken, a flexibility coach who is also the 2010 American Pole Fitness Champion and 2011 Aerial Pole International Champion (and who appears in the new movie Rock of Ages). When asked how the average person can become more flexible, here's what Fisken told the health and fitness newsletter Vital Juice:
"Start by exploring. The first part of improving flexibility is finding all your limitations."
She's talking about physical flexibility here, as in splits and back bends, but we could also apply this to rigid thinking, taking a little bit of time to explore why we think or act the way we instinctively do...
Read more of Fisken's astute advice for physical and metaphysical flexibility here.
An unforeseen consequence of becoming an adult (it occurred to me the other day while rocking out at the library sing-along) is that you must regularly act a fool. You HAVE to. And I'm not just talking about parents who find themselves running around as if lobotomized, belting out nursery rhymes into the faces of their fussy children in public. I'm talking about anyone who's ever had to present a possibly-genius-possibly-ludicrous idea in a meeting, give a toast at a wedding, or try out the colorful-skinny-jeans trend. Don't tell those preteens nervously giggling in a self-conscious huddle, but in adulthood, as it happens, you just have to give in and not worry about looking silly sometimes.
Which leads me to this video of Jimmy Fallon, Carly Rae Jepsen, and The Roots performing the song "Call Me Maybe," while playing classroom instruments. (It adds to my enjoyment of this that I have no idea of the context. To me, this appeared in my twitter feed as just some grownups stuffed into a room and rocking out.) No offense to third graders everywhere, but who knew kazoos, bongos, recorders, tamborines, triangles, and rainbow xylophones could sound so catchy? I can't stop watching this jangly, poppy, moment of pure fun. Who needs self-consciousness? We don't have time to try to play it cool. We're grownups. So grab a piano whistle...
The "Call Me Maybe" Cover That Started a Meme
Kwela Dance Video > Coffee
Mr. Rogers Remix
Passionate Gotye Lip Dub
The Most Fun Family Band
Pair them with sesame. As every sushi chef knows, cucumber and sesame seeds are a winning combination. This easy salad incorporates both ingredients. Just don't skimp on the chilling time: part of the dish's charm comes from the cool, juicy texture of the marinated cucumbers. Let the sweet-tart interplay of the vinegar and sugar really sink in.
Get the recipe: Sesame Cucumber Salad
Chop them up for gazpacho. Tomatoes are traditional, but cucumbers and onions also make for a refreshing warm-weather soup. Serve the icy, chunky blend with crunchy, garlic-rubbed country bread.
Get the recipe: Cucumber and Onion Gazpacho
Eat them with salty cheese. Minerally halloumi cheese comes from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where locals enjoy it with cold watermelon. Its slight saltiness also makes it a good match for the fresh taste of cucumber and lemon.
Get the recipe: Halloumi Cheese with Cucumber Lentil Salad
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* Just in time for Father's Day, there's a sweet new StoryCorps video featuring Samuel Black as he remembers his father, a janitor who worked 16-hour days to provide for his wife and 11 children. (RauchBrothers.com)
* And here are six more lovely recollections of dads by their daughters. (O Magazine)
* Brighten your day by checking out what an adventurous toy Storm Trooper is up to. (George the Trooper)
* It's hard not to feel like a winner while listening to the special guest that makes every member of this wedding party sound like a champion. (YouTube)