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“I think that there are as many minds as there are heads and as many kinds of love as there are hearts.” – from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

I’m currently reading two (two…five…whatever) books right now. I still haven’t finished the one for book club earlier this month, but I like it, so I’m working my way through. I am also working through Anna Karenina. I really had hoped I would love it. I have 300 more pages. Tolstoy can still turn it around. I believe in him. I am liking it more than I did when I started, so I guess that’s something.

The book I’m reading for Advent – Those Who Wait by Tanya Marlow – has me pondering love and the odd ways it shows up (or fails to do so…lots of thoughts and feelings about that). So, of course, quotes about love are standing out to me.

From Alice Hoffman’s Faithful – 

“Love is a mystery. It’s like an alien abduction. You think you’re on earth, and there you are among the stars.”

Once during my mastermind writer’s group, we had a conversation about our past romantic entanglements. I told the story about a close friend that I met my freshman year of college who started dating one of my other friends. When they started going out, others started treating me like I had been wronged and offering to listen “if I needed to talk.” Apparently, they were under the impression that my close friend and I had been dating and the other friend stole him away. So, laughing, I told him what they said, and he got very awkward, replying, “Um. Yeah. Weren’t we?”

Were we? Huh. NEWS TO ME. After listening to this and a few other stories several of us told, one of my friends said, “Hearing you talk about your past relationships is like hearing about alien abductions.”

He’s not wrong. I have learned that people thought our relationship status was different than I believed it to be several times. As the common denominator in these scenarios, I suppose I should take some of the blame. But also – how hard is it to have a conversation where we actually say out loud who we are to each other? I admit I’m not great at picking up on verbal hints. Physical cues? I’m pretty good at that. But if it’s just verbal, I’m going to need something more along the lines of “I like you and want to be exclusive. Check yes or no,” than just vague comments about my general delightfulness. Because frankly, I get that from people who definitely just want to be friends, so if you want more, you need to be clearer.

Even when there’s rampant miscommunication and misunderstanding, though, to be loved (or even liked a whole lot) is pretty dreamy.

 

 

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I wrote and shared this a few years ago. I’m reading through Tanya Marlow’s beautiful Those Who Wait for Advent this year and thus dealing with some things I had buried. Maybe you are, too, this season.

“I will make you a great nation.  Sarah will bear you a son!”

The Visitor always did like to make an entrance.

None of the standards –

No, “How have you been?”

Or, “Friend, that was a long journey!”

Only a big announcement would do.

She heard while she was minding the supper dishes.

And Sarah laughed.

The Visitor was perplexed.

“Why is Sarah laughing? What – does she think I can’t?!”

Abraham, sweet man, tried

To act like it was nothing

To deflect the sound coming from the other room

“Probably just thinking about something funny that happened today.”

She stood in the kitchen, listening to men make plans,

And Sarah laughed.

Wouldn’t this have made more sense, Sarah wondered,

To have told me this Himself?

Abraham’s a good husband,

But there’s only so much even a good husband can do to bring a child.

I guess I should be flattered, she thought.

They’re throwing me a surprise party.

In my womb.

And Sarah laughed.

She remembered elusive promises and hopes stirred.

How long had the story been told?

Around tables and fires, shrouded in wonder and awe.

Descendants outnumbering the sand.

It need only start with one.

But the one was nowhere to be found.

She had been told of His perfect timing,

So Sarah laughed.

She remembered elusive sleep and garments rent.

How many tears had she shed?

Surrounded by a sea of children, but always on the other side of the door.

Skinned knee unbandaged, wedding unattended, grandchildren unheld.

Age showing her what it was capable of

As the bleeding stopped, and the book closed.

She had already cried,

So Sarah laughed.

Is this how promises are fulfilled?

To wait until all hope, desire, and ability are gone?

To finally bring her what she always wanted

But only after it was too late for her to enjoy it fully?

Just to make Himself look more special than everyone already knew He was.

Maybe what she wanted to do was punch Him

But she couldn’t

So Sarah laughed.

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The Advent/Christmas tree is up. It has pockets.

Advent started yesterday, and as is my (recent…within the last few years) custom, I put my Christmas tree up on the evening of the first day. All those little knitted pockets are pieces of a deconstructed Advent calendar, and each will hold a small task for each day (which I will distribute among them tonight). I love the practice of daily calendar, whether the surprise inside is a memory, a quote, a fun task, or a chocolate.

But there are other things I’m skipping this year.

I seem to get worked up over how busy this season is. I’m worried that I won’t have enough time to do the things I want to do (i.e., drive around and see Christmas lights, go to parties, etc.) and also still do the things I need to do (i.e., jobs, shower, etc.). My calendar is overloaded from the excess. I can’t look at it too long (which is sad, because you know how much I love my planner), or I get anxious.

None of that this year. I’m skipping the worry. Yesterday, our pastor preached a sermon on the foreboding apocalyptic text for the first Sunday of Advent, and the point he made was that this is a season not of either/or but both/and. The world is awful and everything is bleak and ending and there is joy and love and hope and peace. I love that. I’m embracing that this month, and that leave no room for worry. I’m going to do what I must and what I want, and at the end of the month, chances are good that I’ll still be standing despite (or possibly even because) all of it.

The trick is this: I’m also skipping anything that doesn’t fall into those two categories. If I neither need nor want to do something, I’m not gonna. I’m skipping obligation. I know – the holidays are a dangerous season for that. But yesterday, I also skipped our congregational meeting. I didn’t mean to. I meant to go – set my alarm and everything. But when I woke up, I was so hungry. I knew there would be donuts at the church, but donuts are only nourishing for the soul, not the body. I knew if I didn’t eat real food, it would affect the rest of the day. So I stayed home a little longer and did just that. Nothing bad happened, and I got to start the day right.

More of that this season, please. The expected busyness with a few cracks where the light can get in.

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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?

Friday Five3

By the time this post goes live, I will be up to my elbows in chocolate, celebrating our day-after-Thanksgiving ritual of making Christmas candy. But I wanted to share a few things I ran into on the internet this week (and a little bit of last week).

  1. Addie Zierman’s piece on feeding yourself (and issues involved therein) is a timely reminder. I love the simplicity of the question: Is this about connection or disconnection? It seems my habits are healthier when I approach food that way.
  2. In the wake of Stan Lee’s passing, there were many amazing tributes made. Fredrik Backman’s might be my favorite.
  3. The New York Times release their 100 notable books of 2018 list, and now I want to just sit in my reading chair and read them all (well, most of them). Okay, so it’s not just NOW that I want to do that. It’s always. I can’t blame NYT for that.
  4. Joy the Baker’s creamy smoked Gouda Brussels sprouts may be something that I need to make for my family this Christmas. Or make for myself this coming Monday. Whatever.
  5. I am feeling the draw of writer residencies. Specifically, I am feeling the draw of the Steinbeck Fellow Program and the New Orleans Writers’ Residency. Applications are due soon. Gotta get on it.

Share some things you’ve discovered recently!

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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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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