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Archive for the ‘Beauty’ Category

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Farm stand, sky and coffee. Pretty great trip!

June was fast-paced with pockets of slow. It’s a busy month at work, so of course I took a week and a half off, because I enjoy full mailboxes. It was a week well spent, though.

This was the first year I got to go to Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s writer’s retreat, and I am hooked. It was so refreshing. It was fun to meet people in person whom I’d only met online, and we got to drive through some beautiful scenery (note bottom left photo – Virginia is freakin’ gorgeous). I also got to spend lots of time with a couple of good friends on the way there and back since we drove from Texas.

No matter how busy it is, though, summer is always a heavy reading time for me. I picked up Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking and Susan Hermann Loomis’s In a French Kitchen, both of which I liked. I loved Meagan Spooner’s Hunted. It may be my favorite retelling of Beauty and the Beast. My favorite thing I read this month, though, was Fredrik Backman’s novella called And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. You can read it in one sitting, and if you have someone in your life who is losing their memory, I recommend reading it someplace private where you can ugly cry.

I am growing tomatoes! I have two plants, and they have actual, real green tomatoes on them. I have spent more time on my porch watering and talking to them this month than I have spent on my porch the rest of the last year.

Speaking of the last year, today is my apartmentversary. I have officially been here one year in this great neighborhood where, for the first time in a long time, I did not wake up to fireworks still going off at 4:00 in the morning. Do not ask me if I have finished unpacking yet. It would be a shame for me to be forced to lie to you.

What are you into this month? I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – drop over there and join the fun!

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Friday Five3

I thought it was time for a new picture. I may be trying out several pictures for Friday Five.

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’ll be showcasing poets and books of poetry and activism through poetry – basically, if there’s verse to it, it’s fair game.

  1. First up is a book that feeds my obsession with food writing. Nicole Gulotta has a new book out called Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry. It’s so gorgeous. I could live in the pages of this book.
  2. Nayyirah Waheed is the author of Salt and Nejma, and her words can slice right through you. Her poetry holds treasures such as:
    “i am mine.
    before i am ever anyone else’s.”
    and
    “you
    not wanting me.
    was
    the beginning of me
    wanting myself.
    thank you.
    -the hurt”
  3. For those who write poetry, Entropy has compiled a list of markets with no reader fees accepting submissions.
  4. If you’re not following Button Poetry, you should fix that. Click like. You know you wanna. I love spoken word, and they highlight a lot of newer poets, which I like as well.
  5. And because ’tis the season – The Mother Warns the Tornado by Catherine Pierce. “I will invent for you a throat and choke you.” Whoa.

Who are some of your favorite poets?

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This shirt has not made an appearance in public yet. But soon.

I joined a gym last week. I’ve been meaning to join for a while. I should have joined back in November or December.

I have been once since I joined. It was super crowded. This is a deterrent for me. I’m just not interested in spending an hour inhaling 200 people’s sweat or awkwardly waiting in line for the adducter machine. I am going to try to go at different times to see if it’s better. I keep telling myself it will be better once the “we’re getting healthy!” resolution bunch decides they like going to the wine bar more than the gym on Monday nights.

[Not that I condone such choices. Okay, I totally condone such choices. Exercise is good. So is the wine at my wine bar, though.]

There are actually quite a few deterrents for me. I don’t have great track record with food and exercise and healthy balance. It’s sometimes difficult for me to recognize if I’m overdoing it (or under-doing it) in the moment. Those realizations usually come after the fact. I’m getting better, but it’s still a struggle.

I am comforted (and also saddened…it’s complicated) to know that I am not alone. In our training last week (interpersonal violence intervention training – more on this later this month), we ate lunch together every day. And every day – with different tables and different people – I had some version of the same conversation:

Person 1: I’m eating this delicious pasta/pizza/bread.

Person 2: It’s sooo good. But sooo bad. *eats hungrily*

Person 1: I know. But it’s okay. I’m going to do an extra hour at the gym/skip dinner/jog to my car/walk my cat.

Person 2: *nods with understanding*

We are grown, highly educated, professional people, and we still felt the need to voice a justification of our food choices and what extremes we’re planning to take to overcome them to our coworkers. We walk into meal situations assuming that people will be judging us for what we are or aren’t eating.

On the one hand, I’m not sure those assumptions are always accurate. I mean, I can’t remember the last time I looked at someone’s plate and thought to myself, “Self, they really shouldn’t be eating that,” or “Self, they should be eating more.” So maybe other people don’t have these thoughts either. If I’m thinking about their food at all, it’s more along the lines of, “Self, that looks delicious. Where can we get some of that?” Or “Gross. Pot pie.” [Which I recognize is a little judgey, but that’s what you get for eating disgusting things. My judgmental thoughts. Which I probably won’t actually voice. Probably.].

On the other hand, we probably feel the need to make these justifications because somewhere – maybe many somewheres – in our experience, judgments have been voiced. Or stared. Most people don’t need any words at all to get those messages across.

I don’t have an answer. I know that I need to make better food choices sometimes, but I also know how much better my food choices in general are now than they were even six months ago. So…progress. I know that I have more energy when I exercise regularly, but I also know that how often I exercise (and really even whether or not I exercise at all) has no factual bearing on my worth and value as a human. I know that what other people think shouldn’t matter and that often they aren’t really thinking about me at all anyway, but I also know that my feelings don’t always sync with that knowledge.

Maybe there’s some balance in there after all.

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I’m seeing a duplex tomorrow. Well, one half of it, anyway. I’m going to see if it could be a feasible move to make. It’s across town – closer to church and family, farther from work.

I really want to move. I’ve outgrown my neighborhood and my apartment. I’m pretty sure my neighbors’ dog is partially responsible for my elevated blood pressure.

I’m also just to the point where I can breathe again financially. I’m scared to upset the balance.

Can I make a beautiful life in the place I am? I see little shards of beauty occasionally.  But the big beautiful I have loved before and miss terribly doesn’t really fit there.

Every place I find that’s bigger and still has the amenities that I want (washer/dryer connections, for example) is significantly more expensive. Like…sometimes double. That’s before you add the extra utility cost and extra gas it will take to get to work on a daily basis.

Which would be fine if I had a partner with an equal or greater salary. Even if we could both afford to pay only what I’m paying now, we could easily pay double. We could even make a substantial house payment if we found a place we loved that much.

There are not many areas of life where I would say I NEED a husband. Want one, sure. But need? Don’t be ridiculous.

A husband with a job would certainly come in handy here, though.

People who are single often are treated like we are less mature, less stable, and less adult than we are. This is annoying. Just because marriage or child-rearing was the impetus that flung some people into adulthood doesn’t mean that those of us without those particular circumstances didn’t have equal motivation to mature. There are many, many reasons to grow up. Partners and parents don’t have a corner on the market.

It’s easy to understand, however, how single people could appear as second-class citizens in this world. It’s hard to be seen as a proper adult when you’re still living in an apartment that’s no bigger (smaller, actually) than the one you had in college and is still in a college neighborhood. And it’s hard to afford a bigger place on one income, unless you happen to work in an industry where incomes are higher (I don’t.).

I know the progress I’ve made. I do. It just doesn’t look like progress unless I’m looking closely. I have to really want to see it.

I’m tired of working so hard to see so little.

 

I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday, where we are talking about broken and beautiful things. Join us?

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Thanks in large part to Abby Norman’s post at SheLoves Magazine back in June, I have finally come to terms with the knowledge that it is time to say goodbye to the dress that I have called my favorite for the better part of two decades.

I have had this dress for about 20 years:

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It’s a very simple dress. It’s easy to throw on over dance attire or a swimsuit. It’s also easy to dress up by wearing it with a string of pearls and some fancy shoes. Very few of my clothes have been this versatile or this well-loved.

The problem is that it doesn’t really fit my body anymore.

It fits in most places (and yes, that is gratifying), even though it doesn’t hang as flowy as it used to. But one place it really does not work for me any more is in the chest:

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My face cannot abide this dress and its unfortunate empire waist seam.

Many years ago, when I wasn’t quite as bountiful on top as I am now, this dress smoothed down nicely. Now, it’s not doing me any favors, which means it falls out of favor with me. I’ve been hoarding it in the back of my closet for a while, though. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.

Then Marie Kondo made me go through my clothes, piece by piece. Seriously, this book is ruining/saving my life.

And I held it in my hands and asked myself, “Does this give me joy?” The answer came pretty easily. No. No it does not. It gives me unnecessary angst.

So I let it go. I stuffed it in the bottom of one of the bags headed out for donation.

Even after admitting out loud that it was time to bid it adieu, I had to take this particular bag out to the car immediately so that I wouldn’t make an excuse for it and reclaim it.

Goodbye, old friend. I hope the next person who wears you enjoys you as much as I have.

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On Wearing Pearls

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I just love Denton. It’s home to two colleges. It has a thriving local music scene and tons of talented local artists. It is home to multiple festivals a year and its citizens are so fiercely protective of its unique downtown area that no national chain has any real hope of survival on the square (sorry-not-sorry, Subway).

Denton is a casual town. Most days, you could walk into almost any store downtown in your pajama pants, and no one would blink an eye (and thank goodness for that, because Saturdays are for pajamas, even if I have errands to run). When I moved here over twenty years ago from a small town in the panhandle, I had to adjust my perspective of what certain expectations meant. First, most invitations (and by “invitations,” I do mean “fliers”) didn’t mention dress at all.  That blew my mind. And when they did, they didn’t always mean what I grew up believing they meant. “Formal attire” could mean actual formal wear, but it was more likely that it was just a request to wear a dress or slacks. And “casual dress” was less likely a call for a nice shirt and slacks than it was a reminder to wear shoes.

I like that about Denton.

Sometimes, though, I wear pearls.

I shied away from them for a while when I first moved here, because pearls – even the costume strands that I wear most often – really fancy up an outfit. It’s hard to look casual in pearls. And when you don’t look as casual as the environment, it’s hard not to stick out. And it’s hard not to feel out of place when you stick out (and when you’re also 18 – in retrospect, that was probably more of a factor than the jewelry). And most of the time, I didn’t need any extra help feeling out of place.

But one day, I pulled my favorite earrings out of my jewelry box and put them on again. Just two little pearls – one in each ear. With such a simple change, I felt grounded. I felt like me.

Pearls understand me.

Pearls are troublemakers. They start out as an irritation. They are a grain of sand that sneaks into an oyster’s shell, and instead of feeling contrite and meekly excusing themselves when discovered, they stubbornly remain, forcing their environment to adjust to them and growing into something beautiful out of the impact they have.

Pearls are simple yet elegant. They know that they don’t have to make a big splash to be heard or noticed. Pearls are the kind of grown-up I aspire to be. In today’s episode of First World Problems, I admit that I find jewelry shows and stores challenging. Most of the pieces are much more complicated than my preferred style, which is all clean lines and simplicity. If I’m wearing something other than that, it is probably a gift, a uniform, a costume, or an obnoxious plea for attention.

[soapbox tangent] Lest anyone be tempted to make a preference into a rule, let me be clear. Some people look gorgeous in bold patterns and intricate designs, and I expect that their style, while different from mine, does exactly for them what mine does for me. It makes them feel beautiful. It is a visual reminder that they are a presence in this world and that said presence is a contribution, not a liability. There is not a best way to dress. Whatever makes you feel at home in your skin, do or wear that thing. I am 100% in favor of that. [/end soapbox]

A few months ago, I was driving home from an event that called for something a little dressier than my usual attire. It was a sunny day, but the air was chilly, just like I like it to be. When I got in my car, I took down my hair, rolled down my windows, and turned on the radio. With the sun on my arms, the wind in my hair, music in my ears, and pearls around my neck, I was at home in my soul long before I was home in reality.

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This year is going to be a great year, if for no other reason than I’m turning 40, and I plan to be obnoxious about it – even more obnoxious than I usually am. I already celebrate for a whole week. This year, I’m celebrating the whole year. I almost made “forty” my OneWord365. The only thing that stopped me is that there aren’t many songs that fit that theme, and I’m going to need a playlist.

But it’s totally in the back of my mind. It’s going to be a focus, even if it’s not the main focus. I can just tell.

As with every year, I have writing goals, reading goals, and one word that will be my theme of the year.

Writing:

1. Write an average of 5,000 words toward a work in progress per week. That’s 5-10 hours a week. That’s 260,000 words. That’s finishing Feast and Fishbowl and getting a good chunk of another project, whatever it will be, off to a good start.

2. On the blog, I’d like to continue some series, start some new ones, and get some more guest posts. I would like to consistently post three times a week, even in weeks when I’m feeling quiet, which means writing posts ahead of time and getting them scheduled. I just want to be more organized and intentional about it.

Reading – three sets of 40:

1. 40 books by people of color. In examining the diversity of my influences (friends, music, things I read, etc.), I do okay in most areas. My blog reader is especially diverse; only about 20% of the bloggers I read are white/straight/middle-class/etc. You know – me-ish. There is room for improvement across the board, though, and nowhere is this more obvious than in my book list from 2014, which is remarkably whitewashed. This year, I am going to be more intentional about diversifying my reading list, and I’m going to start with race as the diversifying factor.

2. 40 classics. Every time I see lists of 100 pieces of classic literature that pop up (you know the ones – the braggy ones that show up on your well-read friends’ Facebook pages that encourage you to compare your reading list to theirs), I can’t even say that I’ve read a majority of them. And I know that comparison is the thief of joy, but I also suspect that when I watch The Newsroom, I would probably enjoy it more (assuming that’s even possible) if I had a better grasp of Don Quixote. I also know that reading works that stand the test of time will assist in teaching me to write works that stand the test of time, and I am very much interested in that.

3. 40 miscellaneous books – just for fun. I am including a third category to pay homage to all those books I read as part of book clubs and lazy days off and other such times. I also think that fun is an important element of reading, particularly this year, because fun is my word of 2015.

Theme – fun:

My first thought when choosing my one word for this year was “responsible.” After all, I just spent a year chasing beauty. Gorgeous, lovely, magical beauty. So my reaction to that was that I should follow it up with something more serious. Something to bring me back down to earth. Not that I ever left, really.  It turns out, down on earth, it’s actually quite beautiful.

But I have goals for the year. Practical goals. Goals that require focus. Goals that require structure. Goals that embrace the quotidian (which is a word I also love, but for very different reasons).

The problem I kept running into when thinking about any of these words as my theme for the year is that I associate them with boredom. I think of them as dull. Lifeless. Scarce. What I hear is “Reign it in,” as if I haven’t done enough of that in my life already.

Enough.

Also, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m turning 40 this year. I am happy to be turning 40, because I have earned every year. I’m going to herald in this milestone. There might actually be trumpets involved.

There will probably come a year when I want to reclaim sensible words and focus on them, because they’re not bad words. There’s nothing inherently scarce about them. I just don’t think this is that year.

I considered making “Renaissance” my word. It encompasses both practicality and beauty, knowledge and art, form and function. But while I can definitely see all sorts of things being incorporated into my year (because learning is delightful), I can’t see it providing the sort of focus I’m going for.

This is a year for celebration. For a bit of decadence. For carousing and merriment and revelry. For indulgence. For liberality.

For fun.

Fun is so simple that I have the urge to pick another word for it. Merriment is a good word. Hullaballoo. Hoopla.

I don’t want to hide behind the word itself, though.  As fun as “fun” sounds, it’s not actually easy for me to do. It is much more like me (especially in the last ten years or so) to slip into that person who plans a great theme party and throws so much energy into planning and execution that I’m exhausted by the time the day of the party arrives. As you might imagine, parties aren’t so fun for me when I’m tired of them before they ever begin (reason #1 that I probably will hire a wedding planner if I ever get married, but that’s another blog post altogether).

So I’m keeping the plan – and the word – simple. Fun.

Are you setting New Year’s Resolutions?  If so, what are they?

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