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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

By the time this post goes live, I will be up to my elbows in chocolate, celebrating our day-after-Thanksgiving ritual of making Christmas candy. But I wanted to share a few things I ran into on the internet this week (and a little bit of last week).

  1. Addie Zierman’s piece on feeding yourself (and issues involved therein) is a timely reminder. I love the simplicity of the question: Is this about connection or disconnection? It seems my habits are healthier when I approach food that way.
  2. In the wake of Stan Lee’s passing, there were many amazing tributes made. Fredrik Backman’s might be my favorite.
  3. The New York Times release their 100 notable books of 2018 list, and now I want to just sit in my reading chair and read them all (well, most of them). Okay, so it’s not just NOW that I want to do that. It’s always. I can’t blame NYT for that.
  4. Joy the Baker’s creamy smoked Gouda Brussels sprouts may be something that I need to make for my family this Christmas. Or make for myself this coming Monday. Whatever.
  5. I am feeling the draw of writer residencies. Specifically, I am feeling the draw of the Steinbeck Fellow Program and the New Orleans Writers’ Residency. Applications are due soon. Gotta get on it.

Share some things you’ve discovered recently!

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Lola

One of my proudest moments, getting sworn in. But more on that later.

When I was just a pup, I watched gumshoe movies. My tail would start wagging, and my heart would start pounding. I was always proud when I could guess who the ne’er-do-well whodunnit was, and I think Julie was proud of me, too.

“Lola, who do you think is the culprit?”

The dirtbag would come on the screen and I would bark like crazy, alerting the whole room (and sometimes the whole neighborhood) to my decision. She would pat my head and agree. “Me, too.” Then she would rub behind my ears just the way I like it. “Good girl. Smart girl.” I rolled over to let her scratch my belly, which she seemed pleased to do. “Smartest girl in the whole world.”

I enjoyed those times with Julie. But alas, they were not to last.

Soon, watching the movies wasn’t enough. I wanted to be in on the action. I wanted my own cases to solve.

When it was my time to go outside, I took advantage of it. I would patrol the perimeter of the yard, and alert the family to anything out of the ordinary. Most of them were less enthusiastic about my choice to share my skills with the neighbors than they were when I was performing for treats inside the privacy of our house. The neighbors didn’t seem to appreciate my vigilance either.

“Hey – would you make that dog shut up? People are trying to sleep here!”

I was just trying to root out dangers so that they could sleep in safety, but whatever. No one appreciates a protector. Heroism is a lonely life.

One night, I saw an intruder in the Geraldsons’ yard. It walked with a slink and had a mask embedded in its fur, like a bandit. I’m nothing if not fair, so I decided to issue a warning.

“Hey – you there – those trash bins aren’t yours!” I barked.

The reprobate turned to me and grinned. He grabbed an apple core off the pile and let the bin slam shut noisily as he sauntered over, clearly taking his time. “Aw, aren’t you cute, all riled up and huffing in your cage? What’s your name, sweetheart?” He flicked his prison-striped tail back and forth, giving him even more swagger as he approached. I noticed he also made a point of stretching out his legs so I could see his sharp claws.

I’m not one to be intimidated, so that got my dander up. I gave him a low growl as I ruffled up my coat and stood up as straight as I could. “I’m Lola, and this is my neighborhood, and I know you are up to no good. Now you just need to move along.”

He looked up at me and tapped his claws on the chain link fence between us. “And what are you going to do if I don’t?”

I bared my teeth. He wasn’t the only one with built-in weaponry. I let the silence sit so that he could get a good, long look at them. “I don’t expect that will be an issue. You’re going to leave while I’m still asking nicely.”

He snorted. “Well, that’s a cute little assumption, seeing as how I’m over here, and you’re over there, just where your rules and regulations say you have to stay. So as long as I stay over here, I don’t see how this is any of your business, and I’ll just keep doing what I like.” He turned his attention to the apple core, inspecting it. Then he looked me straight in the eye as he took a bite off the top that still had some of the peel left. That blasted scavenger!

I growled again and pushed the whole of my body up against the fence, causing it to bow slightly toward him. My nose pushed through one of the holes made by the chain link.

He seized the opportunity he had been waiting for. He dropped the apple core and swiped my face with his right paw. I felt a sharp pain and yelped in surprise as I drew back. I tasted blood when I licked my wound. I tried to shake off the sting with a few tosses of my head, and I looked up to see him trotting off as he snickered.

I lost it. I dashed far enough away from the fence to get a running start and then sprinted forward and leaped over it like a gazelle. I was on him before he knew what was happening. I returned the favor of the ripped snout and gave him a couple of retaliatory bites on his back and legs. He broke free and fled the premises as I barked after him, “And stay gone!”

I felt pretty proud of myself until I saw the Geraldsons’ back porch light go on. I tried to hide in their rose bushes, but it’s one of those biting shrubberies, so instead I stood very still, hoping that the darkness would be enough to hide my trespass onto their property.

It wasn’t.

“What are you doing here? Get back in your yard!”

I didn’t know how to do that without adrenaline, so I remained where I was. I bowed my head, hoping an act of submission would plead my case for me, since the humans don’t seem to understand canine and they were apparently already annoyed by my conversation with the intruder.

The Geraldson went back in the house, and I thought the coast was clear. Then I heard Julie at their back gate.

“Lola! Come here now!”

I knew I was in trouble because she was using only short words. I think she thinks she’s speaking canine when she does this, but I’ve never been brave enough to call her on it.

(To be continued…)

 

I’m writing 31 short stories during the month of October. Click for the master list.

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Tiny cup in the big picture

When I was a toddler in the church nursery, I once told my teacher I drank beer with one grandma and coffee with the other. Being part of a small town, Ms. Simmons knew both of my grandmothers and that they would never act so irresponsibly as to give a child so young what she considered adult beverages. When she told my mom this amusing anecdote of the day, Mom replied, “Oh, yes. She drinks root beer with MeMaw Sharp and coffee and milk with MeMaw Catherall.”

I’m not sure that quite settled the scandal for Ms. Simmons.

MeMaw Catherall was probably the person in my family to whom I am most similar. Lifelong card-carrying Democrat with a fiesty temper (although she could work a silent treatment like it was her job), she loved long country drives. She got anxious a lot, but it never stopped her from doing what she wanted to do.

And she loved coffee, a love she passed on to me. She gave me my first taste, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Coffee and I broke up for a few months when my doctor was trying to figure out my digestive issues, but since giving up the coffee had zero positive effect on my malady and eleventy dozen negative effects on my overall vigor for life, we reunited.

My favorite mornings are when I get up in time to make and enjoy my first cup of coffee at home. The cup only lasts five or ten minutes, but the bliss? I carry that bliss all day.

I like to think that my history with coffee reads like coffee’s own history. An awakening of the senses. An alternative to traditional breakfast drinks (although my traditional breakfast drink was juice as opposed to beer). A touch of scandal.

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Friday Five2

This month has been a gift so far. I have had sufficient free time (which is no small thing for an introvert), I’m out of my writing slump and back into a good rhythm, and I have been taking advantage of all my birthday deals and coupons.

Also, it’s like the Internet knows it’s my birthmonth. Here are my five favorite things on the Internet this week:

1. A story about Denton PD’s unique relationship with the city’s homeless

2. Wildfires have destroyed a large portion of the Panhandle, and ranchers across the state are driving hay bales to feed livestock, so much so that there has been a temporary hold on doing so. And while I am not generally a fan of Abbott’s, I appreciate that he was quick to cut through red tape to make this process go smoothly. Friends have set up GoFundMe pages, and officers have stopped trucks carrying hay that direction to help pay for the gas needed to get there (Texas is big, y’all.).

3. Great article in Teen Vogue about Green Dot active bystander training and its effectiveness in reducing incidents of interpersonal violence.

4. I spend a lot of time thinking about first lines in my own books and stories. I might start a blog series with titles taken from some of my favorite first lines.

5. And finally, Beauty and the Beast comes out this week, and I’m excited, but I’m not sure it’s possible for me to enjoy it more than I enjoyed the James Corden’s crosswalk version. This is my favorite thing on the intrawebs this week.

What has made you happy this week?

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hello my name is

I was encouraged by this report of Matt Chandler’s apology to Karen Hinckley. I don’t agree with Matt Chandler on a lot of things, but that apology? That’s how it’s done.

Logically, it’s so simple. Admit what you did. Listen to how it affected them. Apologize without qualification or an attempt to justify your behavior.

In reality, though, it’s a challenge to apologize in a way that doesn’t make it worse.

It’s hard to just say “I was wrong” without saying “But this is what I meant…so you’re also mistaken.” The latter statement has no place in a real apology. It reveals that the words “I’m sorry” were more of a compliance to others’ expectation of a mea culpa rather than personal recognition that an apology was in order.

It’s sometimes difficult to know when an apology is needed. As a woman (and to compound it – a woman raised Southern), “I’m sorry!” is a default I’m still trying to unlearn. I hate to cause offense. HATE. IT. So sometimes I apologize, but when I think about it later, there wasn’t really anything to apologize for. This happens most often when I’m being assertive (which is approximately 92% of the time – because INTJ) but because I’m female and we’re “supposed” to be nice and accommodating, it’s seen as aggression. Then I get mad, particularly when the person to whom I apologized is a male who is often verbally aggressive (I know – not all men. Not even most of the men I know. Let’s move on. Not everything is about you.) and sees no need to ever apologize for his behavior. I am learning that there are at least two sides to kind communication – the responsibility to speak as kindly as possible but also the responsibility to perceive others as kindly as possible. Both are important, because assuming the worst possible interpretation of someone’s behavior shuts down dialogue just as quickly as saying insensitive or thoughtless things does.

But eventually, it is pretty clear when I’m being tone-policed and when I’m being an ass. I am learning to assess the reality of my behavior regardless of its intention. Because that’s what counts. When I abuse or deny the privileges I have in society, it doesn’t matter if I’m merely doing it out of ignorance; it matters that I’m doing it. When I misjudge an interpersonal situation and react without full knowledge of the other person’s position (again – out of ignorance), it doesn’t matter that I didn’t intend to be wrong (and why would I ever intend that); it matters that I was.

A third side to kindness? Learning when and how to apologize.

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It’s My Party

Lesley Gore died yesterday. This makes me sad.

I used to listen to my mom’s old 45 single of It’s My Party. It reminds me of my Junior High years spent lying on my bed on my stomach, writing in my diary (complete with lock and key) about my various trials with age-appropriate melodrama. Overhearing people talk about a party to which I wasn’t invited. Boys whom I like-liked who didn’t like-like me back (and the confession of boys a few years down the road who did like-like me but never said anything because I was so focused on like-liking someone else. A likely story.). A drive in the park with Mom when we talked about things that she had overheard – when she wanted to make sure I was okay.

It’s a song that reminds me of Mom. The song came out when she was about twenty. I often tried to picture her listening to the song on her bed when she was younger, just like I did.

The song might not be the feminist manifesto that her later hit – You Don’t Own Me – became, but its lyrics fit my junior high heart just fine. I named my first Barbie Lesley. She often had parties, and she, too, acted how she wanted to act at them.

Rest in peace, Lesley Gore.

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