Tag Archives: The Happiness Project

Happiness Project Update 19: It’s All About Options

9 Jan

“People that say money doesn’t buy happiness, they’re just not trying hard enough .” Will Truman

While undergoing my own Happiness Project the money question definitely came up. And like most people I understand that money alone can’t buy me happiness, but it can definitely help get me some. I’m not talking about material things, like diamonds or name-brand purses or clothes. I’m talking about opportunities. I’m talking about options. Money affords you the kind of opportunities that puts smiles on your faces and checkmarks next to your bucket list items.  Sometimes it’s the difference between seeing the glass half-empty or half-full.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Most people I run into are adamant about money not buying happiness. An absolute no … it does not. However after reading Rubin’s chapter about money and happiness, I was so glad to find out that she shared my point of view. It does help get you there sooner, but it depends on a few factors. First off, it depends on the kind of person  you are … adventurer, introvert, sports enthusiast, bookworm, television addict, foodie, coupon clipper, mother of two, or single dude out on the town. Although I fit into multiple categories I realized, after my little happiness update on fun a while back,  that simple things make me happy. A good hamburger. A good piece of chocolate. Hearing my favorite song. Dancing to a good song with my kids. Watching a great movie. Sports, playing or watching at any level collegiate, professional, or Olympic style. Everyone measures their needs and wants differently, depending on what makes them happy and what they do for fun.

Rubin’s second factor deals with how you spend your money. The kind of person you are will probably influence your purchasing decisions. You might be a tech dude who purchases the latest gadgets as soon as they come out, or you may be a person whose purchases are well-thought and researched so that even though you are spending money, you still feel like you’re doing what you can to get the best deal. You can be a person who splurges on a really nice bottle of wine every so often as a treat, or you can be the kind of person that eats at Chuy’s on Tuesday, because it’s 2-for-1 taco night.

Some people splurge on themselves for their own happiness, while other people may splurge on family or friends just to see them happy. In truth I do a little bit of both. If I go out in search for some awesome Hawaiian chocolates and run into a good bottle of wine that my friend would really enjoy, I’d probably buy her the bottle. I’m all about little splurges. I learned that from a friend of mine a while back. During her week-long craziness as a middle school teacher, she said she would often splurge on something once a week. Spend a little extra, just to make herself feel good … feel happy. Instead of going to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee, she may have stopped by that specialty food store and bought herself a fancy exotic Central American cup of coffee. A large. She taught me about little splurges, thus my wide knowledge of fantastic chocolate.

But she also reminded me of big splurges. It’s been a while since I’d been on a trip where I had to stay in a hotel. A long while. She told me that when she went on a trip with her husband they stayed at a fancy hotel, and he ordered room service. It was a good experience for them, a happy one. It made them feel good. I often envision them in those fancy white robes and matching slippers, eating on the balcony or something. Being happy. I thought yeah … I need to splurge big every once in while. Nothing too crazy, but something room-service worthy.

Rubin’s last contributing factor affecting the money and happiness relationship dealt with how much money you had in relation to others. Now I’m not much into comparing and contrasting my bank accounts with that of my family or friends. It’s just not how I roll, but Rubin’s point wasn’t so much a compare and contrast. It was more of a perspective thing.

“One person’s fortune is another person’s misfortune.” — Gretchen Rubin.

Dude. Yes! Like if Oprah ever complained about having a bad day, I’d be like … are you kidding me? I wish I had one of your bad days. It’d be an improvement to my current starving-writer-working-class existence. But then again someone in another state or country could be looking at my life and thinking, dude you’re definitely rolling in it. They might be delusional for thinking that way, but hey … you, gotta have perspective.

So in the end having money or wealth doesn’t necessarily make you happy, I know this, I got that. But money does provide you with options. Massive options and when it comes to happiness, it’s all about options. I’ve got to work on expanding my options. Maybe I’ll start small and upgrade my Netflix subscription.

Baby steps … baby steps for bigger options.

Falling off the Happiness Project-Bucket List Wagon

2 Dec

You ever feel like your life needs an intervention? I mean you’re not an alcoholic, drug user, or addict of any kind. Your only “addiction” is giving people the benefit of the doubt and somehow you just run into a lot of stupid people and a lot of bad luck. You look in the mirror and think this can’t be it. This really can’t be it. You need to sit yourself down in front of the mirror and say … What the hell is going on?

Yeah … I had one of these moments. And then I saw this …

 

I thought … holy crap I’m already there and I’m not even 40 yet, but I’m already there.

Granted the situation is not the same. I don’t have a trampoline and I’m not a bitchy wife, but you have these moments where you think … I didn’t think life would be this hard, or this much work. I mean I followed all the rules. The do what’s right and not wrong rules, the be kind to others rules, the go to college rules, the bust your ass to get an education and good job rules, the be a good mom with a good heart rules, the follow your dream rules, the make a Bucket List rules, the create a Happiness Project rules.

All the rules … I’ve done all the right thing rules and sometimes … sometimes it works and I can say that I’m happy … for a minute.

But I’d like it to last a little bit longer than just a length of a commercial.

I mean there are other times when I think … damn do I need another self-help project? A smack me out of this crappy state of mind project? However, I think I have too many projects already, I mean I can’t even find the time to fold my laundry. And when you’re the mom in a family, you usually come last on the list of priorities.  I guess I have to start picking an entire 24-hour period where I’m first, instead of an hour three times a week.

But let’s not get crazy, who ever heard of me getting 24 hours to myself once a week. Dude. Hasn’t happened yet.

I find myself in a happiness recession today. I’ve fallen off the Happiness Project-Bucket List Wagon. I don’t know, maybe I’m just still tripping over the loss of my dog, or maybe I just had a really crappy weekend, or maybe I need to see this Judd Apatow movie to get a few suggestions on how to get out of this unhappiness weekend funk by using comedy.

Maybe I just need a movie night. A ticket for one. A table for one. The quiet silence of the night without getting interrupted by someone needing something.

Maybe this weekend was a temporary setback and I need to continue chipping away at my “Do Better” list, my Bucket List, and my Happiness Project. Maybe I just need a 2.0 version of myself before I actually hit 40, so that I don’t have a crisis when I hit that milestone birthday. Maybe I need to continue visualizing The Guat 2.0 in order to get passed the current happiness funk the weekend brought me. Maybe I just need to cowboy-up  and realize that sometimes bad days last a little while longer, and I just need to buy more chocolate in order to get through weekends just like these. It’s all part of the intervention process. Chocolate is step one. Comedy is step two.

Falling off the emotional Happiness Project-Bucket List wagon is hard. It’s a good thing I’ve got padding, I feel I’m gonna need a lot of it.

Happiness Project Update 17: BFFs or Just BFs

27 Nov

When you were younger it happened during recess, nutrition, or lunch. Or most likely during class when you were passing notes … just to keep them updated as to what happened during third period. As you got older it happened over coffee, sporting events, concerts, boys, men, tailgating, or parties. Sometimes it happened because you realized you had the same Alanis Morissette break-up experience.

Friendships … they develop for many reasons.

And according to Rubin living a life of happiness requires maintaining strong bonds of friendship. Not the casual acquaintance kind, but the true kind — the kind of friend you can call if you’re stranded somewhere and you don’t have Triple A, the kind of friend that you can call to be your wing-man at a party, the kind of friend that you can call to hold your hair back while you’re throwing up either because of a Tequila hangover or bad Thai food, the kind of friend that takes your call at midnight because you’re freaking out over a fight you just had with your current flame, the kind of friend that will give you an alibi if CSI came knocking on your door, and the kind of friend that splits their last stick of gum with you. A true friend. A BFF, or just a BF.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Through all her research, Rubin found that people with strong relationships are more likely to be happier in life. Friendships … they play a big part of your Happiness Project. Family … yes we know there’s a bond. Whether you want it to be there or not you’re linked by blood forever. For better or for worse. But friendships are different. They’re a necessary link outside the nuclear family that support you and let you fly your freak flag whenever.

Making time for friends. A basic premise? Yeah.

But a very necessary reminder, especially for those of us that are so busy and consumed with jobs, school, family, or parenthood. It’s good to be reminded that you’re not just a professional blue-collar or white-collar worker, you’re not just someone’s mother or father. You’re not just someone’s son, daughter, or cousin. You’re someone’s friend and if you’re a good friend, or if you want good ones, you’ll strengthen or deepen your existing friendships.

Rubin suggests a couple of concepts, but the one that seemed to grab me was the simplest one: Be generous.

Generosity can come in many forms. Gifts, kind acts, compliments, showing up to birthday parties, or making the time to buy someone coffee … all types of generosity. Since most of my “circle of trust” friends are busy women with BIG Cheese jobs or mothers on the break of defeat because they’re raising kids alone I thought I’d sent out a compliment.

I mentioned a while back how I found an old picture of myself and I thought … hey I knew her … she was awesome where did she go? No where really,  just buried deep under the hustle and bustle of life. But seeing that picture brought me back … way back. It was a nice reminder of my bad-ass self.

So I thought I would pass on the goodness. I posted a picture for a weekly challenge not too long ago. Renewal. And it was group picture with some of the members of my “circle of trust.”  I thought it would be a good idea to send it out to them with the hopes that they might be reminded of their own bad-ass self. Maybe they were lost and the email helped center them again, maybe they were in an awesome state of mind and this email just heightened the experience. Either way I wanted them to feel badass … feel needed … feel appreciated … feel like their friendship made an impact. They matter.

“Friendship thrives on interconnection, and it’s both energizing and comforting to see that you’re building not just friendships but a social network.”

Gretchen Rubin

I sent that email out to my circle of trust — my social network — and whether they responded or not, it felt good to let them know that their friendship was important, that they were important,  and that they were contributors to a time where I felt like myself.

It was a good chapter — a good reminder that friendships expand your happiness, and I needed to put effort in maintaining them if my own Happiness Project was going to work. Otherwise I could end up like Stockard Channing in the First Wives Club. And you really don’t want to end up there.

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

24 Oct

“Finding more fun.”  I’m enjoying this chapter in Rubin’s book. I’m all about more fun, and less interested in mid-thirties malaise. Well now it’s late-thirties malaise.

I never knew that fun fit into three categories: Challenging Fun, Accommodating Fun, and Relaxing Fun. I’ve had my share of experience in all three.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Apparently with all the research, “challenging fun” yields the most satisfying feelings, but it is also the most demanding and requires a lot of hard work. It often presents anxiety and frustration during the preparation period, but the payoff is great.

Case in point … The triathlon I just finished. This definitely fit into the challenging fun category. Although it didn’t really create frustration or anxiety, the training and preparation leading up to the race was difficult and demanding. The only time I felt frustrated was when someone of something impeded my training regiment. I thought I’d be seriously sidetracked during the race if I didn’t meet my daily training regiment, and doing well was part of the fun for me.

But competing in the triathlon itself left me in an amazing I-am-badass frame of mind. Sports competitions in general made me feel that way, and winning had nothing to do with it, although it helps. But it’s not required. Participating was the achievement for me. It was jolt I needed to ease the my late-thirties malaise. I realized that challenging fun, the sports kind, needed to be a recurring theme in my own quest for happiness.

Accommodating fun? This was just a part of being a parent and a being the better half in a relationship. You go to places just to appease the other person. Fun is happening but maybe not directly for you. Stuff like going to the park with your kids, when all you really want to do is stay at home because you’re exhausted from the night shift. But you go because you know your kids want to be there.You just ignore the Mommy & Me Mafia group hanging out by the swings.

For couples, Accommodating Fun is essential for survival. It’s going out with your partner’s friends and hanging out. This definitely requires accommodation, because sometimes your partner, dude, or chick has friends that you just can’t see in person. You don’t hate them or anything, you just feel that hanging out with them is truly a waste of time because if you had met them randomly on a separate occasion by yourself, you would never hang out with these people. I mean ever. Ever. They’re just not your crowd.

But you do it because apparently it’s fun for someone, just not you.

I’m not into these accommodating fun things. For kids, yes I’ll do just about anything, as long as my kids enjoy themselves, I’m up for it. However, hanging out with some of my dude’s friends … not so much. Some of his friends are good. However, it’s the others … my life is too short for the others. When we were dating I might have made an exception but now that I’m older and wiser, with gray hairs popping out, I realized my time is extremely valuable. So when it comes the others, I’d rather stay home and watch cable television. This is much more engaging, exciting and stimulating. Cable TV is pretty amazing.

Television. According to Rubin, this is considered Relaxing Fun — the kind of fun that’s easy, no stress and no preparation involved.

Dude … working your DVR to record all your shows is definitely stressful. You want to make sure you get the whole show and that it’s not accidentally erased because someone changed the channel.

And since I’m a total television addict, I disagree with Rubin and think Relaxing Fun is very essential. It creates escape from your day-to-day malaise and sometimes gives you that edge-of-your-seat drama or comedy that makes you think, that makes you dream, that makes you crack up, that lifts your spirits up, and that makes your day. If you don’t feel like that … you’re probably watching the wrong shows.

But out of all of them, I guess Rubin’s is right. Challenging fun in the long run, contributes more to your happiness because it allows for stronger personal bonds, mastery, and an atmosphere for growth.

I realized that I needed a little bit more of that in my life. I don’t know if I’ll be doing triathlons every month. I sincerely doubt it. I’m not Wonder Woman, but I do need that Challenging Fun at least once a month. I need all kinds of fun once week, but the Challenging Fun … I need that to thrive. I need it to feel more like myself. I need it so that instead of all these lemons life gives me, I’ll end up with a sweet mango every now and then.

Happiness Project Update 14: The Lemon Squeezer

4 Oct

Finding fun. I never thought this concept was complicated. In fact I found it quite simple, but after reading Gretchen Rubin‘s chapter “Be Serious About Play,” I realized I could squeeze in a little more.

Reading this chapter made me reflect on my progress and lack of progress in my own Happiness Project. Am I happier now, than when I started? Well yes and no. I’m not world traveling, rock climbing, bungy jumping or kayaking rapids every weekend, but I’m still finding ways to get through the daily part of life with more fun and less mid-life malaise.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

This whole project was set up to make a change, not a drastic one that never gets follow-up, but a bunch of little changes that add up and make a difference. I needed to flip a switch on a daily basis in order to squeeze every drop of lemon juice from the lemons life left for me. I’d become a squeezer, a Bed, Bath & Beyond Lemon Squeezer.

During all this juice extraction I realized, just as Rubin had written in her chapter “Be Serious About Play,” that you can’t have happiness without fun. Mind blowing concept, I know. So it tripped me out when she mentioned the “sadness of a happiness project.”

Sadness in happiness? What the hell is that? I got plenty of sadness in sadness, it doesn’t need to be creeping up on my happiness project.

But I found that it was a common realization. Apparently, it’s an understanding that there are a lot of things you wish you could do in life, because they sound so interesting and exciting. But then you know that you won’t do them because they’re not really fun for you. A couple of Rubin’s readers had some of the best responses to this awareness. She wrote:

“I will never be an F-1 racer. I will never be a supermodel. I will never know what it’s like to fight in a war. To be a dancer on a cruise ship. To be a dealer in Las Vegas.

“Not because they are entirely impossible to achieve. But because I can’t dance (I tried). I can’t take G forces (I can’t even ride a roller coaster). I am not tall or pretty enough. I hate physics and maths, so I can’t be an astronaut.

“This is less about whether I CAN actually do any of those things, but more about whether I’d actually want to do them. Or to be dedicated enough to work towards them. I will never be that person.”

Dude.

I had to take a minute on that one. I highlighted it. This was so true. I realized that although I wasn’t the kind of person to go out and do things I didn’t want to do, or do them and pretend I enjoyed them just for the sake of impressing a group or a person, there were still some things that I found fun that I may not have openly admitted or pursued because I didn’t think there were kindred spirits out there to join me.

But Rubin challenged me to try to “Find More Fun.” I thought get on it, because apparently having fun is an essential component to a happier life.

So what did I find fun? What made my list? Now considering that I don’t have the Oprah bank account to travel and explore new cities and do adventurous stuff like rock climbing, bungy jumping, and kayaking rapids my list would have to be more realistic and narrowed down a bit to fun on a budget. When the cash flow increases then perhaps I’d be off … traveling. But for now, the lemon squeezer finds more fun in the day-to-day, so that my happiness can increase.

So what’s fun?

Since I’m here in the blogging world, you probably guessed that writing and blogging is something I find fun. You’re right. I do. I get a kick out of putting my stories out there and hearing that other people enjoyed them, or that other people could relate.

I think watching college football is fun. I love hanging out. I love tailgating. I have fun cheering on my team and high-fiving friends and complete strangers when my team scores a touchdown. I have fun saying woo-hoo when this happens. I love saying woo-hoo to myself when I’m watching from my couch on Saturday mornings. I’m all about woo-hoos.

I think watching movies is fun. Mobster movies, 80s movies, psychological thriller movies, and of course comedies. I can buy a ticket “for one” and not feel self-conscious at all that I’m hanging out by myself at the local AMC. But I’m also very grateful for cable and Netflix. They help continue this movie fun quest on a budget.

Board games. I think board games are fun. I remember when I was younger getting a huge thrill out of playing Hungry Hungry Hippo, Trouble, Sorry, Monopoly, and Operation. My friends and sister would play for hours and we’d have so much fun. Lite Brite rocked my world too. So in effort to continue this I opened up a board game they gave my four-year old son and we had a blast. I decided I needed to make a trip to Target so that he could get the Hungry-Hungry-Hippo experience. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Sports. I think sports are fun. Playing sports or running in triathlons really does it for me. I enjoyed playing sports so much growing up that I decided to do the triathlon thing, it brings me the same woo-hoo-cart-wheel type of feelings as it did when I was a skinny teenager.

Seinfeld. I think Seinfeld is fun. I’ve seen every episode of Seinfeld, probably twice, maybe even three times. I love cracking up and he does it for me. I’ve even checked out his new project Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I think laughing is fun, so I check to see what he’s doing.

And last but not least, dancing. I love dancing. I think it’s fun to get my groove on. Now that I’m older I’m not into the whole club dance scene, but I listen to  music every day and I bust a move at home. But I gotta be careful when I’m jamming in my socks, the wooden floor is not soft when I slip and fall because I’m totally into my Solid Gold Dancer mode.

This is the Guat kind of fun and as a lemon squeezer, I’m gonna do my best to keep it up.

 

 

 

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

19 Sep

I so wish I could be Buddha-like on this happiness-project resolution. I wish I could be one of those faceless shadowy figures who stand on a mountain top with an awesome sunset before them and their hands in the air — the kind of shadowy people who  are pictured in inspirational calendars. That was my goal, but no such luck. Not even close.

This whole gratitude thing proved to be one of the most difficult resolutions of My Happiness Project. I guess most people find it easy to be grateful. But before you go thinking that I’m some kind of an ass, let me clear things up. I am extremely grateful when good things happen to me. I’m busting out cartwheels and thank yous nonstop. They just don’t happen very often.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

I was doing pretty well with that whole gratefulness meditation thing that Gretchen Rubin suggests in her book, however I added chocolate and a glass of my favorite alcoholic beverage. And that seemed to help during ordinary days, but when you have crappy days I think that’s when the whole gratefulness factor needs to step it up a notch. This is where I’ve been failing, because there is not enough chocolate or Framboise.

I usually just get really bummed out because I can’t think of any new reasons for which to be grateful, so I end up watching a comedy to help improve my depressing attitude before going to bed. Then I’m thankful for comedy. Jason Bateman comedies are common during dark days, although I have a wide range of go-to films for crappy days like that.

But the key is thinking of something new or different each week, or each day. When this crappiness occurs, I always end up saying well at least I have my kids and my health. But part of this whole gratefulness resolution is to find more aspects of your life for which to be grateful.

So I got stuck. Then I realized why …

“One of the many ways to define unhappiness is the degree of difference between where you are and where you want to be — or the difference between what is and what you expect.” — Dale Carnegie

Yes. That’s me. There is a big degree of difference between what I am and what I imagined I’d be at 37. Ginormous. But I’m sure I’m not alone on this one, probably a handful of other people feel the same.  So then Gretchen Rubin makes a suggestion. Catastrophe Memoirs. In other words read about someone else’s really crappy, horrible life and be thankful that it wasn’t you. Now I’m all for reading, but I feel bad about gaining appreciation and gratefulness at the expense of others. I don’t want to be that person who reads about a chick with cancer and thinks … well thank God that’s not me. That’s sort of a crappy way to get to a happier place.

But I realized that Rubin wasn’t suggesting that I have the ha-ha this-happened-to-you-and-not-me mentality. It was more of  an “admonition to live fully and thankfully in the present,” and not wait until “catastrophe” strikes in order to be grateful, or in order to do the things that make your life a life. Appreciate ordinary days and cherish your health. This was what Rubin was getting at with all the catastrophe memoirs.

However, I have yet to read one. I imagine when I’m all the way at the bottom I might crack one open without feeling guilty. But for now, hearing about other people’s crappy life will do just fine. Plus I just stocked up on Framboise and chocolate.

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

5 Sep

Often times people say health. That’s their number one answer. When all else in your life fails — your relationship sucks, you’re unemployed, you’re financially impaired, you’re homeless, your family drives you crazy,  or your life dreams have become reality nightmares — for all this there is one answer. Health. At least you have your health.

Yes! Yes you do.

But some days you want to be grateful for more than just your health. Some days you want to thank the universe or The Big Guy upstairs for something more than just the disease-free 5-foot-4 body. Sometimes you want to be grateful for more than just having two functioning legs, or the fact that you’re not Helen Keller. Although in retrospect being a humanitarian who overcame adversity to graduate college, publish 12 books and hang out with Mark Twain doesn’t sound too bad. The deaf, blind and mute thing … that doesn’t sound great, though.

In any case I want to be able to have more than just my health and kids on my list. I want more grateful items on my daily life list, or even weekly life list. So where did I happen to get some answers? My Happiness Project. Who came with suggestions? Rubin. Gretchen Rubin.

Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

Cover via Happiness-Project.com

Apparently throughout all her research grateful people tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives.

“Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more … Gratitude fosters forbearance–it’s harder  to feel disappointed with someone when you’re feeling grateful toward him or her. ”

Yeah I needed a little bit of that. Not because of I’m envious of other people’s success or ungrateful for the small kindnesses that few people bestow upon me. On the contrary, I’m not the Dallas-Dynasty-Telenovela envious type of chick, and I often throw out Marv Albert yeses whenever something good happens to me.

So why did I need more gratefulness? I needed to learn to be more grateful during my ordinary days, and not in a fake or forced way. Rubin suggested a daily gratitude journal, where she wrote three things for which she was grateful. I wasn’t sure I could do this and find three different things every day.

Then I read on … it didn’t work for her. Rubin said that instead of bringing her into a grateful state of mind, this gratitude journal pretty much annoyed her. She too thought it felt forced — artificial.

So she came up with another concept that sort of worked for me too. Gratitude Meditation. Not the kind where you sit in silence in that kindergarten pose and just drive yourself crazy because you’ve been sitting still for the last three minutes staring at your clock that doesn’t seem to move. This is the kind of meditation that you can do while eating some Ben & Jerry’s or sipping a glass of Framboise, preferably in a hammock. But considering that I don’t own one the couch or rocking chair would have to do.

I found during this gratitude meditation that sometimes instead of finding things, people, or events to be grateful for, I found characteristics in myself for which I am grateful. Reminders that kept the ordinary days less crappy. Stuff like … Even though I have an Everybody-Loves-Raymond kind of relationship I’m a good wife who’s extremely patient and understanding; even though I am not employed full-time and making good use of my two college degrees, I get to play baseball and have lunch with my four-year old son and one-year old daughter every day; even though some of my dreams have gotten a dose of reality, my dysfunctional family gives me gray hair, and I don’t have a back yard or walk-in closet, I find humor in life’s sucky moments.

Finding gratefulness in ordinary days has led me to believe that on a scale of 1-to-10, I’m probably an 8.7. I should be grateful for that. Considering all that has happened to me I should be a bitter 4.2, but I’m not. Gratitude meditation, who knew?

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

26 Aug

You remember the labor pains and profanity, everyone else remembers the miracle. You remember the two, four, and six a.m. feeding wake up calls and diaper changes, your other half remembers a good night sleep. You remember hanging out watching the Wonder Pets for the twentieth time that week, they’ll remember what teamwork means. You remember hearing: mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy. They remember having a conversation.

Angles.  Parenthood and Happiness … It’s all about angles.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Soon they’ll be hostile teenagers wanting to spend more time with their friends instead of with you, and their only form of communication will consist of huh? what? later, yeah, whatever.

You need to add to your memories vault with whatever you’ve got. Fill up the days of your parenthood experience and their childhood with projects, adventures, and traditions, that way it’s enjoyable for both of you. Incidentally it may have a positive effect when the hostile teenage years hit. They still might be hostile, but they’ll want to spend time with you.

Want.  This is the key. You may hear things like … “I want to,”  instead of  “do I have to?”  It makes a difference.

According to Gretchen Rubin part of infusing happiness during the parenthood phase of life is being able to “squeeze out as much happiness from every single event.”

According to Rubin happiness contains four stages. “You must anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory.”

Now I have little field trips, traditions, and projects with my son at least twice a week, but after reading that part of the chapter, I decided to take it up a notch. I realized that even when you’re exhausted, got piles of laundry to fold, and a sink full of dishes, squeezing out some happiness can still happen.

Take for instance the Legos. I’m a fan of building blocks. I’m a fan of creating, but when it came to the Lego 4×4 Firetruck with 243 pieces that he got as a gift over a month ago, I thought eh … maybe I’ll save this for another time. I put it on hold for a while.

Then came the day when I picked it up a notch. So on a random Wednesday out came the 243 pieces and plenty of patience.

I placed the box on the table during breakfast and laid out our mission. But before we could build our project we went out to do some research.We ventured out to the fire station and met firefighter Mack, who gave us the tour. My son explored the fire truck, fire engine, and hazmat truck. He thoroughly enjoyed wearing the hat and sitting on the truck, pretending he was driving to an emergency. He was amazed that before leaving he received a coloring book, ruler, stickers, and cards featuring each emergency vehicle. We’d been to the fire station before, but apparently that day we got the VIP treatment and that made for a happier four-year old.

After our little field trip, we drove home and continued our firefighter themed project. When I opened the box, I was hoping that it was partially built so that all we had to do was snap on the pieces and viola!Fire truck. But no … there were 243 pieces. Tiny pieces.

Our Lego masterpiece

It took us close to two hours to build the Lego 4×4 Firetruck … but it was two hours worth of anticipation, excitement, enjoyment, and happiness. We went through all four phases of Rubin’s happiness formula and we had fun doing so.

Now there will be days where projects will not happen. Sometimes there’s not enough caffeine in JOLT soda to help pep you up, so it’s just going to be a day at the park. But considering that we both enjoyed the experience and there was no crankiness from either of us, we’re probably going to try to squeeze as much happiness from every event as possible.

I’m hoping to stick to the formula. I might just get a teenager that rarely uses “Ugh…Do I have to go with you?”

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

18 Aug

You take a deep breath, grind your teeth, and rub your head in the hopes that the universe sends you a truck-load of patience and some Advil for the rest.

This is the meltdown process.

But all you really do after all that grinding is increase the chances of fracturing, loosening, or losing your teeth and eventually setting yourself up for dentures by the age of fifty. Not to mention adding wrinkles to your already aging forehead from all that rubbing.

This is the life of a parent during the meltdown crisis. It can be caused by anything, but the primary culprits are hunger and sleepiness. Any parent that tells you their kids never do this is just lying and trying to make themselves look Parent magazine-worthy. Those smiley faces on the cover of magazines … yeah those parents suffer the meltdown process too. You can’t airbrush that out.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

But other than turning to massive amounts of chocolate, apparently acknowledging feelings  are important. In The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin talks about these parent self-help books. I’m not big on those parent advice books with unrealistic scenarios that give unpractical advice. I prefer the Judd Apatow method myself. But she did happen to mention a couple of items I thought were noteworthy.

Instead of getting sassy with my kid about whining ,or dismissing his four-year old feelings about yet another set of Thomas the Train Tracks thus extending the attitude and sadness, I should just acknowledge his feelings and things would probably settle down a lot faster.

I was doubtful of this Brady-BunchPartridge Family mentality, but it surprisingly worked.

“…much of children’s frustration comes not from being forced to do this or that but rather from the sheer fact that they’re being ignored.”

There are a few methods she mentions to help the acknowledgement-factor and possibly decrease future therapy for your kid.

“Write it Down.”

Seeing how my son has noticed my daily lists and that I often write things down on paper or the computer, he’s become aware that writing things down is important. So when he suggested “Mom I don’t like baby sister smashing my Lightning McQueen, she should have her own race cars. She can smash them.”

Instead of ignoring him and telling him for the 100th time that she’s just a baby and she didn’t mean it. I stood up and announced: “I think I should write that down … that sounds like a good idea.”

He smiled and picked up his car.

Dude.

I was unaware of the power of writing it down. I have used that many times this week. However I have also tried to master rephrasing the word “no.” Apparently kids hear that a lot, and in truth they need to hear it sometimes. But putting a positive spin on “no” can sometimes make the task so much easier. Instead of “No we can’t go to the golf course right now,” I use “It’s pretty hot outside why don’t we play in the pool first and then go to the golf course when it’s cooler.”

That one was pretty sweet. Watching Mad Men and Donald Draper can help you with your word magic.

Rubin suggests two other notes that I found helpful. “Wave my magic wand,” as in if I had a magic wand I’d make Go Diego, Go! appear right now instead of saying you need to understand the cable is out.

And last but not least “admitting that a task is difficult.” Just because I find it easy to make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night doesn’t mean it’s easy for my four-year to wake up and do it himself. Sometimes Pull-Ups Training Underwear are still necessary.

As a parent did these things make me happy? Well … it provided a less stressful environment and that made me happy. But  in truth I can’t always write everything down. I will have to say no loudly from time to time. The magic wand does not always exist when disaster strikes and I’ve only had four hours of sleep. And, learning to cowboy up and mastering a task is important, especially when it involves urine. Meltdowns will happen, and there will be attitude adjustments that simply need a time-out and a ban from Lightning McQueen race cars.

This is parenthood.

And even though some of Rubin’s parent tips currently work with my four-year old at this time, once he hits his junior high school and high school status I might have to resort to my substitute teacher methods, because teenagers are a whole new breed.

 

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

12 Aug

Parenting.

This is the source of much stress, anxiety, mini breakdowns on the living room floor, weight gain, gray hair, bottles of Lambic Framboise, and pounds of chocolate. Truck loads. It’s more than a job, it’s an existence where I constantly question my ability and hope that the result is better than expected. Thus, the stress. A good opportunity to inject more happiness.

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Well in truth there is happiness. There are massive amounts of laughter accompanied by smiles. But there could always be more … thus the next chapter in my happiness project.

Now, there are all kinds of baby mamas and baby daddys out there. Some have nannies, cleaning ladies, chefs, personal assistants, and Mary Poppins type of grandmas that happily volunteer to help you out on a daily or weekly basis.  I am not one of these people, which is probably why I need an extra shot of happiness thrown my way. But apparently even some of the lucky ones have bouts of uncertainty and stress.

But no matter your situation you get the good, the bad, and the ugly. You get all of it and if someone tells you it’s just all happiness, let me let you in on a little secret … they’re lying! You can call them on it. Straight up.

Just as Anthony Anderson describes in the clip above, parenting includes moments of awful, awful, awful and then incredible! Possibly terrific. This is the cycle. The terrific is great, it’s the other parts that threaten my delicate balance. This is where Gretchen Rubin comes in. What does she have to say about parenting and your own happiness project? Some good advice … lighten up.

Now I’m pretty laid back, but when I’ve had about four hours of sleep and the baby wakes up at six o’clock in the morning, loud enough to be the wake-up call for her brother I can’t help but feel irritated. Adding to the fact that I’m not the greatest morning person … well … let’s just say that it is not play time.

This is the time when I can’t find my patience anywhere. It’s gone. It’s probably still sleeping. So there are no deep breathing skills at this time. It’s the you-can’t-do-what-you-want-at-this-time phase. It’s the exhausted-mom phase. It’s when I’m at my worse and I just react. Then I often feel horrible after a yelling episode. The guilt … Parent guilt … it sucks. It’s worse than Catholic guilt.

But Rubin lists something pretty valuable in this section. Lighten up. Laugh.

Sometimes you don’t really try, you just react. I need to check myself and remember to lighten up otherwise the teenage years will probably kill me.  Well, they’ll give me ulcers first and then kill me.

I have to stop being so neurotic, because kids’ schedules aren’t always going to work out. They’re gonna wake up before the sunrise. They’re gonna pee in their pants. They’re gonna throw applesauce at you and think it’s funny.  They’re gonna eat sand at the beach. They’re going to put waffles in the DVD player. They’re going to lose the remote control. They’re going to play with the toilet paper, even when it’s your last roll. Structure … yes it’s important, but don’t get crazy if the structure of the day has broken down. Lighten up. Rubin suggests singing in the morning.

Really?

I’m not too sure that belting out a tune at six o’clock in the morning will brighten my day. In fact I sincerely doubt that. However, she says you can’t be in a bad mood if you’re singing. Maybe at eight o’clock and not six. Sleeping more than four hours would probably help remedy that situation. So I’ll take her second tip: “Get Enough Sleep Yourself.”

Tonight midnight is the cutoff.

Lastly … laugh. Try to laugh with your kids at least once a day. This is something I already have in my regiment. I got the tickle monster down. I got the funny faces. I got the funny voices during reading time. I got plenty of falling down opportunities because my battle with gravity continues. I got my basketball, baseball, golf, hockey, and football bloopers moves perfected. And I’ve got my dance moves. Normally I’m Solid Gold-American Bandstand Dancer material, but sometimes when the music gets me, when it consumes me, the dance moves get wackier and the laughter ensues.

But what about the meltdowns? You can’t have parenthood without meltdowns. And in truth … no you can’t, but this will be next week’s task. This week we’re dealing with the awful, awful, awful, terrific! So lighten up and laugh.