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Honey Lavender Latte from Seven Mile Cafe in Denton, TX

I see you across the shop. You look like you’re glowing. I remind myself that it’s probably just in my head; I have a bad habit of putting halos on people who never asked for them.

But then you turn, and your smile is so easy. And is that relief that I see when you see me? Are you relieved to see someone you know or to see me in particular? Is that an everyone look, or is that what the look you reserve for me is going to look like?

I stare so long, caught up in your gaze and what you may or may not mean by it. I forget to react in any way other than holding that gaze. If I were actually thinking about how I must look, I imagine it would just seem like I’m staring as if I don’t see you at all or don’t remember who you are.

The truth is that I see you. That I catch myself watching for you, even in places I have no reason to expect you to be.

Like here.

As I’m wondering why you’re here, your relief topples into uncertainty, and I realize I still haven’t changed expressions. So I smile. Brightly. Maybe too brightly. I don’t seem to have a mid-range. I go from seeming detachment to over-exuberance in a flash.

I decide to embrace the enthusiasm. I wave and start walking your way, and the relief comes back to your face. Whew. Good. You lock your eyes with mine as you walk toward me.

Yep. Definitely gonna overthink about that.

 

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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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Sometimes I start longhand.

Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s second volume of Love Letters to Writers comes out on November 19, and I’ve had the privilege of reading an advance copy. I’m also reading/listening to Lauren Graham’s Talking as Fast as I Can and not participating in NaNoWriMo this month but living vicariously through others who are. So I’m doing a lot of reading and thinking about writing but not actually doing a lot of writing (well, not the creative kind that I like to do, anyway).

As reading about writing usually does, though, today’s selections have ganged up on me to remind me of why I miss NaNoWriMo when I don’t participate. It’s not the goal itself (although that’s a fun challenge) but rather the daily practice.

I balked at the write-every-day rule for a long time because I had a rigid idea of what that looked like.But what these two books and the reminder of what a month of intense word count goals can do for my writing have conspired to teach me is that writing every day is more about consistency than anything else.

I could use some more consistency in my creative writing practice.

I’m not going to try to start late and catch up for NaNoWriMo (although that would be entertaining). Instead, I’m going to set a measurable goal, just like we do every Monday in Andi’s online writing group, of setting a time aside for creative writing every day for the rest of the year. Lauren Graham outlines Don Roos’s Kitchen Timer method for doing so, and I’m going to borrow some of that structure to help with the goal.

  1. Every Sunday night, I am setting specific times to write every day and putting them on my calendar, just like any other appointment. I am also going to keep in mind that 15 minutes is longer than I’ve written most days this year, so if that’s the time I have some days, that’s the time I have, and that’s okay.
  2. During each writing appointment, I have exactly two things open. A current creative project I’m working on and my journal.
  3. The rules:
    * No internet
    * No music with words
    * No sudden spurt of cleaning or organizing
  4. Spend every minute set aside writing. If I get stuck on the project, I can switch to the journal.
  5. When time is up, it’s up. This is the part that I’ve skipped in the past, and I think that was a mistake. It felt good to go on in the moment when I was on a roll, but it also helped me justify skipping the next day (or two or three). Then I got out of the habit of writing daily. But I’m going to honor the rest of my schedule by ending my appointment when it’s scheduled to end.
  6. Monitor progress, but don’t let it prevent future progress. If I miss a day, I need to not dwell on it. If I only write 15 minutes a day for two weeks, I need to take the “only” out of that sentence. I tend to take myself less seriously as a writer if I don’t feel like I’ve spent enough time on it (whatever that means to me at the time). The truth is, though, that many authors have written whole books in the 15 minutes a day that all their children were asleep at once. There’s no reason that time frame can’t also work for me.

If you were to thumb through my handwritten journal, you’d find a motley array of scribbles – blog ideas, story outlines, bad poetry (all my poetry is bad at first), floor plan sketches, recipe ideas, daydreams about how my ideal job would look, etc. Knowing it’s there as an option takes away some of the resistance to a set writing time that I often feel.

I think that fighting that resistance is going to be key. Keeping my writing appointment every day can answer that annoying voice that tells me I don’t care enough about writing to make it a priority. Overcoming that voice (with the occasional assistance of CBD gummies and a qualified professional) can help me fight the anxiety that stifles the creativity I need to work toward developing more focus on my projects.

Definitely looking forward to that.

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So it’s not really Friday. I get that. But it’s the post that was meant for Friday, so here we are. One goal of a 31-day series is to get back in the habit of writing every day (or, rather, writing something other than for work). It’s a process.

To finish out the week of talking about tools I use to help me keep my life on track, I want to mention apps that I use to keep up with goal progression. I love making resolutions, but for most of my life, I would make them and then promptly forget about them. I think a lot of people have that experience. When I started tracking my goals, though, I had more success. Here are five of my favorite ways to track my goals:

  1. Club Pilates app – I know. Again I’m talking about it. I just love it. And now that I have a new phone that actually supports the app, I can track a lot of my health goals as well as schedule and keep track of my classes. Every smartphone comes with a health app, though, so even if you don’t go to Club Pilates, you can still have an easy way to track just about any health goal you have.
  2. Goodreads – I started with a goal of 100 books for the year. Then I extended it to 120. No matter how small or big your reading goal, though, you can track it with Goodreads. I also get a lot of recommendations from friends on this site/app.
  3. Spreadsheet – Looking at a long-term goal can be daunting. It’s important to break down resolutions into smaller goals. To this end, I keep a monthly spreadsheet that tracks daily progress toward goals. I broke my five resolutions into ten smaller goals, and I set a monthly goal for each. Then I tally each day that I reach part of the goal. For those of you who like to bullet journal, this can be not only helpful but cathartic.
  4. Fetch – I’m not sure how long Fetch has been around, but I love it. If you can’t tell, point systems really work for me. For the last few years, I have wanted to cook more at home and make better food choices. But if I don’t have groceries at my house, it’s not happening. Fetch rewards me for buying groceries. I’ve been using it for three weeks and just like magic, I have food in my house. I’m also more than 75% toward my first $10 reward. I do enjoy free things, and free things that help me meet my goals? Double bonus.
  5. Art journal – Different people use art journaling for different reasons. When one of your goals is to pursue creative expression more often, however, it can be a way of showing the progress of that goal. My art journal is a collection of collages, found and blackout poetry, stained-glass-style doodles, and song lyrics I want to set to a melody at some point (yes! I’m excited about it, too.). I have a pretty broad range for what I consider creative pursuits, but I track most of them by art journaling about them.

Do you make goals? If so, how do you keep track of your progress?

 

I’m talking about making my own luck this month.

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This is my view from the desk in my office. It’s amazing that I actually get any work done.

The benefit of cleaning my office is that I can actually see the books I have as I organize them.

The drawback of cleaning my office is that I can actually see the books I have as I organize them.

Last night was a light writing night, and it’s a good thing, because I definitely spent a good hour going over which books I want to read next. There are so many I haven’t read, and so many I want to read again. Just right there on my shelves.

And what you see is only about a fourth of the books I have (…in my office. There are other bookshelves by my kitchen and in my bedroom. There are so many books.).

Many of the book lovers I follow on social media have been tackling their unread shelves, and I want to start doing the same. It will start slowly, as I have a lot of unread library books left to read this year. As those dwindle down (probably around Christmas), I think my goal will probably shift to reading the books my book clubs read, listening to audiobooks, and diving into the books I own.

There’s so much joy on my shelves waiting to be discovered!

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Friday Five 4

Hello! This weekend, I am embarking on a 24in48 marathon of luxurious reading. After the 70- and 80-hour work weeks I’ve been having, I am very excited about adding extra money to my Aspiration account, but I am also really looking forward to this much needed break. Here are some things I’m into.

  1. First, lists of books and book shops. I love fantasy novels .  I also find this list intriguing – a particular book to read at each age. Someday, when I have time off, I may do a few days of just rambling through bookstores in the area.
  2. I have a confession. I’ve always loved Cats. Some people sang 80s songs into their hairbrushes. Me? McCavity: The Mystery Cat. [I mean, I totally sang 80s pop. And punk. And…I like to sing.] It’s strange and confusing and of course it is because that’s what you get when Andrew Lloyd Webber adapts T. S. Eliot poetry into a musical. I cannot wait for this movie to come out. If you go see it with me, prepare yourself for the moment when Jennifer Hudson sings Memory on the big screen, because I will cry. Already teared up just during the trailer. It’s just gonna happen.
  3. I joined a cookbook club, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. We meet once a month, each bringing a dish and the cookbook we found it in to share with others. One big decadent potluck. There are daily posts on the group page about things like classic pasta dishes and the best lemonade ever.
  4. I’ve already signed up for next year’s writer’s retreat to be held at Maplehurst. If you’ve read any of Christie Purifoy’s books (I’m currently soaking in Placemaker. Highly recommend.), you are probably familiar with Maplehurst’s story. You should join us.
  5. I’m officially moving my yearly Hemingway party to the fall. I had it later last year, and that was nice. It makes sense. Work is less busy in September or October, and it’s cooled off enough that I can actually bake without it taking 14 years for my apartment to cool off. As I’m planning, I hope to keep this advice in mind.

What are you into these days?

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Favorite summer treat. One of maybe five things I like about summer. As things go, though, this one is pretty awesome.

Every year, I love reading Joy the Baker’s summer bucket list. This year, I am especially charmed by her resolve to make a Polaroid photo album and have brunch and champagne on a weekday. I also feel inspired to make my own bucket list (or, erm, the bucket list I have been working on this summer, as it’s basically half over), so here goes!

  1. Read more beach reads. I am not good at choosing what most people think of as “beach reads.” The last book I read on the beach was Like Water for Chocolate (highly recommend). I am part of three book clubs, which I love, but that typically means that I’m reading books I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen and also aren’t typically lighthearted but rather books that lend themselves to discussion. Summer is often when work is busier, so more than usual, I need my nightly reading to wind down and be able to rest. For this purpose, the lighter the better.
  2. Participate in 24in48 and Dewey’s reverse readathon. Speaking of reading, I am looking forward to a couple of readathon weekends. I like that these weekends force me to take a day off and focus on one task, and a relaxing, favorite task at that.
  3. Spiderweb Salon, the local art collective I enjoy, has some exciting events coming up this summer. On Sunday, they’re having a release party for their vinyl album, so that will be fun. There is also a letter-writing workshop/typewriter sale I’m going to sneak away to during 24in28.
  4. Finish Marie Kondo-ing my apartment. Two closets and almost a kitchen and bathroom down, the rest of the place to go. My apartment looks like a tornado hit it. Soon, however, it will all be beautiful, just like my closet.
  5. Average 2-3 hours a week playing the piano (or, keyboard, rather. It’s just not the same. *sighs*). I’m slowly getting the flexibility and control back in my fingers. And I love it.

Do you have a summer to-do list? What’s on it?

 

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