This summer is a strange one, right? (This is a beyond-bizarre year, so why wouldn’t the summer be weird, too?) Well, this idea is really simple, smart, and specific for this particular summer, in the year of our Lord 2020.
Two-Week Summer | 35
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This is The Good List — I’m Tsh Oxenreider.
This is an idea.
First off, I’m SO grateful for all the kind messages you’ve sent me about last week’s Good List episode, called Be the Bridge, where I shared a conversation with my local friend, Alecia. I’m so glad it resonated with so many of you! Please take a few minutes to listen in, as part of your ongoing anti-racism education… I’m so thankful for wise women like Alecia in my life. The work of dismantling our culture’s long-held white supremacy is a marathon, not a sprint, so join me in doing this work for the long-haul.
I remember a certain set of summers when I was a kid, I wanna say around ages 10-14. Both my parents worked outside the house, and this was in central Texas, so my childhood summers were HOT. As in, too hot to do anything but swim in the neighborhood pool or sit inside the house. Of course, that didn’t stop me from wandering around the neighborhood, going to the dollar theater on my bike, spending my precious-earned dollars on tacky jewelry and nail polish at the local drugstore, and flipping the channels between The Facts of Life and Growing Pains. And because these were the summers before I had a license, a car, or a job, I was on my own to get to all these local places. My range of motion was pretty small. It’s a tough age, because you want to be out more because of your slowly-expanding social life, yet you just can’t, because you don’t have a way to get around. In other words… I was bored. Really bored. I felt like there was nothing to do.
And yet, somehow, 30 years later, I managed to survive all my vanilla suburban summers. They were all fine. I hung out at home a ton, waited for my parents to get home, and I did it all without a smartphone, YouTube, or Netflix. And I bet you did, too.
I’m saying all this to remind those of us with kids starting their summer breaks, and who are maybe sharing that maybe ….they’re a bit bored. They’ve been home for months now, and with everything up in the air, it’s hard to know whether you can travel, or plan anything, really.
This summer is a strange one, right? I mean, 2020 is a beyond-bizarre year, so why wouldn’t the summer be weird? For most of us, it’s hard to know how to approach the next few months that are wide open in front of us.
I’m right there with you. (In fact, I think all 3 of us my kids have told me today that they’re bored.) So this is why I’m taking to heart a bit of wisdom a friend casually told me not too long ago, something that one of her friends told her. I thought it was really simple, and really smart, and really specific to this particular summer, in the year of our Lord 2020.
Here it is: think of your summer in two-week increments. That’s it. When you think about what you’d like to accomplish, or do, or enjoy this summer, only think about the next 14 days. Because who among us knows anything beyond that anyway? (I mean, we don’t even know what this weekend will be like, but two weeks at least feels somewhat plannable, at least compared to a whole month, and definitely the entire summer.) Basically, it’s okay if you’re unable to answer your kids whether you’re going to visit the grandparents next month, because that’s more than two weeks away. You don’t know whether you can go camping later in the summer, because that’s more than two weeks away. You’re not sure whether eventually the pools, movie theaters, and indoor play places will be open this summer — you’re not a soothsayer.
But you could honestly answer that it doesn’t seem like they’ll be open sometime in the next two weeks, so hey, let’s plan something else: let’s build a treehouse in the backyard, or get an inflatable pool, or start a Marvel movie marathon, or host a book club in your front yard with three other people and sit six feet apart. Or whatever you’re able to do with the regulations in your local community. You can handle thinking about the next two weeks, because that’s all you can handle right now. And hey, something might very well change within those two weeks, and that’s okay, because you haven’t planned more than two weeks in advance.
Trust me, I’m not saying this because it’s easy. I want to know if we can travel later this summer. I want to book things, plan things, schedule things. But I know I’ll be more frustrated and disappointed (and my kids will be too) if I cross my fingers and hope those plans will work in two months’ time, and then it turns out that we have to cancel them again — rather than making partial-solution plans just for the next two weeks. That feels doable. Not much else does.
So… that’s what we’re doing around here. This weekend we’re going away just a few hours away from home to celebrate our youngest’s 10th birthday, the first time in MONTHS we’ve gone anywhere. We’re tending our backyard garden like never before, and are thinking through harvesting in the next two weeks. We’re doing a lot of baking and are bookmarking recipes to try. Kids are taking a lot of Masterclass courses. I’m thinking about what books I’d like to read by the end of June. Kyle and I are planning a date next week, where we’ll go to an open restaurant with just a few tables and hopefully sit outside on their back deck.
And …that’s it. It’s not the summer we wanted. I was going to host Literary London again. We were going to travel overseas as a family. But we’re not. Oh well, right?
So, if you’re feeling frustrated by not being able to predict the future this summer, perhaps embrace only the next two weeks. And then the next two weeks. And then the next two weeks. Rinse and repeat. Because I’m more and more convinced this is the sanest way for me to approach this summer. There’s lots I’m thankful for, and there’s good ways to have a perfectly fine summer this 2020, even if it’s not exactly how I thought it would go. Right now, I’m looking forward to the next two weeks.
Tsh: Well, hello, Emily.
Emily: Hi, Tsh.
Tsh: What do you have for us right now?
Emily: I have a TV show that I’ve been obsessed with for a while. It’s not new, but it’s a show called Chef’s Table on Netflix. Have you watched it?
Tsh: I have seen it on my, we think you would like this, but I’ve not watched it.
Emily: Oh, Tsh. It’s so good. I have three favorite episodes. You want me to tell you what they are?
Tsh: Please do.
Emily: Okay. One is in Volume Six it’s Mashama Bailey. She’s a chef. Basically what it does is each episode features a different chef in the restaurant and their expertise and their brilliance. It’s not just if you like cooking you’ll like the show, it’s also the way they tell the story of the chef and of their life and of how they came to be doing the work that they’re doing. And sometimes it’s because they grew up when their grandmother owned a restaurant and usually it’s not that usually it’s like I was a tax collector and then I realized I loved making cookies. None of them are tax collectors, but that’s the example. Usually they came about it and finally recognizing this love or this gift that they had. One episode is in volume six, like I said, Mashama Bailey. She co-owns a restaurant in Savannah that used to be a former segregated bus station. Now it’s a restaurant called The Grey and it is so fascinating. Her roots and the whole story of it, it’s so lovely. That’s one.
The second episode I recommend is in Volume One, the one with Dan Barber, he’s the owner of Blue Hill, which is a restaurant in New York. His story is like, he kind of didn’t know what he was doing and then a critic came to the restaurant one night and spoke out what he was doing as if it was on purpose. And Dan was like, well, I guess that’s what we’re doing. I think so many times when we learn from artists or people doing something cool that, for example, they would make a show about, like a chef. We think it’s because people, like I am five years old and I’m going to plan to do this for the rest of my life. It’s rarely how success really comes about. It’s usually pretty serendipitous.
The third episode that’s super fun is Christina Tosi in Volume Four. She is the owner of the bakery Milk Bar in Brooklyn.
Tsh: Yes. I’ve heard of that one.
Emily: You’ve heard of that one? I’ve never been there. I think there’s actually several of those all over, but I think it started in Brooklyn and she basically asked herself the question, what could I do every day for the rest of my life? Her answer was, make cookies. And so that’s what she did. But I just think that overall the show, Chef’s Table, it just combines nostalgia and food with creativity and genius and entrepreneurship and beauty. I feel like all of these chefs elevate really familiar things like ingredients, but then they elevate them to something artistic. It’s lovely.
Tsh: I can see why I would like that because one of my favorite things on earth is watching people be really good at what they do, if that makes sense. Even if I have no concept of what it is they’re doing, I love watching people do their thing really well and it sounds like that on display.
Emily: Me too. Totally, that will definitely fit the bill.
Tsh: Is this kid friendly?
Emily: Oh yeah. Now I will say certain episodes, the chefs, have more, how shall we say, colorful language? Then other episodes are rated G. I bet it would say, I haven’t looked, but it depends on the chef, really.
Tsh: Sure. I’m good with that. I just know some people are probably wondering, is this a show I could put on for my 10 year old or whatever, or watch with them.
Emily: Yeah, I think it definitely could be.
Tsh: Okay. That’s good. I have some kids who are super into documentaries and super into low stress documentaries, you know what I mean? The ones that just are watching people or nature do things and it sounds like that. Is that true? Is it just really chill?
Emily: It’s really chill. It’s lovely music. It’s a slow pace in certain parts and it’s almost like the show is a documentary, but it’s telling the story in a really beautiful way and watching it, I just find myself mesmerized and not thinking about anything else, which is, what else is TV good for if it’s not good for that?
Tsh: Yeah. 100%. I think we all feel that need on a regular basis, maybe more now than ever in our very uncertain times to watch I think both low stress stuff, but also beautiful things to remember that there is lovely stuff out there, even if we can’t physically be there.
Emily: Absolutely. I will say it also has inspired me to be a little more creative in my own kitchen, which is not always the case when I watch food shows on TV, but that’s the power of Chef’s Table. It’s it’s influencing my kitchen life.
Tsh: That’s actually interesting to me because I’m with you, most of those cooking shows, I watch just more for eye candy, like, wow, look at what you can do and what I super cannot do or don’t want to do. That’s interesting.
Tsh: Very cool. Awesome. I’m going to obey Netflix then and believe that they think I will like it.
Emily: I think you will.
A big thanks to my friend Emily for chatting with me about what’s on her Good List these days — you can follow her and her work on Instagram and Twitter at @emilypfreeman. I’m on twitter @tsh and sometimes on IG @tshoxenreider, and you can also find a transcript and the show notes of this episode, #35, and all episodes, at thegoodlistshow.com. That’s also where you can find stuff like my newsletter, books, workshop, and more.
A little reminder as well that you can pay whatever you want for my new 4-part audio workshop called Create Your Rule of Life. This summer might very well be the just-right time for you to work through that. It’s been so life-giving for me, so maybe it will be for you too, especially during these wild, unplannable times.
Music for the show is by Kevin MacLeod, and thanks, as always, to Caroline TeSelle and Kyle Oxenreider for their help, as well as my furry intern, Ginny. I’m Tsh Oxenreider, and I’ll be back with you soon — thanks for listening to The Good List.