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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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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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“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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I was going to post a list of five reasons I love Club Pilates. And make no mistake – there will be gushing, so be prepared for that. But there are so many things I’m enjoying/looking forward to right now that I’m actually doing in real life (i.e., not just on the internet) that I wanted to give them their moment in the sun.

  1. Club Pilates – It’s the most expensive exercise program I’ve ever used, and I LOVE IT. Worth every penny. I have been pretty consistent with my Pilates practice on my own, but this takes it to a whole new level. Come to a 30-minute intro class. You’ll be hooked (quite possibly literally – there are often straps involved).
  2. This weekend is the 24in48 Readathon! I’m finishing up a few books I’ve been working on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and starting a couple new ones. I’m mostly going to post on Instagram and Twitter about it, but I plan to check in a couple times here with challenges. Stay tuned tonight for the TBR stack.
  3. Dinner Club – My church has started dinner clubs again. Each family (or pair, for those of us who are single) takes turns being the host, co-host, and guest, and we rotate groups each month so that we get to have dinner with everyone eventually. I’m taking a break from reading to attend my first one this weekend, and I’m very excited!
  4. I’ve joined another book club. I’m reading the two first two books we’re discussing this weekend, and we’ll meet for discussion on Thursday. It’s hosted by a local artist collective that I recently started supporting so I’m looking forward to talking to the ones who come to book club and seeing how/if we’re a good fit for each other.
  5. Re: the artist collective – I may be taking an editing workshop with them in February. I haven’t chosen the piece I want to take to revise, but I’m trying to talk myself into going. Perks: It’s perfectly in line with certain life changes I want to make, so of course it makes logical sense that I would do it. Drawbacks: Change compounded with socializing with strangers makes me itchy. Just putting this one in writing so that I can’t deny that I said it.

 

 

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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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