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Archive for the ‘Thanks’ Category

Friday Five2

We’ve been training this week on a new program to implement to fight interpersonal violence on our campus, so there were several quotes that we heard throughout the week from inspirational sources. When we saw the quote from Obama’s Super Tuesday speech in 2008 – “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek,” I almost had to leave the room, because I am a damn professional and I recognized that it’s unsettling for others for me to sob in training. This week has been emotionally rough, in part because of the subject matter of our training, but also because saying goodbye to this administration is incredibly difficult.

Most of the time, blog posts are for you. Yes, they are navel-gazey and all about me, but I hope there is something that you can draw from them, and that’s usually my intention in writing them. But this one is just to mark the week. Maybe you need it, too, but it’s here because I need to pause and say thank you to the First Family for their service to our country.

  1. Obama’s farewell speech (complete with transcript for those who are in public and can’t watch video. But also with video because take your earbuds to the library and watch it.)
  2. One Last Time – Hamilton at the White House
  3. The Bush sisters write the Obama sisters (do not read this in public – it has a high probability of making you ugly cry. Unless you like ugly-crying in public, and then…you do you)
  4. Biden honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom (his little face!)
  5. People tell Michelle Obama what she means to them (and then they get surprised – I would straight up fangirl all over the place)

Thank you to the Obamas and the Bidens for the last eight years. I’ve been proud to call you our leaders.

 

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So…thanks

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My tree is up and slowly being decorated. I haven’t seen this weird little ornament that I made during childhood in years. Thankful, step 1.

Many of my friends are talking about how hard it is to be thankful this year with so much going on that is not good.

Part of me is sympathetic – pain does make thankfulness more challenging. Another part of me is whistling to the tune of “Welcome to my world…” This is how life feels all the time when one keeps up with the news – when one chooses not to shut out the brokenness of the world to protect oneself.

After a while, you get used to holding all of it. You get used to the both/and of opposing realities. It helps to have someone to talk to (a professional, that is). It helps to actually do the things that someone suggests. It helps if you are not as stubborn as I am.

At first, you might have to take thankfulness in steps. They don’t take a lot of time, so you don’t have to ignore the ongoing developments in the DAPL protests or Trump’s bad administration choices. You don’t have to sacrifice the time it takes make calls and meet needs.

You need ten minutes. Ten minutes to list what makes the world worth saving.

Your list will look different from everyone else’s list, and no one gets to tell you what should be on your list. In fact, just throw that word “should” out the window. You won’t be needing it here.

Your list does not have to be for public consumption. Only the highlights of mine are usually public. The apartment. The space. The relative peace and quiet of a neighborhood with an older-than-college-student demographic. Friends. Family. The specifics are personal.

My readers are on my list. I’m thankful for you. So…thanks.

Feel free to share any highlights from your list in the comments.

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The word “we” makes me anxious.

My gut reaction to “we” is to feel left out. I’ve been part of that magical twosome, whether romantic or otherwise, that gives me a rant-listener, a breakfast partner, a perpetual plus-one, and a person who will call me out when I’m siding with the melodrama in my head. I also know what it’s like to go from “we” to “just me…again.”  It’s not pretty, even when it’s for a good reason or for the best. That transition makes me want to make friends with more of these:

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But then I breathe and look across the table.

And there’s Marvia and Alison and Kati Rose and Miah.

There’s always a new “we,” and if I don’t remember to say that, I am only telling half the story. God always gives me a new “we.”

I am a textbook introvert.  Read any list on how to approach those who need solitude to recharge their energy, and you’re pretty much reading a manual on how to get along with me. But I also have a pesky characteristic called connectedness.  I see patterns in everything, and I see how they work together. Give me a minute, and I can tell you how everyone’s actions affect everyone else. This can make me annoying at parties (or at work…or to the unfortunate soul sitting next to me on the bus when I first read the article that is going to piss me off that day…). I was once given an actual soapbox as a gift – partially as a nod to my fondness for standing upon them and partially as a jab at my physical shortness (to which I replied, “I don’t need height – I have minions.”). Connectedness is inherently communal.  So while community may not exactly energize me, it does seem to be a habitual, necessary occurrence in my life.

I have a lot of “we’s” –

  1. Online writer communities – I can never get away with not writing, not with Story Sessions and Andilit on the prowl.
  2. Supper Club – Bonded by our love of food, reading, and TV, this is a group who is not afraid to hear what I really think and is not afraid to tell me what they really think.
  3. Christ the Servant Lutheran Church – I’m new to them, so we’re still figuring each other out.  But they couldn’t be kinder or more welcoming, and I am learning a lot.  It’s nice to find a place where I feel both safe and challenged. Also, they let me be on their outreach team.  My first task? Taking inventory of our current coffee supplies and figuring out a budget for us to move toward being more intentional with fair trade purchases. And when I said no to working with the children (I love many specific children individually, but in packs or running about in public, they kinda freak me out. I blame working daycare.), they listened.  The first time. I’m so happy.
  4.  Various friends I met through Christ Fellowship and The-Church-Formerly-Known-As-Normal-Street (after all this time, I still don’t know the current name of the group.  Wow.) – Even though I am no longer meeting with them on Sundays, these are still the people I would call in an emergency. When I think of my very best friends, in Denton and beyond, I can trace almost all of them back to one (or both – love you, Steph) of these groups.
  5. Maggie and Michelle – They get their own space. They are often my first sounding board and my first readers. If you looked at the text messages on my phone, you would see that over half the total messages I send are to one or both of them. If I ever become obnoxiously wealthy, the first thing I’m going to do is pay off my student loan.  The second thing I’m going to do is buy each of them a house and hire Maggie as my personal assistant and Michelle as my social media coordinator so that they can move back to Denton. So, start making plans, you two.
  6. My family – This is the part where I get weepy with gratitude.  My family is my greatest support. My family is the reason I can’t say mean things about Republicans in general (even though the loud, extreme ones in the media really have it coming).  My conservative parents, sister, and brother-in-law are the most generous, most helpful, most supportive, most responsible, kindest, bravest, funniest, and just all around BEST people I know. I am who I am because of them, and I will be who I’m becoming because of them. I am lucky, lucky, lucky.

I might not have a plus-one right now, but that’s okay.  Because I have a plus-twenty.

I have the community I need.

Who’s your “we?” I’m linking up with Marvia’s Real Talk Tuesday – join us!

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It is not easy to define what support looks like in practice.  It might seem easy.  Then you meet people and discover that they often find it difficult to take others’ needs into account when they are deciding how they are going to behave in life.  This might surprise you, but it probably shouldn’t, as you are people, too, and have probably not centered your own life around what the general “other” needs.

It’s even more complicated when you’ve been burned.  When you thought what you had was support but found out that what was really going on there was agenda.  Or when you had an agreement, and that agreement was not honored. Or when you really did have support – one that you thought would last forever – right up until the moment that it ended.

Today, I want to talk about two places I’ve found support and what that looks like.  I want to talk about two of my online writing communities.

I also want to invite you to join us, because, dear reader-writer-friend, I want you to have support, too.  If any of this interests you, follow the links to find out how you can get involved.

The first online writing community I joined was the writing community at Andilit.  It was created by Andi Cumbo-Floyd who wrote The Slaves Have Names (click and buy – you know you wanna) about the people who were enslaved on the land where she grew up. I am boggled, both by the enormous amount of research it took to tell as much of their story as possible and by the humble grace and beauty with which she tells it.

I joined because I had this scrap of a manuscript, and I needed fresh eyes. What I found exceeded (and continues to exceed) my expectations.

I get monthly editing for up to five pages of work from a professional editor.  Five pages is a drop in the bucket as far as a full manuscript goes, but for the turtle-esque pace with which I edit my own work to the point that I am willing to let another human being see it, this works out perfectly.  I am saving up for a grand editing once the manuscript is totally finished (and if you are looking for such an editor, I highly recommend Andi), but it’s great to have help along the way as well.

I also get monthly editing from a workshop of others in the group for up to five pages.  This was the part that scared me when I first joined, because I tend to helicopter-parent my characters.  They’ve been through so much already; I want to protect them from judgment. But as with most overzealous protection, this doesn’t help them grow, so I begrudgingly submitted pieces for workshop.  It has been a godsend.  It’s a critique, but from nice, friendly people who write very different things but are still enthusiastic in their desire to help you make your work better, and they expect the same from you. It doesn’t mean the critique doesn’t ever hurt, but it hurts in the good kind of way, like having sore legs the day after a challenging run.

In addition to all of this, Andi facilitates a private Facebook group for members where we post articles or posts on writing that we find, our own blog posts, and anything else writers might find helpful to their craft.  She ends out weekly writing prompts to keep us from getting stuck.  Andi teaches several online courses at reasonable rates. She also lives on a farm where she is hosting a writer’s retreat in July (another thing I’ll be saving toward so that I don’t miss it again next year).

The second online writing community I joined was Story Sessions. I meandered into Story Sessions via Elora’s blog after I read Every Shattered Thing (go ahead, click and buy – I’ll wait) and thus had the insatiable urge to read everything she has ever or will ever write. I feel almost as protective of her main character as I do of  mine.

There are many options for membership.  All of them, however, include a private Facebook group and private members-only content on the website, weekly writing prompts, a monthly newsletter, and story coaching with trained coaches. There are e-courses offered (I’m in the summer session of Story 101 now, and it is glorious) as well as various collectives (mini-courses on a variety of topics), virtual retreats, movie nights, and an annual in-person retreat. We also meet in person in more casual groups on a regular basis, because we just can’t help ourselves.

My favorite thing about Story Sessions are the write-ins.  This might sound funny to members, because my crazy schedule doesn’t allow me to engage in them very often, but I LOVE them. Many of the blog posts I’ve written in the last year of which I am most proud (and all of the blog series I’ve started) were birthed at a Story Sessions write-in. On a weekly basis, members are invited to an online Fuze meeting where we are given prompts, time to write, and an opportunity to read what came out of that time to the other people attending the session.

All that I have said is just a small taste of what you would get from membership in these groups. These words don’t do them justice, because the people in these groups are my friends, and when have words ever done a friend justice? I have read many a snotty piece on how Internet relationships aren’t real relationships, but I can’t help but wonder where those authors are looking.  I know online relationships can be real, because I experience them. And while it’s even better when we have a chance to get together in person, the foundation of our friendships started via the Internet, and they flourish there.

I love these people.  Mercy, how I love them.

I would consider myself lucky to have just found one such community, but I have two.  If you are a writer/artist in need of support, give us a try.

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Belated

Yesterday, I turned 39.  And like the good 39-year-old I am, I spent the entire day at home in yoga pants and drinking coffee and cocktails (only because I had no wine in the house to complete the stereotype).  I also spent the entire day listening to this song, courtesy of a friend from high school (thanks, Carolyn!) who posted it on my Facebook page:

It was sweet of my first fandom to serenade me.  Hello there, fellas.  Happy birthday to me indeed.

When I sang it, though, it kept morphing into New Edition’s cover of Earth Angel.

Acceptable.

My Facebook flist is fantastic. I spent a lot of time basking in their overwhelming well-wishing.  If you had told me twenty years ago that I would ever get this excited over something on a computer screen, I would not have believed you. It made my day.

Then I had to go buy a pear tart.  HAD to.

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The picture is fuzzy because my hand was shaking with excitement (or perhaps an even higher dose of caffeine than usual).

I did some editing.  I edited a chapter of Fishbowl.  Then I got stuck on a phrase and had to put it aside.  This gave me time to map out my chapters in the order I want them to appear in the finished manuscript.  So that’s what I did. One thing led to another.

AND NOW I HAVE THE WHOLE BOOK OUTLINED.

I know how it ends. And more importantly, I know how I’m getting there.

If you are not jumping up and down right now in celebration of me, you clearly didn’t read it right.  Go back.  Read it again. I’ll wait.

Do you feel it?  Do you get my ecstasy?

(If you don’t, you should totally lie to me and just nod.)

Last night, I hung out at Tammy and Matt’s.  We had pizza (goat cheese pesto pizza from TJ’s – FAVORITE) and soda and made super-rich brownies:

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“We should add chocolate chips to it.”
“Okay!”
“And some rum.”
“Bring it.”

I like the way my sister thinks.

Then we watched Saving Mr. Banks. Such a good movie.  See it if you haven’t.  It’s already available on Amazon Prime.

This morning, I returned to work, and Jillian made this sign to prolong the merriment.

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This birthday was exactly what I wanted.

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Let’s take a little trip back in time to when it was actually November.  November has two big things going for it:

– Thanksgiving month!  My favorite holiday with my favorite holiday traditions.

NaNoWriMo! I didn’t finish this year, but I’ve got a new character whom I love.

The weather could have been cooler.  We had way too many days that made it up to 80 for my taste, but so far, Icetember is making up for it.

Here’s what I was into in November:

To write:

My NaNo piece this year started to be YA fiction about a group of five friends (because nobody has done that before /sarcasm).  I am a proud pantser, but having nothing other than names and costuming in mind before starting is not much to work with.  So about ten days in, I decided to start over with stories about Uncle Wallace the Christmas Mouse.

Uncle Wallace is this fellow:

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He lives under my Christmas tree. He holds a bell in one hand, and a random basket of apples in the other.

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I want to believe that there is a deep, meaningful reason for the person who created this masterpiece of holiday decoration to put a basket of apples into his hand.  Clearly, Uncle Wallace has stories to tell. He’s just letting me write them down.

So I didn’t make it to 50,000 words, but Uncle Wallace does have a Facebook page.  So there’s that.

I also wrote a couple of blog posts of which I am proud.  I linked up with Sarah Bessey in celebration of the Jesus Feminist launch with this post, and I wrote Going Home as part of Tara Owens’s synchroblog on Coming Home. 

To read:

I finally made it through The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  There were many lines in the book that I liked.  Unfortunately, there were several pages to wade through between each of those lines.  I’m happy I read it.  I’m happier that I’m through reading it.

My book club read Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Kennedy.  The book was fine, but I don’t like his writing style.  I would read some of it out loud and imagine it in his voice, and that made it a little better.  I would watch it as a documentary.  I also read Dad is Fat and imagined it in Jim Gaffigan’s voice, but that just made it funnier.

I jumped on the Divergent bandwagon, and I am hooked.  I finished book one, and I’ll be buying the other two (or, let’s face it – all three – I can’t have an incomplete trilogy on the shelf) to read over holiday break, because the wait at the library is looooong, and I am impatient.

My favorite book of the month was Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  I tried to find my favorite quote, but I’d just end up quoting half the book.  I have narrowed it down that much.  This book made me snort-laugh and ugly-cry, sometimes in the same sentence.  That’s pretty much what I look for in any book I read about God.

To watch:

I’ve been into Burn Notice this month.  His accents are sometimes good, but usually terrible.  Just awful.  But he’s so adorable (and sure, also badass) that I just don’t care.

I haven’t watched much else, unless you count the ridiculous number of hours I spent watching made-for-TV Christmas movies with Mom and the Psych marathon of Christmas episodes over Thanksgiving.

To hear:

November was a weird soundtrack of industrial music (…I don’t know), Memphis Blues (I blame Uncle Wallace), and classical music (because that’s what I listen to when I write).

To taste:

November means homemade candy.  It’s my favorite holiday tradition.  Every year, on Black Friday, we do not shop.  We put up Christmas decorations and make candy to share with friends and take to parties.  This year, we made five different candies – Martha Washingtons (coconut and pecan nougat, covered in chocolate – my favorite), Texas Millionaires (caramel and pecan nougat, covered in chocolate), peanut butter bon bons (peanut butter nougat – you guessed it – covered in chocolate), dark chocolate fudge with peanut butter, and buttermilk pecan pralines.  Can you tell my parents have pecan trees?

My dad made my favorite meal this month.  He made enchiladas with flour tortillas (instead of the traditional corn), and he made them special for me by substituting goat cheese for the cheese he normally uses.  I am not ashamed to admit that I ate five in one setting.  I also do not recommend doing that.

What were you into in November? Need recommendations for your holiday break?  I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – go over and see what everyone else has to say!

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This little mantra is my happy place this morning.

When the door opens and the paper turkey flies off the ledge of the desk, hitting me in the face, because that’s how wind works…

When the Lost and Found drawer is so full that we’ve had to transfer it to a box on the desk, hoping that someone will come claim their lost shoes and towels (what the…what?!?)…

When the toilet in the public restroom still runs constantly, despite multiple attempts to fix it…

When my hair still smells like the caramelized onions and celery from last night’s soup, despite being washed again this morning…

When I can finally walk to work without sweating but spend the day listening to people complain about how cold it is outside, because of November…

When all of these no-big-deal things join forces to become omg-it-is-not-even-noon-yet…

I remember that I am thankful.

I am thankful that I have a job.

I am thankful that this is a half-week.

I am thankful that I get to see my family on Wednesday.

I am thankful that I have delicious soup to look forward to at lunch.

I am thankful for my life and the abundance and even its little eccentricities.

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