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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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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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