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“May your coming year be filled with magic and reams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” Neil Gaiman

Every year, I write this quote on the first notes page of my new planner. When I read through my 2020 planner, it made me cry, not only because of some of the things I missed but also because of how much of this sweet wish actually came true. It wasn’t at all in the ways I expected, but I guess that’s part of the surprise.

In Joy the Baker’s “Let It Be Sunday” post last week, she talked about goal setting as making deposits on your dreams. I love that perspective. Each year during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I reflect on the last twelve months and tweak the goals that need a little nudge to get me closer to who and where I want to be. As I mentioned yesterday, I reflect and adjust throughout the year, but this is the time that I always have some days off work to really dig in.

Here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Read 120 books. Third time’s the charm? I don’t know what will happen this year, but I know that I’m more myself when I’m reading regularly. As long as the focus to do so remain constant, ten books a month is a pretty reasonable pace for me, and when I have a little extra time off, I read even more (thus the 13 I read in November and the 15 in December). The theme for this year’s reading is community. I’m in three local book clubs that meet live every month, another one that discusses primarily through a Facebook group (Fantastic Strangelings), and a new one that Roxane Gay is leading. A friend at work is also organizing some of us to participate in the Pop Sugar challenge. I love talking about books with fellow lit lovers.
  2. My current career plans are to retire from UNT when I’m eligible in nine and a half years and then embark on my second (third? fourth? Who’s keeping track, really?) career as a full-time writer. To this end, I will need to have established a strong second income already, which I have already begun working on. I wrote 250,000 words in freelance articles in 2020, and for 2021, I want to push to finish 300,000 words. This means an average of 6,000 words a week, which is a lot but also reasonably doable.
  3. One thing I have become acutely aware of this past year is how the spaces in my home are technically functional but not really inviting. I want to fix that this year, and I have weekly goals for doing so mapped out. Even if I’m the only one who enjoys them, I am reason enough to make them as cozy as possible.
  4. You know what would also be great dream to realize? Becoming a better/more confident artist. I mean, I’ll perform anyway, but I would like it to take less intense and sudden practice, particularly when I’m performing with other artists who regularly put in the time to be prepared for such things. The first ten years I played piano, my mom made me practice an hour a day to justify the lessons she was paying for. It was not always convenient or easy, but it sure was handy to be able to sub in with little to no warning when someone needed me to. At the height of the time I was performing regularly, I danced 10-15 hours a week (and my legs were phenomenal). I also was more aware of how food affected my body and paid more attention to strength so that I didn’t get injured. I have so many writing projects started, and I want people to be able to read them in their entirety at some point. So I have a lot I want to accomplish. I don’t expect myself to carve out an extra 25 hours a week right now, but I can build toward more consistency. To this end, I am putting aside an hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights as well as two hours each Saturday, to give myself time to make personal art practice a specific, regular part of my schedule. For January, I’m going to practice each of the three genres (writing, dance, piano) at least three times a week, and I’ll expand/adapt once I am consistently doing that. My hope is that by the end of the year, I’m closer to the 25-hour mark than the 5-hour one.
  5. Pursue joy. Joy is my word of the year, and as you may have been noticing in the 31 days series (which we’re just shamelessly going to continue until it’s done, ignoring the fact that the 31 original days for which it was intended have passed), I have a lot to say about it already. You can expect a few updates a month, and I’m going to be reading at least one book a month with joy in the title. The first one I started with the blog series was Surprised by Joy (which I expect to finish within the week). January has three selections by the same author – Jennifer McCartney’s The Joy of Being Online All the F*cking Time, The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place, and The Joy of Doing Just Enough. In a month where everything else is certain to be pretty intense, I expect these books will bring a little levity.

Do you make resolutions? If not, do you have goals you’re working toward? I’d love to hear about them!

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Some of my favorite images from the year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye, 2020.

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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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Coffee for two is my favorite (and most elusive) kind of coffee.

I’ve been posting snippets of a story project entitled “How To Unbreak Your Heart” on my writer page on Facebook. This has brought up thoughts about how people respond to those who are hurting. We’re not always great at it. We may say too much that’s not helpful, forcing someone who is already dealing with loneliness and the exhausting grief that comes with it to decide whether to make sure that we know our intention is appreciated while feeling utterly misunderstood or to be honest and risk being more misunderstood and rejected as a result. Or we, knowing that trying to say the right thing is such a fucking minefield, avoid it altogether and just hope everything turns out okay (you know, after they get past the extra alone feeling that comes with apparently having no one to talk to about it).

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have most of them. But I may have one.

When someone you care about is heartbroken, it’s natural to want to ease that for them. One way people have tried to do this for me is by telling me their own harried love stories of doing everything wrong and still getting the relationship, or stories of people who found love despite the odds against them. I’m certain it was meant to help me understand that such things are also possible for me.

It did not do this. Not in that particular moment.

You see, once upon a time, I loved a boy. He liked me just fine and for a moment thought maybe I was a possibility but chose someone else instead. I was dealing with it and would be doing okay(ish), but then I would see one of his posts about how happy she made him, and then I’d have a fresh wound to tend to. As someone who loved him, I loved seeing him happy. As someone who loved me, I hated that it was with someone else.

I felt really bad about feeling that way for a long time. I felt like a bad friend because I couldn’t just get over it. I felt like a failure when I followed friends’ advice to stop following him on social media – to stop seeing all his posts about how happy he was with someone else – in order to heal. I felt like more of a failure when doing so didn’t help me heal any faster. We lost touch, and I still regret the role I played in that. I still miss the great friendship we could have had.

Anyway, when I hear these stories, especially when I’m deep in the throes of loneliness, that’s what comes up for me. I imagine similar memories surface for other people who have been rejected a lot, too.

Does that mean I don’t want to hear about my friends’ happiness? Of course not. I love it when they share the great things going on in their lives, and I especially love seeing people who have experienced romantic deserts similar to my own finally find someone they adore who has the good sense to adore them, too. I’m thrilled for them. I even seek these stories out if I have just gotten back from a boring date or ended the fifth lackluster, going-nowhere online flirtation of the month as a reminder that trying to meet someone doesn’t always end up being a complete waste of time. And you better believe I’ll be posting some stories of my own should such a miraculous happenstance ever occur for me.

No matter how happy I am for friends who fall in love, though, these stories bring up other feelings, too. I can’t help but wonder how many broken hearts or dashed hopes their blissful union left in its wake. I’ll likely wonder the same even if in the future I post such things. People don’t always tell you when you hurt them, and it’s not the happy couple’s fault or something they could have even avoided, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The pain still exists, and bombarding someone who confesses that they are having a rough time of it with stories of other people who got the love that they, too, deserve, is not an encouragement. It’s a cruelty.

I know it’s hard to know how to respond to this particular type of grief. There are so many ways to get it wrong and seemingly few ways to get it right. As a person with a lot of experience playing the role of the not-chosen in these scenarios, I have some tips to minimize the likelihood of messing it up.

Pay attention. Listen to what they say and acknowledge their feelings. Pain is uncomfortable, but my best, most trusted friends are the ones who accept my pain as valid without trying to minimize it or cheer me up. My friends can sit in some pain. It’s really quite extraordinary and really shows me how much they not only love me but respect me. Because on top of the pain, your friend may feel embarrassed or foolish about the situation and thus may think they don’t have a right to feel the way they do. But their pain isn’t wrong, and affirming that can be so helpful. When hurtful things happen, it’s reasonable and healthy to feel hurt. What’s not reasonable or healthy is trying to convince them they shouldn’t.

Stop with the advice. Just stop. First, your friend probably already has an ongoing feed in their head of “If I’d just done or said this, maybe things would have turned out differently.” None of those things are actually true (i.e., when someone loves you, it takes a lot to kill that love, and when they don’t, it’s not something they can be talked into), and the last thing they need at that moment is a parrot of their asshole inner critic. If you truly think you have some insight that you really must share, jot it down and tuck it away for later when they can receive it and thus actually benefit from it. The midst of their pain is not the time or place.

Second, I don’t care how smart you are – you can’t fix it.

Let me repeat.

You. Cannot. Fix. It.

The problem at hand is that they wanted and hoped to be with someone who chose not to be with them. Unless you are in the unique position of not only being that someone but also having the capacity and will to love and choose them back, there’s not a damn thing you can do to resolve the problem. So quit acting like you can. The only thing your attempts to do so are likely to accomplish when they’re already feeling raw and vulnerable is to reinforce their suspicions that there’s something so wrong with them that they have to fix it in order to be lovable.

Encourage them to trust what they need to do next. This is so hard, especially when you think you know better. Odds are that you don’t, though. Different people heal differently. You may need to bounce back from rejection by trying something (or someone) new, but they may need to embrace the wallow for a bit. Some people need to cut all ties because when their hopes for a relationship die, trying to settle for anything less seems unbearable. Some people need to keep in touch, because the thought of losing the person they love not only as a partner but also as a friend seems unbearable. Don’t tell them to do something just because it’s what works for you.

This was long and rambly but it helped me a little to write it out. Hope there’s something here that can help you, too.

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Check In

_I don't know what to say to that._ _That's the most honest you've ever been._

A little bit of my microfiction project

It’s been a minute since I’ve checked in, so I wanted to say hi.

Hi. How are you? What are you up to these days? What are you learning? Where are you finding beauty? Or peace? Or – dare I hope it – joy?

A small recap of my days:

  1. Coffee. One cup of strong coffee that I gulp down on my way to work, as my current work environment is not conducive to nursing it lovingly throughout the morning.
  2. Go to work. Yes, at the office. Wearing masks all day because we’re in public. “But Suzanne,” you wonder. “Can’t you do 100% of your job from home?” Yes. Yes, I can. But apparently there are a lot of hoops to jump through when you are required to go through HR to get permission. In related news, I need to make an appointment with my new doctor. Hope they can fit me in before September.
  3. Dinner and down time. I’ve been trying to rebudget to support local businesses more. Ergo, I’ve been eating a lot of simpler things so that I can splurge more often. I really enjoy it. This week, I’m eating chili pasta, salads, and breakfast for dinner. I’ve been rewatching Revenge, Scandal, Leverage, and Bones recently, so I usually watch one of these shows each night.
  4. Meetings. Most nights I still have some meeting, even though they’re online. This week, it’s text study, a couple of book clubs, and church council. Looking forward to a workshop with Spiderweb Salon on Sunday afternoon.
  5. Writing. My second job is a writing job, so I spend a few hours every evening (at least Monday-Thursday) doing that. At least once a week, I have a light load of assignments so that I can make time for some creative writing. I have the focus of a puppy right now, particularly by that time of the day, so I’m working on my microfiction project (see example above).
  6. Reading. I am reading more slowly these days, so I am focusing on what we’re talking about in book clubs before I delve into other things. I just finished Where’d You Go, Bernadette? for book club this week, and I liked it even more than I liked the movie. I listened to the audio version, though, and I do not recommend it if you have hearing-related sensory issues. There was background music throughout it and sometimes it was hard for me to hear the reader over the music. I’m reading White Fragility with another group and The Speed of Trust with a group from work, and I am really enjoying those discussions. Our church group is talking about A Better Man this month, and I am always happy to re-read Louise Penny. This is a choose-your-own-adventure month in Spiderweb’s Follow the Reader, and I love foodie memoirs, so I’m reading From Scratch by Tembi Locke and now I need to go to Italy even more than I already did. Someday.
  7. Bed. I’ve been rocking my skincare routine lately. I think the ritual is comforting. Bedtime consists of a full bottle of water on the nightstand and a good sleep playlist.
  8. Weekends are nice. I’m getting used to having weekends mostly free again. I forgot what that was like. In a word? Glorious. Remind me of this in the future when we all get busy again and I forget how much I need easy weekends.

Loneliness? Check.

Restlessness? Check.

Rapidly veering more steadily toward chaos and anarchy? Check.

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My first small, imperfect peaches of the season. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To eat my veggies and stay hydrated.

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

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

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

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I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s April Love challenge on Instagram, and today’s prompt is “five things about me.” So here goes:

  1. I have a sister who is one of my favorite people. She lives in a state of delight, getting excited about every joy. It’s captivating. I did not always want a sister, though. The whole time my mom was pregnant, I kept saying I was having a brother. I talked about it, prayed for it, dreamed about it. When a sister was born, I was flummoxed. It didn’t make sense to me. Our family already had a girl (me) so we needed a boy to make everything balance out. Gender roles were a big deal and part of my raising, so I figured a brother would have the necessary skills and traits to complement my own. So obviously I thought a mistake had been made and I wanted to speak to the manager. Offended at the audacity of God to deny my request and armed with a supreme practicality (even at the age of three), I set out to find ways to remedy this situation. I called her Tommy for the first three weeks of her life, perhaps hoping it would catch on. MeMaw told me that, if she kissed her elbow, she would turn into a boy. Excellent. Finally, an actual solution! I often snuck into her room to talk her into doing it herself. When she did not comply, I tried to help (don’t worry – no little sisters were actually harmed in the making of this story. I didn’t want to hurt her. Also, her crying would have alerted Mom to my subterfuge, so…not prudent.). But at some point, I discovered how rich life can be with a sister, and I’ve been pleased to call her mine (and also by her actual name) ever since.
  2. I grew up in a small town in the panhandle of Texas, and my parents still live on the farm there. When you grow up in an environment with a lot of narrow, rigid rules and expectations where compliance is valued over authenticity, you learn a few key skills, particularly if you do not naturally fit within those rules/expectations. I learned to pretend that I did by only revealing the aspects of my person that were deemed acceptable. As a result, to this day, it’s pretty difficult to get to know me because I walk into every social situation trying to figure out which parts of me are acceptable there. I’m getting better, but I’m still trying to work out how to turn that off. On the upside, I can get along with just about anybody. I can cheat the system.
  3. A better upside to growing up where you don’t belong is that, to make room for all that I couldn’t reveal, I developed a pretty large, pretty spectacular inner world. I have this world to thank for all the characters I’ve created and every story I’ve ever written. When I have a big decision to make, it’s a great place to walk through various potential outcomes. All my best decisions have been made there. It taught me the pleasure of my own company. It’s not a suitable substitute for actual intimacy, but it’s coming in really handy right now in the isolation
  4. Talk to me for even five minutes, and you’ll probably hear about something I’m reading.  I’ll suddenly get really animated and bouncy about it. I love books. I have a large collection, and I read 4-5 books at a time. I like choices, and this allows me to choose the one that most fits my mood or is in an audio format that allows me to knit or doodle at the same time. In addition to the books we’re discussing at my various (four…maybe five if I finish in time to join the discussion for the daytime book club at church) book clubs this month, I’m currently reading my Isabel Allende collection in the order she wrote them. I’ve read some of them before, but I’m excited about re-reading each of them when it’s their turn.
  5. I have so much yarn. On the one hand, I’m glad. I’ve been able to share some of it and also I am in zero danger of running out of things to knit (Keep Denton Warm is gonna be chock full of blankets, scarves, and hats this year. If that’s a thing we get to do. Someone, somewhere will need them. Surely.). But I thought I had it all organized last year and I just found another bag this week. *sigh* I come from a long line of yarn hoarders.

 

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Sweet note on the dry erase board in the office this week

We are finally working from home. The students no longer are answering the telephone. We are having our first Zoom meeting tomorrow morning to check in. Denton’s stay-at-home order kicks in tomorrow night. I have plenty to do here to keep me busy, as my apartment looks like a tornado hit it (yes, ’tis the season, but in this case, just a simile) and thus is in desperate need of some attention.

Also I have books. Hundreds of books.

But I also need a little structure to maintain even a little bit of a sense of well-being. I can’t be alone in my house for weeks (months?) on end with no structure.

My goal checklist that I’ve been using this year to track the progress of my resolutions has thus far been extremely helpful for helping remain calm(ish). Every day I’m home all day, I make sure I’m:

  • drinking enough water
  • practicing Spanish, either through the Duolingo app or by reading a book in Spanish while keeping the dictionary close
  • dancing, whether for just a 10-minute break or a Zumba video or an online dance class (the tap classes Chloe Arnold is hosting through Instagram? Very cathartic. Highly recommend.)
  • exercising with Pilates on demand or with something that helps me stretch/strengthen
  • playing the keyboard (currently brushing up on some theory)
  • doing at least one thing to rest or pamper myself (e.g., relaxing foot soak, face mask, nap, etc.)
  • working on a crafty/creative project (e.g., knitting, poetry, coloring, etc.)
  • picking a different small area of the apartment to clean each day
  • taking a walk (weather permitting)
  • finishing the daily to-do list (e.g., keeping up with bills, checking in with friends, etc.)

I’m also taking the free Yale course, “The Science of Well-Being”. I’m just in the introduction, but I can already tell I’m going to like it.

I knew this weekend that I needed to go ahead and put these things in place now. I had a whole weekend at home. Normally, this would delight me. A whole free weekend? Paradise. But I spent a lot of the time overwhelmed and anxious and terribly lonely, despite the fact that I had a lot of interaction online. I thought when this started that this experience would be a good test of whether or not I could really work from home, but I may need reminders that this is a whole other animal. It’s not going to give me an accurate picture of what working from home would really be like.

What adjustments are you making to make this phase of life work?

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It’s the International Day of Happiness. This week has been w.e.i.r.d., to say the least. I’ve had a few panic attacks, and I’m still at work as we try to accommodate students who have nowhere else to go and figure out what in the world we’re going to do next (I would welcome faster decisions here…I’m just sayin’.). But there’s also been so many opportunities for joy. Just in my little corner of humanity, there is so much goodness. There are also so many fun things online. Here’s a list for times when you’re feeling more anxious than happy or just want something hopeful.

  1. Italians singing from their balconies.
  2. Lots of love happening on the ‘gram. Nikki Mayeaux is posting a daily creative prompt called Poem Passwords. The pictures on #seeninquarantine are spectacular. Between her early start for April Love and purrs from her sweet cat, Susannah Conway is soothing my soul. Julia Turshen is posting daily foodie prompts. I love this list from worn_ware of people offering yoga, meditations, etc.
  3. Tessera Arts Collective in Philadelphia closed the gallery for now, but they are still on for installing a street art campaign throughout the city this Sunday.
  4. Local businesses that can’t afford to shut down completely are making the best of it with delivery and curbside pickup. The Dentonite is keeping a running list. I love watching local business owners figure out how to take care of their employees by offering alternate earning opportunities and giving devoted patrons the ability to still tip their baristas/servers (*cough* support Golden Boy *cough*). Also…Golden Boy has key lime and coconut pie right now, which are in my top three favorite pies (blueberry is the third, if you’re wondering).
  5. Aid Network Denton and the city of Lake Dallas are keeping up a list of ways to get help or get involved if you can give help.
  6. Nature is delightful. The canals are clear and the swans are back in Venice. And penguins at the Shedd Aquarium enjoy a tour of the zoo.
  7. Since you can’t go in person, many field trip locations and entertainment venues are coming to you. You may also be able to watch the stage production of your favorite musical online. The Metropolitan Opera is streaming. Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeted himself playing “All I Ask of You”, and Lin Manuel Miranda responded with his performance of “Everything’s Alright”. Yale is offering their course on The Science of Well-Being for free (audit only).
  8. For artists whose income is impacted by all the cancellations, here’s a list of places that may be able to offer support.
  9. Books resources! I didn’t know how much I needed Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog in my life until this week. In fact, many children’s authors are reading their books online this week. And one that made me salivate – download from a selection of over 300,000 books for free from the New York Public Library through their reader app!!!
  10. Debbie Allen is teaching online dance classes! So is Chloe Arnold!
  11. Joy the Baker is just a delight. As usual.
  12. People are putting their Christmas lights back up to spread joy.
  13. All the Julia Child is streaming!!
  14. What am I doing this weekend? I’m so glad you asked! 24in48’s Social Distancing Readathon!

I’m sure there’s more. What are your favorite things people are doing right now?

 

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Coffee Shop, Excerpt 2

photo 2 (16)

An ode to and appreciation of things not possible right now

“You changed seats.”

It takes a minute to realize you’re talking to me. I peel my eyes from the page and give you a once-over that I don’t intend to give.

You seem to enjoy it, but I blush anyway, caught in an unguarded reaction. I’m usually so careful. This is disconcerting.

I like and also do not like it.

You shift your weight, and I remember that it’s my turn to say things. But I can’t think of anything but how beautiful your lips are, and that seems non sequitur. Even I know that.

So I stick with, “What?”

You grin. It probably reaches your eyes, but I don’t have the courage to make my gaze go there yet. So I just have to trust that it does.

Trust is not an easy feat.

You pull up a chair and sit down, as if we planned to meet here. As if you understand that, of course, you’re welcome. I think that takes an enormous level of confidence.

I like and also envy that.

“You usually sit closer to the window.” You caress the rim of your cup with your beautiful lips and seduce the coffee out of it. I should look away, but I can’t seem to do so and also do not want to.

“The seat I like was taken when I got here, and I feel bad moving now.”

Your lips purse into a slight frown. Confusion? Question? Maybe feeling bad requires more explanation?

I continue, just in case. “That’s one more table that has to be wiped down. If I use both.” I shrug in what I hope is a nonchalant way, but I somehow doubt it comes across that way. I can’t often pull off nonchalance. “This one is fine. For today.”

I venture a glance at your eyes, but they’re so attentive, so intense. And blue. So blue.

I like that, but it’s a lot, and I have so many feelings, so I look down at my scone, which is also lovely but in a fully manageable way.

“Is it okay that I’m sitting here?”

It occurs to me that I might not seem like I want you here. Like this is an intrusion. Like I didn’t purposely choose this seat closer to where you usually sit when you come in, even though the seat by the window offers a superior view and was actually completely open when I arrived.

“Yes! Please stay!” Too much? Too exuberant? I force myself to meet your eyes.You’re smiling, so I decide to try a little bravery. “I like it.” Your smile deepens and your dimples show.

Wow. The effects of bravery are awesome. I think I’ll try some more.

“You. I like you.”

My eyes can’t hold your gaze any longer, and I’m afraid as soon as it leaves my lips that it’s too much after all. I’m usually so guarded. Right up the point when I’m really not. And that’s the point things usually fall apart.

I feel my face grow hot again. I can’t look up, but this time, that’s a good thing, because looking at the table gives me an excellent view of your hand gently touching mine.

“Good,” you reply. “I like you back.”

I look up just in time to see your lips stretch into a smile again.

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