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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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This is my view from the desk in my office. It’s amazing that I actually get any work done.

The benefit of cleaning my office is that I can actually see the books I have as I organize them.

The drawback of cleaning my office is that I can actually see the books I have as I organize them.

Last night was a light writing night, and it’s a good thing, because I definitely spent a good hour going over which books I want to read next. There are so many I haven’t read, and so many I want to read again. Just right there on my shelves.

And what you see is only about a fourth of the books I have (…in my office. There are other bookshelves by my kitchen and in my bedroom. There are so many books.).

Many of the book lovers I follow on social media have been tackling their unread shelves, and I want to start doing the same. It will start slowly, as I have a lot of unread library books left to read this year. As those dwindle down (probably around Christmas), I think my goal will probably shift to reading the books my book clubs read, listening to audiobooks, and diving into the books I own.

There’s so much joy on my shelves waiting to be discovered!

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I was going to post a list of five reasons I love Club Pilates. And make no mistake – there will be gushing, so be prepared for that. But there are so many things I’m enjoying/looking forward to right now that I’m actually doing in real life (i.e., not just on the internet) that I wanted to give them their moment in the sun.

  1. Club Pilates – It’s the most expensive exercise program I’ve ever used, and I LOVE IT. Worth every penny. I have been pretty consistent with my Pilates practice on my own, but this takes it to a whole new level. Come to a 30-minute intro class. You’ll be hooked (quite possibly literally – there are often straps involved).
  2. This weekend is the 24in48 Readathon! I’m finishing up a few books I’ve been working on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and starting a couple new ones. I’m mostly going to post on Instagram and Twitter about it, but I plan to check in a couple times here with challenges. Stay tuned tonight for the TBR stack.
  3. Dinner Club – My church has started dinner clubs again. Each family (or pair, for those of us who are single) takes turns being the host, co-host, and guest, and we rotate groups each month so that we get to have dinner with everyone eventually. I’m taking a break from reading to attend my first one this weekend, and I’m very excited!
  4. I’ve joined another book club. I’m reading the two first two books we’re discussing this weekend, and we’ll meet for discussion on Thursday. It’s hosted by a local artist collective that I recently started supporting so I’m looking forward to talking to the ones who come to book club and seeing how/if we’re a good fit for each other.
  5. Re: the artist collective – I may be taking an editing workshop with them in February. I haven’t chosen the piece I want to take to revise, but I’m trying to talk myself into going. Perks: It’s perfectly in line with certain life changes I want to make, so of course it makes logical sense that I would do it. Drawbacks: Change compounded with socializing with strangers makes me itchy. Just putting this one in writing so that I can’t deny that I said it.

 

 

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Lucky in Love

The only thing better than having a French press to myself is having someone to share it with.

What I am about to say, I say with some trepidation. *deep breath*

I want a plus one (casual applicants acceptable, especially at first). I have things on the calendar that would be more fun with someone else. Ultimately, I want to find someone to love. And I suck at finding someone to love who has the good sense to love me back. Apparently.

So I’m asking for help.

Those of you familiar with me, of course, know that this ask comes with a few asterisks.

Asterisk #1: I’m not fishing for compliments. I don’t need you to tell me how much I deserve to have someone who loves me. I have several faults, but low self-esteem is not one of them. I believe that I am a catch. I would even go so far as to say I’m a delight. But knowing I deserve love and being good at finding that love? Clearly not the same thing. I need help with the second one, not the first.

Asterisk #2: Please make sure the advice you’re giving actually worked for you before you offer it as something useful. A history of people corralling me into seemingly endless conversations like this is the exact cause of the aforementioned trepidation. I am not interested in monologues of useless platitudes that you can’t back up with your own experience. Looking for well-earned wisdom, not generic guesses.

For example, don’t give me this “You just need to get out more” nonsense.

First, I am out plenty. For as much of an introvert as I am, I am especially out plenty. Second, I can almost guarantee that I get out more than you did when you met your significant other. If you met your spouse while doing something you were going to do anyway, like school, work, church, or hanging out with friends, you don’t know how to tell me to meet my SO by going out more often. You just lucked out. All you had to do is open your eyes and say, “Hi,” to get that started.

Don’t tell me to do something I know you didn’t have to do. I can (and do…when I go out…which is plenty) find random experiments on my own, thanks.

Asterisk #3: Everyone has something to bring to the table. If you are in a happy relationship, you know something that can help me. Share, please.

If you did meet your SO by just going about your life, a way you can help is to throw some of that luck my way. Introduce me to your delightful single friends. I’m certain they’d love to meet me, too. For the record, we like being invited over (or out) for dinner. I also like dancing. And if I do start dating a fella I might want to consider making a long-term partner, I’ll be talking to you happy couples and taking notes.

Now, if you met your spouse on the internet or in a bar and you’re still happy together years later, you might be able to offer sound advice on how to meet people in casual social settings (i.e., by getting out more) and make it stick. To be clear, I’m not asking how to hook up. That’s not at all difficult, and it’s not what I’m ultimately looking for. If you managed to turn a casual meeting into a real relationship, tell me those stories. Or better yet – invite me out and be my wingman/woman.

[Asterisk #3.1: If you want to know where to start, I prefer men between the ages of 35-45. Dating me may be easier if one believes in God and leans toward liberalism. Top candidates’ interests/professions may include coffee, food, wine, books, music, and dancing, but not particularly in that order.]

[Asterisk #3.2: Most of these terms are negotiable. If your adorable friend doesn’t quite fit them, inquire within. Or just invite us over and see what happens. That should be entertaining.]

Asterisk #4: Despite the impression that the existence of these multiple asterisks probably gives, I don’t want you to overthink it. Let’s all relax and have a little bit of fun with this.

[Asterisk #4.1: I recognize that you may have to remind me that this is supposed to be fun and relaxing. These are not my standard modes of operation (see behavior re: multiple asterisks).]

I’m not expecting you to fully vet the people to whom you introduce me. Correction: I fully expect that some of you will do this because you are protective and loyal and lovely friends and thus just can’t help yourselves. But do try to keep that to a minimum (the choosy part, not the friend part). The people you think I should click with and the people I actually click with may be very different people. Let me be the picky one in the scenario.

Yes, I ultimately want to marry someone. But I’m not going into a coffee date thinking, “I wonder if he’s the one,” and I really hope he’s not thinking that, either. All I’m thinking is “Hey, someone is sitting next to me while I drink coffee! Cool.” and “I wonder if I’ll get the pour-over, the cortado, or the macchiato?” We can all just calm down and not try to rush into forever.

[Asterisk #4.2: While I can promise not to rush into relationship-y things, we all know I will not be able to stop myself from judging him based on his coffee choices. In the interest of being a good friend to him, too, maybe warn him in advance.]

Asterisk #5: The best counsel I’ve ever gotten on this subject was real advice people didn’t try to sugarcoat. I give a lot of disclaimers, but I don’t need them. Relationships get messy. Hell, even coffee can get messy. Talk about that.

[Asterisk #5.1: I recognize I have a lot of angst regarding this subject. OBVIOUSLY. Please don’t let that spook you. Even if I don’t find your advice helpful, I find your desire to help utterly terrific. And hearing me out while I vent is also terrific. So thanks for reading this far. See? You’re helping already.]

So to sum up:

  • Introduce your single friends to each other (specifically, to me). Yes, it will be awkward. But so is going to a music festival/wine walk/party/wedding where I have to impose, attaching myself like a social barnacle to others who brought their social lives with them in the form of a plus one. Unless I enjoy hanging out in the midst of a flock of people with no one to talk to (spoiler: I almost never enjoy that. At all. It’s the worst. If I wanted to be alone, I would save myself the trouble and just stay home. I already know I love the food and music there, and I can enjoy them in my pajamas.).
  • Don’t worry on my behalf about whether it’s going to work out. I already know how to overanalyze. Don’t need any assistance there.
  • Talk is great. Action is better. Do with that what you will.
  • I hear advice better over a margarita or glass of wine. Or a steak. Maybe there are appetizers involving goat cheese…but I digress…

Thanks for reading to the end. You’re good people. I like you.

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Lucky

When I started thinking about my word for the year, one word kept coming to mind.

Lucky.

I balked at the word initially. I even tried to Christianize it (I blame my evangelical roots). I thought about blessed, but that fell flat. I believe God blesses me (and will continue to do so), but it seems weird to make goals on God’s behalf. And blessing is more of a noticing and being thankful thing than a make-it-happen thing. I’m very much a make-your-own-luck sort of girl (I think. It’s complicated. See below.). So I’m purposely stepping away from the more Christian-y terms.

I didn’t want lucky to be my word. I wanted something I could control or guide. Something I could actively seek. Something I could plot with color-coded charts and short-term goals that lead up to a big finish. But if it was that easy, wouldn’t everyone be lucky? Okay, not everyone. But as goal-driven and strategic as I am, if that’s the way it worked, wouldn’t it at least be easier for me?

I’m not really feeling lucky. In fact, for a while, I’ve felt like I’m a person for whom things just don’t work out. I’m not really excited about my job and I can’t think of a job I’d be excited about (except professional reader. I would be excited about that. Someone pay me to read.). I don’t have a lot of luck with relationships. Actually, relationships baffle me. I’m baffled about how to make something like that even get started, much less work long term. I think I am okay overall most of the time. Other people have worse luck, to be sure. But I have a nice little ho-hum life where nothing exciting really happens. Nothing that I would consider particularly lucky.

The day before Thanksgiving, I had a minor meltdown that blossomed into a panic attack. The trigger was all too familiar. The morning was going so smoothly until I went to check the oil in my car. It was low, which was not surprising. No big deal. I have been trained since I knew how to drive to always make sure there is oil in the back of my car (and if I lapse, I can always count on a new bottle magically appearing in my trunk when I visit my dad) for just such a circumstance. So I went to add some. The bottles were leaking in my trunk…where I had just put my bags for my trip home. I was so proud that I had made time to be able to load the car before work (plus I was going to be 30 minutes earlier than usual so that there was someone in the office during my coworker’s week off *pats self on back*). Then this. So the precariously stacked deck of “I’m fine – everything’s going just fine” came tumbling down (it did that a lot last year. A LOT.). I cleaned up the oil (thankfully, the bottles were in a larger tub, so the mess was confined to what dripped when I picked it up out of the tub). I moved my bags and all the other items in the trunk that I didn’t want smothered in oil (just in case the tub tipped over on the long trek to the farm) to the backseat (please no one break into my car during the workday). Did not add oil, because at this point, I’m running ridiculously late (so…not early at all, despite my careful preparation), and I had to change my clothes so that I didn’t smell like motor oil all day. Prayed my car made it home (it did, so at least there’s that).

And this is the story that runs through my head:

This wouldn’t have happened if:

– I had a job where I made enough money to afford a car that doesn’t burn oil like that’s its job.

– I knew how to take care of everything in my life with no assistance.

– I had time to take care of everything with no assistance.

– I had some damn assistance. Like…some permanent, obligated-by-legally-binding-contract-but-mostly-assisting-just-because-he-wants-to assistance. Which is to say I want a partner in a way that feels pathetic because I do feel pathetic that I can’t handle everything all the time. Not to say that a person who would be a good match for me would know the first thing about regular car maintenance. But maybe he could do the dishes while I figure it out. That would be nice. To handle things together, or at least to divide and conquer. Or perhaps just to have someone else who has a vested interest in seeing the problem resolved because it affects me and we are linked so the things that affect me affect him, too.

Of course, if I just had that great job, I could afford to outsource everything that I didn’t want to learn how to do. No partner needed. Problem solved. Kinda. Still want the partner. And wanting love is enough reason to have it. (/psa)

This year, I’d like to change this story. Ideally, of course, the part of the story I’d like to change the most is the plot (i.e., add meaningful job + livable wage + partner + etc.). To actually be lucky would be the easiest way to feel lucky.

But when do I do things the easy way? I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself.

I want to start by noticing the ways that I’m already lucky. I’m not talking about putting a positive spin on things that aren’t the way I want them to be. In my experience, that only results in the precariously balanced stack of “fine” that tends to come toppling down at inconvenient times to which I was referring earlier. I’m talking about noticing what I do have working for me so that I’m better equipped to enlist those qualities to change what I don’t like about my life.

I think. I actually have no idea how to turn my luck around. But that’s where I’m starting anyway.

I don’t want to waste time lamenting that I lack the discipline or training or talent or experience to make life work the way others make theirs work. First, I don’t actually think this is true, although I act like I think it’s true when I am feeling wallow-y. Second, there’s nothing stopping me from investing time, discipline, training, etc., in what does work for me.

I need something to work out this year. Not like “oh what a nice birthday I had” (although I do always enjoy it and expect that it will be super fun). But that isn’t enough anymore. The “at least I have my health” stories. I want something big.

I may ask for advice later, but I’m in the stewing stage right now.

I expect lucky to be empowering. And hard. And infuriating. And exciting. And refreshing.

I expect to be lucky this year.

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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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Some of my favorite photos of 2018

This year has been…challenging. It hasn’t been terrible, but it also hasn’t been great. Even in not-so-great times, though, I can still learn and move forward. Here are five things I learned this year.

  1. So much of my 2018 has felt like busy work. We talked a lot about strengths at work, and my word of the year was “core.” One of the effects of examining my strengths and core values is that I realized how much what I do doesn’t match them. I didn’t write as many posts about core values (I think I finished two – hope and story) as I planned because I’m disappointed in how little time I make for the things I love the most. Expect more of these posts in the new year as I continue to unravel them.
  2. Setting high goals is good for me whether I reach them or not. I didn’t reach my goal of reading 100 books this year, but in shooting for it, I read 14 more than I did in 2017. I streamlined my budget and thus was able to purchase a keyboard and pay for the entire trip to the writers’ retreat at God’s Whisper Farm without putting it on a credit card. I got out more and saw more of Denton than I had the previous year.
  3. I am more disciplined than I thought I was. My planner looks like it was run over by a truck. Like I said, the year has been busy. Yet when I set a short-term goal with a deadline, I met it. I finished my first draft of Fishbowl (and have since dismantled it and now I need to write more to fill it out, but it’s going to be so much better). I made enough money with my freelance gig in my spare time in August (a month not historically known for an abundance of spare time in my world) to pay my rent (proving that I could probably make a living just doing freelance work if I wanted to).
  4. If I’m going to stick to an exercise plan, I have to risk something. I don’t tend to stick to a running schedule unless I am breaking in new, expensive shoes, because I feel like I have to justify the investment. I had no problem exercising in college because I was taking dance and PE classes (PSA: do not take modern, tap, and swim conditioning in the same semester. You will be so tired.), so both my pocketbook and my GPA were on the line. One of my resolutions was to either use my gym membership or cancel it. But it’s only $10 a month, so if I go even twice, my brain registers that minimal effort as getting my money’s worth. I recently started going to Club Pilates, and it’s considerably more than $10 a month. I have no problem making it there two or three times a week. Part of that is that I love Pilates (and I especially love it on the machines), but the main reason is that I am sacrificing other things to be able to afford it, so I’m going to get every session I pay for.
  5. Reading in Spanish is harder than I thought it would be, but I’m learning so much faster by doing so. It’s going to take me a while to get through this book, but I think I’ve found my favorite way to learn a language.

 

So that’s 2018. I’m looking forward to the new year and what it will bring.

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