Category Archives: Happiness

Annual Favorite: A Gift for Parents: A Stress-Free Christmas Morning

christmas morning

All parents love the joy and wonder they see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. We envision langorous, loving exchanges of gifts and resulting hugs, sips of hot toddies by the fire, and magical elves that cook breakfast and bag up a landfill’s worth of wrapping paper and bows as classic Christmas tunes serenade our relaxing repose.

The reality, however is a bit different. For instance, at 6 a.m. on December 25th, we are already blurry-eyed (or hungover if you previewed the hot toddies after Midnight Mass) from staying awake until 2:30 a.m. to:

  • Wait for sugerplums to start dancing (start, already!) in their bursting-with-excitement heads.

children sleeping

  • Finish, or, er, start, building that bike or 250-piece deluxe dollhouse and furniture with magnifying glass and a hot glue gun.

deluxe dollhouse

dollhouse furniture

  • Clean up reindeer poop and free Santa from the chimney after a few too many cookie/milk combos.

santa chimney problem

Because of these challenges, we often set ourselves up for a less-than-satisfying experience, not the ideal we dream of. So in order to help parents everywhere better prepare and maybe even enjoy the day, I’ve created this handy checklist of THREE WISE things to remember:

1. Three Things to Have on Hand for Opening Gifts

swiss army knife

dynamite

box cutter

Why? Because every parent knows toys are boxed for maximum display, not ease of removal. Take Polly Pocket or Barbie sets, for instance. Military-grade plastic strips and twist-ties are used to hold EVERY SINGLE limb, accessory, and hair in place in the box. These require hours of finger-numbing work to loosen, untie, or remove. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. They are encased in SPF 1000 plastic which you may or may not be able to remove before the second or fifth installment is released at Easter.

polly pockets

2. Three Things to Prepare Ahead of Time

industrial coffee maker
batteries
headphonesStart with an industrial-sized coffee maker prepped the night before to spew out that glorious caffeinated liquid. Or, if you prefer:

hot toddy

Next, be sure to have 212 batteries on-hand for all those toys that say:

batteries not included

No kid wants to open a gift they can’t play with until you run out to the store in your pjs and curlers to get the batteries!

curlers

Finally, despite our best efforts to avoid them, there are always toys on our kids’ wish lists that tend to be a bit noisy:

pink drumset

A great set of headphones attached to something playing those classic carols will help you keep your sanity in check.

3. Three things to Make this Christmas the Most Magical and Memorable

wrapping mess

family at christmas3

ugly sweater

More important than anything else, be sure to take the time to ENJOY Christmas morning…these are precious memories for you and your family. Can’t walk in the living room because of the huge mess? Leave it for a while. As long as the baby isn’t trying to eat a ribbon or the cat trying to do her business in the crinkled wrapping paper, let it go. At least until you need to search for the miniscule missing part that makes this year’s must-have toy go BING, BANG, BONG (bet you’re glad I recommended those headphones now, huh?).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time together as a family. Bake a batch of cookies. Sing some carols. Attend church together in matching ugly Christmas sweaters (don’t forget to take a photo too…it will be great for embarrassing your kids in their teen years!). Laugh and joke and do all the things that make family time great. When you just can’t stand being together any longer, say, 11 am, head off to relax a bit…

headphones in bath

…so you’re recharged and ready for more TOGETHER TIME!

And finally, be sure to teach your kids what this joyous day is truly all about. No, not that:

tvguide

THIS:

nativity

Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and

Very Happy New Year too!

Advertisements

Favorite: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

bigmagic_gilbert

Is Creativity (with a capital “C”) an innate trait for a select few of us, or can it be welcomed and nourished as an almost living entity by anyone open to receiving it? This is one of the questions Elizabeth Gilbert asks and answers in her new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

big magic defn

Gilbert mines her own experiences as she explores what she calls the Big Magic that happens when we open ourselves up to any and every form of creativity – from writing, dancing, and art to knitting, cooking, photography, inventing, and gardening – and embrace these efforts fully. “The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you” is a theme throughout the book. She looks in-depth at the areas of courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, and divinity as key components of living the creative life we are meant to live. And she weaves it all together with examples from her own and others’ creative struggles to drive each point home.

Inspiring? Definitely. Of fear of failure, she says it’s just part of the creative life. “It isn’t always comfortable or easy – carrying your fear around with you on your great and ambitious road trip…but it’s always worth it, because if you can’t learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you’ll never be able to…do anything interesting,” she states.

big magic fear

Encouraging? Absolutely. “You will fail. It sucks, and I hate to say it, but it’s true…I have come to understand what part of me is suffering when I fail: It’s just my ego…My saving grace is this, though: I know that I am not only an ego; I am also a soul…My soul desires only one thing: wonder. And since creativity is my most efficient pathway to wonder, I take refuge there, and it feeds my soul, and it quiets the hungry ghost…”

big magic revolution

Motivating? Undeniably. Gilbert stresses that “you have treasures hidden within you…and bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

big magic treasures

With Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert has given us a gift, one we can all use no matter our age, vocation, or passion. Big Magic can help anyone looking to welcome more Creativity into his or her life. And as Gilbert states: “It’s what we all want.”

A Gift for Parents: A Stress-Free Christmas Morning

christmas morning

All parents love the joy and wonder they see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. We envision languorous, loving exchanges of gifts and resulting hugs, sips of hot toddies by the fire, and magical elves that cook breakfast and bag up a landfill’s worth of wrapping paper and bows as classic Christmas tunes serenade our relaxing repose.

The reality, however is a bit different. For instance, at 6 a.m. on December 25th, we are already blurry-eyed (or hungover if you previewed the hot toddies after Midnight Mass) from staying awake until 2:30 a.m. to:

  • Wait for sugar plums to start dancing (start, already!) in their bursting-with-excitement heads.

children sleeping

  • Finish, or, er, start, building that bike or 250-piece deluxe dollhouse and furniture with magnifying glass and a hot glue gun.

deluxe dollhouse

dollhouse furniture

  • Clean up reindeer poop and free Santa from the chimney after a few too many cookie/milk combos.

santa chimney problem

Because of these challenges, we often set ourselves up for a less-than-satisfying experience, not the ideal we dream of. So in order to help parents everywhere better prepare and maybe even enjoy the day, I’ve created this handy checklist of THREE WISE things to remember:

1. Three Things to Have on Hand for Opening Gifts

swiss army knife

dynamite

box cutter

Why? Because every parent knows toys are boxed for maximum display, not ease of removal. Take Polly Pocket or Barbie sets, for instance. Military-grade plastic strips and twist-ties are used to hold EVERY SINGLE limb, accessory, and hair in place in the box. These require hours of finger-numbing work to loosen, untie, or remove. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. They are encased in SPF 1000 plastic which you may or may not be able to remove before the second or fifth installment is released at Easter.

polly pockets

2. Three Things to Prepare Ahead of Time

industrial coffee maker
batteries
headphonesStart with an industrial-sized coffee maker prepped the night before to spew out that glorious caffeinated liquid. Or, if you prefer:

hot toddy

Next, be sure to have 212 batteries on-hand for all those toys that say:

batteries not included

No kid wants to open a gift they can’t play with until you run out to the store in your pjs and curlers to get the batteries!

curlers

Finally, despite our best efforts to avoid them, there are always toys on our kids’ wish lists that tend to be a bit noisy:

pink drumset

A great set of headphones attached to something playing those classic carols will help you keep your sanity in check.

3. Three things to Make this Christmas the Most Magical and Memorable

wrapping mess

family at christmas3

ugly sweater

More important than anything else, be sure to take the time to ENJOY Christmas morning…these are precious memories for you and your family. Can’t walk in the living room because of the huge mess? Leave it for a while. As long as the baby isn’t trying to eat a ribbon or the cat trying to do her business in the crinkled wrapping paper, let it go. At least until you need to search for the miniscule missing part that makes this year’s must-have toy go BING, BANG, BONG (bet you’re glad I recommended those headphones now, huh?).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time together as a family. Bake a batch of cookies. Sing some carols. Attend church together in matching ugly Christmas sweaters (don’t forget to take a photo too…it will be great for embarrassing your kids in their teen years!). Laugh and joke and do all the things that make family time great. When you just can’t stand being together any longer, say, 11 am, head off to relax a bit…

headphones in bath

…so you’re recharged and ready for more TOGETHER TIME!

And finally, be sure to teach your kids what this joyous day is truly all about. No, not that:

tvguide

THIS:

nativity

Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and

Very Happy New Year too!

A Gift for Parents: A Stress-Free Christmas Morning

christmas morning

All parents love the joy and wonder they see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. We envision langorous, loving exchanges of gifts and resulting hugs, sips of hot toddies by the fire, and magical elves that cook breakfast and bag up a landfill’s worth of wrapping paper and bows as classic Christmas tunes serenade our relaxing repose.

The reality, however is a bit different. For instance, at 6 a.m. on December 25th, we are already blurry-eyed (or hungover if you previewed the hot toddies after Midnight Mass) from staying awake until 2:30 a.m. to:

  • Wait for sugerplums to start dancing (start, already!) in their bursting-with-excitement heads.

children sleeping

  • Finish, or, er, start, building that bike or 250-piece deluxe dollhouse and furniture with magnifying glass and a hot glue gun.

deluxe dollhouse

dollhouse furniture

  • Clean up reindeer poop and free Santa from the chimney after a few too many cookie/milk combos.

santa chimney problem

Because of these challenges, we often set ourselves up for a less-than-satisfying experience, not the ideal we dream of. So in order to help parents everywhere better prepare and maybe even enjoy the day, I’ve created this handy checklist of THREE WISE things to remember:

1. Three Things to Have on Hand for Opening Gifts

swiss army knife

dynamite

box cutter

Why? Because every parent knows toys are boxed for maximum display, not ease of removal. Take Polly Pocket or Barbie sets, for instance. Military-grade plastic strips and twist-ties are used to hold EVERY SINGLE limb, accessory, and hair in place in the box. These require hours of finger-numbing work to loosen, untie, or remove. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. They are encased in SPF 1000 plastic which you may or may not be able to remove before the second or fifth installment is released at Easter.

polly pockets

2. Three Things to Prepare Ahead of Time

industrial coffee maker
batteries
headphonesStart with an industrial-sized coffee maker prepped the night before to spew out that glorious caffeinated liquid. Or, if you prefer:

hot toddy

Next, be sure to have 212 batteries on-hand for all those toys that say:

batteries not included

No kid wants to open a gift they can’t play with until you run out to the store in your pjs and curlers to get the batteries!

curlers

Finally, despite our best efforts to avoid them, there are always toys on our kids’ wish lists that tend to be a bit noisy:

pink drumset

A great set of headphones attached to something playing those classic carols will help you keep your sanity in check.

3. Three things to Make this Christmas the Most Magical and Memorable

wrapping mess

family at christmas3

ugly sweater

More important than anything else, be sure to take the time to ENJOY Christmas morning…these are precious memories for you and your family. Can’t walk in the living room because of the huge mess? Leave it for a while. As long as the baby isn’t trying to eat a ribbon or the cat trying to do her business in the crinkled wrapping paper, let it go. At least until you need to search for the miniscule missing part that makes this year’s must-have toy go BING, BANG, BONG (bet you’re glad I recommended those headphones now, huh?).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time together as a family. Bake a batch of cookies. Sing some carols. Attend church together in matching ugly Christmas sweaters (don’t forget to take a photo too…it will be great for embarrassing your kids in their teen years!). Laugh and joke and do all the things that make family time great. When you just can’t stand being together any longer, say, 11 am, head off to relax a bit…

headphones in bath

…so you’re recharged and ready for more TOGETHER TIME!

And finally, be sure to teach your kids what this joyous day is truly all about. No, not that:

tvguide

THIS:

nativity

Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and

Very Happy New Year too!

A Gift for Parents: A Stress-Free Christmas Morning

christmas morning

All parents love the joy and wonder they see in their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. We envision langorous, loving exchanges of gifts and resulting hugs, sips of hot toddies by the fire, and magical elves that cook breakfast and bag up a landfill’s worth of wrapping paper and bows as classic Christmas tunes serenade our relaxing repose.

The reality, however is a bit different. For instance, at 6 a.m. on December 25th, we are already blurry-eyed (or hungover if you previewed the hot toddies after Midnight Mass) from staying awake until 2:30 a.m. to:

  • Wait for sugerplums to start dancing (start, already!) in their bursting-with-excitement heads.

children sleeping

  • Finish, or, er, start, building that bike or 250-piece deluxe dollhouse and furniture with magnifying glass and a hot glue gun.

deluxe dollhouse

dollhouse furniture

  • Clean up reindeer poop and free Santa from the chimney after a few too many cookie/milk combos.

santa chimney problem

Because of these challenges, we often set ourselves up for a less-than-satisfying experience, not the ideal we dream of. So in order to help parents everywhere better prepare and maybe even enjoy the day, I’ve created this handy checklist of THREE WISE things to remember:

1. Three Things to Have on Hand for Opening Gifts

swiss army knife

dynamite

box cutter

Why? Because every parent knows toys are boxed for maximum display, not ease of removal. Take Polly Pocket or Barbie sets, for instance. Military-grade plastic strips and twist-ties are used to hold EVERY SINGLE limb, accessory, and hair in place in the box. These require hours of finger-numbing work to loosen, untie, or remove. Same goes for CDs and DVDs. They are encased in SPF 1000 plastic which you may or may not be able to remove before the second or fifth installment is released at Easter.

polly pockets

2. Three Things to Prepare Ahead of Time

industrial coffee maker
batteries
headphonesStart with an industrial-sized coffee maker prepped the night before to spew out that glorious caffeinated liquid. Or, if you prefer:

hot toddy

Next, be sure to have 212 batteries on-hand for all those toys that say:

batteries not included

No kid wants to open a gift they can’t play with until you run out to the store in your pjs and curlers to get the batteries!

curlers

Finally, despite our best efforts to avoid them, there are always toys on our kids’ wish lists that tend to be a bit noisy:

pink drumset

A great set of headphones attached to something playing those classic carols will help you keep your sanity in check.

3. Three things to Make this Christmas the Most Magical and Memorable

wrapping mess

family at christmas3

ugly sweater

More important than anything else, be sure to take the time to ENJOY Christmas morning…these are precious memories for you and your family. Can’t walk in the living room because of the huge mess? Leave it for a while. As long as the baby isn’t trying to eat a ribbon or the cat trying to do her business in the crinkled wrapping paper, let it go. At least until you need to search for the miniscule missing part that makes this year’s must-have toy go BING, BANG, BONG (bet you’re glad I recommended those headphones now, huh?).

Sit back, relax, and enjoy your time together as a family. Bake a batch of cookies. Sing some carols. Attend church together in matching ugly Christmas sweaters (don’t forget to take a photo too…it will be great for embarrassing your kids in their teen years!). Laugh and joke and do all the things that make family time great. When you just can’t stand being together any longer, say, 11 am, head off to relax a bit…

headphones in bath

…so you’re recharged and ready for more TOGETHER TIME!

And finally, be sure to teach your kids what this joyous day is truly all about. No, not that:

tvguide

THIS:

nativity

Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and

Very Happy New Year too!

It’s Not Me, It’s You

I have a middle-aged neighbor who is not exactly the tidiest, shall we say. Over the fourteen years we have lived in our current home, he has kept his large pole barn overflowing with, uh, well, I’m not sure what. I just know that it’s A LOT OF STUFF. And just outside his barn doors, he has left a variety of unusual items sitting for weeks, months, and even years at a time (though not all at once, thank goodness!): a child’s plastic playhouse, some sort of tilling attachment, parts of mowers or grills, bike wheels,  broken ladders, hoses of all sorts…you get the idea. All in all, not the nicest scenery to drive by every day or to have friends and family see when they come to visit.

But a few months ago, my neighbor got remarried and his wife must have put her foot down, bless her heart, because the past few weeks have seen a huge uptick in the number of items leaving his house and barn in various trucks and farm-y vehicles. However, just when I thought I’d seen it all, yesterday I drove by on my way home and discovered a new item abandoned to the elements, the utmost answer to “What could he possibly still have in that barn?” Yes, you guessed it: the kitchen sink. Wonder how long THAT one will decorate the sides of our driveway? Oh, well, you can’t pick your neighbors and all that…

Still, these and other small – and not-so-small – annoyances add up to make me roll my eyes or, more often, shake my head and wonder, “Why, why, why?” But, like other common-sense lovers out there, I just grit my teeth and pray for patience in dealing with the, uh, interesting folks God has put on this earth. What else is bugging me about my neighbors and fellow human beings in general on this hot, hot, did I mention HOT, day? Here’s my list of what’s annoying me most this week:

Cashiers who call “Next” and take whoever shows up first, not who’s next in line

People who eat over library books, leaving behind bits and pieces for the next reader (or rub their eyes, leaving eye lashes between the pages)

Construction workers who hold up the STOP sign just as you’re about to go through the zone and no one else is behind you

Models whose legs are 75% of their body and mouths are 50% of their face, and the fact that clothing designers and magazines think this is “beauty”

Neighbors who decide to use loud power tools the day of your outdoor party

People who drive 5-10 mph UNDER the speed limit when a police car is nearby

Pop songs that keep the same beat throughout, often with words that just repeat over and over

People who splash water all over the bathroom counter in public restrooms , leaving puddles , so you can’t put your purse down there to primp

People who say “No problem” instead of “You’re Welcome”

Guys, some teens (but not all), who spit on the sidewalk as they walk along

When parents talk to their above-5-year-olds by referring to themselves in third person. For example, on vacation: “Mommy needs a drink now, honey. Go play on the balcony while Mommy mixes it up.” (Ha ha…just kidding.)

People who drive around with dogs on their laps or hanging out the driver’s side window

When the mail person comes early only on the days I have outgoing mail, but I don’t get to the box in time so I have to drive the mail to the post office

Parents who do their kids’ school projects for them, making other kids feel stupid and inept

Loud cars, monster trucks, or motorcycles that fly by when you’re enjoying eating at an outdoor café

Drivers behind you who only decide to use the passing lane right when they see you are about to need it to pass a slow car, thereby forcing you to slow down and wait for them to pass first

So, okay, I know these are not life-altering issues, but they’re small things that add up to big annoyances over time. And a few, I fear, add to the death of common sense. I do feel better now, getting those off my chest. I can only hope I’m not on too many other people’s lists for MY annoying habits (like correcting spelling on forms and letters when I find typos…sorry, I just can’t help myself!).

What’s on your common sense list of annoyances this week? Go ahead, you’ll feel much better just writing it down (but please, be sure to check your spelling first…it’s just a little thing I have).

A Bonus Day You Shouldn’t Leap Over

Usually, this time of year in Indiana is hard for a sun-worshiping, warmth-seeking, green-loving gal like me. Winter is long, hard, and cold, not to mention dreary with its gray skies and leafless trees. And even though I still haven’t decided if Al Gore is right about global warming, I have decided I don’t mind today’s unusual kick-off to February: balmy upper-50’s and sunshine! It’s a rare treat, and I’ll try to make the most of it.

Another thing I plan to make the most of this February is our bonus day – February 29th. I know we get one of these every four years, so it’s not exactly rare, but I like to view it as a gift. A day to appreciate, an opportunity to seize, and a chance to go all out so it will really make a difference. I mean, really, how often have I said I wish there were more hours in the day, more days in the week, or more weeks in the year? Trust me, it’s a lot. There never seems to be enough time to do the things I need and want to do!

So this Leap Year, I plan to make the most of the whole 24 extra hours I’ve been given. I plan to seize February 29th as the bonus day it is. Over the next four weeks, I intend to plan a Leap Day that will be both memorable and useful, fun and relaxing…enough to hold me over for another four years.

And I invite you to join me!

What will you do with your Bonus Day?

Fave: The Happiness Project

Sometimes I read an incredible book, or try a great new dish, or maybe even discover a new way of doing something. I’d like to share one with you now:

Recently I finished a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen tells of how she spent a year trying to discover what happiness is for her and how to enjoy it more and more often. She covers areas such as relationships, career, faith, having more fun, being true to oneself, etc. The thing I liked most about this book was her fun, easy, funny style of describing her experiment and what she learned…no preaching here! I was able to glean a few new ideas for myself, which is a lot to ask from a book these days when so many of them seem to be the same! Also, she offers a free online toolbox to track my own happiness projects and goals in general. Easy read I recommend for anyone interested in upping their happiness level! Find it all at:  http://www.happiness-project.com/