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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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February TBR

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My inner overachiever made this stack. We’ll see. The month is busy, self.

I was just looking at the calendar, and I have something planned for every night except one for the rest of this month. Sometimes I wonder why I am the way that I am.

I forge on, however, in my reading goals. These are the books I’m working on/starting this month:

For book clubs:

  • Educated by Tara Westover – I finished listening to it a few days ago. Many parts of it horrified me in an are-they-for-real sort of way. Other parts horrified me in a that’s-exactly-how-it-felt-for-me sort of way. Horror aside, I recommend it.
  • Midnight’s Children by  Salman Rushdie – I am about 60 pages in, and I love it already. Beautifully written story. I’m also listening to it during my commute, and I recommend the audiobook read by Lyndam Gregory. I hope to carve out a lot of reading time this weekend, because we’re discussing it next Tuesday.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin – Excited to start this one!
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin – I started this one years ago but didn’t finish. I look forward to reading it next week.
  • American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of the American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson – I just got the notice that this has been shipped today, so it should arrive soon.

Other reads:

  • Jubilee by Toni Tipton-Martin – The recipes in this book are fantastic. This is going on my cookbook to-buy list.
  • The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott – Humor? Check. Magical realism? Check. Themes of religion, loneliness, and love? Check. So many things that I love in a book.
  • Something Old, Something New by Tamar Adler – I’ve read a lot of her articles in food magazines, and I loved An Everlasting Meal. I expect to love this one just as much.
  • Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman – The second in the series. I enjoyed Seraphina, so I’m excited to see what happens next.
  • Jazz by Toni Morrison – I have a lot of Toni Morrison books on my shelf, and this is one I have never read. Excellent so far.

What are you reading?

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Who’s super excited about my Costco haul? *crickets* Just me? Yeah.

So listen.

I’ve hit a bit of a wall with this series. That’s how these things go sometimes. And instead of just quitting, as I’m prone to do, I’m going to adapt. This year, I have learned that a big part of what we often think of as luck is really just knowing when to be flexible and when to stick to a plan.

I am great at the latter. Until it’s not so great anymore. I need more work with the flexibility part. So I’m gonna work on it this month.

I’m throwing out my weekly plan.

If you could see my face right now you’d know how much relief I feel just typing that.

Blogging is a good place for me to flex my flexibility muscles. I post sporadically because overall, I’m not really trying to accomplish anything with a deadline here. When those of us in my online writing group discuss blogging and why we do it, my answer is usually something like, “It gives me a chance to make sure I’m separating my voice and what I’m thinking from the voices of the characters I’m writing.”

It’s also something a former therapist recommended as potentially helpful, particularly on days when face-to-face socializing isn’t something that seems possible. It’s a hybrid. I can say what I want and get occasional feedback, but I can also leave the moment I need to do so. I can reach out but from behind a protective barrier.

So I’m still going to write about making my own luck, but I’m going to wing it. Because sometimes, that’s when luck shows up.

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My plans are often quite colorful

It’s hard to feel lucky when my food choices only make me feel like napping. Making good choices that fuel my body and that I actually enjoy eating is an important component of my overall well being.

One thing I’m pretty successful at doing is bringing food to work with me most days. I have my meal planning system to thank for this. Even when I don’t do it exactly as I mapped it out in another 31 days series three years ago, I still use most of the tools I have put in place to make sure that I am eating well.

One of the main points of my meal planning series was that a system that does not fit practically into your own life is not going to work, no matter how beautifully it works for anyone else. Many of us have at least a minor chasm between our ideal and our real. So there are opportunities to tweak it. As for me and my house, we employ a lot of shortcuts:

  • While I believe in my heart that dried beans, soaked and slow cooked to perfection, are far superior, I also believe in keeping canned beans for days when I have no slow-cooked beans but want to add them to a meal.
  • While I understand that chicken is not hard to make, I also understand that a rotisserie chicken from the deli or even canned chicken is even easier.
  • While I get the concept of buying a larger size for economy’s sake, I only buy milk in pints, because I only occasionally use it in sauces, and the larger size is in no way economical if I have to pour most of it down the drain after it’s gone sour.

I also know that my life is busy. Ultimately, I might feel luckier/more at peace if I had more time to breathe and slow cook those beans or a whole weekend afternoon to meal prep for the week. That’s the ideal. But the reality is that right now I have two jobs and a fairly active social life, and I like all of it (or at least I like the payoff of doing all of it), so I’m not really looking to ditch large portions of my schedule at this moment. So I also need quick options that I can assemble from start to finish in 20 minutes or less so that I don’t drive through Taco Cabana every night:

  •  Fruit, cheese, crackers, raw veggies, and maybe salami or prosciutto for an impromptu antipasti plate
  • Eggs for a quick frittata or a protein addition on top of rice, pasta, or potatoes
  • A selection of frozen vegetables – no chopping, quick steam
  • Frozen meal-in-a-bag (Bertolli’s is my favorite)

What are some of the ways you get the fuel you need to make it through your day?

 

I’m writing about practical ways of creating luck this month.

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I will use anything as a centerpiece.

In my 31 Days outline, I have this day marked as “Domestic,” which makes me laugh, because I am no one to be giving domestic advice. I mean, I was raised to know a lot of things about how to keep a household running really well (seriously – you could eat off my mom’s floors when we were growing up), so I can share that. But in the interest of honesty? Half my kitchen is on my dining table right now. I’ve been going through cabinets and getting rid of things, and it has been s.l.o.w. Also, I haven’t swept in three weeks. A dust bunny in front of my TV mocks me every time I sit down, and I do not care. So if you came here for tips on keeping a house perfect, you are going to be disappointed.

What I can give you this week is how I run my home so that it supports my life. Because that’s the important thing, right?

(some days I’m glad my mother does not have the internet)

Specifically, this week will be mostly about how I stay reasonably well fed and keep my home neat enough that I can find things. I occasionally even create little spots that make home seem more inviting or cozy. When I do these three things, other areas in my life seem to fall into place more easily.

If you are reading this and have gotten this far in life, you probably have these skills down to some extent. If you are like me, though, there are weeks that are better than others. Maybe you’ll find something here that can help, or maybe you have something to offer to help. Either way, we’re going to explore how a life of luck can start at home.

 

I’m writing for 31 days about creating luck. 

 

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Friday Five 4

Hello! This weekend, I am embarking on a 24in48 marathon of luxurious reading. After the 70- and 80-hour work weeks I’ve been having, I am very excited about adding extra money to my Aspiration account, but I am also really looking forward to this much needed break. Here are some things I’m into.

  1. First, lists of books and book shops. I love fantasy novels .  I also find this list intriguing – a particular book to read at each age. Someday, when I have time off, I may do a few days of just rambling through bookstores in the area.
  2. I have a confession. I’ve always loved Cats. Some people sang 80s songs into their hairbrushes. Me? McCavity: The Mystery Cat. [I mean, I totally sang 80s pop. And punk. And…I like to sing.] It’s strange and confusing and of course it is because that’s what you get when Andrew Lloyd Webber adapts T. S. Eliot poetry into a musical. I cannot wait for this movie to come out. If you go see it with me, prepare yourself for the moment when Jennifer Hudson sings Memory on the big screen, because I will cry. Already teared up just during the trailer. It’s just gonna happen.
  3. I joined a cookbook club, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. We meet once a month, each bringing a dish and the cookbook we found it in to share with others. One big decadent potluck. There are daily posts on the group page about things like classic pasta dishes and the best lemonade ever.
  4. I’ve already signed up for next year’s writer’s retreat to be held at Maplehurst. If you’ve read any of Christie Purifoy’s books (I’m currently soaking in Placemaker. Highly recommend.), you are probably familiar with Maplehurst’s story. You should join us.
  5. I’m officially moving my yearly Hemingway party to the fall. I had it later last year, and that was nice. It makes sense. Work is less busy in September or October, and it’s cooled off enough that I can actually bake without it taking 14 years for my apartment to cool off. As I’m planning, I hope to keep this advice in mind.

What are you into these days?

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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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