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Last year, I started making a cork board out of wine corks.  It’s as tall as I am, which isn’t very tall for a person, but it’s an impressive height for a cork board. I haven’t gotten very far on it.  I have, however, asked a handful of friends to save their corks for me, and because my friends are outstanding, they have supplied me with many corks. The result of their outstanding nature is that I have several jars of corks sitting in various places around my apartment.

I like the look of these jars.  They’re good for decoration. They’re also good at reminding me that just because everything isn’t perfectly finished, that doesn’t mean it can’t be perfectly lovely in the process.

I need that reminder.

I’ve taken the last two weeks off from the Getting It Together project to breathe.  It turns out – I’m really good at taking time off. I have eaten sandwiches and raw veggies and fruit salad (minimal prep/minimal dish-dirtying). I have gone out to eat with friends (zero prep/zero dish-dirtying). I did not do my 30-minutes-a-day cleaning schedule. Today was the first day in a week that I washed dishes, and I only did them today because I needed to kill time while the hashbrowns were cooking.

Taking a break from the project completely has been good for me. Not only did I get a little rest, I am also excited to reorganize and start again.

I am also excited to report that, for two weeks of having absolutely nothing productive done to it, the apartment doesn’t look that bad.  So either I have become a tidier person who straightens and cleans without thinking about it (which would be AWESOME), or I have very helpful gnomes living in my walls. I’m gonna guess it’s the former. YAY.

A theme that appeared in my journal during the time  away was recognizing priorities. I have come to terms with the fact that keeping a neat home, while somewhat appealing to me, is not anywhere near the top of my to-do list. I have jobs to do, words to write, friends to see, books to read, and recipes to try, and all of those things are more important to me than keeping an organized home. And I’m okay with that.

It makes sense, therefore, not to put a stringent time limit on the project. The only way this becomes a workable habit is for it to fit into the life I’m living. I’m not going to try to force ten extra hours of work into a week that does not have ten available hours.

The plan this week is to get back into my daily cleaning routine.  That part was working just fine. I’m also going to continue to cook and share recipes as I come across things I think people will enjoy.

After that, I’m going to go area by area until it’s finished. I will keep an update of how it’s going.

Then, on December 20, I’m going to throw a cookie party.  Maggie and I did this a few years ago.  We baked an absurd amount of cookies (I think our final list was several dozen each of 14 different cookies), we set up testing stations, and we invited pretty much everyone we knew to come over with cookie tins and take some home. It was a lot of fun (for the most part…there were a lot of people there at certain points…we clearly didn’t think that through). Maggie is in Houston now, so I’ll be recruiting others to help, but it’s going to happen. That gives me a soft deadline for getting the apartment to a place where it’s conducive to a sea of people (and cookie stations), even if there is still a little work to be done overall.  I think that’s reasonable.

Another thing I decided was missing was a master list of posts in one place so that it’s easy to follow.  So here’s that list.

The Back Story

The Need

The Plan

Budget #1

Revamps:

Welcome:

Sustain:

Rest and Regroup

Entertain:

Create:

Renew:

Rest:

Adorn:

The Food Posts:

 

I’m always wary of people who tell me they have a favorite number.  I give them the side-eye and demand that they explain themselves.  That very few of them can actually do so only reinforces my wariness. When someone asks what my favorite number is, I never know what to say.  Because…favorite number of what?

Favorite number of cups of coffee in the morning? Two.  One for practical, waking-up reasons, and one for the bliss.

Favorite number of place settings?  Twelve. Because my ideal dining room table seats ten, and twelve gives me some leeway for things to break (inevitable) without busting up the set.

Favorite number of pairs of shoes?  Based on my current closet space – about ten.  Based on my fantasy closet space…I don’t think they make a number that big.

If pressed to choose, I usually answer with a random number in the 4,000s, because I feel bad for the 4,000s.  Everyone always wants tiny, single-digit numbers.  Big numbers need love, too, y’all.

If I had to pick my favorite number of days, though, it would be 31. My favorite months are 31 days long.  I mean, that includes my birth month and Christmas and October, so I admit there’s an unfair advantage there. And despite the fabled 21-day habit formation period, I know that many people have found that it takes a lot longer than 21…or 31…days to make a real change. And whatever the norm for habit change actually is, the time it takes for me to make a lasting change is probably longer.  I would guess that I take up to a year, which is why I love New Years Resolutions so much. I’m a slow adapter. 

But I also know that, since my commitment to 31 days of no fast food last October, I have spent less money on fast food in the last 7.5 months than I spent in just three months last summer.  So positive change, while not complete (because I love me some Whataburger onion rings), was definitely set in motion by the 31-day commitment.

And I think that’s what my beauty challenge needs.  A dose of good ol’ number 31.

I look over my pictures in my phone of things – mostly in nature (-ish) – that have caught my eye. For example:

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(Rainy day tree)

And I look at the things on my beauty board, and I see a lot of beautiful things that other people have said or done:

And these are great stories and great words. But my focus on what beauty means to and for other people has allowed me to detach from my own experience of beauty.

Well, no more.

If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that beauty is personal, and it demands to be embodied. For women especially, beauty (and whether or not we think we “have it”) seems to control a substantial part of our personal identity.  Many of us focus on inner beauty, not only because it’s important but also a little because we are afraid that when we look in the mirror, we don’t see any outer beauty.  But it’s there. Even beauty of spirit will manifest in a tangible way. It might be as simple as the way people carry themselves.  It might be in the way someone speaks. It might be in the way someone dresses. But however it decides to show up, it does indeed show up. It doesn’t stay in our heads or in our souls.  

Beauty gets physical.

So next month, so am I. August will be 31 days of personal beauty. I am going to talk about myself – what makes me feel beautiful and what keeps me from feeling beautiful. I’ve spent enough time on the sidelines.  It’s time to play.

My OneWord365 is beauty, and I’m linking up with Amy Young’s Trusting Tuesdays.  Join us to discuss how your year is going.

 

For those waiting on the edges of their seats for my next Getting It Together installment…it’s coming. By the end of this week.  Probably.  I make no promises.

I’m having too much fun breathing.

When I hear that I need to breathe (particularly if this encouragement comes from someone else), I resist. I resist because breathing sounds dreadfully boring.  What do you mean, I need to breathe?  You expect me to just sit still…inhaling…exhaling…and that’s it?  

I don’t make plans to sit still. It stresses me out. I have to really concentrate to sit still without becoming tense.

This week, I tried something else.  Instead of physically sitting still, I did things that still my soul.

It involved goat cheese.

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And wine (and an amazing dinner that I was too busy moaning over to photograph.  Apparently.) with friends.

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And fresh summer cherries.

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And gifts of a toddler’s treasures.

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And making plans to make something delicious.

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And before I knew it, I was sitting still without even trying. 

Breathing.

I’m linking up with Marvia for Real Talk Tuesdays – come tell us how you breathe!

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Shocking, isn’t it? Controversial?  Yes.  But it’s true.

I hate hashtags (and I am DELIGHTED that WordPress doesn’t recognize it as a word. I mean, WordPress also doesn’t recognize “WordPress” as a word, so it’s a small or possible even imaginary victory, but still).

Now, before you pull our your pointy lecturing finger, I concede that I get it.  I understand how useful they are. They are community-builders, and that is why, almost every Saturday, I happily put aside my personal feelings and post pictures on the Instagram with the tags #jointhestory and #storygrams. If I had a cat, half my posts there would be tagged #catsofinstagram (it’s possible that said cat would probably also have his or her own Facebook page, so…grain of salt), because have you clicked on that hashtag?  It will lead you to adorable and hilarious things. Hashtags are also essential when it comes to social media marketing. An added #amreading or #amwriting or #writing added to a link to a post will multiply traffic to said post. At least 75% (an estimate – and probably a conservative one) of my followers on Twitter, where all of my blog post links automatically go, found me via a hashtag. I have had people tell me that they followed me based on my frequent (if by frequent, one means once or twice a month) use of #idowhatiwant.

So I get it.  I KNOW. And I will use them – sparingly – in the manner in which they were intended to be used. I will market myself on social media.  I recognize self-promotion as a necessary evil part of the getting-people-to-read process.

But.

I still hate hashtags. They are the sole reason I was so slow to warm up to Twitter. And now, they’re friggin’ everywhere. I cannot escape them. Oh, Twitter – what hast thou wrought?!

First of all, they’re shady.  They’re fake words pretending to be real words, and they promote laziness. I have the same disgruntled feelings about hashtags that I have about the use of “u” in place of “you” – or worse – “ur” in place of “you’re” or “your” (LEARN THE DIFFERENCE – IT’S NOT HARD. /mini-rant). It’s the chance to say one more thing without having to waste one of the precious 140 characters one is allowed on Twitter on a space.  It’s also the chance to avoid editing and choosing one’s words wisely so that they will actually fit into a succinct, 140-character message. One thing that Twitter lets me practice is getting across my message in fewer words – a practice one might argue I desperately need. And I suspect other people would benefit from such practice, too. So here’s a challenge – if your initial draft is 154 characters, instead of copping out by using shortcuts, Hemingway that shit so that you can use real words and still get your point across.

Second, instead of helping the message, hashtags actually distract me from the person sending it.  I have lost count of the times I have been scrolling through Instagram and see a large block of text under a beautiful picture taken by my friend Horatia (fake name – conglomerate prototype of multiple beloved friends). I say to myself, “Hey, self, let’s go see what gorgeous words Horatia has chosen to caption this stunning photograph,” only to discover upon first glance, that only five words of the caption actually came from my brilliant friend. The rest is a sea of hashtags pressuring me to go elsewhere and see other people’s pictures and words. And here’s the thing – if I gave a damn about those other pictures and words, I would be following the people who posted them. I’m not.  I am, however, following Horatia because her pictures and her words are important to me. I specifically chose to follow her because what she has to say has struck a chord with me, and when I see her name, I get excited about what she has to offer. And that’s what I want to see.

And again – I get it.  I understand that those hashtags are a way for other people to find her easily and see the glory of what Horatia has to offer the world. I support self-promotion, particularly for artists of all kinds and particularly for women, because we have been socialized to support others (particularly men) first and ourselves second (or third…or fiftieth…), and I’m all for breaking that ridiculous cycle.  But if I see more content promotion than content creation, I will eventually lose interest in the content, no matter how much I love and respect the person as a friend.

Third, I find hashtags aesthetically unpleasant. I know – I’m an old woman.  I mean, I’m not. At all.  I’m 39, which puts me in what Jill Conner Browne of Sweet Potato Queens fame (point of reference – for those who have ever enjoyed my margaritas, she’s where I got the recipe) terms the larval stage of my development as a human. But as someone who has vivid, adult-ish memories of life and reading before the Internet (point of reference – Google.com was registered as a domain name three months before I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree), in Internet terms, I am a dinosaur. And like all damn kids who need to get off my lawn, the Internet likes to screw with my expectations of how things are to be capitalized and spaced.  In this regard, hashtags are a visual nightmare. I recognize that there’s probably some legitimate, computer-codey reason why the spaces need to be left out to create a link.  But I need hashtags to evolve linguistically, because I also can’t help but notice that proper computer code stays backstage, out of sight, so as not to ruin the effect of the presentation.  Take note, hashtags.

And finally, let’s call hashtags what they are – advertising.They are the billboards of the intrawebs. And like billboards, they are effective.  They are great at directing attention to a specific corner of a saturated market. But for those of us who are acutely aware of and thus hypersensitive to the CONSTANT bombardment of people trying to sell us something, hashtags – like billboards – can really ruin the landscape. If this post hasn’t tipped you off, let me go ahead and spell it out – I am easily overstimulated. The Las Vegas Strip and Disney World? Not so much examples of my ideal vacation spot as they are examples of what I imagine Hell must be like. And I am not alone.  We might be the minority, but for those of us hindered by this affliction, repeat advertising (and the nature of hashtags is inherently repetitive) actually has the exact opposite of the intended effect. It all becomes noise, and we tend to go to great lengths to shut out noise.

So friends – please – do this old curmudgeon a favor – use hashtags, but use them sparingly.I want to hear what you have to say.  I’m probably even interested in buying what you’re selling.  I will do both these things willingly.  You don’t have to kick my cane out from under me and steal my purse.

The Light Between Us ebook cover

I’m over at Story Sessions today talking to Beth Morey about her newly released novel The Light Between Us.  Hop over and give it a read!

Clicky…you know you want to…

 

The word “we” makes me anxious.

My gut reaction to “we” is to feel left out. I’ve been part of that magical twosome, whether romantic or otherwise, that gives me a rant-listener, a breakfast partner, a perpetual plus-one, and a person who will call me out when I’m siding with the melodrama in my head. I also know what it’s like to go from “we” to “just me…again.”  It’s not pretty, even when it’s for a good reason or for the best. That transition makes me want to make friends with more of these:

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But then I breathe and look across the table.

And there’s Marvia and Alison and Kati Rose and Miah.

There’s always a new “we,” and if I don’t remember to say that, I am only telling half the story. God always gives me a new “we.”

I am a textbook introvert.  Read any list on how to approach those who need solitude to recharge their energy, and you’re pretty much reading a manual on how to get along with me. But I also have a pesky characteristic called connectedness.  I see patterns in everything, and I see how they work together. Give me a minute, and I can tell you how everyone’s actions affect everyone else. This can make me annoying at parties (or at work…or to the unfortunate soul sitting next to me on the bus when I first read the article that is going to piss me off that day…). I was once given an actual soapbox as a gift – partially as a nod to my fondness for standing upon them and partially as a jab at my physical shortness (to which I replied, “I don’t need height – I have minions.”). Connectedness is inherently communal.  So while community may not exactly energize me, it does seem to be a habitual, necessary occurrence in my life.

I have a lot of “we’s” -

  1. Online writer communities – I can never get away with not writing, not with Story Sessions and Andilit on the prowl.
  2. Supper Club – Bonded by our love of food, reading, and TV, this is a group who is not afraid to hear what I really think and is not afraid to tell me what they really think.
  3. Christ the Servant Lutheran Church – I’m new to them, so we’re still figuring each other out.  But they couldn’t be kinder or more welcoming, and I am learning a lot.  It’s nice to find a place where I feel both safe and challenged. Also, they let me be on their outreach team.  My first task? Taking inventory of our current coffee supplies and figuring out a budget for us to move toward being more intentional with fair trade purchases. And when I said no to working with the children (I love many specific children individually, but in packs or running about in public, they kinda freak me out. I blame working daycare.), they listened.  The first time. I’m so happy.
  4.  Various friends I met through Christ Fellowship and The-Church-Formerly-Known-As-Normal-Street (after all this time, I still don’t know the current name of the group.  Wow.) – Even though I am no longer meeting with them on Sundays, these are still the people I would call in an emergency. When I think of my very best friends, in Denton and beyond, I can trace almost all of them back to one (or both – love you, Steph) of these groups.
  5. Maggie and Michelle – They get their own space. They are often my first sounding board and my first readers. If you looked at the text messages on my phone, you would see that over half the total messages I send are to one or both of them. If I ever become obnoxiously wealthy, the first thing I’m going to do is pay off my student loan.  The second thing I’m going to do is buy each of them a house and hire Maggie as my personal assistant and Michelle as my social media coordinator so that they can move back to Denton. So, start making plans, you two.
  6. My family – This is the part where I get weepy with gratitude.  My family is my greatest support. My family is the reason I can’t say mean things about Republicans in general (even though the loud, extreme ones in the media really have it coming).  My conservative parents, sister, and brother-in-law are the most generous, most helpful, most supportive, most responsible, kindest, bravest, funniest, and just all around BEST people I know. I am who I am because of them, and I will be who I’m becoming because of them. I am lucky, lucky, lucky.

I might not have a plus-one right now, but that’s okay.  Because I have a plus-twenty.

I have the community I need.

Who’s your “we?” I’m linking up with Marvia’s Real Talk Tuesday – join us!

I can do many things.  I’m not great at multitasking, but I am crazy efficient. I can get more things done – even doing them one at a time – in one hour than many people can get done all day. I take great pride in this ability. I am not a person who requires others telling me how awesome I am (because please – I already know), but I love it when people notice how much I can get done in a short amount of time.  Because I KNOW, right?!  Recognize.

I tell you this so that you can understand how much I do not want to admit that I cannot complete my Getting It Together project according to my original timeline.

But here I am.  Admitting it.

I could blame the sudden acquisition of a summer class that left me with two fewer evenings every week than I had budgeted.  Speaking of budgets, I could blame my lack of adequate funding for feeling like I am always waiting on the money to pour in before I can move forward.  I could even blame my writing schedule – which I’ve actually been following pretty well this summer – and the two writing classes I’m taking – which are kicking my ass in all the right ways.  There are a lot of things – many cases of “and then…” and “if only..” and “but when…” – lots of caveats, limitations, and warnings to others that I could set apart with dashes.  I could write a whole post on just these things.

But these things, factual as they may be, do not change the unfortunate truth that there are only so many hours in a week, and that’s not enough hours to do what I had planned to do. I can get into a weekly routine of cleaning (check), and I can get into the habit of cooking so that I have food at home and thus feel less compelled to drive through Whataburger every night (check), but I can’t do that and deep clean and shop and reorganize and write and work and see people occasionally and sleep.

So here’s what I AM going to do.

Step 1: Breathe. Just calm the hell down. Focus on finishing Fishbowl and reading and having a proper summer. Eat more snow cones. Paint my toenails.

Step 2: Recognize what I have accomplished (see: weekly routine and cooking habit). This is how my living room looked last night (filter applied because the sun was down and the filter brightened it up):

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Not perfect, but not bad for just your average Sunday when no guests were expected. Behold, the power of routine.

Step 3: Revamp. Later this week, I will post my new plan.  There will be an ultimate (soft) deadline, because I can’t bring myself to let it drag on forever, but beyond that there are no time constraints. I have learned that some areas will take longer than others, and that’s okay. Each room will just take however long it takes. And I am happy to let it take its time, because I want to make the apartment home, not just the place where my stuff lives. Well, really I want to move.  But while I’m there, I want to be pleased with it instead of having my current reaction, which is something like, “Oh. That mess again,” every time I walk in. Ideally, my new projected deadline will coincide with my December cookie party, but we’ll see.

Step 4: Invite friends and readers (hey – that’s you!) to hold me to this.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some breathing to do.

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