The Friday Five: Two Weeks' Worth.

You know that Friday night when you spend an hour and a half on your two weeks' worth of recaps and then Firefox crashes and you forgot to press Save and suddenly it's alllllll gone...?


Let's see if I can sum it up.

We did a Habitat build day, painting, sweating, laughing, and getting to know some great folks.

I was inspired by my coworker Hannah to try bread-baking with this King Arthur Flour recipe, and it was a success! (a.k.a. it was fully cooked and edible and actually tasted like bread.) Especially delish with butter and Sean's favorite four fruits jam.

My writing group started back for the semester with familiar and new faces, and it always reminds me of the benefits of personal writing, and the gift it can be to share with a trusted group.

We celebrated Sean's birthday with both our families, good BBQ, and a delicious creamy cookies cake from Publix (Publix bakery never fails, our wedding cake included). I am so very thankful that we not only like our families, but that they enjoy each other, too.

I've been jogging more recently, though my latest jaunt ended with two scraped knees for the first time since I was, like, eight. And this week I've walked 10,000 steps every day this week, which is definitely a first in terms of regular work weeks. It's taken just a few tweaks to my usual habits, like walking up and down five flights of stairs when I don't need to, and taking regular walks around campus with a friend. It feels great to know this can be done, even with a primarily desk job.

My dad went up to Virginia to visit friends (and, you know, do a century bike ride, no big deal) and ended up worshiping at the church in Richmond where I spent the summer before my senior year. Even though I couldn't be there, it was wonderful to know that he spent the morning with some of my favorite people who have had such an impact on my life.

It's been another difficult week for our country, especially in the Queen City of Charlotte that Sean and I love so much. During this time, I'm grateful for my college classmate Clint Smith and his first book of poetry, Counting Descent, and his important voice that I hope will continue to reach more and more people. I'm also thankful for friends and coworkers who I can talk with and listen to, and who help hold me accountable in continuing to learn how I can be an ally for for my black sisters and brothers, to learn how to use both words and silence to process and help create the changes that we so desperately need, to dismantle the systems of oppression and privilege that keep some from having all the freedoms that we are all promised.

How about you? What's keeping you going in the midst of this crazy world?

The Friday Five: Step it out.

Oh, fellow humans. It's Friday. I'm zonked. Can we have a three-day weekend again, please?

Speaking of three-day weekends, we had a nice one. Didn't go anywhere, which made it all the nicer. We ate out, took naps, went for a jog, to church, and--

We spent one more evening this summer at our favorite concert venue with Collective Soul and the Goo Goo Dolls. Chastain Park Amphitheatre really is the best--you sit in this big bowl of sunlight and eat your picnic dinner as night falls and the music rises. I hadn't seen Collective Soul live in 11 years, and damn are they good. Plus, it's always satisfying to actually be able to sing along at a concert. Goo Goo Dolls were also good, but their stage lighting was WAY too bright. I don't think I'd ever put on my sunglasses at 9:00 p.m. before.

I also reread The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, AKA J.K. Rowling. It's the first in her mystery series featuring Detective Cormoran Strike, and it made me wish that he/she'd publish another right this second. Shiny magic or rugged mystery, it doesn't seem to matter--her way with character development and subtle humor is always there. (Speaking of mysteries, I can't wait to get the new Louise Penny book, A Great Reckoning. Armand Gamache and Strike couldn't be more different... and yet now I'm wondering what would happen if they met...) 

I didn't even mind going back to work because it meant that we could welcome our dear friend and coworker back from maternity leave. It's been so nice to have Lisa back in the office, and I love that now there's a sweet little boy to ask after, too.

Somehow, I've managed to get more than 8,000 steps every day this week. I don't think that's ever happened before in a mostly regular work week, and I'm thrilled. Reasons for this rise in steppage (can that be a word if it isn't already)? I do some kind of Jessica Smith walking workout every day, whether it's with my fitness group or on my own before work. Sometimes I'll go on a walk with a coworker before it gets too hot. But mostly, I think, it's been the addition of a few flights of stairs throughout the day. I walk down to the first floor and up to the fifth floor for no real reason at all, and it feels great. We have a step challenge coming up at work, and I'm excited for more motivation to get myself worn out in a good way by the end of the day.

What about y'all? How was your Labor Day weekend? Is the air getting crisper where you are yet? (If so, I'm jealous.) What got you through the week?

Happy Friday!

The Friday Five: Something is better than nothing.

I've always struggled with mornings.

Just ask my father; he's the one who would knock on my door (per my request) at 6:00 a.m. to wake me up and tell me that I still had an hour left to sleep. Yes, he woke me up to tell me that I could go back to sleep. The human version of a snooze button, I guess? (Thanks, Dad!) I loved the coziness of snuggling back, deep into the covers, for what seemed like it would be an eternity... but, of course, only felt like two minutes.

In college, the dining hall breakfast lured me to get up early enough before class, although spring of junior year (after studying abroad and learning to eat dry cereal in my room) saw me frequently booking it up the hill to American Lit stuffing half a granola bar in my mouth (sorry, Annie).

In the nearly seven years since then, I've wrestled with how to be a morning person, or at least more of one. For me, it became an identity thing, a "supposed to" thing, a somehow-I-got-this-message-from-society thing. I'm a writer! Writers are supposed to get up by five a.m. and write for two hours before the real world awakes! I'm a Christian! Christians are supposed to get up at six and do half an hour of centering prayer and then be ready to face the day!

I'm Claire! If I get to work at 9:06 it's an impressive day!


I took writing workshops. I took a mindfulness course. I was in a spiritual formation group. All important, all worthwhile. But I slowly began to face my authentic self, especially after my MFA advisor told me, "Well, obviously not all writers write at five in the morning, because you don't. So stop thinking that you should, and find what works for you." (Thanks, Nicky!)

It took a season of stress last fall to finally spur me forward, in an authentic way. My mind would go on loops, fear growing every time I circled back. The present moment seemed like a deterrent to my fear loop, rather than something I was supposed to enjoy and live into.

And then, in women's group, someone mentioned the meditation app Headspace. (Thanks, Brenna!) It had ten day sets of meditations, and you could go for as short as 10 minutes or as long as 20. I started with the first "pack" of meditations, for ten minutes right after I woke up in the mornings, and I haven't stopped since. It wasn't half an hour of focused, centering prayer. But it was something. And it started to interrupt my fear loop.

Other authentic elements of morning routine began to fall into place after that. I took home my enjoyment of our workplace workouts with Jessica Smith TV, and began to do one of her stretching routines on the days we would work out at the office, and a quick workout itself on our days off. ("Breathe, Stretch and Relax" and "Wake Up and Walk" are two of my favorites.)

I'm not sure what sparked my return to journaling, except for the dragging feeling that I have when I'm not doing some sort of personal writing every day. I'm not myself when I don't do it, and there's no use pretending. For awhile I played with the timer, saying that I would write for five minutes, or seven. These days, I write a page as soon as I finish my Headspace meditation. I try to do it without thinking what I'll write next, and as soon as I shut the journal, I'm done thinking about it. But the practice has still done its work: I've been able to express thoughts and feelings about my life that would otherwise remain stuck in my head. I often find that this writing practice gets me moving on goals or ideas I didn't even know I had.

I've done this for awhile, ever since we moved into our house that has a dining room, but I relish the routine of sitting down at our dining room table to eat breakfast. I have NPR on, I have my English breakfast tea and my peanut butter toast and my fruit (oh, peaches! you are not allowed to go out of season, my dears), and it is a glorious 15-20 minutes.

Finally, this fifth element of routine isn't morning-related, and it's newer, but it may be one of the most important: I'm taking Saturdays off from social media. At the breakfast table is usually when I first open Instagram and Facebook, and I find that if I simply don't open my phone during breakfast, it's a lot easier to keep it dark for the rest of the day. My job entails a lot of social media management during the week, so this day off is a great way to refresh and concentrate on what or who is in front of me-- and I like to think that it impacts how I think about social media all week long, even if I'm on it. This is not the end all be all. This is not the most important thing.

A couple of caveats: I know this is so much easier to do without children in the picture, and I know that no routine is forever. But I feel truly uplifted by these practices that have risen up organically for me over the last year, and I hope that I'm able to have some version of each in all phases of life.

I'm a writer who writes one page. I'm a Christian who attempts silence for ten minutes. I do a quick power walk and sit down for a piece of toast and tea before I'm off and running. It's something. It's who I am, right now. And it makes the days so much brighter. 

What about you? What are the practices, daily or not, that make your days better?