Archive for the ‘Getting It Together’ Category

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I’m seeing a duplex tomorrow. Well, one half of it, anyway. I’m going to see if it could be a feasible move to make. It’s across town – closer to church and family, farther from work.

I really want to move. I’ve outgrown my neighborhood and my apartment. I’m pretty sure my neighbors’ dog is partially responsible for my elevated blood pressure.

I’m also just to the point where I can breathe again financially. I’m scared to upset the balance.

Can I make a beautiful life in the place I am? I see little shards of beauty occasionally.  But the big beautiful I have loved before and miss terribly doesn’t really fit there.

Every place I find that’s bigger and still has the amenities that I want (washer/dryer connections, for example) is significantly more expensive. Like…sometimes double. That’s before you add the extra utility cost and extra gas it will take to get to work on a daily basis.

Which would be fine if I had a partner with an equal or greater salary. Even if we could both afford to pay only what I’m paying now, we could easily pay double. We could even make a substantial house payment if we found a place we loved that much.

There are not many areas of life where I would say I NEED a husband. Want one, sure. But need? Don’t be ridiculous.

A husband with a job would certainly come in handy here, though.

People who are single often are treated like we are less mature, less stable, and less adult than we are. This is annoying. Just because marriage or child-rearing was the impetus that flung some people into adulthood doesn’t mean that those of us without those particular circumstances didn’t have equal motivation to mature. There are many, many reasons to grow up. Partners and parents don’t have a corner on the market.

It’s easy to understand, however, how single people could appear as second-class citizens in this world. It’s hard to be seen as a proper adult when you’re still living in an apartment that’s no bigger (smaller, actually) than the one you had in college and is still in a college neighborhood. And it’s hard to afford a bigger place on one income, unless you happen to work in an industry where incomes are higher (I don’t.).

I know the progress I’ve made. I do. It just doesn’t look like progress unless I’m looking closely. I have to really want to see it.

I’m tired of working so hard to see so little.


I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday, where we are talking about broken and beautiful things. Join us?


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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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