Month: March 2014

The Dog Days of Spring

Lollipop

Lollipop stole our hearts!

Mondays are the hardest day to write; definitely the hardest day to write about happiness. Harder still when you wake up and have to drive through areas of rain, sleet and snow on your way to the office. Yes, I said snow. And yes, it is March 31st.

Ho-hum.

In order to break the stranglehold that Mother Nature seems to have on us this year, I decided it was time to start thinking spring.

Unlike most people, I don’t conjure up long days of gardening in my yard during spring. I don’t expect to see beautiful displays of tulips bordering my house and I don’t anticipate my annuals or perennials – or whatever they’re called – poking through the ground. Flowers and gardening simply are not my thing. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like getting dirty. I actually don’t mind it at all. I just prefer getting dirty for better reasons than flowers.

Enter Pets Alive.

Last spring, my daughters and I started volunteering at this local animal shelter, Pets Alive. My kids had been asking for weeks to go visit and find out more about how we could help. I dragged my feet a bit, making up excuse after excuse to avoid volunteering at all cost. That sounds horrible, I know. I wasn’t trying to be mean and I am certainly not against volunteering for any cause. I was simply being realistic. You see, I knew that I would never have a home big enough to house the number of dogs that I knew we would, collectively, want to bring home.

Eventually, of course, I gave in. I agreed to take the girls “just to visit.” I made no guarantees that we would commit to volunteering or even stay at the shelter for more than an hour. Well, we stayed for four hours and ended up signing up for their next volunteer training seminar.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Felicity

Felicity was, obviously, another one of our favorites!

My girls absolutely love the chance to walk and love and care for all of these animals – dogs, cats, pigs, horses – whatever animal needs them, they are happy to help. And I absolutely love sharing this experience with them. It is such an amazing way to spend our time and an amazing way to teach my kids the importance of being responsible, caring human beings. And it definitely beats gardening!

So, Mother Nature, I beg of you… please bring on the Dog Days of Spring! They make me and my girls so very happy.

 

30 Days Makes a Habit

calendarThis post is a bit overdue. I expected to be writing this on Day 30, yet here we are on Day 40 of my little happiness blog experiment. That’s not a bad thing. It simply means that 10 other things took precedence on the happiness scale and so I delayed posting my thoughts on this particular subject until now.

What subject is that you ask? The subject of habits. More specifically, the 30 days it takes to form a new habit.

Several years ago, a new QuickChek convenience store opened not far from my home. It was situated close to a major interstate and had easy entry and exit points. During the first 30 days of their grand opening, they offered free cups of coffee. A free cup of hot coffee, no purchase necessary, at any time during the day. Commuters swooped in, grabbed their free cup of coffee (and perhaps a little snack or maybe they topped off their gas tank) and then they easily swooped back out and onto the interstate, heading to the office. After 30 days of an easily accessible, hot cup of coffee for the road, how could you resist?

Brilliant. That Promotions/Business Manager deserves a raise.

Well, I am obviously not a Promotions or Business Manager and I don’t work for QuickChek. I’m just a girl who needed a space and a topic that would help turn her hobby into a habit. And now that I’ve surpassed the 30 day mark, I think I might have actually accomplished that goal!

I will freely admit that some days it seems like a bit of a chore to sit down and write. Some days it’s difficult to simply find time to write and, still other days, it’s difficult to find a topic worthy of writing about. But, somehow, I’ve done it; somehow I’ve found the time and the topics and the will to write. Somehow I’ve managed to make writing part of my daily routine for the last 40 days and….it feels awesome!School Closing

Since Day 1, I’ve had more than 1,300 visitors from 9 different countries on this page. The most popular post? School Closings and Such. More than 170 people read that post. That breaks my heart a little.

Smiling DogsThe most well traveled post? Well, that would be the one about my adorable little pup, Smiling Dogs. That post was shared on Facebook and it was tweeted and re-tweeted. She traveled throughout the United States and on to Indonesia, the Czech Republic, Canada, Korea, Switzerland, Latvia, Russia and Portugal. She traveled far and wide and we never even had to update her vaccinations. My sweet girl.

My favorite post? I’m not sure I could choose just one. I do love my very first post, 365 Days of Happiness? I May Have to Ease Into This, simply because that’s where this journey began. Unexpected Side Effects is high on the list – because that realization felt really freakin’ good. And Old Friends: Part 2 and Those Kids follow close behind; mostly because those stories came so easily and they still make me smile every time I read them.

This is not a habit that’s easy to keep up, but it is a habit that feeds my soul. And after 40 days of feeling that good, how can I resist?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Takes a Village

VillageThis morning I woke up and made breakfast for my oldest daughter and her friend who had spent the night with us. Shortly after they woke up, another one of their friends arrived. She needed a place to crash for an hour or so before another mom was able to pick her up and shuttle her to her Saturday morning activities. In the meantime, my youngest daughter was scheduled to have her first outdoor lacrosse practice of the season. The plan was to drop friend #1 off at home while friend #2 stayed behind with my husband who would leave for work when I returned from dropping our youngest daughter off at lacrosse practice.

The rain gave us a bit of a reprieve.

Friend #1 stayed a bit longer while friend #2 was picked up by mom #2 and was on her way to starting her day. When we finally made it out of the house, we dropped friend #1 off at home and began our list of errands for the day.

With our own errands complete, we were off to my neighbor’s house. Here, we were on dog patrol while my neighbor spent the day searching for an apartment for her college-age daughter who is tired of living on campus.

Tomorrow, before driving my youngest daughter and her friend to religion class, I’ll run in and help take care of her friend’s dog. I’ll pick up some breakfast on my way back so that my husband can enjoy a fresh cup of coffee before I send him out to pick the kids back up from religion. He’ll drop the friend off at his home, where his Nana will be waiting. His Nana is spending the weekend so that his mom and dad can enjoy a well-deserved weekend away.

At some point today I stopped shuffling kids around and taking care of dogs long enough to think we are one lucky little family.

You see, this weekend I was the helper. Other weekends, I’m the one in need of help and, fortunately for me, I have this entire village of people ready and willing to lend a hand.

Last weekend, my youngest daughter got to participate in a lacrosse clinic being run by a local college team. That was only possible because a friend offered to take her there and back. Last Friday, my husband and I both had to leave for work early. My neighbor took our kids in at 8am and made sure they made it to school. Two weeks ago, we spent the day in New York City, leaving our pup home alone for the better part of the day. Another neighbor dropped in to take care of her so that we didn’t have to rush home. Over the summer, my husband and I were hoping for a much-needed weekend to ourselves. My sister stepped in and took our kids beach-hopping for a few days. And every summer, my parents take my kids for the better part of a week, giving them a break from the usual summer camp schedule.

Most days I don’t think about who I’m helping or who is helping me. Most days I shuffle through the day without giving it much thought. But, today I did give it thought and I realized, it really does take a village. And today I was happy to take note of my very own amazing little village.

 

 

There’s More to Life than Good Roots. There’s Red Shoes too.

Red ShoesYesterday’s post was a bit heavy.  Happy, but definitely heavy.  Given that today is Friday, I feel like I need a topic that’s a bit lighter.

Enter my hairdresser.

I travel a solid 20 minutes to get to my hairdresser.  It wasn’t always that way.  When I first stumbled on her, she was working in a salon 5 minutes from my home.   She stayed there just long enough for me to fall in love with her and then she moved.  It seemed like a well orchestrated plot.  She lured me in and dazzled me with her hairdressing prowess knowing that I would then follow her wherever she went.

Of course, I did follow her to her own salon that has this sort of updated Steel Magnolia’s feel to it.  Sometimes I’m the only one there, but more often there is one additional client and the receptionist too.  A mini group therapy session.  What a brilliant idea!  I won’t mention it to her, because I do enjoy our free exchange of advice every five weeks.  In fact, I enjoyed our last meeting so much that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

The last time I was there, I met one of her other long-time clients.  A tall, thin, spirited woman in her early 80’s who lived in, what sounded like, a magnificent old barn that she and her husband had lovingly converted into their permanent home.  I was instantly drawn to her.  She was funny and interesting and down-to-earth … and she was wearing a great pair of red shoes.  She sealed the deal when my hairdresser, pointing out the impending snowstorm, said to her, “You know, there’s more to life than good roots,” to which the woman shrugged and said, “I suppose, for some.”

We laughed through the next hour and I considered whether my schedule would permit taking my new ‘friend’ out for coffee.  She seemed to have the secret to life and I didn’t want to let her escape.  Reluctantly, I said goodbye, but not without getting one more little piece of advice.

“Sweetheart,” she said, “Good roots and some red shoes will take you farther than Wonder Woman’s red cape and her Lasso of Truth!”

Duly noted my new friend.  Duly noted.

Happy Friday everyone!

 

 

Unexpected Side Effects

“When we are mindful, we are fully alive.”

I recently read that quote and thought, that’s true, but it sounds a little too ‘crunchy granola’ for the masses.

And then, today, I came across this post from another blogger, Letting Down My Guard and Writing What I Want to Write and I thought, she nailed it!

I’ve tried my hand at this before. I’ve started blogs in the past and shared a few stories here and there. I distinctly recall the feeling of clicking “Publish” for the first time. It was a scary moment. Scarier still when people started paying attention to what I was writing. It felt as though I was standing naked in the middle of Times Square.

Not my thing. So, I stopped.

On top of the really scary feeling that came along with putting myself out there, my husband simply was not on-board. He felt as though I was putting him out there too in all of his nakedness. Definitely not his thing and so, I just let it go.

At the time, I had plenty of other things to occupy my time. We were a young family and I was just returning to work. We were living in a new place and I was struggling to find my comfort zone. I wanted to write, keep a personal journal at the very least, but there never seemed to be enough time for it. I rationalized that there were much more important things to focus on; writing would just have to wait.

And so it did.

Since then, I’ve grown older and so have my kids. My husband and I have matured in our relationship and we’ve found comfort in our home and life. I have a confidence in myself and in my life that was missing before and I, simply, feel as though I’ve grown into my own skin. Is this what it’s like to grow up?

I will admit that, when I started publishing this latest blog, I didn’t tell my husband about it. It was a bit of a surprise for him; an unpleasant surprise at that. I knew it would be, but it was time. It was time for me to start writing and, quite honestly, he was just going to have to get used to it!

Fortunately, he did.

I was surprised earlier today at how easily I could relate to that other blog. I understood that feeling of writing for others; the need for others to affirm my thoughts and praise my writing. I suppose, on some level, we all have that same need – whether we are bloggers or not. But, I was also surprised by another feeling.

Since starting this blog 37 days ago, I’ve started feeling much more mindful. Mindful of my life, my family, my work; mindful of how happy or unhappy different people and circumstances make me feel. And today, I was suddenly mindful of the purpose of this blog.

This blog isn’t about anyone other than me; it’s not a place for me to seek affirmation or recognition. I don’t need that anymore. I simply need a space to do something that I love and freely share what’s on my mind. I fully recognize that some people will love it and others will think I’ve lost my mind. And you know what? That’s ok.

That’s ok because dedicating one hour every single day to doing something for me makes me a better mom, a better wife, a better friend and a better person. It’s an unexpected side effect of this blog; a side effect that makes me pretty darn happy.

Jackpot Winnings and Breast Cancer

breast cancer ribbonI fell for it.  I never fall for these things, but I fell for this one.

Yesterday, a friend posted something on Facebook about using a pair of socks as an alternative to toilet paper and I just couldn’t resist.  I had to make a comment.  And then 30 seconds later, I received the dreaded chain email.

Turns out, the ridiculous status update was all a trap.  Once I commented on it, I was required to choose one of 12 predetermined status updates to share on my own wall in an attempt to trap even more unsuspecting victims.  Normally, I would click delete and move on but this one came with guilt.  This silly online game was, somehow, supposed to help spread awareness for breast cancer.  Now it seemed impossible not to play along.

I chose what I thought was the least ridiculous status update and posted ‘Just won $7,000 on a scratchy.’  And the madness began.

My sister saw it and was so excited by the news that she called my parents to tell them about it.  My parents then called me.  “But I don’t understand,” my mother kept repeating, “So you really didn’t win $7,000?”

More than 25 people commented on it and another 20+ simply liked it.  All of these people were so genuinely happy for me and my winnings …. and then I responded with the dreaded chain letter.  The response?  My favorite came from a good friend.  She simply wrote ‘FU.’

I couldn’t help but laugh.

The silly game did give most of us a good laugh, though it did prompt one friend to write and ask ‘Are you ok?’ I suppose it seemed I fell and hit my head or had simply lost my mind.  For the record, I didn’t.  I just thought breast cancer was a good enough reason to spread a little ridiculousness.  After all, more than 300,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States.

Imagine that diagnosis.

Sometimes a good laugh over something so ridiculous is the best medicine.

 

 

Neighbors

NeighborsI recently read a study that found that “the chattiest streets are the happiest streets.”  Interesting.

Researchers, studying 2,000 adults, found that simply speaking to our neighbors makes us happy.  The study didn’t suggest that we need to become best friends with them or go away on vacations with them; we don’t even need to let them borrow a cup of flour if that, somehow, offends us.  We simply have to talk to them and we will reap happiness rewards.

Well, duh.  That seems a no-brainer.

Every single day I walk out my front door and into one of my neighbors.  Some days I see the same neighbor multiple times.  Just the thought of not smiling, waving hello or asking how things are going makes me feel awkwardly uncomfortable.  They’re my neighbors.  They share my space.  They know my routine.  They pet my dog.  They drive past my kids.

Call me a people-pleaser, but I want my neighbors to like me!  Fortunately, I think they do.

I have neighbors who offer to watch my kids at 8 in the morning and neighbors who offer to walk my dog when we are gone all day.  I have neighbors who bring us old books and magazines that their own children have outgrown.  I have neighbors who take good care of my kids’ hand-me-downs and neighbors who give me their own kids’ hand-me-downs.  I have neighbors who act as babysitters and I have neighbors that invite my kids over for ‘Sundae fun day’ at 7pm on a Sunday night.  I have neighbors who ring our bell and ask us to go sledding with them on those cold winter snow days.  I have neighbors that have Halloween pizza parties with us and help us discover new ways to drink apple cider.  I even have neighbors who bring us wine and offer us front row seats at Yankee Stadium!

I haven’t done any studies on the subject, but I must agree:  talking to my neighbors definitely does make me happy.