I'm a white woman who has called the Midwest home for most of my life. That life of mine is what it is because I was born white. I didn't always know this, but I certainly do now. And I know it's my responsibility to continually educate myself on my blind spots.
I needed to learn the language and the history of race in America so I can confidently articulate what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, in my day-to-day life. Maybe you do, too. The work of Ijeoma Oluo and Dr. Lauren Michele Jackson were foundational components of my education.
It's not the job of any black person to educate me - it's my job to get educated - so I'm especially grateful for these books.
So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
"In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life."
"Generous and empathetic, yet usefully blunt . . . it's for anyone who wants to be smarter and more empathetic about matters of race and engage in more productive anti-racist action."--Salon
White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue And Other Thoughts On Cultural Appropriation, by Dr. Lauren Michele Jackson
"American culture loves blackness. From music and fashion to activism and language, black culture constantly achieves worldwide influence. Yet, when it comes to who is allowed to thrive from black hipness, the pioneers are usually left behind as black aesthetics are converted into mainstream success—and white profit. Weaving together narrative, scholarship, and critique, Lauren Michele Jackson reveals why cultural appropriation—something that’s become embedded in our daily lives—deserves serious attention. It is a blueprint for taking wealth and power, and ultimately exacerbates the economic, political, and social inequity that persists in America."
What books are you reading or have you read that have helped shape your understanding of and participation in conversations about race? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
It's always such an honor to be able to answer the specific questions that viewers send in to Twin Cities Live. This week, I tackled one that many of our healthcare workers are facing. And as wearing masks becomes something we're all going to do for the immediate future, it's possible that many of us will suddenly be confronted with break outs or extra dry patches on our faces as a result. Here are a few ideas for how to deal. And if you have anything tried and true to add, leave it down in the comments for all us!
Also...did you notice that a certain someone made his live television debut? Anyone who knows Gravy is not at all surprised that he slept through the entire thing.
This video is not sponsored. Opinions are based on my experiences. Your experience may differ and if that's the case, I'd love to hear about it.
You might also like My Planner Has Been Ruining My Life (Maybe), and Three Products That Surprised Me.
I put together a video that features three beauty products that surprised me - in a good way! I picked each of them up on a whim and didn't really expect to like them as much as I do. Check it out and let me know if you've used anything recently that surprised you, for better or for worse.
This video is not sponsored. Opinions are based on my own personal experience with a product. Your experience may differ.
Following in the footsteps of March, April was another reading-heavy month. If there were any doubts as to how I'm managing self-quarantine, let this clear that right up: I'm reading. A lot.
April's selections were split 50/50 across fiction and non-fiction. Not something I did on purpose, but in retrospect I can see how that makes sense. I bounce around between the need to escape from reality and a curiosity for how other people handle life. Do you tend to favor one genre (or sub-genre) over another, based on what's happening in your life?
My two favorite books this month were The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley and Books for Living by Will Schwalbe. The Authenticity Project is a work of contemporary fiction that follows the intertwining lives of six strangers brought together by a green notebook making its way across London (and a bit beyond). Each person who comes into possession of the notebook writes his or her deepest secret and then passes it along. The notebook brings each of them together in unexpected (and sometimes, not so unexpected) ways. It also included a couple of twists that kept me on my toes, along with a satisfying ending. Pooley's writing style is fluid, and she injects a lot of humor and heart into this story.
Books for Living was published in 2016, and I stumbled upon a used copy at my favorite neighborhood bookstore (Cream and Amber, in downtown Hopkins, MN if you're wondering). This work of non-fiction is a follow-up to Schwalbe's best-seller, The End of Your Life Bookclub, and I hoped it would be the perfect thing to pick up and put down before bedtime. It was. In each chapter, Schwalbe introduces a book that provides context and texture to his own life. The books span genres and include a mix of classics and contemporary selections. What really stole my heart and made this a book I looked forward to opening each night was Schwalbe's affable tone, vulnerability and openness to sharing personal stories and insights that wove into the books he chose to highlight.
The two books I liked the least this month were It All Comes Back to You by Beth Duke and Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller and Dr. J.J. Petersen. I read Marketing Made Simple as part of a book club at work (my job is in marketing for a tech company). I had moderate expectations for the book and it didn't manage to meet that mediocre bar. I know this is lazy, but I don't really care to expend much more energy talking about it, so I'm not going to. If you're interested in marketing and want to know more about why I can't even with this book, let me know in the comments and we can chat about it there.
It All Comes Back to You on the other hand...whew. This one is complicated. The book is set in both present day to tell the story of Ronni, an assisted living nurse who has been left a life-changing amount of money if she writes the life story of one of her favorite residents who has died; and the past, as it jumps back in time to tell the story of that vivacious resident, Violet. I stayed up late (11:00 p.m. on a work night!) to read the book because the story was engrossing and well-written, with plenty of twists and turns for the two characters for whom it was mostly easy to root for. I say mostly because Ronni's story at times became a little muddled, especially a life-changing romance that just never quite felt right to me. One of those major plot twists came at the very end of the book, and it left me with such an overwhelming sense of ickiness and dismay that I couldn't possibly encourage anyone to put themselves through it. Unless you like that kind of thing, in which case by all means.
What I Read in April
There's a meme circulating that several people have sent my way. It's a Facebook post asking,"What's been your biggest waste of money so far this year?" And the response is, "A 2020 planner." I can relate.
I didn't just buy one planner for 2020. I bought multiple planners, in part because I love the feel of paper and a good pen in my hand. Plus, I get a rush out of opening a new planner and seeing all the fresh, open space for what I could schedule into my life. Also, I value time management and think it's important to have a vision for my life and put action toward creating that life. Buuuuut...let's be real. I bought EIGHT (!) planners this year. There's more to it than just loving stationery, a blank page, and goal setting.
Here's the deal (I think). I have a subconscious belief that the perfect planner will make my perfect life come true. If my life isn't coming together the way I'd hoped, it's because the weight of the paper in my planner isn't right. Or because the monthly calendar view is broken out at the beginning of the planner, separate from the daily planning pages (I hate that). Or because the goal tracker is broken out by quarter and placed at the back of the book, instead of by month and included in the monthly spread. (Fellow planner nerds are tracking with me. How about the rest of you? No. Fair enough).
Subconsciously, I've believed that the planner itself is what's standing between me and the life of my dreams. So, how are things going now that all eight (!) of my planners have been rendered temporarily obsolete?
To be honest, it's a relief. Now that I'm not obsessively planning every moment of my day, I have the space to find the moments that mean something. I no longer feel the weight of setting SMART goals for every aspect of my life. I no longer feel the pressure to constantly check something off a to-do list. I no longer feel that I need to be looking at next quarter, next month, next week or even tomorrow in order to be satisfied with how my life is going.
Now, I'm not saying that I won't crack open one (I'm choosing ONE and going with it) of my planners again once Minnesota's Stay at Home order is lifted and the pace of life picks up again. Although the book may once again serve a purpose - helping me feel like I have some control over my life - I'm not going to allow it to become a distraction or a scapegoat. It's a tool, but it's not what is keeping me going in life. I'm keeping me going - or holding myself back. The planner is just along for the ride.
Tell me: How do you plan your day, your year, your life - whatever. Has that changed since the pandemic started? Have you learned anything new about yourself in this area?
Also: You might be interested in Use the Nice Dishes.
I have quite a few products to share - two of which are very clearly not used up, but I am so done with them. From left to right, we've got:
More people than ever are connecting, professionally and personally, through video calls, and I think we can all agree that seeing yourself on a video chat can be a shock to the self-esteem. When I first starting working from home a couple years ago, I had more than a few moments of, "Wait a minute! I put makeup on. I did my hair. What the hell happened between that and "connect to Zoom call?" If that sounds familiar, I've got a few easy things you can do to look more like your IRL self, virtually.
Essential: Good Lighting
The number one element to looking good in a video call is your lighting setup. The photo on the left is what I look like when relying on the overhead light in my office. The image is washed out and grainy; it's creating bags under my eyes and highlighting redness in my skin tone. The image on the right is how I look when I turn on the two lamps placed in front of me, on either side of my video camera - more lively, my skin tone is evened out, no weird bags under my eyes, an overall improvement.
Essential: Camera Placement
The second essential to looking good on a video call is to place your camera above you, so you're looking up slightly. I have an external webcam mounted to my computer monitor, which elevates the angle. If you don't have an external webcam like that, you could set your laptop on a bunch of books (or, you know, a laptop stand if you're fancy). I stack my laptop on a bunch of cookbooks when I take calls from different areas of my house (sometimes, you need a change of scenery!).
Essential: Modify Your Makeup
A few simple tweaks to your regular makeup application can go a long way in ensuring you look like "you" on a video call. Video washes you out and softens your features, so focus on two things:
I think the new "home tour" is going to become "office tours" - I'm extremely interested in seeing everyone's new at-home office setup. How about you? Here's mine. I work out of an office/guest room at my house.
The two lamps on either side of my desk are what I rely on during video calls throughout the day. And you can see the camera mounted to the top of my monitor. And check out that incredibly empty April calendar!
I don't always want everyone to see that I'm working out of a bedroom. Especially when it looks like this behind me. (We're doing some spring cleaning in the guest room, today).
An easy - and incredibly affordable - solution I came up with was to mount an inexpensive vertical window shade from the ceiling. And when I say "I came up with," what I mean is that my parents came up with the idea. Thanks, parents! Here it is in action.
I know there are a lot of adjustments that come with working at home during this public health crisis, and how you look on video calls might not be at the top of your priority list.What are some of the pressing issues you're dealing with in making that transition? And if you're used to working at home, what are some of your best tips for doing it well?
March was a prolific reading month; it's evident how I'm coping with COVID-19. I can't recall any other period in my life when I've consumed 14 books in 4 weeks. (We'll see what April looks like!?) I definitely went for "comfort" selections, leaning heavy on two specific genres: romance and cozy mystery.
This month, I dove deep into the Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jaqueline Winspear and couldn't get enough of them. The research and writing are outstanding - the books are set in London, post World War I - and I really enjoy Maisie as a protagonist. She's smarter and more empathic than I'll ever be, that's for sure. The stories are multi-layered and so satisfying, but what I love most is that Maisie is such a dimensional character, with flaws and issues that fold into every mystery she solves in new and fulfilling ways. For example, Maisie struggles to balance a desire for companionship and the lifestyle society says she should want with maintaining agency as a woman with a career - relatable.
From the romance side, I really enjoyed Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. It took me a few tries to get into the novel, because I didn't click with one half of the romantic duo: First Son, Alex Claremont-Diaz. So glad I stuck with it, though, because I came to appreciate him more - and his depths were revealed - as the romantic foil to England's Prince Henry. Reading the book placed me right back into how it feels to discover new love - the highs, the lows, the vulnerability of giving your heart to someone and asking for theirs in return. (Sigh) The story was exactly what I needed - I laughed; I flipped pages, goofy grin on my face, heart melting as the relationship developed between the two men. The pace was excellent, the writing style smart and fun, without falling into the trap of being tedious and "too cool."
Of everything I read in March, there was only one selection that was not for me: In the Woods, by Tana French. I'll revisit French as an author sometime down the road, because I appreciated her writing style and ability to weave a complex story. But In the Woods was too dark, and offered too little resolution at the end for where I am in life right now. At this particular moment, I need massive doses of hope and happiness tied up in nice little bows by the time I get to the end of a book.
What I Read in March
Have you read anything from my March list? If so, what did you think? What's on your nightstand right now? And do you find that your reading preferences have shifted over the past few weeks, or are they unchanged? (So many questions!)
Here in Minnesota, all salons and spas closed temporarily beginning on March 18th, and I know a lot of us are all in the same boat: gray hairs grow more visible every day and no one is 100% sure when we'll get back into those salon chairs. Many people color their hair at home and are experts at it. But a lot of us do not and are not, and are getting twitchy as our roots grow out. Over the past week+, the single most frequently asked question I've received on Instagram is: Should I try to color my hair at home?
My answer is swift and serious: Absolutely not. If you're accustomed to getting your hair colored at a salon, now is not the time to panic-buy boxed hair color and attempt to channel your professional hair stylist. I've been there, I've done that (not recently - my stylist would kill me), and here's why I hope you won't:
If you really don't care what I think and were just hoping that I would support your decision to dye your hair at home - I get it. I do. If you're going to do it, I suggest you try a service like eSalon. Also, check out this article that's jam packed with good info about at-home hair color.
And if I have convinced you to wait those roots out? There are several temporary products you can use to hide those grays. I've repeatedly recommended L'Oreal Magic Root Cover Up spray because it's what I use. You spray it directly on grays and they are covered up until your next shampoo. I like it because it's easy to use and is available in a wide range of shades. I just picked up a new bottle at Walgreens for $10.99 (while I was there picking up a prescription - no special trips for something like this!). It's also widely available online. If a spray isn't your thing, you could try a powder, a balm stick - there are lots of options.
Here are a few things you can do to help your stylist while salons are closed:
I was scheduled to appear live in-studio on Twin Cities Live, but the TV station wisely made the decision to not allow guests in the building right now. So the TCL team and guests are getting creative to find ways to bring viewers fresh, fun, relevant content in a way that honors what we collectively are doing to flatten the Coronavirus curve with social distancing and self-isolation. Here's what we came up with!
I shot three short clips in my home, offering up my personal picks for a hand cream that will soothe dry, chapped hands after all the extra washing/sanitizing we're doing; an at-home hand mask that you probably did back in 6th grade but whatever, we're going for entertainment here; and an affordable, accessible bubble bath that has become part of my own daily self-care ritual.
I always try to offer up a "Behind the Scenes" perspective when I'm at the TCL studio, so I'll do the same in this case. This case being, my house.
This is a place to celebrate all the parts of yourself that come with age and experience. I'm here to share with you what I know and to explore with you the many (many) things I don't.