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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.

photo 5 (1)

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.

This week has been a cornucopia of madness, so today’s post is accomplishing several goals.

  1. Last week’s assignment from Story 101 was to write something out of your comfort zone. I chose form poetry, because my poetry doesn’t generally like to follow the rules. My sonnet is giving me fits.  So hello, haiku.
  2. One of my goals made with the online writing group with Andilit was to post two blog posts this week.  This makes two.  Done!
  3. And I am linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, hosted this week by Crystal Stine.  Join us and add your two cents (or rather, five minutes). The prompt is “belong.”

And go:

You belong with me

Like cats curled together warm

Even in summer

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Sky plummets to earth

Horizon fights off the wind

Somehow they belong

 

A sea of people

Often I wonder – will I

Ever belong here?

 

Clouds burst; rain comes; lush

I breathe in the rooted ground,

Belonging to it.

 

And because I just can’t help myself…

Whirr, boil, brew, inhale

My heart belongs to coffee.

Bearable morning

Week of Rest

My original schedule for Getting It Together had this week being Adorn – the week I clean out the closet.  I decided, however, to switch it with Rest because:

  1. It’s our week of silence in Story 101.  We are to have a daily practice of silence – whatever that looks like for us.  Traditionally, I would use the week to be off Facebook and Twitter, but that’s not feasible for my work week (both at the workplaces I get paid a salary and my writing/other pursuits). My week of silence will be spent devoting at least 15 minutes every day to each of these restful practices – being quiet and still, reading (this one’s so going longer than 15 minutes), stretching or doing Pilates, writing poetry, and dancing. I’ve put aside specific times every day for these practices. If we’re being totally honest here – this is my favorite week in Story 101.
  2. Life has been stressful lately, and freakishly so, given how easy my summer was meant to have been. Life is really barreling over me. I need relief now.
  3. My bedroom is so full that I can’t really clear out a space around the closet to clean it anyway. It will all be easier and will require less cursing if I just do the bedroom first.
  4. I’ve stopped going to church.  Well, not officially.  I still mean to go.  I really do mean to go, sometime right up to the moment that it’s time to walk out the door.  Then I stop. This doesn’t have anything to do with them.  They’re wonderful. But my hiatus from church has taught me Sabbath. It has taught me what a day of rest really looks like, and now I require it.  I need a day of rest.  Before summer started and I began to move things around (read: into the bedroom), I could go to church in the morning and still come home and rejuvenate. My room is in chaos, though, so being home isn’t so restful. I end up stacking or moving or feverishly cleaning. Or I avoid stacking and moving and cleaning but spend the day with the knowledge – that all those things I need to do are lurking right behind that closed bedroom door – hovering over me like a cloud. This, too, is exhausting. I don’t have time for my weekly rest to require more time than it already does. I need to nest.

So this week is Rest.  The plan for the bedroom is twofold, because honestly – if I can just get the room clean and organized this week, it will be a miracle. So some of the fancier things I want to do will have to wait their turn.

Short-term goals:

  • Clear out. Go through all the boxes (some still packed from the last time I moved…two years ago) and get rid of everything that I don’t need or can’t realistically expect to use within the next year.
  • Organize.  Put whatever is left after I have cleared everything out to place.  If it doesn’t seem to have a place, reconsider if it’s really something I need to keep.
  • Clean. Dust and vacuum. Control the allergens that make me wake up stuffy every morning.

Long-term goals:

  • Make curtains out of the blue sheet set. 
  • Make a headboard, covered with the material from the fitted sheet of that set. I thought about making it to fit in the holes that my dad left in the platform frame, but after searching for DIY instructions on the subject, I ran across this gem.  I like the way it looks, and it seems to be a lot simpler to make than one that actually fits the bed frame.  So for my first foray into headboard-making, this is the one I’m going to go with. I also like that it includes instructions on how to make your own piping, because I’m totally doing that with an old, holey blanket that I was just going to throw out.
  • Rearrange so that there is room for my little blue chair somewhere in the room.  
  • Possibly get a chest (more drawers?) to hold linens to put at the end of the bed.
  • Put up coat rack behind door.

Whew.  I could have spent the whole summer just on my room, it seems. We’ll see how this goes.

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