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My first small, imperfect peaches of the season. 

My word for the year is “alive.” The universe is hilarious.

I had a few thoughts about how this would go. There were a lot of lofty quotes that came to mind and many goals I made that I thought would contribute to a more vibrant existence. I had no idea how often I would have to fight to actively choose living over becoming stagnant or something else.

Today I read Joy the Baker’s post on turning 39, and so much of it resonated with me. I can list the accomplishments I’m proud of and many things I do well, but most days I can’t help but feel that I, too, have been left behind – that I missed a turn somewhere that would have taken me down the path toward those Big Life Goals™ that I just assumed would come along as soon I was ready for them. I also love her curiosity and her intention to set aside the small life story in exchange for embracing the things that sparkle – to “do them badly, then less badly, then maybe almost well.”

When our church decided to start meeting remotely, we didn’t hesitate or put it off a few weeks to figure it out. Our pastor told council, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” He didn’t mean, of course, that doing a bad job at online services should be the goal. Only that it needn’t wait until we had all the information to do it expertly.

As you can imagine, this is not my modus operandi. I am all for jumping off the cliff (metaphorically); I just want to be armed with a gigantic parachute of relevant knowledge before I do.

But I started the year with a commitment to come alive, so whether I know what I’m doing or not, here I am, doing it badly but consistently. This looks like a lot of different things:

To bake and eat the cake that I’ve been craving for a month rather than just think about making it.

To dance, enjoying the way my body – this body, the one I have right now – feels when it moves.

To choose to spend money in a way that actually makes a difference in my life and the lives of others rather than contributing to the greed of entities that exist to homogenize us.

To play Chopin. And also Joplin. And also brand new things that no one but me has ever heard.

To sing, even when there’s no one to carry the harmony.

To eat my veggies and stay hydrated.

To seek out the people who love me well and stop worrying about those who don’t.

To discover how much time I have when I cut out all the things that don’t really matter.

To discover exactly which things do matter so, so much.

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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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About half the current list

This month has been a great reading month so far. I’m looking forward to diving in to the rest of these selections.

For book clubs:

  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I read the ebook on this one, and I like the structure of the writing. Our book club decided that we need this band to be real.
  • The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne – The audiobook was well done, so I highly recommend it on this one. This is the first of the series, and I will need to read the rest of them. I found myself staying up later to listen to it, which is unusual for me, as it usually takes me forever to get through an audiobook. This one held my interest, though.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – I haven’t read a graphic novel in a while, and I already love this one. It’s funny and poignant, and I’m excited to talk about it with my Spiderweb group.
  • Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas – This is the supplemental read for Spiderweb, and I’m looking forward to starting it when it arrives in the mail.

Other reads:

  • Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark – I loved this book. It’s written (and read – I know! Two audiobooks in two weeks! Who even am I?) by the two women who run the true crime podcast My Favorite Murder.
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz – This is a cute book about three children and their adventures. A book club friend described it as “The Canterbury Tales meets Harry Potter.”
  • Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel – I love Anne’s online persona as The Modern Mrs. Darcy, and so of course I pre-order every book she writes. I look forward to starting this treatise on how to make more confident decisions. I’m not really indecisive, but sometimes I overthink things because of who I am as a person, so I’m sure there will be something in there for me.
  • The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris – I picked this one up because it is written by the author who wrote Chocolat, which I love (also…I just now discovered that there’s a cookery book with recipes inspired by Chocolat and I must have it immediately). Other than it being marketed as a modern fairytale, I don’t know much about it, but I’m sure it will be a good read.
  • The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory – Second book in the series after The Wedding Date, this is going to be a fun read. I love this author, and I plan to tuck into this one this weekend.
  • Dining In by Alison Roman – I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to cookbooks that I’ve checked out of the library, so I’m trying to work my way through them. I am skimming most, but this one has a lot of ideas I like, so I’m spending a little more time with it.
  • Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson – My third (third!) audiobook of the month. I’m not sure if I’m just getting better at choosing good audiobooks or if my ability to focus is improving (wow, that would be awesome), but I like this one so far. I’m only about 30 minutes in, but the story has already grabbed me.

What are you reading right now? Should I add it to my future TBR list?

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February TBR

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My inner overachiever made this stack. We’ll see. The month is busy, self.

I was just looking at the calendar, and I have something planned for every night except one for the rest of this month. Sometimes I wonder why I am the way that I am.

I forge on, however, in my reading goals. These are the books I’m working on/starting this month:

For book clubs:

  • Educated by Tara Westover – I finished listening to it a few days ago. Many parts of it horrified me in an are-they-for-real sort of way. Other parts horrified me in a that’s-exactly-how-it-felt-for-me sort of way. Horror aside, I recommend it.
  • Midnight’s Children by  Salman Rushdie – I am about 60 pages in, and I love it already. Beautifully written story. I’m also listening to it during my commute, and I recommend the audiobook read by Lyndam Gregory. I hope to carve out a lot of reading time this weekend, because we’re discussing it next Tuesday.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin – Excited to start this one!
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin – I started this one years ago but didn’t finish. I look forward to reading it next week.
  • American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of the American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson – I just got the notice that this has been shipped today, so it should arrive soon.

Other reads:

  • Jubilee by Toni Tipton-Martin – The recipes in this book are fantastic. This is going on my cookbook to-buy list.
  • The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott – Humor? Check. Magical realism? Check. Themes of religion, loneliness, and love? Check. So many things that I love in a book.
  • Something Old, Something New by Tamar Adler – I’ve read a lot of her articles in food magazines, and I loved An Everlasting Meal. I expect to love this one just as much.
  • Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman – The second in the series. I enjoyed Seraphina, so I’m excited to see what happens next.
  • Jazz by Toni Morrison – I have a lot of Toni Morrison books on my shelf, and this is one I have never read. Excellent so far.

What are you reading?

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The book books (as opposed to the audio or ebook selections)

“Whatcha thinkin’ about?”

I would get this question from a friend when he thought I was being quieter than usual. If I felt like staying quiet, I would lie and say, “Nothing.” But mostly, I answered with the thing that was foremost in my mind, usually the book(s) I was reading at the time and what intrigued me about them.

I read about 10-ish books a month. This month, I’m finishing up a lot that I have started, including a couple from my Spiderweb book club that I love so far but didn’t finish in time for discussion night. I’m in three (oh, wait…now four…I joined the Bloggess’s Fantastic Strangelings) book clubs so that’s about half of my reading every month. I also added a few from my own collection that I’m re-reading or have been making lovey eyes at for a while. Or ones that are due at the library soon.

This month’s reading:

  1. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – I actually listened to this one on the way to the farm for the holidays. I do not recommend listening to this in the dark while you are driving, particularly if you are driving through an area known for wildlife that has a habit of darting out in front of moving vehicles. On the upside, the hyper-vigilance *cough*paranoid jumpiness*cough* this book inspired means that no wildlife were harmed in the listening of this book. My book club was mixed in its reviews. I enjoyed the parts that she wrote (much of the book was pieced together from her notes after her death).
  2. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok – I finished this one last night. I related to the title character quite a bit, and this book is helping me work through a rediscovery of an old self whom I miss. This line in particular stuck out to me – “I kept my attraction a secret because I had learned that to do otherwise was to invite the gods to mock you.” More on this in a later post.
  3. The Power by Naomi Alderman – I’m starting this one today. The Spiderfriends in book club have been talking it up, so I’m super excited about it.
  4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – This is the supplemental read for Spiderweb, and I’m enjoying the re-read. I forgot how much I love it. I’ve just finished the first part wherein she compares two different meals. Enjoy: “And if anyone complains that prunes, even when mitigated by custard, are an uncharitable vegetable (fruit they are not), stringy as a miser’s heart and exuding a fluid such as might run in misers’ veins who have denied themselves wine and warmth for eighty years and yet not given to the poor, he should reflect that there are people whose charity embraces even the prune.” Glorious.
  5. Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford – This is the first selection for Fantastic Strangelings. I haven’t heard a lot about it, but I trust Jenny Lawson’s judgment wholeheartedly.
  6. How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones – This is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read, and I really love memoirs. The writing is lovely, and the flow is perfect. Great first book to start the month.
  7. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen – This is my car book this month (listening, not reading, to be clear). I liked the first novel about the Waverly sisters. Light magical realism, enjoyable enough if you like that genre and easy to pay attention to.
  8. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – One of my top five favorite books. I’ve read it a couple of times. On New Year’s Eve Eve, Spiderweb had a party and a book exchange, and this is the one I brought. So of course I had to read it again. I find new treasures each time.
  9. Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog – This was the supplemental read for November, and I’m still working my way through it. It’s fantastic but heavy, so I am taking my time.
  10. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa – Another book I’m finishing from Spiderweb. I usually tab the books we are discussing, but I found myself tabbing every page, so I stopped and just decided to enjoy it. I am about halfway through.
  11. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – I met Roxane Gay when she came to UNT, and this was the book I brought for her to sign. I got to tell her how much Hunger meant to me. She was delightful and present. It was a great night.
  12. French Lessons by Peter Mayle – I like to read at least one book about food a month. I love everything I’ve read by Mayle, and I expect this one will be no different.

What are you reading now?

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First page of new planner. A reminder for when I forget.

I love resolutions. Even the ones I abandon halfway through the year (although I would not mind getting to a place where I don’t get all riled up about something just to fizzle out). I like looking forward and fostering hope for making new magic and dreams (and yes, a little madness). I have a lot of small goals for the year, but they all center on a few themes:

  1. Reading – I exceeded my original goal of 100 books last year (by two!), and so I’ve upped the challenge to 120 this year. I have three book clubs, because I love talking about books with people. I think it would be nice if I did that more here, too. Possible posts to look forward to are periodic recaps of what I’ve read and what I’m about to read. I really love what Brenda at Don’t Stop Believing did here, and I really adored some of the things I read in 2019, so you may see something similar around these parts soon. For this year, my focus is going to be on actually finishing the book club choices before we meet (I did this about 60% of the time last year) and reading some of the hundreds of books on my own shelves that I have squirreled away for “someday.” Someday is 2020.
  2. Writing – I finished Fishbowl in 2018…and then I edited it. Now I need to finish it again, because as it turns out, I have no problem killing my darlings. I may enjoy that too much, actually. So this year’s main writing goal is to get it ready to go to beta readers (yes, Maggie – you first)/an editor. I also have a short story project that I am working on, and I want to continue my microfictions on Ello (anyone else on Ello?). I haven’t posted there in a while, but I have a few that I should be ready to upload by the end of the month. I anticipate writing (maybe performing) something in collaboration with Spiderweb Salon this year, too.
  3. Health – I need to be better at keeping up with doctor’s appointments. Just…all of them. I’m terrible at this. That’s a big goal for the year. With my Pilates practice last year, I re-discovered how good I feel when I’m paying attention to strength and flexibility and alignment (hello again, dance!), so I want to continue to build there.
  4. Work – I want to continue to explore the next direction my work life should go. I don’t have a lot of answers here, but I have lots of advice and guidance. Sifting through all of that. We’ll see.
  5. Word of the year – I wasn’t going to have a word of the year, but then I kept seeing quotes about coming alive or being alive and every one of them made me tear up a little bit so now my word of the year is “alive” and I’m pretty enthused about it. My gut reaction for how to pursue this is through music, dance, learning new things, making beautiful things and feeding people, but I’m leaving the possibilities open. I have a short-term bucket list for the year that includes things like “read a book in Spanish with minimal need for a dictionary” and “start learning sign language” and “walk/run more miles each month”  and “brush up on music theory” and it will be fun to see how many of those I stick to. In related news, I may be in the market for a French horn or trumpet soon. You’re welcome, neighbors (but let’s be honest, you kinda have it coming).

Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them!

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Unraveled

Another year wrapped up. If I had written this post a couple of days ago, it may have been a different, more hopeful post. But I put it off until tonight, so you get me at a discouraged point instead. My Southern upbringing wants me to offer an apology for this, but that doesn’t feel quite right. I am where I am, and that’s okay.

I wish I had a nice, tidy bow to tie everything up with, but the truth is that 2019 kicked my ass. I was going to figure out so many things and be in a better place, and I’m not sure that happened. Sure, I’ve learned some things and worked really hard and made some progress. But I still don’t know what I want to do. Even the things I thought might be interesting at the first of the year have lost some appeal. At this point, I’m just applying for jobs that pay more because if I’m going to do something boring that I have no passion for, at the very least it can be one job that pays all the bills and lets me plan for a good retirement to look forward to. And as for changing my luck in love? Ahahahaha. I’m more convinced than ever that some people just don’t get to be loved, and I’m probably one of them. Loving other people isn’t the hard part. It’s finding someone who loves me back that’s tricky. Do these people even exist? If so, where are they? I’m clearly haven’t thought to look there.

I did meet my original goal of reading 100 books, so I have that going for me.

Actually, that’s not all I have to show for the year. It may have run me over, but I fought back. Relentlessly. I kept going out with people and letting myself feel things despite the 100% failure rate of all my dating/interest efforts. I applied for a better job within my department even though it has demonstrated time and again how little it values what I bring to the table (and continued to demonstrate this by not even extending me an interview). I have embraced the role of the greater fool who keeps showing up and doing all the things, hoping against hope that someday I will be able to say that all this effort has not been in vain.

Someday.

I still have hope. So I’m going to go to sleep (eventually – I had a lot of coffee today) and wake up and start again…again. Maybe I’ll find what I’m hoping for soon.

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