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This was my first week back in the office after working from home since last August. There was quite a bit of adjustment, but nothing I didn’t expect. At least there were no surprises?

I expected that my focus would be down with other people around, and that has been somewhat true but it’s not been as bad as I thought it would be. I expected I would not like getting up even earlier in order to commute. Accurate. Commuting is a ridiculous use of time. Consoling myself by listening to Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris on audio during the daily drives.

Five things I have enjoyed about coming back to campus:

  1. Automatic daily walk. Depending on how far away I have to park from the building (I’m not buying a permit for three and a half months because 1) no and 2) stubborn), just by getting from my car to the building and back to my car I am automatically getting in an extra 10-15 minutes of walking a day.
  2. Random free snacks. In related news, I have a new donut place near my house I need to visit some weekend.
  3. Seeing coworkers face to face has been nice.
  4. Not hearing every. step. my. upstairs. neighbor. takes. all. day. Last night it was as loud as usual, and I didn’t even care because my psyche had not been beaten down all day long by unnecessary stomping noises. Note to self: next time I work from home, make sure the job pays well enough that I can live in a building with no one else above me.
  5. Since our phone system is now through MS Teams, I have a headset. This is the reason my focus has been better. When I’m not doing anything in particular, I can still hear through them but if it’s loud in the office when I’m trying to do something, I just play some soothing music to drown it out.

Overall, not too bad a week! Have a good weekend!

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Today is the last day I will be working from home. I go back to the office tomorrow to staff the spring closedown/summer opening transition. A lot of transitions are happening right now.

Here are five things I’m particularly into/experiencing this month:

  • The fox family living in Susannah Conway’s backyard. I am so in love with these little darlings. Today we were happy to learn that, after a brief absence, the mama fox is still with them. I am riveted. One of them may or may not be my new background on my phone.
  • Drinking more water. It’s amazing (and by amazing, I do mean just basic biology) how much better I feel when I’m hydrated. To aid with this goal, I made a sub-goal of drinking a full bottle of water (20 oz.) first thing in the morning. This sometimes goes well and sometimes I lean back on “well, at least a full bottle by the time I finish my first cup of coffee.” That works really well, unless you take into account days like today where I put off taking the last swig of my first cup of coffee until mid-afternoon so that I can still meet my goal (see below). *sigh* Baby steps.
  • Coconut ice cream/gelato. I just love it. Specifically, the Talenti Caribbean Coconut. So good.
  • Easing back in to gatherings. This past year, I have learned a lot about myself and the people around me (metaphorically, as there have been few people actually around me). I have learned the difference between a barrier and a boundary. The next few weeks bring some long-awaited in-person reunions, and I’m very excited about that.
  • Knitting something I might actually wear. My box sweater has become longer and it’s so soft. I’m halfway through, so maybe I’ll get around to finishing it soon.

What are you into lately?

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Books and mascots and dressing up for the intrawebs

That may be the most introvert-y title I’ve ever written.

In a lot of ways, this pandemic/work/socialize-from-home situation has been rough. My mental health is not its best self ever. Or, rather, it has been more work to take care of it. I don’t think prolonged isolation is good for anyone, and I’ve definitely had challenges that I expected as well as those I did not. I have needed to take many more precautions and call on more support than usual in order to function.

Other distinct pockets of my life have (dare I say it?) flourished. After the initial shock wore off (this is the theme, really), I have been able to adapt in several ways that sort of flow together but also are each their own separate issue:

  1. Reading – For a few months, I wasn’t able to concentrate to read at all. But now that I have at least an extra hour per night to add to my regular reading time that I was spending just driving from work and then to-and-from whatever meeting I had on that particular evening, I am reading about 100 pages a day. My reading goal took a hit from those missing months, but I may still read more books than I read last year.
  2. Productivity – Working from home makes me super efficient. Having more control over my work setting allows me to get through emails much more quickly, and I don’t feel rushed on phone calls. I miss my coworkers, of course, but my productivity (and thus my motivation) is thriving. We are closing one of our buildings at the end of the semester, and I was able to give significant help in getting those students moved over, and this would have been a lot harder/more stressful in the office.
  3. Sense of self – It’s been interesting to see the habits that have dropped off and stayed gone and the ones that I have either continued or picked up. I was surprised to see the things that I do, say, wear, etc., to make others more comfortable and things I do, say, wear, etc., to show up as who I really am. It will be interesting to see how (or if) I adjust back to old habits that I find stifling once I’m out in the public again most days.
  4. Consistency – Each month, I make myself a chart that has goals I want to focus on that month. It’s usually a mix of habits I want to build and the things I know I need to stay grounded and at peace. If you’ve been around here a while, you know my goals tend to be…lofty. But I’ve been meeting them better than usual. In fact, the last time I was this consistent with eating well, dancing, playing the keyboard, exercising, etc., was in my early to mid-twenties when I was performing regularly. While I’m not performing right now (well, not a lot – I do have a piece in the virtual SPIDERDEAD show tomorrow night), I am excited about how well I’ve been staying on track with things that are important to me.
  5. Creativity – All the others kinda lead in to this one. When I have the time (and the ability) to focus on what I want in life, my creativity thrives. I have so many project ideas, and I’ve been consistently writing toward my NaNoWriMo project. I also have a 31 days blog series coming up in December that I hope you will enjoy. I look forward to getting to collaborate with people again, but for now this will do.

I hope you are finding some moments of joy or clarity or focus or whatever you are needing right now.

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My desk in my home office has become the place where I both work and play. Not at the same time, of course.

I’m eight days away from being home for two months. I have enjoyed parts of it. Other parts of it? Not so much. But I have made some changes.

  1. Becoming infinitely pickier about the people I take advice from. This pandemic has rekindled an old inclination that I had almost forgotten. I am all for free speech. But while everyone may have a right to their opinion, as easy as credible sources are to come by, there’s really few legitimate excuses for not using them, and failure to do so will likely earn my disdain. Therefore, not everyone’s opinion matters to me. If someone really wants me to hear them out, I will probably listen. But they have to earn my trust and belief, two things I no longer give out easily.
  2. Spending less time on Facebook. My Instagram feed is pretty well-curated to include only things I enjoy and people I love and want to keep up with. My Facebook feed is a hot mess. It only takes a couple of swipes to run into some sort of foolishness I absolutely cannot abide. Yes, I could unfriend them or snooze them, or I could engage with the posts by posting my opposing opinion civilly. But is that really a productive use of my time? I don’t think it is. I am keeping Facebook for my groups, the pages I run, happy birthday messages, and maybe a couple of quick feed perusals a day, just to see if there’s anything worthwhile in those first few seconds before I hit a wall of dumb. So if you’re seeing fewer likes from me than usual, don’t fret. It’s probably not you. It’s probably all those other assholes.
  3. Cursing more. Arbitrary language etiquette is ridiculous, and I just don’t fucking care anymore. You’re welcome. [I’ll try to hold back if there are children afoot. But that’s it.] [I reserve the right to look back on this in the future as a phase. Language choice is important. I do believe that in general. But currently? See note above re: I don’t fucking care.]
  4. Supporting local businesses more. When given the choice, I already tend to favor local businesses over chains. They make Denton what I want it to be, and I am a big fan of voting with my dollar. I’ve gone a bit into overdrive lately, though. Every Sunday (and beyond – I actually have plans for the next three weeks already), I list at least three businesses I want to remember to support that week. Monday and Friday nights are designated as potential takeout nights. The majority of my groceries have been purchased from local farms or businesses that are offering curbside or delivery as one of their temporary services (although I would be fully on board with this becoming a forever thing. It’s fantastic. Note to self: find a great co-op to support.). Both wine and fancy cheese are being delivered to my doorstep on a regular basis. This summer, I want to add more greenery with houseplants and maybe tomatoes from local stores and nurseries. If you’re local and you need a suggestion for something, I probably have one.
  5. Taking better care of myself. When I started doing my temporary work-from-home thing, I was like, “Hey, I’ll go walking more.” I have not gone walking more. Walking alone is dull, and Texas is hot. Instead, I have been keeping active with some modified (because my floors are hard and my knees are old) Pilates classes, living room dance parties for one, and a strengthening challenge (although that, too, quickly exceeded my ability to keep up with it. With one exception. Two-minute plank? I got you. It took a year and a half of regular Pilates practice, but I got you.). And because I’ve been intentionally focusing my financial support on local places, I have had no fast food in two months and have been cooking more (because omg so many vegetables in a farm box). I have been dealing with my regular stomach problems and allergies and anxiety (and some days are worse than others. Looking at you, today. You jerk.), but other than that, I feel amazing.

Have you made (intentionally or not) any changes recently?

 

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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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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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I’ve been needing an extra dose of both kindness and grace (both in remembering to give them and also in wanting to receive them) lately, so it makes sense that these five items stuck out to me over the last few weeks.

  1. I often find both in Haruki Murakami’s work. This musing over how he writes women was intriguing to me. Favorite quote – “The narrator of ‘Sleep’ was the first woman in fiction I could truly recognize as a person.”
  2. I can’t verify the journalistic prowess of Daily Live Online, but even if this story is totally parabolic, it still makes a nice point.
  3. THE BABIES IN THE MR. ROGERS SWEATERS. I just don’t have enough hearts to love this as completely as it deserves.
  4. An interpretation of the Mary and Martha story that doesn’t make me want to punch Jesus in the throat (sorry, Jesus, but…you’re familiar with me. You know.).
  5. I love Jenny Lawson so much. So proud (is it weird to be proud of someone you’ve never actually met?) of how she handled this.

Tell me kindness stories. What have you noticed this week?

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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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Friday Five 4

There’s a meme going around on social media that asks you to list the five shows that you would have someone watch to get a good sense of you and your taste. Yesterday, a coworker asked me to identify my favorite fandom. These tasks were harder than you might think.

I love TV. I don’t get to watch it very often, and I certainly don’t keep up with shows very well, as I do not have cable and forget to keep up with streaming. But I love TV the same way I love all storytelling. I think the stories we choose to tell and the ones we pay attention to do say a lot about us.

So here is my attempt at answering the 5-show question.

  1. Ally McBealAlly McBeal was on the air when I was in grad school. It resonated with me on several levels. Ally’s struggle with feminism and trying to hone who she was as a woman in the world sort of mirrors what I was sifting through at the time, and that was what drew me to the show. What got me hooked, though, was its portrayal of loneliness and what that looks like on different people. As someone who has felt alone/lonely for large portions of my life, I often feel misunderstood when writers try to address the issue. They almost always get it wrong (or, at least, wrong for me). Ally McBeal was right on the money. Also, John Cage is my favorite TV character of all time, so there’s that.
  2. The Newsroom – I knew an Aaron Sorkin show had to make the list. I like every show of his I’ve watched. I admire the way he writes. I love The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But I love The Newsroom the most. It speaks to the importance of integrity and being great at whatever you choose to do. Where it really wins with me, though, is the rampant idealism, often expressed through the Don Quixote theme that runs through it.
  3. FireflyFirefly is my fiesty side. I grew up watching…no, that’s inaccurate…being subjected to westerns. Traditional westerns are hard for me, because I didn’t always see the “good guy” as someone who was all that good. A lot of them were jerks, frankly. Even when the characters on Firefly are jerks, though, there is usually a reason behind it that is consistent with a code of honor that I can get on board with.  And in this world, people who are different aren’t necessarily wrong. In fact, people who are different seem perfectly capable of operating a ship in the middle of nowhere just fine. Firefly is what I wish all westerns were.
  4. Elementary – I love all things Sherlock Holmes. Love the books, love (almost) every interpretation that’s been filmed. Elementary stands out, though. I particularly like this version of Sherlock and Mycroft. I also love that Watson is female in this series. I like gender bending original stories, and this show does it well.
  5. Pushing Daisies – A theme you may have noticed in this list is an absolute adoration of whimsy. Pushing Daisies is my favorite whimsical show. The writing is perfect. The characters are amazing, and the acting is fantastic. It’s a tragedy that it only lasted two seasons.

I’ve watched Gilmore Girls so often I can quote it, but it’s often just background noise. So that doesn’t really scream “reflect me and my taste” to me. Smallville is the only fandom I kept up with for any length of time while it was happening, and I am definitely a sucker for superhero shows (Flash. Arrow. Supergirl [omg Cat Grant!].). But there were seasons where the fandom critiques and fanfiction were all that got me through it. The five shows listed do a great job of reflecting my general taste.

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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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