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#213 This Is Doug

01 August 2017 // San Diego, California

This is Doug. He’s a great co-worker who lets me take some time out of his work day to let me film a video that makes him look like a total coffee addict. Thanks, Doug!

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#214 Amoris Laetitia

02 August 2017 // San Diego, California

“Married couples joined by love speak well of each other; they try to show their spouse's good side, not their weakness and faults.  In any event, they keep silent rather than speak ill of them.  This is not merely a way of acting in front of others; it springs from an interior attitude.  Far from ingenuously claiming not to see the problems and weaknesses of others, it sees those weaknesses and faults in a wider context.  It recognizes that these failings are part of a bigger picture.  We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows.  The other person is much more than the sum of the little things that annoy me.  Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it. The other person loves me as best they can, with all their limits, but the fact that love is imperfect does not mean that it is untrue or unreal.  It is real, albeit limited and earthly.  If I expect too much, the other person will let me know, for he or she can neither play God nor serve all my needs.  Love coexists with imperfection.  It "bears all things" and can hold its peace before the limitations of the loved one.”

–Pope Francis

Book No. 29 of 2017

Legitimately, this has been one of the best and most helpful marriage books I’ve read.

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️

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#215 Empanadas Two Ways

03 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Mission No. 29: Make at least two types of empanadas that take me right back to Buenos Aires.

The Results: I decided to be bold and attempt fried empanadas… campo style. These are way better in texture (flaky, man!) but can easily become a mess. Thankfully the risk was rewarded and they held together alright.

I stuffed one with the classic- ground beef, olive, and egg. That turned out to be decent, although I could’ve probably seasoned the beef a bit better to get a stronger flavor out of it. The other style, mozzarella, spinach, and mushroom turned out to be even tastier, mostly thanks to that mozzarella.

#216 Always and Never Returning

04 August 2017 // Isla Vista, California

I spent a night in Isla Vista. I’m now undeniably an old guy around these parts, but it’s a place where I can always and never return.

I can never return, because it’s a place that has seen a few generations of students come and go, emptying itself of most of my friends in the process. (Thank God for the ones who’ve hung on.) Half the businesses have closed. It’s no longer a place where I’d skip whole nights of sleep to talk to a crush, where I’d go moon-bathing by the ocean in the dark, where I can spend months rent-free because of all the couches I could surf.

But in other ways I always come back. Every time I say a prayer that doesn’t fit into words, I know I learned that waves can crash the way prayer beads click. Every time I feel like I’m surrounded by people with whom I definitely belong, I know I first felt that while inhaling bonfire fumes in backyards. Every time I feel like life can start fresh, I remember that this is where it did over eight years ago.

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#217 The 805

05 August 2017 // Santa Barbara, California

I love this place so much.

It’s been five years since I lived in Santa Barbara. The majority of my friends have managed to move out over that span of time, too. I’m thankful I still have enough people here to pay visits to.

We’re back for the first time since our wedding day (not counting the 15 hours I spent here once a year ago for a job interview). In some ways it’s strange getting to physically feel how far removed we are from those chapters in our story. The ever-expanding circles of friends. The student slums. The self-discovery amidst Spanish architecture.

In other ways, coming back will always feel like a homecoming. Suddenly it’s 2009 and we're following the tacky font on brown street signs back to my car and I’m just waking up to my own life.

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#218 Double Fisting

06 August 2017 // Ventura, California

A little self-awareness goes a really long way.

It’s totally different than self-absorption. I remember times where I directed way too much energy towards trying to craft some sort of image, to come across as a certain way, or to impress the right groups of people. It’s amazing how much time you can spend thinking about yourself without self-awareness.

Self-awareness takes honesty. Knowing your natural strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and tendencies can be such a difference-maker. The more I’ve understood these things about myself, the more I’ve understood the best ways for me to help people, things I should commit to that challenge me, and why the same event might trigger different reactions from me than other people I’m close to.

I’ve learned to embrace my adventurous side, while realizing that the things that grow me more are long term, patience-testing commitments. I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that I’m an inevitable optimist without expecting the same amount of belief from other people.

Everyone has their own path to growth, but it’s so much easier to commit to growth when you know your starting points.

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#219 Lila

07 August 2017 // San Diego, California

“I was getting along with the damn loneliness well enough. I expected to continue with it the rest of my life. Then I saw you that morning. I saw your face.”

–Marilynne Robinson

Book No. 32 of 2017

This book follows the character of Lila, who in Gilead and Home seemed to have way more depth to her character than those books had the space to delve into. Indeed she did, coming from a rough and brutal background and finding a new undeserved life in the town of Gilead. This book toggles between her rocky background, and reconciling the lovable, unsaved people from her past wth her new, unlikely marriage. Her relationship with John seemed awkward at times, but also really sweet.

And now, I’ve completed the Gilead trilogy. The order in which I liked the three books couldn’t be more clear. I liked this installment a lot better than Home, but it doesn’t enthrall me the way Gilead did. It did help me understand a good bit of why I liked the first book so much better than the second: John Ames.

The gentle preacher has a way of taking on big questions with such humility and insight that you feel like you’re reading an encouraging essay alongside a novel. The moments where his responses to Lila’s questions were among my favorite.

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

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#220 Interns Last Week

08 August 2017 // San Diego, California

This class of interns ran into their last week way too fast. Great having them for the summer.

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#221 The Yellow Tower

09 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Confessing and Repenting:

“Everyone loves the idea of reconciliation– until it involves… confessing, repenting.” (– Eugene Cho)

Everything that happened in Charlottesville happened in response to a moment. A political moment. A social moment. A cultural moment.

That’s a difficult reality. I’ve always been a super big idealist. I recognize the good in people who have different views than me, and I want to encourage that. In a more perfect world, I’d say that political differences are no big deal, and our moral choices are what mattered.

In the world we get, those things are a lot more tangled.

The most important thing isn’t to find your opposing side that’s doing everything wrong and to heap on more shame and guilt. This only creates an unhelpful back-and-forth where defensiveness and anger drives people to extremes.

Instead, it’s more important (and really, just more practical) to look at your own realm, your own beliefs, your own communities to see what needs to be changed.

Politically: What do you tolerate just because somebody is wearing your “team colors?” How will you recognize when you’ve accepted sins like racism when they’re attached to your usual tastes?

Relationally: Do you always back down from the hard conversations? When is it worth it to challenge an idea?

Spiritually: What are you called to do now?.

Tough questions are called tough for a reason, but we only suffer when we avoid them.

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#222 BBQ Chicken Pop Tart

10 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Mission 28: Make a BBQ Chicken Pop Tart. Actually, the goal of doing any sort of savory pop tart style item’s been on the radar for a little while.

The Results: I was so pleased with how this came out. The casing was a simple pie crust, but the fillings were what completed the dish. Some juicy marinated chicken, green chives, mushrooms, tangy bbq sauce, and most exciting- a few of our homegrown cherry tomatoes that have started to come through.

I’d do this again, and I’d also be curious to see what other savory tastes lend themselves well to a pop tart format. I’m thinking chicken curry.

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#223 Apertif Night

11 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Mission 32: Appertivo night done right. After falling in love with the Italian habit of aperitif hours thanks to a @splendidtableepisode, I had to give it a shot.

The Results: Let's do this again soon, please! I was really happy with the charcuterie I built around the cocktails. I even managed to figure out where to buy morcilla! And the cocktail I improvised came out just right:

🍸 Crater Lake Vodka + Dry Vermouth + Lavender Syrup + Orange Bitters

(👆🏼That sucker still needs a name... open to suggestions!)

I'd love to start experimenting with more open aperitif nights- invite friends and have everybody bring just one fancy thing.

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#224 Seaport

12 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Forgiving and Peacemaking:

“Everyone loves the idea of reconciliation– until it involves… forgiving and peacemaking.” (– Eugene Cho)

Peacemaking is so important; unfortunately, peacemaking is also a really misunderstood word. I’ve been reading Break Open The Sky, where Stephen Bauman explains it really well:

“[It] means reconciler, one who having received the peace of God in her own heart, brings peace to others, and someone who is concerned with bringing a cessation of hostilities. Peacemaking is by no means passive. It involves taking risk. Peacemakers are not afraid to enter the fray in order to establish peace.”

I can really relate to the desire to not speak on hot button issues. It’s easy to think that by staying silent, you’ll at least stay “above the fray” and “avoid the pushback.” There is nothing holy about being silent while others are oppressed.

It can also seem really politically correct to respond to events by saying “I see all sides.” In most cases, it’s good to be able to understand a diversity of viewpoints. But when it comes to something like racism, this mentality is dangerous. If your response to a Nazi rally is “all sides need to get along,” then you’ve done a few things”

It allows the oppression to continue. It dismisses the pain of the victim and allows the oppressor to feel justified.

Here’s a challenge to those of us who like to avoid confrontation. The affinity for peace that we have is a good thing, but if we aren’t aware and careful to avoid passivity and permissiveness, it can quickly allow more harm to people than anything else.

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#225 Charlottesville Vigil

13 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Truth-telling and Dismantling:

I went downtown for a Sunday night vigil for Charlottesville. I’m so thankful to have been a part of it. I’m thankful for the many spiritual leaders and organizations I’ve followed and served under who have spoken up. I’m a little disappointed by the ones who haven’t, but hey.

In the words of Eugene Cho, “Everyone loves the idea of reconciliation… until it involves truth-telling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving, and peacemaking.” These aren’t easy things, but I’m going to give them my best shot this week.

There is a problem with racism in our country and world. A lot of us were shocked to see an unmasked KKK rally out in the open. But if you were surprised by that, then that likely means you aren’t among those who have to deal with it every day. Those in the margins are far less surprised.

It’s easy to recognize racism when it carries a torch. It’s harder to recognize it when it denies a home loan, or passes over a job application. It’s easy to recognize on a television screen. It’s harder to recognize at a dinner table conversation. It’s easy to recognize on angry mobs. Harder to see in ourselves.

We need to listen a whole lot more. I’ve been in several conversations about these things where people have a lecture or long-winded anecdote prepackaged and ready-to-go. Never assume you have all this stuff figured out. Do the stuff they teach in pre-marital counseling instead. Don’t negate the experiences of someone else with your own. Listen and repeat back what you just heard. It’ll at least be a start to some better conversations that need to be had.

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#226 Ginger Beef Vermicelli

14 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Mission 32: Recreate one of my summertime favorites- flank steak with julienned carrots and ginger over a bed of vermicelli noodles.

Results: This was the meal I hoped it would be. While fairly wide strips of ginger can be pretty strong, they also work really well in this meal when they’re well sautéed and paired with something milder like carrots. The pho-quality flank steak pieces were perfect to top things off with.

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#227 Phillies-Padres

15 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Date night at the most intense sports rivalry there ever was: Phillies versus Padres.

Highlights: $2.50 fish tacos on Tuesdays, Jorge Alfaro's first career homer, Rhys Hoskins: #unleashtherhys, no line at Hodad's, 1:1 fan ratio between fans.

Lowlights: Mark Leiter Jr.

Man, I’m gonna have way more fun when the Phillies are finally decent again.

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#228 Philly Pizzasteak

16 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Mission 34: Have a go at one of my Philly favorites- the cheesesteak spin-off, the pizza steak.

Results: This was actually a great meal to make in a short amount of time. I got to use up the remaining steak shavings from the ginger beef vermicelli and we were able to whip this up and eat it early enough for an evening beach trip. Not such a bad go-to meal for something quick but worthwhile.

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#229 The Sower: We Did It!

17 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Know how I found out about Plant With Purpose before working there? Some friends of mine gave a presentation at my now-office, and took back one of their quarterly newsletters for me. I kept tabs on the organization and applied to work there four years later.

I wrote the cover story for our latest newsletter, featuring some stories from Tanzania. So things have pretty much gone full circle now. 

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#230 Low Key Date Night

18 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Sometimes a low-key date night will take you right into a café made for Instagram. Who knew sea salt cream cheese foam would taste so good on top of iced oolong?

#231 Ivy’s Tasting Night

19 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Yay for Ivy’s birthday! This evening was a super fun food tasting and wine pairing night, with a chaser of board games. Such a great idea.

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#232 Communal

20 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Coffee shop table: Claimed.

Laptop: Flipped open.

Current Book: On table.

Currently Listening: Everyone else’s conversations with Lone Bellow in the back.

In the Mug: Usually just a black coffee. Flat white, maybe.

Make it as cliché as it gets, this will still always be the setting that gets my creative juices running, and my favorite work environment.

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#233 Eclipsey

21 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Beauty will save the world.

I wrote a bit about that quote a couple weeks ago on the Plant With Purpose account- It’s from Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Idiot, which offers a very complex perspective about how beauty and suffering can co-exist. It offers beauty as a path to truth and faith in spite of a modern world trapped in darkness.

I posted that up last week, but it's not like there would've been some sort of really timely event that I should've waited for or anything.

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#234 Jeremy’s Downtown

22 August 2017 // San Diego, California

“The assumption that what currently exists must necessarily exist is the acid that corrodes all visionary thinking.”

–Murray Boochkin

#235 Nashville Hot Chicken

23 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Mission 34: Nashville Hot Chicken has over time become more and more of a favorite- heat turnt up, super crisp skin . Problem is, it's really hard to find outside of Nashville. Basilisk in Portland did a pretty good job, but I don't live in Oregon anymore. Guess I gotta try making my own. (Or go to Nashville, but my poultry budget doesn't currently allow it.)

The Results: I was so happy with the nice coat I put on the chicken, probably the best I've made. I also liked the flavor of the spice rub. I could've turned the heat up even more, but now I have a baseline to go off of.

#236 Baby Art

24 August 2017 // San Diego, California

When Beignet finds her mural on the side of the Carson Animal Shelter.

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#237 Break Open The Sky

25 August 2017 // San Diego, California

“Converting our fears into faith is the business of God. But he’s not interested in a gnostic faith, a faith disembodied from the earthiness of day-to-day living. Instead, God desires a faith that engages our emotions and volition as much as our intellect, a faith that shocks those around us because our words or actions, although occurring in the natural world, have their origin in the divine.”

–Stephen Bauman

Book No. 33 of 2017

This book really needed to be written, and Stephen Bauman was just the right person for the task.

Faith can’t just be a theory. It’s not something to make us feel smart about ourselves while the rest of the world feels despair. Actually doing something takes a whole lot of risk, but it’s the risk we were actually made for. We’ll be unsatisfied until we take it.

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

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#238 Fortuna Saddle

26 August 2017 // San Diego, California

We picked a pretty hot day to take on this hike. I have to remind myself that the best time of the year for hiking and camping down here is the total opposite of what we had going on in Oregon.

In what dream life can I live my Augusts & Septembers back in Oregon, my Junes & Julys in Southern Europe, my January in Patagonia, and everything else over here?

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#239 We Need New Names

27 August 2017 // San Diego, California

“Leaving your country is like dying, and when you come back you are like a ghost returning to earth, roaming around with missing gaze in your eyes” 

–NoViolet Bulawayo

Book No. 34 of 2017

So I liked Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s Americnah quite a bit. This book tackled similar themes through a different character’s journey, and to be honest I think I like this book just a bit more. The story is told through a younger perspective, less filtered and more wide-eyed towards immersion in a different world.

I also found it interesting, probably intentional, how the entire time, you’re given a sense of Darling’s increasing disorientation by what she sees in each place. It’s rare for this book to outright tell you where you are, instead it paints a picture. In fact, I don’t think it even mentions Zimbabwe by name.

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

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#240 South Asian Penne

28 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Mission No. 37: A while ago, I was improvising with rigatoni noodles and curry powder and I really liked the results. I added some mushrooms and thought I needed to try something like that again, fully committing to adding the South Asian flavors and veggies onto a typically Italian dish.

The Results: It was even better while doing this on purpose! I went with eggplant, mushrooms, and green beans to be the main veggie items, and in a dream scenario I would’ve liked to add chunks of paneer cheese and maybe some fried potatoes. Unfortunately I didn’t have rigatoni noodles around this time, so I had to make the switch to penne. I prefer the al dente bite of rigatoni, but any noodle with a wide surface area that you can lightly sear goes well with this.

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#241 Hillbilly Elegy

29 August 2017 // San Diego, California

“There is no group of Americans more pessimistic than working-class whites. Well over half of blacks, Latinos, and college-educated whites expect that their children will fare better economically than they have. Among working-class whites, only 44 percent share that expectation.” 

“What separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives. Yet the message of the right is increasingly: It’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault.” 

“I don't know what the answer is, precisely, but I know it starts when we stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what we can do to make things better.”

–J.D. Vance

Book No. 36 from 2017

This book was a learning tool, to better understand some of the populations that often seem to think on a different wavelength than I do. The rural-urban divide is quite real, and considering I work on rural poverty issues at a global level, I wanted to get a better understanding of its domestic manifestation.

J.D. Vance was a great storyteller. I was surprised by how much his book leaned towards memoir rather than social commentary- and really I think that was the best way for him to tell the story of his world. It’s one riddled with contradictions and sadness, but it did remind me of one thing: the growth we need the most isn’t an economic kind, but a spiritual one. And then there are all the understated links between them.

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

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#242 The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

30 August 2017 // San Diego, California

"These are not your kids. These are your students. Last year they were someone else's, next year they'll be gone. You can't be their mother. You certainly aren't their friend. You are the person who gives them grades. And if you go on caring for them in this way you won't survive.”

–Lindsey Lee Johnson

Book No. 35 of 2017

This was a debut novel, and one that I enjoyed more than I expected. It had the light-and-easy feeling of watching a rom-com from the early 2000’s, while actually carrying a lot of layers of depth.

The “Most Dangerous Place” is a Bay Area high school, full of wounded and insecure personalities that express themselves vibrantly in the group of teenage friends it follows. Throughout the book, we get to see each character open up more and the layers peel back.

It wasn’t perfect- (heads up, typng n txtspk doesn't mk u a teen especially in the era of autocorrect) but it was so fast-paced and compelling that I blazed through these pages pretty fast. 

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

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#244 North Park Stripes

31 August 2017 // San Diego, California

Doesn’t it often feel like it’s an age where nothing is really safe to say? Taking almost any sort of stand is met with criticism, accusations of being too-liberal, too-conservative, too-biased, too-partisan, too-much.

I’ve seen a lot of institutions, leaders, and brands try to do a couple things:

  • Go along with the flow of culture, political party, etc. that they’d rather be associated with – the challenge with that is that when your culture, party, or tribe makes decisions that are wrong or harmful, you’ll be complicit
  • Play it safe and try to appease “all sides.” Not only is this getting harder to do, but in some scenarios, neutrality isn’t a real option. Plus, there’s no better way to weaken your message than to try to make it all-accommodating

So what to do? 

Know what you stand for. What your deepest beliefs and convictions are. Know what message you want your life to send and how it’s helping the world. Take the time to wrestle with the contradictions, doubts, and ambiguities. Always leave room to grow, but know your true north.

Then, when debates, controversies, or new issues arise, you can always hold it against your compass: In light of what I believe to be true about treating other people… in light of my convictions about what’s fair… in light of what I think is deeply true about people… 

Philippe Lazaro2017