Monday, January 30, 2012

January Happiness Wrap-up!


Ever wonder what life has in store for you? Sometimes I find myself teetering on that question... Sometimes life is predictable... other times we are in awe at how it can suddenly change. I look at 2012 with anticipation... goals and dreams right in front of me... I want to live this year full of happiness, come what may.

So, how did January go?

I asked myself that last night and of course it happened to be a difficult day. So, for the record, yesterday I was not at all happier. However, I am glad to learn the lessons of the day... Gretchen talks about how when we have habits in our lives that do increase our overall happiness, it's easier to get through the hard parts of life. I knew that the last week of the month would be challenging... I know February will have some challenges that I will not like at all... So, I get to put it to the test. I will focus on my daily habits.

Then, there's my daughter's voice I hear calling out, “Happiness is a choice, mom. You can choose to be happy.” Oh, yes. It's seems so easy when we tell that to someone else, huh? On difficult days, you may actually feel like smacking the next person who crosses your path spouting off some quote on how to be happy! But, bless her heart, we spent the day together and she didn't once instruct me on how to be happy, she just let me be...

Which also reminds me of a counselors words... to let yourself experience the down times, but stay aware. Stay conscious of being sad... or disappointed... Acknowledge those things and then give yourself a time limit. Maybe you need a half hour to just sit with your feelings and do nothing. Fine. Take your half hour, then do something! I gave myself yesterday. I spent some time being creative (crocheting). I shopped a little. I played with my grandson. I didn't consult to do lists or calendars. I just was. Then I really enjoyed my small purchase of a clip on book light and got all comfy reading in bed.

So, back to reviewing January. I looked up an online article about time management and was quite pleased that I was already doing most of what was suggested. What was really cool, though, was seeing my personal resolutions in print by someone else! Several years ago I read a great time management book that encouraged readers to have a planning session in the morning and a review in the evening, so that basic concept was not necessarily my own. I can attest to the fact that it does make a difference! My happiness goal was to begin and each day paying attention to my calendar and make plans, prioritizing what the day's schedule would be. That would bring an increase in overall happiness because I would not be missing appointments and would remember to make necessary phone calls. Check. Done. I really like this habit and that it serves me. Most days there were some items not checked off because I tend to put too much on my plate... But, I was pleased with what did happen.
I will continue to have my beginning and end of day sessions.

The other thing that I wanted to make a habit of was keeping a notepad and pen with me. I really enjoyed the benefit of having several new pens in my purse and when I happened to be out and about and suddenly thought of something that I didn't want to forget, I'd jot it down!

I've also worked on some of my personal commandments:

*Be kind to everyone.
*Do what has to be done.
*It's not your job to make others happy.
*Be who God created you to be.
*Pause and enjoy!
*Write it down.
*Pray, Pray, Pray.

I tried to keep aware of “Pause and enjoy” since I see life through a “to-do” lens. Even taking just a moment to look around and visually take in my surroundings and appreciate the moment brings bits of happiness. I think it will help reduce stress, too!

Being kind to everyone... that should be a personal motto for me. Not because I am unkind, but because when I get stressed, I tend to let go of a higher level of “manners”, so to speak. It means that even if I don't feel good, I try to not snap at the boys... or Zoey.

Now I am getting excited for February's happiness resolution: worship! More on that when February begins!

Oh, and my “room of focus” in January was my bedroom... but I stalled because there are some things in there that should be stored in the garage and I couldn't make that happen because the garage needs attention first. That said, I did organize my drawers and closet... and I really, really was going to dust with polish, but I lost the can of spray! Honestly.

Now, to enjoy the last bit of January and say good-bye to a month I've truly enjoyed. Then it's on to February, which I am certain will prove a most happy month... when we say Happy Birthday to this little guy for the first time:




Monday, January 23, 2012

Betty and the story of Bart

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," he used to say. "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."
J.R.R. Tolkien

The morning was cold. Skies were gray with dark, foreboding clouds. Small luggage in hand, she walked trepidly across the windy bridge, looked around nervously and saw what she was after... the ticket machine. It had been a long, sleepless night, knowing what she had to do. Yes, she had to take public transportation!

Though many in her family had gone before her, this was her first time... a solo journey that would culminate with a shuttle bus and a flight out of town.

After purchasing the ticket and figuring out that the ticket prompted the release of the triangular gate, she walked along the platform, eyeing other passengers, noting their features and trying to discern which ones would be safest by which to stand. Shivering during the wait for the tram to arrive, she heard a voice call out, announcing the arrival of the tram and the imminent boarding. Scenarios played out in her head... strange plots that had been viewed in movies... Was that quiet, darkly dressed man spying behind that pillar? What about that middle aged man, trying to blend in... was he an undercover officer?

So it was that Betty boarded Bart. She sat close to the exit door, gratefully eyeing the map. As the tram pulled away from the station, groans and muffled screeches were heard... the tram on it's tracks. The journey progressed rather quickly, while she continued monitoring each stop on the diagram. She could not help but lean forward to make sure that each station's sign coordinated with the map. Next stop... the ultimate test. To reach her destination, she must exit the tram, cross the landing and enter another one. She'd rehearsed this many times over. Heart racing, she grasped hold of her luggage and book bag, stood and confidently stepped forward.

Moments later she shuffled down the aisle of a nearly full car, finding a seat. This time she was seated in a manner which was facing the opposite direction of which the tram would travel, which unnerved the poor lady. Next... well... it was something she just had to do... yes, she had to look back over her shoulder... you know, to make sure nobody had out their camera phone to take pictures! She'd seen that in a movie once, too. Then, it happened. The tram went dark. Yep, you guess it. It traveled under ground. It's just not natural to suddenly find oneself traveling underneath the surface of the earth. Heart racing, it became mind over matter. She told herself to just breathe. People survived this hourly. She would make it.

Fortunately, the announcement was made. Up next was the stop for the coliseum, with an airport shuttle. This time she eagerly took hold of her belongings and quickly exited, ever so grateful for the sign on the platform that displayed an arrow, directing her to the bus shuttle location. Although slightly put off that the driver would not accept her dollars and required her to insert them herself into the machine, she happily hurled her luggage onto the rack and took her seat. Success! She had done it! Next stop, the airport. But, she knew airports. She could totally do airports. Easy. Breathing a satisfied sigh, she began to relax and noticed her heart rate decelerating. Then... they arrived.

Two women wobbled into the shuttle and although the sign clearly said that all luggage was to be stowed on the appropriate rack, they must not have been able to read, because they put theirs right in the middle of the aisle. Now Betty had taken the 3rd of 4 seats that were connected. One lady sat down on the first. Her very good friend sat across from her. Phew. Then it happened. The very good friend decided that she absolutely must sit close beside her traveling buddy. She arose and turned and sat down. Squish. I kid you not, she sat on Betty's very own leg!!! Astonished and slightly annoyed, but not wanting to risk being rude, Betty slipped quickly out from underneath the large lady and settled into the 4th chair.

Twelve minutes later, she was able to disembark and happily joined the line inside the airport to check in her luggage and receive her boarding pass. This was the easy part of the day. And as she began to reflect on her overcoming of public transportation fear, he arrived. The coughing, snorting man who looked as though he hadn't slept in days. He joined the line, standing right behind her. In between coughs, she heard him say into his telecommunicating device that he had not yet taken his decongestant. As the line moved forward, she wisely turned her luggage long-ways between her and the man behind. Yet, she was stunned when he chose to walk alongside her suitcase and stand close! "Seriously?" she asked herself. Then he brushed her backside!!! "Seriously??" she asked herself once more. Perhaps flying presents more of a hazard than the tram....

However, she checked through security, boarded her plane, upon which the man with a cough was not a passenger, and promptly fell asleep during flight... overtaken by the sheer exhaustion of her imagination and the events of the day.

The End. Or is it?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Life's side trips...

Last week I was able to slip down for a visit with my dad.

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It was a treat to simply hang out, relax and step out of my daily routine.

When I visit my dad's I like to slowly walk from room to room, gazing at "things" that have precious memories attached to them. All sorts of childhood memories surface. I stop and appreciate that my dad cared about me and I am thankful once more for the relationship that I have with him. Here are a few "things" with memories:

This is his dresser... it reminds me that he loved woodwork and trains... and I let my mind wander to when we took my dad to the Sacramento train museum a couple of years ago.

Next is a lamp that my dad's dad made. He like working with wood, too! This lamp was made for my dad when I was about 10 years old. As a little girl, I would sit close and look through the windows at the inside cabinets and countertops... there were tiny tools inside!! Then my mind wanders to the home I lived in at that time and on go the memories...

Next is a fairy... she sits in a houseplant. Several years ago I flew down from Alaska to spend about a week with my parents. It was a beautiful reprieve from a hectic life of homeschooling 7. Towards the end of my stay, I found this fairy near the checkstand at a local market. I bought one for my lovely stepmom and one for me. Unfortunately, mine did not make the move from Alaska to California. But, I always look for the plant fairy when I visit.

Each time I visit my dad's home, he tells the story of my firstborn, Shasta and the time she came to visit when she was about 3. She would go up to this porcelain dog, pet it and one time she called out, "Ouch!" My dad asked her what the matter was and she cried out, "Clancy bit me!" Dad has never been able to pass Clancy on to anyone else... he loves to remember...

Well, we laughed and shared stories and ate and even dozed off a few times. I cannot share a photo of me doing the same because... well... I am the photographer and I could not take a picture of myself while asleep!

Finally, my dad and his dog, Fritz.

I had an uneventful trip home... I scanned the horizon often, looking for opportunities to take a picture, but... well... have you ever driven from the Grapevine up the state of California?? If you have, you know why I don't really have a photo of anything. At least at this time of year... And, I fell asleep a couple of times and I already mentioned that I don't take pictures while I am sleeping.

Now all is peaceful back at home... we have a cold, windy winter day with scattered showers... the guys are away, hoping to take in the football game... and us girls are rather quiet. It's nice.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Toddler Drama (So cute!)

What's this? Chloe is snuggled in for a nap?

I, Jayden Almighty am here to save you! I will teach you how to get out of naps! (He's a pro.)

First off... away with Lovey Bear! You shall not have Lovey Bear!

Did you see that, Grandma? He just took my Lovey Bear!

Next, I, Jayden Almighty, shall entertain you by giving Lovey Bear a shoulder ride!

Thanks, Grandma... I'll hug Fuzzy Wuzzy instead...

Oh, no you don't!

That's it! I've had it!! Enough with this nap!!!

See? Jayden Almighty has saved the day! Now, we shall play!

Uh-oh. Grandma stuck me in my chair with a bottle and a blankie... this could be tough...

Yeah... she did it to me, too...

Hooray! Nap time is over!! Time for front yard play!!!

I will protect you, Chloe! NO one will get past me!

I mean it... don't come any closer!

Go Team Jayden!

She believes in me!

... uh... what's the deal with these sticks, anyway?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Let the Happiness Begin!

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Really. It can start anytime. I am waiting!

Just kidding. We are half way through January and a phrase of Gretchen Rubin jumps out at me: "Happiness does not always make you feel happy." And she's right! I am happy when I stay up late, enjoying the house to myself. But, the next day the price I pay makes me quite unhappy. Better is to choose getting to sleep earlier and have the rest and energy that I need the following day. And sleeping more does increase my overall level of happiness. No to mention that the family is free from "grumpy, tired mom". So, happiness (the day after I choose to get to sleep) does not always feel happy (making myself go to sleep earlier).

I knew three days into the year that it wasn't necessary to track how I spend my time. I truly know when I am procrastinating and when I need to spend less time in front of the computer and more time doing chores, writing, reading, having family time or enjoying a hobby. Because I generally see life in terms of "to-do" lists, I am aware of how much time I work, play and am idle. It's actually better for my overall level of happiness to remind myself to "pause and enjoy". In fact, that will be one of my personal commandments. I'm trying to break the habit of "get this done, check it off, get the next thing done" and replace it with pausing to enjoy the moment at hand. (Yes, I have blogged about that before... it's an on-going process for my task oriented self!)

I've just about finished reading The Happiness Project and while visiting Gretchen's website I signed up for an email that gives a daily happiness quote. Those have been terrific! They are brief, uncluttered statements to ponder. Also from the website was instructions for emailing Gretchen to get copies of her monthly resolutions charts. The basic principle involved is... set a goal for the month to tweak an area (or two or three) in your life that could increase your level of happiness and then work on it... that includes checking in with yourself regularly to see how it's going. Don't be afraid to join in! You can always eliminate goals that don't work, add in new ones and when something is working, it feels great! Anyway, I printed the blank resolution chart for January and have used it near-daily to check off how I'm doing with my goals. My title for January is "Time Management", of course. I also decided to pick a room each month to focus on because I don't want to give a month of my happiness project to cleaning/organizing the house! So, this month the room of focus in my bedroom. Since my main time management resolution is taking time, first thing, to check calendars and plan my day, I try to stick some sort of "bedroom" task in there somewhere. I'd better step it up, though, because the month is passing by and my closet is a wreck and my drawers horribly cluttered up... not to mention the few piles at the end of my bed.

Another thing I've done is to pick a "word of the day" that sums up how I feel about the day and jot it down on my chart. So far my words have been:

* Plan
* Relationships!
* Frustrated
* Procrastinating
* Off-track
* Marriage :^)
* Joy
* Peace
* Success! (Two days have this word!! Yippee!)

And so I end my mid-month happiness report... closing it out with a couple of pictures of a little guy who adds supreme happiness to life!

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He loves looking outside... and loves going outside even more...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Full Color Beautiful Day

As we were driving home yesterday my Shasta girl sleepily stated, "I wish today would never end... it's been the best day". And my momma heart swelled a bit inside of me because I know what it means to treasure a moment. I watched her take in delights and live the magic of watching her son play at the beach for the first time. As for Chris? He made epic leaps and bounds in my book... watching him play with Jayden at the park... seeing his face light up as Jayden crawled up play structure stairs... reaching for his son's hand to walk over to the next fun "thing". I was so thankful to be a part... to follow around adjusting my settings and focusing on their happy faces, clicking away to capture some of that family magic. Another very special part of the day was walking into Jayden's great-grandma's home with the camera and plugging it in so that not only she could "oooh and aaah" over the pictures, but so could Jayden's great-great-grandma! How wonderful to see the joy spread over their faces and yet even more wonderful that they were able to play with Jayden in person. He brings such light and happiness to everyone. Here are my favorite photos of the day:

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, dear Joseph!

Yep. Fourteen years and several days ago I was expecting to birth my 6th baby... When Joseph woke up on his birthday I shared the story of how I'd fallen on ice around January 3rd and that all day the 4th I had not felt the baby move, so I drove myself to the hospital to get checked... the children stayed home that evening with their dad. While being monitored for an hour or so that night I was having contractions every 10 minutes. The baby was doing fine, but it was detected that I had very low amniotic fluid... and there was concern about me going home and risks... and it was 65 degrees below zero... So, Joseph was born on January 5th. I left out some details because... well... they just aren't necessary, you know?? I shared his birth story with him and then the two of us enjoyed taking time to reminisce... remembering the year he was a toddler wearing yellow rain boots ALL summer long... he was our little chicken chaser... how a few years later he was a little tennis star at the courts, making the best shots and picking up the sport so naturally... (he got a LOT of attention from the local coaches for a couple of those years!)... the time an adult asked him his name and he said, "I'm Joseph... You know... Joseph from the Bible."

You only sit and recall memories for just so long and then you're ready to do something else...

And our "something else" was the two of us driving over to see Rebekah, Nick and Lily! We met up with them and headed to a hill which had a trail and some really great trees and a rope tree swing. How special it is when you get out of the ordinary and take in nature!

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I was much slower when it came to descending... the car and kids looked like toys and I couldn't resist doing a fun shot with the camera:

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Next we headed into the local bowling alley to shoot some pool, play some air hockey and grab some snacks. I left my camera in the car, so I have no photos to share. I really appreciated that Nick and Bek wanted to take some time to spend with Joseph and hang out. We dropped Nick and Lily off at their house and kidnapped Bek, bringing her home with us to spend the night. When Scott got in we headed to get some pizza with Shasta, Chris and Jayden joining us. I love taking in these events... pausing to look around and see notice what each of them look like in this one moment of time... watching what each of their characters is like... being thankful for lessons learned and obstacles overcome... taking a deep breath when you realize that so much is yet to come.

Many happy returns of the day, Joseph!