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Sweet note on the dry erase board in the office this week

We are finally working from home. The students no longer are answering the telephone. We are having our first Zoom meeting tomorrow morning to check in. Denton’s stay-at-home order kicks in tomorrow night. I have plenty to do here to keep me busy, as my apartment looks like a tornado hit it (yes, ’tis the season, but in this case, just a simile) and thus is in desperate need of some attention.

Also I have books. Hundreds of books.

But I also need a little structure to maintain even a little bit of a sense of well-being. I can’t be alone in my house for weeks (months?) on end with no structure.

My goal checklist that I’ve been using this year to track the progress of my resolutions has thus far been extremely helpful for helping remain calm(ish). Every day I’m home all day, I make sure I’m:

  • drinking enough water
  • practicing Spanish, either through the Duolingo app or by reading a book in Spanish while keeping the dictionary close
  • dancing, whether for just a 10-minute break or a Zumba video or an online dance class (the tap classes Chloe Arnold is hosting through Instagram? Very cathartic. Highly recommend.)
  • exercising with Pilates on demand or with something that helps me stretch/strengthen
  • playing the keyboard (currently brushing up on some theory)
  • doing at least one thing to rest or pamper myself (e.g., relaxing foot soak, face mask, nap, etc.)
  • working on a crafty/creative project (e.g., knitting, poetry, coloring, etc.)
  • picking a different small area of the apartment to clean each day
  • taking a walk (weather permitting)
  • finishing the daily to-do list (e.g., keeping up with bills, checking in with friends, etc.)

I’m also taking the free Yale course, “The Science of Well-Being”. I’m just in the introduction, but I can already tell I’m going to like it.

I knew this weekend that I needed to go ahead and put these things in place now. I had a whole weekend at home. Normally, this would delight me. A whole free weekend? Paradise. But I spent a lot of the time overwhelmed and anxious and terribly lonely, despite the fact that I had a lot of interaction online. I thought when this started that this experience would be a good test of whether or not I could really work from home, but I may need reminders that this is a whole other animal. It’s not going to give me an accurate picture of what working from home would really be like.

What adjustments are you making to make this phase of life work?

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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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Three Things

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Supporting local business. Maybe to-go next time.

With all the precautions being taken to lower the spread of COVID-19, three things keep coming up for me.

  • The sheer volume of canceled plans I’m experiencing has helped me make some decisions. I mean, as an introvert, I’m a big fan of cancellations in general. But when the relief that something is canceled is so palpable that I get a little misty-eyed, maybe that’s a sign it’s time to let that thing go for real. I’ve already dropped two responsibilities that I didn’t notice were weighing so heavily on me, and it feels great. Also, I feel bad for extroverts. I know if I feel a small tinge (however fleeting) of disappointment when events are canceled, this must feel terrible for them. Check on your extrovert friends (and, while you’re at it, those whose livelihoods depend on the things being canceled).
  • This is the 21st century. Despite whatever our own comfort zones or preferences may be, we as educators have more tools to facilitate learning at our disposal than ever before in history. Ideally, this would be really good news for students with physical or learning disabilities, mental health issues, chronic illnesses, or a myriad of other factors that may make the traditional classroom not an ideal (or even feasible) learning environment. That universities know they need to give instructors an extra week of break to put these tools in place tells me we’re not already using the resources we could (read: should) be. Hopefully, this experience sheds light on how we could be serving our students better, even when we’re not under threat of pandemic.
  • Responses I have seen from friends and acquaintances in the last few weeks tend to fall into two main categories:
    – Derisive jabs, haughty superiority, and snide comments
    – Kindness, empathy, the self-awareness/humility to ask for help, and an eagerness to be helpful in any way they can.
    My behavior doesn’t always fall in the later category, but I want it to. Between those two choices, the latter is definitely the person I’d rather be. And a lot of my friends and people in my community are really knocking it out of the park lately. I’m grateful for them.

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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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I have posted these sentiments before (some of them, a direct copy and paste). Unfortunately, here is one more occasion where it’s necessary to say it again. The tl;dr of the article – UNT’s assistant general counsel, as part of a presentation entitled “When Hate Comes to Campus,” used her platform as a representative of the university speaking on freedom of speech to drop the n-word in her statements.

*sigh*

First, this is an excellent example of how we talk (and talk and talk and omg the talking) about how we are such an inclusive campus, but then things like this happen. How many of our students, staff, and faculty are actually surprised by it? And will there be consequences for this behavior? And if not, will anyone find that surprising?

I hope that there are consequences (specifically, I hope she at least has the good sense to resign or, if she refuses to do so, the university fires her). I know she can self-censor, because she seemed to have no problem doing so in other parts of her presentation. Contrary to what Sewell states, it is indeed possible to talk about the First Amendment without saying horrible things and using hateful language.

Observe:

The First Amendment, truncated for our purposes (but you can read the whole thing here if you want) states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

That is the entirety of what the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees you as a citizen regarding freedom of speech.  With very few exceptions, you can say what you want to say, and it is not against the law.

It protects you from being arrested for speaking your mind.  That would be a violation of your rights.

It protects you from being imprisoned for what you say.  That would be a violation of your rights.

It protects you from legal ramifications.  I suppose, of course, that a person or company could sue you, but, provided that what you said cannot be proven to be libel or slander (examples of those exceptions I mentioned), they would not win unless you have a stunningly incompetent lawyer, because for them to win such a case would be a violation of your rights.

Now let’s discuss some things from which it does not protect you.

It does not protect you from people disagreeing with you and saying so.  That’s just other people exercising their freedom of speech. When preachers show up on the streets lining our campus and people gather and respond in protest of the hateful things they say, that is freedom of speech in action.

It does not protect you from criticism.  Again, that’s just other people having the same rights as you do. See above.

It does not protect you from a professor dismissing you from class when you say something disrespectful or otherwise inappropriate, and the professor gets to decide what is appropriate and what is not, because professors are the ones who are responsible for what happens in their classrooms.

It should not be used to protect a professor or staff member – at any level, to be sure, but particularly those who hold positions of power and thus are inherently tasked with the ethical responsibility of setting the best example – who allows or fosters speech that dehumanizes students or coworkers, because they should be held responsible for what happens on their watch, particularly the things that come out of their own personal mouths.

The Constitution of the United States does not protect you from being reprimanded, suspended, or even fired when you say something that opposes the values of your employer, especially if you are dumb enough to say it at work, in a highly public forum (for example, from behind a podium during a university-sanctioned event), or while being recorded and/or reported.  That you have “never said it in public before” (I…just…omg…so when do you say it, Sewell? What are they teaching in law school, because clearly it’s not how to avoid shoving your foot completely down your throat, which I would think would be a pretty big part of any legal career) is not a defense (also…maybe don’t defend the terrible things you say. At all. Not even a little bit. Maybe just concede that you made a mistake. That’s step one.).

At any rate, having the organization denounce your behavior (at minimum) or fire you when you say things that are in direct opposition to the values the organization claims to hold is not a violation of your rights.  That is your employer being true to the values to which they have committed, regardless of what it might cost them. That is your employer exhibiting integrity, and their response to your behavior is called a consequence, not a violation of your rights.

That is what I want to see from UNT.

Edited to add the university’s official statement made this afternoon:

As many of you are likely aware, UNT System Assistant General Counsel Caitlin Sewell used a racial epithet on Nov. 7 during the “When Hate Comes to Campus” panel discussion on the UNT Campus in Denton. As leaders of the University of North Texas System and the University of North Texas, we are very aware of the impact Ms. Sewell’s comments have had on our community, and we approach the situation with regret and determination.

We strongly believe in a culture that embraces, and vehemently defends, inclusion. While Ms. Sewell was trying to make a point about First Amendment speech, the references used are never condoned in our community, which prides itself on our diversity and caring nature.  

This morning, Ms. Sewell submitted her resignation effective immediately.

In the coming days and weeks, it is our intention to engage in a dialogue with student and campus leaders regarding ways we can continue to foster a culture of diversity that is UNT. In the meantime, UNT counseling resources are available for all students, faculty, and staff.

Lesa Roe
UNT System Chancellor       

Neal Smatresk
UNT President

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My plans are often quite colorful

It’s hard to feel lucky when my food choices only make me feel like napping. Making good choices that fuel my body and that I actually enjoy eating is an important component of my overall well being.

One thing I’m pretty successful at doing is bringing food to work with me most days. I have my meal planning system to thank for this. Even when I don’t do it exactly as I mapped it out in another 31 days series three years ago, I still use most of the tools I have put in place to make sure that I am eating well.

One of the main points of my meal planning series was that a system that does not fit practically into your own life is not going to work, no matter how beautifully it works for anyone else. Many of us have at least a minor chasm between our ideal and our real. So there are opportunities to tweak it. As for me and my house, we employ a lot of shortcuts:

  • While I believe in my heart that dried beans, soaked and slow cooked to perfection, are far superior, I also believe in keeping canned beans for days when I have no slow-cooked beans but want to add them to a meal.
  • While I understand that chicken is not hard to make, I also understand that a rotisserie chicken from the deli or even canned chicken is even easier.
  • While I get the concept of buying a larger size for economy’s sake, I only buy milk in pints, because I only occasionally use it in sauces, and the larger size is in no way economical if I have to pour most of it down the drain after it’s gone sour.

I also know that my life is busy. Ultimately, I might feel luckier/more at peace if I had more time to breathe and slow cook those beans or a whole weekend afternoon to meal prep for the week. That’s the ideal. But the reality is that right now I have two jobs and a fairly active social life, and I like all of it (or at least I like the payoff of doing all of it), so I’m not really looking to ditch large portions of my schedule at this moment. So I also need quick options that I can assemble from start to finish in 20 minutes or less so that I don’t drive through Taco Cabana every night:

  •  Fruit, cheese, crackers, raw veggies, and maybe salami or prosciutto for an impromptu antipasti plate
  • Eggs for a quick frittata or a protein addition on top of rice, pasta, or potatoes
  • A selection of frozen vegetables – no chopping, quick steam
  • Frozen meal-in-a-bag (Bertolli’s is my favorite)

What are some of the ways you get the fuel you need to make it through your day?

 

I’m writing about practical ways of creating luck this month.

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“Poets manage to get into a couplet what I struggle to achieve in an entire book.”
– Louise Penny-

March is the best month (my birth-month), but April is easily in my top five. Never mind that spring is trying to murder me. Never mind that the end of the semester is drawing nigh, and the students (and admittedly, all of us, too) have the -itis. Never mind that I don’t have a free weekend until mid-May. All of that pales in comparison to the fact that April is both National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month.

I mean, that’s really every month with me. But others are more intentional about enjoying both this month, which gives me more opportunity to enjoy poetry and jazz with them.

One of my book clubs is reading and sharing poetry all month. We are having at least three poetry gatherings at a local coffee shop to read together and share our books, which seems like the very best outing I can think of.

So far I have started Don’t Get Your Hopes Up/Moon Woman by Courtney Marie and Fatima-Ayan Maliki Hirsi (two of our local poets) and When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks (not pictured – reading a digital copy). Beautiful verses set a lovely tone for the whole day.

Then at night, I spend an hour or two listening to records as I wind down for bed. I’m looking forward to Arts and Jazz Fest at the end of the month. If you’re in Denton, you should check it out!

“eden all would abandon
to not be alone”
From the collection When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks

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