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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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My desk in my home office has become the place where I both work and play. Not at the same time, of course.

I’m eight days away from being home for two months. I have enjoyed parts of it. Other parts of it? Not so much. But I have made some changes.

  1. Becoming infinitely pickier about the people I take advice from. This pandemic has rekindled an old inclination that I had almost forgotten. I am all for free speech. But while everyone may have a right to their opinion, as easy as credible sources are to come by, there’s really few legitimate excuses for not using them, and failure to do so will likely earn my disdain. Therefore, not everyone’s opinion matters to me. If someone really wants me to hear them out, I will probably listen. But they have to earn my trust and belief, two things I no longer give out easily.
  2. Spending less time on Facebook. My Instagram feed is pretty well-curated to include only things I enjoy and people I love and want to keep up with. My Facebook feed is a hot mess. It only takes a couple of swipes to run into some sort of foolishness I absolutely cannot abide. Yes, I could unfriend them or snooze them, or I could engage with the posts by posting my opposing opinion civilly. But is that really a productive use of my time? I don’t think it is. I am keeping Facebook for my groups, the pages I run, happy birthday messages, and maybe a couple of quick feed perusals a day, just to see if there’s anything worthwhile in those first few seconds before I hit a wall of dumb. So if you’re seeing fewer likes from me than usual, don’t fret. It’s probably not you. It’s probably all those other assholes.
  3. Cursing more. Arbitrary language etiquette is ridiculous, and I just don’t fucking care anymore. You’re welcome. [I’ll try to hold back if there are children afoot. But that’s it.] [I reserve the right to look back on this in the future as a phase. Language choice is important. I do believe that in general. But currently? See note above re: I don’t fucking care.]
  4. Supporting local businesses more. When given the choice, I already tend to favor local businesses over chains. They make Denton what I want it to be, and I am a big fan of voting with my dollar. I’ve gone a bit into overdrive lately, though. Every Sunday (and beyond – I actually have plans for the next three weeks already), I list at least three businesses I want to remember to support that week. Monday and Friday nights are designated as potential takeout nights. The majority of my groceries have been purchased from local farms or businesses that are offering curbside or delivery as one of their temporary services (although I would be fully on board with this becoming a forever thing. It’s fantastic. Note to self: find a great co-op to support.). Both wine and fancy cheese are being delivered to my doorstep on a regular basis. This summer, I want to add more greenery with houseplants and maybe tomatoes from local stores and nurseries. If you’re local and you need a suggestion for something, I probably have one.
  5. Taking better care of myself. When I started doing my temporary work-from-home thing, I was like, “Hey, I’ll go walking more.” I have not gone walking more. Walking alone is dull, and Texas is hot. Instead, I have been keeping active with some modified (because my floors are hard and my knees are old) Pilates classes, living room dance parties for one, and a strengthening challenge (although that, too, quickly exceeded my ability to keep up with it. With one exception. Two-minute plank? I got you. It took a year and a half of regular Pilates practice, but I got you.). And because I’ve been intentionally focusing my financial support on local places, I have had no fast food in two months and have been cooking more (because omg so many vegetables in a farm box). I have been dealing with my regular stomach problems and allergies and anxiety (and some days are worse than others. Looking at you, today. You jerk.), but other than that, I feel amazing.

Have you made (intentionally or not) any changes recently?

 

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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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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 am not what anyone would describe as an early adaptor. It’s not a point of pride for me. I see the benefit in upgrading to the newest model of a device whenever one can. It’s cool if you do that. I just am not that person.

Having said that, I am having a bit of a honeymoon with my new phone. I’ve named her Mona. She is sleek and sexy and looks super hot in her stripey Kate Spade cover.

Mona is an iPhone X (yes I know it’s not the newest but it’s the one I wanted so let’s all move on). We met at the Verizon store after I told the sales guy I was there to upgrade my phone. He was utterly professional until he saw my old phone and realized just how old she was (like…they don’t even make the adaptor for it anymore). Then he made a face. He pulled it together quickly but I know in his head he was still sniffing derisively at Margeaux.

I forgive him. He probably had the very latest phone the moment it came out. He just doesn’t understand a long-term relationship like the ones I have with my devices. I get it. I didn’t used to get attached.

My first two cell phones were bare bones models. No frills. Just the calls (and the texts), ma’am.

Then I met Cherry O.

Cherry O was a red LG. Still not a smartphone but so, so much fancier than what I had before. The camera was better than the digital camera I had, so I was able to get rid of my camera, and I’ve never gone back. I assigned everyone their own custom ringtone. Cherry O and I had a great run. Then one day she died. Just…out of the blue. No warning (well, no warning other than the myriad of pointed emails I got from Verizon telling me to hurry and upgrade already).

I was devastated, but Margeaux helped me through it.

Margeaux was my first smartphone. She, too, was an iPhone. Margeaux helped me get over Cherry O by introducing me to Instagram. I love Instagram. I follow some really delightful people there. Margeaux let me do that. I also joined Duolingo, which is a super easy way to practice my Spanish and German and gently ease in to French and Italian.

This week, though, Margeaux and I broke up. It was amicable. There are no hard feelings. It’s not her, it’s me (it was totally her).

Enter Mona.

If Mona were a person, she’d be CEO of her own company that she dreamed up and built from nothing. She would live in a Cape Cod style home with a huge backyard. She would grow her own vegetables, make jam, and have friends over for supper every Sunday night. She would know how to tango and provide her own tech support. She would do all of this and make it look easy.

I love all the storage I have on this phone. I love how much faster it is than my last phone. I love that it supports all four (five?) of my book apps. And I love it allows me to type this post out to you from the comfy chair in my living room without having to wrangle my laptop.

I am smitten. I think Mona and I will be together for quite some time.

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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 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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