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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.

 

 

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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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While I prefer a more social New Year’s Eve (I know – it feels just as weird to type it as it does to read it, but it’s one of the days of the year I like having plans), this was a pretty good fallback option.

Today has been both relaxed and productive. I did laundry, reorganized my dresser drawers, and broke open my shiny new planner (YAY!). I usually do two posts for goals at the beginning of the year to help sharpen my focus. Today’s post is a tangible to-do list for goals that I track throughout the year (well, except for one of them which is a one-and-done thing. And yes, there are actual charts). Tomorrow, I’ll talk about my word for the year. It’s a doozy.

  1. Read 100 books. I think I’m going to start posting my TBR list at the first of each month and then look back over it at the end of the month to see how close I actually stuck to it. This year, I’m revisiting some favorite authors (expect some Douglas Coupland, Haruki Murakami, Isabel Allende, etc.), brushing up on some classics, and keeping up with my three book clubs. The January TBR list:
    * The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
    * Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
    * Sphinx by Anne Garreta
    * Many Subtle Channels by Daniel Levin Becker
    * A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (Epiphany isn’t until Sunday – I have five days!)
    * Becoming by Michelle Obama
    * The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
    * Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
    * You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
    * Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende
    * Role Models by John Waters
    This may seem like a lot, but some of them are super short, and I have a 24in48 weekend coming up at the end of January!
  2. Renew my passport. I don’t necessarily have plans to travel outside the country this year, but I am adopting a you-never-know attitude about it, so I’d like to be prepared, just in case.
  3. Develop a daily creativity practice. My creativity veers in a lot of different directions, so this doesn’t have to look the same every day. It could be playing piano, dancing, writing poetry, building something, knitting, decorating or rearranging a space, or trying (or, let’s be real – tweaking) new recipes. But I know I get bored and restless if I’m not flexing those creative muscles, so I want to be more intentional about it.
  4. Continue building physically nourishing habits. By the end of the year, I want to be exercising four times a week, drinking an adequate amount of water daily, and feeding myself well. I have specific mini-goals to build up to it so that I won’t find myself looking back on this post in November and thinking, “Hmm…guess I better eat a carrot.”
  5. Get rid of something(s) in my overtaxed schedule in order to carve out time to do the writing I actually like to do (i.e., fiction, poetry, essays, blogging) on a regular basis.

Do you have resolutions for the upcoming year? What are they?

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Some of my favorite photos of 2018

This year has been…challenging. It hasn’t been terrible, but it also hasn’t been great. Even in not-so-great times, though, I can still learn and move forward. Here are five things I learned this year.

  1. So much of my 2018 has felt like busy work. We talked a lot about strengths at work, and my word of the year was “core.” One of the effects of examining my strengths and core values is that I realized how much what I do doesn’t match them. I didn’t write as many posts about core values (I think I finished two – hope and story) as I planned because I’m disappointed in how little time I make for the things I love the most. Expect more of these posts in the new year as I continue to unravel them.
  2. Setting high goals is good for me whether I reach them or not. I didn’t reach my goal of reading 100 books this year, but in shooting for it, I read 14 more than I did in 2017. I streamlined my budget and thus was able to purchase a keyboard and pay for the entire trip to the writers’ retreat at God’s Whisper Farm without putting it on a credit card. I got out more and saw more of Denton than I had the previous year.
  3. I am more disciplined than I thought I was. My planner looks like it was run over by a truck. Like I said, the year has been busy. Yet when I set a short-term goal with a deadline, I met it. I finished my first draft of Fishbowl (and have since dismantled it and now I need to write more to fill it out, but it’s going to be so much better). I made enough money with my freelance gig in my spare time in August (a month not historically known for an abundance of spare time in my world) to pay my rent (proving that I could probably make a living just doing freelance work if I wanted to).
  4. If I’m going to stick to an exercise plan, I have to risk something. I don’t tend to stick to a running schedule unless I am breaking in new, expensive shoes, because I feel like I have to justify the investment. I had no problem exercising in college because I was taking dance and PE classes (PSA: do not take modern, tap, and swim conditioning in the same semester. You will be so tired.), so both my pocketbook and my GPA were on the line. One of my resolutions was to either use my gym membership or cancel it. But it’s only $10 a month, so if I go even twice, my brain registers that minimal effort as getting my money’s worth. I recently started going to Club Pilates, and it’s considerably more than $10 a month. I have no problem making it there two or three times a week. Part of that is that I love Pilates (and I especially love it on the machines), but the main reason is that I am sacrificing other things to be able to afford it, so I’m going to get every session I pay for.
  5. Reading in Spanish is harder than I thought it would be, but I’m learning so much faster by doing so. It’s going to take me a while to get through this book, but I think I’ve found my favorite way to learn a language.

 

So that’s 2018. I’m looking forward to the new year and what it will bring.

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