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While I prefer a more social New Year’s Eve (I know – it feels just as weird to type it as it does to read it, but it’s one of the days of the year I like having plans), this was a pretty good fallback option.

Today has been both relaxed and productive. I did laundry, reorganized my dresser drawers, and broke open my shiny new planner (YAY!). I usually do two posts for goals at the beginning of the year to help sharpen my focus. Today’s post is a tangible to-do list for goals that I track throughout the year (well, except for one of them which is a one-and-done thing. And yes, there are actual charts). Tomorrow, I’ll talk about my word for the year. It’s a doozy.

  1. Read 100 books. I think I’m going to start posting my TBR list at the first of each month and then look back over it at the end of the month to see how close I actually stuck to it. This year, I’m revisiting some favorite authors (expect some Douglas Coupland, Haruki Murakami, Isabel Allende, etc.), brushing up on some classics, and keeping up with my three book clubs. The January TBR list:
    * The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
    * Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
    * Sphinx by Anne Garreta
    * Many Subtle Channels by Daniel Levin Becker
    * A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (Epiphany isn’t until Sunday – I have five days!)
    * Becoming by Michelle Obama
    * The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
    * Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
    * You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
    * Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende
    * Role Models by John Waters
    This may seem like a lot, but some of them are super short, and I have a 24in48 weekend coming up at the end of January!
  2. Renew my passport. I don’t necessarily have plans to travel outside the country this year, but I am adopting a you-never-know attitude about it, so I’d like to be prepared, just in case.
  3. Develop a daily creativity practice. My creativity veers in a lot of different directions, so this doesn’t have to look the same every day. It could be playing piano, dancing, writing poetry, building something, knitting, decorating or rearranging a space, or trying (or, let’s be real – tweaking) new recipes. But I know I get bored and restless if I’m not flexing those creative muscles, so I want to be more intentional about it.
  4. Continue building physically nourishing habits. By the end of the year, I want to be exercising four times a week, drinking an adequate amount of water daily, and feeding myself well. I have specific mini-goals to build up to it so that I won’t find myself looking back on this post in November and thinking, “Hmm…guess I better eat a carrot.”
  5. Get rid of something(s) in my overtaxed schedule in order to carve out time to do the writing I actually like to do (i.e., fiction, poetry, essays, blogging) on a regular basis.

Do you have resolutions for the upcoming year? What are they?

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Some of my favorite photos of 2018

This year has been…challenging. It hasn’t been terrible, but it also hasn’t been great. Even in not-so-great times, though, I can still learn and move forward. Here are five things I learned this year.

  1. So much of my 2018 has felt like busy work. We talked a lot about strengths at work, and my word of the year was “core.” One of the effects of examining my strengths and core values is that I realized how much what I do doesn’t match them. I didn’t write as many posts about core values (I think I finished two – hope and story) as I planned because I’m disappointed in how little time I make for the things I love the most. Expect more of these posts in the new year as I continue to unravel them.
  2. Setting high goals is good for me whether I reach them or not. I didn’t reach my goal of reading 100 books this year, but in shooting for it, I read 14 more than I did in 2017. I streamlined my budget and thus was able to purchase a keyboard and pay for the entire trip to the writers’ retreat at God’s Whisper Farm without putting it on a credit card. I got out more and saw more of Denton than I had the previous year.
  3. I am more disciplined than I thought I was. My planner looks like it was run over by a truck. Like I said, the year has been busy. Yet when I set a short-term goal with a deadline, I met it. I finished my first draft of Fishbowl (and have since dismantled it and now I need to write more to fill it out, but it’s going to be so much better). I made enough money with my freelance gig in my spare time in August (a month not historically known for an abundance of spare time in my world) to pay my rent (proving that I could probably make a living just doing freelance work if I wanted to).
  4. If I’m going to stick to an exercise plan, I have to risk something. I don’t tend to stick to a running schedule unless I am breaking in new, expensive shoes, because I feel like I have to justify the investment. I had no problem exercising in college because I was taking dance and PE classes (PSA: do not take modern, tap, and swim conditioning in the same semester. You will be so tired.), so both my pocketbook and my GPA were on the line. One of my resolutions was to either use my gym membership or cancel it. But it’s only $10 a month, so if I go even twice, my brain registers that minimal effort as getting my money’s worth. I recently started going to Club Pilates, and it’s considerably more than $10 a month. I have no problem making it there two or three times a week. Part of that is that I love Pilates (and I especially love it on the machines), but the main reason is that I am sacrificing other things to be able to afford it, so I’m going to get every session I pay for.
  5. Reading in Spanish is harder than I thought it would be, but I’m learning so much faster by doing so. It’s going to take me a while to get through this book, but I think I’ve found my favorite way to learn a language.

 

So that’s 2018. I’m looking forward to the new year and what it will bring.

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This month went by super fast! There was one tree at the beginning of the month in the lot where I park at work that had shed all its leaves (as if to say, “Come on, you guys – it’s time! Don’t be late!” I feel like that tree understands me.), but now they’re all turning/shedding. And I love it.

November has been busy, but happy busy. I had a minor writing delay when my laptop crashed, but my sister and brother-in-law gave me one of theirs, so I’m back on a roll, and just in time for the holidays! Here’s how the month went.

What I’m into reading or listening to:

  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram is a gem of a book. I love the perspective and the sweet friendship he forges when he goes to see his family.
  • I’m getting through Anna Karenina. I recognize that I’m in no position to critique a translation from Russian, as I do not know a lick of Russian, but I’m going to critique it anyway. I’m liking the story line and character development, but I frequently run across a passage where I think, “I bet that was beautiful in Russian. Too bad this phrasing is awkward and awful.” I may check a copy out of the library and see if that goes better.
  • I attending the UNT Jazz Singers’ fall concert/CD release party and picked up their new collection called A Thousand Nights. Highly recommend.

a thousand nights

What I’m into doing:

  • A Club Pilates location opened in Denton, and I am obsessed. I love Pilates on the reformer machines! If you’re in or near Denton, and you’re curious, you can take a free, 30-minute intro session.
  • Our Housing holiday party was fantastic. It was beautiful, the food was awesome, and they gifted everyone with a free ham or turkey. As you can see in the picture at the top, I couldn’t decide what to drink. So many choices. I made them all.
  • I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family. We only made four kinds of candy this year (one didn’t make it into buckets because it was only a small batch). I only suffered a minor burn, which is better than I usually do. I think my family actually enjoys the chocolate-covered salted peanut or pecan clusters I make to use up the excess chocolate more than they like the actual candy.
  • Speaking of chocolates, I refreshed our fair trade stash at church and put out a table with samples of chocolate, coffee, and tea. Hopefully the information I collected there can help guide our purchases better so that the products get bought before they go stale.

What I’m looking forward to:

  • There is a coffee crawl scheduled next weekend, and I’m very excited about it. It’s a fundraiser for the Explorium (a children’s museum in Denton), and I am happy to drink coffee to support them.
  • I’m also very excited about Christmas break. I am looking forward to having that time off.

What are you into these days?

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Friday Five 4

The title (minus the Friday Five) is what I just yelled in the office. We had our Thanksgiving lunch at work and there was a walnut/chocolate/candy (let’s be real – it’s candy on a crust) pie. I ate most of the piece and now I have all the energy and have to maintain because I’m going to see the UNT Jazz Singers tonight and don’t want to crash before/during it.

Here are some things I enjoyed on the intrawebs this week:

  1. The Bloggess opened up her comments section for all of us to post our blog links because blogging is fun and cathartic and no one who enjoys it cares that it’s allegedly dying. It’s alive in our hearts.
  2. I visit my library at least twice a week (more now that the laptop has given up the ghost…*sigh*), and I approve this message.
  3. The 31 best dance scenes in movies. Any of your favorites on here? Any not on here that you love? My favorites on this list are #21 (Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines!) and #31 (Steve Martin/Bernadette Peters with Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers in the background).
  4. I love these stories of complete strangers saving the day.
  5. And Jonathan Franzen’s 10 tips for novelists is inspiring as I start looking toward editing the novel in January.

What have you enjoyed this week?

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Day 7 – If You Were a Hat

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You might be a little faded. You might be a little dusty. You might spend most of your days perched on a shelf, more decoration than adornment.

If you were a hat.

If you were a hat, you might get picked up occasionally. Spun around. Twirled – up one arm and down another, landing briefly in one perfect moment only to be swept away and tossed to the side as another distraction appears.

If you were a hat, you’d spend a lot of time in boxes or on a rack. Rest is important for the spirit. But there’s a line between solitude and abandonment and, although it’s a fairly thick line, you might not always be able to tell the difference. It’s hard to see the truth of it when truth fades into things just being the way they are.

If you were a hat, you’d be nice hat. There would be nothing casual about you. You might spend a lot of time alone, but there’s no reason that ever had to come up in company. You’d exist to impress and command just a little more attention than others around you. Not enough to be off-putting. Just enough to be hard to ignore.

If you were a hat, your best days would be the ones when you didn’t have to think at all about how you’re only a hat. About how your whole purpose is to make them look good. About how much they love you, right up to the end.

If you were a hat, your worst days would be the ones when being just a hat is all you could think about. About how you only get the special events when you secretly know you’re much better suited to the everyday. About exactly how much time you spend on the table making small talk with the still-smoking ashtray and watered-down drinks while they all go dancing.

Sometimes you think you’re a hat. You make a grand impression, dashing into excitement and leaping to the next joy before any of the electricity has a chance to dwindle. But electricity burns, and who’s going to catch you when that shock jolts you out of the bliss?

If you were a hat, all of this would be fine.

But you’re not.

 

I’m writing 31 days of short stories (or whatever these are). Click to see the master list.

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Day 6 – Roger

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Roger: A Walkie Talkie Production

Jeff: I’ve got a delivery for the director ready. Who wants it?

Cassidy: I’m about to give this family a tour.

Trevor: I have class in five minutes.

Scott: Roger that. I’m on it, boss. Over.

Roger: What? Did someone call me?

Meiya: No…Scott was just letting Jeff know he got the message.

Scott: What? Oh, yeah. Roger that.

Roger: *static noise* What is that? What do I need to do?

Trevor: Nothing, man. Everything’s taken care of.

Roger: Okay. Cool. Let me know if you need me.

Jeff: We’re missing one of the bikes – does anyone know what happened to the red one?

Meiya: I think one of the admins borrowed it for an hour or two.

Scott: No – I have it. I just finished a tour and am heading back to get the director’s delivery.

Jeff: That’s cool. Remember to log your checkouts in the future.

Scott: Roger that. I’ll remember that next time. Over.

Roger: What? I didn’t take it.

Scott: No, I said I have it.

Roger: Oh, I guess I misunderstood. I thought I heard my name.

Cassidy: Scott, stop saying “Roger.” It’s so confusing. We all know you get the message when you respond to it. You don’t need to tell us you got it.

*Pause*

Scott: Roger that, Cassidy.

*Communal groaning*

 

I’m writing 31 days of short stories (although some are more snippets). Click to see the master list.

 

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Friday Prompt

On Fridays (or shortly thereafter…ahem) this month, I’m going to be following a Tumblr prompt that made the rounds for a while. I’m tweaking it a little, though:

On their 25th birthday, every person has the opportunity to request permission (because consent is sexy) to share the mind/vision of their soulmate. If permission is granted, they have 24 hours to observe and communicate with the person to see if they want to pursue a future together.

Trina knew he would say, “Yes,” the minute she blew out her candles. They’d planned it that way – a cozy dinner at home where the first thing she would see through his eyes was him carrying her to their room and laying her gently on the bed so that she would feel rested when she came back to herself. She closed her eyes, made the wish, and blew.

When she opened her eyes, she was sitting in a cafe. How did he get there so quickly? Or maybe it took awhile to take effect? Seeing through someone else’s eyes had to be a complicated process, she reasoned.

Maybe she should try saying something. Hello, Ryan, she thinks.

“Huh. Not Ryan. But…welcome? I guess this does actually work.”

Not Ryan?! But…no. That’s not right, she thinks. It was supposed to be Ryan. Ryan is my fiancee. We were supposed to spend the day together. Where am I now? Who is this?

“Works really, really well, in fact. Who is Ryan? Am I…are we…cheating? Feels a bit like cheating. Do you still want to do this?”

Oh, so everything I think…you hear. Huh.

“Apparently so.” There is a pause as he takes a sip of coffee. It’s not very good coffee. Grimace. “Sorry about that. I tend to go for quantity over quality. Is there something you prefer?”

Earl Grey would be nice. With a little cream. And sugar.

“Earl Grey it is.” He walks toward the counter. He leaves his book – Proust heavy reader – and his wool cap – brown, rose, burgundy, and turquoise stripes kinda sweet – at the table.

“Yeah, I’ve always been told I should read Proust, and I’m slugging through all right. It’s definitely more challenging than my usual fare, which leans more Crichton-esque.” She can tell that he smiles a little at this. Sheepish. Cute. “And the hat was a gift from my mom. She’s really into making hats this year.” Super cute. “Thanks. I bet you’re cute, too.”

She tries thinking about the selfie she took last year that she really liked, but before she could, she thinks of the unflattering one Ryan took when she fell over in the grass and had her mouth wide open, mid-cackle. Of course. Sigh.

He laughs a little, but not unkindly. “I like it. You look happy.” Pause. “And I was right. You are cute.”

He orders the tea, and the barista looks at him quizzically. “It’s not for me,” he explains. She looks back at his table without changing her questioning look. “I mean, I’m trying something new.”

You come here often.

“Are you trying to pick me up? Seems like overkill. I already said yes.” She can tell that he smirks at this. Charming. Witty. “I’ve gotta say – I like this arrangement. I always guess wrong at what others are thinking. It’s pretty helpful to have it right there in my head.”

Me, too. I thought it would be weird, but it’s actually super convenient. Pause to try and stop the next thought from coming, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I also thought it would be Ryan.

“I can’t help you there, but I sort of wish I were Ryan. He seems like a pretty lucky guy.” He takes a sip of the Earl Grey, delicious and sweet, and the barista, still watching, shakes her head. “My name is Nick, by the way.”

Of course it is. I’ve always had a thing for Nicks. But they’ve always been trouble. Erm…I mean…hi, Nick.

He laughs out loud this time. She can’t help but think he must look crazy. This just makes him laugh even harder, although he tries to subdue it.

A few minutes pass in silence, so he says, “Listen, I know you’re into this other guy, and you seem great, but I want you to be happy. If he makes you happy, you should go back to him. I just want…” He sighs. “I’m fine. I want you to be happy.”

She can tell he means it. Okay. Yes. I’m sorry about all of this. Um…enjoy your tea.

Another laugh. “Not likely, but it doesn’t hurt to try something new, right?” Pause. “Even if it’s not for me.”

It’s still dark outside when she wakes up in her familiar bed with Ryan right beside her. He looks nervous. “Did it work?”

She weighs her words carefully. She makes a choice. “No.” She commits. “No, it didn’t. I guess it only works if you’re still looking.”

Ryan smiles, relieved. She falls asleep in his arms.

A year and three months go by, and things don’t turn out the way she planned. Nothing is ever really right between them from that point on. Her small lie is always caught in the middle. On the eve of his 25th birthday, she says, “I think you should do the soulmate thing.”

Ryan doesn’t look at her. He knows. He’s known for some time. “It wasn’t me, was it?”

This time she tells the truth, even though it sounds like exactly the same answer. “No.” She tells him a little about the encounter, but stops when it’s clear he doesn’t really want to hear it.

The next day, he spends a day away from her and returns, excited and apologetic. She had already decided by 10:00 a.m., to let him go, so the conversation is easy. Cordial. Civilized.

Two years pass. Other boyfriends – some named Nick who drink bad coffee – come and go. One day she sees a knit cap – brown, rose, burgundy, and turquoise stripes – bobbing through the crowd. She follows him and finally catches up. Nervous, she touches his arm. “Nick?”

When he turns around, it’s the face she’s always loved the most. The face she knew the best. The one she chose.

After a long hug, Ryan takes off the cap. “Ugly thing, but I figured it was the best way to find you.”

 

I’m writing 31 stories in 31 days. Click to see the master list.

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