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Friday Five2

“Five” is more of a guideline, really.

Because I believe in reaching beyond limits and breaking all manner of ceilings, I’m not going to limit my links this week to five. I believe we can all benefit from going beyond our limits today (and also tomorrow…and for the next four years…). Going beyond our limits and doing and being more is something it would be good for us all to learn to practice.

Things I saved from the Internet this week:

  1. Happy birthday to Michelle Obama on Tuesday. BookBub lists five books she has mentioned loving, because reading and knowledge are power. And I love people who read to kids. This year, I want to follow her example. Reading to children is the only thing I miss from working daycare.
  2. Off the Shelf compiled a similar list of what has been on Barack Obama’s bookshelf.
  3. Ann Patchett wrote a touching goodbye tribute to the Obamas.
  4. My friend Bola has created a character that I can’t wait to see on the screen. A black mermaid? Yes, please. Follow The Water Phoenix on Facebook.
  5. I am not your Teachable Moment – from Everyday Feminism.
  6. Dallas is getting a new independent bookstore – Interabang Books, coming in May!
  7. Another reason to get a piano – studying/playing music is linked to increased civic engagement, improved reading comprehension, and better math skills. While I am firmly in the camp that believes that defending the study of music because it’s good for other things is “like defending kissing because it gives you stronger lip muscles for eating soup neatly,” I also recognize that it is good for other things. And we may need it to be good for other things…
  8. …because Betsy DeVos. Tell your senators no. Here are some ways.

And my favorite thing I’ve read this week – it’s long, but so worth it. To Obama, With Love, and Hate, and Desperation.

Edited to add – my friend Jamie Wright Bagley has a poetry e-course that is up on her website. It’s free, but it’s only available for a limited time. You want to do it!

 

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In no particular order, here are the highlights of my December.

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 1. Advent –

Quite possibly my favorite season of the liturgical year. Or maybe it’s just the only one I’m good at. I understand what it’s like to wait. Oh, how I understand waiting and all the complications that go with it. I put journal prompts in the pockets of my Advent calendar, and I got to go to mid-week services this year, which at least made the waiting less lonely.

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 2. A lesson in carols –

Our choir prepared extra songs for one of the services. It reminded me of being part of Christmas cantatas when I was younger. I didn’t even know I had missed doing that until this month.

 3. Person of Interest –

I LOVE THIS SHOW. I have watched through Season 4. If I cave and get cable, this show might be the reason.

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 4. Holiday snacks –

Another great thing about this time of year is the delicious snacking. I have had a ridiculous amount of sugar this month.

 5. A finals week without finals –

Finals week was pretty much just another week at work. It was a little busier with people handing in their keys before they left for the break, but no classes meant no grading, no constant barrage of emails from students who waited until the last possible moment to care about their grades, and no voice messages from the department secretary telling me that a student called because I hadn’t answered their email (that they sent an hour ago) and could I please call them back. It was such a peaceful week. I could get used to that.

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 6. Poetry class –

I am loving Beth Morey’s Poetry Is course (and her My Fearless Year 2016 mini-course – check it out – only $12) and the books that go with it. I have had sort of a dry spell with reading, but Poemcrazy and Writing Down the Bones have been an indulgent retreat.

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 7. Stephanie getting married –

My friend Steph got married! I am so happy for her and thrilled that I could be there for her special day.

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 8. Spending time with family –

Growing up, the picture you see above never would have happened at my parents’ house. Animals belonged outside, and if you wanted to play with them, you would just have to go outside, too. Now, Lola has her own special spots in the house where she likes to sit. Dad’s lap is one such spot.

 I went shopping with Tammy yesterday and found all sorts of treasures (Christmas tree – $20!). Then we spent the evening watching Once Upon a Time. We’re almost through season three. I cannot handle how much I like this show.

 9. Two weeks of vacation

I’ve had a restful (well…more restful. My neighborhood is loud and obnoxious) two weeks. Monday, I go back to work and have a little over a week to ease back into being there before the residents return.

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 10. Not putting up a Christmas tree –

Apparently, I used all my decorating energy on the Advent calendar, because I could not get motivated to put up a Christmas tree this year. About a week before Christmas, I finally admitted that it wasn’t going to happen. The candy canes on the curtain rods would just have to do.

 

 I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer. Hop over and tell us what you’re into this month!

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This is going to be short and sweet. I’m not that into July. Because OMG hot. I’m into July being over.

Y’all.  Y’ALL. You know how much I love Nina Simone.

Well. WELL:

Here, there was originally a great video of Lauryn Hill singing Feelin’ Good on the Tonight Show, but it has been taken down. If you haven’t seen it, you’re going to want to Google it. If you have seen it, you know you’re going to want to Google it again.

God bless Lauryn Hill. I need that album. NEED.

(I will make real sentences soon.)

To watch (other than that video, of course):

My sister and I have been watching White Collar. I just love this show. My heart cannot accept that it was canceled.

I blame the charm of Neal Caffrey for my sudden need to watch old Robert Redford/Paul Newman movies (think The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) this month.

To read:

My favorite thing I’ve read this month is Tiny, Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. If I were to be an advice columnist, this is exactly the advice I would give. I have never agreed so fully and adamantly with pretty much everything someone said in a book as I did with this one.

To do:

It’s been a busy month, but I’ve been into the usual things – book clubs, supper club, random outings with friends. I did make time to enjoy this glorious thing:

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It’s a cold brew from Harvest House with a little vanilla bourbon tucked inside. HAPPY.

And that’s pretty much been the month.

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – join us and tell us what you’re into!

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Sunday Kind of Love

(Sunday Kind of Love – sung by the incomparable Etta James)

Music was my first art. Of course, I toyed with crafts and drawing and stories from the time I first learned to hold a pencil, but no more so than anyone else did. Music was the first art that was mine. I didn’t choose it – it was important to my mom that both my sister and I learn to play piano – but it was the first one that I wept over. I remember struggling through a difficult section, tears running down my face in frustration. I remember having sore fingers from playing harder and louder, not because the sheet music called for it, but because I was throwing all that angst into the piece. I remember the unfiltered joy at getting it right. I remember watching the timer that kept track of my hour of practice, willing it to move faster, when inspiration was dry. I remember leaping to quiet the timer before Mom heard it when it rang before I was finished telling my life to the keys.

Some days, music is the thing that leaves me in need of therapy. Other days, music is therapy. Either way, it drives me to create.

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have a playlist for everything. If something is important – if it’s going to be real to me – it will have a soundtrack. This week, I’ve been working on my playlist for Feast. It’s a compilation of my favorite songs to hear when I’m cooking, particularly when I’m cooking for other people.

It’s no coincidence that I’ve cooked more this week than I cooked all of last month.

Whenever I hear Sunday Kind of Love, I think of the same thing everyone else thinks of – finding a lasting love. That’s what the song is about. But I also think of the moments I already have in my life that are Sunday kinds of love. Friends. Feeding people. Welcoming others into my home. Inviting others to the table. Being connected by common experience and interests. Being captivated and challenged by differences. These things are eternal.

They’re love that lasts forever.

(Another one of my favorite renditions – Beth Rowley)

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Dissonance is a clash.

Dissonance is the what-should-be bucking against the what-is.

Dissonance is both sobering and stirring up.

Dissonance seems to be a way of life for me. I have two pictures – the life I want, and the life I have – and they are often in discord with one another. The former crashes into the latter, like waves pounding the sand and slowly, steadily changing the shoreline.

I have learned to sit in the dissonance of this existence. I have also learned that sitting in it is not the complacency I once thought it was.  It’s honesty. It’s listening. It’s inspiring.

Sometimes, it sounds like chaos.

Mostly, it sounds like dancing.

I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday.  Join us?

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I love it in your room at night 
You’re the only one who gets through to me. 

My sister and I grew up with a family friend (we’ll call her G).  She was a few years older than I, and we both looked up to her.  She taught us how to put on makeup the cool way (glitter shadow, shiny lip gloss – basically everything sparkly).  She kept us informed on who the hottest heartthrobs were.

She introduced us to The Bangles.

Jump over to Jane Halton’s blog to read the rest.

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(There are many performances of this piece online. This one lights that third movement on fire, the way it was meant to be.)

“The girls we once were are coming back to us now.” – Brandy Walker

I was a Renaissance girl.

That girl did everything.  Even when it was hard.  Even when people tried to tell her that she couldn’t.

At holiday, the girl I once was shaped homemade candies and learned how to get them to turn out right.  When she was shooed out of the kitchen because her help became a frustration, she went outside, formed a kitchen of her own, and made mud pies.

She learned cross stitch.  She made intricate gifts and Christmas ornaments that are still cherished and hung on Mom’s tree every year.

The girl I once was shelled peas and was taught to make jam.  She grew up understanding the connection of sustenance to the land  She unraveled mysteries of the universe over the pings of Cream Crowder peas in a metal bowl.

She walked out of the backyard and sat down at the piano with bits of dried mud pie still under her fingernails. She heard the beauty of the trills and the thunder of the bass.  She began formal training at the age of eight, and she practiced an hour a day, even when she didn’t want to.  In early junior high, when she played a simplified snippet of Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody at recital, the winner of the top performer award told their teacher, “She should have won this.” The comment was reward enough.

The girl I once was worked hard at gymnastics, and although no one who knows me now will believe it, the balance beam was her best event.  She took ballet, tap, and jazz dance lessons.  For the first time in her life, she had to work twice as hard as everyone else just to be average.  She loved it.

She was heavily involved in her church.  Every time the door was open, she was there.  Everything she could do – youth group, choir, VBS teacher, children’s music camp assistant, handbell choir, sorting clothes and food for the mission – she did. Her yes was always yes, and her no was rare.

In high school, the girl I once was was told that she couldn’t do everything – that she had to eliminate some things.  So she did.  She crossed off athletics and Future Farmers of America. Everything else – she did, and she did it well. National Honors Society, the speech and drama team, Texas Association of Future Educators, marching band, flag corp, jazz pianist for stage band, concert band, Future Homemakers of America, UIL, the gifted and talented program, and probably a few others that I have forgotten.  And she graduated second in her class.  Because she could.

Her senior year, she played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata – the whole thing.  She played it so often that she memorized it.  She played it so often that even now, twenty years later, my fingers still move whenever I hear it. At her senior recital, she won that top performer award.  She also won the award of awed silence between the final note and the first applause.

One day, the girl I once was forgot what she could do.  Someone else told her that she had to choose, and this time, she believed it.  She believed the lie that she couldn’t do all the things that she’d always done, and because she couldn’t possibly choose, she stopped doing it all.  She grew up and became good at waiting.  She grew up and became good at watching the whole world go on without her.  She grew up and learned the lie that things just don’t work out for her and that expecting them to do so would only make her a fool.

But this girl?  She’s not done growing.  She has learned to set healthy boundaries and has embraced the luxurious freedom of no.

And that girl I once was?  She is coming back.

In every verse I read in shaky voice, she is coming back.

In every meal I make and share with others, she is coming back.

In every coconut nougat dipped in chocolate that I taught myself to temper, she is coming back.

In every pie I bake in this kitchen of my own, she is coming back.

In every blanket I knit, she is coming back.

In every story I write, she is coming back.

In every song I sing and every move I dance, she is coming back.

In every “Our Father,” and “Lord, in Your mercy,” I pray, she is coming back.

And if I have to eat Ramen noodles for six months and sell everything but my books, I will get a good keyboard this year, because she is coming back, and she’s going to need one.

She.  Is.  Coming.  Back.

Some of the people who are helping her get back are my Story Sisters.  Today, on International Women’s Day, we are telling the stories of the girls we once were.  Join us.

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