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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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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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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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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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Core Value – Story

 

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I have danced around a way to express this particular value. I struggled (and still struggle) with finding the exact wording I wanted to say everything that it encompasses. I’m still not sure that I found the right one, so I’ll just call it “story” and say a lot of other words to go with it.

First I want to detail what story is not to me.

Story is not an argument for a position. A better word for that might be “reason” or “data.” It’s not that story isn’t strong enough or even true enough for belief to take hold. It’s just that one person’s story is so customized to his or her individual needs and position that it doesn’t always translate to the common good. For every story that supports one way of thinking, there is usually another equally valid, equally true story that supports the opposite point of view. I get frustrated, therefore, when people expect me to be dissuaded from my opinion by their story alone.

[I’m sure the frustration is mutual. Our stories are powerful that way.]

It’s not that I don’t believe them. It’s that I also believe others.

Thinking through this concept started as “listening.” But listening does not encompass the whole value. Story also creates empathy. When I hear where someone is coming from, I feel for them. Even if I come from a very different place. Even if I still disagree. It softens my sharp edges toward them.

[Not that I thrust sharp edges at people, of course. I don’t know where you heard that.]

Story also creates curiosity and wonder for me. I think that’s what I love most about it. Hearing the stories that people tell about themselves – the specific ones they choose out of the millions they have to choose from – makes me want to know more about them. I love it when they tell stories they didn’t mean to tell about themselves (not so much when they tell others’ stories for them).

My love of story is the main reason I write fiction. When I told my aunt about the premise of Fishbowl, she asked to hear about one of the scenes when Bob and Jenny talked to one another. I read her one of my favorites, and she responded, “That’s just how it is. That’s wonderful.”

Just how it is. Best compliment I can imagine getting.

When I hear a person’s story, I know I’m hearing their world just how it is (in their mind, at least, even if that reality exists nowhere else). It’s an honor to be trusted with that.

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Happy

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Coffee with friends = ❤

It seems like cheating to list happiness as a core value, so I’m not going to do that. While I’m sure that there are some people who don’t value happiness, I think most people probably list “happy” as something they’d like to be or as something they enjoy being. It also seems to be what a large corner of the self-help market tries to help us achieve. I don’t know how good most of us are at getting there without work.

I just finished Gabrielle Union’s audio version of We’re Going to Need More Wine, and a line stood out to me. “When you’re in a place where you don’t know what makes you happy, it’s really easy to be an asshole.” That makes a lot of sense to me. The times it’s easiest to be mean are the times when I’m in a fog or a funk and can’t find a way to get myself out of it. So for those times, I’m just going to leave this list of things that make me happy.

  1. Having dinner with people I love. Whether I’m having friends over or being invited over as a guest or eating with family, I love sharing meals with people. I like cooking for people and seeing them enjoy it. I also like not having to cook. Feeding people and being fed may be one of my love languages.
  2. Reading. That is, most reading. Occasionally, I will trudge my way through a book that tries to eat my soul, but most of the reading I do is relaxing. Even if it’s challenging or outside my typical comfort zone, those challenges energize me.
  3. Fresh, ripe peaches. They save the day during my least favorite season. All the oppressive heat of summer is worth it when I see peaches at the farmers’ market.
  4. Doing laundry. I know it’s weird. But I find it so soothing. I think it’s the sound of the dryer. Sometimes I wait to pop the last load in the dryer until I go to bed, just so I can go to sleep to the sound. I also enjoy that the ratio of effect to effort is larger with laundry than with other chores.
  5. Seeing something beautiful when I walk into my apartment. Whether it is a vase of flowers on the table, the Christmas tree lit up, or just an uncharacteristically neat living room, it immediately puts me at peace.
  6. A wide, open sky. Wine and sunset, coffee and sunrise, country drive or road trip, rain or shine. The sky is my favorite part of nature.
  7. My dad telling stories about his dogs. It’s Dad at his most animated. I think it makes him happy, too.

What would be on your list?

 

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