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Monday, May 31, 2010

Experience Nature

There is nothing like being in nature to bring me a happiness boost.

Our camping trip was a wonderful success. Besides the first night, when it stormed for a few hours, we had a peaceful, relaxing, and generally fantastic time. We swam, we roasted marshmallows, we swung in the hammock, we saw a real live turtle, we watched the campfire crackle, we chased lightning was a fun-packed weekend.

One of the best moments was when I was lying in the hammock with Flanna and her BFF, and we were looking up at the tall trees overhead. Flannery said, "Look, a flower!" At first, I didn't see it. But then, I figured out what she was seeing. The opening in the trees above us was flower-shaped. I just had to snap a pic to remember it.

More pics later, I promise!

How did you get to experience nature on this long weekend? Did it boost your happiness?

Friday, May 28, 2010

We're Gonna Try It!

Wish us luck!

We're going to brave the rain and hope for sunny skies. Our first camping adventure since Flanna was born! Woohoo!

What are you doing for this Memorial Day Weekend? Hope it brings you happiness!

Deal with Disappointment

So it's raining. And pouring. And thunder storming. And the old man is snoring. And my camping trip is looking less and less likely to be a hit.

Or to even happen, for that matter.

Can you sense the disappointment in my "voice?"

There have been a gazillion other little disappointments this week, too. And some big ones.

Namely, that our "couple BFF"s (I'm too tired to explain what that is, but other folks who've been married as long as I have might get it) thought they were adopting this week, and then it fell through.

Somehow the other little disappointments don't even seem worth mentioning after that one.

But my amazing friends, they're dealing with it. Beautifully. With strength. With grace and love. With compassion and true care for everyone involved in the situation.

Unlike me, who just wants to sit silently on my couch eating chocolate chip cookies for the next 5 years, thinking about how life just isn't fair. Which it really and truly isn't sometimes.

So, how can we deal with the pretty miniscule disappointment of a possibly to-be-cancelled camping trip? I'm thinking a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese might be on the menu. (By the way, that's Flanna on the "Chucka-Cheese" stage, as she calls it.) It's scary the things we do for our kids.

For now, though, it's back to listening to the rain and maybe having just one more chocolate chip cookie before bed. Seriously, they really do ease the mind.

How do you deal with disappointment? I obviously need some better ideas!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Do What Needs to be Done

I'm a procrastinator by nature. So, I should've known how useful this little happiness commandment-- "Do what needs to be done."--would be for my happiness project. Somehow, when I just make myself buckle down and do the things I should do (at home, work, whatever), I'm actually much happier!

So, today I'm cleaning up, doing laundry, writing reports, replying to e-mails, and tackling a gazillion other little tasks that were ignored when I was sick last week. As much as I hate spending all evening doing housework and work-work, rather than relaxing with my hubby, the good part is the satisfaction of seeing the folded towels in nice rows, the clear surface of a bookshelf once it's been dusted, an e-mail inbox that isn't filled with starred items that need my attention.

And the best part?

The little nagging projects won't be waiting for me when I get back from camping.


What are you working on that just needs to be done?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Remember Tiny Moments of Awe

This is a poem I wrote five years ago about one of my sweet little students, a 5 year old with autism and OCD, who I worked with at a little country school. The cutest little boy you've ever seen, scrawny, with freckles and brown straight hair that stayed a little tousled no matter what his poor mom did to it.


"Easy," you say, "Easy."
Like a warning sign
or a post-it note hung on a morning mirror.

We leave the classroom in jolts as you coach your feet,
your voice,
your brain,
to be easy, tread softly on the hard surfaces.
The glaring tile of the hall,
the rough painted brick of the wall,
the sharp clicks of
the metal doors,
they are not easy.

So you clench fists and scrunch toes in tightly-tied shoes to absorb the shock of walking,
down this school hall.
You clench teeth and narrow your eyes
as wave upon wave of flailing, swirling line leaders and cabooses
wiggle their way
down the opposite side of the hall,
dizzying, unpredictable.

As we pass by the library,
you are suddenly struck with wonder.
"Look!" you call out.
Your voice is no longer easy.
"Look, a galaxy!"

Stars and moons and planets and spacemen
are painted on ceiling tiles in this section of the hall.

Your face unravels from its sharp lines,
melts into a typical boy grin.
You look up at me
for the first time since leaving the classroom,
and there is awe
in the creases of your eyes.

This is what I work for.
Why I wake at dawn and drive
sleepy and fast
through the darkness of farm towns
to this dusty brick building.

"Yes, I see, it's a spaceman!" I say.
But I am looking at the older children walking across the hall.
They seem confused, as if they've missed something.

Perhaps they have.

They have likely never looked up to see the space scene before.
Their heads turn up now as we pass by,
and they too are suddenly transported,
caught up in the excitement
of a daily trek down the hall,
with a brief detour through outer space.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Anticipate Fun!

I know I talk about how much I love "anticipating fun" a LOT on this blog, but I just can't help myself!

My husband, daughter, and I are planning a camping trip for next weekend, and we're all really looking forward to it! The preparation we've done so far has really increased our happiness level as a family. Just planning the meals, discussing the possible events (fishing, s'mores, hiking, swimming!), and buying cute tiny camping gear for Flanna has boosted my happiness level tremendously! (Seriously, who can resist a tiny camping chair with a cupholder?)

What are you anticipating right now that brings you some happiness?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Baby Steps

Is this not the cutest picture ever? I tried to find a picture of Flannery's little feet to post here, but this one of her with my mom when she was tiny was just too adorable not to post. Seriously. Those cheeks!


For some reason, today I decided to take stock of where I am on my path to meeting my happiness resolutions for this year. Maybe it's because I had a few moments to myself after my last client before I had to pick up my daughter, so I could ponder my life a bit. Or maybe it's because I read a few books in Spanish today, which energized me. Or maybe it's because I get ambitious in a delirious way when I stay up late. In any case, here are my happiness resolutions for 2010, along with my current progress:


1. Learn Something: Read in Spanish at least 15 minutes 5 times per week. - I have fallen off of the-reading-Spanish-wagon for a few weeks, but today, I listened to Spanish music CDs in the car and read 2 books in Spanish, so I'm hoping to climb back on. Since I don't commute to Chapel Hill for work anymore, I've lost a good routine for learning Spanish. (I used to listen to the Pimsleur language series - conversational Audio CDs--to learn a little each week.) I really think tying the learning time to something that I do regularly each week is going to be key for consistent progress. But what routine?

2. Be social: Start a girls’ night by June. - done. OK, so it's not a regular girls' night yet. But all the mommies of young kiddos on my street went out for drinks recently, and it was a huge success. So I'm hoping it will be a regular thing soon. (Have I mentioned how neat and diverse my street is? The people are so wonderful.)

3. Really listen: Interview at least 5 past clients about happiness amidst struggles.
- not addressed. Can someone send me some nerve, please? I hate to bug busy people. But I know that these stories are just lovely and would make the world a better place by being told. Sigh. Not sure why I can't execute this one yet.

4. Cut the chaos: Tidy up the house for 10 minutes each night, every night. - Wow. My house is so not tidy right now. I've realized that now that the "100 Day Clutter-Free Challenge" is over (from the inspiring Clutter Free Journey blog), I've really let this resolution fall away. Maybe I should start the challenge again from day one by following her archives. OK. I think I'll try that.

5. Exercise: Dance with Flannery on Mon, Wed, Fri afternoons. - met on days that I'm home (I work Friday afternoons now, but we do dance pretty regularly on Mon/Weds!)

6. Eat Well: Bring a lunch on Tues/Thurs. - Um. Sometimes I drop by my house between clients and grab a cereal bar for lunch. Does that count? Yeah, I didn't think so. A scary thing has happened to make this resolution more difficult. I now pass a Taco Bell every Thursday around lunch time, between clients. And I admit it, I am a sucker for a 99 cent bean burrito. I mean, it's cheap, it's fast, it's protein, and it's not as terribly unhealthy, a hamburger? yeah. I still do need to pack a salad.

So, there we are, folks. This progress report is not as glowing as the last one was. But maybe that will make me get myself in gear so that I can focus on growth this summer.

Have you kept any of your new years' resolutions this year? What areas of your life are you moving forward in? Stalling in? Do you think that taking stock of where you are makes you happier or just depressed? Or depressed in the short run and happy in the long run if it inspires change? OK, I promise I'll stop asking questions now, especially multiple choice ones. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

There's Regular Sick, and There's Homesick

This week, I have really felt the tug of homesickness.

As my daughter says sometimes, "I miss the green house." (that's it, our old house back in Athens, in the pics)

Maybe it's just because I've been "regular" sick, and I don't really have a good support system here yet for times when I'm sick and my hubby has a ton of deadlines at work.

Or maybe it's because I'm missing a baby shower this weekend, of a friend back home in GA whose wedding I had to miss because I had just moved. And another friend is about to go into labor at any moment. And I'd love to have been preparing the perfect vegan dish to take to her after the baby comes. But, oh, that's right, she lives states away. And another friend has gone through some trying times this week, and I would've loved to have dragged her out for a fancy coffee and a long chat. But, instead our phone conversation got inadvertently cut off when my cell phone suddenly had no signal, in my own home. And I'm tired, and have been sick, and it would've been a perfect weekend to let Flanna hang out with her grandparents for a few hours while I caught up on the laundry or maybe took a nap. But, yeah, you guessed it, said grandparents are states away. And then I kept meaning to call my sister every day, but then it was suddenly 11 pm every night, and now I haven't talked to her in eons. Seriously, eons.


Homesickness is sometimes worse than regular old sickness.

But, on a positive note, my hubby won an award today for having the best "poster" at a networks conference at Duke. Which is really neat. That boy's a smarty. And it's worth occasional bouts of homesickness to get to see him flourish professionally.

Worth it, but I do still get to say, "Hmmph."

Have you always lived in the same general area, or have you made big moves in your life? How have you juggled maintaining old friendships and making new ones as you've moved through your life?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What I Wore Last Week

Since I've found in my happiness project that, for me, "Look Good, Feel Good," is true, I thought it would be fun to take Lindsey (from the Pleated Poppy)'s challenge and document a week of what I wore. She calls it her "what I wore Wednesday" post.

It was a little embarrassing. But I think that knowing I was going to document what I wore at least made me put a little thought into what I was grabbing to put on each morning. Which is a good thing, in that when I feel more put together, I do feel a bit more confident and happy.

So, here goes:

Thursday: Blah!
Worked all day
Green Shirt: Target
Black Pants: Hand-me-downs from my mom
Black ballet flats: Target

Friday: a good day
Worked half a day, then played with my 3 year old daughter
Brown shirt: Hand-me-down from my sister
Floral Skirt: Old Navy
Brown FlipFlops - Target

Saturday: hilarious
Went to the lake with my daughter and her friend
Blue swimsuit: Kohl's
Blue swim shorts: Walmart
Flip flops: Target

Sunday, my daughter and I were sick, so I spent all day in pajamas. Sorry I didn't take a pic!

Monday: still sorta sick (and feeling frumpy)
Morning meeting at work, then stayed home with sick Flanna all day
Green & Brown embroidered shirt: Gift from my mom
Brown long skirt: Ross
Espadrille wedges: TJ Maxx

Tuesday: mostly better
Watched my sick daughter in the morning, then worked in the afternoon
Turquoise/brown shirt: Gift from my mom
Jeans: Ross
Wedges: TJ Maxx
turquoise choker: hand-me-down from my mom

Wednesday: rainy day
Worked in the morning, watched my daughter and her friend in the afternoon
Green summer dress: Target
Jean jacket: TJ Maxx
Flip flops: Target

So, there it is. One day my daughter can look back on this post and die of embarrassment. :)

What outfit do you feel best in? Do you wear it constantly or save it for special occasions?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Let Go

Today my motto was my happiness commandment #6 - Do Your Best and Be Done with It.

As in, I made breakfast. (Did I clean the kitchen afterward? Nope. But that was the best I could do in my "I've-been-sick-for-3-days" funk.)

And, then, after watching my sick kiddo all morning, I got a shower and put on some clothes for an afternoon meeting and language session. (Did I fix my hair? Nope. I stuck with the curly wash-n-go look. But, hey, I did my best and was done with it.)

And then, I managed to talk coherently in a meeting despite being groggy from some fancy cough medicine. And I sang songs and had a fun speech session after that. (Did I play every chord right and catch every bit of data I should've been recording during the group? Nope. But I did my best, and now I'm done with it.)

And then when I got home, I heated up some leftover homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner, yet again. Yum. (Did I clean the kitchen after that? Still nope. Maybe I'll get to it after Lost. Or maybe it will wait 'til tomorrow. I won't beat myself up about it today.)

Today was not the best day. But it wasn't the worst, either. I made it through, did my best. And now, I'm done with it. Whew!

What do you need to let go of, to be done with? Give yourself permission to do just that.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Still Sick, and Lake Pics

My daughter is still sick. And I'm not feeling so hot, either. We had chicken noodle soup and saltines for 2 meals today. We rested. And now I'm exhausted.

So, in lieu of a thought provoking post today, here are a few cute pictures from a trip to the lake last Saturday. Flanna got brave enough to swim on her own with the fish float (she's usually super conservative and cautious about the water). We ate fresh strawberries and picnic lunches, and even stopped for ice cream on the way home. It was a fabulous day.

And now for more cough medicine and an early bedtime!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Snuggle while you Can

Today, my daughter woke up sick. A fever. A cough. A headache.

We snuggled for three hours on the couch before she even said more than a few words.

The funny thing about that girl is that, when she wants to snuggle for more than, say, 2 minutes, you can pretty much bet that she's sick. She loves to snuggle usually, but in short bursts, in between cute dance moves and intense art projects.

So, when she wanted to snuggle, and wasn't torn away from the snuggling by some wonderful idea for an art project or some wonderful song she just had to dance to, I knew that something was up.

And the terrible thing? The horrible thing?

Is that I secretly enjoy a lazy day of my daughter wanting to snuggle all day. A sleepy day of naps on the couch together and watching endless Dora videos and old home movies.

I pray that she'll be well tomorrow. But for today, I'm going to take all the snuggling I can get with my sweet girl.

As Gretchen Rubin says, "The days are long, but the years are short."

What makes you feel better when you're sick?

P.S. These pictures are obviously not from today. They're from earlier in the week, when Flanna was feeling well. But I was tired, and who knows where my camera is, and, well, aren't they cute?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Donuts with Dads

Today, Flanna's school had a special program to recognize the students' dads. Donuts with Dads was reportedly a big hit, and the teachers said that a class full of children with a donut sugar high was really entertaining.

Here are some cute pics of Robi and Flannery before school. So sweet!

Seriously, sometimes I can't believe how lucky my daughter is to have such a fantastic dad. I fell in love with a great guy, but I just got lucky that he turned out to be good at being a dad AND a husband. I'm so thankful for him.

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Celebrate Accomplishments

Our friend Christopher graduated last weekend. He got his MPA (Master's of Public Administration) from UNC Chapel Hill. We were so proud of him!

We went to the graduation and to a great catered lunch at the School of Government on Saturday, and then we got to have lunch with him and his family on Mothers' Day, too.

It took a lot of hard work for him to get his master's degree. And a lot of sacrifice, too. Like being brave enough to move away from family and friends to start school. And living states away from his fiancee for two years. And lots of long nights of studying. And lots of brutal hours of research and writing.

But in the end, he got a great degree from a very well-respected program in his field.

It was one of those experiences where the pieces of the experience were probably not so happy. Figuring out a new town on your own. Classes. Research. Studying. Writing. Internships. Driving back and forth long distances to visit fiancee, friends, and family.

But the whole of the experience brings a lot of happiness. A degree. Pride in an accomplishment. Relief at being finished with hard stuff. Friends and family celebrating your awesome talents and work ethic.

So, hooray for Christopher! I hope he gets to take the time to just revel in his accomplishment for a week or so! What a milestone!

What's something that brings you happiness overall, but that while you're in the midst of it, it's not actually all that happy? (For me, it's probably traveling...the actual process of traveling is so stressful to me, but the experience is always a good one when I look back on it.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Show Up

"Eighty percent of success is showing up."
--Woody Allen

So I think I have a little cold. Sore throat. A little cough. Tired. But no fever.

Since I work with preschoolers, I'm usually pretty cautious about going to work when I'm sick. And I seriously thought about calling in sick and sleeping the day away today.

But I pushed through since I didn't have a fever, and after a few minutes at work, I was feeling okay. Invigorated, even. I worked extra hard to make a connection with my sweet clients, and got some really nice progress today!

And then, after work, I had the afternoon off with my daughter. We invited a friend of hers over and had a very relaxing day of mani/pedis and artwork at home and playing at the park. And while the girls played a bit at home, I made my favorite ever easy peasy homemade pasta sauce for dinner.

I got to experience all this wonderful stuff today, because I made a conscious choice to "show up," rather than calling in sick. I could've cancelled therapy sessions and not had the reward of the excellent progress I got to see today. I could've cancelled Flannery's playdate and not had the reward of watching the cutest kids ever play at the park.

But, instead, I showed up. And, boy, am I glad I did.

Do you think it's true that "80% of success is [just] showing up?" What have you "shown up" for that made a difference for you?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wear your Favorite Jeans

Today I wore my favorite jeans. They're just the right weight, not too heavy and not too thin. The pockets have a cute little pattern on them. They have a medium rise, so I'm not worried about flashing anyone while I sit on the floor with preschoolers all day. They're a tiny bit stretchy, so I don't have to break them in all day--they start out comfortable.

Just a little thing.

But it made me happy.

Plus, these jeans are probably my most flattering. So I felt good in them. Look good, feel good. Sometimes it's true for me.

What piece from your wardrobe makes you feel good? Or even an accessory? For instance, I have this long necklace with a turquoise stone in it that was my grandma's, and every time I wear it, I just feel so put together. It really does make me happy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Grow Each Day

One of the major things I've learned about myself during my little happiness project so far is that, for me to be happy, I have to be growing in some way at all times. You know, like learning Spanish, or exercising more, or learning about gardening. Right now I'm on an herb garden streak, so forgive me the zillions of photos I'm posting today if you're not at all interested in plants.

Our basil that we started from seed is now all grown up! And it graduated to a bigger planter this weekend. The cutest planter ever, if I do say so myself. Which I do! I used some for homemade bruschetta today. Yum!

Our marjoram is also growing to be gorgeous. I still haven't used any yet, though. Maybe I'll put it in my pasta tomorrow. Ideas?

We started some new basil and oregano seeds in our windowsill this weekend. Flannery has dutifully (over)watered them every day. And I love that she has crazy bed head in the watering picture. It's kinda endearing.

The roses are my neighbors' bushes, but I just had to share them! So beautiful!

The herb "garden" now consists of: basil, cilantro, rosemary, mint, chives, & marjoram. I'm also trying to grow some peppers and tomatoes. I had no luck with starting my strawberries from root bunches. I've been faithfully watering a planter full of soil and rootlets for 2 weeks now, and I'm rather disappointed. Apparently there must be a trick to that. A very secret trick. Oh, well.

In what area are you currently "growing", and is it boosting your happiness? Or, if you're not growing right now, what area of your life might you think about "growing" in?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers' Day Continues

Today was a wonderful day.

There was an early morning snuggle with my Flanna. A cool morning spent watering various plants before the neighborhood woke up. Flannery requested to wear pigtails today (my favorite!). She told me "Happy Mothers' Day!" about a thousand times. It made the day so sweet!

There was a card from my hubby that was so kind it made me get tears in my eyes.

There was church. I got blessed with some holy water in honor of Mothers' Day. Very cool.

Then there was a lunch with great friends. Our godson Christopher graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with his MPA this weekend. We're very proud. The last pic is of him with his sweet fiancee Leslie.

Then there was a relaxing afternoon, including a special mom's day nap just for me. Nice.

And now it looks like I may even make it to bed before 11. Super nice.

For me, it was: a cool morning. Pigtails. A nap. What tiny things made you happy today?

A Picture of My Mom

Curly haired, she stands up straight. Compassionate and overly empathetic. She stops her car on the side of the highway to get out and move a turtle off of the road. A perfectionist who can analyze and organize a room for peak efficiency in 2 seconds flat. A stylish, hip grandma with a knack for cooking, baking, decorating, and gardening. Poetic and creative. Deep and intense. A nonconformer hippie chick. A survivor of open heart surgery. A survivor of a tense childhood. A gifted writer and singer. She dances to loud music when cleaning the house. She married young and had two premature babies. She analyzes her dreams. I remember how she would smooth my hair without thinking while I sat on her lap as a child. A worrier who was often right to worry. A good sister. A loving wife. She listens to children. She cares enough to say hard things. She cares enough to say kind things. She cares enough to be silent sometimes. Honest and open. She apologizes for things that aren't her fault. A caregiver to the old and weak. A hard worker no matter what the job. She doesn't see herself as strong or beautiful.

But we do.

Tell me about your mom, as a real person, not so much as a mom. What makes her, her?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Be Bold

"When in doubt, wear red."
--Bill Blass

This week, as part of my happiness project, I've been trying to be bold and ask for what I want more often. And it really has made me happier! (Uncomfortable at times, too, but hopefully it'll start coming more naturally after a while!)

For example, I got brave and asked a bunch of fellow mommies who live on my street out for coffee and dessert! And we went out on Thursday night! It was great fun to get to know these cool mamas a little better. And we're planning to get together again, so yay!

I asked my hubby to put Flanna to bed so I could go for a nice long walk on Tuesday. He didn't mind at all, and I got some good exercise and time in nature--both of which improved my mood!

When I couldn't find a sitter so my hubby and I could attend a friend's graduation, I got brave and asked a friend if she would mind if Flanna came to her house for a playdate this morning sans parents. She didn't mind at all, and Flannery had the best time ever! How wonderful!

Tonight, I was feeling stressed, so I asked my wonderful hubby once again if I could have some time to myself. He got Flannery ready for bed while I strolled the aisles of Target and Ross. Ahhh, the aimless wandering I love so much. (It wasn't actually as enjoyable as a good walk outside, though, so I might have to start trading my Target trips for East Campus exercise trips more often. But, hey, that will be good for my hips and my budget!)

It was often uncomfortable for me to be bold enough to ask for what I wanted, but I pushed through the awkwardness of it, and was pleased to find out that people are generally very accommodating once you let them know what you need.

What do you want or need that you're uncomfortable about requesting? And what makes us uncomfortable asking for what we want, anyway? Is it that we don't want to ask for help because it would make us seem weak? Or that we don't want to inconvenience other people? Or that it's hard to figure out exactly what we want in the first place, much less ask for it?