Friday, September 23, 2011

How Happy Are You?

I love to read - I love nothing more than finding that book that I can't put down and want to read at any free moment, including when I am stirring dinner on the stove. I love being transported to another place and living within that realm until I turn the last page.

I particularily like to write down quotes that catch my eye. They could be quotes to lift you up when feeling down, quotes that make me laugh, and quotes that make me stop and think. Don't tell Mimi but I am compiling my favorite quotes into a book that I will give her when she graduates high school and is ready to start her journey discovering her authentic, independent self.

I am the one at bookgroup that selects books focused on finding your true self. I wouldn't call them self-help books because they are stories within themselves rather than a step by step guide to improving yourself. For instance, I pick books like The Alchemist, a story of a boy on a personal quest to find the meaning of life or Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, which is just a compilation of observations by one very funny, keenly observant woman that I totally identified with. After reading Amy's book, I assigned "homework" which was to bring your favorite passage to share with the group. Since then, many people have been writing down their favorite quotes to share with each other and spark conversation. I love that part of bookgroup. I love hearing what had an impact on each person. By listening to what has meaning to your friend, you just gain a little more perspective on them, which is always so fascinating and interesting to me.

A few months ago I was in Target on my weekly shopping trip and happened to wander by the book section where a bright blue and yellow book caught my eye. It only took me half a minute to put it right in my cart. I couldn't wait to get home and start "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. The explanation on the back cover sounded just like my own personal experiement to find Little Kelly, although she actually made it her job for a year. "The days are long, but the years are short." and "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." It was like she was my twin, feeling exactly what I had been feeling when I decided to take my sabbatical.

When I got home I hesitated to start it. What if the back cover was the best part of the book? You know how that happens sometimes...kind of how I felt when I picked up Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl. The author claimed to be a preppy girl who moved to a farm with her family. Turns out she was a girl from Jersey that moved to a farm. Two ENTIRELY different things. It was a total buzz kill. So, I had reader's anxiety when I started reading The Happiness Project but Gretchen did not disappoint. I'm looking at my book now....I have so many pages folded over with great quotes, aha moments, and funny quips that it will fill pages in Mimi's quote book. I picked this book for our bookgroup in November and I just wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes/thoughts with you in hopes of sparking your mind to think about your own happiness.

In the begining, Gretchen says that is is happy, just not as happy as she should be. "I have such a good life. I want to appreciate it more - and live up to it better." I hear ya, sister!

Gretchen does a lot of research on happiness for this book and she comes across a Buddhist quote that I think is so true: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." I had spent years living this chaotic, busy work life and I felt I couldn't get off the spinning merry go round but when I decided enough was enough and walked away, I opened my eyes to so many important experiences and lessons that literally changed my view on life. I'm sure many of those experiences and lessons presented themselves to me before but I just wasn't ready for them then. I know many people today who respond with "I'm so busy!" when you ask how they are. I just want to hand them this book and tell them to stop being consumed by life and actually start living it.

Our lives are so busy and we are scheduled up to the minute trying to fit it all in. Our lists don't include things like "Do something unfamiliar" or "Get ready for the unexpected" but as Gretchen explains "We seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness." That immediately made me think of the time we went camping in PA (see my blog post Holy Antrastophy)and I had a choice of whether to wash dishes or be present with my kids and catch fireflies. It was so unexpected to find 1,000 fireflies flying everywhere...how could you not take advantage of that moment? When I did, not only did I have fun with my kids but I felt like a little kid again. More importantly, I had an aha moment with myself...that I was routinely passing by opportunities to live in the moment. Now I find myself saying things like "Let's just do it!" or "Let's drive down this road and see what we find!" and I'm never disappointed. I now know that an important part of my happiness depends on being adventerous and exploring the unknown and unfamiliar to see where it takes me. For years I didn't feel I had time for that. It makes me sad to think that now.

Gretchen came up with a list of 12 personal commandments to becoming happier. One of them was "Buy Some Happiness" which was focused on how she spent money. She realized "It's easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something that you love or there's something you want, you'll be happier with more." I think many of us fall into this trap. Some people love shopping and clothes and we all have those friends who have clothes still sitting in their closet with the tags on them. Perhaps they got a rush from buying or shopping...it's not really about buying the perfect item, but rather just buying something. Then they end up with no space in their closet and find themselves packing bags for Goodwill each season. I have to say, I do disagree with this point a little...I don't think you can ever have too much pink and green...but I will admit, you need to wear it in moderation. Anyways, I just loved that quote because it truly makes you think about just limiting yourself to those things you love and treasuring those items rather than buying more of them. More doesn't equal happier. Well, unless you are my husband. Then yes, more old crusty jeeps do equal happiness...

One of my favorite quotes in this book is now one of my personal truths to live by: "The things that go wrong often make the best memories." We try so hard to make things go right in our lives and when they go wrong you have two options: You can obsess over what went wrong and be unhappy or you can roll with it, laugh about it, and learn from it. I used to choose the former but now I choose the latter every day. It truly makes you feel less stressed and you find so many silver linings in experiences when you choose to look for them.

Perhaps my favorite quote comes at the end of the book: "When I made the effort to reach out for them, I found that the ruby slippers had been on my feet all along." Gretchen was not unhappy when she started this personal experiment but it took a conscious effort to recognize what made her happy in her life to make her see that being happier every day was right in front of her the whole time. I think finding happiness every day just requires a few key tools: Your eyes - keep them open. Your sense of humor - don't ever lose it. Your glass - keep it half empty, not half full and Your heart - Keep that open too.

Well, I hope you are on your way out the door or getting online right now to buy The Happiness Project. I'd love to hear what you think about it after you read it. I signed up online to get a happiness quote each day from www.happinessproject.com. The other day the quote was "All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking." which, for me, is so true. Whenever I need to figure something out or something is bothering me, I go for a walk and for some reason, the answer I am searching for always shows up. I added this one to my Mimi quote book as well.



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WWW.Hamsterballsforkids.com

Is it a bad sign that the emergency room doctor at my local hospital recognized Jack and I? And not because we live in the same town or have a mutual friend....it's because I'm the mother of a boy that should live in a bubble. I believe our reintroduction went something like this: "I haven't seen you for a few months....when you were in for stitches right? Let me see how they look....oh, I did good! How have you been?" OMG....really?

The weekend was going well...we were into the second half of Jack's soccer game when he collided with someone and went down on his left arm. Being the experienced parents of Twig Boy, we could tell the minute he fell it wasn't good. Without a word, Tim went across the field and packed up Jack's stuff while Mimi and I packed up the chairs and got the car ready. All without a word. We know the drill. We also have a "system" down now...Tim goes to the hospital when there is an injury with blood that needs stitches. Like the time his front teeth that had just finished coming in, were whacked out with a line drive to the mouth. Boy, can the mouth bleed. Timmy! Or the time he hit his head on the corner of the granite countertop and he needed staples in his head...Timmy! Or even the time he slid across the front lawn making a diving catch and a wood chip split open his knee requiring 10 stitches and a leg brace....Timmy! And yes, I did say a wood chip. Seriously, put this boy in a room with a paper clip for 15 minutes and he'll need stitches.

I handle broken bones. Diving catch on the front lawn...broken arm and 7 weeks in a cast....Kelly! Or how about when I got a call when he was away on a school trip for a week. He made it to the second to last day...I thought we were home free...but no, he fell off a rock and broke two bones in his wrist. Kelly! And now this. His third broken bone in 6 years...apparently, we are on the two year plan.

What I didn't count on was that they would place us in a waiting room right behind the intake desk. Didn't anyone tell the patients that I don't do blood? We are waiting to go in for an xray and this is what I hear:

"Can I help you?"
"I have a little cut"
"A little cut?! Your finger is basically amputated!"

"Come right back here so we can take care of this"
The man's friend says "I have the tip of his finger in this bag"

"Why don't we put this cloth over it so we don't have to look at it?"
"Why is his finger black?"
"Because his finger is dead"
I thought for sure I was going to pass out...while Jack was craning his neck to see the finger in the bag.

I am going to put a pair of ear plugs in my car to take in with me next time....and yes, I am admitting there will be a next time. Unless I am finally able to find a life size hamster ball to keep my boy in.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meet My Train Friends

I've been taking the train for 9 months now and I've made some friends. I see them every day and can tell if I am early or late, depending on who is on the platform when I get there. They are there rain or shine, except this summer when a lot of them took vacations. The funny thing is I have never spoken to any of my new friends. In fact, they don't know we are "friends". They are just the people that I see every day and have caught my attention for one reason or another. And oddly, I feel comfort when I see them...and I wonder where they are when they aren't there. Let me tell you about Bjorn, Doug, Designer Girl, The Other Lynne, Mini Van Vinny, BMW Hiker, Disheveled Guy, and the Love Bugs.

Did you ever see the skit Sprockets on SNL where Mike Meyers wears all skin tight black clothing and is a hyper loon? Well, Bjorn reminds me of Sprockets...mainly because he wears tight black jeans, a black leather jacket, funky glasses, and all too often he wears a turtle neck...often black, often in the summer. He looks like he is Swedish, hence the name Bjorn. I would be so disappointed if I heard him speak with a thick Boston accent. He always walks super fast...even when he is early. He walks so fast to the same exact spot on the platform every morning and then stops so abruptly it is jarring. Clearly you can see why I would notice him.

I'm not sure why I noticed Doug...he is not particularily memorable. He is probably in his late 20's but is starting to lose his hair. He is pale, wears the same "outfit" every day...jeans and a short sleeve polo shirt...usually navy blue or another bland-ish color, and sneakers. He is devoid of any emotion although once in awhile I see him give a slight smirk to one of this text messages. He seems like the kind of guy that just can't get a break...we all have friends or family members like Doug. All the girls he likes probably like his outgoing, fun friend. He doesn't love his job, he probably does something boring, and doesn't really care much about it. But then again, he doesn't try to get a better job..he just thinks "I won't get it anyways". He is just going through the motions and wondering why he keeps getting the short end of the stick. He seems like a really nice guy though and I just want to tell him that he should start living life, not just let it happen to him.

Designer Girl is a very thin, young, snappy dressing artist. Well, at least I think she is an artist of some kind because she always has a portfolio case with her that seems too heavy for her little body to carry. Her style is "urban fun"...very artistic. I think I am waiting for the portolio to drag her down one day....and I would love to see what is inside.

Lynne and I have been friends for years...we worked together at Fidelity and remained friends as she and her husband left Massachusetts to embark on a new life first in Florida and now in North Carolina. We make it a point to get together at least once a year when she comes back to visit family and we always laugh hysterically over the silliest of memories. I do miss having her here but now I get to see her every day...except now she has red hair. Lynne has beautiful skin, the perfect hair do, and is always very "put together". My Red Head Friend Lynne could be her twin. It's eerie actually. Her hair style is exactly the same, her skin is just as nice, and she obviously spends a lot of time on her outfits. My guess is she works at Wellesley College...probably in some administration role. She carries a bag that says "Touching Art is Bad. Being Touched by Art is Good." She was missing for most of the summer...she must have summers off or something. I started seeing her again for the first time a week ago when school was back in session and I felt better.

I literally park in the same spot every day I go to the train. I back in as all the experienced commuters do. I'm not sure why I park there....I guess because I am a creature of habit and regularity is comfortable to me. Once when I arrived someone was in my spot and I was really offended. Ah, hello...that's my spot. It's a good thing I never found out who it was because I would have given them the stink eye for the rest of their commuter life. I'm not the only one who has their own spot....My friend Vinny also does...just 4 cars over from me. He used to be Volvo Vinny but he just got a new car so now he is Mini Van Vinny. Regardless of what he drives, he just looks like a Vinny.

BMW Hiker also has his spot diagionally across from me. He is always there before me and he is always backed in. He looks like a guy who loves nature. He probably jogs 5 miles every morning, recycles almost everything he touches, and loves to hike. He has a small backpack that looks like something he could sip water out of on one of his hikes. He can probably get lost in the wild for two weeks and will know how to survive on leaves and a thin stream of water he finds by following the sun. He seems like a nice guy...very quiet nature about him. He is like a compass to me...I know he will always be there when I get to the train and he has a very calming demeanor to him.

Dishelved Guy is just the opposite. He wouldn't last 10 minutes in the wild. In fact, he can't last the ride to the train without coming undone. He is a very large guy....about 6'5...and I would use the words "big teddy bear" to describe him. He has a bad back...I can tell this because he walks like he pooped in his pants and he is afraid it's going to fall out if he makes a false move. His shirt is always coming out of his pants in the back, his tie is often just thrown around his neck, not tied yet, and he usually forgets his coffee in the car. He only seems to remember it when he hears the train coming and then he runs precariously to the car and back, trying not to let the package in his pants fall out. Every time he gets out of his car I want to yell "Get your coffee!" He is married and I imagine he has 4rambunctious boys who climb all over him, yet he doesn't even notice them climbing him like a wall. He always arrives at the last possible minute and is sweaty by the time he gets on the train. He is preictable and fun to watch.

And then there is my favorite couple. I don't see them in the morning, but rather at the end of the day. The wife takes the train with me, although I only see her getting off. Her husband, who drives a red bug, picks her up every day. I would guess they are in their 60's. I like to watch her when she first sees him in the parking lot. Her face lights up and she gives him a little wave, and then she looks down like she is a little shy. He beams every time he sees her. It is the cutest thing to watch. Every day. They are clearly in love and it's the little things, a shy smile or a little wave, that makes their day complete. No matter what kind of day I have had, I always find myself smiling. Thanks for that, Love Bugs. It always makes my day too.

I wonder what my nickname is? They don't know I camp but I hope they call me Preppy Girl. Afterall, I have yet to see anyone else with a popped collar or whales on their flip flops at the train platform.