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T.J. BROWN BLOG

That Mythically Long Week in January

For anyone who works in education, the first full week after winter break is typically brutal. Teachers and students both have gotten into poor sleeping patterns and most of us are cranky. Then there’s the heavy load of resolutions, goals and intentions we’re carrying around. Not a good combination. But my week was pretty okay. Better than okay, actually. If it hadn’t been for the state of the world, it would have been stellar, but it can only be so good with our current administration.

But… one of my students graduated early this week and gave me this:

So, yeah, my week included happy crying, as well as angry, current events crying. It’s gratifying to know that my hard work makes a difference.

Thursday night’s Weight Watchers was actually awesome. It’s a good group of educators. Of course, we went out for a beer after, but I am happy to report I chose the hummus plate over the Bavarian pretzel and fondue. So I’d call it a draw. And the beer was Barley Brown’s Ratchet Strap, so worth the points.

I’m working on an essay for Medium on being grateful for the body. I need to hone and sharpen the thesis before getting to the nitty gritty, but it’s percolating.

One of the things that has kept the week from being too long is my magical mornings. Remember how I used to have a routine that would “power up” my day? Yeah, I don’t do that anymore. I do some of the same things (journaling and meditating), but the point of my mornings is no longer to be as productive as possible, it’s to create as many magical, loving, creative moments in my day as I can because all of those moments strung together make up a life. Hurrying on to the next moment wastes the moment you are in and that can end in a life that hasn’t been enjoyed or meaningful. So magical mornings that set me up for a day that is mindful of each moment is my new intention and in addition to the aforementioned journaling and meditating, include gratitude, poetry and dreaming big. Totally worth the hour. So my week, while long and tragic, was good.

Last night, the hubby and I cooked a lovely dinner of salmon with crostinis and quinoa and roasted pepper salad and washed it down with a glass of white. Mom tactfully retired soon after so we could spend some quality time together finishing up the bottle of wine and doing some planning for the next decade, a decade that will see his retirement and some big changes.

My intention for the week was to get rid of some of the minutia and that totally happened. My word for the year is connection and that is going well on all fronts. Enjoy your weekend, people! I’m going to enjoy mine!

Drowning in Minutia

This week’s intention was to be mindful of the minutia that’s weighing me down and take care of some of it. I’m happy to report that the plan is working! I signed my mom up for her online medical stuff, sent an RSVP to a wine club, made my PT and endocrinology appointments and paid my writer friend the postage I owed her. None of it took up very much time, but sometimes I get bogged down by the details. I don’t know about you, but the more piddly stuff I have hanging off me, the harder it is for me to maintain any kind of zen, so to speak. It’s like brain clutter. I still have to polish the letter of recommendation a friend asked me to write for them and set up a blog tour for my May release, (SQUEE!), but I already feel better about the week–calmer and more relaxed.

One of my students graduated today through high school completion and gave me the sweetest thank you card for helping him these past two years. Almost made me cry. I told him not to thank me too quickly, now the real work begins and it all has to be self generated. No one is going to make him do the things he needs to do in order to go into the trade he wants. Of course, I’ll be around to help him with the transition. He has a strong and supportive family and I think he’s going to make it. Plus, who doesn’t love a teen who says thank you!

The news yesterday about the missiles being launched at Iraqi bases housing American personal hit me in the guts like a two ton heavy thing. All I can think about is how close we are to war and the phone calls going out to wives and mothers. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if the casualties are American or Iraqi to me… all are human. All have mothers, wives, sisters, daughters. Then the airplane crash… definitely a disturbance in the force. Sometimes having a bleeding heart sucks.

I am succeeding in making my mornings more about ritual than routine and it’s really helping me deal with how unsettled our world is. Get up, start the coffee pot and retreat into my office/sanctuary. Light a candle. meditate, journal, read some poetry, (my way of bringing more beauty into my life) and only then do I plan the day. It takes about an hour but worth it to start my day off being contemplative rather than rushed. My new gym opens up tomorrow! Yay! I’ve been waiting for it to open. I’ve decided that I am not going to try to get there in the morning because I don’t want mess with my rituals. Instead, I’ll stop on my way home from work. I’m also going to my first weight watchers meeting tomorrow with some of my work buddies. That’s both connection and health, right there!

Wishing you all love light and magic in your lives and don’t forget to pray for peace and then call your members of congress!

Weekly Intention and Weekend Recap

My weekend was busy and lovely and I got to do many things I wanted to. I love intentional housecleaning, so I did it by making a lovely herbal wash for my hearth. I love my home and cleaning it makes me feel good inside. My kitchen table is a lovely 100-year-old craftsman that we picked up in a vintage shop and I polished it this weekend until it gleamed. Old stuff makes me happy!

I also prepped my lunches (Ikarian stew), my husband’s lunches (ham and beans left over from last night’s dinner), and chopped veggies which I’ll roast tonight and have with a skirt steak and chimichurri. The veggies will become tomorrow night’s soup.

I also polished and posted a story on Medium called Not the Mama: Pain Joy and Judgement. Heart writing about motherhood was really hard for me. I feel like I am showing my heart to the world in a very real way. I hope you check it out.

I also finished my first book of the year, Haiku Morning by Sonia Sanchez. Gorgeous.

Back to my regular work schedule today which seems daunting after two weeks of flexing my hours. Taking a page from my friend Devon Ellington, I’m going to put out a weekly intention here. This week’s intention is to be mindful of the minutia that is weighing on me. Little things I haven’t taken care of. Like signing my mom up on her online medical site to make it easy for both of us to check appointments. I have a writer friend I owe postage money to. I have to call PT and write a letter of recommendation. That kind of little stuff that adds up and weighs you down. I know I’ll feel less anxious once this stuff is taken care of!

Have a good week all!

Late Friday Night Blog

It’s Friday night and I should be sleeping but I don’t want to. I have one last weekend before my regular life starts again and even though I’m looking forward to it, I am also wanting to enjoy every last moment of my holiday time.

I’ve been having trouble with my shoulder the last few months and was afraid I had a micro tear in my shoulder. Got in to see the doctor today and she told me that I had most likely strained a muscle and the other muscles hurt because I’m compensating. I got a shot of cortisol and will be going to PT. I’m just happy it won’t be hurting any more.

In spite of a busy day full of appointments, I managed to meet my husband for lunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I’m obsessed with carnitas tacos right now and this place has some particularly good ones.

Taking a page off my friend Devon Ellington’s blog, I am posting my intentions for January here, then breaking them down weekly. This isn’t a traditional to do list, but more of a creating joy and connection in my life list because it’s only the 3rd day of the new year and the world has taken a decided turn for the worse. So January’s list of intentions is going to be heavy on the things that bring me contentment, satisfaction, joy and, of course, connection.

• Get back into the habit of prepping meals. I love cooking and making sure there is healthy food in the fridge for lunches and the week’s dinners are planned gives me a sense of satisfaction and contentment. So four times this month, prep food for the week.
• Take my YA novel, Puppet out of the proverbial closet, dust it off and go over it. Does the story still excite me? Am I heart-writing or just dialing it in?
• Continue to study plants and herbs and how to grow and use them.
• Create a ritual filled morning of meditation, journaling and poetry. Yes, poetry.
• Get back into a regular fitness routine. Running brings me joy and as I’m currently too out of shape to run, I need to start the baby steps that will get me back up to speed. (No pun intended.) I’m thinking three days a week for the next three weeks and then re-evaluate. And get in my ten thousand steps daily.
• Start attending WW meetings.
• Learn how to make salves, balms and lotions.
• Write two essays for Medium.
• Make out our yearly vacation calendar—Baker City in February, my cousin in Tacoma, my cousin on Whidby Island, my husband’s cousins in San Diego, my aunt and uncle in Davenport, Washington and my husband’s aunt in San Francisco. And figure out how to pay for it all.
• Continue with my activist work. This helps me feel as if I am connected to the wider community in creating a better world for all the grandchildren. I’m cutting back to three days a week to make more time for writing, so I want my activism to be more focused and meaningful.
• Spend a couple hours at the library just browsing and reading. This brings me JOY!
• Talk my daughter into going to the hot springs resort and getting a massage after with me. Shouldn’t be too hard.
• Work through Mel Robbins Best Decade Ever series.

Okay, that is probably enough for January. I may end up revising this a bit as I’m looking to increase my joy and connection, not stress!

First Blog of the New Year!

First blog of the New Year!

I decided that I’m going to use this blog mostly for chit chat, what I’m doing and newsy type items. The boring and wonderful minutia that make up a life. My heart-writing essays will be over on Medium. This way, people will know what to expect from each place.

The holiday season is finally over and while it was wonderful in many ways, it was also challenging. We lost several beloveds this year and the weight of grief and loss hung heavy. My lack of sleep also impacted how I felt throughout the festivities, and although we kept many of the traditions, it all got a little weighty.

New Years Eve and Day have been the capper to a busy season. I worked six hours on New Year’s Eve and then went and pick up my granddaughters—ten and three. Hubby and I did get a little privacy to do some journaling and intention setting for the year before the madness started. We had a couple of friends over for New Year’s Eve, and of course the girls, who kept things lively. Little miss is recovering from a double ear infection so she was fairly low key and ended up spending a lot of her time asleep. Her older sister stayed up until midnight, though. First time!

The kids came over to pick them up today and I made a New Years Day meal of ham, scalloped potatoes. broccoli and rolls. After all the cooking I’ve done since Thanksgiving, I wanted to keep it simple. I’m a little burned out. I did order myself a new cookbook to combat my burnout—The Blue Zone’s Kitchen-100 Recipes to Live to 100. Not sure if I want to live to 100 or not, but it looked like the kind of food I enjoy so I went for it.

Last year, I read a number of books by Native American authors. This year, I’m reading poetry by women of color. My first book is Voyage of the Sable Genius and Other Poems by Robin Cote Lewis. It seemed appropriate place to start my own voyage with. My desire is to support women of color while increasing my own intake of art and beauty… poetry sounds like the perfect way to go. It also vibes with my own desire to write more deeply and with more intention.

I only work six hours the next two days and then have the weekend off. School starts up again next Monday and I’m rather looking forward to things getting back to normal. Well, as normal as they can be in these fraught times. (Points for using fraught in a sentence!)

My hubby and I are still working on our intentions this year, but I did come up with my word for 2020.
Connection.

I want to reconnect with my friends, just as I reconnect with my creativity through heart-writing. I want to strengthen the connections I have with my family and my community. I want to reconnect with my body and what’s best for it. I want to connect with my own voice and my own power. I want to connect with the natural world. The word connection seems to fit the way I’m moving forward with my life on numerous fronts.

Until next time, friends, and Happy New Year! Go forth and connect!

Holiday Happenings

This holiday was challenging.

My husband lost three family members in the past six months and celebrating while you and the people you love are hurting is difficult. Yet, we have grandchildren and they are our joy. We planned much of our holiday around them and their happiness and excitement infused everything we did with gold.

One entire weekend was dedicated to just to them. They spent the night and helped us decorate our tree and the house, and did a large portion of our holiday baking. The next morning, we took them to run their first 5k, the HoHo Run. So. Much. Fun.

The next weekend, in spite of my husband’s last minute reservations and anxiety, (grief affects one at the oddest times and in many different ways), we threw a large open house cocktail party that turned out beautifully. As with all parties of that magnitude, I was kept busy serving, cleaning, feeding and chatting. The upside is that you get to see everyone without having to drive. The downside is that you get to speak deeply to no one.

The third December weekend, my husband and I had a staycation downtown. My birthday is the 22nd and our anniversary is the 27th, so we often combine them. He had bought me a Hibernal Writing workshop at the Corporeal Writing studio and we rented a room at a fancy hotel close by. We ended up having two glorious meals with friends, an early morning breakfast at a charming, eclectic 24 hour diner called The Roxy and I attended a craft-changing two day workshop. An ominous storm front had moved in and we didn’t get to walk around and enjoy the holiday decorations much, but it was a transformative weekend in many ways. Our impromptu Solstice/Yule celebration was lifted to a higher plane by a saxophonist playing jazzy Christmas carols just below. We threw open the windows in spite of the cold and the rain and listened to the music echoing through the city streets as the solstice candle burned down. Lovely.

Since my son married, we share the holidays and the grandchildren with his in-laws, so our big family festivities take place on Christmas Eve. This year, my son and I tackled a giant prime rib and it was perfect. Watching my grandchildren open gift was a joyous experience. Spending time with my grown children is equally joyous. I try to be a thoughtful gift giver-I don’t buy people things just to buy as consumerism is destructive-so it was rewarding to see how many of the presents I chose hit the mark. Christmas Eve was delightful, exuberant, riotous fun.

Christmas, by comparison, was blissfully quiet. I made blood orange mimosas, bacon and orange cranberry french toast for breakfast, followed by a long nap. Afterwards, we then read and played games until dinner when I made an amazing prime rib hash that was consumed with an unexpected bottle of red wine sent to us by a cousin. My husband and I intended to celebrate the solar eclipse with a bonfire, but were far too tired. Oh, and mom and I watched The Bishop’s Wife. How did I miss that one??? It was delicious in an old timey, Cary Grant kind of way.

For all intents and purposes, the holidays are over for us, as our New Year’s Eve and Day celebrations are generally quiet. As always, I ate and drank far too much and slept too little. And as always, I end the holidays with a sense of gratitude and an awareness of my own privilege. The amount of money and time spent on creating a magical holiday season is out of reach for so many people and I try to balance my privilege with extra giving and awareness. For instance, I participated in Settler Saturday, a twitter hashtag where you can give directly to Native Americans in need. I think of it as reparations. I also uplifted Native American authors by giving their picture and middle grade books to my nieces and nephews. For me, being aware of my privilege means nothing if I don’t do something about it. One of my intentions this next year is to take more opportunities to elevate the voices of people who have been historically marginalized, but there will be more on that next blog.

So in spite of all the challenges and the grief, we were able to create a joyous holiday season for ourselves and our family. My hope and wish is that everyone who reads this had a lovely and peaceful season as well, no matter what holiday you celebrate.

Summer of Reset

The last school year was tough on me, but at the same time it was a period of explosive personal growth. At the beginning of the year, I took a part time job, partly to help out an old friend, partly because I wanted to be able to help out my children financially and partly because I love to teach young children and I missed it. So every morning I would head to the full time job at 6:00 AM, work my eight hours and then head to the afternoon job for 2.5 hours and then come home. I was gone from the house for 12.5 hours. I got through the first few months on pure adrenaline and organization skills. By February, I was burned out. I gave my boss notice that I wouldn’t be able to do it another year and hung on for dear life until June 14 th. read more…

Self-Doubt: Surefire Creativity Killer

How many synonyms are there for roller-coaster? Ups and downs, highs and lows, mixed bag, ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys—all of those describe the week I just had.

Something really good happened at the day job… but it was preceded by something worrisome.  I started taking Wednesdays off at the afternoon job…but it was marred by a thoughtless phone call. My get up and go was slaughtered by too many sleepless nights and I made some poor decisions regarding diet and exercise, (hello candy and fast food drive-throughs!).  I got editor requests for two different manuscripts by two different editors, had a great new YA idea with editor enthusiasm and all that good writing news was suddenly pummeled by waves of creativity killing self-doubt. read more…

Morning Routines that Infuse Your Writing and Your Life with Creativity

I’ve had people ask me about my morning routine, (okay, one person, hi Gill!), so I thought I’d blog about it. Like most blogs about anything, you have to wade through the story before you can get to the stuff you really want to read. If we didn’t tell story, blogs would just be bullet point lists of the good stuff and what fun would that be? So… read more…

Do Something Amazing

Every Friday evening, I tell my students to go out and do something AMAZING over the weekend. Actually, I say the same thing to my co-workers much to their annoyance, because then I judge what they think is amazing by saying things like, “No, binge watching such and such on Netflix isn’t amazing,” or “No, playing video games isn’t amazing,” to which they hem and haw and argue. Then I tell them that they don’t know what amazing is. read more…

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