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While I prefer a more social New Year’s Eve (I know – it feels just as weird to type it as it does to read it, but it’s one of the days of the year I like having plans), this was a pretty good fallback option.

Today has been both relaxed and productive. I did laundry, reorganized my dresser drawers, and broke open my shiny new planner (YAY!). I usually do two posts for goals at the beginning of the year to help sharpen my focus. Today’s post is a tangible to-do list for goals that I track throughout the year (well, except for one of them which is a one-and-done thing. And yes, there are actual charts). Tomorrow, I’ll talk about my word for the year. It’s a doozy.

  1. Read 100 books. I think I’m going to start posting my TBR list at the first of each month and then look back over it at the end of the month to see how close I actually stuck to it. This year, I’m revisiting some favorite authors (expect some Douglas Coupland, Haruki Murakami, Isabel Allende, etc.), brushing up on some classics, and keeping up with my three book clubs. The January TBR list:
    * The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
    * Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
    * Sphinx by Anne Garreta
    * Many Subtle Channels by Daniel Levin Becker
    * A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (Epiphany isn’t until Sunday – I have five days!)
    * Becoming by Michelle Obama
    * The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
    * Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
    * You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
    * Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende
    * Role Models by John Waters
    This may seem like a lot, but some of them are super short, and I have a 24in48 weekend coming up at the end of January!
  2. Renew my passport. I don’t necessarily have plans to travel outside the country this year, but I am adopting a you-never-know attitude about it, so I’d like to be prepared, just in case.
  3. Develop a daily creativity practice. My creativity veers in a lot of different directions, so this doesn’t have to look the same every day. It could be playing piano, dancing, writing poetry, building something, knitting, decorating or rearranging a space, or trying (or, let’s be real – tweaking) new recipes. But I know I get bored and restless if I’m not flexing those creative muscles, so I want to be more intentional about it.
  4. Continue building physically nourishing habits. By the end of the year, I want to be exercising four times a week, drinking an adequate amount of water daily, and feeding myself well. I have specific mini-goals to build up to it so that I won’t find myself looking back on this post in November and thinking, “Hmm…guess I better eat a carrot.”
  5. Get rid of something(s) in my overtaxed schedule in order to carve out time to do the writing I actually like to do (i.e., fiction, poetry, essays, blogging) on a regular basis.

Do you have resolutions for the upcoming year? What are they?

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This month went by super fast! There was one tree at the beginning of the month in the lot where I park at work that had shed all its leaves (as if to say, “Come on, you guys – it’s time! Don’t be late!” I feel like that tree understands me.), but now they’re all turning/shedding. And I love it.

November has been busy, but happy busy. I had a minor writing delay when my laptop crashed, but my sister and brother-in-law gave me one of theirs, so I’m back on a roll, and just in time for the holidays! Here’s how the month went.

What I’m into reading or listening to:

  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram is a gem of a book. I love the perspective and the sweet friendship he forges when he goes to see his family.
  • I’m getting through Anna Karenina. I recognize that I’m in no position to critique a translation from Russian, as I do not know a lick of Russian, but I’m going to critique it anyway. I’m liking the story line and character development, but I frequently run across a passage where I think, “I bet that was beautiful in Russian. Too bad this phrasing is awkward and awful.” I may check a copy out of the library and see if that goes better.
  • I attending the UNT Jazz Singers’ fall concert/CD release party and picked up their new collection called A Thousand Nights. Highly recommend.

a thousand nights

What I’m into doing:

  • A Club Pilates location opened in Denton, and I am obsessed. I love Pilates on the reformer machines! If you’re in or near Denton, and you’re curious, you can take a free, 30-minute intro session.
  • Our Housing holiday party was fantastic. It was beautiful, the food was awesome, and they gifted everyone with a free ham or turkey. As you can see in the picture at the top, I couldn’t decide what to drink. So many choices. I made them all.
  • I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family. We only made four kinds of candy this year (one didn’t make it into buckets because it was only a small batch). I only suffered a minor burn, which is better than I usually do. I think my family actually enjoys the chocolate-covered salted peanut or pecan clusters I make to use up the excess chocolate more than they like the actual candy.
  • Speaking of chocolates, I refreshed our fair trade stash at church and put out a table with samples of chocolate, coffee, and tea. Hopefully the information I collected there can help guide our purchases better so that the products get bought before they go stale.

What I’m looking forward to:

  • There is a coffee crawl scheduled next weekend, and I’m very excited about it. It’s a fundraiser for the Explorium (a children’s museum in Denton), and I am happy to drink coffee to support them.
  • I’m also very excited about Christmas break. I am looking forward to having that time off.

What are you into these days?

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Friday Five3

Both jobs are super busy and all I want out of life is to be sitting at the table in this picture drinking this delicious thing (Harvest House’s cold brew with a shot of vanilla bourbon – DO IT), but that will have to wait until at least the end of next week or maybe September.

Whew.

But I’m taking a little break this afternoon because I love music and poetry and I have lovely musical and poetic things to share with you.

  1. Visceral Trio (one of whom is our former organist Henry who left to tour with the Glenn Miller Orchestra in May) released their debut EP today. You can listen to samples and buy it here.
  2. My social media feeds are stocked full of Aretha Franklin performances, and this is my favorite video I saw this week.
  3. “Poetry is a way of being in the world that wasn’t made for us.” Ten poets to check out. I especially love Ellen McGrath Smith.
  4. Oh gosh. This amazing picture.
  5. And this isn’t about music or poetry, but I can imagine sipping some of Joy the Baker’s lemonade concoctions while listening/reading. Except that charcoal nonsense. Or the cold brew. That sounds like a terrible thing to do to both coffee and lemonade.

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AdventWord

I’m gearing up for the first Sunday of Advent this weekend. Advent is one of my favorite seasons…in theory. I love it, but I want to do all the complicated things to make it Meaningful with a capital M. Which I recognize in my head is ridiculous. Especially for a season that is all about waiting and expectation and hoping, which frankly often means a whole lot of sitting around in stillness and quiet.

But last year, I endeavored to light the candles every day. Which in itself is not that much. But then after I lit the candle, I wanted to complete all the readings from the Book of Common Prayer for the day, which is not a bad goal but maybe not one to take on suddenly during one of the busiest months when I am not so great at doing that on a regular basis any other time of the year. Then after I read all the readings, I wanted to complete an art journal page reflecting the readings and also the word prompt from Advent Word (see image above) for the day that I had in my Advent calendar (which the previous year I had knitted and sewed together with my own two hands). This ritual was designed to play out against a playlist of seasonal hymns, perfectly timed to last the length that it took to finish all of the above.

This is not what waiting looks like. I’m exhausted just reading about it.

As you can imagine, there weren’t many days this actually happened. Specifically, looking back on my journal, I see that there were seven days out of the whole four weeks when I had time to do all of that, and I vividly remember doing two days’ pages at once on more than one occasion. Plans are only as good as their execution, so as plans go, this one was not awesome.

This year still has a plan, because otherwise Advent will pass on by without my giving it a thought other than on Sundays and Wednesdays. But it’s a slower plan that’s more conducive to hope and peace and joy and expectation. I still (will) have the candles (as soon as I buy them), because that part I did do every day last year, even if it was just during dinner. I will still use my cute calendar, but this year, as I have discovered that its little pockets are the perfect size for a tea bag or an Emergen-C packet or a single-serve bottle of hooch, I will simply be enjoying a daily beverage along with my candles/supper/staring at the Christmas tree lights.

There will likely be music in the background from my record player or a Spotify playlist. I will probably still read through some of the daily readings, as that is a habit I’d like to pick up this year, but I’m not going to make an issue of it or feel like I’m running behind if I don’t. I will also sporadically play along on Instagram with Advent Word or with Susannah Conway’s December Reflections prompts, because that’s fun.

But no extra stress or unreasonable to-do lists. Just waiting. And hope. And expecting. And joy. That’s what I hope to take from Advent this year.

 

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If I Had a Band…

photo 5It would be a cover band, because I am not a songwriter. And I have an obsession with cover bands. I could totally see myself being in one. My first album would be a collection of my favorite songs to belt out on a long drive.

In order of appearance:

1. Build Me Up, Buttercup (The Foundations) – I love this song. I might even say that it is my favorite song of all time. A theme song, if you will. The album will start with a regular cover or a respectful nod to the original. Who wants to be the drummer?

2. Don’t Fence Me In (Roy Rogers) – So much fun. Favorite line – “Gaze at the moon until I lose my senses.” Okay, I’m going to need a guitar player.

3. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (The Casinos) – This is the song that I want to dance our first dance to at my wedding reception. You know, if ever such a thing should happen.

4. Rebel Girl (Bikini Kill) – Oh, riot!grrl music – yeah, this one’s going on there.

5. Crazy (Patsy Cline) – Because I’m from Texas. And this song sounds awesome with a jazzy vocal arrangement that the people of the world just need to hear.

6. Dream a Little Dream of Me (The Mamas and the Papas) – this one reminds me of an old friend, which is exactly what the middle of an album should be.

7. Scotch and Soda (Kingston Trio) – An opportunity to show off my smooth piano skills (that I would brush up on if I knew I’d have to play in public) to cover up the fact that my voice is, at best, mediocre? Yes, please.

8. Black Coffee (every jazz singer since the beginning of jazz) – Do I really need to explain why with this one? Although I’d have to bring in a guest vocalist on this one. Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald sang this, y’all. I can’t compete with that, nor would I sully the memory of their renditions by trying to do so.

9. For Your Love (Ed Townsend) – Such a pretty yet simple song.

10. Love Me (Treat Me Like a Fool) (Elvis Presley) – Another crowd pleaser. Thank you. Thank you very much.

11. Build Me Up, Buttercup (The Foundations)- ending where we began, except with a punk or riot!grrl version – because that’s just how my cover band would roll.

I really, really want to make this album now.

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Friday Five3

This week has been full of festivities and people helping and raising money and reaching out. Here are some small snippets that capture some of the work and the joy on the intrawebs this week.

  1. You have probably heard of the attack in Somalia that left over 300 dead in October. Even if you haven’t, it’s not too late to help. You can find links to the story as well as suggestions for getting involved here.
  2. Postmodern Jukebox and Wayne Brady sing a 30’s style Thriller. Also check out Sarah Reich, one of my favorite tap dancers, on his left.
  3. I love seeing how people dress up for Halloween. Favorites this year were Shonda Rhimes as Debbie Allen and Kristen Bell as Magnum, P.I.
  4. There are a lot of things going on in Denton this weekend. I might go to all of them. Or I might just go to the Friends of the Library book sale.
  5. And finally, here are some pictures of people who absolutely did not want the damn cats.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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There are few sounds that soothe me more than the sound of a record playing.

The perfect relaxing evening for me is the calm trifecta – records playing with a good book and soothing beverage in hand. I love evenings like this. I don’t get them every day, though, so do I just accept that I’m going to be stressed out until I can get to my next relaxing evening? Oh, no. That would be madness.

Rest is more than sleeping and taking time off. It doesn’t have to take large chunks of time that you have set aside. There are ways to incorporate a state of restfulness into your day, and they don’t have to be complicated. Doing so helps you maintain some of the balance and bypass some of the (*W#&(*#(@)Q! I don’t know about you, but I could do with a little less punctuational angst.

Mostly, restfulness hinges on something simple like remembering to take breaks. In said break, you can stretch, clear your head, breathe, or do any number of things that calm you down. Sometimes, you can do them right at your desk.

Part of the reason I am listing something that I do to rest everyday is to remind myself to take breaks. Most of the things I mention are longer activities, but I don’t want to discount the small things, because they add up.

So today, my restful act is remembering to take a few 5-minute breaks during the workday. So far, I’ve taken two, and it’s amazing how much more relaxed I feel than usual. Sounds like something I may want to consider making a part of every day.

 

I’m spending 31 days running wild. 

 

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