Tag Archives: The Happiness Project

Just A Little Reminder …

18 Jul
IMG_5920

ūüôā

 

 

As I finished¬†my year-long Happiness Project¬†last week I thought … well?

What next?

You gonna keep going?

Will it be your lifestyle now, or was it a survival mode mechanism?

Then I got a little reminder at the CVS.

And I knew …

Reminders are a good thing.

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Happiness Project Final Update: I’ve Learned to Embrace the George Costanza Phase of My Life

11 Jul

It all started a year ago with a picture and an unexpected outing at Barnes and Noble.

There I was in a CAL Hockey Jersey hands up in the air celebrating an amusement park triumph. I looked at the photograph and paused.

Who was this chick, and where did she go?

It¬†was me …¬†only I was happy, my spirit was busting loose. My freak flag was flying.

I looked at myself in the mirror and thought … what the hell?

And there it was … this is when the concept of the lemon squeezer was born. Had I turned sour because Plan A wasn’t working out the way I had¬†imagined … maybe … I had my moments. Did I have bouts of malaise? Hell yes. Did I need an Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love experience? Yes…hell yes. But I was broke and had no time to really fly off to Rome, India or Bali.¬†¬†I couldn’t afford to go to Fiji and¬†have a Tony Robbins¬†life-changing experience. So I’d have to change¬†my life without the use of a passport.

But I didn’t really get started until Gretchen popped into my life.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Image via Happiness-Project.com

I never thought I’d meet a Gretchen or that she’d help change my outcome. I mean it’s not¬†like she was Tony Robbins or anything, just some chick with a book I glanced at during one of my self-help expeditions at the book store. In truth, I¬†hadn’t planned on going to Barnes & Noble, but the movie I wanted to watch was sold out, so instead of heading back home —¬†a¬†world where moms hardly escape — I decided to take a detour and hang out at the book store. As I was checking out all these ridiculous “find-your-inner-light” books by people who didn’t really have inner light, I came across Gretchen’s book: The Happiness Project.

I remembered¬†my picture and thought … yeah I need me some of that because Trader Joe’s may be running out of chocolate lava cakes.

What do I have to lose? $14.99?

I thought damn Guat¬†… you need to start squeezing some of the juice out of these lemons that life threw at you like a Randy Johnson fastball in his¬†prime.

So¬†I launched my Happiness Project. I made goals, plans, resolutions to make things better out of the crappy life I wasn’t meant to have. Sure I had my health, but I couldn’t just go walking around just being thankful for my health alone. I wanted more. I wanted to be like Will Smith¬†at the end of The Pursuit of Happiness¬†where he’s clapping his hands and crying because he made it. Yeah I wanted me some of that.

So I read it. And I know the book only had 12 chapters, but I managed to squeeze out 27 lessons, experiences, plans, resolutions for my Happiness Project. I vowed to take baby steps and giant steps toward my happiness. I vowed to rush down that field like an awesome Heisman Trophy¬†winner. I vowed to be Badass again … with a capital B. I vowed to let my freak flag fly. I vowed to try to be that Guat I saw in the picture.

:)

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I concentrated on specific things for my own happiness:¬†¬†emotional, physical, and mental wellness; being an awesome member of the¬†parenthood fraternity; finding the funny in not so funny situations; dancing like I was the chick from Flashdance¬†every day because the music is definitely in me; staying athletic no matter how much IcyHot and ibuprofen I used; being present and not getting crazy with the multitasking that is inherent in all moms; seeking new¬†challenges so I¬†am less depressed; having my kind fun however it is that I defined fun which usually involved sports, the AMC network, or anything involving Jason Bateman; living like it was Shark Week; learning to be grateful; having a purpose and feeling like¬†there’s something out there for me, productivity as in pouring out my writing ideas even if the publishing date is still TBA, and¬†celebrating little¬†accomplishments as in giving myself a high-five.

This is what I tried to do for 365 days.

So the big question is, are you happy? Are you happier? Did it work?

I can only say that considering I had turned into the female version of George Costanza, my Happiness Project has kept me from jumping off a cliff. I see that chick in the picture more often than I used to.

Am I happy all day, every day? No. I’d need more cash for that to come true. And I know people say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but they might not be trying hard enough, because it sure does help.

But aside from that am I¬†¬†happy? Considering what I go through and what my life didn’t turn out to be, I’d say I’m rocking Plan B. I’ve squeezed every last drop of the hundreds of lemons dumped on me by life¬†and they in turn have given me more moments of happiness.¬† Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen off the wagon¬†plenty of times this year.¬†Marriage and family will do that to you. This is when the chocolate, drinking, Deepak Chopra style meditation, or Rocky Balboa type of workouts surfaced.

But regardless of the¬†crappy days, I learned that the¬†next day gave me another 24 hours to make up for it. I was like Jack Bauer … making the most of every hour. And during this Eat, Pray, Love journey that was confined to the Golden State, there were¬†a few¬†resolutions, lessons, goals that helped me out the most.

Be The Guat — remembering to fly my freak flag no matter what. I usually didn’t have a problem with that one ever, but it was always a good reminder.

Be present — as in show up, enjoy the now, be present in the moment in whatever it is I’m doing … running, reading,¬†watching¬†a movie,¬†eating dinner, playing Legos with my kid. Stop multi-tasking and be present. Savor the moment because if I’m doing something I can’t go at it half-assed. Whole ass is the way to go.

Find the funny — you gotta laugh. First you’ll probably cry, and eat a couple of pints of Ben & Jerry’s but once that’s done, find the funny. Write your life like a Saturday Night Live skit and you’ll find the funny and it’ll get you through.

HappinessHere

ūüôā

Yeah … these were my lessons, my goals, my resolutions. Am I happy?

I’d say I’m a little happier. I’ve learned to¬†embrace the George Costanza phase of my life. Happy Festivus!¬†¬†And even though I finished the¬†book,¬†My¬†Happiness Project still continues. I’ll always be trying to squeeze¬†out as much juice as possible, it’s in my nature now. I’m a lemon squeezer.

 

The Journey …

Happiness Project Update: Squeezing Every Drop of Juice Out of The Lemon

Happiness Project Update 2: Humor Seeker, Dancing Fool, and Big Pants Wearer

Happiness Project Update 3: I Don’t Fit Into Skinny Jeans, But I’m O.K. With That. I’m an Athlete With Curves.

Happiness Project Update 4: Listening to my GPS and Getting More Branches on the Tree

My Happiness Project Update 5: Still Aiming for That Six Percent and Tina Fey.

Happiness Project Update 6: Get a Grip! You’re Not Single Anymore, It Takes 90 Minutes.

Happiness Project Update 7: Enjoying The Now, Enjoying The Later Much Better, and Ripley

Happiness Project Update 8: I Accept That This is Not an 80s Movie

Happiness Project Update 9: Parenthood … Awful, Awful, Awful, Terrific!

Happiness Project Update 10: Parenthood … Where Everyone Has a Meltdown

My Happiness Project Update 11: Parenthood is All About Angles, Even If Some of Them Require 243 Pieces.

My Happiness Project Update 12: Finding Gratefulness in Ordinary Days … And Not the Artificial Kind.

My Happiness Project Update 13: Other People’s Crappy Life

Happiness Project Update 14: The Lemon Squeezer

Happiness Project Update 15: Getting A Mango Every Now and Then

Happiness Project Update 16: Pantene Moments During Crunch Time

Happiness Project Update 17: BFFs or Just BFs

Falling off the Happiness Project-Bucket List Wagon

Happiness Project Update 18: Table For One? Dude. No. Party of Two and Tag-Teams.

Happiness Project Update 19: It’s All About Options

Happiness Project Update 20: Paying It Forward One Penny at a Time

Happiness Project Update 21: The Lieutenant Dan State of Mind

Happiness Project Update 22: The Food Network Adventure Begins

Happiness Project Update 23: Extending Deadlines and Plan B

Happiness Project Update 24: Stopping the Autopilot

Happiness Project Update 26: The Antidote to the This-Currently-Sucks-Right-Now Moments

Happiness Project Update 27: I Fell Off the Wagon … But I Found Refuge

Happiness Project Update 27: I Fell Off the Wagon … But I Found Refuge

21 Jun

The “negativity bias” crept in this week, like a tiny parasite sucking the life out of me.

I let the outside effect my mood. I mean who doesn’t right? It happens to everyone, maybe even Gandhi himself, that’s probably why he meditated so much.

Most of the time you feel good when you wake up because you realize you have another 24 hours to make something happen for yourself. 24 hours to do something. 24 hours to find a way to be happy or happier. 24 hours for something different from yesterday. 24 hours to fly your freak flag and be proud. 24 hours closer to reaching you dream. 24 hours … I mean Jack Bauer saved the world in 24 hours the least you can do is have a good day right?

But then you get out of bed and life happens.

You stubbed your toe. You can’t find matching socks. Your kids fight over the superhero cape.¬† You realize someone sent in the payment late and you’ve gotten a penalty fee. You wanted orange juice¬†in the morning¬†and just as you reach for the Simply Orange¬†way in the back of the fridge you realize that some jackass left it in there with three drops. You try to shake it off, but then you hear from Debbie Downer and¬†they’re trying to drag you down with the ship. You get criticized for the third time in ten minutes.¬†You check your voicemail and realize that your friends are taking an awesome two-day vacation you desperately need, but you can’t go¬†on because there’s no one to watch your kids. It takes a village to raise one, right? This town is population: 1 Guat.

You need to get out of the house.

So you walk out to the car to get the diapers your dude left in the trunk overnight and¬†$78 parking ticket is hanging out on your windshield for all to see. Street Sweeper. People walking their dogs¬†see it.¬†They give you a sympathetic smile. They feel you. You’re glad, until you walk back home and step in dog poop.

You really need a Namaste moment. You realize the “negativity bias” kicked in.

The bias is defined by Gretchen Rubin as:

“… we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. I’d learned in February, within a marriage, it takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act. With money, the pain of losing a certain sum is greater than the pleasure of gaining that sum. Hitting the best-seller list with Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill thrilled me less than a bad review upset me.”

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

Yeah … like I said negativity bias. Although¬†I don’t really agree with her on the money one, if I found lost money I’d be doing cartwheels, and forget about how pissed off I was when I lost it. Finding lost items is awesome. But I agree with the rest. So what could I do with all the negative stuff brooding in my system?

She suggests finding a mental “area of¬†refuge” and I agree. Thinking about an escape,¬†something to distract you from the drama, something to occupy your mind and get you through the momentary traffic jam that is your life. So I thought of bungy jumping in Austrailia. I thought of the giant water slide my dad and I ventured on in Guatemala. I thought about the Spider-Man theme song my uncle use to sing randomly. I thought about Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cakes.¬†I thought about Jack Tripper¬†(he always made me laugh). I thought about my son in the swimming pool doing his first starfish float and smiling excitedly. I thought about my daughter’s bouncy toddler run when she “hits” a home run¬†and runs around are makeshift bases. I thought about the fresh smell of wet soil as I rode my bike through the park early Sunday mornings. It smelled liked Earth.

I wasn’t Mary Poppins after that, but I wasn’t festering in the crappy mood¬†or the dog¬†crap.

Things got better, until night time.

Thank God for Netflix. I was able to distract myself with episodes of Arrested Development.

Happiness Project Update 26: The Antidote to the This-Currently-Sucks-Right-Now Moments

3 Jun

This one was easy. I didn’t even have to think about how to do it or form ways to bring it into my daily life. It was already¬†there. It had to be if I was hoping to survive the malaise of my current Life-Wasn’t-Supposed-To-Turn-Out-This-Way-Plan-B-2.0 existence.

Attitude. I had to pick it.

Had to.

It’s probably the reason why I picked up Rubin’s book in the first place. Most people didn’t need to pick up her book. Most people don’t need Tony Robbins, Randy Pausch, or Elizabeth Gilbert¬†quotes to light a fire under their ass. Most people are happy the way things are … I¬†was not most people. I was in the this-currently-sucks-right-now group, and I think I was the CEO. Still am, but my attitude about it has changed a bit. And it’s not due to anything¬†great that has happened to me. Nothing¬†of blockbuster proportions, but the¬†difference is that¬†I’ve just been able to find little moments and hold on to them with a 10th degree black belt Kung Fu grip. I savor them, until the last drop, because who knows when this cup is going to be full again.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

So when Rubin suggested that attitude was one of the keys to¬†a Happiness Project, I was like … yeah …¬†I got this. I know this. And then she followed it up by suggesting that you incorporate LOL in your daily life. Now when I first saw this a while back, I had no idea what it meant. I wasn’t into text messages. I was more into conversations, but when I realized it was “laugh out loud,” it sort of became one of my rules of the day. Although I don’t like using the abbreviation as a note to myself, for others yes, but for myself I¬†usually I have to spell it out for a more meaningful effect.

Sometimes this is difficult when you’re the CEO of your-life-currently-sucks-right-now.¬†Especially when I have those Thelma-and-Louise-I-should-just-jump-off-a-cliff-right-now¬†moments.¬†Finding¬†The Wish Factor can be hard.¬†I have to¬†look outside of me to¬†find the funny. Like when you think you’re a writer and the rejection letter in the mail tells you, no,¬†not today you’re not. Like when you can’t handle the ‘for worse’ part of your “for better or worse” vows and you just feel like throwing your partner out of a moving car … tuck and roll, baby, tuck and roll. Like when you look in the mirror and wonder where all that gray hair came from and then you¬†realize it when¬†you hear the¬†high-pierce screaming of your¬†kid’s voice for no apparent reason at 3 a.m. Like when your¬†mom gives you advice¬†on raising¬†your kids for the 10oth time and¬†the deep breathing¬†Namaste business isn’t helping you.¬†Laughing out loud isn’t possible in these circumstances. It doesn’t come from within, not at that moment.

But I still get the antidote from somewhere else.

And other than tuning into the amazing Jason Bateman, one of my go-to people for laughter is¬†Late Night¬†With Jimmy Fallon. I’ve got to say, there are times when I’m really not feeling it for one reason or another, but I manage to laugh out loud thanks to Fallon.¬†He makes me forget my crappy moods. One of my favorites has to be when Justin Timberlake appears and they perform the History of Rap. But my most recent cracking up experience had to be when John Krasinski showed up.

 

 

Jimmy had the antidote. Laughing out loud had never been so easy for me. That is one Happiness Project lesson I didn’t need to be reminded of, but I was glad I was on the right track.

Happiness Project Update 25: I’m Still Keeping The Snooze Button

15 May

Apparently everyone has a set of inherent¬†rules that help them get through the day. Sometimes you’ve had them so long you don’t even remember making the list, you just keep the rules because they have been working for you … sort of.

And then it hits you … you’re the female version of George Costanza except you’re in your thirties and¬†¬†you’ve got hair. Gray hair, a multitude of¬†gray sneaking in,¬†the bad kind. The stressful kind. So maybe you need to examine these rules a bit closer. Part of this whole Happiness Project challenge involves mindfulness and I couldn’t go forward without examining some of my rules.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

I know I’m a Chapstick¬†type of chick, but I’m still a¬†complex human being. I’ve got layers.¬†So my list was a little long. But I narrowed down the rules that¬†could use some tweaking. But could I? I’ve had them for a while. They were rules, right? Dude …¬†then I realized.¬†This is not Monopoly, you can totally change the rules. These were the contenders.

Hit the snooze button.

Finish the to-do list.

Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.

Calm down.

At¬†first they seem pretty good. Finishing my to-do list¬†was necessary. It gave me umph! at the end of the day. A high-five for crossing everything off my list. Victorious at the end of a very tiring day. And of course I had to be in hurry, how else could I finish the list. Hurry to be on time. Hurry to finish working out. Hurry reading this book. Hurry ¬†I only had 24 hours. But then I thought if I had all these things to do why would I hit the snooze button in the mornings? It’s just taking time away from finishing the list. Am I sleeping longer? Yes, but then I’m in a hurry because I snoozed it. Then there’s the calm down, effect. I realized that sometimes you need to feel a little rage. Case in point my run-in with the personal space hijackers at the beach.¬†Calming down is not necessarily¬†what you want to hear or feel at the time.¬†Just feel it. Repressing emotions just lead to crazy later.

That is what I learned after a brief review.

But the most eye-opening examination happened to be the one that Gretchen Rubin gave me. Apparently she agreed with me about the hurry, hurry, hurry. It’s not very constructive and it’s¬†probably more stressful. So she gave me an idea.

Instead of hurry, hurry, hurry. Try “I have plenty of time for the things that are important to me,” even if I hit the snooze button.

“By questioning my True Rules instead of applying them unthinkingly, I could make sure I applied them only when they’d guide me to decisions that reflected my true priorities … By mindfully deciding how to act in line with my values instead of mindlessly applying my rules, I was better able to make the decisions that supported my happiness.” — Gretchen Rubin

And so with this advice I added a few new rules to my list courtesy of Rubin’s¬†chapter on mindfulness in hopes that more happiness and less craziness comes pouring in.

 

First thing is first (as in when the plane is going down, grab the oxygen mask and put it on yourself first before helping anybody else … you can’t help if you’re not breathing).

Down with boredom.

Get some work done everyday.

Choose the bigger life.

People succeed in groups.

 

But I’m still keeping the snooze button, sometimes you really need it.

Happiness Project Update 24: Stopping the Autopilot

15 Apr

I thought that multitasking was a good thing. I’m a chick, we need to multitask. There’s only 24 hours in the day and we need at least 30 to get everything done. I know I do. But I realized that sometimes multitasking can suck the life out of you. Suck it!

No, it’s not the stress of¬† not finishing. No, not the anxiety that comes with failing to cross off items from your to-do list. No, it sucks the life out of you because¬†sometimes you stay on¬†autopilot and miss out on life. I found myself trying to pay bills online, wash the dishes,¬†get distracted¬†by to-do list thoughts,¬†and have breakfast with my¬†kids¬†all at the same time. Then¬†it sort of hit me while I was doing¬†my 21-day¬†Meditation Challenge last month.¬†¬†I thought … what a jackass. If someone was doing all those things while I was trying to have a meal with them I’d be pretty burned out. I realized … multitasking kills my mindfulness.

I needed to start being in the now, being present.¬†Now in my defense, when¬†I’m out on adventures, exercising,¬†or hanging out I am fully present. But sometimes I have technical difficulties, usually when I’m at home. Usually when multitasking arises. My mom ambition takes over and the mission to accomplish everything on the to-do list gets a kung-fu grip on me. It’s a mission and I need to finish it.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

But that whole 21-Day Meditation Challenge really honed in my focus and my appreciation of “the moment,” it forced me to stay still, and¬†it¬†also¬†reinforced what I read in¬†Gretchen Rubin‘s¬†mindfulness¬†chapter.

Now I understand that I have to get things done and that life moves pretty quickly, especially if you’ve got two kids and you’re the CEO, CFO, Managing Partner and custodian of the household. Things sort of move at the speed of light sometimes and you’re doing whatever you can to catch up. So you go on autopilot, but I realized that sometimes autopilot draws out the jackass in me and I miss moments, stuff like breakfast with my kids. Now mind you sometimes¬†breakfast may include syrup in someone’s hair, pancakes on the floor, spilled milk, battles for the last sip of the orange juice or toasting up bagels only to realize that there’s no cream cheese. Yes morning chaos may ensue, but sometimes you have¬†a moment — the kind of moment that you remember at the end of the day — the kind that makes it to the what-am-I-grateful-for-today answer list.¬†Mindfulness helps you¬†remember that you’re probably going to have very few meals in the¬†future where the kids won’t be multitasking,¬†texting, and ignoring you as they are dashing out the door.

So what did I do when the universe sent me the mindfulness message twice?

Well … I paid attention. I shut down the autopilot and paid attention.¬†I closed the computer, left the dishes alone and joined in at the Frosted Mini-Wheats and Silver Dollar Pancake extravaganza.

The most important was mindfulness — the cultivation of conscious, non-judgmental awareness … it gives clarity and vividness to present experience … Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project.

I realized that mindfulness can help boost¬†your happiness levels a bit, and I could always use a shot of that.¬†Being in the present definitely helps you enjoy daily life a bit more, especially when you have something out of the ordinary take place. You’re there to witness it, all of it.¬†Now that doesn’t mean I would stop multitasking, but it did mean that I would stop¬†the autopilot when hanging out with my kids. I’d be in the moment and¬†forget about the to-do list until¬†my kids¬†were actually engaged in something else. Play-Doh and Legos usually rock their world, so I would save the multitasking until then.

So here’s to mindfulness … for taking the jackass out of me.

 

Happiness Project Update 23: Extending Deadlines and Plan B

7 Mar

During my whole Happiness Project¬†quest there were a lot of truths¬†I had to come clean about in order to make this project work.¬†One of the things I had to let go of was My List. At one point¬†or another,¬†everyone has a list. You know, the By-The-Time-I’m-at-a-Certain-Age¬†List I should be at Point X in my life.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

Yeah that’s the one.

I made the list as a way of giving myself a deadline. You’re supposed to be filled with certain milestones every decade, right? 20, 30, 40? It gave me something to strive for, to work for, to reach for, but when I didn’t get where I was supposed to be, well what was I supposed to do?¬† Stuff my face with chocolate? Yes. Definitely yes. But why the disappointment? I should have accounted for some setbacks, right?

Here’s the thing. I didn’t think I¬†was going to¬†fail, so when I did I thought holy crap, what should I do now? Couldn’t do anything but let go. And dude that was hard.¬†I turned¬†30 and that was that. There were a few items left on the list. Unfinished.¬†I hadn’t made the deadline, and letting go of it made me feel like a failure. This is where the chocolate came into play. The disappointment of not completing¬†My List by¬†30, probably gave birth to my love affair with chocolate, which I guess was a nice silver lining.

But as I continued reading the Happiness Project I realized that I didn’t really have to let go of My List, I just had to extend the deadline. We get extensions all the time, why not on this, right? I mean for people who get it all done by 30, 35, or 40 well woo-hoo and great for you. But for the rest of us there’s Plan B — The Extension.¬†Now some people may look down on it.¬†So there are times when you get down on the dumps, because you hear all these stories of people getting to Point X a lot sooner than they originally planned. No extension needed. But then I saw this commercial and it gave me hope. I thought dude … it’s on. I mean I’m not close to 50, but it’s still on.

 

 

I could still chase those same goals and those same dreams, I could still pursue my passions, and probably¬†experience all kinds of¬†adventures in the process. But I’d still be able to cross off items from¬†The List.¬†It would just take a little longer. Passion doesn’t run out. It’s still beating inside you,¬†like a heartbeat. The only difference is that I would no longer follow the blueprints from my original plan. I’d have to take on an alternate route. A Plan B. But just because it’s Plan B, doesn’t make it any less of a woo-hoo moment. A woo-hoo is a woo-hoo no matter what the timeline.¬†Realizing that there would still be high-fives and chocolate waiting for me¬†made it a little easier to feel less crappy about not completing the 30s List. This¬†just meant that my 40s and 50s list would be more rewarding, more adventurous and requiring more Glucosamine.

 

Happiness Project Update 22: The Food Network Adventure Begins

21 Feb

This is where failure usually happens. You think being 37,¬†I’d be used to it by now and maybe even immune to it, but no. It still stings. Even though there is an abundance of chocolate covering every stumble and fall, it’s not easy “finding the lesson” when things don’t go the way you hoped. But when things¬†work out,¬†it’s definitely a do-a-cartwheel feeling.

“Do what you do.”

Pursuing a passion. I’ve got lots of these, and thanks to The Happiness Project I’ve been able to do many cartwheels this year and last year, most of them¬†involving sports or other adventures requiring BenGay¬†afterward, like the triathlons, and The Warrior Dash. But I think¬†this chapter may be asking me to pursue a passion I haven’t done yet.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

And I wondered, well other than sports, writing, television, movies and books¬†what else am I passionate about that I haven’t explored? I’ve dedicated parts of my Happiness Project these last couple of months to plenty of athletic adventures that made me feel genuinely happy and not just momentarily, but the whole entire day. It was an emotional high and it had nothing to do with chocolate. It was just the rush of being successful and accomplishing something I set out to do.

That pushed the reset button on my life and I decided … yeah I want that feeling. Pictures are great, but I soooooo want to bottle that up and open it and relive those feelings for when one of those crappy days rolls around and slaps me in the face. So I continued my athletic adventures. I’ve enrolled in a beginners roller derby class and registered for an urban climbing race, which also benefits the American Lung Association. I’m on a mission to do an athletic adventure at least once month and maybe I won’t need that special bottle.

I continue to write as that is one of my biggest passions and I get a great sense of satisfaction every night when hit that “publish” button on my blog. I feel like I did something. Just the other day I reached the 400-posts mark and it felt good to reach that number. I didn’t tell anyone, but I didn’t need to in order to feel fantastic, the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream which involved chocolate was reward enough. Plus I’ve got to admit, I patted myself on the back and gave myself a gold star.

Movies and television I am so on top of that. In fact I may be too on top of that. Some people say it’s not that great to watch a lot of television or movies, but I say why not? Television and movies are awesome. Sometimes they provide escape, comic relief, or inspiration and I’m always for that.

But this chapter inferred I pursue something new, or something I hadn’t done yet.

“What you choose to do on a free Saturday afternoon is an indication¬†of your passion.”

Normally the answer to that involves, sports, working out, television or movies. But there were two things that came to mind. Food and travel. I’m all about food. I love it. I enjoy it. I look forward to it. I savor every bite. Sometimes I even dream about it. And the calories? C’mon¬†now.¬†It’s me The Guat. Calories don’t¬†matter, I just walk it off or buy bigger pants. And travel? If I had any money I would being traveling places at least once a month, but since I’m a poor writer all I do is travel to the supermarket with coupons and dream while I’m in¬†line. But I could make travel possible, even if it’s just for a weekend.

So there it was, I found my answers. But in order for the chapter to work, I’d have to choose just one and seeing how I’m financially challenged, food would probably be the better choice. And what an awesome second choice, right? Who doesn’t love food? And I could¬†probably travel to places¬†through food, right?

So in addition to my other projects I’ve decided to pursue food. Eating it mostly, but¬†cooking it of course. I’ve decided to try a new recipe once a week. I’m really not one for following cookbook recipes since I’m a big¬†Food Network¬†fan, but I’ll take the recipes from wherever I can find them. Julia Childs cookbook, Authentic Guat recipes cookbooks, Tyler Florence, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Paula Dean, or any of the cooks featured on the network. But I’m not going to fool myself into getting a Rachel Ray recipe and thinking I can do it in thirty minutes. Because¬†I’ve learned the hard way. That¬†chick is lying. It takes at least an hour.

But no matter how long it takes I’ll finish. Whether it’s baking or saut√©ing, I’m on a new adventure. It’s culinary and it will probably involve chocolate. Oooooh. Maybe in every dish. Stay tuned because the¬†Food Network¬†Adventure¬†begins.

Happiness Project Update 21: The Lieutenant Dan State of Mind

4 Feb

I’m not big on contemplating The Heavens. I have a hard enough time thinking about my own existence on Earth to go pondering about how I’m going to be handling the next life, or “the next¬†stage”. I’m trying to enjoy this one.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

Spirituality and faith, they used to be easy. But now, not so much.

Even though¬†Rubin¬†had the stats to prove that spiritual people are relatively happier, this particular chapter of The Happiness Project was a tough sell for me.¬† I used to be one of those church-going people, the kind that¬†went on a regular basis. It was a weekly thing.¬†I had the stand up-sit-down-stand-up-kneel-down-then-sit-down routine memorized. I knew the prayers by heart,¬† didn’t even need to open the book. I had it down, packed. I even had my own money envelope. It had my name pre-printed on it and everything. But once my dad passed away that seemed to change matters. I was no longer attending weekly masses. I wasn’t really talking to God much.

Some people tend to get closer to God when tragic things like this happen, I sort of went to a Lieutenant Dan-State-of-Mind, the kind of mental state that was happening when he was on the shrimping boat with Forrest Gump and the huge hurricane hit. He was up there on the mast, battling and yelling at God, while the storm was rocking the boat.

This is where I find myself, spiritually. I struggle with faith because of the loss. And I’m sure there are others out there with their own faith struggles, but I guess Rubin brought up a good point. How can you have a Happiness Project, without involving spirituality and faith? Studies and statistics show …

I guess that just depends on your project.

Do I want to be in this Lt. Dan state of mind my whole life? I don’t know. Probably not. I’m not entirely off the grid. I do hold certain spiritual states close to my heart. Things like gratitude, mindfulness, and peace. I learned to appreciate “the glories of the present moments” in my ordinary life, like the creation of chocolate. There had to be some sort of divine intervention on that one, right?

But yeah, I’ve still got some sort of spirituality in there and I guess this chapter might strengthen what I have left, but I don’t know if I’ll be going back to the pre-printed-name-on-the-envelopes stage just yet.¬†I understand that¬†spiritually-rich¬†people¬†may be mentally and physically healthier,¬†deal with stress better, have happy marriages and live longer. I get that Rubin checked all the studies on that one. And yes … yes of course I want that for myself.¬†Of course I’m aware that when things get out of control, extremely chaotic, and catastrophic people tend to reach for something beyond themselves, beyond their own universe in search for some sort of understanding and comfort.¬† Spirituality and faith in God bring a different dimension into life, but it’s taking me a little while¬†longer¬†to get through this post-traumatic growth phase. I reached out, but didn’t get an answer or any comfort. Thus my Lieutenant Dan state of mind.

But eventually the storm passed, and Lieutenant Dan got off the mast and jumped back in the water for a swim.¬†I guess that may be the whole point of the chapter, to remind me to find a way back. I totally appreciated the effort, but truthfully, it’s gonna take some time.

Happiness Project Update 20: Paying It Forward One Penny at a Time

23 Jan

“Feel good, be good and do good.” Author Unknown.

I’m all for this. I’m all about the good. I mean who isn’t, right? So while working on expanding some of that good, I continue on my Happiness Project quest and finished the¬†Buying Some Happiness¬†section in Gretchen Rubin‘s book. I liked the fact that she was realistic in most of the chapter, admitting to the fact that money does help provide options for happiness or moments of happiness, but it’s not the main mojo for it.

I concur. Money plays a factor. Most people don’t think so, or might not admit it. But I do. I came clean about it in my last HP Update.

But¬†as I kept reading she brought up an interesting point …

“It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something you love or there’s something you want, you’ll be happier with more.”

Dude. This would never happen with chocolate. Never. I know they say “never say never,” but I’m saying it. I could never buy enough chocolate. There is no limit to the powers of the cacao bean. However, when talking about parenting and kids, curbing your enthusiasm is a definite must.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

As adults we know that there’s a line when it comes to buying things for yourself as a reward or special splurge, and turning into a crazed shopaholic with 12 different credit cards all maxed out. We get it. At least some of us do. But when you’re at the train store, or Target, or Best Buy,¬†or Costco¬†and your kids want you to buy them something every single time you go somewhere, that seems to be the path of a¬†shopaholic for sure.¬†We all want nice things and we all want them for our kids, but when it comes to them, sometimes buying them more “stuff”¬†can do more damage than good. Sometimes teaching your kids about modest pleasures instead of instant gratification can help in their own happiness. It can help produce an atmosphere of growth, appreciation for the “good things,” and fiscal responsibility. And then you feel ecstatic as parent because you think you did an awesome job of raising someone who isn’t materialistic in a very money-oriented label-minded world. You raised someone with values and that makes you extremely happy as a parent.

For instance LEGOLAND. It is the be all and end all of trips when it comes to my four-year old. It is his mecca. It is his chocolate. Now some people have the ability to take their kids four or five times a year. We go once a year. I explained that the trip usually comes as a result of all his good behavior throughout the year and I mention some of his achievements, like sharing with his sister knowing full well she’s probably going to stomp on the toy in the end,¬†being able to finally master penmanship and write¬†his name, being able to transition successfully into preschool even though they have Children of the Corn-like parents roaming around, ¬†like working hard, practicing and doing well in his little golf competition, and for being an overall good kid.

I also make him aware that we save all year-long. We put in all our spare change from every purchase into his makeshift piggy bank we created out of an old Kleenex box.¬†We got Martha Stewart creative and thus was his LEGOLAND box was born. Quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. Even some dollar bills. Every day we’d add a little something and he’d see his savings grow. ¬†And he¬†wouldn’t take any money out of it no matter what. He knew he was¬†getting closer to his goal. We ended up with about 250+ dollars last year. And he enjoyed spending every bit of it on the entrance to the park, hot dogs, chocolate cake, Lego souvenirs, and Lego memories.

Once the morning came and he saw his empty box, he¬†said … “We need to start saving money in my LEGOLAND box so we can go again. It’s gonna take a long time. But we can do it.”

I like his perseverance. It makes me think that I have taught him something, hopefully it’s in the realm of appreciating good things when they happen to you and being able to be responsible enough with your money that you can save up for what you want and enjoy it with the people you love. Hopefully I’ve paid¬†the happiness lesson¬†forward, one penny at time.