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Friday Five2

Hello, December! Pay day and holiday wassail fest on the square and Friday, all in one. Happy day!

Here are a few things I liked on the intrawebs this week:

  1. Sarah Bessey reposted this from a few years ago. I still love it. Advent is for those who know longing.
  2. This made me laugh – brutal Christmas card. Same, Emily. Same.
  3. Abby Norman also reposted one of her (and my) favorite posts about December. December, we take your joy without your nonsense.
  4. Oven mitts for people like me. Also tea cups. Just in case you are looking for gift ideas.
  5. And finally – Dear Academy, please take all my money. I love this response.

Happy Friday!

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Challenging Advent

AdventWord

I’m gearing up for the first Sunday of Advent this weekend. Advent is one of my favorite seasons…in theory. I love it, but I want to do all the complicated things to make it Meaningful with a capital M. Which I recognize in my head is ridiculous. Especially for a season that is all about waiting and expectation and hoping, which frankly often means a whole lot of sitting around in stillness and quiet.

But last year, I endeavored to light the candles every day. Which in itself is not that much. But then after I lit the candle, I wanted to complete all the readings from the Book of Common Prayer for the day, which is not a bad goal but maybe not one to take on suddenly during one of the busiest months when I am not so great at doing that on a regular basis any other time of the year. Then after I read all the readings, I wanted to complete an art journal page reflecting the readings and also the word prompt from Advent Word (see image above) for the day that I had in my Advent calendar (which the previous year I had knitted and sewed together with my own two hands). This ritual was designed to play out against a playlist of seasonal hymns, perfectly timed to last the length that it took to finish all of the above.

This is not what waiting looks like. I’m exhausted just reading about it.

As you can imagine, there weren’t many days this actually happened. Specifically, looking back on my journal, I see that there were seven days out of the whole four weeks when I had time to do all of that, and I vividly remember doing two days’ pages at once on more than one occasion. Plans are only as good as their execution, so as plans go, this one was not awesome.

This year still has a plan, because otherwise Advent will pass on by without my giving it a thought other than on Sundays and Wednesdays. But it’s a slower plan that’s more conducive to hope and peace and joy and expectation. I still (will) have the candles (as soon as I buy them), because that part I did do every day last year, even if it was just during dinner. I will still use my cute calendar, but this year, as I have discovered that its little pockets are the perfect size for a tea bag or an Emergen-C packet or a single-serve bottle of hooch, I will simply be enjoying a daily beverage along with my candles/supper/staring at the Christmas tree lights.

There will likely be music in the background from my record player or a Spotify playlist. I will probably still read through some of the daily readings, as that is a habit I’d like to pick up this year, but I’m not going to make an issue of it or feel like I’m running behind if I don’t. I will also sporadically play along on Instagram with Advent Word or with Susannah Conway’s December Reflections prompts, because that’s fun.

But no extra stress or unreasonable to-do lists. Just waiting. And hope. And expecting. And joy. That’s what I hope to take from Advent this year.

 

Friday Five 4

Today I am in training most of the day. It’s about a topic I’m interested in, and there are snacks. But real talk? I kinda just want to nap.

Here are some things I’ve loved this week. My Facebook saves have been cute-animal-intensive. This solidifies my plan to do as little as possible this weekend and rest.

  1. I appreciate the work that Pastor Charles Johnson is doing in Texas. Fair warning – this interview is from a highly biased source, and I find the interviewer annoying in that regard, but I like his answers. Yay, public education!
  2. Tracee Ellis’s speech that lifts up single women with no children? LOVE.
  3. Andi is reading books about books during the holidays. I might have to join her. Drop by and leave suggestions if you want.
  4. This dog. “THROW THE STICK YOU MONSTER.” Hilarious.
  5. Goats really are the best animals. THE BEST.

Feel free to drop inspiring things (especially cute animal videos) in the comments. Have a good day!

If I Had a Band…

photo 5It would be a cover band, because I am not a songwriter. And I have an obsession with cover bands. I could totally see myself being in one. My first album would be a collection of my favorite songs to belt out on a long drive.

In order of appearance:

1. Build Me Up, Buttercup (The Foundations) – I love this song. I might even say that it is my favorite song of all time. A theme song, if you will. The album will start with a regular cover or a respectful nod to the original. Who wants to be the drummer?

2. Don’t Fence Me In (Roy Rogers) – So much fun. Favorite line – “Gaze at the moon until I lose my senses.” Okay, I’m going to need a guitar player.

3. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (The Casinos) – This is the song that I want to dance our first dance to at my wedding reception. You know, if ever such a thing should happen.

4. Rebel Girl (Bikini Kill) – Oh, riot!grrl music – yeah, this one’s going on there.

5. Crazy (Patsy Cline) – Because I’m from Texas. And this song sounds awesome with a jazzy vocal arrangement that the people of the world just need to hear.

6. Dream a Little Dream of Me (The Mamas and the Papas) – this one reminds me of an old friend, which is exactly what the middle of an album should be.

7. Scotch and Soda (Kingston Trio) – An opportunity to show off my smooth piano skills (that I would brush up on if I knew I’d have to play in public) to cover up the fact that my voice is, at best, mediocre? Yes, please.

8. Black Coffee (every jazz singer since the beginning of jazz) – Do I really need to explain why with this one? Although I’d have to bring in a guest vocalist on this one. Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald sang this, y’all. I can’t compete with that, nor would I sully the memory of their renditions by trying to do so.

9. For Your Love (Ed Townsend) – Such a pretty yet simple song.

10. Love Me (Treat Me Like a Fool) (Elvis Presley) – Another crowd pleaser. Thank you. Thank you very much.

11. Build Me Up, Buttercup (The Foundations)- ending where we began, except with a punk or riot!grrl version – because that’s just how my cover band would roll.

I really, really want to make this album now.

photo 4

TW: eating disorders

I read a book tonight called Binary Star by Sarah Gerard. The main character was anorexic and bulimic, so it had the potential to be a little triggery for me. It wasn’t. I didn’t come away with a need to binge or starve. I ate dinner. I finished my water. I did a couple of loads of laundry. And now here we are.

I was prepared to put it down, though. It would have triggered something earlier in my life. I’m glad I didn’t have to, not only because I like to finish books when I start them but also because not getting triggered was an amazing experience. It’s one I’d like to have again.

I haven’t dabbled with consistent disordered eating or lied about my eating habits in a long time (like, the kind of long you can measure in decades). But I’ve wanted to. At some times more than others. It’s always been there, that unstable feeling like I’m standing at the edge of a canyon and need to concentrate very hard on not toppling right on in.

For a moment, it wasn’t there tonight. I saw the character’s behavior for the downward spiral it was.

Tonight I feel like I’m in my right mind, which is a new feeling for me regarding food issues.

I had a post scheduled to write today about being judged for my weight, both when I was thin and now. More accurately, I had planned to write the first of my nostalgia posts where I take old blog posts and reorganize them slightly to shed new light on the subject. I am going to take rampant liberties with this one.

The original post was about external messages that people (women, specifically) receive about weight and its ties to their perceived worth. That is a conversation I have often, and it is a conversation worth having. These messages are a plague. They’re dangerous. Particularly when they come directly from people we love. And the people who bear the heaviest burden of the effects of these messages are hardly ever the people actually responsible for them.

Tonight, however, I’m thinking more about how people in general and I in particular absorb(ed) messages about body image, process(ed) these messages, and turn(ed) that processing into behavior that’s not always healthy.

I have always suspected that problems can be alleviated but never really go away. I assumed that my history of disordered eating and all the messages that helped to lead me there would mean I’d always be stuck in doing the work of the cycle:

  1. A message is sent. It could be one of the abominable judgy messages, or it could be a message like a book with a character who has some serious eating disorders. It might even be a great message, like body positivity statements.
  2. The message sticks because I absorb it as a trigger.
  3. I reframe my internal reaction to the message. To me, reframing is different from adapting a positive attitude. For starters, the term reframing doesn’t make me want to punch the person who suggests it in the throat. To me, reframing is about getting to the truth of a situation rather than just throwing a blanket of sunshine over it, blindly hoping it will smother anything untoward that lies beneath. I filter through the message’s layers, attempting to separate them into piles of true and false, healthy and unhealthy, helpful and destructive. For the record, this doesn’t always go the way it ought to go, despite very good intentions.
  4. I react/respond with external behavior. Sometimes, I process, and the truth does set me free, and I behave with sanity and reason. More often, there’s no time for that, and the chances of making a good vs. bad choice are about 50/50. Sometimes I think it out and still make bad choices, such as eating more than my body is comfortable holding just because it’s there and I can.

Whew. Are you exhausted? I’m exhausted. If you’ve ever wondered why a person with an addiction or mental health issue can’t just get over it, this is why. Getting over it is hard work. If it weren’t, it never would have been a problem in the first place.

Tonight I caught a glimpse of what it was like to arrest the cycle at stage two. I received a message, and my gut reaction was to see the truth of it. No trigger. No exhausting process just to get through the night intact.

This must be what people with a healthy relationship with food and good body image feel like all the time. It’s incredible. I highly recommend it.

And I have no idea how it happened. I mean, I suspect it has something to do with the years and years (omg the years) of working through that cycle (with and without qualified professionals) with varying degrees of success. But even the thought of that is exhausting, so if you are reading this and it hurts you more than it helps, let me just carry that to the unhelpful pile for you.

Nor am I done. I’m not saying that I’m cured and that I’ll never struggle with food issues or the temptation to engage in disordered eating again. I have no way of knowing that for sure. I kind of doubt it, actually, although that would be really nice. I learned tonight, though, that moments of right-mind, true, gut-reaction, health are possible. And that I want a whole lot more of that.

For all of us.

Love-Letters-to-Writers_screen_72dpi

Andi’s book is launching on November 14, and I’M SO EXCITED!!! As a member of her online writing community, I have benefited from Andi’s wisdom through my inbox every week, so it’s thrilling to see her letters compiled in a volume that I can share with the writers in my life. I interviewed Andi about the Love Letters to Writers, and I hope you enjoy it!

1. I am a to-do list person. One thing your letters (and your online writing group) have encouraged me to do is slow down and pay attention. Why is this important for artists in general and for writers in particular?

Oh, I’m a to-do list person, too. I like to feel like I’ve gotten a lot done, but I’ve learned that as a writer that product cannot be the end-all-be-all. Process is crucial, and part of the process for an artist is that we have to notice and bear witness to what happens around us. For writers, this means that sometimes our work is to take note rather than to shape things.  So sometimes we do a lot of writing that no one else will ever see.  We have to pay attention to our senses, to our bodies, and to our emotions. We have to slow down to try to see the Why? behind things . . . because it’s in that why that the life of a story lives.

2. You often write in your letters about the physical spaces you create to support the habits of your writing life. What common elements do you find necessary for such spaces?

For me, the space needs to be quiet. It needs to be filled with things I love but that don’t require my attention – pieces of art, books I know, objects that people I love have given me.  I really need to love the wall color (My office is painted in “Macaroni and Cheese.”).  I also need my writing space to be comfortable in terms of a chair and desk.

But that’s what I need. Every writer needs different things. Some people need to work in coffee shops for the gentle distraction of other people and their chatter, and others love to have music going all the time. Some people prefer a pristine, streamlined environment, and others find that the dining room table is ideal for them.

The key is for each writer to determine what works best for them and then to create the space they need. I recommend a dedicated space for writing – even if it’s that the dining room table becomes writing space after dinner – because when we return to the same space again and again to write, it creates a sort of mental memory of what we do there.  That can be a powerful tool for starting that day’s writing.

3. You are so gentle – in your letters, in your work, and in person. Have you found this gentleness to be useful in the work you do? Why or why not?

What a kind thing to say, Suzanne. Thank you.  In the work I do with writers, yeah, most of the time I think gentleness is key. We’ve all been scolded about our writing selves – either by teachers or blogs or by those voices that live in our own minds.  Most of us need to be spoken to with gentle directness, I think.

On occasion, my clients could probably use a more assertive coach who demands more of them, but then, the clients who work with me know who I am, so perhaps they don’t expect that.

In my writing life, well, I often wish I wasn’t so gentle. When I’m not working with writers, I research and write about the history and legacy of slavery, and I’m learning to make my voice more steely because American needs to hear the truth about this part of our American history.  I’m still gentle on the inside, though, so sometimes, it’s quite challenging to continue to speak strong on something that feels so obviously needed to me.

4. Great writers are often great readers. What is the best book you’ve read this year, and what did it teach you?

This is always a tough question, but I’ll just go with the first book that came to mind: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken.  I read this book just after I miscarried this year because it’s about McCracken’s own experience of losing her son before he was even born.  It taught me to write raw about the pain I’ve lived, even if I’m not ready to share that rawness yet, and it taught me that you can recall the details and emotions of an experience even after it happens and even if you don’t journal the whole time. Sometimes, I feel like since I don’t journal my days I’m missing out on books I could write later, but McCracken’s memoir reminded me that those experiences still live in me – I just have to work to find them again.

5. What are your favorite moments when working with writers?

Oh, many.  My all-time favorite is when a writer decides to take herself seriously as a writer, when she decides to commit the time, when she decides to do the work because she WANTS to do it . . . even if there’s no recognition or paycheck coming. I love those moments because they are the moments I know that a writer is in and will keep going no matter what.  They aren’t that common, but when they come, I’m exhilarated.

I also love the moments when writers find that their own egos are not the best judges of their work, when they can put aside their intentions and what they thought a work was and hear the perspective of someone – a friend, a reader, an editor – who does not find the work flawless.  Those moments are the ones that make us better writers, and while they are painful, they are crucial.

I also love launch days for writers I know.  They aren’t always – or often – spectacular successes, but the joy of putting something out into the world, something built with hard effort and love, well, that’s a glorious thing.

Love Letters to Writers is available for pre-order now. Treat yourself to this gem of a book.

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Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, four dogs, four cats, six goats, three rabbits, and thirty-six chickens. She writes regularly at andilit.com

Friday Five3

This week has been full of festivities and people helping and raising money and reaching out. Here are some small snippets that capture some of the work and the joy on the intrawebs this week.

  1. You have probably heard of the attack in Somalia that left over 300 dead in October. Even if you haven’t, it’s not too late to help. You can find links to the story as well as suggestions for getting involved here.
  2. Postmodern Jukebox and Wayne Brady sing a 30’s style Thriller. Also check out Sarah Reich, one of my favorite tap dancers, on his left.
  3. I love seeing how people dress up for Halloween. Favorites this year were Shonda Rhimes as Debbie Allen and Kristen Bell as Magnum, P.I.
  4. There are a lot of things going on in Denton this weekend. I might go to all of them. Or I might just go to the Friends of the Library book sale.
  5. And finally, here are some pictures of people who absolutely did not want the damn cats.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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