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When all else fails, raid the recycling bin.

January was intense. A lot has happened in our world and to my friends this month. While I have been active and keeping informed, I’ve also enjoyed some downtime.

Books

This month, I finished up some books I had started and read another book by someone who is becoming one of my favorite authors.

I enjoyed The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (Cron and Stabile). That is, I enjoyed it after reading the part about Ones, which I am now 97% certain I am. I can’t really call my experience through that chapter “enjoyment,” but it was helpful.

My favorite book I’ve read this month is Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. I have a whole separate post planned about this book, but for now I want to talk about this author. I love his characters and how he develops them. I need to buy all of his books and study them with fervor. I want to write characters that well.

TV

This is Us. I am firmly seated on this bandwagon. Stupid awesome show. It makes me cry and cry. I love  them all, but Randall is my favorite. Also, I am happy to see Milo Ventimiglia and Justin Hartley throwing off shirts again. I support this.

I’ve also been on a superhero kick (I mean…even more than usual). So clearly I am rewatching/binge-watching Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, and Smallville. For some reason, I see the need for heroes these days. And by heroes, I do mean Cat Grant, Iris West, and Felicity Smoak.

Life

I had…fun? That’s not exactly it. I had moderate anxiety and the tiniest of panic attacks graciously buffered by camaraderie and humor and overwhelming kindness and the joy of seeing both old and new friends at the Women’s Rally/March in Denton. I enjoyed lunch and dinner with friends to talk about it, and my hope was given a little boost by those conversations.

My parents visited last weekend. We ate a lot, and my mom and I watched romantic comedies, and before they went home, my friend Margarett brought them a puppy to take with them. His name is Butch, and he is corgi/shepherd, and he has got that whole puppy eyes thing down. I’m sure there will be pictures aplenty in the months and years to come.

I’ve taken up my seasonal knitting habit again. It’s so calming. This year, I’m obsessed with blankets. If you visit, I might try to pawn one off on you. Many of them will be going to supplement the United Methodist Church’s donations to homeless shelters, because how many blankets do I really need? I am currently working on one in blues and grays that will act as a bedspread:

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Writing

I totally skipped my January newsletter this month, but I had something to share at my Mastermind group, so there’s that. I am working on about four very different projects. I think I can finally admit that having several projects going at once is the key to my sticking with a writing schedule and ever getting anything done. I am exhausted, exhilarated, and happy.

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Hello, June. You look pretty. And delicious.

Note that there are no pictures of my move in the collage above. The place I was really excited about fell through, but now I have a place I’m even more excited about and I GET TO PICK UP MY KEY TODAY!! Specifically, I get to pick up my key in two hours. I’m very excited. I don’t have time to actually get any moving done today as I have book club tonight (because please – like I’m going to miss book club for any other reason than being out of town), but I am squeezing in a little bubbly to toast the new place with a couple of friends beforehand.

I feel like I’m mostly into cardboard right now, because that’s what my apartment looks like. Boxes everywhere. I miss my books. Soon, we will be reunited, and how glorious that will be!

I have an idea for my NaNoWriMo project in November, and it requires (REQUIRES) watching and reading a lot of film noir. So I’m going through this list. I look forward to getting higher on the list, because right now these selections are working hard to talk me out of writing in this genre.

After seeing Amy Acker’s Q&A at the Dallas Fan Expo, I needed to see Dollhouse, and I ended up really liking it.

I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do during the summer, but A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson was my favorite thing I read last month.

I’ve been eating simple food that does not require me to cook, because 1) Texas heat and 2) moving. I’ve had a lot of nachos and cereal lately. Luckily, I love nachos and cereal. I mean, not together but…you get it.

What are you into this month?

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March really is the best month of the year in my life. I get at least one week off during Spring Break, it’s Staff Appreciation Month, and it’s my birth month!

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My birthday was relaxing. We had a leisurely brunch at Crickles and Co., shopped in the afternoon for books and shoes (cue My Favorite Things), and had a great dinner at Greenhouse. If you are ever there – Mahi-Mahi tacos with mango relish. Do it.

I spent the first part of Spring Break at my parents’ farm. We mostly ate delicious things, some of which we picked right off the plant. This is the only acceptable reason for spring coming early this year.

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Anyone else think Brussels sprouts look like a sea creature when they’re growing? No? Just me, then.

I also watched from afar while Mom fed the neighbor’s donkeys.

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I tried to watch from a-near, but, well, you see the side-eye I’m getting from that one on the right. They don’t know me. That one still wasn’t too sure I wasn’t going to jump back up there and try to touch it again. That’s fine, donkey. I’ll just keep your treat.

I’ve been slowly watching a few shows. I read Year of Yes earlier this year, so I had to (HAD TO) watch Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t know why I resisted so long. I love this show. I love Christina and Bailey. And George. I love the characters so much that I find myself praying that their patients survive. On reruns of a TV show. This must be how atheists see praying all the time.

I’ve also been watching Alias and The X-Files for the first time. I have to watch them earlier in the evening before the sun goes down, though. I’m apparently easily spooked. Not enough to stop watching, of course.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading, but what I’ve been reading is Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. You can do a lot of reading and still not be done with that book. It’s glorious. I need it for my very own. I’m also currently reading...a lot of things. I have books stashed everywhere.

What did you watch/read/do this month?

 

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Whew. It’s been a rough week for fandom. Saying goodbye to David Bowie was saying goodbye to part of my childhood. And Alan Rickman inspired me with his late-start-but-still-phenomenal career and as a person in general. I can’t even go on Facebook right now because I am at work and a damn professional, and I am mainly working very hard at not sobbing into my keyboard.

Yesterday, The Bloggess posted her tribute and thank yous in a beautiful way, and I want to do something similar here. There are a lot of people, like Bowie and Rickman, whom I will mourn along with the world when they pass. But there are roughly a dozen people whom I’ve never actually met whom I will mourn as if I have. Whoever my boss is when those terrible days come – be advised I will take a few days off. Trust me – you’ll be glad that I do.

I have a lot of fandoms, so it was difficult to narrow down the list to six, much less five. But here they are:

Bernadette Peters – I have loved her since I could barely even love anyone. She played Lily St. Regis in the 1982 Annie, and in my 7-year-old mind, she was so fancy. I love her grace and the way she just takes over the stage. My favorite thing she’s done was her performance as the witch in Into the Woods. When I saw the newer version last year, I missed her. I mean, Meryl Streep is awesome – would that we all developed and displayed our talents so brilliantly – but I missed Bernadette Peters in the role. In my mind, it will always be hers.

Michelle Pfeiffer – Confession: when I grow up, I kinda want to be Michelle Pfeiffer. From reenacting her rendition of “Cool Rider” in Grease 2 in front of my friend Ginger’s camcorder to her depiction of Catwoman to her marriage to David E. Kelley (lucky guy…and sure, also a fantastic writer and producer…who gets to be Michelle Pfeiffer’s husband), she has the sort of career/life I would want if I were an actress. She has an impressive body of work that I could gush about all day.

But seriously –

 

Peter MacNicol – He played my all-time favorite television character on my all-time favorite show. I can’t see him in anything without thinking of Ally McBeal‘s John Cage. He delivered my favorite lines and my favorite speeches from the show. When people ask what fictional character I relate to most, unlike most writers, who will name someone from literature, I name a character from television – John Cage. I will be inconsolable when anyone in the cast of Ally McBeal dies, but his death will be the hardest.

Michael Rosenbaum – I teared up even typing his name. He’s only a few years older than I am, and frankly, I hope I go first so I don’t ever have to deal with his death (after we’ve both lived long, happy lives, hopefully well into our late 90s, of course). Michael Rosenbaum played Lex Luthor on Smallville, and while he’s done many awesome things since then, that was his role that actually has had an impact on my personal life. I love his portrayal of Lex. I loved it so much that I joined his message board to talk about it with others who loved it as much as I did. And then I followed a lot of them to Livejournal to discuss it even more in-depth. Thus I began my first blog – my first regular writing practice. So when I become published, Michael Rosenbaum will be in the acknowledgements of people whose work was instrumental in getting me there.

Then I met some of the people whom I knew from the message board and from Livejournal, and I still keep in touch with a lot of them today. Some of them, I’ve never met in person but still consider good friends. Some of them, I have met in person and consider some of my best friends, like my friend Michelle. I can’t imagine not knowing these people, and I have Michael Rosenbaum to thank for that as well.

Nathan Fillion – Need I really explain this one? Firefly. Castle. Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog. Nathan Fillion’s awesomeness is pretty apparent. He makes an excellent TV boyfriend. I love him in everything he’s been in, but I might love his Twitter best of all. Some days, it’s the only reason I still have a Twitter.

I would join his message board so hard (if I were still in my twenties and had oodles of time to spend on the Internet. And if message boards were a thing people even did anymore).

And because five is not enough…

Lauren Graham – Lorelai can never die. Neither can Sarah Braverman. That’s the rule. You hear me, universe? I won’t stand for it.

After this week, I’m in serious need of a weekend of self-care, which specifically will consist of a vat of roasted veggie soup and Veronica Mars (oh, God. Kristen Bell. YOU BE GOOD, UNIVERSE!).

 

 

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In no particular order, here are the highlights of my December.

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 1. Advent –

Quite possibly my favorite season of the liturgical year. Or maybe it’s just the only one I’m good at. I understand what it’s like to wait. Oh, how I understand waiting and all the complications that go with it. I put journal prompts in the pockets of my Advent calendar, and I got to go to mid-week services this year, which at least made the waiting less lonely.

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 2. A lesson in carols –

Our choir prepared extra songs for one of the services. It reminded me of being part of Christmas cantatas when I was younger. I didn’t even know I had missed doing that until this month.

 3. Person of Interest –

I LOVE THIS SHOW. I have watched through Season 4. If I cave and get cable, this show might be the reason.

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 4. Holiday snacks –

Another great thing about this time of year is the delicious snacking. I have had a ridiculous amount of sugar this month.

 5. A finals week without finals –

Finals week was pretty much just another week at work. It was a little busier with people handing in their keys before they left for the break, but no classes meant no grading, no constant barrage of emails from students who waited until the last possible moment to care about their grades, and no voice messages from the department secretary telling me that a student called because I hadn’t answered their email (that they sent an hour ago) and could I please call them back. It was such a peaceful week. I could get used to that.

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 6. Poetry class –

I am loving Beth Morey’s Poetry Is course (and her My Fearless Year 2016 mini-course – check it out – only $12) and the books that go with it. I have had sort of a dry spell with reading, but Poemcrazy and Writing Down the Bones have been an indulgent retreat.

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 7. Stephanie getting married –

My friend Steph got married! I am so happy for her and thrilled that I could be there for her special day.

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 8. Spending time with family –

Growing up, the picture you see above never would have happened at my parents’ house. Animals belonged outside, and if you wanted to play with them, you would just have to go outside, too. Now, Lola has her own special spots in the house where she likes to sit. Dad’s lap is one such spot.

 I went shopping with Tammy yesterday and found all sorts of treasures (Christmas tree – $20!). Then we spent the evening watching Once Upon a Time. We’re almost through season three. I cannot handle how much I like this show.

 9. Two weeks of vacation

I’ve had a restful (well…more restful. My neighborhood is loud and obnoxious) two weeks. Monday, I go back to work and have a little over a week to ease back into being there before the residents return.

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 10. Not putting up a Christmas tree –

Apparently, I used all my decorating energy on the Advent calendar, because I could not get motivated to put up a Christmas tree this year. About a week before Christmas, I finally admitted that it wasn’t going to happen. The candy canes on the curtain rods would just have to do.

 

 I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer. Hop over and tell us what you’re into this month!

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Superheroes and villains. Family and pie.

In other words – the essentials.

I spent NaNoWriMo fleshing out a new story wherein the main character is a superhero who currently has telepathy and mad combat skills. Her powers are up in the air – I had a lot of fun writing different scenes where she has different powers and seeing how that would play out. In the end, my favorite scenes (or the ones that I can actually piece together and make into a story) will probably dictate what her powers will be. I only finished about 10,000 words, but I love her, so this will be a story I revisit.

Of course, this meant I watched a lot of Smallville. You know, for inspiration. And trips down fandom memory lane. And eye candy.

Thanksgiving was fun but seemed rushed. I took the whole week off last week so that I could have two days of getting-things-done and be able to relax when we went to see the parents on Wednesday instead of spending the holiday making lists of all the things I needed to remember to do when we got home Sunday. Of course, like a fool, I then told people I took the whole week off, and because I would much rather have dinner and hang out with people I miss than clean my nasty apartment…well…that’s how that went.

You’re right. I totally told them on purpose.

To-do list completely not done, we left around noon on Wednesday to travel to the parents’ house. This was my view:

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Love that sky.

But I still managed to relax a little at Thanksgiving, although my lists on my phone are out of control now and I might never get them done. We had traditional fare and lots of dessert. I ate four different kinds of pie (over the course of the weekend, to be clear). There was coconut cream pie and chocolate meringue pie and lemon pudding pie and because that went so well (and so quickly), a chocolate pudding pie. There was also a pecan pie, but I am not a fan, so I left that one to others.

I really love pie, y’all.

The weather is finally exactly how I like it. Cold. And not the “cold” that some people start complaining about in late October when it dips slightly below 70. Like…ice has formed. I mean, not here. But at my parents’ house –

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Ice on the kitchen window.

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Frozen vines and icicles on the trellis in the backyard.

I didn’t read a lot this month, but it definitely had a theme to it. Holidays apparently make me want to look at my relationship with food. I picked Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi for my memoir/biography discussion for book club. She already had me at this:

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This is the best, rawest, most honest capture of what it’s like to have an eating disorder that I’ve ever read. Sometimes, it was like reading pages out of my own journals from my late teens/early twenties. It would be tempting to write a memoir on this subject from a heavy now-looking-back perspective – to rush to lessons learned and mountains moved. But she didn’t do that, and that’s why this book is so important. She takes you through the details of her thoughts and feelings, which, if you’ve ever thought and felt similar things, doesn’t give you the chance to say, “Well, that’s not me.” It hits you in the gut and makes you deal with it. I cannot recommend this book enough.

I also read a lot of Mireille Guiliano. I loved the food philosophy (i.e., common sense) of French Women Don’t Get Fat, so I tried French Women for All Seasons (I liked it…and found it charming that she included sections on how to tie scarves in each season…but otherwise meh) and Women, Work, and the Art of Savoir Faire (I found some parts very useful and some parts very baffling). She reminds me a little of my mother.

So that’s what I’ve been into this month. What have you been doing/eating/reading?

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – click the button below and join us!

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In Defense of TV

As mentioned in my previous post, my dear friend Michelle visited this weekend. We watched a lot of TV, as per our custom.

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One of the many shelves of my TV collection

We watched one episode of The Newsroom and many episodes of Firefly. After she left, I watched more Firefly and Gilmore Girls while knitting.

I love TV. I love it much more than I like movies, because it allows me to get to know the characters. It’s difficult in a two-hour movie for me to attach to a character enough to care what happens to them. I mean, it’s sad when they die in the general sense that I recognize death as a sad experience for the survivors and thus experience some generic human empathy, but the character deaths that really affect me are the ones in TV shows. It’s been over a decade, and I’m still not over Serenity.

Many writers might not share this experience, but I think that watching TV and participating in fandom have made me a better writer.

I often say that Elmore Leonard taught me to write dialogue, and that’s true, but I also learned a lot from Joss Whedon and Aaron Sorkin and Amy Sherman-Palladino (and Shonda Rhimes and David E. Kelley). Television rewired my brain so that dialogue doesn’t stay flat on the page; when I’m writing it, I’m imagining it in action. This also helps me visualize my characters better and write character-driven plots.

Being an active member of fandom (and by that, I do mean “one who reads and writes fanfiction,” although that is not the only way to be active) also helped my writing. Writing and sharing fanfiction taught me to receive and give constructive feedback. It also taught me to recognize feedback that wasn’t helpful and learn to disregard it without wasting emotion on it. Most of all, though, writing stories with someone else’s characters taught me how to stay true to a character (because diehard fans will definitely let you know if you get it wrong or if it seems a little off). This skill has been invaluable when writing with the characters I’ve created.

So while I don’t recommend a regular four-hour-a-day habit, letting yourself get involved in the world and the characters of your favorite TV shows can improve your skills, too.

What TV shows/characters do you love? What fuels your creativity?

I’m showing and telling 31 days of shelfies this month.

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