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_I don't know what to say to that._ _That's the most honest you've ever been._

A little bit of my microfiction project

It’s been a minute since I’ve checked in, so I wanted to say hi.

Hi. How are you? What are you up to these days? What are you learning? Where are you finding beauty? Or peace? Or – dare I hope it – joy?

A small recap of my days:

  1. Coffee. One cup of strong coffee that I gulp down on my way to work, as my current work environment is not conducive to nursing it lovingly throughout the morning.
  2. Go to work. Yes, at the office. Wearing masks all day because we’re in public. “But Suzanne,” you wonder. “Can’t you do 100% of your job from home?” Yes. Yes, I can. But apparently there are a lot of hoops to jump through when you are required to go through HR to get permission. In related news, I need to make an appointment with my new doctor. Hope they can fit me in before September.
  3. Dinner and down time. I’ve been trying to rebudget to support local businesses more. Ergo, I’ve been eating a lot of simpler things so that I can splurge more often. I really enjoy it. This week, I’m eating chili pasta, salads, and breakfast for dinner. I’ve been rewatching Revenge, Scandal, Leverage, and Bones recently, so I usually watch one of these shows each night.
  4. Meetings. Most nights I still have some meeting, even though they’re online. This week, it’s text study, a couple of book clubs, and church council. Looking forward to a workshop with Spiderweb Salon on Sunday afternoon.
  5. Writing. My second job is a writing job, so I spend a few hours every evening (at least Monday-Thursday) doing that. At least once a week, I have a light load of assignments so that I can make time for some creative writing. I have the focus of a puppy right now, particularly by that time of the day, so I’m working on my microfiction project (see example above).
  6. Reading. I am reading more slowly these days, so I am focusing on what we’re talking about in book clubs before I delve into other things. I just finished Where’d You Go, Bernadette? for book club this week, and I liked it even more than I liked the movie. I listened to the audio version, though, and I do not recommend it if you have hearing-related sensory issues. There was background music throughout it and sometimes it was hard for me to hear the reader over the music. I’m reading White Fragility with another group and The Speed of Trust with a group from work, and I am really enjoying those discussions. Our church group is talking about A Better Man this month, and I am always happy to re-read Louise Penny. This is a choose-your-own-adventure month in Spiderweb’s Follow the Reader, and I love foodie memoirs, so I’m reading From Scratch by Tembi Locke and now I need to go to Italy even more than I already did. Someday.
  7. Bed. I’ve been rocking my skincare routine lately. I think the ritual is comforting. Bedtime consists of a full bottle of water on the nightstand and a good sleep playlist.
  8. Weekends are nice. I’m getting used to having weekends mostly free again. I forgot what that was like. In a word? Glorious. Remind me of this in the future when we all get busy again and I forget how much I need easy weekends.

Loneliness? Check.

Restlessness? Check.

Rapidly veering more steadily toward chaos and anarchy? Check.

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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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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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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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