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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I’m cheating this month. I refuse to narrow down my choices to five. One might argue that it’s my own rule and I can break it or change it however I like, and that’s what I’m doing. Instead of choosing just five of the books I read last month to gush over, I’m going to gush over three books separately and then talk about the five favorites from a particular genre.

Agatha of Little Neon was Follow the Reader’s selection last month. The main character is a nun (sister? The distinction was made in the book, and I think she’s a sister, not a nun. I was that day years old when I learned this.), and the overall theme was friendship and its quirks. It was easy to relate to her, especially those moments when she felt like part of the group but also an outsider. My favorite line from the book was “It’s my belief that many men sleep too soundly at night.” Same, Agatha.

I gave Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris five stars on Goodreads. I was utterly charmed by this book. I’m a sucker for good, character-driven stories. It was quirky and witty and a delight to read.

Of course, I want to listen to Viola Davis narrate her memoir Finding Me. I would listen to Viola Davis read a grocery receipt. This book broke my heart and made me cheer. Parts of it are hard, but she’s a fantastic storyteller. Highly recommend.

Summer is the time for beach reads, which for me can mean anything from foodie fiction or books about books that I can imagine myself finishing in a few hours while drinking a mai tai and listening to the waves to a story that actually has the beach as a setting. In other words, my definition is fluid at best. They usually include a little bit of romance and/or sex, and they typically have happy endings (but not always). These were the five summer/beach reads that I really enjoyed last month:

  1. By the Book – This story has two things going for it right off the bat. Jasmine Guillory, so you know it’s going to be good, and it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling that focuses on story crafting. Adore.
  2. Book Lovers – Um, if Emily Henry writes steam this well in every book, let me go read all of them right now. This one is also about the book industry, and it was fantastic.
  3. The Love Hypothesis – Olive is me (socially, at least). Now all I need is to plot a fake relationship with an attractive, available, brilliant guy so that he can go ahead and fall in love with me.
  4. Instructions for Dancing – A meet-cute through ballroom dancing? Yes, please. Also, fair warning and generically spoilery – per her usual, Nicola Yoon will rip your heart right out with this one.
  5. Meet Cute – This book makes me want to work on my own collection of short stories that I’ve started (or…one of the three that I’ve started…). I really loved most of these selections and found a couple of new-to-me authors whose work I’d like to explore.

Tell me the one (or eight) books you’ve really loved recently.

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Spring/summer at the farm

Making to-do lists to match my yearly theme always delights me. This is especially true when my word of the year is something like “lush.” In the spirit of Joy The Baker’s summer bucket lists, I’ve been musing about the next few months.

I’ve decided that my lush summer starts now. As I was reminded by Tsh Oxenreider’s newsletter this morning, the pursuit of beauty is important, especially in hard times, so why wait? Also, let’s face it – the weather in Texas basically thinks it’s summer from April-September anyway. And to my amazement and mild chagrin, April is LATER THIS WEEK.

The first step is to find some things to drop so that I have the freedom in my schedule and the energy to do the fun stuff listed below. I’ve already been practicing. My typical response to busyness has been to tough my way through something, even if a pounding headache or sensory overwhelm or exhaustion from panic attacks or some other not-at-all-subtle signal is telling me not to. I have been really good at paying attention to those signals lately, though, and canceling things when I need to. Sure, I’ve missed some things that I wanted to do. But you know what? The world did not end, and I got the rest I needed. Then, I got to actually enjoy the next thing I wanted to do instead of having to trudge my way through it, too. Ultimately, I hope that listening to my body better looks like not making too many plans in the first place instead of having to cancel them, but baby steps.

Here are some snapshots of how I want my lush summer to look.

Plants

Despite my angst about the heat and the pollen, this is a great time of the year for plants. I never met a fruit I didn’t like, but in-season (and I cannot stress that distinction enough) spring/summer fruits—specifically, blueberries, peaches, apricots, and cantaloupe—are my favorites. I have a small space for some containers on my porch, but most of my produce during this season comes from farmers’ markets.

  • Buy fresh produce and/or seeds from Denton Community Market (opening day for the season is this Saturday yay!)
  • Plant tomatoes and basil and all the random seeds I have in my containers 
  • Go to a pick-your-own flower/fruit/veggie farm. Perhaps one of these?
    Wow! U-Pick Farms – veggies
    Gemini Peach and Rose Farm – peaches, roses
    Green Valley Gardens – flowers 
  • Keep fresh flowers (carefully chosen, because allergies) on the table and around the house
  • Repot the office plant and perhaps pick up another new green friend or two along the way

Food

  • Try a new local restaurant. Osteria il Muro is the one I have in mind, but spaces are super limited. Maybe I’ll be able to get a reservation someday.
  • Make sun tea and lemonade
  • Buy cold brew from Coffee Hog once(ish) a month (yes, I could make it myself. But will I?)
  • Snow cones!
  • Make ice cream (or at least an icebox pie or two, which frankly is more likely than dragging out the ice cream maker. But hope springs eternal.)
  • Test some of the updated recipes for my Epic Meal Planning and Feast projects

Events/Travel
(if the aforementioned improved minding of my schedule allows, of course)

  • I’d like to take a small road trip if I can make room in the budget for it. San Antonio to see Hope and Nowhere? Beach getaway?
  • Attend a summer festival (or two). Maybe these?
    North Texas Lavender Festival (June 26-27) – TX-Ture Farm
    North Texas Book Festival (Aug 20, 3-7pm) – Greater Denton Arts Council
  • Visit the family farm once a month
  • Hang out at a winery with friends
  • Enjoy afternoons/days on the Denton, McKinney, and/or Gainesville square(s)

Social/Miscellaneous

  • Pool time with friends
  • Girls weekend with Maggie and Michelle
  • Lounge around in bookshops
  • Continue my cleaning streak by cleaning out closets and actually taking donations where they need to go
  • Redecorate or organize one small space in the apartment each week

What do you love most about warmer days? Anything you’re looking forward to?

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UGH HOW CUTE IS MY NEW PLANNER

In addition to focusing on LUSH as my word of the year and continuing my work with Sarah on our album, I am also setting a few tangible personal goals. Most of my resolutions this year are measurable, longer-term versions of some of the habits I am already tracking. Having a specific, larger goal in mind is useful for days when I’m like, “Hmm…maybe I just watch another episode…”

So here are some things I’m going to keep doing and the in-about-a-year goal that goes with them.

Read 150 books – Given that I almost read this many books in 2021, I feel like this is a gentle reach. It’s still challenging but perfectly attainable, even when my schedule stays busy. In addition to reading for book clubs, I’m participating in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge because I particularly like the prompts for 2022. Girlxoxo’s Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge looks interesting, too (and some of the books I’m reading in January already fit).

Write 5 short stories – My first instinct was “write a short story every month!” but since I finished a whole two stories in 2021, that high of an expectation might sabotage me before I even get started. Specifically, I want to practice writing dialogue. Fishbowl rewrites have been dry lately, and I think this will help me practice my skills for that long-term project as well.

Finish expanded rough drafts of Feast and Epic Meal Planning – My 31 Days series in October 2021 about books was challenging but also exciting. I forgot how much I enjoy writing essays. Over the past few years, I have started drafting two different essay collections (some of you may remember the epic meal planning series), and I want to finish the expanded drafts this year. I’ve already kinda planned the menu for the celebratory gatherings when each one is complete. Because priorities.

Earn $7500 with copywriting job – Last year, I set a word count goal for this job to write more articles. But what’s better than more work? More money. I’ve stayed within the $6500-$7000 range the last few years, but I want to give it a little boost in 2022. Depending on what is available on my teams, this can either mean adding an article or two to each pay period or focusing on articles that pay more per word. My preference heavily leans to the latter, so this will be my focus whenever such things are in my control. Is this what they mean by working smarter, not harder?

Build a consistent practice of an average of 30 minutes/day of movement – I have added activity to my life this past year, but the draw to sit for long spells is strong. As I continue to get older, I want to make sure I don’t lapse into a sedentary state and lose more agility/balance/etc, than necessary. So I want to be more intentional about making sure I keep and expand good habits. Also, some performances this year may include a little dancey action, so I want to be ready for that.

This is a solid list to start with. I’m sure I’ll amend them as needed, but I feel pretty good about these goals.

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I Said Hello/Goodbye to…

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

I said hello to… 

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

I said goodbye to… 

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

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

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Day 27 – Memoirs

Memoirs take up about half of my nonfiction shelf. Well, memoirs and good advice (more on those on “Day 29″…later today)

I know I spent a whole post on food memoirs, which are my absolute favorite nonfiction books. But I also read/own a lot of other types of memoirs as well. I love hearing people’s stories. It’s one of the (only) things I miss about teaching public speaking. No matter what the assignment, if you give people a chance to share themselves, most of the time they will.

I like funny memoirs, family memoirs, travel memoirs, and cultural memoirs. I even like sports memoirs (particularly ones about running, it seems). A friend in my writing group once took my willingness to read just about any memoir as proof that I really will read anything. I understand her general sentiment – it feels good to read stories from people with lives and interests similar to your own – it’s comforting to know you’re not alone. But it’s also good to step outside of the inherently limited experience of one human life and learn how other people experience the world. That’s the real draw of memoir for me.

In a way, reading memoir is research (well, research-ish. Focused research is a lot more intense and intentional.). Writers are often admonished to write what we know, but even if you’ve lived the richest, fullest, most adventurous, long life, what you know firsthand is still just the information you can glean from one person’s experience. In the grand scheme of knowledge, that’s not a lot to go on. So if I’m going to write – about anything – why wouldn’t I want to know as much as possible about as many experiences and perspectives as possible? I need to hear other people’s stories to do that. For example, the main character in the novel I’m working on is dead but can see the effect his passing has on the ones he loves most. I know how I experience grief, but reading what others have gone through when a loved one died helps me understand my own characters in a way I could never get to on my own.

[Important aside – I am not a proponent of writers telling (and profiting from) other people’s stories, particularly when those people are perfectly capable of and actively telling those stories themselves (and inevitably doing a much better job of it). Even if a writer is going to write about another person who is no longer available to tell their story, they must do a hell of a lot of work and give credit (and even payment) where it’s due in order to write about them in an honorable way. Andi Cumbo-Floyd put in countless hours of piecing together genealogy records, researching local history, conducting interviews, and learning from those who write about slavery and racism before writing her young adult novels that delve into the subject, and as a result, her main character in the Steele series models this self-education process in a realistic way. Jennifer Koshatka Seman wrote Borderlands Curanderos, and her bibliography and research notes take up a solid third of the total pages of the book. That’s how you write about other people’s lives with integrity, and there’s no shortcut.]

Anyway…

A few memoirs I recommend (that I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet this month):

Do you have any favorite memoirs?

I’ve spent October writing about books.

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Just off camera, any time I have a Zoom meeting in my home office, there is this little cart. The top of the cart holds my art journal (and various other journals), a book I read while waiting on Zoom meetings, and several things I need to file but have yet to do so. The lower levels of the cart hold books that don’t have a place on a shelf yet because the existing shelves in my apartment where they would belong are full.

I’m in constant need of more shelves.

There was a meme that went around for a while that looked like a floor plan of a home, but instead of the usual rooms, it had a bathroom and kitchen, and the rest of it was just labeled “library.” I’m sure it was meant to be amusing but for me its wit was a funny-because-it’s-true sort of situation. I would love a house where every room had at least one wall of bookshelves. Preferably more.

A life with books is the exact kind of life I want.

I have a lot of idea about the specifics of how this could look. Do I just go ahead and line all the walls of my apartment with shelves, and take the inevitable full capacity as a sign it’s time to move? When I am eligible to retire from UNT, do I work part-time in a bookstore or library? Maybe I could work part-time in a bookstore or library now (lol but WHEN. When would I even do that)? Maybe if I finished this damn novel, I could find a publisher who loves it and wants to sell it so I can afford more time with my books (or will I just spend that time on tour or doing something gross like publicity…and is that really better than what I’m doing now?). Or is it enough that I have a few quiet evenings a month alone with the books I love now and a space to talk about them here?

I’ve been musing about the next phase of my work life for the last few years, and I still don’t have a clear picture of what exactly I want it to look like (which makes it hard to get there. How do you plot a path to a place you aren’t sure exists?). I do know one thing, though.

Wherever it is, I’m surrounded by books.

Welcome to a peek into my bookish life this month.

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Beautiful view on a farm outing with friends

I look forward to Joy the Baker’s summer bucket list every year. It’s typically a mix of places to go and things to learn and/or make, and it’s inspiring. Because summer tends to be a busier time for me, I am expanding my timeframe into fall (and really – the rest of the year). So this is my remainder-of-2021 bucket list. Doesn’t quite have the same ring but…oh, well.

  1. Get some ducks in order – Some of my goals are just reminders to get/keep it together enough to be healthy or at least not completely derail any progress I’ve made in various areas. To that end:
    – Pay off personal loan (last payment due in September!)
    – Carve out time to get back into Pilates practice
    – Make eye exam and yearly physical appointments
    – Write, edit, and submit a short story every month
  2. Take a trip with friends – Okay, so I’ve already done this one. We went to Colorado for a few days in June, and it was magnificent.
  3. Get a new (to me) car – Watson is showing signs of unreliability, and I want to trade her in before her upkeep starts costing more than a car payment would. My first car was a hatchback, and I’ve wanted another one ever since, so I’m looking at gently used options in the area along the lines of a VW Golf or Kia Soul.
  4. Take an overnight bookshop trip – I’ve been musing about going to Magic City Books in Tulsa for a while, but I think my next long-distance bookstore venture is going to be to Nowhere Bookshop in San Antonio. They’re opening for real to the public on Monday, and I think a leisurely drive down there in October would be a great way to break in a new ride.
  5. Choose a new planner – I do love my Simplified Planner, but the siren song of Papier’s daily planner beckons me. I have had separate goal and meal planning calendars for the longest time, and the idea of having everything in one book is so appealing. Also…there are so many cover designs to choose from. *salivates*
Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with this cover…

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Mountain dragon from Colorado says hello

A couple of things I’m into these days…

While The Audacity is closed for essay submissions the rest of the year, Roxane Gay Books is now open for manuscript submissions. I love love love this and if you have a manuscript that you are waiting to submit because you haven’t quite achieved the *insert example of the hyper-capitalistic hellscape that is a lot of the publishing industry here* maybe this is an appealing option?

This meta monologue from Penny pretty much sums up my love of The Magicians (the show – I’ve yet to start the book but expect to love it, too):

“All I’m saying is you think you’ve seen stories like this before, so you can guess what’s going to happen. Who’s important and who isn’t. But that’s because you are trapped in your POV. You have a classic case of White Male Protagonist, Derek, and a Librarian simply can’t have that. But that’s why these books are so important. They’re such a gift. They can allow you to see other points of view. And once you start seeing that, you’ll find that the story doesn’t end the way you think, and the most important characters aren’t who you expect.”

“When you file people away as sidekicks, you don’t realize their importance to the story, and this story belongs to a lot more people than you think. Where to shelve a book – it’s not a little thing. You’re telling the world what to value, who to value.”

I’m excited to be working on some short stories for submission in a new local publication. More to come on this soon.

I hope you’re having a good weekend so far!

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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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