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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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First page of new planner. A reminder for when I forget.

I love resolutions. Even the ones I abandon halfway through the year (although I would not mind getting to a place where I don’t get all riled up about something just to fizzle out). I like looking forward and fostering hope for making new magic and dreams (and yes, a little madness). I have a lot of small goals for the year, but they all center on a few themes:

  1. Reading – I exceeded my original goal of 100 books last year (by two!), and so I’ve upped the challenge to 120 this year. I have three book clubs, because I love talking about books with people. I think it would be nice if I did that more here, too. Possible posts to look forward to are periodic recaps of what I’ve read and what I’m about to read. I really love what Brenda at Don’t Stop Believing did here, and I really adored some of the things I read in 2019, so you may see something similar around these parts soon. For this year, my focus is going to be on actually finishing the book club choices before we meet (I did this about 60% of the time last year) and reading some of the hundreds of books on my own shelves that I have squirreled away for “someday.” Someday is 2020.
  2. Writing – I finished Fishbowl in 2018…and then I edited it. Now I need to finish it again, because as it turns out, I have no problem killing my darlings. I may enjoy that too much, actually. So this year’s main writing goal is to get it ready to go to beta readers (yes, Maggie – you first)/an editor. I also have a short story project that I am working on, and I want to continue my microfictions on Ello (anyone else on Ello?). I haven’t posted there in a while, but I have a few that I should be ready to upload by the end of the month. I anticipate writing (maybe performing) something in collaboration with Spiderweb Salon this year, too.
  3. Health – I need to be better at keeping up with doctor’s appointments. Just…all of them. I’m terrible at this. That’s a big goal for the year. With my Pilates practice last year, I re-discovered how good I feel when I’m paying attention to strength and flexibility and alignment (hello again, dance!), so I want to continue to build there.
  4. Work – I want to continue to explore the next direction my work life should go. I don’t have a lot of answers here, but I have lots of advice and guidance. Sifting through all of that. We’ll see.
  5. Word of the year – I wasn’t going to have a word of the year, but then I kept seeing quotes about coming alive or being alive and every one of them made me tear up a little bit so now my word of the year is “alive” and I’m pretty enthused about it. My gut reaction for how to pursue this is through music, dance, learning new things, making beautiful things and feeding people, but I’m leaving the possibilities open. I have a short-term bucket list for the year that includes things like “read a book in Spanish with minimal need for a dictionary” and “start learning sign language” and “walk/run more miles each month”  and “brush up on music theory” and it will be fun to see how many of those I stick to. In related news, I may be in the market for a French horn or trumpet soon. You’re welcome, neighbors (but let’s be honest, you kinda have it coming).

Do you make resolutions? If so, I’d love to hear them!

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I have posted these sentiments before (some of them, a direct copy and paste). Unfortunately, here is one more occasion where it’s necessary to say it again. The tl;dr of the article – UNT’s assistant general counsel, as part of a presentation entitled “When Hate Comes to Campus,” used her platform as a representative of the university speaking on freedom of speech to drop the n-word in her statements.

*sigh*

First, this is an excellent example of how we talk (and talk and talk and omg the talking) about how we are such an inclusive campus, but then things like this happen. How many of our students, staff, and faculty are actually surprised by it? And will there be consequences for this behavior? And if not, will anyone find that surprising?

I hope that there are consequences (specifically, I hope she at least has the good sense to resign or, if she refuses to do so, the university fires her). I know she can self-censor, because she seemed to have no problem doing so in other parts of her presentation. Contrary to what Sewell states, it is indeed possible to talk about the First Amendment without saying horrible things and using hateful language.

Observe:

The First Amendment, truncated for our purposes (but you can read the whole thing here if you want) states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

That is the entirety of what the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees you as a citizen regarding freedom of speech.  With very few exceptions, you can say what you want to say, and it is not against the law.

It protects you from being arrested for speaking your mind.  That would be a violation of your rights.

It protects you from being imprisoned for what you say.  That would be a violation of your rights.

It protects you from legal ramifications.  I suppose, of course, that a person or company could sue you, but, provided that what you said cannot be proven to be libel or slander (examples of those exceptions I mentioned), they would not win unless you have a stunningly incompetent lawyer, because for them to win such a case would be a violation of your rights.

Now let’s discuss some things from which it does not protect you.

It does not protect you from people disagreeing with you and saying so.  That’s just other people exercising their freedom of speech. When preachers show up on the streets lining our campus and people gather and respond in protest of the hateful things they say, that is freedom of speech in action.

It does not protect you from criticism.  Again, that’s just other people having the same rights as you do. See above.

It does not protect you from a professor dismissing you from class when you say something disrespectful or otherwise inappropriate, and the professor gets to decide what is appropriate and what is not, because professors are the ones who are responsible for what happens in their classrooms.

It should not be used to protect a professor or staff member – at any level, to be sure, but particularly those who hold positions of power and thus are inherently tasked with the ethical responsibility of setting the best example – who allows or fosters speech that dehumanizes students or coworkers, because they should be held responsible for what happens on their watch, particularly the things that come out of their own personal mouths.

The Constitution of the United States does not protect you from being reprimanded, suspended, or even fired when you say something that opposes the values of your employer, especially if you are dumb enough to say it at work, in a highly public forum (for example, from behind a podium during a university-sanctioned event), or while being recorded and/or reported.  That you have “never said it in public before” (I…just…omg…so when do you say it, Sewell? What are they teaching in law school, because clearly it’s not how to avoid shoving your foot completely down your throat, which I would think would be a pretty big part of any legal career) is not a defense (also…maybe don’t defend the terrible things you say. At all. Not even a little bit. Maybe just concede that you made a mistake. That’s step one.).

At any rate, having the organization denounce your behavior (at minimum) or fire you when you say things that are in direct opposition to the values the organization claims to hold is not a violation of your rights.  That is your employer being true to the values to which they have committed, regardless of what it might cost them. That is your employer exhibiting integrity, and their response to your behavior is called a consequence, not a violation of your rights.

That is what I want to see from UNT.

Edited to add the university’s official statement made this afternoon:

As many of you are likely aware, UNT System Assistant General Counsel Caitlin Sewell used a racial epithet on Nov. 7 during the “When Hate Comes to Campus” panel discussion on the UNT Campus in Denton. As leaders of the University of North Texas System and the University of North Texas, we are very aware of the impact Ms. Sewell’s comments have had on our community, and we approach the situation with regret and determination.

We strongly believe in a culture that embraces, and vehemently defends, inclusion. While Ms. Sewell was trying to make a point about First Amendment speech, the references used are never condoned in our community, which prides itself on our diversity and caring nature.  

This morning, Ms. Sewell submitted her resignation effective immediately.

In the coming days and weeks, it is our intention to engage in a dialogue with student and campus leaders regarding ways we can continue to foster a culture of diversity that is UNT. In the meantime, UNT counseling resources are available for all students, faculty, and staff.

Lesa Roe
UNT System Chancellor       

Neal Smatresk
UNT President

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My plans are often quite colorful

It’s hard to feel lucky when my food choices only make me feel like napping. Making good choices that fuel my body and that I actually enjoy eating is an important component of my overall well being.

One thing I’m pretty successful at doing is bringing food to work with me most days. I have my meal planning system to thank for this. Even when I don’t do it exactly as I mapped it out in another 31 days series three years ago, I still use most of the tools I have put in place to make sure that I am eating well.

One of the main points of my meal planning series was that a system that does not fit practically into your own life is not going to work, no matter how beautifully it works for anyone else. Many of us have at least a minor chasm between our ideal and our real. So there are opportunities to tweak it. As for me and my house, we employ a lot of shortcuts:

  • While I believe in my heart that dried beans, soaked and slow cooked to perfection, are far superior, I also believe in keeping canned beans for days when I have no slow-cooked beans but want to add them to a meal.
  • While I understand that chicken is not hard to make, I also understand that a rotisserie chicken from the deli or even canned chicken is even easier.
  • While I get the concept of buying a larger size for economy’s sake, I only buy milk in pints, because I only occasionally use it in sauces, and the larger size is in no way economical if I have to pour most of it down the drain after it’s gone sour.

I also know that my life is busy. Ultimately, I might feel luckier/more at peace if I had more time to breathe and slow cook those beans or a whole weekend afternoon to meal prep for the week. That’s the ideal. But the reality is that right now I have two jobs and a fairly active social life, and I like all of it (or at least I like the payoff of doing all of it), so I’m not really looking to ditch large portions of my schedule at this moment. So I also need quick options that I can assemble from start to finish in 20 minutes or less so that I don’t drive through Taco Cabana every night:

  •  Fruit, cheese, crackers, raw veggies, and maybe salami or prosciutto for an impromptu antipasti plate
  • Eggs for a quick frittata or a protein addition on top of rice, pasta, or potatoes
  • A selection of frozen vegetables – no chopping, quick steam
  • Frozen meal-in-a-bag (Bertolli’s is my favorite)

What are some of the ways you get the fuel you need to make it through your day?

 

I’m writing about practical ways of creating luck this month.

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“Poets manage to get into a couplet what I struggle to achieve in an entire book.”
– Louise Penny-

March is the best month (my birth-month), but April is easily in my top five. Never mind that spring is trying to murder me. Never mind that the end of the semester is drawing nigh, and the students (and admittedly, all of us, too) have the -itis. Never mind that I don’t have a free weekend until mid-May. All of that pales in comparison to the fact that April is both National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month.

I mean, that’s really every month with me. But others are more intentional about enjoying both this month, which gives me more opportunity to enjoy poetry and jazz with them.

One of my book clubs is reading and sharing poetry all month. We are having at least three poetry gatherings at a local coffee shop to read together and share our books, which seems like the very best outing I can think of.

So far I have started Don’t Get Your Hopes Up/Moon Woman by Courtney Marie and Fatima-Ayan Maliki Hirsi (two of our local poets) and When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks (not pictured – reading a digital copy). Beautiful verses set a lovely tone for the whole day.

Then at night, I spend an hour or two listening to records as I wind down for bed. I’m looking forward to Arts and Jazz Fest at the end of the month. If you’re in Denton, you should check it out!

“eden all would abandon
to not be alone”
From the collection When Angels Speak of Love by bell hooks

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Lucky

When I started thinking about my word for the year, one word kept coming to mind.

Lucky.

I balked at the word initially. I even tried to Christianize it (I blame my evangelical roots). I thought about blessed, but that fell flat. I believe God blesses me (and will continue to do so), but it seems weird to make goals on God’s behalf. And blessing is more of a noticing and being thankful thing than a make-it-happen thing. I’m very much a make-your-own-luck sort of girl (I think. It’s complicated. See below.). So I’m purposely stepping away from the more Christian-y terms.

I didn’t want lucky to be my word. I wanted something I could control or guide. Something I could actively seek. Something I could plot with color-coded charts and short-term goals that lead up to a big finish. But if it was that easy, wouldn’t everyone be lucky? Okay, not everyone. But as goal-driven and strategic as I am, if that’s the way it worked, wouldn’t it at least be easier for me?

I’m not really feeling lucky. In fact, for a while, I’ve felt like I’m a person for whom things just don’t work out. I’m not really excited about my job and I can’t think of a job I’d be excited about (except professional reader. I would be excited about that. Someone pay me to read.). I don’t have a lot of luck with relationships. Actually, relationships baffle me. I’m baffled about how to make something like that even get started, much less work long term. I think I am okay overall most of the time. Other people have worse luck, to be sure. But I have a nice little ho-hum life where nothing exciting really happens. Nothing that I would consider particularly lucky.

The day before Thanksgiving, I had a minor meltdown that blossomed into a panic attack. The trigger was all too familiar. The morning was going so smoothly until I went to check the oil in my car. It was low, which was not surprising. No big deal. I have been trained since I knew how to drive to always make sure there is oil in the back of my car (and if I lapse, I can always count on a new bottle magically appearing in my trunk when I visit my dad) for just such a circumstance. So I went to add some. The bottles were leaking in my trunk…where I had just put my bags for my trip home. I was so proud that I had made time to be able to load the car before work (plus I was going to be 30 minutes earlier than usual so that there was someone in the office during my coworker’s week off *pats self on back*). Then this. So the precariously stacked deck of “I’m fine – everything’s going just fine” came tumbling down (it did that a lot last year. A LOT.). I cleaned up the oil (thankfully, the bottles were in a larger tub, so the mess was confined to what dripped when I picked it up out of the tub). I moved my bags and all the other items in the trunk that I didn’t want smothered in oil (just in case the tub tipped over on the long trek to the farm) to the backseat (please no one break into my car during the workday). Did not add oil, because at this point, I’m running ridiculously late (so…not early at all, despite my careful preparation), and I had to change my clothes so that I didn’t smell like motor oil all day. Prayed my car made it home (it did, so at least there’s that).

And this is the story that runs through my head:

This wouldn’t have happened if:

– I had a job where I made enough money to afford a car that doesn’t burn oil like that’s its job.

– I knew how to take care of everything in my life with no assistance.

– I had time to take care of everything with no assistance.

– I had some damn assistance. Like…some permanent, obligated-by-legally-binding-contract-but-mostly-assisting-just-because-he-wants-to assistance. Which is to say I want a partner in a way that feels pathetic because I do feel pathetic that I can’t handle everything all the time. Not to say that a person who would be a good match for me would know the first thing about regular car maintenance. But maybe he could do the dishes while I figure it out. That would be nice. To handle things together, or at least to divide and conquer. Or perhaps just to have someone else who has a vested interest in seeing the problem resolved because it affects me and we are linked so the things that affect me affect him, too.

Of course, if I just had that great job, I could afford to outsource everything that I didn’t want to learn how to do. No partner needed. Problem solved. Kinda. Still want the partner. And wanting love is enough reason to have it. (/psa)

This year, I’d like to change this story. Ideally, of course, the part of the story I’d like to change the most is the plot (i.e., add meaningful job + livable wage + partner + etc.). To actually be lucky would be the easiest way to feel lucky.

But when do I do things the easy way? I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself.

I want to start by noticing the ways that I’m already lucky. I’m not talking about putting a positive spin on things that aren’t the way I want them to be. In my experience, that only results in the precariously balanced stack of “fine” that tends to come toppling down at inconvenient times to which I was referring earlier. I’m talking about noticing what I do have working for me so that I’m better equipped to enlist those qualities to change what I don’t like about my life.

I think. I actually have no idea how to turn my luck around. But that’s where I’m starting anyway.

I don’t want to waste time lamenting that I lack the discipline or training or talent or experience to make life work the way others make theirs work. First, I don’t actually think this is true, although I act like I think it’s true when I am feeling wallow-y. Second, there’s nothing stopping me from investing time, discipline, training, etc., in what does work for me.

I need something to work out this year. Not like “oh what a nice birthday I had” (although I do always enjoy it and expect that it will be super fun). But that isn’t enough anymore. The “at least I have my health” stories. I want something big.

I may ask for advice later, but I’m in the stewing stage right now.

I expect lucky to be empowering. And hard. And infuriating. And exciting. And refreshing.

I expect to be lucky this year.

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Friday Five 4

We have a half day at work today, so as of noon, I begin my 1.5-week holiday break! Before I go, though, I want to leave you with five things I loved this week.

  1. I love a well-curated book list. I’m pretty sure these books will make me want to visit/move to Hawaii.
  2. I love this story! Yes, let’s all be superheroes.
  3. I am thinking of taking up cross-stitch again (because my house doesn’t already look enough like Grandma’s). These patterns would be a great place to start.
  4. I feel this post HARD. The advice portion was so freeing that I bought her book.
  5. I told my friend Jessica that I have discovered what I want to be when I grow up – baby big cat swim coach.

Hope your weekend is great!

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This month went by super fast! There was one tree at the beginning of the month in the lot where I park at work that had shed all its leaves (as if to say, “Come on, you guys – it’s time! Don’t be late!” I feel like that tree understands me.), but now they’re all turning/shedding. And I love it.

November has been busy, but happy busy. I had a minor writing delay when my laptop crashed, but my sister and brother-in-law gave me one of theirs, so I’m back on a roll, and just in time for the holidays! Here’s how the month went.

What I’m into reading or listening to:

  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram is a gem of a book. I love the perspective and the sweet friendship he forges when he goes to see his family.
  • I’m getting through Anna Karenina. I recognize that I’m in no position to critique a translation from Russian, as I do not know a lick of Russian, but I’m going to critique it anyway. I’m liking the story line and character development, but I frequently run across a passage where I think, “I bet that was beautiful in Russian. Too bad this phrasing is awkward and awful.” I may check a copy out of the library and see if that goes better.
  • I attending the UNT Jazz Singers’ fall concert/CD release party and picked up their new collection called A Thousand Nights. Highly recommend.

a thousand nights

What I’m into doing:

  • A Club Pilates location opened in Denton, and I am obsessed. I love Pilates on the reformer machines! If you’re in or near Denton, and you’re curious, you can take a free, 30-minute intro session.
  • Our Housing holiday party was fantastic. It was beautiful, the food was awesome, and they gifted everyone with a free ham or turkey. As you can see in the picture at the top, I couldn’t decide what to drink. So many choices. I made them all.
  • I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family. We only made four kinds of candy this year (one didn’t make it into buckets because it was only a small batch). I only suffered a minor burn, which is better than I usually do. I think my family actually enjoys the chocolate-covered salted peanut or pecan clusters I make to use up the excess chocolate more than they like the actual candy.
  • Speaking of chocolates, I refreshed our fair trade stash at church and put out a table with samples of chocolate, coffee, and tea. Hopefully the information I collected there can help guide our purchases better so that the products get bought before they go stale.

What I’m looking forward to:

  • There is a coffee crawl scheduled next weekend, and I’m very excited about it. It’s a fundraiser for the Explorium (a children’s museum in Denton), and I am happy to drink coffee to support them.
  • I’m also very excited about Christmas break. I am looking forward to having that time off.

What are you into these days?

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Day 6 – Roger

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Roger: A Walkie Talkie Production

Jeff: I’ve got a delivery for the director ready. Who wants it?

Cassidy: I’m about to give this family a tour.

Trevor: I have class in five minutes.

Scott: Roger that. I’m on it, boss. Over.

Roger: What? Did someone call me?

Meiya: No…Scott was just letting Jeff know he got the message.

Scott: What? Oh, yeah. Roger that.

Roger: *static noise* What is that? What do I need to do?

Trevor: Nothing, man. Everything’s taken care of.

Roger: Okay. Cool. Let me know if you need me.

Jeff: We’re missing one of the bikes – does anyone know what happened to the red one?

Meiya: I think one of the admins borrowed it for an hour or two.

Scott: No – I have it. I just finished a tour and am heading back to get the director’s delivery.

Jeff: That’s cool. Remember to log your checkouts in the future.

Scott: Roger that. I’ll remember that next time. Over.

Roger: What? I didn’t take it.

Scott: No, I said I have it.

Roger: Oh, I guess I misunderstood. I thought I heard my name.

Cassidy: Scott, stop saying “Roger.” It’s so confusing. We all know you get the message when you respond to it. You don’t need to tell us you got it.

*Pause*

Scott: Roger that, Cassidy.

*Communal groaning*

 

I’m writing 31 days of short stories (although some are more snippets). Click to see the master list.

 

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What I’m always into is the book stack on my bedside table.

This month is the last month Leigh Kramer will be hosting her What I’m Into link-up. I missed the deadline for linking up, but I wanted to take a moment to mention how much I have enjoyed this community of bloggers. Even on the months I didn’t post, I would read through the posts linked there. I love reading about what other people love. This group has multiplied my to-read list, improved my skin care regimen (whoever recommended Acure’s Brilliantly Brightening Day Cream? I am forever indebted.), added to my recipe repertoire, improved my taste in wine, and given me more movie and television recommendations than I could ever finish in three lifetimes. I’m going to miss it, but I’ll still post monthly(ish) updates on what I’m into and, since I follow a lot of the people who were a part of it, perhaps I will link to their posts so you can reap the same benefits I have (albeit on a smaller scale). I’m so grateful to Leigh for hosting for so long!

Right now, I’m getting back into the swing of things as the regular schedule picks back up. Church is busier because all my groups (choir, writer’s group, book club, etc.) are meeting again and also because this year is our 50th anniversary, so we’re planning shenanigans for that. Our service project got rained out last Saturday, but maybe we’ll reschedule on a weekend I’m free.

Speaking of book clubs, I’ve joined yet another one, this time at work. Tomorrow is our first meeting, and we’re discussing Evicted by Matthew Desmond and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I have read Housekeeping before but Evicted is newer. I recommend both, and I’m excited to talk about them tomorrow.

August at work is super busy, but it’s slowing down now. We got the residents moved in and are shuffling them around as we find spaces that aren’t booked and are able to accommodate requests and fill in some off our waitlist. We should be pretty full by the end of September.

I hosted my annual Hemingway party (where the food is good yet simple, like his prose, and the party is alcohol-laden, like the author himself) late this year, so the crowd was smaller. We still had a good time. It’s always fun to catch up with people.

This month, I’m looking forward to the Denton Blues Festival (this weekend!) and having a little time off from work.

 

What are you into these days?

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