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Sweet note on the dry erase board in the office this week

We are finally working from home. The students no longer are answering the telephone. We are having our first Zoom meeting tomorrow morning to check in. Denton’s stay-at-home order kicks in tomorrow night. I have plenty to do here to keep me busy, as my apartment looks like a tornado hit it (yes, ’tis the season, but in this case, just a simile) and thus is in desperate need of some attention.

Also I have books. Hundreds of books.

But I also need a little structure to maintain even a little bit of a sense of well-being. I can’t be alone in my house for weeks (months?) on end with no structure.

My goal checklist that I’ve been using this year to track the progress of my resolutions has thus far been extremely helpful for helping remain calm(ish). Every day I’m home all day, I make sure I’m:

  • drinking enough water
  • practicing Spanish, either through the Duolingo app or by reading a book in Spanish while keeping the dictionary close
  • dancing, whether for just a 10-minute break or a Zumba video or an online dance class (the tap classes Chloe Arnold is hosting through Instagram? Very cathartic. Highly recommend.)
  • exercising with Pilates on demand or with something that helps me stretch/strengthen
  • playing the keyboard (currently brushing up on some theory)
  • doing at least one thing to rest or pamper myself (e.g., relaxing foot soak, face mask, nap, etc.)
  • working on a crafty/creative project (e.g., knitting, poetry, coloring, etc.)
  • picking a different small area of the apartment to clean each day
  • taking a walk (weather permitting)
  • finishing the daily to-do list (e.g., keeping up with bills, checking in with friends, etc.)

I’m also taking the free Yale course, “The Science of Well-Being”. I’m just in the introduction, but I can already tell I’m going to like it.

I knew this weekend that I needed to go ahead and put these things in place now. I had a whole weekend at home. Normally, this would delight me. A whole free weekend? Paradise. But I spent a lot of the time overwhelmed and anxious and terribly lonely, despite the fact that I had a lot of interaction online. I thought when this started that this experience would be a good test of whether or not I could really work from home, but I may need reminders that this is a whole other animal. It’s not going to give me an accurate picture of what working from home would really be like.

What adjustments are you making to make this phase of life work?

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It’s the International Day of Happiness. This week has been w.e.i.r.d., to say the least. I’ve had a few panic attacks, and I’m still at work as we try to accommodate students who have nowhere else to go and figure out what in the world we’re going to do next (I would welcome faster decisions here…I’m just sayin’.). But there’s also been so many opportunities for joy. Just in my little corner of humanity, there is so much goodness. There are also so many fun things online. Here’s a list for times when you’re feeling more anxious than happy or just want something hopeful.

  1. Italians singing from their balconies.
  2. Lots of love happening on the ‘gram. Nikki Mayeaux is posting a daily creative prompt called Poem Passwords. The pictures on #seeninquarantine are spectacular. Between her early start for April Love and purrs from her sweet cat, Susannah Conway is soothing my soul. Julia Turshen is posting daily foodie prompts. I love this list from worn_ware of people offering yoga, meditations, etc.
  3. Tessera Arts Collective in Philadelphia closed the gallery for now, but they are still on for installing a street art campaign throughout the city this Sunday.
  4. Local businesses that can’t afford to shut down completely are making the best of it with delivery and curbside pickup. The Dentonite is keeping a running list. I love watching local business owners figure out how to take care of their employees by offering alternate earning opportunities and giving devoted patrons the ability to still tip their baristas/servers (*cough* support Golden Boy *cough*). Also…Golden Boy has key lime and coconut pie right now, which are in my top three favorite pies (blueberry is the third, if you’re wondering).
  5. Aid Network Denton and the city of Lake Dallas are keeping up a list of ways to get help or get involved if you can give help.
  6. Nature is delightful. The canals are clear and the swans are back in Venice. And penguins at the Shedd Aquarium enjoy a tour of the zoo.
  7. Since you can’t go in person, many field trip locations and entertainment venues are coming to you. You may also be able to watch the stage production of your favorite musical online. The Metropolitan Opera is streaming. Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeted himself playing “All I Ask of You”, and Lin Manuel Miranda responded with his performance of “Everything’s Alright”. Yale is offering their course on The Science of Well-Being for free (audit only).
  8. For artists whose income is impacted by all the cancellations, here’s a list of places that may be able to offer support.
  9. Books resources! I didn’t know how much I needed Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog in my life until this week. In fact, many children’s authors are reading their books online this week. And one that made me salivate – download from a selection of over 300,000 books for free from the New York Public Library through their reader app!!!
  10. Debbie Allen is teaching online dance classes! So is Chloe Arnold!
  11. Joy the Baker is just a delight. As usual.
  12. People are putting their Christmas lights back up to spread joy.
  13. All the Julia Child is streaming!!
  14. What am I doing this weekend? I’m so glad you asked! 24in48’s Social Distancing Readathon!

I’m sure there’s more. What are your favorite things people are doing right now?

 

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So it’s not really Friday. I get that. But it’s the post that was meant for Friday, so here we are. One goal of a 31-day series is to get back in the habit of writing every day (or, rather, writing something other than for work). It’s a process.

To finish out the week of talking about tools I use to help me keep my life on track, I want to mention apps that I use to keep up with goal progression. I love making resolutions, but for most of my life, I would make them and then promptly forget about them. I think a lot of people have that experience. When I started tracking my goals, though, I had more success. Here are five of my favorite ways to track my goals:

  1. Club Pilates app – I know. Again I’m talking about it. I just love it. And now that I have a new phone that actually supports the app, I can track a lot of my health goals as well as schedule and keep track of my classes. Every smartphone comes with a health app, though, so even if you don’t go to Club Pilates, you can still have an easy way to track just about any health goal you have.
  2. Goodreads – I started with a goal of 100 books for the year. Then I extended it to 120. No matter how small or big your reading goal, though, you can track it with Goodreads. I also get a lot of recommendations from friends on this site/app.
  3. Spreadsheet – Looking at a long-term goal can be daunting. It’s important to break down resolutions into smaller goals. To this end, I keep a monthly spreadsheet that tracks daily progress toward goals. I broke my five resolutions into ten smaller goals, and I set a monthly goal for each. Then I tally each day that I reach part of the goal. For those of you who like to bullet journal, this can be not only helpful but cathartic.
  4. Fetch – I’m not sure how long Fetch has been around, but I love it. If you can’t tell, point systems really work for me. For the last few years, I have wanted to cook more at home and make better food choices. But if I don’t have groceries at my house, it’s not happening. Fetch rewards me for buying groceries. I’ve been using it for three weeks and just like magic, I have food in my house. I’m also more than 75% toward my first $10 reward. I do enjoy free things, and free things that help me meet my goals? Double bonus.
  5. Art journal – Different people use art journaling for different reasons. When one of your goals is to pursue creative expression more often, however, it can be a way of showing the progress of that goal. My art journal is a collection of collages, found and blackout poetry, stained-glass-style doodles, and song lyrics I want to set to a melody at some point (yes! I’m excited about it, too.). I have a pretty broad range for what I consider creative pursuits, but I track most of them by art journaling about them.

Do you make goals? If so, how do you keep track of your progress?

 

I’m talking about making my own luck this month.

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Hello! This weekend, I am embarking on a 24in48 marathon of luxurious reading. After the 70- and 80-hour work weeks I’ve been having, I am very excited about adding extra money to my Aspiration account, but I am also really looking forward to this much needed break. Here are some things I’m into.

  1. First, lists of books and book shops. I love fantasy novels .  I also find this list intriguing – a particular book to read at each age. Someday, when I have time off, I may do a few days of just rambling through bookstores in the area.
  2. I have a confession. I’ve always loved Cats. Some people sang 80s songs into their hairbrushes. Me? McCavity: The Mystery Cat. [I mean, I totally sang 80s pop. And punk. And…I like to sing.] It’s strange and confusing and of course it is because that’s what you get when Andrew Lloyd Webber adapts T. S. Eliot poetry into a musical. I cannot wait for this movie to come out. If you go see it with me, prepare yourself for the moment when Jennifer Hudson sings Memory on the big screen, because I will cry. Already teared up just during the trailer. It’s just gonna happen.
  3. I joined a cookbook club, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. We meet once a month, each bringing a dish and the cookbook we found it in to share with others. One big decadent potluck. There are daily posts on the group page about things like classic pasta dishes and the best lemonade ever.
  4. I’ve already signed up for next year’s writer’s retreat to be held at Maplehurst. If you’ve read any of Christie Purifoy’s books (I’m currently soaking in Placemaker. Highly recommend.), you are probably familiar with Maplehurst’s story. You should join us.
  5. I’m officially moving my yearly Hemingway party to the fall. I had it later last year, and that was nice. It makes sense. Work is less busy in September or October, and it’s cooled off enough that I can actually bake without it taking 14 years for my apartment to cool off. As I’m planning, I hope to keep this advice in mind.

What are you into these days?

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Favorite summer treat. One of maybe five things I like about summer. As things go, though, this one is pretty awesome.

Every year, I love reading Joy the Baker’s summer bucket list. This year, I am especially charmed by her resolve to make a Polaroid photo album and have brunch and champagne on a weekday. I also feel inspired to make my own bucket list (or, erm, the bucket list I have been working on this summer, as it’s basically half over), so here goes!

  1. Read more beach reads. I am not good at choosing what most people think of as “beach reads.” The last book I read on the beach was Like Water for Chocolate (highly recommend). I am part of three book clubs, which I love, but that typically means that I’m reading books I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen and also aren’t typically lighthearted but rather books that lend themselves to discussion. Summer is often when work is busier, so more than usual, I need my nightly reading to wind down and be able to rest. For this purpose, the lighter the better.
  2. Participate in 24in48 and Dewey’s reverse readathon. Speaking of reading, I am looking forward to a couple of readathon weekends. I like that these weekends force me to take a day off and focus on one task, and a relaxing, favorite task at that.
  3. Spiderweb Salon, the local art collective I enjoy, has some exciting events coming up this summer. On Sunday, they’re having a release party for their vinyl album, so that will be fun. There is also a letter-writing workshop/typewriter sale I’m going to sneak away to during 24in28.
  4. Finish Marie Kondo-ing my apartment. Two closets and almost a kitchen and bathroom down, the rest of the place to go. My apartment looks like a tornado hit it. Soon, however, it will all be beautiful, just like my closet.
  5. Average 2-3 hours a week playing the piano (or, keyboard, rather. It’s just not the same. *sighs*). I’m slowly getting the flexibility and control back in my fingers. And I love it.

Do you have a summer to-do list? What’s on it?

 

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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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