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Archive for the ‘Beauty’ Category

The tree is officially up and plugged in. And that’s it. No decorations yet. Just twinkly lights. Happy.

Our small group on Monday night talks about the lesson for the next Sunday, so my appetite for Advent has been whetted. Although Advent is one of my favorite seasons, December is not usually my favorite month. It’s usually too busy. That is not the case this year, though. Events are either canceled or virtual, and I think most people have (more than usual) an attitude of just making it through to the other side.

Students have already started leaving for break, since UNT classes are going completely online for the rest of the semester. They’re welcome to stay here, but they also have the option to go home and stay with their families for the holiday season, and many have chosen to do so. Can’t say that I blame them.

This December, I have a little more time. Rather than add extra things to it (with the exception of a blog series – more on that next week), though, I’m going to focus on savoring things I enjoy.

Cozy mysteries (just re-read Publishable by Death by A. C. F. Bookens this weekend, and it was just as much fun the second time around).

The above-mentioned twinkly lights. Just staring into them. Also candlelight is nice. More sparkly-lit rooms, please.

Soups and toasted sandwiches.

Baked goods of just about any kind. Sweet, savory – I love (most of) them all.

Dancing. Stretching. Dancing again.

Playing old records while sipping warm beverages.

Practicing hope. Practicing love. Practicing joy.

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Some spinsters have cats; I have books in cute nooks.

“What a great thing, to be loved. What a greater thing still, to love! The heart becomes heroic through passion…if no one loved, the sun would go out.” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

THE WHOLE DAMN SUN WOULD GO OUT. So dramatic, and yet feels so accurate.

Disclaimer: This post may get wallowy. If inspiration is what you need right now, consider passing it by. Take care of you.

I know the world is a rabid hyena frolicking in a trash heap right now. I feel selfish for even noticing the comparably small things going on with me. But not dealing with them doesn’t make them go away; it just makes them mad at being ignored and keeps me from focusing or getting anything else done. So fine, here’s your attention, you nagging asshats (feelings).

The loneliness is so strong this month. It’s like a whole other person by itself. And it’s hard to talk about because, while people who know me and what might help can just express sympathy, there’s occasionally a well-meaning person who is only trying to be helpful who comes across with “You’ll find someone,” or “I know there’s someone for you” or “of course it’s going to happen someday” or “I’ll be praying for you” or some other drivel meant to be encouraging that’s just not. So I try to bottle it up and that makes it worse so I need to talk about it and I’m between therapists so here we are.

Hi.

There is no evidence that everyone gets to find love. I know this. I know it’s an unreasonable expectation. A lot of amazing people who deserve to be loved and chosen never get to be. And I think that if I can just accept that I’m probably one of those people – that this is just how life is going to be always – I could maybe get unstuck a little.

I just…really hate the idea that that’s probably true. Like…physically, violently, hopelessly hate. it.

And this is also not me fishing for compliments. My social issues are anxiety-based, not esteem-based. I experience self-doubt just like everyone else, but overall? I have self-esteem to spare. Like, for three other people, at least. I sometimes have to pause after someone gives me a compliment not because I don’t believe it but because it takes me a moment to remember that the appropriate response is “Thank you” and not “I know.”

Of course, I have a long list of things I’m working on – I love learning and growing – but I also think I’m pretty amazing already. And if my friendships and past relationships are any indication, I’d be an amazing partner. I get a good dose of the benefit of living with me every single day. And I’m always alone, so I’ve had PLENTY of time to truly bask in my amazingness.

The vital characteristic I seem to be missing, though, is that one where you fall in love with someone and they fall in love with you, too. Don’t know how that works, really. Everyone I’ve loved, even if they considered it for a little while and gave it a shot, soon found someone else they’d rather be with. My most successful achievement thus far in a romantic relationship has been placeholder. That’s another thing I’m amazing at. Apparently.

An obvious solution is just to add “loves me madly” to my list of things I’m drawn to in a partner. I mean, it’s now on my list of things I require to agree to actually be in an exclusive relationship with someone, because it’s only fun if it’s mutual. Which is why there’s currently no relationship to speak of. But drawn-to doesn’t always wait around on choose-to. Those are different animals.

I don’t know – can other people control who they fall in love with? I don’t know how to do that. The list of adjectives I’m drawn to – kind, thoughtful, loyal, smart, funny, passionate, creative, interesting, etc. – is a result of observing the common characteristics of people I’ve loved. It’s not like I sit down with a checklist and make sure they match up to it and THEN allow myself to feel things. Feelings have a mind of their own, and once mine show up, they move in and bring their grandma’s furniture with them because they know they’re gonna sit for a spell. They are hard to get rid of. They’re the rude party guest who doesn’t get the hint that it’s time to go even after I’ve turned out all the lights and opened the door to make it super easy for them to walk out.

I suspect other people cannot control this either. How else do you explain the motley collection of humans who have expressed having feelings for me? They don’t fit my list at all. They’re drawn to the things in me that I am actively trying to correct or change for the better. They’re either dull, or complacent, or mean, or aggressively conservative (this is the most baffling. Have we even met? How in the world could a person with their priorities even be drawn to, much less want to partner with, the person I am or the person I am becoming?).

I’m not asking for answers or a solution or sympathy. Just needed to get it out of my head a little. Let’s see if I can find a tidy ending. Um…I guess if you’re feeling the same way…you’re not alone?

Except…you are. We both are. Maybe forever. Sorry, friend. I know. It really sucks. *hugs*

Welp. So much for tidy.

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My first small, imperfect peaches of the season. 

My word for the year is “alive.” The universe is hilarious.

I had a few thoughts about how this would go. There were a lot of lofty quotes that came to mind and many goals I made that I thought would contribute to a more vibrant existence. I had no idea how often I would have to fight to actively choose living over becoming stagnant or something else.

Today I read Joy the Baker’s post on turning 39, and so much of it resonated with me. I can list the accomplishments I’m proud of and many things I do well, but most days I can’t help but feel that I, too, have been left behind – that I missed a turn somewhere that would have taken me down the path toward those Big Life Goals™ that I just assumed would come along as soon I was ready for them. I also love her curiosity and her intention to set aside the small life story in exchange for embracing the things that sparkle – to “do them badly, then less badly, then maybe almost well.”

When our church decided to start meeting remotely, we didn’t hesitate or put it off a few weeks to figure it out. Our pastor told council, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” He didn’t mean, of course, that doing a bad job at online services should be the goal. Only that it needn’t wait until we had all the information to do it expertly.

As you can imagine, this is not my modus operandi. I am all for jumping off the cliff (metaphorically); I just want to be armed with a gigantic parachute of relevant knowledge before I do.

But I started the year with a commitment to come alive, so whether I know what I’m doing or not, here I am, doing it badly but consistently. This looks like a lot of different things:

To bake and eat the cake that I’ve been craving for a month rather than just think about making it.

To dance, enjoying the way my body – this body, the one I have right now – feels when it moves.

To choose to spend money in a way that actually makes a difference in my life and the lives of others rather than contributing to the greed of entities that exist to homogenize us.

To play Chopin. And also Joplin. And also brand new things that no one but me has ever heard.

To sing, even when there’s no one to carry the harmony.

To eat my veggies and stay hydrated.

To seek out the people who love me well and stop worrying about those who don’t.

To discover how much time I have when I cut out all the things that don’t really matter.

To discover exactly which things do matter so, so much.

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Sweet note on the dry erase board in the office this week

We are finally working from home. The students no longer are answering the telephone. We are having our first Zoom meeting tomorrow morning to check in. Denton’s stay-at-home order kicks in tomorrow night. I have plenty to do here to keep me busy, as my apartment looks like a tornado hit it (yes, ’tis the season, but in this case, just a simile) and thus is in desperate need of some attention.

Also I have books. Hundreds of books.

But I also need a little structure to maintain even a little bit of a sense of well-being. I can’t be alone in my house for weeks (months?) on end with no structure.

My goal checklist that I’ve been using this year to track the progress of my resolutions has thus far been extremely helpful for helping remain calm(ish). Every day I’m home all day, I make sure I’m:

  • drinking enough water
  • practicing Spanish, either through the Duolingo app or by reading a book in Spanish while keeping the dictionary close
  • dancing, whether for just a 10-minute break or a Zumba video or an online dance class (the tap classes Chloe Arnold is hosting through Instagram? Very cathartic. Highly recommend.)
  • exercising with Pilates on demand or with something that helps me stretch/strengthen
  • playing the keyboard (currently brushing up on some theory)
  • doing at least one thing to rest or pamper myself (e.g., relaxing foot soak, face mask, nap, etc.)
  • working on a crafty/creative project (e.g., knitting, poetry, coloring, etc.)
  • picking a different small area of the apartment to clean each day
  • taking a walk (weather permitting)
  • finishing the daily to-do list (e.g., keeping up with bills, checking in with friends, etc.)

I’m also taking the free Yale course, “The Science of Well-Being”. I’m just in the introduction, but I can already tell I’m going to like it.

I knew this weekend that I needed to go ahead and put these things in place now. I had a whole weekend at home. Normally, this would delight me. A whole free weekend? Paradise. But I spent a lot of the time overwhelmed and anxious and terribly lonely, despite the fact that I had a lot of interaction online. I thought when this started that this experience would be a good test of whether or not I could really work from home, but I may need reminders that this is a whole other animal. It’s not going to give me an accurate picture of what working from home would really be like.

What adjustments are you making to make this phase of life work?

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It’s the International Day of Happiness. This week has been w.e.i.r.d., to say the least. I’ve had a few panic attacks, and I’m still at work as we try to accommodate students who have nowhere else to go and figure out what in the world we’re going to do next (I would welcome faster decisions here…I’m just sayin’.). But there’s also been so many opportunities for joy. Just in my little corner of humanity, there is so much goodness. There are also so many fun things online. Here’s a list for times when you’re feeling more anxious than happy or just want something hopeful.

  1. Italians singing from their balconies.
  2. Lots of love happening on the ‘gram. Nikki Mayeaux is posting a daily creative prompt called Poem Passwords. The pictures on #seeninquarantine are spectacular. Between her early start for April Love and purrs from her sweet cat, Susannah Conway is soothing my soul. Julia Turshen is posting daily foodie prompts. I love this list from worn_ware of people offering yoga, meditations, etc.
  3. Tessera Arts Collective in Philadelphia closed the gallery for now, but they are still on for installing a street art campaign throughout the city this Sunday.
  4. Local businesses that can’t afford to shut down completely are making the best of it with delivery and curbside pickup. The Dentonite is keeping a running list. I love watching local business owners figure out how to take care of their employees by offering alternate earning opportunities and giving devoted patrons the ability to still tip their baristas/servers (*cough* support Golden Boy *cough*). Also…Golden Boy has key lime and coconut pie right now, which are in my top three favorite pies (blueberry is the third, if you’re wondering).
  5. Aid Network Denton and the city of Lake Dallas are keeping up a list of ways to get help or get involved if you can give help.
  6. Nature is delightful. The canals are clear and the swans are back in Venice. And penguins at the Shedd Aquarium enjoy a tour of the zoo.
  7. Since you can’t go in person, many field trip locations and entertainment venues are coming to you. You may also be able to watch the stage production of your favorite musical online. The Metropolitan Opera is streaming. Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeted himself playing “All I Ask of You”, and Lin Manuel Miranda responded with his performance of “Everything’s Alright”. Yale is offering their course on The Science of Well-Being for free (audit only).
  8. For artists whose income is impacted by all the cancellations, here’s a list of places that may be able to offer support.
  9. Books resources! I didn’t know how much I needed Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog in my life until this week. In fact, many children’s authors are reading their books online this week. And one that made me salivate – download from a selection of over 300,000 books for free from the New York Public Library through their reader app!!!
  10. Debbie Allen is teaching online dance classes! So is Chloe Arnold!
  11. Joy the Baker is just a delight. As usual.
  12. People are putting their Christmas lights back up to spread joy.
  13. All the Julia Child is streaming!!
  14. What am I doing this weekend? I’m so glad you asked! 24in48’s Social Distancing Readathon!

I’m sure there’s more. What are your favorite things people are doing right now?

 

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Three Things

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Supporting local business. Maybe to-go next time.

With all the precautions being taken to lower the spread of COVID-19, three things keep coming up for me.

  • The sheer volume of canceled plans I’m experiencing has helped me make some decisions. I mean, as an introvert, I’m a big fan of cancellations in general. But when the relief that something is canceled is so palpable that I get a little misty-eyed, maybe that’s a sign it’s time to let that thing go for real. I’ve already dropped two responsibilities that I didn’t notice were weighing so heavily on me, and it feels great. Also, I feel bad for extroverts. I know if I feel a small tinge (however fleeting) of disappointment when events are canceled, this must feel terrible for them. Check on your extrovert friends (and, while you’re at it, those whose livelihoods depend on the things being canceled).
  • This is the 21st century. Despite whatever our own comfort zones or preferences may be, we as educators have more tools to facilitate learning at our disposal than ever before in history. Ideally, this would be really good news for students with physical or learning disabilities, mental health issues, chronic illnesses, or a myriad of other factors that may make the traditional classroom not an ideal (or even feasible) learning environment. That universities know they need to give instructors an extra week of break to put these tools in place tells me we’re not already using the resources we could (read: should) be. Hopefully, this experience sheds light on how we could be serving our students better, even when we’re not under threat of pandemic.
  • Responses I have seen from friends and acquaintances in the last few weeks tend to fall into two main categories:
    – Derisive jabs, haughty superiority, and snide comments
    – Kindness, empathy, the self-awareness/humility to ask for help, and an eagerness to be helpful in any way they can.
    My behavior doesn’t always fall in the later category, but I want it to. Between those two choices, the latter is definitely the person I’d rather be. And a lot of my friends and people in my community are really knocking it out of the park lately. I’m grateful for them.

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It’s been a busy week that has followed another busy week, and I’m handling it but I also am really looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. Here are some things that have helped.

  1. Speaking of (not) sleeping, I feel this in my bones – NPR on the sleep issues of Gen X women.
  2. What can you get out of dance training (besides, you know, dance)? A kick-ass work ethic.
  3. Love to Maggie and Michelle (even though you’re closer, you’re still so far away from me) and other long distance friends.
  4. Middle-aged success stories that make me feel refreshingly like a larva.
  5. Jenny Lawson’s thoughts on hard days. ❤

Where have you gotten help this week?

 

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First page of new planner. A reminder for when I forget.

I love resolutions. Even the ones I abandon halfway through the year (although I would not mind getting to a place where I don’t get all riled up about something just to fizzle out). I like looking forward and fostering hope for making new magic and dreams (and yes, a little madness). I have a lot of small goals for the year, but they all center on a few themes:

  1. Reading – I exceeded my original goal of 100 books last year (by two!), and so I’ve upped the challenge to 120 this year. I have three book clubs, because I love talking about books with people. I think it would be nice if I did that more here, too. Possible posts to look forward to are periodic recaps of what I’ve read and what I’m about to read. I really love what Brenda at Don’t Stop Believing did here, and I really adored some of the things I read in 2019, so you may see something similar around these parts soon. For this year, my focus is going to be on actually finishing the book club choices before we meet (I did this about 60% of the time last year) and reading some of the hundreds of books on my own shelves that I have squirreled away for “someday.” Someday is 2020.
  2. Writing – I finished Fishbowl in 2018…and then I edited it. Now I need to finish it again, because as it turns out, I have no problem killing my darlings. I may enjoy that too much, actually. So this year’s main writing goal is to get it ready to go to beta readers (yes, Maggie – you first)/an editor. I also have a short story project that I am working on, and I want to continue my microfictions on Ello (anyone else on Ello?). I haven’t posted there in a while, but I have a few that I should be ready to upload by the end of the month. I anticipate writing (maybe performing) something in collaboration with Spiderweb Salon this year, too.
  3. Health – I need to be better at keeping up with doctor’s appointments. Just…all of them. I’m terrible at this. That’s a big goal for the year. With my Pilates practice last year, I re-discovered how good I feel when I’m paying attention to strength and flexibility and alignment (hello again, dance!), so I want to continue to build there.
  4. Work – I want to continue to explore the next direction my work life should go. I don’t have a lot of answers here, but I have lots of advice and guidance. Sifting through all of that. We’ll see.
  5. Word of the year – I wasn’t going to have a word of the year, but then I kept seeing quotes about coming alive or being alive and every one of them made me tear up a little bit so now my word of the year is “alive” and I’m pretty enthused about it. My gut reaction for how to pursue this is through music, dance, learning new things, making beautiful things and feeding people, but I’m leaving the possibilities open. I have a short-term bucket list for the year that includes things like “read a book in Spanish with minimal need for a dictionary” and “start learning sign language” and “walk/run more miles each month”  and “brush up on music theory” and it will be fun to see how many of those I stick to. In related news, I may be in the market for a French horn or trumpet soon. You’re welcome, neighbors (but let’s be honest, you kinda have it coming).

Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them!

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I’ve been needing an extra dose of both kindness and grace (both in remembering to give them and also in wanting to receive them) lately, so it makes sense that these five items stuck out to me over the last few weeks.

  1. I often find both in Haruki Murakami’s work. This musing over how he writes women was intriguing to me. Favorite quote – “The narrator of ‘Sleep’ was the first woman in fiction I could truly recognize as a person.”
  2. I can’t verify the journalistic prowess of Daily Live Online, but even if this story is totally parabolic, it still makes a nice point.
  3. THE BABIES IN THE MR. ROGERS SWEATERS. I just don’t have enough hearts to love this as completely as it deserves.
  4. An interpretation of the Mary and Martha story that doesn’t make me want to punch Jesus in the throat (sorry, Jesus, but…you’re familiar with me. You know.).
  5. I love Jenny Lawson so much. So proud (is it weird to be proud of someone you’ve never actually met?) of how she handled this.

Tell me kindness stories. What have you noticed this week?

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Favorite summer treat. One of maybe five things I like about summer. As things go, though, this one is pretty awesome.

Every year, I love reading Joy the Baker’s summer bucket list. This year, I am especially charmed by her resolve to make a Polaroid photo album and have brunch and champagne on a weekday. I also feel inspired to make my own bucket list (or, erm, the bucket list I have been working on this summer, as it’s basically half over), so here goes!

  1. Read more beach reads. I am not good at choosing what most people think of as “beach reads.” The last book I read on the beach was Like Water for Chocolate (highly recommend). I am part of three book clubs, which I love, but that typically means that I’m reading books I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen and also aren’t typically lighthearted but rather books that lend themselves to discussion. Summer is often when work is busier, so more than usual, I need my nightly reading to wind down and be able to rest. For this purpose, the lighter the better.
  2. Participate in 24in48 and Dewey’s reverse readathon. Speaking of reading, I am looking forward to a couple of readathon weekends. I like that these weekends force me to take a day off and focus on one task, and a relaxing, favorite task at that.
  3. Spiderweb Salon, the local art collective I enjoy, has some exciting events coming up this summer. On Sunday, they’re having a release party for their vinyl album, so that will be fun. There is also a letter-writing workshop/typewriter sale I’m going to sneak away to during 24in28.
  4. Finish Marie Kondo-ing my apartment. Two closets and almost a kitchen and bathroom down, the rest of the place to go. My apartment looks like a tornado hit it. Soon, however, it will all be beautiful, just like my closet.
  5. Average 2-3 hours a week playing the piano (or, keyboard, rather. It’s just not the same. *sighs*). I’m slowly getting the flexibility and control back in my fingers. And I love it.

Do you have a summer to-do list? What’s on it?

 

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