Gratitude = Happiness

Chowing on nachos with a good friend of mine, she reminded me that when life gets you down to focus on what makes you happy.  (Thanks Stace).  She pointed out that I have a good job and can pay my bills,  my children are healthy,  I have a supportive family and friends as well as a warm house to come home to.  She’s absolutely right. I know she’s right. I just need that friendly reminder when that pity-party band starts playing in my head – LOL.

Focusing on random aches and pains, complaining about the dysfunction in our world,  stressing over the minor obstacles in my life and pining after what I don’t have, absolutlely brings me down.  Yes, I do need to set goals and make little changes and take action to acheive my dreams, but I need to do so in a positive way.  I need to make time for myself and let myself be me. So I’ve come back to gratitude.  Remember what I am grateful for and reminding myself that I am enough and I have enough genuinely leads to happy feelings and drives my blues away.

Beyond those obvious “BIG” things I am truly grateful (my children, family, friends, health, home  and job), I played back the last few days in my life and found little things that I am grateful for…in no particular order:

  • Giving my cockapoo a shampoo and blow out at the self-serve dog bath with my teenager. He smells great and looks positively fluffy.
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  • Writing with a brand new gel pen. There’s next to nothing more satisfying than writing that first stroke with a new pen:)
  • Stocking up at the olive bar. (Need I say more?)
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  • Listening to the Coffee House channel.  Even though I am musically inept, listening to music while reading a good book lifts me up every time.
  • Eating a yummy waffle sandwich (Again, need I say more?)
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  • Watching an old movie in the dark. Just like a good book, a good movie is good for the soul (happy endings only, please).
  • Playing with a new fun photo editing app.
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  • Dropping my daughter off at her first job (brought back memories for another post).
  • Being reminded by my friends to keep on keeping on.
  • Writing this blog post and hopefully resonanting with other grateful people.

What random things are you grateful for?

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Confessions of a FB Quiz Addict

20171003_222155000_iOSYes, it’s true. I find it hard to scroll past one of those dumb quizzes that inevitable appear in my FaceBook feed without clicking on them. Because really, who wouldn’t want to know what the most popular words they use in their posts are or who has a secret crush on them?

I for one want to know what the color test tells me about my most dominant character trait is (kindness in case you are wondering) and I found out I’m an introvert by ordering a pizza (not that I didn’t know that already!)  Probably most compelling though are those quizzes that deem me a genius – you know the ones that proport to say that 90% of people don’t know the meaning of these 22 words or the like.  A smile of satisfaction crosses my lips when I find myself in the 10% that know them all. My fingers itch to press “Share” so my FB friends know how smart I really am (or not if you factor in the amount of time I waste taking these quizzes instead of sleeping) and they too can partake in the fun of quiz-taking. 90% of the time, my friends are also in that illustrious 10% of smarties. So, either I am surrounded by extra-intelligent friends or someother nefarious forces are in play. I tend to side with all my friends being on the genius level.

I am so lucky to live in such modern times that I get instant results for these pop-culture quizzes.  Back in the dark ages of my teenage years, I actually had to wait for my monthly issue of Seventeen to appear in my mailbox before I could indulge in such fun. I had to flip through those glossy pages to find the quiz that told me if that special guy was into me or not.  I had to carefully write down my answers on paper none-the-less and then assign a 1, 2, 3 or 4 to my corresponding A,  B, C or D answers. Finally, I had to exercise those math skills to get my total and find the answer to my burning questions.  Am I an optimist? a realist? a pessimist? Oh those insights gave me even more fodder to overthink the little things.

After completing the quiz of the month, I inevitably flipped to the last page to check out my horoscope for the month.  What did the stars have to say about my future?  Is an Aquarius woman compatiable with a Scorpio man? LOL. I confess though, I still click on those articles that appear in my feed. What do the psychics say about my career today? When will I meet my soul-mate? I admit I sometimes wish I had a crystal ball and could see which path I should take or avoid. I’ve even had a personal psychic reading just for the fun of it. Alas, even though she seemed to know things about my that I don’t know how she could her predictions have not come to fruition.

Last but not least, I had to skim over the “Top Ten” lists. Those are the best. You know the top 10 things a man is looking for in a woman or the top 10 things you should stop doing on a date or the top 10 things an older woman should never wear. I love how advice can be summed up in ten easy points.  Its no surprise that I also find myself clicking on these gems when insomnia grips me and I click on my Huffington Post app. You would not believe how many self-improvements can be made in 5 to 10 steps!

I’d like to say I’ll never waste my time again taking a quiz, reading my horoscope or checking out the latest top-10 advice column, but I know I will. I mean what else have a got to do at 2:00 AM when the dog is running around the yard and won’t come back in and I’m engulfed with a hot flash. I’m certainly not going to be able to fall back asleep. I apologize in advance if my sharing these distractions suck you in as well.

Anyone else give into the guilty pleasures of these time-wasters?

 

Fifth Grade Frustrations

img_4017My fifth-grader is having a school meltdown. I’m reminded of those toddler tantantrums of yesteryear that I thought were behind me.

“I can’t take it anymore. I hate school. I want to be home schooled,” She wails and rants.

I watch her scribble her homework out and then accuse me of  “not caring.” Tears roll down her cheeks as she tells me “I don’t get it” and “I don’t understand.”  The reality is I DO care and I DO get it. Learning life lessons is hard. Watching her learn them is painful,  but I know that I can’t and probably shouldn’t protect her from them.  Not everything comes easily.  Instructions aren’t always clear. Distractions make it hard to concentrate. Deadlines are stressful. Sometimes, you have to do things you don’t always like to do.  Not everyone is “nice,” including teachers.

As I retreat into my mind, I get quiet and thoughtful trying to figure out a way to help her deal with her emotions when she’s frustrated. I try to put myself in her place. What was fifth grade like when I was a kid? It’s a foggy haze that I vaguely remember. Was fifth grade this traumatic for my older daughter? I can’t remember. For my youngest though the struggle is very real. The part that breaks my heart most  is when I hear the words “I can’t” come out of her mouth.  Because, I know she most definitely CAN.

“What are you going to do?” she pleads with me.

“What do want me to do?” I ask.

“I don’t know. S-O-M-E-T-H-I-N-G!!! I need help!” she shrieks.

“What do you need help with?” I try to stay calm.

“I don’t know!” she screams.

I get down on her level and read through the math problems. Patiently, I try to explain the word problem to her. She tells me I am wrong and refuses to listen to me. (I am reminded of the scene in Airplane where the woman is hysterical (you know the woman with eggs coming out of her mouth) and a line of people are waiting to ‘help’ her get a grip.)  My daughter won’t be reasoned with. I want her to calm down and listen to me, but instead she screams at me, breaks her pencil and storms out of the room. I’m frustrated and she’s frustrated.  I’m at a loss on how to make homework time go smoother. Should I punish her?  Reason with her?  Ignore her?

She is very conscientious and is far from lazy. She gets down on herself when she gets a “B” and is afraid of being let behind. I’ve told her time after time I am proud of her for the effort she puts forth. She doesn’t need to strive for perfection.  She responds well to positive reinforcement. Last year she thrived trying to get the most “Dojo points.”  She’d get excited to do extra math problems to earn “dojos.” It got to the point where I’d ask her if it was “real” homework or just extra credit for dojo.  She’d get that look on her face and I’d know it was for dojo. Even though her motivation was to earn dojo’s, she was learning and excelling in her classes along the way. She loved to go to school and she loved to learn.

This year the paradigm has shifted. Instead of being rewarded for positive behaviors, the students (at least from her perspective) are punished for negative behaviors. She is fearful of doing wrong and getting “yelled” at. This is probably the most frustrating part for me as a parent. Failure is part of the learning process. Failure leads to growth. I want her to be encouraged to fail and try again. I dont’ want her to be afraid to fail.  I want her to be afraid to stop trying.  I want her to thrive. I don’t want her love for learning to be squashed by fear.  I also know that you don’t get a gold star for everything positive you do either. It’s a fine line.

Eventually she calms down enough to finish her homework and apologizes to me for taking her frustrations out on me. I give her a hug and accept her apology. I tell her I care and encourage her to focus on what she does like about school instead. If only we could skip over that hard part inbetween and get to the hugs quicker. I guess that can be said about most difficulties in life.

One thing’s for sure, I’ll be glad when fifth grade is over!

Does any one have any helpful tips for getting through homework?  Is fifth grade harder or is it just me?

The Small Stuff

Scrolling through my Facebook feed the past few weeks and months, I understand completely why  people sign off social media never to return. Today I’m feeling nostolgic for the fun vacation pics, cute pet photos and those first day of school smiles. Lately it seems it’s filled more with stories of devastating natural disasters, political diatribes and name-calling.

I know these conversations are important to have.  The world is full of strife and unfairness. People are mean. People are judgemental and cruel. People want to be right and which means others have to be wrong (but does it really?). Injustice is real.  I’m not immune to that. Pretending these issues don’t exist or abstaining from the conversation does not make them go away.  Life is not a sun-shiney highlight reel.  Yet, people are also compassionate and empathetic. People are generous and kind. People can compromise and right wrongs.  All of this is true.

I am blessed and lucky to live in a country where these converstations can happen. We are free to disrespect and disagree with each other as much as we want. Our military protects our freedom to do just that.  Freedom is what makes America, America. The Bill of Rights guarantees these freedoms.  However, tonight I am tired of reading about people bitching about how others are exercising their freedoms in away that disrespects their freedoms. It’s a Catch 22. It seems we want to exercise freedom and label ourselves the land of the free so long as everyone expresses that freedom the way we want them to.

So tonight I am exercising my freedom to take a break from the heaviness and bleakness  from the contradictions and hypocracies and focus on the small stuff that made me smile today instead.

  1. A foggy sunrise as I took the trash to the curb.
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  2. I hot cup of coffee from the corner gas station (where all the clerks know my name).
  3. A text, an email, a tag, a like and a walk around the block with good friends (far and near).
  4. Creating chalk drawings on the driveway with my girls.20170925_230836663_ios.jpg
  5. Watching my daughter’s face light up as she put together her new clarinet and showed me how she can play a few notes.
  6. Noodle soup. Mmmm.
  7. Throwing popcorn in the air and laughing as my dogs take turns catching it in their mouths.
  8. Piles of folded clean laundry (that I didn’t have to fold!)
  9. Whimiscal clouds scattered across the sky as I drug the empty trash can back to the garage.
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I once read the key to happiness is focusing on what you are thankful for and those simple gifts that make you smile.  Serendipty those little surprises in life are right in front of your eyes if only you open them wide enough to see them. That’s what this blog is all about.

I think I might be on to something.

 

 

The Story Teller

20170919_230223573_iOSSometimes as I read back over my words, I amazed that they came from the depths of my mind.  Did I really write that I muse.  I try to think back to my former self that had those particular thoughts on that particular day and remember. What was I feeling? What else happened? What circumstances led me to write those exact words? If I’d written them at another time on a another day would they have been different?  As I look at an old blog post, or journal entry or some odd story I wrote, I am reminded of how human I am and how far I’ve come.  My journey has taken many twists and turns yet my words still remain true to me.  The same themes thread their way through my life connecting them together and giving me a voice that the shy little girl within me would have a hard time speaking aloud. I have changed and grown but I am still the same. I am me uncompromised.

I watch my daughters as they are becoming young women. I am filled with pride and hope and love. They are finding their own voices each in their unique ways. A smile comes to my lips when I find the little stories and essays they have written. The letters and notes I find. They too have a love of expressing themselves in words and creating a story from their imaginations. Of all the quirks and neuroses I have passes on to these two this is the one that I am grateful to have inspired in them.

20170919_225524589_iOSA few months ago my fifth-grade daughter and I were down in the dredges of our basement, trying to organize our “craft” room. She came upon a tote in the back corner labeled “writing and stuff” and pried off the lid. (Yes, we were supposed to be putting stuff away.)  Here eyes got wide and she became so excited as she found a pile of old and I mean OLD stories that I had penned back in the day. She took them upstairs and made me read them all to her.  I laughed as she did she as we landed upon her favorite, “Pedro the Great.”  Ahhh good old Pedro the Great was inspired by my childhood dog  chihuahua named, of course, Pedro. In my little tale, Pedro is a diso dancing super hero. I illustrated it myself (as you can see in the picture above.)  I explained to her that I was the exact same age that she is now when I wrote that story – fifth grade. I told her we didn’t have computers (way back then in the old days) and had to use a typewriter (what’s that?”) and used markers to draw the pics. She was even more impressed when I told her that my teacher read it to our class. I have no recollection of how that came to happen – I think I must have asked her to read it and she humored me. I was proud of my story though and she encouraged me to write.

20170919_222745525_iOSI hadn’t given much thought to Pedro since that evening until I came home from work a couple of days ago tired and ready to veg. Usually when I come home the girls are watching TV or doing homework or playing outside, but on this particular day, she ran into the garage to meet me.  In her hands was her very own story, “Maggie the Magnificent.”  MTM is also a super hero dog named after our Jack Russell mix, who I’m not sure I would describe as magnficent (based on the growing pile of chewed up bras, undies, pens, shoes and Barbies in her wake or the number of times a week she wakes me up a 3 AM to pee), none-the-less, my daugher’s version of MTM is larger than life. My daugher was so proud of her story and I could see my ten-year old self in her. I loved her story.  She wants to get it published now and I encourage her to follow her dream. Her fifth grade ambitions are much higher than mine.  She’s working on the sequel now as she doesn’t want our other dog, Ollie, to feel left out. I agreed, he should get his story too. And, I can’t wait to read it.

 

 

 

 

 

Small Steps

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Someday…

I once worked with a woman that moved across the country all by herself to live in a town where she knew no one. My cousin travelled Europe for a year all by himself.  I envy them both.

I remember in college going to a basketball game by myself once.  All my friends (yes I actually had friends and still do) were busy, but being a diehard fan I was determined I wouldn’t let that fact keep me from going. I distinctly remember sitting in the stands with thousands of cheering people around me and feeling more alone than ever. I thought how ironic (I think that is the right word but Alannis would know better) it was to feel so alone when I was surrounded by so many people.

It’s a feeling I’ve since tried to avoid.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy travelling or eating out – it’s the alone part I don’t like. I like to have someone to go with me. I’m one of those that takes two friends to the bathroom with me. When I’m travelling on my own for business, I typically eat room service or take out. For me the idea of walking into a restaraunt and sitting alone to enjoy a meal terrifies me.  I’m breaking into a cold sweat just thinking about it!

I’m not sure what it is about it that makes me so uneasy. When I think about it, staying home to avoid being seen alone doesn’t make much sense. If I’m at home alone does it mean I’m not really alone? (Is that akin to if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?) Sure I enjoy watching Netflix in my PJs, but I also like taking photos at the metropark, listening to live music and being served a delicious meal. I’ve missed out on so much in the past by limiting myself to only going places when I had someone to go with me.

In the past couple of years, I’ve spent more and more time sitting in the stands or in the audience alone, watching my kids play sports and perform. I wouldn’t miss those moments for anything. Not once has anyone stared at me or called me a loser for not having someone to sit with me.  And even if they were, I have my trusty smart phone to protect me and distract me. I know I shouldn’t use it as a crutch to hide my shyness. If I put the phone down and looked more approachable or open maybe I’d meet Mr. Right (see my previous post) at one of these functions. LOL

So…is the solution to make more friends or step out and enjoy my own company? Maybe a little of both I’m thinking. Today, though, I’m proud to write that I took one step toward embracing my “singleness.”  I went to a movie at the theater by myself, bought a popcorn and a diet pop, sat back and enjoyed watching Ryan Reynolds on the big screen for two hours. The world didn’t come to end. I laughed and had a good time.  I know it is a small step, but for me it still felt pretty good. Next week maybe I’ll wine and dine myself. We’ll see…unless maybe you’d like to go with me?

What do you do when you can’t find a pal to go out with? Skip it or head out anyway?

 

Does Happily Ever After Even Exist?

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Just call me the “Crazy Dog Lady” in training


Ahhh the fairytale romance……

And they lived happily ever after.
The End.

These magic words have always made me feel warm inside. True love conquers all.  The happy ending. Oh, how I loved the happy ending. As a consumer of chick flicks and trashy romance novels galore (and author of the same), I’ve always been drawn to the fantasy of that perfect love and the happily ever after. I subscribe to the notion of why pay to watch a sad ending or invest my time in reading a novel that ends in despair. There is enough of that in real life. I want to escape into a feel-good world. The idea that somewhere in the universe that perfect love exists gives me hope. However, the realist in me knows real life is much harder than that. Relationships take work. People change. Humans are imperfect. Life is NOT a romance novel.  Fiction is not fact. I get that. I really do. So, that’s why I’m embarrassed to write that deep down I secretly hoped it could be real. Now that I find myself a single woman, I dreamt  the love story could be mine. It’s exciting to think somewhere out there my soulmate is looking for me and swoon, we’d fall in love and it wouldn’t be hard.  If only….
Navigating the dating world, let alone actually finding someone compatible, and nurturing that relationship beyond the initial butterflies is not easy. As a single mother with a full-time job in a middle-aged body, I know this beyond a doubt – more than ever before. I’ve tried online dating, but that is a part-time job in and of itself. Crafting the perfect profile that’s intriguing, but still true to me, finding the photos that make me look young and fun, writing  flirty messages and going on disappointing first dates. I can see that he viewed my profile, but he never responded to my message. What’s wrong with me? He’s online, but takes 10 minutes to give me a two-word response. Swipe left or right?  Should I initiate a text or wait for him to text me? Should I offer to pay or let him? It goes on and on ad nauseum.

Dating should be fun right? Instead I find I makes me feel worse than being on my own.  Online dating especially makes me feel “less than” when I know I am “more than” enough. I’m naturally a glass-half full person that finds the silver lining in a situation. I’m trusting and try to see the best in people. But online dating has left me feeling jaded and disenchanted. Do I really need to know my profile is “not popular?” or that the guy I messaged didn’t find me attractive enough to respond to me? Did I say the wrong thing? Was I too aggressive or too passive? On the flip side, it doesn’t make me feel good to ignore messages or swipe left or tell a perfectly nice man that I like him but don’t want to date him?  I feel cheap messaging multiple men at the same time, not to mention going on dates with more than one person. I break into a cold sweat just thinking about it. And that’s just a cup of coffee… Then there’s sex.  On the first date? After three dates? When I’m in love? Isn’t there some in between? My intellect says it’s okay for two consenting adults  to connect physically, but my overthinking mind and fragile heart holds me back.  I want to be that laid back woman, but in the end I’m that uptight girl.

I vacillate between wanting to find that special someone, a companion to share my life with and giving up on that fantasy all together. I don’t want to rush into a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship. My friends tell me God will put the right man in my path when the time is right, when I least expect it.  Could he wear a sign around his neck so I know? I don’t want to be like the man on top of his roof as the flood waters rise. He turns away the boat and the helicopter that God sends to rescue him and dies in the flood wondering why God didn’t save him.  If God sends a boat my way, I want to jump in.  On the other hand, maybe I’m destined to be a crazy dog lady (I hate cats so I can’t be a crazy cat lady).  In the end, I am confident that I am happier in my “aloneness” than I ever was or could be in the wrong relationship. But still that “what if….” whispers in my ear. Take a risk. Be vulnerable. Life’s a journey…

780 words later I’m no closer to an answer.

Can anyone else relate?