Archive for the ‘Getting It Together’ Category


Happy birthday treat! Don’t get used to it, though, body.

This month is Staff Appreciation Month at UNT, and on Fridays, they have a free health screening at the gym. So last Friday, KatyBelle and I went to check out our stats and get a tour of the weight room. My blood pressure? WAS HIGH. I proceeded to make little jokes and say, “Oh, that’s a little higher than it usually is” (LIES, as my blood pressure has never ever been high before in my life. It’s way higher than usual. Because it’s high at all.), so that I didn’t have a meltdown right there in the gym in front of everyone.

So this year, what I’m giving me for my birthday is better health. Because I’m 41, and I’m not ready to buy my weekly pill box just yet. Ergo, today’s Friday Five is a list of five things I want to do to take better care of my body this year.

Lose 50 pounds by the time I’m 42.

I have a bit more to lose before I’m at a healthy weight for my height (5’2″) and bone structure (small), but 50 is a good start. It’s totally a doable goal for a year. But instead of just saying I’m going to lose it, I need specific means to do so. So I’m also going to…

Eat real food.

Less of this processed nonsense and the inflammation and sugar that go with it and more of the awesome things that one would find on a food pyramid, such as this one from the American Heart Association. Preview of the year to come – I’ve been trying it this week, and this pyramid represents a lot of food. I love a vegetable, but I’m having a hard time getting all of them in. I figure if I focus on eating what’s on the pyramid first and then having treats, I will either a) not ever make it to the treat or b) be so full by the time that I get there that I can’t possibly imagine eating another thing.

Exercise at least 30 minutes a day.

This one is the most troublesome and also the one I’m most frustrated with myself that I don’t already do. It’s really not hard. I only have one job now, so finding half an hour a day is not an issue. And I like doing most of the exercises I have planned. I like taking walks and dancing. When I embark on my Couch to 5K in late May so that I’ll be ready for the race on July 4, I’ll enjoy that, too. I love kickboxing and swimming, and I’ll love them when I add them in August. Once I can trust myself to be in the habit of working out and thus won’t be wasting money to do so, I will like going to the gym with Tammy and to Pure Barre with Jessa. There’s really no excuse. I just have to get started again.

Drink 120 ounces of water a day.

That sounds like a lot of water. Because it is. But taking into account my weight and also the fact that I sweat quite a bit (because Texas and all the new exercising), it’s not an unreasonable amount. It’s more than I’m used to drinking, so it’s a challenge. I have reached this goal one day so far, and it’s amazing how much better I felt, just from that. That’s a good motivator.

Get at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night.

I don’t have any tricks for doing this yet. I’m open to suggestions. I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier, have no caffeine after noon (which I’m pretty sure just makes me angry), surround myself with white noise (which has been the most helpful change, I think), but I’m still not sleeping that great during the week. But the weekends are better, so I believe improvement is possible.

Happy birthday, body. I’m sorry I’ve treated you badly, but I’ll do better. I love you.



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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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I recently devoured Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

I have a dilemma.

I found the book useful. The method described – as the subtitle promises – makes decluttering and organizing feel like art. As a result, although I am merely one week into the process, my apartment is already reaping the benefits. My closet and my files (which previously looked like a rabid badger had a fit and then nested in them) are the neatest they’ve ever been. I did that!  AND I WAS HAPPY TO DO IT! I am my mother’s daughter after all!


However, I don’t know whom to recommend it to, for parts of it are strange. In this culture, at least. For all I know, talking to your belongings is a perfectly sensible thing to do in other parts of the world.

Fortunately, strange is not a deterrent for me. I have a pretty large inner world, and there are some weird things in it. So really – what’s one more? Especially when the one more is one that is so helpful! I already say, “Hi, house,” when I come home and “Bye, house,” when I leave, so it’s not too much of a stretch to say, “Thank you,” to all the bags (23 and counting – and yes, you read that right. Twenty. Three. God bless Marie Kondo and her nutty ways.) that I am getting rid of.

Books are next, which is problematic, because the book section is offensive. Do I ask you to get rid of your children, Marie Kondo? This will be my greatest challenge yet. I mean, I already get rid of books when I read them and discover that they don’t really belong in my house; I feel that all books should get to be with people who love them. So maybe that’s why this section seemed like overkill to me. I already only keep the books that give me joy. They get to stay.

Kondo says that it’s not unusual for this process to take six months to a year, so I’m going to relax about not being done yet (it turns out I have a lot of crap).

I didn’t know my closet could give me joy. Discovering that is itself worth the price of the book.

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I have noticed my attitude about my neighborhood changing lately. And I am grateful.

Yes, it’s loud. Yes, that’s annoying.

Yes, it gets the short end of the stick (I’m looking at you, impending DME Substation. By “Other sites…weren’t viable,” they do seem to mean, “Other neighborhoods would have cost too much money to demolish. Let’s screw the low-income people.” Or at least that’s how it looks.)

It’s also multicultural. The loud music that vibrates my windows? I never know what it’s going to be. It could be country or bachata or rap. All of these things (and everything in between) ring through my neighborhood on a daily basis. And I think I’m the minority in my apartment building (numerically speaking, at least. The socio-cultural essence of minority status has little to do with the numbers).

It’s also within walking distance from my main job. That’s pretty convenient, even if I never, ever walk. Because Texas. And construction.

I dream of having a house with a yard so I can garden and have a grill. I would love to have room for a piano (and also a home with a ground floor on which to put it). I covet other people’s pantries and kitchens. But I have everything I need in my little apartment, and lately, I have found it charming.

So I’m going to stop procrastinating when it comes to things like putting up the towel rack in the bathroom and the coat rack by the door. I’m going to sweep off her stoop and buy her a new doormat. I am going to buy frames and hang more pictures. For the foreseeable future, I’m going to make my apartment my home.

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I was sitting in my living room on Tuesday night, minding my own business. When I got up to get another cup of tea, I glanced at the bookshelf nearest to my entryway – the one with all the espresso cups and knick-knacks that generally serve no purpose but looking cute and collecting dust – and I felt the familiar pull of change. I don’t typically like change…except when it comes to reorganizing. Especially when it comes to bookshelves.

Two hours later, I had piles of books all around the living room, waiting to find their new place on the shelves.

I started with the knick-knack shelf, making space on it. I moved the espresso cups to the kitchen drawer with the others. I took most of the pictures off the shelf and picked places to hang them on the walls or prop them up in other places:

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The main thing that needed to find a new home were the boxes of CDs, but that was easy enough:

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That left a lot of space for books.

Next, I started moving cookbooks, foodie fiction, and foodie memoirs – basically anything that might have a recipe in it – to the newly empty-ish shelf. There was a dilemma. Its shelves are not as deep or tall as the larger shelves from whence they came. So some of the books were either too tall or too wide (or both) to fit in the new space.

I found a place for them, but it definitely turned a small job into a huge one. Cue more piles. And a second night of rearranging.

After about three hours of work on Wednesday night, I finally had the shelf like I want it:

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(This is as light as I could get it. It was late, y’all.)

If you look on the left in that picture, you can see the large pile of books I’m giving away. That might be the biggest accomplishment of this mini-project. It’s hard to give books away. So long, dear friends.

My arms are so sore, but my shelves are so cute. Worth it.

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Every year during holiday break, I get the urge to organize. Normally, when I’m at home, it’s the house that gets the pampering. But since I’m dog sitting this week, I took the opportunity to clean up some of my email and do some paperwork and budget – things that get missed when I am at home and there are dishes to be done.

I found a great email thread of messages to myself that I forgot I had started in early summer (back when I was still teetering between Renaissance and forty as my theme for the year) of ideas about what I might want to spend my 2015 doing. Here are a few of them:

  • Finally learn Spanish
  • Run a race (5K? Half marathon?)
  • Go on ___ dates
  • Write letters
  • Send photo Christmas cards of Uncle Wallace (amazing, creepy Santa mouse) and the “kids” (ceramic mice)


  • Embrace traditions of the women who came before me – Mom’s pies, MeMaw Sharp’s garden (herbs, since I’m currently apartment-living), MeMaw Catherall’s crochet/knitting blankets
  • Embrace my own traditions (4th of July party? Friendsgiving? Cookie party?)
  • Buy a keyboard
  • Take an art class
  • Take a cooking class
  • Buy a piece of art that moves me
  • Learn Italian or French
  • Get something pierced
  • Dance in a flash mob (or as part of some type of performance)
  • Keep flowers on the table and wine in the wine rack
  • Lose a pound for every year I’ve been alive

This series of emails also includes a pretty extensive travel list (well, extensive for me, considering that the farthest I have traveled in the last couple of years was Houston):

  • Trip by train
  • Atlanta
  • Drive up the west coast
  • Road trip – bookshop tour? Coffee shop tour? Connect-the-friends tour?
  • Writing retreats
  • Solitary retreat – perhaps somewhere beach-y?

I think all of that sounds pretty fun. It still seems to fit the year’s theme nicely.

It also sounds expensive.

I go back to work on Monday, so I’m getting my mind wrapped back around that this weekend. I don’t think I want to switch jobs just yet, so I’ve worked out a pretty intense budget that allows me to live within my current means – even during months when I don’t have my teaching paycheck – and save up some money to do some of the things on my wish list above.

Now, I don’t want to boss my word around and tell it what to do (you can’t always force these things). But you know what would be really fun, as a professional with a master’s degree and 15+ years experience in my field? To earn an income befitting a grown woman with those credentials.

I feel caught in haphazard youth. I am basically still living with the same financial restrictions I had in college. I love a good challenge, so it has been its own kind of fun, but I am beyond ready to move on.

I want an income that allows for the extravagant lifestyle to which I intend to become accustomed. And by “extravagant,” I do mean a lifestyle characterized by the ability to:

  • Pay off debts and live debt-free
  • Buy wholesome, mostly local food
  • Drink good coffee and wine
  • Donate consistently to causes close to my heart
  • Have a nice, modest home that is small enough that I don’t need outside help to keep it clean but big enough to entertain comfortably
  • Make ethical purchases (i.e., fair trade, waste-free, sweatshop-free, cruelty-free, etc.) without having to buy almost everything secondhand
  • Pamper myself with regular hair appointments and toiletries that I don’t have to make myself and that won’t give me an allergic reaction/cancer
  • Go out to eat/drink with friends once or twice a week
  • Travel.  Just ever.  Anywhere.

I – competent, educated, professional, adult woman – want to earn an income conducive to doing all these things as a matter of habit, not having to decide each payday which 2-3 get their turn that month.

That would be a lot of fun for me.

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I am taking liberties with the goal of NaNoWriMo this year. I am writing 50,000 new words, but instead of fiction, I am writing a book of prompts for a course I am planning to launch next April called Feast. Here’s a teaser of the course-to-be.

Sometimes life just needs celebrating.  And by “sometimes,” I do mean “pretty much all the time.” Any excuse for food, really.

This is my favorite reason to feast – nothing.  No reason at all. I am prone to making elaborate dishes on a whim to savor just for the sake of savoring them.  If you were to ask me what the special occasion was or why I was doing it, you would get an answer like, “Because…Tuesday,” or “Because I can.” I might even turn it around on you – “Why not?” It’s not that there isn’t a reason but rather that life itself is the reason.

You are alive.  Celebrate!

But it’s not quite that easy, is it?

The first seedlings of thought about this course sprung out of my need to bring celebration back into my everyday life. It’s so easy to go through the motions, looking forward to that next fun event on the calendar so much that I sail past all the rest of my days, eyes glazed and barely seeing everything that I’m passing by. If the next fun event is Friday night relaxing at home (and yes, this is on my calendar – it’s very important), and it’s Tuesday, that’s a whole lot of time to check out mentally.

This is no way to live. I want to make my days matter as much as possible. I don’t want to kill time until an acceptable hour to collapse into bed arrives. I want to live.

So I was going to call the class Celebrate because I wanted to explore all the ways we enjoy life.  While doing so is certainly part of the course, something was missing. Celebration alone didn’t seem like exactly what I was going for.  The word that kept coming up – the one that tied my vision together – was feast.

This was both exciting and terrifying.

I was excited because I love the idea of feasting. I love holidays where there is a ridiculous amount of food – ten times what the people present should actually ingest in the allotted time. I love the security and the hominess that excessive abundance implies. I love feeding people and being the one who supplies the ridiculous amount of food. I might not have a big house or a fancy car, but when you are invited over to my place, you will never leave hungry.

The excess is also the terrifying part.

Feasting and I have a sordid history. We can get a little codependent if I’m not careful. I love feasting so much that it’s easy for it to infiltrate my life on an identity level.

I was raised to be great at it. When people remark that hosting seems to come naturally to me, I take it as the compliment it was meant to be and say, “Thank you.” But let’s be clear – it’s not talent; it’s training. I have worked hard to become good at it, and I take a certain amount of pride in that. I love having people over, and they usually have a pretty good time. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s important to remember, however, that being a good host is a seductive minx to my ego, and because of that, it’s also important to remember that hosting the occasional flop does not define (and therefore cannot diminish) me.

At the heart of feasting is the food, and with the food comes the seedy underbelly of food issues.

In some ways, I do have a healthy relationship with food. I’m not really one for restrictive diets. I know a lot of them well, because when I have guests that are on limited choices, I prefer to know how to fix something they will eat without having to interrogate them about their dietary needs. I’ve been vegetarian or vegan at different phases of my life, but that was less a function of a plan to diet and more a function of a Lenten fast or having just read something like Fast Food Nation and thus simply losing my taste for meat. And I have to confess that I’m one of those annoying folk who, if I just eat like a normal person and get a moderate amount of exercise, the excess weight falls off pretty easily.

It’s that “eating like a normal person” thing that trips me up.

My issues with food are mainly emotional rather than physical. I am a chronic over-indulger. There are various things that I cannot keep in the house – soda, snack cakes, certain candy bars – because I cannot leave them alone. Since I am hypersensitive to sugar and most of my compulsive food choices are sweets, they’re extra bad news. I know in my head that having only one Kit Kat is the prudent choice, yet minutes later there I stand over four empty wrappers with a darty feeling behind my eyes, a budding headache, and no real memory of where one indulgence ended and the next one began.

I tremble to write that. As you are reading it, I am nervous, knowing that you know something that is a source of shame for me.

But shame doesn’t get to win.

I will remember that I am not what I eat.

I will remind myself that growth is a process and that by my mid-twenties, I had overcome my habit of bingeing to the point that purging was not physically optional.

I will go look at my well-stocked kitchen, full of real food, not junk food, and I will declare aloud, “I did that.  I made those good choices.”

And I will sit here and savor my half a glass of wine and my two little squares of decadent dark chocolate. And I will be satisfied.

And then I will drink a bucket of water, because wine dries me out. I will listen to my body and give it what it needs.

I will honor who I am, where I came from, and how far I’ve come. I will celebrate myself. I will feast.

Just because.

Journal prompt: What do you need to celebrate about yourself today? Where can you show yourself a little more kindness? What do you need to acknowledge?

Activity prompt: Go for a walk for a minimum of five minutes.  Don’t come back from the walk until you have noticed at least five things that you think you would normally miss. Go out and see your world today.

Marvia’s prompt for this Real Talk Tuesday is “celebration,” so I’m linking up over there as well.

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