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Archive for the ‘Beauty’ Category

Some of my favorite images from the year

Well, here it is. The end-of-the-year review. I feel like a lot has been said about the world in general, and I’m tired and a little sad tonight, so I’m not interested in recapping it (didn’t I do this last year, too? I remember being very melancholy last year at this time. Maybe that’s just who I am now.). So I’m going to go through the year I thought I was going to have, how it changed for me personally, and maybe some more things as I ramble on.

First, some goal-setting changes:
1. I love resolutions, but I maintain the flexibility to adapt them. I did this really well this year – mostly out of necessity but also because it just makes sense to set goals that way. To work toward what you want until you get it or don’t really want it anymore or figure out something you want more.
2. Instead of plotting all the short-term tasks needed to reach goals in a chart for each month at the beginning of the year, I plotted one month at a time and based the new standards for each month on the previous month’s actual accomplishment (it’s like I KNEW) (I did not know) (No one knew). I like this much better, and it gives me a much clearer picture of the real progress I’m making.
3. I took the month of December off from the reward system of checking things off. Mostly I did this to just take a break from it, which was needed. But also it gave me a chance to see what habits actually stuck when I removed the reward of a check mark or a crossed-off item. Very illuminating.

Official resolutions I made at the beginning of the year and how they went:
1. Read 120 books. I did not quite make it. But, considering that I went for about four months where I had the attention span of a gnat and couldn’t read for more than five minutes at a time (I read a total of six books during those four months), I think my final total of 96 is still pretty respectable.
2. Finish Fishbowl again – nope. Although I’ve made considerable progress.
3. Keep up with microfictions on Ello – yes…ish. I haven’t even checked lately to see if Ello is still a thing. But I have written a LOT of microfiction and short stories. I didn’t set a specific number to write every month, so I didn’t keep count, but that was the main creative writing I did.
4. Perform with Spiderweb – yes x2! I was in the last in-person show, collaborating with Sarah Ruth for Spiderweb Loves You on Valentines Day. And I had a spot in our online Spiderdead in November playing an original not-really-a-composition-but-more-like-a-prompt called Maybe Hope is a Terrible Idea.
5. Find a doctor – yes. Done.
6. Find a new dentist and eye doctor – not yet. Have people picked out to try, though, in the first few months of the new year.
7. Continue to build Pilates practice – yes, but not back with the in-person classes yet (although my studio has been great with upping the cleanliness standards and thinking outside the box and serving customers – really proud of the way they’ve done things). When we started working from home in March, I accepted a 30-day strength challenge with Jessica and Mary in my office, though, and I incorporated a lot of Pilates stuff in that and have expanded it and kept up with it pretty well. I may be able to test into Level 2 classes when I return.
8. Work – vague resolution about continuing to figure out what I want to do with my life that got put on the back burner when I was just happy to still have work.
9. Word of the year was “alive” and we know how I feel about that. So that’s that.

Goals I didn’t have at the beginning of the year but added and met anyway:
1. Reduce plastic use and trash production. I started putting trash day as Monday on my calendar (I needed help remembering some things – see note above re: attention span). I soon found myself finding ways to prolong it to another day to see how long I could go without filling up the trash cans. I’m up to three weeks (except in the kitchen because food-adjacent waste really shouldn’t sit in my house for three weeks but I just use smaller bags).
2. Reduce food waste – my fridge had a hard year and I think it’s on its way to dying. My freezer still works great, though, so I began freezing leftovers. I’m down to almost zero food waste, so I think that’s a habit I’ll keep even when I have a fixed/new fridge.
3. Automate shipments – toilet paper, toothpaste tabs (the Bits ones – plastic free packaging!), laundry sheets (also plastic free!), etc. I needed to take things out of my headspace this year, so I automated a lot of shipments of things I normally would just run an extra errand to get when I ran out. Now I don’t run out. Great decision – 10/10 – highly recommend.

Things I learned about myself:
1. I’m way more adaptable than I thought I was. Like…my response to chaos has mostly been to fight and thrive (relatively speaking).
2. I am very particular about who I trust. And I like that about me. I mean, I’ll extend a basic trust to most people – I don’t want into new relationships assuming they’re shady – but past that basic trust? It has to be earned.
3. I can like and get along with someone without trusting them or letting them affect me. This makes me good at standing up for other people, and I want to practice that more in the future.
4. I need to be touched. Like…regularly. I knew this already but I really really know it now.

I lost a few people I love this year (some COVID-related, some not), and that’s been hard. I also had a few heartbreaks, one in particular that was really heavy and terrible. I feel like I’m in perpetual heartbreak these days, and I don’t know how to not be. I’m really trying to seek joy in the midst of it anyway.

Finally, to end on a sort of positive note, some highlights:
1. Staying connected to Spiderweb even though it’s online and particularly to the You Are Here support group
2. Monday night text study
3. Book clubs!
4. So many artists adapting to online performance and sharing really beautiful things
5. So many local businesses adjusting to changes and finding new ways to serve customers
6. The Science of Well-Being – free course from Yale
7. Wake and Bake fundraising boxes of baked goods
8. Backyard hangouts with people who love me

Goodbye, 2020.

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Day 6 – Find Color

“Color is my day-long obsession, joy, and torment” – Claude Monet

I bought myself this painting on my 34th birthday. It’s super simple, and I’m not sure how well you can tell here, but the colors are bold and bright, and the flowers that look like etching are actually embroidery that the artist painted over. I had been eyeing it at my favorite local coffee shop at the time (RIP, Art 6) for a while, and when I went in for my celebratory fluffy drink, on a whim, I looked at the price. I expected it to be out of my price range but it wasn’t. So instead of just picking up an And She Snickers with an extra shot of espresso, I picked up a painting, too.

I brought it home and hung it immediately.

I have never considered myself a particularly visual person, but being a bit more isolated than usual for most of this year, I have been noticing how much my mood is helped by little pops of color. The most colorful room in my apartment is my office/library, and it also seems to be the room where I am the happiest. One might assume this is because I am surrounded by books, and while it’s true that that is very much what I imagine Heaven must be like, the abundance of color also has something to do with it.

(ignore the mess – observe the cuteness)

When someone asks what my favorite color is, I never have a real answer. I will say something like, “Today, it’s red,” because I like the way the shirt they’re wearing gives their skin a warm glow. Or I’ll point to something multi-colored and say, “Probably one of those.” I like all the colors, and while I have distinct preferences about where I like some colors (e.g., no yellow near my face, please – it makes me look like I’m dying), there’s no color that I absolutely detest. I find bright and deep, bold colors especially invigorating.

Especially joyful.

I’m writing about chasing joy for the 31 days of December. Click here to see the whole list.

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“Beauty is whatever gives joy.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay

I have been a knitter for years, but it has taken on a life of its own during this pandemic. My knitting has become like my writing in that I have several projects started (at least one for each room of the apartment, because God forbid I actually move them with me when I change spaces). I am about a third of the way through a blanket for a friend and almost halfway through a box sweater that matches the cozy aesthetic I long to cultivate.

The glorious and hideous thing you see above is a patchwork blanket I’ve been making by knitting remnants of yarn and then piecing them together. It was just going to be a lap throw, but I significantly underestimated the sheer volume of yarn that I had that was too much to throw away but not enough to really make anything. So it just keeps growing. I wore it around my shoulders during my morning check-in with my supervisor who then insisted that it needed to make an appearance at the staff meeting later that day. It’s now the official home office blanket.

Creating something almost always brings me joy. Even if it doesn’t turn out as I planned, the creative process itself energizes me. While it’s not necessarily a cure-all for my frequent funks, it does seem to help me come up for air a bit. I guess that’s what joy is supposed to do. It’s a little light to see by.

I’m writing about chasing joy for the 31 days of December. Click here to see the whole list.

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The tree is officially up and plugged in. And that’s it. No decorations yet. Just twinkly lights. Happy.

Our small group on Monday night talks about the lesson for the next Sunday, so my appetite for Advent has been whetted. Although Advent is one of my favorite seasons, December is not usually my favorite month. It’s usually too busy. That is not the case this year, though. Events are either canceled or virtual, and I think most people have (more than usual) an attitude of just making it through to the other side.

Students have already started leaving for break, since UNT classes are going completely online for the rest of the semester. They’re welcome to stay here, but they also have the option to go home and stay with their families for the holiday season, and many have chosen to do so. Can’t say that I blame them.

This December, I have a little more time. Rather than add extra things to it (with the exception of a blog series – more on that next week), though, I’m going to focus on savoring things I enjoy.

Cozy mysteries (just re-read Publishable by Death by A. C. F. Bookens this weekend, and it was just as much fun the second time around).

The above-mentioned twinkly lights. Just staring into them. Also candlelight is nice. More sparkly-lit rooms, please.

Soups and toasted sandwiches.

Baked goods of just about any kind. Sweet, savory – I love (most of) them all.

Dancing. Stretching. Dancing again.

Playing old records while sipping warm beverages.

Practicing hope. Practicing love. Practicing joy.

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Some spinsters have cats; I have books in cute nooks.

“What a great thing, to be loved. What a greater thing still, to love! The heart becomes heroic through passion…if no one loved, the sun would go out.” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

THE WHOLE DAMN SUN WOULD GO OUT. So dramatic, and yet feels so accurate.

Disclaimer: This post may get wallowy. If inspiration is what you need right now, consider passing it by. Take care of you.

I know the world is a rabid hyena frolicking in a trash heap right now. I feel selfish for even noticing the comparably small things going on with me. But not dealing with them doesn’t make them go away; it just makes them mad at being ignored and keeps me from focusing or getting anything else done. So fine, here’s your attention, you nagging asshats (feelings).

The loneliness is so strong this month. It’s like a whole other person by itself. And it’s hard to talk about because, while people who know me and what might help can just express sympathy, there’s occasionally a well-meaning person who is only trying to be helpful who comes across with “You’ll find someone,” or “I know there’s someone for you” or “of course it’s going to happen someday” or “I’ll be praying for you” or some other drivel meant to be encouraging that’s just not. So I try to bottle it up and that makes it worse so I need to talk about it and I’m between therapists so here we are.

Hi.

There is no evidence that everyone gets to find love. I know this. I know it’s an unreasonable expectation. A lot of amazing people who deserve to be loved and chosen never get to be. And I think that if I can just accept that I’m probably one of those people – that this is just how life is going to be always – I could maybe get unstuck a little.

I just…really hate the idea that that’s probably true. Like…physically, violently, hopelessly hate. it.

And this is also not me fishing for compliments. My social issues are anxiety-based, not esteem-based. I experience self-doubt just like everyone else, but overall? I have self-esteem to spare. Like, for three other people, at least. I sometimes have to pause after someone gives me a compliment not because I don’t believe it but because it takes me a moment to remember that the appropriate response is “Thank you” and not “I know.”

Of course, I have a long list of things I’m working on – I love learning and growing – but I also think I’m pretty amazing already. And if my friendships and past relationships are any indication, I’d be an amazing partner. I get a good dose of the benefit of living with me every single day. And I’m always alone, so I’ve had PLENTY of time to truly bask in my amazingness.

The vital characteristic I seem to be missing, though, is that one where you fall in love with someone and they fall in love with you, too. Don’t know how that works, really. Everyone I’ve loved, even if they considered it for a little while and gave it a shot, soon found someone else they’d rather be with. My most successful achievement thus far in a romantic relationship has been placeholder. That’s another thing I’m amazing at. Apparently.

An obvious solution is just to add “loves me madly” to my list of things I’m drawn to in a partner. I mean, it’s now on my list of things I require to agree to actually be in an exclusive relationship with someone, because it’s only fun if it’s mutual. Which is why there’s currently no relationship to speak of. But drawn-to doesn’t always wait around on choose-to. Those are different animals.

I don’t know – can other people control who they fall in love with? I don’t know how to do that. The list of adjectives I’m drawn to – kind, thoughtful, loyal, smart, funny, passionate, creative, interesting, etc. – is a result of observing the common characteristics of people I’ve loved. It’s not like I sit down with a checklist and make sure they match up to it and THEN allow myself to feel things. Feelings have a mind of their own, and once mine show up, they move in and bring their grandma’s furniture with them because they know they’re gonna sit for a spell. They are hard to get rid of. They’re the rude party guest who doesn’t get the hint that it’s time to go even after I’ve turned out all the lights and opened the door to make it super easy for them to walk out.

I suspect other people cannot control this either. How else do you explain the motley collection of humans who have expressed having feelings for me? They don’t fit my list at all. They’re drawn to the things in me that I am actively trying to correct or change for the better. They’re either dull, or complacent, or mean, or aggressively conservative (this is the most baffling. Have we even met? How in the world could a person with their priorities even be drawn to, much less want to partner with, the person I am or the person I am becoming?).

I’m not asking for answers or a solution or sympathy. Just needed to get it out of my head a little. Let’s see if I can find a tidy ending. Um…I guess if you’re feeling the same way…you’re not alone?

Except…you are. We both are. Maybe forever. Sorry, friend. I know. It really sucks. *hugs*

Welp. So much for tidy.

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My first small, imperfect peaches of the season. 

My word for the year is “alive.” The universe is hilarious.

I had a few thoughts about how this would go. There were a lot of lofty quotes that came to mind and many goals I made that I thought would contribute to a more vibrant existence. I had no idea how often I would have to fight to actively choose living over becoming stagnant or something else.

Today I read Joy the Baker’s post on turning 39, and so much of it resonated with me. I can list the accomplishments I’m proud of and many things I do well, but most days I can’t help but feel that I, too, have been left behind – that I missed a turn somewhere that would have taken me down the path toward those Big Life Goals™ that I just assumed would come along as soon I was ready for them. I also love her curiosity and her intention to set aside the small life story in exchange for embracing the things that sparkle – to “do them badly, then less badly, then maybe almost well.”

When our church decided to start meeting remotely, we didn’t hesitate or put it off a few weeks to figure it out. Our pastor told council, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” He didn’t mean, of course, that doing a bad job at online services should be the goal. Only that it needn’t wait until we had all the information to do it expertly.

As you can imagine, this is not my modus operandi. I am all for jumping off the cliff (metaphorically); I just want to be armed with a gigantic parachute of relevant knowledge before I do.

But I started the year with a commitment to come alive, so whether I know what I’m doing or not, here I am, doing it badly but consistently. This looks like a lot of different things:

To bake and eat the cake that I’ve been craving for a month rather than just think about making it.

To dance, enjoying the way my body – this body, the one I have right now – feels when it moves.

To choose to spend money in a way that actually makes a difference in my life and the lives of others rather than contributing to the greed of entities that exist to homogenize us.

To play Chopin. And also Joplin. And also brand new things that no one but me has ever heard.

To sing, even when there’s no one to carry the harmony.

To eat my veggies and stay hydrated.

To seek out the people who love me well and stop worrying about those who don’t.

To discover how much time I have when I cut out all the things that don’t really matter.

To discover exactly which things do matter so, so much.

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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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It’s been a busy week that has followed another busy week, and I’m handling it but I also am really looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. Here are some things that have helped.

  1. Speaking of (not) sleeping, I feel this in my bones – NPR on the sleep issues of Gen X women.
  2. What can you get out of dance training (besides, you know, dance)? A kick-ass work ethic.
  3. Love to Maggie and Michelle (even though you’re closer, you’re still so far away from me) and other long distance friends.
  4. Middle-aged success stories that make me feel refreshingly like a larva.
  5. Jenny Lawson’s thoughts on hard days. ❤

Where have you gotten help this week?

 

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