Friday Favorites

Labor Day Weekend always feels like the last "do whatever you want" celebration of summer. That being said, I hope you do just that (assuming it is fun and safe and legal), and here is a bunch of great things to read during your downtime. 1. Feeding the Kiddie

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Kicks Off Summer Tour

I feel pretty lucky that my parents never forced my sisters and I to eat exclusively off the children's menu. Sure, if one of us wanted chicken nuggets or grilled cheese, that was fine, but we typically shared adult meals (still do, in fact) or ordered a bunch of side items like cottage cheese, green beans, fruit, etc. This article traces the history of children's menu, and I learned a lot about how we got to the fried food era of today. It's good to know that some restaurants are working to reverse this trend, no doubt in light of the obesity epidemic and societal health in general.

2. Always Go to the Funeral

To me, funerals serve as an opportunity to grieve the loss of a loved one and celebrate a person's life alongside family and friends. I understand that some people hate attending them, and for good reason--they can be so sad and scary and weird--except . . . funerals aren't about your feelings. It's either about the person you knew, or about the person(s) who need your support, whether they ask for it or not. It's a sign of respect to attend. Even when it "makes sense" not to go due to travel, expense or circumstance, I still always wish I had gone as a gesture of love.

In this short "All Things Considered" piece, Deirdre Sullivan beautifully describes the same reasoning: "Always go to the funeral" means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don't feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don't really have to and I definitely don't want to. I'm talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex's uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn't been good versus evil. It's hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.

3. 6 Toxic Habits

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Be honest: what on this list of relationship behaviors have you not done? Yikes. I know I've pretty much done them all or experienced them from another person at one time in my life or another. Here's what Manson recommends instead: deal with individual issues as they arise and then let the past go, clearly state feelings and needs to receive support, communicate criticism without threatening the relationship, take responsibility for your emotions, trust your partner and face emotional issues instead of buying or burying them away. Good stuff.

4. "Summer Reading" Exhibit in NYC

Summer Reading Exhibit

A giant reading room with art and books? I want to go to there.

5. Star Ingredient of a Snack Mix

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I'm not a food blogger in the least, but I sure do love trying the recipes of other talented folks out there, like Karly from Illinois. In her post for this great, simple Cheddar Snack Mix, she says (and I LOVE THIS): "Like all mixed foods, there is a star ingredient. It's that one ingredient that everyone wishes they were getting in every single bite, the little pieces that people dig around for when no one else is looking, the star of the show, if you will."

Umm, YES. The baby breadsticks in Gardetto's (even though I was a freak and loved the rye toast discs). The olives in pasta salad dishes. The pink Starbursts. The limes and hearts in Runts candy. The red Sour Patch Kids. The cherry Jolly Ranchers. The chocolate in any "healthy" trail mix. Everyone has their own list; I'm giving you an opportunity to put your own in the comments.

6. Decisions AND Responsibility

Godin notes how certain systems amplify stereotypes, citing the story of Aditya Mukerjee. I hadn't heard anything about what happened to Mukerjee, and... wow. It's bad. I know a lot of shit happens in the world that is horrifying, but I'm not surprised this story went viral due to this man's complete lack of respected rights in what should be a pretty standardized environment, and the current public controversy over the government's ignorance of individual privacy. I agree with Godin--there wasn't one person throughout Mukerjee's entire scenario that thought, wait, this seems off (besides him)? No?

I'm also realizing lately how often I rely on my own levels of privilege to make sense of things. For instance, I definitely have assumed that the TSA/FBI will "of course" only do what's necessary for the safety of the public. But just because I haven't been personally affected by racial profiling, for example, doesn't mean lines aren't being crossed with others supposedly on behalf of the American people.

7. Alabama Republican Wants to Ban Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" from Schools

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I do not believe in banning books. It's one subject that genuinely makes me angry, because books hold ideas, and ideas are meant to be spread for consumption and criticism. Books take people outside of themselves and their own lives, which is incredibly vital to personal growth and education as well as a more developed sense of community and the world around us.

Toni Morrison is one of the best, an esteemed novelist with a Pulitzer, Nobel and Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her books are the kind that scrape something deep inside you as you read, because she directly confronts the hard stuff. The Bluest Eye is on the recommended reading list for 11th-graders; I remember reading it in high school. It's about a young black girl who wishes she looked otherwise. Does it deal with racism, incest and child molestation? Yep. Do I think a 16 or 17-year-old should read about those topics? Sure do. Why? Because they exist, and reading about such horrifying, complicated topics is pretty much the safest way to encounter something. If we're going to ban fictional stories that deal with dark themes, then we should just ban history courses, too, with all their battles and wars. (It also doesn't escape me that the push for banning comes from a male, Republican Southerner. . . but I won't go there today.)

8. Amy Poehler on Taking Advice From Your Future Self

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Amy Poehler is like everybody's cool aunt, who just does her thing but happens to be hip and wise at the same time. She says, "Sometimes when I feel in crisis or down, I try to think about what a 90, 80-year-old version of myself would say. And it's like, 'You're beautiful, you're great, it's fine.'" I know often I will ask myself if what I'm stressing over will matter in a year (let it be known the answer is usually no), but Amy takes it to a new level. Preach on, girl. Let's all be nicer to ourselves today to make our future selves happier.