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I love the way Emily Ley’s books look – simple and colorful with their own built-in bookmarks.

I read A Simplified Life today, and while I didn’t get any particularly new insights from it, I did enjoy that it reminded me of what I need to make my life work well.

Today was a great day. I had a productive day, but I didn’t have a specific to-do list of things I wanted to get done, so it was also relaxed. I mean, I always have a to-do list running through my head; that’s just the way my brain works. An awareness of things I know I’ll be a little calmer/happier/saner having done rather than leaving undone. And it works. Today I checked some of those things off my mental list, and I feel a little calmer/happier/saner.

It would have been just as great, however, if I had woken up, had coffee, roamed around the community market where I met a new friend, and went on a spontaneous adventure.

My weekdays are very structured. Each day in my planner has a list of appointments and tasks for the day, and a check mark goes beside each task when it’s complete. That’s how I balance two jobs and multiple responsibilities at my church and three book clubs, etc.

I try to leave room on the weekends for doing exactly what I want to do in the moment, though, because I don’t want my whole life to be so structured that I get anxious when someone calls and wants to do something fun. I don’t want to be a person for whom fun is stressful.

I need balance. Equal(ish) parts structure and chaos. I need both focus and a little bit of wild.

I need to not have to choose one way to handle everything. I want to get everything done while still remaining flexible enough to let a little luck slip in.

 

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“Poets manage to get into a couplet what I struggle to achieve in an entire book.”
– Louise Penny-

March is the best month (my birth-month), but April is easily in my top five. Never mind that spring is trying to murder me. Never mind that the end of the semester is drawing nigh, and the students (and admittedly, all of us, too) have the -itis. Never mind that I don’t have a free weekend until mid-May. All of that pales in comparison to the fact that April is both National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month.

I mean, that’s really every month with me. But others are more intentional about enjoying both this month, which gives me more opportunity to enjoy poetry and jazz with them.

One of my book clubs is reading and sharing poetry all month. We are having at least three poetry gatherings at a local coffee shop to read together and share our books, which seems like the very best outing I can think of.

So far I have started Don’t Get Your Hopes Up/Moon Woman by Courtney Marie and Fatima-Ayan Maliki Hirsi (two of our local poets) and When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks (not pictured – reading a digital copy). Beautiful verses set a lovely tone for the whole day.

Then at night, I spend an hour or two listening to records as I wind down for bed. I’m looking forward to Arts and Jazz Fest at the end of the month. If you’re in Denton, you should check it out!

“eden all would abandon
to not be alone”
From the collection When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks

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With an hour to spare

My 24in48 weekend was a success! I mean, it was a weekend of reading, so success was a given. Even if I hadn’t reached the 24-hour mark, it would still have been a great weekend.

I finished a few books (that’s right, Goodreads. THREE AHEAD OF SCHEDULE) and got a good start on a few more.

The ones I had already started before and finished during the weekend:

  1. Faithful by Alice Hoffman – I am a sucker for misfit characters (not telling you which ones, because spoilers) who slowly, awkwardly find their way, so this was an easy story to enjoy.
  2. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (audiobook) – I love Nicola Yoon. This is the second book I’ve devoured of hers. Things I learned/remembered as I read it:
    * Love can kill you, but it’s worth the risk.
    * “Love makes you crazy. Loss of love makes you crazy.”
  3. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero – 2 stars, and barely that. It gets a second star because she made me laugh a couple of times. Let me save you the trouble of reading it: Love yourself. Believe in yourself. Then take opportunities as the universe presents them to you. Oh, and all you need to get over depression is to just think happy thoughts instead of sad ones. Just…don’t be depressed. Therapists throughout the world will be so relieved to know that it’s just that easy. No need for all that pesky training and knowledge. Just tell clients to turn their frowns upside down.

The ones I started and finished this weekend:

  1. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery – After Everything, Everything, I had to make my yearly-ish re-read of The Little Prince this weekend. I really do get something new out of it every time, no matter how many times I read it.
  2. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – Loved. It. There were moments when the tension was so high I almost cried because I just couldn’t read fast enough. I would never survive an audiobook version. But once again, I have foolishly started a great series when the next one is nowhere near out yet.

The ones I started this weekend but haven’t quite finished yet:

  1. Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (audiobook – do yourself a favor and listen to it – I’m not even tempted to increase the speed on this one) – He’s a great storyteller, and hearing his stories reminds me a lot of my teen years (not that they were similar to his but that his face was plastered on my walls for the majority of mine). Also, he makes me want to re-watch The West Wing.
  2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami – I’m only about halfway through because I’m taking it slowly and decadently. Even in translation, Murakami’s prose is exquisite. Also, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of music. I recommend playing the songs mentioned in the background as you read. And buy lemon drops before you start; you’ll soon be craving them.
  3. A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny (audiobook) – The next book in my quest to catch up before my church book club reads the newest in the series in June.

I didn’t even touch most of the books in this stack, but I’m so glad to have read/started the ones I did. Hope your weekend was as fun as mine!

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I was going to post a list of five reasons I love Club Pilates. And make no mistake – there will be gushing, so be prepared for that. But there are so many things I’m enjoying/looking forward to right now that I’m actually doing in real life (i.e., not just on the internet) that I wanted to give them their moment in the sun.

  1. Club Pilates – It’s the most expensive exercise program I’ve ever used, and I LOVE IT. Worth every penny. I have been pretty consistent with my Pilates practice on my own, but this takes it to a whole new level. Come to a 30-minute intro class. You’ll be hooked (quite possibly literally – there are often straps involved).
  2. This weekend is the 24in48 Readathon! I’m finishing up a few books I’ve been working on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and starting a couple new ones. I’m mostly going to post on Instagram and Twitter about it, but I plan to check in a couple times here with challenges. Stay tuned tonight for the TBR stack.
  3. Dinner Club – My church has started dinner clubs again. Each family (or pair, for those of us who are single) takes turns being the host, co-host, and guest, and we rotate groups each month so that we get to have dinner with everyone eventually. I’m taking a break from reading to attend my first one this weekend, and I’m very excited!
  4. I’ve joined another book club. I’m reading the two first two books we’re discussing this weekend, and we’ll meet for discussion on Thursday. It’s hosted by a local artist collective that I recently started supporting so I’m looking forward to talking to the ones who come to book club and seeing how/if we’re a good fit for each other.
  5. Re: the artist collective – I may be taking an editing workshop with them in February. I haven’t chosen the piece I want to take to revise, but I’m trying to talk myself into going. Perks: It’s perfectly in line with certain life changes I want to make, so of course it makes logical sense that I would do it. Drawbacks: Change compounded with socializing with strangers makes me itchy. Just putting this one in writing so that I can’t deny that I said it.

 

 

Lucky in Love

The only thing better than having a French press to myself is having someone to share it with.

What I am about to say, I say with some trepidation. *deep breath*

I want a plus one (casual applicants acceptable, especially at first). I have things on the calendar that would be more fun with someone else. Ultimately, I want to find someone to love. And I suck at finding someone to love who has the good sense to love me back. Apparently.

So I’m asking for help.

Those of you familiar with me, of course, know that this ask comes with a few asterisks.

Asterisk #1: I’m not fishing for compliments. I don’t need you to tell me how much I deserve to have someone who loves me. I have several faults, but low self-esteem is not one of them. I believe that I am a catch. I would even go so far as to say I’m a delight. But knowing I deserve love and being good at finding that love? Clearly not the same thing. I need help with the second one, not the first.

Asterisk #2: Please make sure the advice you’re giving actually worked for you before you offer it as something useful. A history of people corralling me into seemingly endless conversations like this is the exact cause of the aforementioned trepidation. I am not interested in monologues of useless platitudes that you can’t back up with your own experience. Looking for well-earned wisdom, not generic guesses.

For example, don’t give me this “You just need to get out more” nonsense.

First, I am out plenty. For as much of an introvert as I am, I am especially out plenty. Second, I can almost guarantee that I get out more than you did when you met your significant other. If you met your spouse while doing something you were going to do anyway, like school, work, church, or hanging out with friends, you don’t know how to tell me to meet my SO by going out more often. You just lucked out. All you had to do is open your eyes and say, “Hi,” to get that started.

Don’t tell me to do something I know you didn’t have to do. I can (and do…when I go out…which is plenty) find random experiments on my own, thanks.

Asterisk #3: Everyone has something to bring to the table. If you are in a happy relationship, you know something that can help me. Share, please.

If you did meet your SO by just going about your life, a way you can help is to throw some of that luck my way. Introduce me to your delightful single friends. I’m certain they’d love to meet me, too. For the record, we like being invited over (or out) for dinner. I also like dancing. And if I do start dating a fella I might want to consider making a long-term partner, I’ll be talking to you happy couples and taking notes.

Now, if you met your spouse on the internet or in a bar and you’re still happy together years later, you might be able to offer sound advice on how to meet people in casual social settings (i.e., by getting out more) and make it stick. To be clear, I’m not asking how to hook up. That’s not at all difficult, and it’s not what I’m ultimately looking for. If you managed to turn a casual meeting into a real relationship, tell me those stories. Or better yet – invite me out and be my wingman/woman.

[Asterisk #3.1: If you want to know where to start, I prefer men between the ages of 35-45. Dating me may be easier if one believes in God and leans toward liberalism. Top candidates’ interests/professions may include coffee, food, wine, books, music, and dancing, but not particularly in that order.]

[Asterisk #3.2: Most of these terms are negotiable. If your adorable friend doesn’t quite fit them, inquire within. Or just invite us over and see what happens. That should be entertaining.]

Asterisk #4: Despite the impression that the existence of these multiple asterisks probably gives, I don’t want you to overthink it. Let’s all relax and have a little bit of fun with this.

[Asterisk #4.1: I recognize that you may have to remind me that this is supposed to be fun and relaxing. These are not my standard modes of operation (see behavior re: multiple asterisks).]

I’m not expecting you to fully vet the people to whom you introduce me. Correction: I fully expect that some of you will do this because you are protective and loyal and lovely friends and thus just can’t help yourselves. But do try to keep that to a minimum (the choosy part, not the friend part). The people you think I should click with and the people I actually click with may be very different people. Let me be the picky one in the scenario.

Yes, I ultimately want to marry someone. But I’m not going into a coffee date thinking, “I wonder if he’s the one,” and I really hope he’s not thinking that, either. All I’m thinking is “Hey, someone is sitting next to me while I drink coffee! Cool.” and “I wonder if I’ll get the pour-over, the cortado, or the macchiato?” We can all just calm down and not try to rush into forever.

[Asterisk #4.2: While I can promise not to rush into relationship-y things, we all know I will not be able to stop myself from judging him based on his coffee choices. In the interest of being a good friend to him, too, maybe warn him in advance.]

Asterisk #5: The best counsel I’ve ever gotten on this subject was real advice people didn’t try to sugarcoat. I give a lot of disclaimers, but I don’t need them. Relationships get messy. Hell, even coffee can get messy. Talk about that.

[Asterisk #5.1: I recognize I have a lot of angst regarding this subject. OBVIOUSLY. Please don’t let that spook you. Even if I don’t find your advice helpful, I find your desire to help utterly terrific. And hearing me out while I vent is also terrific. So thanks for reading this far. See? You’re helping already.]

So to sum up:

  • Introduce your single friends to each other (specifically, to me). Yes, it will be awkward. But so is going to a music festival/wine walk/party/wedding where I have to impose, attaching myself like a social barnacle to others who brought their social lives with them in the form of a plus one. Unless I enjoy hanging out in the midst of a flock of people with no one to talk to (spoiler: I almost never enjoy that. At all. It’s the worst. If I wanted to be alone, I would save myself the trouble and just stay home. I already know I love the food and music there, and I can enjoy them in my pajamas.).
  • Don’t worry on my behalf about whether it’s going to work out. I already know how to overanalyze. Don’t need any assistance there.
  • Talk is great. Action is better. Do with that what you will.
  • I hear advice better over a margarita or glass of wine. Or a steak. Maybe there are appetizers involving goat cheese…but I digress…

Thanks for reading to the end. You’re good people. I like you.

Dance

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One of my favorite ornaments from the year I decorated my tree with shoes and booze. 

When I was a little girl, I was pretty serious and quiet (more so than now). My mom wanted to get me out of my shell a bit, so she encouraged me to try different things. Other than church activities and choir, one of the earliest activities I tried was dance, and I fell in love with it. I was *cough*am*cough* pretty clumsy, so I wasn’t great at it, but I loved having something to do with my awkward energy.

Dance still gets me out of my shell.

People say that you’re supposed to get more comfortable in your body as you get older. But I still feel awkward as hell. I haven’t felt this awkward trying to maneuver myself around since junior high (when everything is just terrible). When our new building was in the earlier construction stages, we took a tour. Some of the spaces were hard to get through, and I felt dumb. I’m grown. I should be able to walk around places generally unencumbered by unease and self-consciousness. It’s like I was in someone else’s body, trying to figure out how to move it around.

The only time I remember being truly comfortable in my skin was when I was dancing on a regular basis. So while it may seem weird to list dance as a core value, it is for me. it grounds me and reminds me of how this body – the one I have in reality, not the one I used to have or want to have – moves best.

Dance is the embodiment of emotion. As someone who isn’t naturally expressive, I learned that it was okay to let my feelings show and that doing so could actually be a strength from dance. It taught me to pour out frustration, love, sorrow, and joy, and it taught me that they all could be beautiful.

It also taught me how to fall down less frequently. That part’s nice, too. Who knows how many more injuries I would have sustained over the years without specific training on how to achieve a certain amount of balance?

Even when I’m not taking formal classes, the occasional outing or lesson is enough to remind me to be present with what is true and real now.

“Dancing insists we take up space, and though it has no set direction, we go there together. Dance is dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive, and contagious and it breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere, at anytime, with anyone and everyone, and it’s free. Dance joins us and pushes us to go further and that is why it’s at the center of ONE BILLION RISING.” – Eve Ensler

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“…love changes all things all the time. That’s what love is for.”
from The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, as are all the quotes throughout the post.

Every once in a while, I start to believe that I’m wholly pragmatic and sensible with all my feelings aligned neatly in their nice little boxes. Every once in a while, I start to think I’m not a hopeless romantic.

Then I read a book like The Sun is Also a Star, and I have to come to terms with the fact that oh, yes, I absolutely am a hopeless romantic.

I was not emotionally prepared for how much I love this book. I planned to start a YA novel that I’m sure I’m going to like that is due at the library in five days after I finished this one, but it doesn’t seem fair to subject this new perfectly lovely book to the afterglow I’m feeling right now. I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should read something in another genre altogether.

Maybe I’ll just start it over and read it again immediately.

A big part of this novel’s impact on me is timing. I know exactly what the paralegal Hannah felt like when she imagined she was “living in a fairy tale where she’s not the star.” Until this last year, I hoped that might be enough (as it looked like that was all I was going to get). If I had read it at this time last year, I probably still would have loved it. But it wouldn’t have left me giddy and restless and about fourteen other emotions that make up how your heart pounds when it is so full of yearning it feels like it’s trying to escape your body.

Fortunately, it is our book club selection at a time when I most need to believe that improbable love can swoop in and take over at any moment, with no regard for how much you’re trying to keep it together and mind your business. A love that’s “like knowing all the words to a song but still finding them beautiful and surprising.”

It hits pretty hard on this year I started by throwing down the gauntlet to the universe. A year when I most want to remember that “We have big, beautiful brains. We invent things that fly. Fly. We write poetry.” A year I started by asking “Why settle? Why choose the practical thing, the mundane thing?” A year whose theme I hope to be “We are born to dream and make the things we dream about.”

And to be reminded, as I jump into this lucky year, that it may get messy. “Because everything looks like chaos up close. Daniel thinks it’s a matter of scale. If you pull back far enough and wait for long enough, then order emerges. Maybe their universe is just taking longer to form.”

I’m grateful to Nicola Yoon for rewriting those last few lines “approximately four million times” to get them just right. They were absolutely essential to me, as was this gem of a story.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Do yourself a favor – put aside enough time to read it in one sitting and dive in.

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