Summer 2020 Reading List

I can’t say It really feels like a “normal” Summer, yet we are officially in Summer! Every year, I craft my Summer reading list thinking about reading these books at my favorite beach on my favorite Greek island. I would typically be there right now… but then again, this year is a little bit different than most. Nonetheless, I am excited to read these books before Fall is upon us. 

I have writer friends, including the witty, funny, and glamorous Karin Tanabe. I finished her latest book, A Hundred Suns, this past weekend as the Summer Solstice was upon us. I could not put it down. 

Possibly the opposite of a “summer read,” yet I don’t think I need to explain why this is on my reading list.  White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo.

 And because it’s all about balance, at the other end of the spectrum, a summer crime series read: The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A Few Good Women  by Barbara Hackman. Because my friend Marc Ross said I should read this, and Marc Ross is very smart. 

Another Summer read, on the theme of female friendships, that I can’t wait to dig in to, is Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, which comes highly recommended by two of my Book Club girlfriends. 

And The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille, which I have been carrying around with me since I last traveled in March. In true escalation of commitment, I will not stop carrying it around until I read it cover to cover! 

What are you reading this Summer? 

Georgetown Gems

As I drove back from Louisiana to Washington DC almost two weeks ago, I “went backwards” in terms of COVID-19. By the time I left Hammond, restaurants and stores were open, and life felt  like “back to normal” (which may or may not be a good thing long-term of course…). I arrived in DC to Phase 1, no indoor restaurant seating, and no non-essential retail. 

I not only returned to a city in Phase 1, I returned to a boarded up M Street. Still, it feels wonderful to be back to DC, to be back to Georgetown specifically. As boards are coming down, as we inch towards Phase 2 (Monday June 22, fingers crossed), I am reminded of my love for this neighborhood, and for the brands and businesses that make Georgetown what it is.  

Shop Made in DC 

This retail initiative was created to highlight the creative minds of the greater Washington DC area. Founded by Stacey Price of People Make Place and Michael Babin of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Shop Made DC has three locations dedicated to growing DC’s maker economy. It is very possible all of my holiday gifts this year will come from this store.

SCOUT 

Founded by Deb and Ben Johns (I love any family business!), SCOUT is first and foremost a brand of bags – beach bags, backpacks, grocery bags, everyday bags – now also offering face masks. Deb creates unique patterns every season, available at wholesalers nationwide. And, one of my girlfriends from business school works there! 

Stachowski’s 

My go to for Paris ham, steak, burger meat, and lamb lollies. And veggies from nearby farmer’s markets, good mustard and cornichons and once in a while cherry pie. Living a block away is both delicious and dangerous. 

Georgetown Butcher 

This opened March 9, 2020… and is reopening imminently. I have not yet been, but can’t wait to discover this European-style butcher shop / grocery, the brainchild of Wendell Allsbrook who has been a butcher for more than 15 years, most recently at The Organic Butcher of McLean. I love Stachowski’s and I can’t wait to discover this new gem. 

Tuckernuck 

Created by three friends, Jocelyn, Maddy, and September, in 2012, Tuckernuk offers classic and somewhat preppy apparel, home goods, and gifts. Wondering about the name? It is the name of a small island off the coast of Nantucket, where the three friends spent summers growing up. 

 

And of course… Peacock Café

Another family-owned business (Shahab runs the restaurant, his brother Maziar is the Chef), this restaurant never closed, served meals to healthcare workers throughout the pandemic, and is where I enjoyed my first meal (patio seating) back in DC. It is still my favorite, for lunch, brunch, dinner, cocktails. It feels like family.

Lockdown Numbers

I love numbers. And putting these numbers down on paper was an interesting exercise… 

Number of days sheltering in place (technically in two places): 83

Number of days without airplane travel: 88

Number of scheduled trips cancelled: 14

Number of road trips back and forth between Louisiana and DC: 3 

Number of days since last Alchimie client visit: 87

Number of Zoom meetings: too many to count 

Number of virtual book clubs: 2 

Number of books read: 5 

Number of email newsletters unsubscribed from: 19 

Number of kittens adopted: 2

Number of pounds gained: 0 

Number of Botox appointments: 0 

Number of consecutive days and nights with my husband: 88

*Inspired by my very smart friend Marc Ross!

Black Lives Matter

I do not believe I am a racist. I certainly am not a hater. The events of this past week have awakened me to the fact that not being racist, not hating, is not enough.

Racism is not only conscious hate. “Racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on.” Scott Woods.

I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, a white city in a country where neutrality and diplomacy are national hallmarks (indeed, a country that has its own struggles with racism). I am a conflict avoider. Privacy is one of my core values. I am a “glass half full” person and always give others the benefit of the doubt, to the extent that some have called me naïve.

I have always known that my life as a white woman has been easier than the lives of so many – yet I have never asked myself specifically about white privilege. As a child, the extent of race conversations I had with my parents was limited to asking what “macaroni” meant when someone called me this in middle school. My Italian father explained, I ignored the slur, and that was that.
I realized this week that I have been so blind to the perspective of people of color that I have never had a race conversation with my oldest, bestest of friends – whom I have known since the age of 12. She is Indian. She and I have over the years spoken about everything, yet we have never spoken about race. Probably because I have never asked, because I didn’t want to have that uncomfortable conversation. For that same reason, I have been silent when my white girlfriends have said things (about politics, about race, about other topics not in the news today) I did not agree with. The events of this past week have awakened me to the fact that my silence is compliance.
I must speak up. Yet I have been paralyzed about what to say. I am afraid to say the wrong thing. I am afraid to sound tone deaf. I am afraid to offend. In a way, I am also afraid not to offend. The events of this past week have awakened me as to how much more I must do, as a human, as a white woman, to work against racism and hatred, to work for equality and opportunity for all. I must do better. I must be better.

These are my commitments.

I commit to recognizing my white privilege.

I commit to educating myself. And yes, it is a privilege to be educating myself about racism instead of experiencing it. To start, I commit to reading How to be Less Stupid about Race (Crystal M. Fleming), White Fragility (Robin Diangelo), Me and White Supremacy (Layla F. Saad) (including doing the 28-day workbook), Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates).

I commit to listening. Including to listening about why the violence and destruction of the past few days is necessary to bring about awareness change.

I commit to evolving my social media feed to be more focused on race issues, more inclusive. Here are some accounts I am now following.
@naacp
@aclu_nationwide
@eji_org
@colorofchange
@bailproject
@blklivesmatter
@fairfightaction
@campaignzero
@mspackyetti
@blackwomensblueprint
@colorlinesnews
@theconsciouskid
@civilrightsorg
@tembae
@reneesrh
@meena
@ijeomaoluo
@rachel.cargle
@mvmnt4blklives
@laylafsaad
@munroebergdorf
@nowhitesaviors

I commit to donating regularly to associations that fight for racial equality. This week, these include NAACP, ACLU, and Equal Justice Initiative.

I commit to using my voice. This blog post is a start.

I commit to making my brand Alchimie Forever more inclusive.

I commit to voting. Locally, nationally.

I commit to doing the work. To doing better. To being better. Not just today, not just this week. But for however long it takes.

I commit to being anti-racist. “It is not enough to be quietly non-racist, now is the time to be vocally anti-racist.” Angela Davis

My Mom, Superwoman

I always knew my Mom was Superwoman – Superwoman of the mind. When I get stuck with my thinking, she has answers. When I get stuck with my writing, she has solutions. When I get stuck with my emotions, she has advice.

I never knew until this week that she is, simply, Superwoman. Not “just” Superwoman of the mind. She had COVID-19, and she beat it. Alone. Without doctors (except for herself, she is an MD after all). Without hospitals. Without “bothering” anyone about her condition.

When I realized that the novel corona virus became a threat, I worried for many of my family and friends – but most of all for my Mom. She splits her time between Paris and Geneva and travels a lot. She is in the high risk COVID-19 group, due to her age and her delicate lungs and asthma. She is a free spirit and I doubted her willingness to abide by the confinement rules. I worried that she would contract this virus (and I was right) and that it would beat her (and oh was I wrong) and that I would not get back to Switzerland in time.

Over the last two and a half months, she experienced many symptoms of this virus, one after the other. Terrible cough. Exhaustion. “COVID toes.” She followed the confinement and mask-wearing rules to the letter. She told my three sisters and me that she was doing this for us, so that we did not have to worry about her getting sick on top of all of our other COVID-19-related worries.

On Monday this week, she received the results of her anti-body test. Very, very, very positive. Of course, Barbara Polla has never failed an exam or test in her life… why should I be so surprised that she would pass this one with an A+?!

Thank you Mom for being Superwoman. In all ways, and always.

Some of My New Sanity Rituals

Business has slowed drastically. My inbox is full of COVID-19 update emails instead of “normal” emails, so even “office work” is different. 

My meetings have been postponed and my trips cancelled for the foreseeable future. No trainings, store visits, events, or conferences for days. 

I have been home for 9 days straight. 

This is not my “normal life,” and I must rethink my days and my rituals, to ensure that I don’t think of every day as “day” (instead of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc), which I must admit I am guilty of. 

I am not there yet, but I am trying. Here are some of the things I have implemented (some new, some similar to what I did “before”) to stay sane during these insane times. 

  • Waking up between 4:30 and 5 am on weekdays (my normal wakeup time). 
  • Making a weekly game plan on Mondays as I usually would, focusing on prioritizing projects I have not had a chance to work on over the past six months. 
  • Listening to Yo Yo Ma daily in the evening (on Instagram). 
  • Skyping weekly with my sisters during the weekends (instead of monthly). 
  • Defining Wednesday as vacuuming day. Given that we brought our cat to Georgetown, my husband just gifted me a new Dyson mini vacuum which is perfect for cat hair. Did I mention how satisfying vacuuming is? 
  • Being super strict about my eating and drinking. I am still not drinking three days per week (although last week I slipped and only made it two days) and am very aware of the “COVID-19” and eating with awareness to avoid gaining weight.  
  • Notwithstanding the above, ordering takeout from my favorite restaurants to support them as best as I can. 
  • Doing 100 sit ups every day. 
  • Taking advantage of the many (free) webinars that many publications and associations are offering to discuss the current crisis and how to do business during such times. 
  • Ensuring that at least two evenings per week involve no “TV.” 
  • Listening to a Master Class per day (so far, I only did this once this week though). 
  • Doing virtual cocktail hours and lunches and dinners with friends (oh friends how I miss thee…).  
  • Reading. I am still finishing The Only Plane in the Sky, the timing of which I can’t decide is scary or fortuitous, following which I plan on reading mostly fiction until “life goes back to normal.” 
  • Reminding myself of all of the things I have to be grateful for, including my husband, my health, my home. 

What are you doing to stay sane? Please share! I need more ideas…