Sunday Sessions

Sunday Sessions #16

Good morning, friends. Fall is here in DC in force and I’m reluctantly swapping out shorts for sweaters. David is still deployed for work, so I’ve been enjoying all of my most indulgent Secret Single Behaviors (SSB). Pride and Prejudice is on repeat. I go to movies alone, I do grocery shopping at 8 PM on Saturday, and I Marie Kondo the heck out of every inch of our apartment. There is not a single item in our apartment that I have not touched at some point in the last two weeks and it is thrilling.

But, I also miss my partner. When he left, it was still fully summer and now the leaves across the street are beginning to change colors. He’ll be back in a few weeks and I’ll fill him in on all the things that happened between the text messages.

 

The New York Times had some excellent stories this week, including this look at the evolution of women in stock photography, and this piece on what the rich won’t tell you about about their money. In a most delicious and meticulous series of eliminations, The Upshot helped Amazon find the location for its new HQ.

Two years later and I’m still vibing with this kid.

After silent screaming at the office all week, I would also like this tattooed on my forehead.

I’m working my way through TIME‘s Firsts series and am just enthralled with so many powerful, intelligent, charismatic women.

This comes out every fall. I then spend the better part of the next year working my way through the list. I’ve never regretted it and neither will you.

Statues are not the only monuments we’ve built to the Confederacy, so what are we doing about all the others?

A few weeks ago I made this audio thing, but every week I edit this audio thing too. Get it in your inbox.

Speaking of audio, why aren’t there more women in the field?

This dude’s use of his five minutes of Twitter fame.

I’ve had a lot of time on the road lately, and it has allowed me to catch up on back episodes of Fresh Air. For 40 years, Terry Gross has deftly interviewed some of the biggest names of our time, and in every episode she manages to make them forget they’re having anything more than a conversation. I enjoyed this recent episode with Billy Eichner, but my all-time favorite remains this call with Maurice Sendak.

There was pie this week and even I have to admit it was crazy good.

I put this further down the list today because, frankly, it’s horrifying to read. This weather is no joke. Look out for yourself and each other.

A reminder than you can always do more than you think you can.

“To have been loved once by someone – surely there is a permanent good in that.”

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Pies

Pie #7: Chocolate Cheesecake

Vive le Pie

Chocolate Cheesecake from The New York Times

Baking Notes

It was Labor Day and David was still on work travel. I had spent the last two days cleaning the apartment and clearing the cabinets of items that had gone untouched in a season. Enter two lingering odd-fellows: Williams-Sonoma Hot Chocolate and leftover graham crackers. Besides s’mores, graham crackers signal cheesecake. A quick search and I landed on this version from the New York Times.

This recipe is so, so, simple to prepare, and while it baked for an hour and a half, I went to go meet with a potential trainer and nutritionist about my fall workout plan (karma for all the pies). The only thing keeping this pie from perfection were the unmixed bits of white cream cheese from the bottom of the mixing bowl, which made for an interesting discovery upon cutting into the chocolatey center.

Tasting Notes

Holy wow. This cheesecake is rich and decadent and delightful. I took it into work after sampling a slice myself and had people stopping by my desk for two full days to rave about the creamy texture. The surprising question I received multiple times? “You clearly didn’t use Hershey’s. So exactly what kind of chocolate is in there?”

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Sunday Sessions

Sunday Sessions: End of Summer Edition

 

Blue Bottle Cappuccino

I know it’s been a minute since the last Sunday Session—and this isn’t even Sunday—but I’ve kept all of these links around just so I could share them with you. I’ll be back next week with a more considerate post, but for now…

Read

I wish for a world where we never have to have The Talk.

Meet the women inmates who fight alongside civilian firefighters.

Enjoy this moving piece of fiction. Then read this far less serious—but more accurate—piece of fiction.

Women only co-working spaces are becoming a thing, and I can’t even lie: I am so here for it.

Lately I’m finding inspiration in what others find inspiring.

Read this article.

Is this friendship in the digital age?

All of you with progeny, I beg of you this one thing: teach girls how to fix things.

Longer Reads

I finished the 800-page A Little Life, and now I’m on to Theft by Finding and Queen of the Tearling. After that, I’m tapping into my incredibly well-read friend Sameer’s lists for new books to read this fall.

To Watch and Listen

I listened to any number of podcasts this week, but haven’t been able to get the hauntingly honest Meat out of my head.

Take This Waltz is on Netflix. It remains one of my favorite indies.

It took awhile to grow on me, but I’m loving Issa Rae’s Insecure.

None of us will ever be as beautiful as 45-year old Jane Fonda in this movie. Sorry.

Eat

So…I made some pies this summer.

I’m all about those cheap eats.

Currently cooling in my fridge.

 

And finally, happy birthday to this person, who is actually, in fact, a most epic dancer. 

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Pies

Pie #6: Peach Pie

Peach Pie

Peach Pie, inspired by Joy the Baker, Bon Appetit, and Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Baking Notes

I have a bad habit of not really looking closely at recipes before I decide to make them. On Sunday at the farmer’s market, I grabbed 6 shapely peaches (which, fuck me, cost $17) and decided to make them into a pie. Once I looked at the recipe it turned out I only needed 3 of those peaches for a single pie, but I will never say no to more pie, and so I made double the filling. I decided to more closely follow the basic crust recipe in Four & Twenty Blackbirds this time around. The result was a drier dough that rolled out more easily without all the cracks I had been experiencing before.

But then I went off script: I decided to pre-bake the bottom crust out of fear that the liquid of the peaches would produce a soggy bottom. I used a glass pie plate again, and quickly found my pre-baked pie crust had again lost about half its size. I added the peaches to the now pre-baked crust, then completed my first lattice for the top crust. I am shocked by how incredibly easy it was (and how sorry I am that I let the lattice scare me from making pie for so long). The first pie (above) turned out beautifully, but was a little over-buttery due to the shrinkage.

Never fear—I still had enough peach filling left for a second pie. This time I did some sleuthing and discovered that a glass pie plate was more likely to cause the shrinkage, so I switched to a dark, non-stick pan instead.

I should note that at the time of the first pie, my in-laws surprised us with a short-notice two-day visit, and on a school night! When my in-laws are staying in our tiny apartment, it helps to stay busy. Preparing this pie and crust kept me occupied for a whole evening! Spend my Monday night boiling and peeling peaches? No problem.

Tasting Notes

After everyone left the next day, I sat on the sofa, pie pan on my lap, and ate a quarter of this pie in one sitting. In fairness, it was a rainy August day that felt a lot like fall, and I was in mourning. The perfection of this simple peach pie can not be overstated. Tart and smooth, it is quintessential summer.

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21st Century Woman

This is 33.

I’ve had a lot of great birthdays, but this was not one of them. A few weeks into 32, I could feel a drip, drip of dread for 33. I’ve taken birthdays as they’ve come, never giving in too much to the weight carried by certain ages and milestones, yet, somehow, the idea of 33 felt uncomfortable to me.

I remember 23 so starkly because it felt like the beginning of everything. I had just finished graduate school and had moved to the city that would become my home for the next decade. That birthday would relaunch the friendship that would eventually become a marriage. I lived in the same neighborhood as my best friend, and I started a job that made me realize it was possible to be a do-gooder and get paid for it.

In those 10 years, I’ve done a lot of things I’m proud of, and experienced more adventures than I ever thought possible. I’ve gotten to watch my friends grow and change, and pursue their dreams, and have families, and find confidence in their contributions. And best of all, I wake up every day beside the smartest person I know.

Which makes it hard to pinpoint exactly why 33 is so unsettling.

This weekend we had planned to getaway to Asheville and I hoped it would be a welcome distraction from my discomfort. Instead, Hurricane Harvey happened, and David volunteered to go assist. The weekend was cut short, and I suddenly found myself with a 10-hour drive back home, alone with my thoughts.

I filled the first few hours with podcasts and music (the rental car radio seemed to only broadcast Christian evangelists) and a steady meditation of the changing landscape, but deep into my trip I started to lose focus. About 2 hours from home—a part of the trip I know well—I found that I was more than 30 miles past a critical turn. I suddenly felt disoriented, and realized I had been traveling in a fog for the past hour. How had I missed this turn? Where was I now?

With full darkness upon me, and nary a cellphone signal in my now rural surroundings, I tried to quell the rising panic. I turned off the radio and I focused on the road ahead, searching for a literal sign. In the quiet, I could no longer ignore my internal unease.

What’s next? What’s next? What’s next? I pondered.

I had spent my whole life working towards a future I had already achieved, then I had gone on autopilot. I had stopped learning new things. I had stopped thinking ten steps ahead. I yearned for nothing because my yearning had been fulfilled. It suddenly felt as if my dreams had been too small.

I started thinking about all the things that lived far beyond the life I had imagined for myself (things too big and audacious to name) and wondered if it would be possible to reset the finish line. What would that look like? Was I ready for the inevitable steps backwards and sideways? The hurt of rejection? The hours and sweat it would require?

I wondered.

A few minutes later, I regained the scantest signal and a text message from my friend arrived eager to know if I had found my way back to the main road yet. A sign for my missed turn came into view, and I made a left towards home.

This morning I woke up to feelings that are still complicated, but somehow also attached to purpose.

So, what happens next?

To be honest, I’m not sure. And for that, I’m glad.

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21st Century Woman

Checking In

Hey Friend,

Just checking in on you.

You doing okay?

It’s been a tough week. You probably feel enraged, shocked, totally unsure about what to do next. You were probably thinking about how shitty work is and then suddenly the whole world is one big garbage pile and the world is mess. You can’t believe people lack basic empathy, basic decency, basic human fucking kindness, but here we are.

I know, I know, me too.

But we persist, because we must and because we can.

Mind if I share a few thoughts on where we go from here? Okay. Deep breath.

1.
Take care of you.
We need you in shipshape. Take a bath. See your therapist. Go ahead and have the fucking cookie. Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling.

2.
Take care of others.
There are probably a lot of people you know feeling this way too. Reach out. Offer a hug or just an ear (because sometimes people don’t like hugs). If they want to get angry, get angry with them. Make a plan.

3.
Take care of business.
Yeah, I know it’s a lot easier to sit behind your keyboard, but that’s not enough, friend. Once you’ve done the other two things, make a donation. Call up your Representatives if you’re lucky enough to have them. Attend a rally or other peaceful demonstration. Show up. Oh and while you’re at it—call out racism when you see it. Misogyny* and xenophobia too. Be brave. You can do this.

Okay, so that’s all I’ve got for now. I just wanted you to know that you’re on my mind. That I’m looking out for you. That I’m here if you need to talk.

Here is a picture of Barack Obama and his beautiful family. And also one of Idris Elba. You’re welcome.

Love,

Ashley

PS: This week I was in New York. I was walking in front of Penn Station and I watched not one, not two, but three different men leer at a young Muslim woman of 23, 24, dressed in a head scarf and long sleeves. She kept her head down and her body physically bent to avoid their gaze and their hot breath as she walked past them. One was homeless, one was a construction worker, one was a business man. It was a veritable Village People of leering. I didn’t say anything to them, but I should have, and now I have to carry that in-action with me.

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21st Century Woman

Imposter Syndrome

Helping Hand


Image via Giphy

1.

Today, imposter syndrome left me feeling paralyzed.

A woman friend I like and admire had made an introduction for me.

And after I thanked her, I sat at my desk feeling totally paralyzed by the implications:

Someone else had put their good name on the line for me.

What if it was revealed that I was imperfect?

What if I reflected badly on them?

Should I ask them to withdraw their support?

I realize—now more than ever—the extra energy it takes to get ahead as a woman. All I could do was imagine was that their trust in me was a misstep that would bring my friend spiraling back down.

2.

I’ve been very fortunate to be buoyed many times in my career by other women.

Women who helped me get my foot in the door for a job, offered practical advice about a professional decision, or sometimes just perspective.

It is no small thing when women unlock the secrets of success for one another.

Once, during an annual review, my boss asked me where I sat on a scale of one to four, and I suggested a three. She looked at me silently for a moment and pointedly told me to write four.

The four would net me my first serious raise.

Another openly shared her salary with me, helping me negotiate for her position after she left. It’s a practice I’ve followed for the women behind me ever since.

The greatest gift we women can give to each other is to celebrate and champion our successes, and make them remarkable.

3.

It takes a certain kind of woman to turn away from her fellow women, but I’ve seen plenty of those too. Women who crawl on the backs of other women to get ahead. Women who sabotage and scheme. Women who strive to get into the boy’s club and then shut the door firmly behind them.

You are not welcome here.

 

4.

A few weeks ago we hired a young contractor to join our team. At 25, she’s bright and talented. She does thoughtful work, but when she completes her day, she exits the office to rejoin her life. She doesn’t read my emails late into the night, she goes to concerts with her friends. It’s an enviable position, and a good reminder to reset my own priorities.

She came to me this morning to tell me she’s leaving her contractor role for a new permanent position. I’m happy for her, she’ll be an asset to the team she joins.

She thanks me for my mentorship, for my edits. She thinks it’s made her a stronger writer. She tells me that she hopes someday in the future she can work for me again.

I tell her that I will always be there to open a door for her where I can. I will always put in a good word.

And so it goes.

5.

I worked all day to calm that inner voice. I re-read my resume. I power posed in front of the mirror. I listened to Justin Bieber on repeat. I flexed my new independent audio producer cred. I wrote something and had it accepted to a favorite publication.

And then I sat down to write a letter to a young woman, to remind her—when she needs it—that she is talented. and capable, and more than enough.

More than Enough

Image via Giphy

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