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Aw, Advent candles and pockets. Ignore the ash on the table.

Advent is soon! I’m considering Celtic Advent this year, because the four-ish weeks never seem long enough.

Cozy is the main reason I like Advent and Christmas. The lights, presence, pleasure (coffee, tea, wine, cake, etc.), communal/equality, gratitude, comfort, togetherness, shelter/home of it. I get why this season is hard for a lot of people, especially those who live here and don’t celebrate Christmas, especially if they work or have worked in retail where they play the most annoying Christmas songs ad nauseum for months on end. And in some ways, it’s hard for me, too. But a spot of melancholy hardly ever keeps me from enjoying something.

I do feel compelled to keep a lot of my joy about the season under the radar (except here and now on the internet, of course) so that I don’t become part of the intense way that others try to shove the holiday down everyone’s throat (looking at you, Starbucks cup zealots). Luckily, I’m usually so caught up in preparing for services at church and other fun things I enjoy this time of year that I miss a lot of that, especially during Advent. Because of the way it falls around work schedules and family gatherings, the twelve days of Christmas partly become a transitional time of letting go and tucking in to prepare for the new year. It’s the time of the year that I’m most likely to enjoy getting by on as little as possible and appreciating what I have.

I don’t know if it’s the start of the church year or (some of) the seasonal music or the (mythical) sweater weather, but the season is very cozy to me. Some of my traditions include going to the farm, reading night the night before I leave (I often buy new pajamas and book specifically for the evening), and coming home to rest. Then there’s the best week of the year (Christmas to New Year’s Day) with goal-setting and shopping and catching up with friends but not really planning anything. I used to plan a lot before the week but I’ve found that it’s even more relaxing if the weeks leading up to it are calm, too.

I tend to celebrate seasons more than holidays, so I don’t know that I have specific traditions for certain days. What are some of yours?

I’ve been talking about living a lush life all month.

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“If hygge was a person, I think it would be Alice Waters.”
Meik Wiking – The Little Book of Hygge

From the moment I heard about Alice Waters and her connection to the Slow Food movement, I’ve been hooked. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a farm where we grew our own peaches and pecans and enjoyed the bounty of MeMaw’s robust garden. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always harbored secret fantasies of building my own version of Chez Panisse. It could just be the simple fact that good food, especially food grown or produced within driving distance and/or cooked with love, gives me a solid sense of place like nothing else can.

The fastest way to my affection is to cook for me. One of my favorite birthdays was one of the years I was vegan. I was having a hard time coming up with a restaurant that all my friends would enjoy and where I also could get food I loved and would eat. I was about to give up when my sister offered her house to host a potluck. My friends brought over such a feast of all my favorite vegan things. It was so kind and generous and the best gift I could have asked for. Another favorite birthday was the year I invited everyone over to my apartment and served three kinds of lasagne.

I don’t always love cooking, but I love sharing food. I doubt I’ll ever actually own a restaurant, but I love feeding people. For me, there’s no such thing as a lush life without shared meals.

I go through phases of different favorite things to make. Bread. Pie. Cookies. Risotto. A couple of times, Maggie and I put aside a whole weekend to bake and invite people over to enjoy what we made. Cookie weekend was epic. Pie weekend was pretty good, too. Maybe July wasn’t the best time to bake pies all weekend, but it was delicious.

I’m on a real soup kick right now. Yesterday, I did not want to go to the grocery store, so I did a pantry sweep to see what I could make for the week without running that particular errand. Imagine my delight at finding a goldmine of yellow split peas. With some onions and bell peppers and a few herbs, I now have a vat of one of my favorite soups to indulge in all week. Bliss.

Saturday, our church is hosting its annual Empty Bowls luncheon, and I’m looking forward to sampling soups from several restaurants in the area. Maybe I’ll even host a soup party of my own someday.

I am writing about all the things that make life lush this month.

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Sunday sustenance

This could be a short post, because while I feel complicated about changing how I volunteer at church in order to carve out more space for other important things (and give other people an opportunity to serve in my place), it’s not actually all that complicated. Technically, all I have to do is decide which things to drop and set an end date for them.

I think we all know this is not going to be a short post.

I like being involved. If I’m going to go to the trouble of being a part of an organization, I want to be a real part of it. I don’t always see the line between “being a part of” and “doing too much,” though. For reference, here is a list of the teams, classes, responsibilities, etc., that I’ve taken on at church (and bear in mind – this is just with one of the organizations I belong to):

  • Outreach team
  • Fair trade product purchasing/organization
  • Library team (organizer)
  • Book club (secretary)
  • Choir (member and occasional cantor/soloist)
  • Assisting minister for early service (on rotation – not every week)
  • Monday night Bible study (attendee)
  • Sunday school (attendee)
  • Writers group (leader)
  • Communications team (writers group liaison and Facebook admin)
  • Church council (current president)

Every single one of those things is a worthwhile thing to do. Every single one of them is something I – to some extent – enjoy. It’s difficult for me to admit that doesn’t automatically mean it has to be my responsibility.

Thankfully, one item on the list – church council – already has an end date. My term is up at the end of December, and I am ready. I’ve enjoyed seeing how things work behind the scenes, and hopefully, I’ve been a little helpful. But I am TIRED. So much so that I don’t really trust my judgment right now about what else to step back from, because my gut reaction is “everything but choir and book club.”

A therapist once called me out on my affinity for making big decisions when I feel overwhelmed or burned out or when I experience a sudden surge of energy or angst, all of which almost always result in regret. “Consider that when you feel left out, used, or put upon by others, it’s often at least partially your own doing.” Ugh. RUDE.

And accurate.

This year of reflection on what a lush life would look like to me has highlighted this tendency even more. So many things that I do were born of a jolt of excitement or an acute and sudden recognition of a need that quickly fizzled while my commitment to them did not. And now I do them out of habit or obligation, but there’s no real passion there. That would be bad enough on its own, but this phenomenon also has the unfortunate side effect of almost constant longing for more time to do the things I am passionate about and a lingering sadness every time I say no to them due to a prior lackluster commitment.

My ability to make decisions easily is something I like about myself. I’m good at gathering information and strategizing, and I can do both pretty quickly. That infuriating “Where do you want to eat? I don’t know where do you want to eat?” conversation? You don’t have to worry about that with me. After taking a general poll about what everyone has already eaten that day (because people get weird about repeats), eliminating things people don’t like at all, and settling on a price range, I can give you a ranked list of places within a 10-mile radius that are sure to please most of the group. And if no one has a clear preference, I certainly do and will have no problem deciding that’s the place.

But I have learned that there is such a thing as being too decisive. I need to make space for choices that have repercussions beyond the day I make them in order to ensure that I’m responding to actual needs or desires rather than reacting in the emotion of the moment.

So I’m giving myself a decision vacation. From now until the end of January, I’m not agreeing to anything new. I’m also not making any choices about what to move on from. I already have a schedule in which everything (technically/barely) fits, so it’s not any extra work to keep doing what I’m already doing. And a big part of what I’m already doing will naturally come to an end by the new year. I’m going to let the dust settle and decide from there.

Sometimes creating a lush life is hard. I’m writing about that all month.

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October is for fires and The Mummy

This weekend was the Denton Arts and Jazz Fest. There was a time when I wouldn’t have dreamed of missing it, even though until recently it was at the end of April, at the height of allergy season for me. I went every year. I would go on Friday if there was something special I wanted to see, but I was definitely there all day Saturday and at least in the evening for Brave Combo on Sunday. I just accepted that I wouldn’t really get a weekend off to reset socially, and it was worth it to me. I had a lot of fun at Jazz Fest, and I didn’t want to miss out.

I also got terribly sick at the end of each semester. I always thought it was just the stress/relief of finishing classes, but looking back, I’m not so sure. Thanksgiving through December was always busy with holiday travel and huge gatherings and shopping (and it was before the internet, so it was all in person *shudders*) and the local tree lighting festival, and the end of the spring semester was banquets and graduations and Jazz Fest. After I finished my last final (or, once I started teaching, handed in my grades), I took a breath and paused for a moment, and that was my body’s cue to shut down for about a week. I was alarmed the first couple of times it happened, but then I just accepted it.

I’ve learned how to avoid it now, but it does come at a price.

I need a lot of alone time. My specific concoction of introverted, socially anxious, sensory sensitive, and whatever else happens to be going on requires a certain amount of downtime to regroup, or I will get sick. It takes me a couple of hours every night to wind down, and I need at least two nights off a week when I just come home and decompress. It’s also imperative that I have at least two consecutive days a month in which I come home the night before the first day and don’t leave again until the morning after the second. Ideally, at least one weekend will be free for this to happen, but if not, I know I will need to take the appropriate amount of time off work to ensure that it does. To really thrive, I need more alone time than I’ve described here, but that’s the minimum. If I want to stay well, it’s not optional.

I suspect there are a lot of people for whom a great amount of solitude is necessary. I just don’t hear a lot of them talk about it. Maybe we’ve been taught to be ashamed that we can’t handle that much stimulation all the time without any real breaks like others seem to be able to. If that’s you, and no one has told you this yet, let me state clearly – there’s nothing wrong with you. Taking care of yourself is the right, responsible thing to do. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

I had hoped to go to Jazz Fest this weekend. One of the students I work with performed, and so did one of my friends’ bands that I haven’t seen in a long time. The original Blues Brothers band was there, and I always like looking at the booths (especially the jewelry) and camping out in front of the UNT stage on Sunday afternoon. Judging by the pictures on social media, I would have seen a lot of people I know and had a good time. I’m a little sad to have missed it.

But our cookbook club had a murder mystery dinner on Friday. We got to dress up and play catty characters. So much fun! And I spent last night jamming with some friends I get to perform with in November. This morning I went to church. I really like the study we’re doing now, and I got to sing in the choir. And tonight I sat by the fire with Spiderweb friends and watched (most of) The Mummy. It was a full, busy, lovely weekend that still left me with the large blocks of alone time I need to be ready for this week.

Sometimes it’s ok to miss good things. Lush life doesn’t mean you have to pack every waking moment with activities you love and force it all to fit. It means learning when not to.

I’m unpacking what I’m learning about living a lush life this month.

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Today, I want to daydream a little. Journey with me, if you will, to what a typical week of lush life would look like to me. Some of these things are already firmly in place in my life; some will have to wait until I retire (at least partially. Eight. More. Years.) and have the time to incorporate them. This life as a whole also requires a somewhat bigger, definitely steadier income (I really just need to make every month what I make in a good month). 

It’s good to have goals.

Overall, the things I think of when I imagine a lush life basically boil down to five elements:

  • Good balance of company and solitude
  • Good food
  • Cozy environments
  • Meaningful work
  • Lots of time for play

So let’s begin.

At no point in a truly lush life will I wake to an alarm. Each day starts with waking up naturally, whenever I am fully rested, as God and nature intended. As a night owl who tries (and perpetually fails) to overcome my natural tendencies in order to make life with a work schedule created by capitalism and sadistic morning people more manageable, I may actually have a ceremony where I dispose of my alarm clock when I retire. 

Even if I’m rested, any activities where I have to be dressed, social, and coherent before noon are just the worst. So my ideal day is one that allows me to ease into it. A French press of coffee and a good breakfast (mmm…veggie omelet with toast…or poached eggs over potatoes) are required. As long as we’re dreaming, I would like to insert the company of a partner who shares both cooking/cleaning duties and my preference for rampant lounging at the start of the day. Alternatively, I am content listening to whatever audiobook I’m reading, show I’m currently bingeing, or background music softly crooning from the record player. The rest of the morning is likely to be spent reading or working on a craft/art project such as knitting or art journaling.

Afternoons are for responsibilities, because no matter how lush my life becomes, someone still has to do laundry (and also I sort of love doing laundry so, by someone, I am happy to mean me). Having said this, I want the luxury of being picky about which work I do and which work I delegate. For example, I am usually pretty good about keeping up with most daily chores, such as washing dishes or tidying, but I fall behind on things like dusting and vacuuming because I can’t just do part of the house and be satisfied, so I find the size of the job overwhelming to the point of inaction. I want to be able to hire someone to do all the chores and errands that I dislike (and thus avoid until they’re really out of control).

Three or four days a week, my main goal for the afternoon is to write. Most of the time will be spent on creative works in progress, but I also want to maintain my current writing job or something like it to keep a steady income. On the off days, I’ll probably spend the non-chore time running errands, which includes frequenting my favorite local coffee shops and bookstores.

I will likely spend most evenings pretty much the same way I do now – book clubs, choir, attending (or performing in) shows and concerts, hanging out with beloved folk, or staying at home to read. Maybe this fabled partner and I go out dancing occasionally. How lovely that would be. Another habit I would like to resume as I mold my life into something more manageable is to have people over for dinner and drinks on a fairly regular basis. It’s a lot of work, as there are several things (many of which are mentioned above) that have to be in place for me to be relaxed enough to enjoy it, but sometimes I miss it.

Of course, there will be exceptions to this general structure. There will be day trips with friends, library book club or church in the mornings on some weekends, and doctor’s appointments that I almost always schedule at the beginning of the day so I can cross them quickly off the list. And at least three times a month, I’m going to need a mental health day in which all scheduling, planned productivity, chores, and socializing go out the window. Just a slow day spent in my favorite comfy pants that I don’t wear in public, enjoying copious amounts of hot tea, books, music, blankets, naps, and maybe a walk. Opportunities for extended rest are important even when I’m living my most charmed life.

There is more to lush living, of course, but this is the basic lifestyle I’d love to have.

I’m writing about lush life this month. Click here to see the whole series (so far).

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When I chose lush (pardon me…LUSH) as my theme word for this year, I imagined quite a few possible scenarios:

  • Home and patio full of healthy plants
  • Delicious, wholesome (and sometimes decadent) meals
  • Calm, unrushed afternoons spent in coffee shops or bookstores
  • Good cheese, wine, and coffee
  • Regularly designated time to make art
  • Organized nooks throughout the apartment designed to maximize coziness
  • Fun outings with friends and family

It seemed so simple and exciting. But it turns out, there are reasons those things weren’t happening on a regular basis already. 

First of all, these things cost money. Not a lot, for the most part, but still more than I have coming in on the regular. My budget is very basic, and until I get a better job or become inexplicably wealthy, it’s got to stay that way. So one challenge I’ve been tackling is to envision a lush life that doesn’t depend on spending more.

Second, these things take time. Extra time to do more of anything turns into a scarce commodity when you have two jobs and a lot of other responsibilities that (allegedly) come first. I stepped down from a few things I was doing last year, but then I became church council president this year. I am glad to be asked to serve, but it’s been a lot, and I am counting the days until it’s over. In fact, I am working on significantly streamlining how I use the free time I have available. For example, at church, maybe I have fewer weeknight meetings but more engagement on Sunday mornings when I’m already attending the service anyway. At work, maybe I stop volunteering for everything that looks vaguely interesting so I can focus on things I enjoy and not be so overwhelmed all the time (to the small extent that I can control that. More on this later in the month).

Also more breaks. Particularly at and from work. I’m not great at taking breaks.

Third, I forgot to factor in mental health. I set the bar for lush life really high. There’s nothing wrong with high standards, of course. A cozy, tidy home with lots of greenery, comforting homemade meals, large blocks of time to be creative, and also adequate quality time to spend with people I love? Sounds lovely. Wonderful. A fantastic way to live and a grand life to have.

It also sounds like a lot of work. 

I have had some heightened mental health struggles this year that I did not anticipate. Burnout, executive dysfunction, and sensory sensitivity make getting through even the simplest to-do list a challenge some days. And by some, I do mean most. On those days, does lush life look like cooking good meals (and cleaning up afterward) and trying to find scraps of focus/energy to do creative things or hang out with friends? Or does it look like eating a bowl of cereal and calling it a night with a cup of tea and a good book? I know I’m worth the effort it would take to do the former, but I’m also worth the rest I get from doing the latter. Some days, it’s hard to tell which is better.

This month, I’m going to write through more of these thoughts on what I thought lush life would be, what it’s actually turning out to be, and what I think of that. I have some feelings. You’ve been warned.

Day 2 – A Typical Lush Week
Day 3 – Lush at Work
Day 4 – October TBR
Day 5 – Artsy
Day 6 – Lush and Hygge
Days 7 & 8 – A Social Shift
Day 9 – Trips
Day 10 – World Mental Health Day
Day 11 – Community Care
Day 12 – My Ideal Home
Day 13 – Wise Counsel
Day 14 – Nooks
Day 15 – Comfort Crafting
Day 16 – Food
Day 17 – Socializing for Introverts
Day 18 – The Challenges of Reading Challenges
Day 19 – Maintaining a Lush Space
Day 20 – Cozy Office
Day 21 – A Lush Life for All
Day 22 – A Little More Love
Day 23 – A Thousand Words
Day 24 – Sabbatical
Day 25 – Unrestricted Sabbatical
Day 26 – Moving On
Day 27 – In Praise of Subscriptions
Day 28 – Spring and Summer Cozy
Day 29 – Fall and Winter Cozy
Day 30 – Holiday Cozy
Day 31 – Whimsy and Creativity






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February TBR

My library is going to be stoked to get some of these back soon.

The problem is that there are too many books in the world. And by “too many,” I do mean “Yay! So many!” And by “problem,” I do mean “luxurious, lovely happenstance.” My TBR list is always going to be bigger than my time frame for completing it, and I’m just going to have to make peace with that. 

Here are a whole lot of books that I will likely start (and for the most part, finish) this month.

Book Clubs

  • Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson – I meant to read for two hours Monday night and then finish up the rest yesterday before book club, but then the pace abruptly picked up and so I had to read to the end before going to bed on Monday. Worth it. Who even needs sleep. 
  • The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray – I want to be a personal librarian. Anyone reading here who would like to hire me to do that sort of thing? References available upon request.
  • A Match to the Heart by Gretel Ehrlich – Memoir about being struck by lightning. We are all fascinated and curious.
  • Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal – Fantastic Strangelings coming through with the magical again.
  • Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur – Happy Endings selection for the month of love
  • To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara – This is a pretty long book, Roxane Gay. You’ve never steered me wrong before, though, so I’m in.

Reading Challenges

I’ve added a couple of reading challenges (surprising no one – we all knew this would happen). Partly for me, but mostly because I know some of you like a little structure and I want to highlight challenges you may enjoy that I’m also participating in. If you want a challenge and none of the four I’ve chosen fit your tastes, fret not. Girlxoxo does this so much better than I do; here’s the master list of challenges they compiled for 2022

A lot of my selections fit categories on all of the ones I’m doing (although my personal meta-challenge is that, no matter how many I end up tracking, I won’t use the same book for more than one prompt on the same challenge). In fact, I may do a separate reading challenge update in the middle of the month to outline all the prompts and the books I read to match them. Here’s just a taste for this month.

Lush Reads

The lush themes for this month are food, love, rest, and dreaming. And chipping away at long-time TBRs. Happy.

  • Babette’s Feast by Julian Baggini – loved the movie and just recently found out it was a book. 
  • How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell – I really feel like this month is going to be the month I finish it. It’s just so inspiring…to do nothing…
  • All About Love by bell hooks – in honor of the recently departed icon.
  • The Alchemist by Paul Coelho – Approximately 12,341 people have recommended this book to me – will it live up to the hype? My expectations are pretty high.
  • Warrior of the Light by Paul Coelho – Might as well pick up the companion manual, too.

Additional Reads

This list is mostly an assortment of books due at the library soon-ish and racy/romantic recommendations from friends.

Clearly, I need to set aside at least one reading weekend this month. 

What are you reading now?

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I love my book club selections this month!

I have a slightly bigger reading goal this year (150), so I’m starting out ambitious. Some of these books are ones I started in December and hope to finish up this month, and some of them are books that I’m starting but know they will take longer than the month to finish. At any rate, I hope to get a good start on the 12.5 books a month needed to meet my year’s goal!

Book Clubs

I am a member of six book clubs (not counting the library club, where we talk genre instead of a specific book we’re reading together). Three meet at a specific time (in-person or Zoom, depending on various factors), and three are ongoing discussions online. All add fascinating reads to my TBR list.

  • Dial “A” for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto – We discussed this one on Tuesday, so I’ve already finished it. It was a wild ride. I listened to the audiobook. Highly enjoyable.
  • The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich – I love this author, and I’m looking forward to reading and discussing it over beer with the church folk.
  • I Forced a Bot To Write This Book by Keaton Patti – We were going to read this last month in Follow the Reader, but several had a hard time finding a copy so we pushed it to January. I’ve read some of it already, and it’s pretty entertaining. This is the sort of thing I’d enjoy reading aloud to party guests when I’m schnockered (aw, remember when I had parties? I…don’t miss it. But also I do. It’s complicated).
  • Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon – Happy Endings selection that sounds fun.
  • The Maid by Nita Prose – I’ve had this on my list since it was announced, and I’m so happy that it’s finally out and it’s our Fantastic Strangelings pick for the month. It sounds like a great read for fans of Clue, cozy mysteries, and charming characters. 
  • Noor by Nnedi Okorafor – My Christmas present to myself was a Literati subscription so I can just have Roxane Gay’s book picks mailed directly to me. I don’t choose a lot of science fiction on my own, but I think I’ll like this one.

Reading Challenges

In addition to my book club selections, I want to be more intentional about keeping up with the two reading challenges I’m doing this year. 

Lush Reads

Committing to my word for the year through reading/study/reflection worked really well in 2021, so I’m going to continue the practice. Part of this is to get back in the habit of journaling, so I’ve chosen four books that help me explore topics on well-being-esque topics with daily or weekly prompts. Real talk – I’ve already gone off the rails and completed several “days” in one sitting for at least two of these books, so I’m not sure it’s going to take me all year to finish them as designed, but at least they will get me back into the habit of daily journaling, which is my purpose in reading them in the first place.

I also am finishing up/starting three books that talk about living abundantly and seeking delight and remaining healthy and sane in the process, all of which go along nicely with “lush.”

  • The Book of Delights by Ross Gay – If being utterly charmed is something you’re into, just go ahead and keep this one by your nightstand.
  • Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel – Practical advice from Modern Mrs. Darcy.
  • The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell – I ran into this one as I was going down a hygge rabbit hole after seriously cozying up my bed linens. Intrigued.

Other Selections

December was one of those months I couldn’t settle on just a few books. So I have a couple of books I’ve read a few chapters of and want to finish up. Also, I have quite a few books that I need to return to friends or the library soon, so they’re on the list, too.

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I have been slowly reading this one for about three months now. The story and characters and language are all wonderful. 
  • How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith – I started listening to this on the way home for Christmas and the chapter on Angola Prison made me madder than it’s responsible to be while driving. So I’m only a little bit into it, but it’s a fantastic tour of several monuments and landmarks and their significance. Highly recommend. Check your blood pressure beforehand.
  • Role Models by John Waters – I borrowed this from Sarah 14,000 years ago, and I found it while dusting shelves last week. Past time to read and return it!
  • Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – This has been on my TBR list a long time and is due at the library this week, so I want to hurry and finish it so the person waiting for it can get to read it. It’s so lovely.
  • Music on the Brain by Arlene R. Taylor, PhD & Michael R. Hudson – I received several copies of this from my friend Matthew (thank you!), who works across the hall from Dr. Taylor, so I have a couple left to loan if you’re local. Great read so far!
  • Blood Hollow by William Kent Krueger – Gosh, I love mystery series. And I want to get this one back to Lois so someone else can enjoy it. 

So the list may look a little daunting, and I’m not expecting to actually finish everything this month, but this is what’s on my current pile.

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I Said Hello/Goodbye to…

The prompts for the December Reflections Challenge for today and Sunday are “I said hello to…” and “I said goodbye to…” but I’m just going to put both in one post. There were some small adjustments that I made this year that are working out better for my schedule and my sanity.

I said hello to… 

  • Rise and Shine Book Club (public library) – I always enjoy finding new people who like to talk about books, so joining the monthly discussion about different genres and recommendations within them was a sure win. I enjoyed both the online and the in-person versions, but I am definitely partial to meeting in person where there is coffee and free ARCs to take home.
  • RIC – Our church is exploring whether we want to be a Reconciling in Christ church, and the process has been a lot of work but it’s important to me, so it’s worth it. I think it’s going much more slowly than our team anticipated, but not necessarily because people are opposed. The feedback we have gotten from the people who are participating has been really positive; we just aren’t getting a lot of engagement from even some active members. We have a small church, which means those who are active are typically stretched pretty thin. So what comes across as apathy may just be the fact that they’re already committed to doing a lot of things with the church and are hesitant to commit to one more thing. We don’t want to rush a vote, though, because it’s important that as many people as possible understand what being inclusive (and thus the designation) means before we claim it as something we do. And this understanding requires engagement. This is probably not a good time for me to reflect on it, as I am currently pretty discouraged. Maybe people will be more enthusiastic about having these conversations in the new year.
  • Making an album – Probably the most exciting new thing of the year is the album I’m working on with Sarah. We are doing field recordings, playing instruments, singing hymns, and adding spoken word pieces (etc.) on the theme of growing up in West Texas. We are getting a lot of recordings together the days after Christmas. Someday, I’ll be able to share a link with you!

I said goodbye to… 

  • Pilates – I mean, not really completely goodbye. I’ve been doing mat work at home and I still make a few classes a month. But I haven’t been to the studio as much this year as when I first started going. I wanted to start going back since being vaccinated but…it’s been so nice not having to wrangle it into my schedule, and I’ve gotten used to that. The studio only offers classes on Monday-Friday mornings from 6:00-11:00, Monday-Thursday evenings at 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30, and Saturday/Sunday mornings. This doesn’t really fit my life. If there was just an 8:30 or 9:00 class on a couple of weeknights, or if they offered Friday/Saturday/Sunday night classes, I would be able to make 8 times a month no problem. I might even upgrade my account to unlimited. As it is, though, scheduling is a struggle. Before the pandemic, I used to take a class every free weeknight I had (leaving me no actual free weeknights, which was not ideal for my mental health) or set an alarm on Saturday (OMG THE WORST I HATE IT) to go to a class then. If that didn’t fill out my 8 classes I was paying for each month, I would shift my entire work schedule some days so that I could make either the 5:30 p.m. class or the 7:00 a.m. class (see note above re: THE WORST). Now? I’m not so motivated to kill myself making it work. Turns out, I’d rather exercise at times that actually work with my existing schedule. That’s been working out pretty nicely.
  • Traditional grocery shopping/food service – I can count on one hand the number of times this year I walked into a grocery store or ate in a restaurant, and I LOVE IT. Curbside pickup is everything I never knew I always wanted, and I’m so happy it’s persisted in many of the places where I shop/dine. Occasionally, it’s a pain in the ass when they leave things out I need or when they don’t plan well enough to honor the times they list as available, but overall, it’s one of my favorite services, and I may never go back to the way things were before.

Are there any changes that have made life a little less stressful for you this year?

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Food and wine with friends is always a good day.

The prompt for today is “best day of 2021,” so I thumbed through my planner to find the best day. I was already up to five by April, so I just decided to go top ten. In order (somewhat) of occurrence:

  1. Inauguration Day (January 20) – I am not a person who believes that political leaders (particularly milquetoast, capitalist, and/or status-quo-y ones) are the answers to our problems. I suspect that in order for someone to make it to the highest offices in our country, they’ve probably had to (and will continue to) compromise a lot and do some pretty shady things that likely do more to add to our problems than to solve them. When I vote, it’s typically for the least objectionable person who could actually win whose future speeches are the least likely to inspire me to damage whatever screen I’m viewing them on. But I enjoyed Inauguration Day. I enjoyed hearing Amanda Gorman share The Hill We Climb, and I loved watching her capture the day on Instagram. The Bernie memes still make me laugh. It’s just a day to take a breath, and it was nice to do so.
  2. Spiderweb Loves You – This virtual performance on Valentine’s Day was a poem I pieced together from text conversations with Maggie and Michelle. As with our conversations, topics ranged from favorite TV moments to the stressors of the day. I love them both a lot, and I love that Spiderweb gives us a specific space each year to love on the people who are important to us.
  3. Birthday celebrations (technically spanned more than one day, but let’s be real – there are no rules here) – Between visiting Texas Tulips and having lunch with Tammy, wine/coffee/pastry/book shopping, dinner and hangout with CM and Sarah, an All Booked Up outing with Sarah and Joan, and new shelves and delicious early dinner with Steph, Nathan, Tammy, and Matt, I was especially well loved on the days surrounding my birthday in March.
  4. Wine and pizza at Fortunata with Kim and Beth – It was the perfect evening. Friends, food, wine, live music that we definitely sang along to, getting out of the house. Such a lovely time with two of my favorite people and some of my favorite simple pleasures.
  5. Denton Community Market – Maybe I went on opening day? The day I’m remembering was at least one of the first days in April that it was open for the season. I usually avoid DCM early on (let the crowds thin out and the summer veggies show up), but this year I was excited about it. At any rate, my favorite DCM day was the one where I saw (and hugged!) so many friends in person whom I had mostly just seen virtually for the past year.
  6. Maggie and Michelle weekend!!! In late May, Maggie and Michelle came to see me! It was so exciting. We ate delicious things, chatted, and watched TV for a long, luxurious weekend. I miss them so much. The weekend was so fun we decided that it needs to be a yearly(ish) ritual.
  7. In-person gatherings – My Cookbook club, church book club, and Follow the Reader are meeting in person again! We started getting together again about mid-year, and it’s been so nice. 
  8. Spiderweb at the farm – One of CM’s friends has a farm nearby (with sheep! And donkeys!), and we were invited over to lounge in the pool, enjoy the outside and make art a few evenings during the summer. It was an amazing little mid-week reprieve. 
  9. Colorado trip! I actually took a vacation this year. I went with Spiderfriends to a cabin in Colorado where we hiked (well, they hiked. I mostly wheezed and stayed at the cabin), read, played games and enjoyed each other’s company. It was nice to take a real break (from both jobs!) for a few days.
  10. Spiderdead – So many of my best and most memorable days include Spiderweb Salon. I really love these people and the community we have together. I got to help share a friend’s poetry during our yearly grief ritual, and it was a great experience. It was my first time performing on stage at Rubber Gloves, so that made it special to me, too.

The fact that 2021 holds so many best days for me indicates that I had a pretty good year. It hasn’t always felt that way, so this was a nice discovery.

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