Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Happiness Project

"Contemporary research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likeable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in others, friendlier, and healthier. Happy people make better friends, colleagues, and citizens." - Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project.

Let me preface this post by saying that I am not unhappy. Do I appreciate how lucky I am to be married to a good man, to have two healthy, intelligent children and to have family and friends who give of their love, time and friendship generously? Yes! Does it ever cross my mind that the pure chance of not being born in poverty in the third world means simply by having enough food to eat I am happier than the great majority of people on this earth? Frequently! Should I be grateful for the life I have? You better believe it! I am grateful. But could I do with a little more contentment... a bit more "in the moment" joy? Not only could I do with it, I crave it.

Much like Gretchen Rubin describes in her book, I find myself looking at my life and thinking, so this is it? Married, two kids, working, fighting off under eye wrinkles and gray hair and a gnawing sense of, THIS IS IT! Who I am, living the life I've got, waiting for everything to magically become perfect. If only the mortgage were paid off and the kids wouldn't smear paint or fingernail polish all over the table. If only those stupid unmatched socks would pair themselves up and march to the sock drawers. If only I could fit into my skinny jeans and the dog wouldn't chase the UPS man. If only I had more time and less to do.... wouldn't life be deliciously, deliriously, wondrously wonderful?

So how do I let go of the elusive perfect and find the happiness in the good?

By embarking on my own happiness project. Implementing small strategies and setting small mile markers to up the happy quotient in my life. After all, a happier me will mean happier people surrounding me.

This month's goals are to get more sleep (people who are well-rested have more energy to do the things and make the changes that will make them happy) and to wrap up at least one nagging task I've let go too long. Yes I am mimicking Gretchen's first month goals almost exactly... but I think this is a good place to start for me. I never sleep all night long. Waking up ten times is not unusual. When I do get enough sleep, I have more energy, get more done and feel more satisfied with my day. My upstairs space is almost finished. But it has been over a year since I did anything with that room! The blinds need to be hung, the paint splotches cleaned up and the furniture placed and arranged. I've found a thousand reasons (probably literally, a thousand) not to tackle these boring tasks... and the unfinishedness of it hangs over me (also quite literally) like a gloomy what-if. I think the satisfaction of completing this long overdue job will be worth the drudgery of actually tackling the tedium of paint scraping, window cleaning, furniture staining, etc.

With that said, I do realize that there is no magic secret to contentment. But I equally realize that exploring what makes people appreciate what they have, what they are actively doing to achieve contentment and gratefulness is an endeavor worth undertaking, if only for the journey and not the destination. Here's to happiness!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Smaller Footprint

I just finished reading an article about the importance of reducing our carbon footprint. As the population of the world increases, the strain on resources grows greater. Are we in danger of collapsing under the weight of our own "progress"?

We are sometimes good environmentalists and sometimes, lazy environmentalists at our house.

The good:
  • hot water heater seat on moderate (a genuine sacrifice as I prefer my shower hot enough to scald off a layer of skin) and cold water washing machine use.
  • Lights off! Our house gets enough natural sunlight that we don't need to turn on any lights until it gets dark. Rob is great about going behind everyone and making sure we turn everything off, but that MIGHT be as much about money as saving the earth.
  • Drying rack. I have not used my dryer AT ALL this week. If Bob the Wonder Dog wouldn't snatch the clothes of a clothes line, I'd love to install a one of those umbrella style outdoor racks. Our summer heat would have a load dry in no time!
  • Recycling. The kids help sort the plastic, cans, paper etc. for the recycling center. We don't have curbside pick-up, but we live less than a mile from the recycling center. Our trash to recycling ratio is probably about 50% now.
  • Keep the clunker going! Changing out cars frequently (even for more energy efficient ones) adds some size to the old footprint. We have managed to keep Rob's 1997 truck going with some mostly minor repairs and a little duct tape for the seats (how redneck is that)!
  • Consolidating errands. Three days a week, I drop the kids off at school and just continue on to work instead of going back home and leaving for work an hour later. That saves 10 miles per trip or 30 miles per week. We combine errands so that we drop the kids off for one activity and do the grocery shopping while they are occupied for an hour (this is less stressful than shopping with two kids, so BONUS), which also saves a trip.


  • Home Garden. A giant FAIL last time I attempted it. Trying to maintain an organic garden against the onslaught of bugs and weeds was more than I could do. I had every intention of attempting it again this year, but didn't get my act together in time. Thinking about doing an above ground container garden for tomatoes and okra on the back porch as a compromise. The Farmer's market is open on Saturday morning, but is the 14 mile round trip. Our grocery shopping is done on Sunday, so that adds to our gas total.
  • Grocery store packaging. I find myself really frustrated with the grocery buying. I can manage to buy unpackaged fruit/veggies for the most part: bananas, cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupe (but not the blueberries or strawberries), but it seems that the bulk of what we buy is packaged and then packaged some more! Yogurt, cheese, crackers, tea bags, bread, meat.... all packaged and then shrink wrapped for good measure!
  • Reusable shopping bags. This would seem to be the easiest thing of all... but I always forget the bags!
  • Clothing. Trying to find locally made clothing is almost impossible! Every label I read says: "Vietnam" or "China" on it!
  • You all know I ADORE my kindle. Is it really more sustainable to purchase ebooks than paper books? We have LOTS of things that plug in: ipad, kindle, PC, laptops... is the balance in raw materials vs. electricity usage really balanced? Abby absolutely loves to facetime with her friend Imogen in Australia! I doubt she is willing to give that up.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


The weather is stunning right now. Bordering on too warm, but the heat is mitigated by the beauty of new leaves and the clean white of dogwood blossoms and pink, red, and white azaleas. Skies that look like they extend forever. Fields cleared and ready for planting. Everything is fresh.


It makes me want to drive.

To obey that impulse to ignore the responsibilities of daily life... alarm clocks, laundry, dishes, meal times, schedules, phone, computer... to watch it, the eternal forward motion of life, grow smaller in the rear view mirror.

To tune it out with the blast of the ipod and the rush of wind over ears.

To let the sound of robins and the blue of the sky and the lazy float of clouds in front of the sun bleach life into a quiet shade of white and calm.

To be in a place where time is irrelevant and I can breathe and my energy is not pulled in a thousand different directions.

To just exist for a bit. To hear nothing but the pull of air in and the push out, the steady beat of my heart.

Not a possibility right now. Too many balls in the air that simply CANNOT come crashing down.

But... to borrow some of Sally Seltman's lyrics:

"Dreams, they come and go. This is one I've had forever I know. Been crossing my fingers and always hoping for it to come true... Got a dream that's become a friend and a reality!" Australia - 2014. We. are. there.

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