D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Category: D-L- Recommends

The Best of a Bad Year

Some say 2016 was the worst, but for others it was hard just like every year. For me, it was punctuated by the Big and Good (first book published, bought a house, read at Powell's) and also the Very Bad (none of which I can discuss in public, alas). Then, we have the whole freaking political situation plus every day life with small kids and jobs and bills and church and . . . you have a year that you survived. Here are some of the things that helped with that endeavor.

 

 

BOOKS

 

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Everybody read this book last year (and for good reason). A great (devastating) way to get inside the housing crisis. For me this book had a special impact in that I watched as neighbors of mine were forced to relocate over and over again. Christians need to get on a theology of safe and affordable housing, and soon! 

City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence

The title is a reference to the thorn fences that surround the world's largest refugee camp in Kenya. I have friends who have lived here, so I was very invested. Again, this is a relatively risk-free way to enter into the stories of some of the most marginalized people in the world. I highly encourage everyone to read it.

The Very Good Gospel: How everything wrong can be made right by Lisa Sharon Harper

I love this book and read it in a day (though it takes much longer for all the truth contained to sink in. Harper is a smart theologian but she also weaves in current events and life experiences which makes for a much richer text. Why couldn't I have read this in Bible college? It's deep and topical (#blacklivesmatter!) and Harper brought her communities with her as she wrote about Jesus being actual good news. I can (and do) see myself giving this book to a very wide spectrum of people.

Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I always Wanted by Shannan Martin

Caveat: Yes, Shannan is my friend. She is friends with lots of cool people :) But what makes her book so special is that it is a subversive work of practical and applied theology. What if living our best life now meant diving into chaos, disfunction, a lack of a savings account, and drawing a very wide and wobbly circle around who is in our family? Oh man this book is funny but will also cut you like a knife. Be warned!

 

Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soong-Chan Rah

Full disclosure: I am not all the way done with this one. But I already know it is one of my favorites. It is like the most intensely timely commentary on the book of Lamentations you will ever read. In one or two sentences Rah will upend so much of what I was taught in my childhood--and he does this over and over again. It's gorgeous and makes me feel like I recognize the God the world that Rah is talking about.

 

 

Fiction:

I'm not a huge fiction person but I read a few this year that I can't stop thinking about. These are like bonus picks for intense non-fiction me :) 

 

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

This book is about a missionary going to another world in order to convert the locals. Already relevant! Then it takes a harrowing turn as the main character communicates with his wife back on earth, where things are slowly falling apart. This book brought up so much for me to process. If you have read it, lets chat about it!

 

The Story of A Girl by Sara Zarr

Ah, the holy grail of YA that is actually grounded in non-middle class sensibilities and conflicts . . . I think I read this book in a day? Definitely some heavy themes (but hey, all the teenagers I know are all dealing with very grown-up problems) but the writing is wonderful and fast-paced and it is a really good portrait of living with quietly angry adults in your life and how to overcome. Bonus: this is being made into a movie this year!

No Parking At the End Times by Brian Bliss

This is another YA book with a fascinating plot: twins whose parents completely embraced an end-of-the-world cult. The twist is, we meet this family right after the world DOESN'T end. The tension in this book is real, and I could vividly sense what it was like to be in the main character's lives . . . well worth the read!

 

 

(Bonus bonus: kids books!)

The Story of Ruby Bridges.

 

 

 

PODCASTS

Here are some podcasts that I really dug this year:

 

Pass the mic

This podcast is from the Reformed African American Network. I am neither African American nor Reformed and yet this podcast has helped me so much! The hosts (Tyler Burns and JEmar Tisby) use much of my evangelical language but they infuse it with new belief. I love this. This is such a great way to learn from POC if you are in mostly-white spaces. 

Pop culture happy hour

Still my go-to for when I need to switch my brain off and listen to witty ramblings about pop culture. Love it.

Code switch

This is a fascinating podcast on all things related to race in America. I learn so much and have to wrestle through a lot while listening--which I enjoy!

Pray as you go

This is so awesome for people (like myself) who need some help being contemplative. Every day there are scripture readings, songs, and reflections. Some of my favorite memories from the past few months involve me wandering around my neighborhood in the early mornings, listening to pray as you go. 

 

 

TELEVISION

 

Brooklyn 99

Still my favorite comedy on TV. Fresh off the Boat was in second place but this season has felt rather heavy handed . . .

Mozart in the jungle

This show is weirdly delightful. There are a couple of storylines I could do without, but I think the characters are fascinating!

Man in the High Castle

Ok so I have not seen the second season yet. The conceit is--what if the Nazi's won? It is the only drama I really watched all year and I was totally on edge. Now I am wondering if it will all seem too applicable . . .

Super Store

This little comedy was a sleeper surprise--I think it tackles issues of class and religion in ways most television shows don't. Also as someone who worked in retail for many years I highly relate to it.

 

Bonus: Kids Shows!

For kids, I love Puffin Rock (Chris O' Dowd is the narrator!) and when my daughter is older I can't wait to watch Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street with her.

 

 

MOVIES

Honestly, I didn't love most of the (few) movies I watched this year. Here are the three I could come up with wholeheartedly recommending.

Song of the sea

Sing Street

Babettes feast

 

 

MUSIC:

I'm not a super big music person these days but here are my highlights:

Hamilton (duh)

Hamilton Mixtape (even better than I could have imagined)

Teenage Politics by MxPx (somedays you just want to be as self-absorbed and angsty as a teenager)

25  by Adele

 

 

FOOD ITEMS

Pho (and trying to make it myself)

Little Debbies Christmas Tree Cakes

Chili oil

Afghan-style bread by my neighbor, who is a baking genius. 

 

 

 

And there it is--my rather random list. What are some things that helped you survive this past year? I want to know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D.L. Recommends Vol. 6 (The Summer of Crazy Edition)

at least THIS one won't be leaving me for kindergarten any time soon . . .

at least THIS one won't be leaving me for kindergarten any time soon . . .

 

Wow, I don't think I have done one of the recommendation posts in forever, but it's about September so I best get on it. Life has been difficult. To be honest, I am in the whole isolating stage of mild depression and anxiety. That doesn't mean that there aren't wonderful things going on in my life, but it does mean that my mental health is still a bit precarious and I have a lot of new things to adjust to (2 kids, husband working long hours, book edits due, new loud and exciting apartment complex). But it is raining outside and my daughter is at her kindergarten orientation, so I thought it would be good to look back at a few of the things I have been into in the past few months. 

 

Le Croix

Are you guys on the sparkling water band-wagon? You should be. These little cans are so addicting it is scary, and have helped me through some mighty-humid summer days and nights. I recommend the lime, coconut, or grapefruit flavors, but if you live in a fancy part of town you might be able to find pineapple/strawberry! 

 

Bear Carver

OK stop what you are doing right now and listen to Bear Carver. This has been my jam this summer. It is gorgeous, haunting, and all the work of a dude I went to Bible College with. I think he left our school and went back to his home in the south to hang out with his family and get married and make this beautiful music and I just really appreciate that. I am not selling this well, but trust me. Trust me. Go listen to it here or buy it on itunes!

 

The Grantchester Mystery novels

Ok so you all know that I love the Grantchester show, but the novels are just as good. Some of the storylines are similar and some are completely new, and it actually deals with a lot more theology/thoughts about God and suffering and all that stuff. Just a completely lovely read for those that might suffer from mild anxiety and depression. 

 

The New Yorker

For 12 glorious weeks I received the New Yorker (plus, I got a tote!). If you can get past the anxiety of not being able to read each issue before the next one comes, you should sign up for one of their many subscription deals and cancel right before you have to pay the big bucks! You can read like a king and queen about all of the hilarious foibles and problems of the artistic uppercrust. It really is illuminating stuff. And those weird little drawings!

 

Ta-Nehisi Coates

He has a new book out and it is super poetic and has some very hard truths and I think you should read it and then we can discuss it. 

 

Running Even Though You Are Overweight

Who cares if you are slow and bounce around a lot more than everyone around you? Running is a great way to explore new neighborhoods, soak in some vitamin D, work out writing conundrums, and is a form of exercise that is available for everyone! It's so great for mental health, conventional-beauty-standards-in-fitness be damned!

 

Matt Kearney

I got super into Matt Kearney at the tail-end of my bedrest, so now I will always equate his newest album with the birth of my son. So I heart it, a lot. I normally do not care for this kind of slow pop, but it really did me good this summer. So go listen!

 

Baby Straight-Jackets

I mean, swaddles. They are amazing. 

 

Record Collections

I bought some of those big boxed collections of records from a thrift store--one that was "old country" (think Johnny Cash) and one that was "The Fabulous 40s". I just pick one, turn it on, and go about my day. It's like a mixed tape from decades ago, just for me!

 

Re-thinking the Ministry of Funfetti (only for a few days)

All this baby-having and almost-dying and moving across the country and staying in 4 different houses in one week alone led to some poor eating habits and to a seriously unhappy stomach. So for the past few days I have been doing that horrible no-sugar, no-carbs thing that everyone on Pinterest is always yammering about and I have to say: I do feel better (although coming off of sugar makes me meaner than a wildcat, as it turns out). I expect to go back to my normal eating habits soon, just try not to be so heavy on the refined stuff (I will save that for special occasions). 

 

Hiking

Good gracious, Oregon is glorious. I know I have turned into my mom because all I want for a personal day would be to hike alone in the quiet woods. 

 

Succulents

This is super weird, but one of the things I fixated on as we were waiting on confirmation for housing was that I wanted to fill my new-to-me-apartment with green plants. Succulents are obviously super cute and hip right now, but I manage to kill even those. I am trying it out again, however, and we will see how this goes. Air quality issues are always present in urban areas (more kids have asthma, etc) and a single aloe vera plant in a room works better than an air purifier. Isn't that wild?

 

Apartment Therapy (Small Spaces)

Another coping mechanism I had in the midst of selling-everything-and-moving-across-the-country was thinking about how I wanted to set up and decorate an 800sq ft space. The website Apartment Therapy has all of these awesome small apartment hacks, and I just loved looking at the design ideas and storage hacks. I highly recommend it. 

 

Coloring Books for Adults

Yes, this is totally something I was into before it became a sensation. So calming! except when I have to share my markers with my daughter.

 

 

Aaaand, that's it. Not a lot of new content for me. Survival mode means I have been re-watching Parks and Rec and Doctor Who, re-reading Harry Potter and the book of Isaiah, and just trying to keep us all alive, fed and clothed. As always, I would love to hear what you recommend!

 

 

D.L. Recommends Vol 5.

A list of things that I, D.L., humbly recommend.

 

 

The Overnighters

This documentary shattered me. It's about a pastor in small-town North Dakota who lets men (who are looking for work in the new and booming oil field) sleep on the floor. The tension between the "normal" parishioners and the men (called "the overnighters") is real, and raises questions of how hard it is to love ALL of our neighbors. It also got me ruminating on what it means to be in contact/relationship/ministry with the most broken of our world, the men that so many of us would just disappear off of the face of the earth. In the end, a secret about the pastor is revealed, and the film ends abruptly. But for me, the humanity showcased in the last 5 minutes didn't negate the rest of the film but rather infused it with meaning. After all, I believe in a God who uses broken people to love other broken people. Look for my review coming soon for Christ and Pop culture--and in the meantime, go watch it on Netflix.

 

Breakfast Cereal

Pregnancy craving number one, man. I have slowly weaned myself off of the Lucky Charms and try and be content with Honey Bunches of Oats and Barbara's chocolate and peanut butter puffins but man. Is there anything better than a bowl of sweet, crunchy goodness mixed with a splash of cold milk? I think not. Except if it is . . .

 

Ice Cold Lemonade

My other preggo craving. In -22 degree temperatures. Go figure. I will drink this until the heartburn becomes unbearable.

 

Anne Lamott

I feel a bit sheepish admitting this here, but give me Anne Lamott over Annie Dillard any day. Meaning: I know it is rather uncouth to love Ms. Lamott but I do. I have seen her speak in person and agree that her "schtick" can get rather old (and I am very sensitive as a woman author myself at being labelled as being "emotional" or "over-the-top"--two things I hear Anne called often). But over Christmas I found myself in a little beach town on the Oregon coast and wandered into a bookstore. I took her newest book "Stitches" off the shelf and sat down to read for a minute. The next thing I know, I am sobbing in the corner of a strange place, facing my own mortality, believing in a God who sees it all and loves me anyway. That was when I decided to come back to Anne, and I have been reading all of her recent essay collections. I highly recommend it. 

 

Agent Carter

Ok I am only sort of recommending this. The last episode I watched got terribly violent and I might have to quite this one! But for what it is worth, this is a superhero television show about a kick-ass woman. I like that it started off being much more about emotional/intellectual intrigue, and that the sexism of the time is a major plot point/twist. In fact, one of the reasons she is such a successful spy is because no one pays any attention to women. I also love the costumes of the time period (the 50s, I think). Time will have to tell if I keep this one on my list, however. 

 

Leslie Knope

Parks and Rec ended this past week and I am sad to see it go. Leslie was the best--so earnest, so unashamed--and the sweetness to be found in all of the surprising relationships (one of my all-time favorite things in the world) made this show great. My only (2) complaints: it focuses a bit too much on career-oriented drama, and Leslie as a mother was not fleshed out even one iota. Ah well, you can't have it all. 

 

Grantchester

Oh my word I love this show. It's a PBS Masterpiece Mystery series about an English vicar who solves murders. But actually it is way better than that! I love that this show actually does talk about God sometimes (when usually, vicars just mosey about and wear their collars blandly) and Sydney, the main guy, is a very complicated fellow who has complicated relationships with just about everyone--including God. All that to say, this show manages to be very pleasing and relaxing while still stirring up deep questions and feelings. Go watch it now!

 

Essay Collections or, the poor person's MFA

I have been thinking a bit about MFA's and how they so aren't a reality for me right now--but I have been very influenced by the work of people who have gone on to get this kind of specialized learning. So for all of us poor/busy/parental types, I have found the easiest temporary solution: in whatever genre you want to write, spend a lot of time reading excellent work in that category. Presto! For me, that has meant burrowing into both the Best American Non-Required Reading and the Best American Essay collections from 2014. I don't love everything, but I make a note about what stands out to me, and think about how I want to push myself forwards. 

 

Generosity

It's just so great. I just have so much to learn in this respect. I just receive so much from so many people in my life. My heart is full. 

 

Winning Something in a Raffle When You Are A Child

When I was young and living in Wyoming my dad took my sisters and I to a raffle that the local rotary club was sponsoring and we each got to get our name picked and go up on stage and choose a brand-new toy to take home. I remember being astonished at my good luck (I believe I chose a child's plastic camera). A few weeks ago the same thing happened to my daughter--we were at a community meal and she won a Jasmine doll (as is the norm in our community, the raffle numbers had to be rattled off in 3 different languages, so everything took much longer than it did in central Wyoming). I don't think she will ever forget it either. 

 

Woodland Hills Podcast

For those times when you just need a good sermon, look no further than Mr. Greg Boyd and his pals at Woodland Hills. We have snuck off to his church a time or two and always enjoy it immensely. 

 

Mennonite Potlucks

So much food. So many casseroles. These are my new favorites. 

 

Gang Pastors turned Writers

I have already written a bit about Wanted by Chris Hoke (and my review should be out in Books and Culture any day now) but I will say it again: read this delicious, well-written, heartbreaking (in the good and sad sense) book. Then, do what I did and go on a gang-pastor reading bender: Reading the Bible with the Damned by Bob Eckblad is a wonderfully practical theology of how to read the Bible with the oppressed (srsly, it should be required reading in Seminaries) and Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle is like reading your jolly grandfather's take on some very hard stuff. The joy and pain that suffuses these works will stay with me for a long, long time. 

 

Jesuits

They just seem so awesome. A little anti-establishment, a little prophetic, a little comedic--the perfect blend of humor and pathos. Also, it turns out my great-uncle was a Jesuit who lived a very extraordinary life (sadly, I never got to meet him, but my mother is currently researching his life and I can't wait for the details). 

 

Going to see plays before you are 50

We live in a theater town, or at least there are people in our city who sometimes go to the theater (supposedly it is second only to New York City). Some of these big prestigious places have programs to woo in the young, giving steep discounts. For valentines day the husband and I went to see a big 80s-tastic musical production of a Midsummer Night's Dream and it was so great. I think the rest of my life I will have a commitment to nosing out the cheapest seats at all the high art places. 

 

Danielson

I am having a bit of a renaissance love affair with the music of Daniel Smith (solidified after listening to a recent podcast, where he was so refreshingly casual about his faith--neither agonizing about it nor apologizing) and I was reminded of this most excellent article detailing what it actually means to be a Christian artist (from the Believer, circa 2005). 

 

 

Aaand, that's it for this volume. As always, feel free to tell me what you are recommending these days! 

 

 

 

 

D.L. Recommends vol. 4

   

Stuff that I, D.L., humbly recommend.

 

 

 

 

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MidWest Leaves

Now that we live in a house with a yard and trees we get to play in the leaves that fall off. I was so confused that it was so awesome and crunchy and wonderful and then i remembered what leaves are like in Portland--wet, sodden, clumpy hidey-holes for slugs. Not so awesome. So yeah, MidWest, you win the fall game. You still super lose at the winter game, however.

 

 

The Longest Shortest Time

Have I talked about this yet? This is like the best podcast ever for parents. Short, poignant, interesting--I love everything they do. It makes you feel both understood as a crazy person (aka parent) and really validates what a horrible, wonderful time it is.

 

 

Quitting

I really recommend quitting something if you just aren't feeling it. This month I tried to watch Gilmore Girls but I just wanted to murder everyone so badly so I stopped. I also quit halfway through the first Outlander book (oh my word it was not my cup of tea) and I basically have quit watching television. There is no shame in giving up and moving on to greener pastures.

 

 

Awesome Essay Collections that just happen to be written by Women

Two books I have read over the past few months (The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jameson and On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss) were both so stunning and so thoughtful that I can't stop thinking about them. I am also excited to read books by Roxane Gay and Amy Poehler (the jury is still out on what I think about Lena Dunham). I would love to see Christian publishing catch up on this trend of amazing essay collections.

 

 

Coconut Chai Granola

It is not hyperbolic AT ALL to say that this stuff is saving my life right now. This is the third batch I have made and I eat it nearly every morning with plain yogurt. So. Good. I adapted it from this recipe here.

 

 

Watching this Sara Miles video

 

http://view.vzaar.com/1634328/flashplayer

"Jesus didn't come to cure. He came to heal. And the way he does that is by healing into community" The most fabulous reminder of what it really is that we are after--the hard, difficult, long-term resurrections.

 

 

Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor

Kyle Minor has been a revelation to discover. His writing is so pointed and sharp and terrible. He comes from a fundamentalist Christian background and is not shy about working through the complications therein. His short-fiction reads as real as anything (you MUST read the stories in Praying Drunk in order, just as the author orders you to) but it ain't for the faint of heart. Even though it is written from a place of doubt, it spurred on many conversations between me and God.

 

 

Serial

Another podcast recommendation. Serial is a spin-off of This American Life and it follows one story for an entire season. It is addicting, and fascinating, and I never knew I could be so interested in true-crime radio drama. Trust me on this. You will be itching for the next episode soon.

 

 

While You Were Sleeping

I just re-watched this and it was confirmed: best movie ever made. I also can't watch it without texting my younger sister random quotes (our favorites: "Mary mashed them" "these mashed potatoes are so creamy" and "Ice capades--I know a guy").

 

 

Being An Aunt

I know I have recommended this before, but I have to say it again: being an aunt is so awesome.

 

 

Mr. Rogers

Both my daughter and I are besotted with how gentle, calm, and loving Mr. Rogers is. What a gift of a show (plus, that emphasis on neighborliness/affirming the value of children is right up my alley). St. Fred indeed.

 

 

Ethiopian Food

The first time I had Ethiopian food I hated it (true story). That weird, gray, sour bread (injera), the different lumps of unidentifiable stew--I wasn't feeling it. Ever since being here in the exotic MidWest, however, I can't stop craving it. I wish you could all come and eat in my neighborhood because you would walk away obsessed with this food as well. So flavorful, delicious, and addictive (plus, relatively healthy). The restaurants are great, but the best food (naturally) is always found in the homes and apartments of your friends.

 

 

Nate Allen

My friends Nate and Tessa are undefinable, but when pressed I would describe them as charismatic anarchist Christian punks. The last time they stopped by our place they prayed over me and it was like the best thing ever. They make amazing, theatrical music together as Destroy Nate Allen, but currently Nate is striking out to record a solo album that is a bit quieter and is deeply introspective and vulnerable. I love anything these people do and I am a backer of their current kickstarter. Go check it out (those mason jars!) and think about supporting it yourself. Plus, my husband is on the mixtape compilation that Nate is putting out!

 

 

Listening to Christmas Music as Early As You Would Like

Haters gonna hate. I am a Christmas Unicorn, after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that's all I got for this volume of D.L. Recommends. What have y'all been into lately????

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D.L. Recommends Vol. 3: The Summer In Retrospect Edition

First, a few things I don't recommend:

Cheap sparklers for four year olds. Getting the flu whilst being in Mexico. Flying with a toddler who has the flu. Reality television, of any kind. Going on Pinterest when your self-esteem is already a bit low. Underestimating the urban squirrels and how much they enjoy plums/corn on the cob. 

 

 

and here are some things I do:

 

 

Re-watching seasons 1-4 of the Office

Because re-watching Jim and Pam fall in love is so worth it. Anything past those seasons is quite meh. 

 

Robert Coles

Do you guys know Robert Coles? I learned about him first from Philip Yancey. This guy is a psychologist with the heart of a literary giant. I have been re-visiting his massive Children of Crisis series and it cemented in my all-time favorite books category (an excellent Christmas present for the voracious reader). His interviews with children in various degrees of poverty/marginalization in America will stun you. And even though it was written over 50 years ago, not much has changed. I don't know how someone can be so smart and write so beautifully about such sad things.

 

Dying Your Own Darn Hair

Ever since the ombre look came back into style, the frugal madam inside me has rejoiced. I go and buy a $2 box of bleach, slather it on the lower half of my hair and presto: I look OK. #cheapskateftw. 

 

What Alice Forgot

This book would be classified as my "summer romp". Quick, fast, interesting--not brain science here, great for summer--and some excellent reflections on relationships and how people change. 

 

Making a Dirt N' Worms Cake for your Daughter's 4th Birthday Party

All the kids will freak out in excitement.

 

Works of Love are Works of Peace

This book has beautiful images/words from Mother Theresa at her home with the sisters of Charity in Calcutta. It is the perfect (IMO) coffee table book: beautiful, disturbing, heartbreaking, hopeful. Pictures of people dying, and other people holding them while they do. Reminders that the world is ugly and terrible and we are just to do that one thing in front of us that we need to do. And if we aren't connected to people who are suffering, then that might be the place to start.

 

Meeting Writers You Admire IRL and Having Them Be Better Than You Imagined

I was at Collegeville for a week of hanging out with amazing writer/activist/practitioners and it was led by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. The first few days I was all like is this guy for real? And by the end of the week he was probably one of the best people I had ever met. His genuine listening ear and championing spirit will stay with me for a long, long time--and it makes me like his writing even more than I did. Do you know how rare this is? I am telling you: humility is a lost-art form, and one I dearly need to learn. JWH has it in spades. I am a huge fan. (If you are new to his work may I suggest starting here or here).  

 

Philomena

Favorite movie of the summer, hands down. I was not quite prepared emotionally and sobbed my ever-loving guts out. As I go through my own issues with growing my family this film spoke to me so much through the perspective of the birth parent. Also, the forgiveness scene is fantastic. Watch with tissues clutched tightly in hand (but be prepared to laugh at all the naughty words as well).

 

Whoopie Pies

They are so delicious. 

 

The Aeropress

My friend (and InnerCHANGE General Director) Darren Prince sent this to our family and boy howdy, is it amazing. Relatively inexpensive, this is the way to make coffee when you travel! Darren would be horrified to know that I add milk and home-made vanilla syrup to make the best iced lattes you can get in my neighborhood (srsly), but I ain't too proud to say it here. Also, you can check out this awesome instructional video by my favorite Irish theologian/internet friend Kevin (I won't even try to type his last name). 

 

The Chapter Book Stage of Life

We bought our daughter a few chapter books and it is so exciting I just want to squeal: Little House in the Big Woods, Paddington, The Ramona series . . . it is all still a bit over her head but my enthusiasm keeps her going. The costs are steep but my goodness the rewards of parenting.

 

Pickling Things You Grew in the Dirt

Stereotypical white girl urban gardner newbie recommendation alert. I grew a bunch of cucumbers and used my amazing sister's recipe to pickle them. I can't stop eating them. 

 

Reading Woody Guthrie Quotes

"I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling. ... I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work."

 

Watching the New Season of Doctor Who

Somehow my husband figured out how to get it to stream for us and now I am rising up and calling him blessed. I am totes into Peter Capaldi and his eyebrows being the new doctor. Begone, silly-scarfed one! Bring on the dramatic Scot with no ridiculous love situations!

 

Being Quiet

This has been a summer for being quiet in the midst of a loud world. We actually got this quiet book for my daughter and my husband was inspired to photoshop make some images just for me:

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(all original illustrations by Renata Liwska and for heaven's sake don't steal them or anything)

 

I recommend taking the time to do the inner work of thinking and working through what it is we all need to sort out. Doing the hard inner work of cleaning our houses, of ensuring that we aren't all just white-washed tombs bumbling about our world. I recommend going into this fall as people who know we are quietly beloved, and there isn't a thing we can do to change that.

 

 

 

So, what are some things from the summer that you would like to recommend? Hit me up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D.L. Recommends Vol. 3

  It's time. Time for another volume of completely arbitrary things that I, D.L, recommend.

 

 

from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

 

 

Moone Boy

Pretty sure I have recommended this before. But I am going to recommend it again. Because it is even better when you watch it a second time and you actually start to understand the Irish accents/slang/inside jokes. Go watch it! (You can find it on Hulu).

 

James Agee

The ultimate War Photographer. You guys, I can't even. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is bizarre and wonderful. In it, Agee goes to write about poor sharecroppers in the South and leaves a shaken man. It is lyrical and uneasy and so very worth reading. Now I want to read everything about this man who saw every human as being excruciatingly unique and worthy of honor.

 

The Empathy Exams

This book, by Leslie Jamison, is worth the hype (and it is what pointed me to James Agee). There were a couple of her essays where her self-consciousness was crippling, but I am all for anyone who is trying to feel it all. I read later that her mother is a pastor who works with the poor, and that influence to me could be felt rippling under the surface.

 

Planting Things in the Ground, Even though You Feel Skeptical

It really helps a tired soul find a few seeds of hope.

 

Looking at Pictures of Babies

Squee!

 

Lupe Fiasco

OK, OK I really only listen to one of his songs when I plod along on my jogs: The Show Goes On. What is better than a white girl sweatily running and singing about throwing her hands up in the air? A lot of things, actually. But this one consistently works for me.

 

Adult Bands Pretending to Be Kid Bands

Did you know this is a thing? It is. My friends are in an awesome band named Destroy Nate Allen and they do kick-butt shows for kids (Ramona loves them). And they introduced us to this band called Koo Koo Kangaroo which is basically like the Beastie Boys taking over Yo Gabba Gabba (complete with gold fanny packs). My husband is currently obsessed with their album which is all about cats.

 

Custard

Don't ever go back to plain vanilla ice cream. Don't.

 

Longform Podcast

I am loving this. It basically interviews an interesting long form journalist/writer/essayist and they talk about the craft. I have found some new favorites from this podcast (including Alice Gregory).

 

Fosterhood in NY.

The best, most honest, transparent, hopeful, exasperating, beautiful and tragic blog ever written on what it means to be a foster parent. I love how the author is SO committed to being in relationship with the birth parents and their extended families. I cannot stop reading this blog, and it is more gripping (and harrowing) than a novel.

 

Thunderstorms

Or, as I call them when I am pretending to be from Northern Ireland, "tunderstorms". Being a transplant to the MidWest, I find a lot of pleasure in the wilds of the storms that we get here in the spring.

 

Image Journal

I wanted to think that this literary journal was a bit snobby, a bit elitist, a teensy bit out of touch. But I consistently sit down and find myself carefully absorbing every word in the latest volume. I highly recommend supporting this endeavor, and I wish it wasn't such a rare unicorn of a journal.

 

Signing With a Literary Agent

It has been a long road to this point for me, and I can't say that it has been easy. But I did it. Here's to one more step on this adventure.

 

Applying for Crazy Things

I heard about the Collegeville Institute from a tweet; I applied for a summer workshop on a hope and a prayer. And now I get all-expenses paid week at a monastery where I get to hang out with awesome people like Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and have lots and lots of time to write. And be alone. Basically the dream of every poor writer. Take THAT, Donald Miller (or, as I like to call him: DonAHLD Miller). All the deadlines for this year have passed, but bookmark the site and apply for next year. You never know what will happen until you put yourself out there.

 

Taking Uncouth Selfies

Everyone should do it, or else you will get a big fat head.

 

dorkily excited about the article.

 

 

 

 

So that's it. I haven't watched anything great lately and I would love some recommendations there. Also, I need a few light reads for my summer. Hit me up, people!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D.L. Recommends vol. 2

D.L. Recommends vol. 2.  Here are some things I recommend:

 

 

 

Busting out the Easter Dress Early

I got Ramona an Easter dress at the thrift store that gets all of it's clothes donated from Target (I know. I found a way to work the system). Yesterday was nearly 60 degrees, so I had to let her wear it early. And go tromp around in the muddy rivers the snow was making. Because you are only 3 once.

 

Turning 30

It's really quite nice.

 

Reframing the words to excellent songs in order to make them Toddler Appropriate

I used to sing "Oh Yoko" to my daughter when she was a baby, but I changed "Yoko" to her name, and the chorus became "my love will lead you home". Tonight we danced around and sang it to each other. It was pretty great. Very Rushmore-esq.

 

Found

This is a book by Micha Boyett. I love the poetic-ness, and how she juxtaposes the mundane aspects of the stay-at-home life with the contemplative life of Benedictine monks. Since I am also a recovering savior complex, spend a lot of time with a certain 3 year old, and also yearn to pray more, this book was excellent. Slow, simple, and it made me realize how much space there already was for contemplation in my life.

 

Watching Cat Vines

Vine is very newfangled to me. But watching 6 second loops of cats being cute/ridiculous/funny is seriously soothing to my soul.

 

Eating Sugar Cereal

Having a bad week? Buy a $3 box of sugar cereal (preferably: Lucky Charms) and pour yourself a tall bowl. Aaaah.

 

Throwing Class Parties

As a teacher of adults, it really is my prerogative when it comes to throwing class parties. Sometimes the complexity of it overwhelms me: perhaps not everyone can afford to bring food, what if nobody shows up, how do we communicate (remember I teach level 0 pre-literacy). But I am leaning into this commitment to celebration thing we have going on in our order. This week we had a class party and it was so smashingly fantastic. I had SO much pasta and so many sambusas. East African food FTW!

 

Sambusa

If you have never had one, you are missing out. Like the Indian Samosa, but filled with ground beef and onions and occasionally peppers. The best East African snack/street food EVER.

 

Brooklyn 99

Oh my gosh this is our new favorite show. So funny, the characters are so endearing, Andy Samberg and his big goofy smile just win you over. It is not a cop show at all. It is a show about a bunch of dorky people doing what they love. This show makes me sad for other shows.

 

Applying/Pitching for Scary Things

Grants. Week-long retreats. An article at a place you have never written. For me and my writing, if I don't push myself, I tend not to produce. And for every 99 rejections, there seems to be 1 acceptance! Yay!

 

Reading YA during Spring Break

I am officially on spring break. While I have a few deadlines to make (plus, I crammed in a ton of socializing time in like I do), I am determined to make it somewhat feel like a reprieve. Enter the Young Adult literature.. I have gotten all of John Green and Rainbow Rowell's entire oeuvre's on hold for me at the library. Remember when life was simple but felt really complicated? When you fell in love with the first boy you kissed? When you were s emotional and sure that nobody felt like you, until the one day you realized how beautiful the world was and everyone in it? Yeah, that's like my norm. So YA just feels right.

 

Listening to Built to Spill While the Snow Thaws

It just feels right.

 

Americanah

You will be hearing more about this book from me at some point in the near future. Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie writes in a way that is lulling and piercing. Her descriptions of immigrant life in America resonated so deeply with me I was almost embarrassed. Her words on racism in America have not left my mind. It's not ok, the author is telling us, over and over again. Cruelty is never ok. You don't get to gloss over that fact, ever.

 

Figuring out your Rule of Life

Pope John Paul the II had one. So did MLK.  So do all the Benedictine  monks. Basically, pick a few spiritual disciplines and incorporate them into your life.  I personally like to crib from Dorothy Day (a personal hero of mine): find the face of Christ in the poor every day, and journal journal journal.

 

Ditching Netflix/Hulu plus for Amazon prime

Guys. Amazon Prime is amazing. Quit your Netflix and your Hulu and instead get free 2 day shipping and access to shows like Veronica MarsPushing DaisiesZach Stone is Gonna Be Famous, and the Pride and Prejudice that has Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Yes. If you divide the cost of Prime over 12 months, it's like $6 a month or something. Caveat: Amazon is also not the best thing ever. Support local and all that. Make your own instead of consumption. Yeah. But I have ordered a few killer Doctor Who mugs and some organic fair trade coffee at some sweet deals. Just don't go all crazy!

 

Read Genesis Again

I am in a Bible study with a neighbor and we are going through the Women of the Bible--starting in Genesis. Pretty bleak stuff, ammiright? Except there are so many stories of God hearing/seeing the oppressed. The stories of the Hagars, the Leahs. They just make me want to cry. I am also left with the unshakeable belief that God uses the most crazy miserable mess-ups to bring about his kingdom. I don't get it at all, but it makes me feel a bit more hopeful about myself.

 

About Time

This movie came out last year and went under my radar. It is delightful--time travel, stiff upper lip British people, Bill Nighy!, that guy who played Bill Weasely . . . don't be freaked out by the fact that there is a soft-focus Rachel McAdams on the cover. This is not the Notebook. It is very sweet and poignant and witty and just a really great movie (by the same people who brought you Love Actually). There is a phrase on love and death that will never leave me mind. But I won't tell you. You will have to watch it for yourself.

 

 

 

So that's what I am recommending these days. Hit me up with whatever you have got!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D.L. Recommends

It's no secret that I am a huge McSweeney's fan (and have been for over a decade). I really like how every so often the editors of the website just add to a list of things that they recommend. It's how I discovered Kishi Bashi and The Fault in Our Stars, and how to correctly eat a cupcake. So here, in no particular order, are a few things that I recommend.  

 

 

 

 

Juanita's Tortilla Chips

You can only get these chips in the northwest, and I crave them often. Greasy, salty, and oh-so-crispy. Like eating deep-fried dreams.

Going to Disneyland without your Toddler

Trust me. You will watch everyone else trying to placate their over-tired, overwhelmed 3 year old, standing hours in line in order to meet some princess/fairy/anthropomorphic mouse, and you will pity those who spent $70 for one long tantrum. You will leave your child with her ecstatic grandparents, drink a mint julep, ride space mountain as many times as you want, and have an altogether magical day. You will expect to feel guilty, and you will not.

Being an Aunt

It is the best.

100% Wool Socks

The only thing that will get you successfully through a polar vortex. If you live in the MidWest, I suggest you put these on in September and not take them off until May. (PS: somebody gave us a giant BAG of these this week and I literally cried. Wool socks are like gold).

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

This movie will make you feel rested, and hopeful, and like you might want to go out and buy a fisherman's sweater and go longboard around Iceland. Which means it was a really good movie.

Revisiting Music That you Listened To In Your Youth, and Discovering that Some of It Still Holds Up Well.

I just remembered that the Appleseed Cast existed. I went back and listened to their albums (specifically Peregrine) and it is just as amazing as I remember. I love it when that happens.

Taking a Twitter Break

After a couple of days away, you might start to giggle at how much emotional energy you were investing in the arguments of strangers on social media.

Vanilla Bean Macchiatos

The Coffee Bean Tea and Leaf makes these. It tastes like vanilla beans, espresso, and cream. It is so good I wish I had never tried it. Because now I want it all the time.

Throwing Awkward Parties

The wider your social circle, the more awkward the gatherings. Make it the the opposite of Kinfolk, very un-photographable, no alcohol or fancy food, stretching for commonalities, committing to the uncomfortableness for the sake of community. If everyone is getting along too well, that means you didn't invite enough people.

Reading your own Library

Leah Kramer has this brilliant challenge, and I might just take her up on it.

Heather King

I'm going to be honest. Blogs have lost their sheen for me. I rarely read any besides those of close friends/family (and The Millions, naturally). But the one blog I find myself vigorously nodding my head along to belongs to Heather King. A catholic writer, King has written several books, contributes to NPR, and has a column on forgotten saints. I just love her. Everything is about Christ, but in language that is fresh and very very old. Also, I have always had a thing for sober alcoholics.

Rereading Bossypants on an Airplane

You will laugh so hard you will snort. People will be concerned. It will not matter, because you are in Tina Fey's world, and that world is amazing, and filled with lumpy, hard-working, smart and creative people.

Voxer

Voxer is an app that enables you to leave voice text-messages, walkie-talkie style. I am notoriously bad at communication, but this one has stuck with me. People leave me messages, which I can listen to at my leisure.  At the end of the day, when I am washing dishes, it's like a have a little podcast of all my friends to listen to. I have a writer's groups and Voxer has taken us to the next level. We discuss books, the writing process, what's going on in our lives--it's like the cheapest form of therapy I have found.

Eating Snack Foods on Super Bowl Sunday Whilst Actively Not Watching Football

All the dip without any nonsensical "sports" or "Bruno Mars".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that's it for now. What are your recommendations?

 

 

 

 

 

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