A Happier 2017 – Month Four

It’s May already, and I can’t believe how fast the year is going. As we age, seasons become smaller and smaller percentages of our lives, but I’m still learning how true “blink and you’ll miss it” really is. That said, I’m a bit late in my April recap of my monthly goals:

Practice mandolin at least once per week with book. Fail. For good reason: I finally went to a hand doctor…two, in fact. The first one told me to brace it, stop doing planks/pushups, and no more guitar/mandolin. He also mentioned “arthritis” and some other scary things, so I stopped. However, the second doctor believes it to be either a bad sprain or perhaps a cyst. He also mentioned rest and a brace, but none of the scarier stuff. So I’m still resting, but I should be back to playing soon enough. 

Pay off my student loan. No new degrees = no new loans!

Write 2 blog posts per week. Oops. BUT! And this is a big BUT! I’ve been getting paid to write elsewhere! Hooray! I’ve completed much more than the equivalent of 2 posts per week, and I’ve gotten paid for it. So I’ll let this one slide.

Read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson as well as at least one John Muir book. DONE and DONE! Yosemite was not at all what I expected it to be, but I’m glad to now have a better understanding of both authors and their contributions to the natural world in the US.

Leave my corporate job. Guess what?? SIX WEEKS TIL D-DAY! And by that, I mean Departure Day!! That’s right, we got an offer on the house, and it’s time to make our adventure dreams happen. But shhh…I haven’t put my notice in just yet. 

Hike the Long Trail. We’ll get to the trailhead at the MA border in about 7 weeks. SEVEN WEEKS!! I just ordered an extra pair of socks and a pair of crocs. This is actually happening!!

Pay off Round #2 of Invisalign. Done, but I’ll have to pay for my retainers next month. I don’t currently love my smile, but at least I don’t have to worry about the fake parts falling out anymore because there aren’t any more fake parts. 

Cut out the noise and enjoy the stillness. I’m…struggling with this one a bit. When I’m bored, I often seek noise, and I’ve been bored often in the office. However, I don’t miss Facebook at all, and at home, I’ve been pouring myself into my freelance work. So, while I haven’t been particularly good at sitting still, I have continued to cut down on the “noise” and seek more enlightening pursuits.

Read 12 books (one per month). Eleven down. That means I read 4 books in the month of April, so maybe that’s another reason why I felt I didn’t have too much downtime. I finally read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair and “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. I should probably find something uplifting to read soon, or my brain will be full of hard-luck stories.

Do a guided meditation once per week. I think I did this – perhaps I missed one week, but I’ve been pretty consistently doing them before my piano students. It’s a good transition between the office and teaching. 

Write one handwritten letter per month. Done, with a surprise letter to a former bandmate whom I miss dearly. 

Have “Happy Hour” once per week. I should just take this off the list. I know I won’t be doing it this month, and I won’t be doing it in the coming months. But – and this is important – I’m taking more time to be happy in general. I’m focusing more on what matters (sleep, reading, writing, fitness, cooking) across the board rather than trying to squeeze everything into 60 minutes once per week. 

Sleep more, drink less. Max 2 drinks per day, preferably wine if during weekdays. Look at me go! Travis turned 40 this month, and we celebrated in tasty, yet responsible manners. We both enjoy the taste of GOOD whisky, wine, and beer, but as we age, we’ve noticed the effects becoming more pronounced and less fun to deal with. Hitting up a brewery or a winery for a tasting has become an effective way to enjoy the flavors without going overboard. 

Based on the above answers, looks like I’ll have to write about our upcoming grand plans soon… 🙂

Natural versus Safe

This is going to be short since I have a lesson to teach, but it’s been on my mind for a while. As I’ve mentioned in various previous posts, not everything natural is safe and not everything created by science and technology is bad.

Case in point: lead. Lead is a completely earth-made, naturally occurring element that happens to be very toxic to people. People still managed to line their water pipes with it and slather it on their faces for centuries. We’ve just now begun to ban it from our cosmetics (which is rather scary it’s taken so long).

I definitely support living a more healthy lifestyle, which in many cases does mean adopting the use of more natural materials in daily life. But I’m also thankful science and technology have come up with ways to extract surfactants from plants to make soap so I don’t have to stand in the hot sun with ashes, urine, and/or animal fat trying to make lye soap.

I think it’s good to be somewhat flexible with goals like this. Trying to live more naturally in a modern society isn’t always easy, and it’s also not always practical nor healthy to go completely in one direction (toothpaste doesn’t occur in nature but it’s important for one’s dental health). My goal is health. I’ve seen family members who didn’t take care of their health suffer for it, many times painfully and for years, and I don’t want that for myself.

I’m not going to swear off using the microwave, but I have said goodbye to commercial deodorants, soaps, makeup, makeup removers, many home/bathroom cleaners, cologne, and more because I can make my own. I choose not to eat fast food because I prefer whole, natural, and unprocessed foods (except pizza. Give me ALLLLL the pizza. And ice cream, although I do often make my own vegan “nice” cream these days). I prefer to dress in sustainable, comfortable fabrics and try my best to shop from manufacturers who don’t mistreat people nor the planet.

But I’m not perfect. I bought a wedding dress because of how it looked, not who made it. I ordered my niece a game on Amazon for her birthday instead of making something.

It’s okay not to be perfect on the quest for a healthier life.

Science and technology are not the enemy. Perfection is.

If a Millennial travels and doesn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?

No, really. We’ve all heard someone say “pics or it didn’t happen” about something. In this age where we carry cameras in our pockets, travel has become a key target, especially among millennials.

I try to take photos whilst traveling to remind myself of the places I saw and the people I met. When I look at the pictures months or years later they really help jog my memory and bring back stories that would have otherwise been buried. I like turning the pages of printed photo albums and remembering that those moments were real.

That said, I’ve tried to take fewer pictures as I’ve explored more. The ocean may not look exactly the same everywhere, but it’s blue and made of water. I don’t need to take 25 shots of the ocean every time I see it. If the weather is particularly unusual or the landscape surrounding the ocean is unique, yes, definitely. Even better if the photo includes people (either people I’ve just met or those I’m traveling with) as that’s when the pictures truly stop time forever: seeing a day, a moment, a person exactly as it was.

With social media, we now see everyone’s photos all the time. Moments don’t stop. They just keep piling up. People are booking vacations just to get a photograph of a particular location because they saw it on Instagram. While it’s great people are exploring more of this beautiful world, it’s not great when travelers aren’t earth-conscious or respectful of others. Ecosystems are suffering from an influx of human activity which they cannot handle. Economies are booming from tourism and yet the residents are still living without basic necessities. All this, just to get a better Instagram photo than someone else?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t travel. But maybe we should put some thought into our goals and reasons for traveling. Posting a cool pic on social media isn’t really well-thought-out criteria for selecting a travel destination (nor the best use of one’s time, in my personal opinion).  What matters to do? Do you have a list somewhere of things you’d like to accomplish and places you’d like to see? Focus on that. Take pictures and don’t worry about posting them on social media. Stop following people whose posts “give you wanderlust” and choose your own adventure. Seriously, unsubscribe. We’re pummeled with messages about the next coolest destination and the most beautiful locations. Let it go. Those do not have to be your adventures.

It is entirely possible to travel to really awesome places without taking the whole world with you in your pocket. You may find you’re able to enjoy it more because you’re more focused on the moment than the perfect filter for the frame. Don’t travel somewhere because everybody else is. Travel if you want to, where you want to, when you want to. Your adventures are real, whether posted on social media or not. Share your life and adventures with people in real life instead of “sharing” with a screen. I guarantee your grandma will love looking at a photo album and hearing your stories and she won’t care whether it’s the most beautiful picture of the Pacific Ocean she’s ever seen. She cares that you enjoyed yourself and your life is richer because you went somewhere new.

Try traveling and not posting all your pictures. You’ll like it, I promise.

A Happier 2017 – Month Three

Another month is behind us already! I know as you get older time seems to pass by faster. It makes sense logically: when you’re five years old, a single summer takes up a massive portion of your time on earth. When you’re 30, 65, 80, a single summer is just a short blip of time out of the many seasons you’ve experienced. And I’m now officially a year older, as I turned 33 last Friday. In keeping up with my monthly tradition, here’s a recap of how I did on my goals throughout the month of March:

Practice mandolin at least once per week with book. Fail. I didn’t pick it up once this month. My wrist is still bothering me but that’s not really a good excuse as I’ve managed to play both guitar and piano. Maybe it’s because I moved the case to the side of my piano where it’s partially hidden by a curtain and I sometimes forget it’s there. But I think there’s a bit more to it (as you’ll see in a few paragraphs).

Pay off my student loan. Obviously this is still done, although I’m still awaiting my payoff letter. Still haven’t received an official payoff letter although I did receive a request to “write my story” about how I paid off my student debt early. I totally wrote my story.

Write 2 blog posts per week. Look at me go! This makes my 9th post for the month. I thought I was slacking off but turns out a few recipes and some shorter posts really rounded out the imagined gaps.

Read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson as well as at least one John Muir book. “Silent Spring” has been read! Muir’s “The Yosemite” is staring at me from the coffee table right now. I don’t think I selected well for my first book of his. I adore the way he writes but having never been to Yosemite it’s a bit difficult for me to imagine everything he describes. I’ve actually looked up images of the places on Google to get the proper breathtaking feeling his words alone should give me. That said, I’m going to press on and complete it. I read through those physics books when I was 29…this will be easy.

Leave my corporate job. Not yet. BUT: I got my first TWO freelance clients and a handful of potential clients. I am STOKED! All it took was a little courage…and a LOT of time and patience. I believe this point is the real reason behind my lack of mandolin practice: I spent HOURS this month crafting profiles on freelance sites, bookmarking the top freelance writing job boards, applying for projects, and finally, WRITING AND GETTING PAID FOR IT!! HOORAY!!! So I can now say I’m heading in the right direction on this one.

Hike the Long Trail. Still gainfully employed and also, weather. Soon. 

Pay off Round #2 of Invisalign. Still done, and more trays keep coming. I can’t wait to see my smile when I’m done…I will need to pay for retainers when that dally finally comes.

Cut out the noise and enjoy the stillness. Overall I’m doing okay with this one. I don’t miss Facebook nearly as much as I thought I would. I’ve started using Reddit to help find clients and homestead ideas instead of brainless memes. (Here’s what I did: I went through my subscribed subreddits and unsubscribed to anything I never visited. Then I looked for subreddits that would actually add value to my life: homesteading, camping and hiking, wedding planning, recipe planning, freelance writing, and subscribed to those instead. Now my homepage is a list of interesting points of view, pretty wedding dresses, delicious healthy food, and potential clients. Score!)

Read 12 books (one per month). Seven down. I finished Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” along with JD Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” last month. Both interesting reads. I should write about them.

Do a guided meditation once per week. I did a couple, but definitely not every week this month. It was a strange month as Travis had his surgery and I didn’t go to work as usual for a whole week. Then some students were sick so I used the extra time to write instead of meditate. That said, I DID get in touch with my therapist and have had Skype therapy sessions each week. They’ve been helping me process some things that don’t directly impact my day-to-day life but have been indirectly impacting how I feel. They’ve also helped me get back to the right mindset and remember how to reframe situations that happen to be less than ideal. I won’t be needing weekly sessions going forward but will probably touch base on a monthly basis, just to make sure I’m taking the best care of myself.

Write one handwritten letter per month. Done, but barely. A dear friend and I send each other bracelets when we travel and my bracelet for her from Hawaii had been sitting on my counter for four months. Sorry, Linda. I hope you like it.

Have “Happy Hour” once per week. Nope, nope, nope. But all is not lost as I’ve done a great job ensuring I read and work out almost every single day anyway. I just haven’t given it a name and hit “start” on my stopwatch app. 

Sleep more, drink less. Max 2 drinks per day, preferably wine if during weekdays. Hooray and go me! I had a beer with lunch today. I had a beer with dinner last weekend. I drank a bottle of red wine – over the course of an entire WEEK, one (properly-sized) glass per evening. It now feels much more like a treat to enjoy a drink instead of “something you do.” I truly enjoy wine and beer, but, as with all my other treats, all in moderation. I know it’s a terrible idea to come home from a bad day and dive into a box of cookies (homemade or not), and thus I also know it’s a terrible idea to dive into a bottle of wine. We all do it sometimes, but I’ve definitely started to look at drinking as a bit of a reward to celebrate instead of a background activity to dull the mind. And that said, I’ve been sleeping pretty well too. I picked up a Somnilight reading lamp  and it’s AWESOME! I love reading at night now and I haven’t been waking up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back to sleep. I want to get all their lamps now…and even the glasses. Who knew using a different reading lamp right before bed would actually help me stay asleep? I think I look less tired in my eyes now too. Thank you, Somnilight!

I Got My First Client!

It’s been a surprisingly productive week! Although last week was pretty quiet  due to Travis’s surgery, I spent a lot of time looking into freelance writing gigs while I was home with him.

And…crickets. Not a single thing came through. It hasn’t been too long, but I figured the freelance world probably moves pretty quickly. I’d keep on keepin’ on and submit proposals as I could.

Then, yesterday morning, I got not one, but TWO projects, in the span of a couple hours! I wanted to jump out of my chair and dance around, but I was at my corporate job, so I just texted Travis with a ton of smiley-face emojis.

Last night, after a glorious first run in the beautiful spring weather, I got to business on the first project – editing business documents. I delivered before bedtime and was paid before I arrived at my job this morning. WOOHOO!!

At the moment, I’m taking a quick break from copywriting on project #2. It’ll probably be delivered tonight unless I feel I want to revise it with fresh eyes tomorrow.

AND – on top of those already-great developments – I was invited to cover an event in NYC this weekend for my previous employer. I’m stoked to be back in the fold and to be able to spend some time connecting with other musicians and music educators. I’ve been talking with them for a while about how we could work something out, and although I’m terribly impatient, keeping those lines of communication open is finally paying off.

Speaking of paying off, I ran some numbers and found I could cover my current bills working just forty hours per MONTH as a freelance writer/musician/teacher. It’s all starting to (very slowly) seem feasible now. Baby steps – but life is too short and too precious to not spend it doing what you love.

Don’t give up your daydream.

Parenting Isn’t For Me

I know I just wrote about being kind to children – and absolutely everything in that post still applies. This post isn’t about that – it’s about how I know parenting isn’t for me.

Travis had surgery last week – it was planned and he’s recovering on schedule, thank goodness, so all is well – which rendered him nearly incapacitated for most of the week. Thankfully, the weather cooperated (if you can call it that) with a winter storm, so although I missed days of work, the weather would have kept me home anyway.

That said, although we prepared for the surgery by making a massive batch of soup, making the bed as comfortable as possible, and renting a slew of DVDs from our local library, his recovery has shown me time and again I’m not cut out for parenting. I know, I know, people often say it’s completely different when you have a child, when it’s your own, etc, and while I think that’s super awesome (and I’m secretly very thankful as this isn’t easy), I’m glad I won’t be finding out firsthand.

This week I’ve had to scrub the toilets, take out the trash, vacuum, do all the laundry, change the sheets, cook EVERY SINGLE MEAL (and this man eats a LOT), wash every single dish, play with the cat, draw baths and help Travis in/out of them, remind him to take his medication even when he didn’t want to, help him bandage his wounds, drive him to/from the hospital and subsequent doctors’ office visits, find out answers to surgery questions he asked, run errands for food or other necessities as requested, PUT ON HIS SOCKS FOR HIM, and – oh yeah – go to work myself.

To parents out there everywhere, my GOODNESS, thank you for dedicating your lives to doing this day in and day out, for about a decade or so, until your kids decide you’re only cool enough to drive them around for another eight years, and then dropping them off at college, and finally breathing. This is temporary for us, and it’ll be fine, but I couldn’t imagine doing all of this every single day, especially for a tiny human who wouldn’t understand any of it until much later. It felt like a very solitary existence – Travis up in the bedroom while I buzzed around the downstairs prepping food and cleaning. It felt like that cycle of prepping and cleaning never ended, and by the time everything was put up for the night I was exhausted. I didn’t have any “me” time – no time to read or journal or go for a walk or take a class or play music or anything I would have preferred over cooking and cleaning.

I couldn’t do it. I’m happy to take care of Travis now while he recovers but I personally wouldn’t be a good parent. I am far too selfish – which isn’t always a bad thing because I think it’s good to know yourself – and I am okay with that.

Parenting isn’t for me.

A Happier 2017 – Be Yourself

One of Rubin’s resounding messages in her book and blog is to “Be Gretchen” – meaning, of course, to be who YOU are at the core. Yesterday’s Page A Day calendar spelled it out with a bit more verbosity: “It is essential to happiness that our way of living should spring from our own deep impulses and not from the accidental tastes and desires of those who happen to be our neighbors, or even our relations.” (Bertrand Russell)

In our oversharing society it can be all to easy to mistake another’s goals, dreams, and visions for your own. Seeing a photo or reading a story about an amazing trip, location, or adventure can absolutely inspire us to want to recreate it – and that’s great! It’s good to learn more about the world around us. However, it’s important to focus on doing what you TRULY want to do. If all your friends are going to Cuba because it’s hip now, but you don’t speak Spanish and you’ve been dying to hike through Japan…then go to Japan, Instagram hashtags be damned.

And on a smaller scale, don’t waste your time reading books you don’t like.

Most of the time – I would say probably 92% of the time – I finish absolutely every book or movie I pick up. I strongly dislike leaving anything unfinished, regardless of whether I like the characters or storyline. I feel even if I disagree with an author or director, I’ll have something to discuss with others after the fact. However, I occasionally come across some I can’t get into, no matter how hard I try – this is coming from the woman who spent a considerable amount of time one year reading books on string theory and quantum physics just to attempt to grasp the theories.

Last night I was pumped to begin reading a book about the history of vegetarianism in America, especially since I’d just posted about my personal history of vegetarianism. I got comfy, opened the page, and dug in. The introduction alone put me off – an awful lot of references to religion and religious leaders. The author’s bio at the end of the intro confirmed a position as a professor of theology. Okay – it’s not my jam, but I can learn something from most people. I pressed on to Chapter 1.

It was the shortest chapter in the book and I couldn’t book it down fast enough. I made myself finish the chapter but I could do no more. The book touched on Pythagoras and a handful of other non-religion-based historical vegetarians, but the vast majority were Christian vegetarians. I have no problem with vegetarians of any faith (nor lack thereof), but I was expecting to read about how vegetarianism took shape with early settlers due to growing conditions and crops, not how early settlers came to America to escape religiously-based vegetarianism persecution. No thanks. I’d recently read Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression and was expecting something of similar quality and scope. Not so with the book on vegetarianism.

I put it down at the end of the chapter and returned it to the library this morning. I could have read it, but I gave myself permission to stop because it wasn’t enriching my life. I have other books on hand to dive into (John Muir, anyone?) and if I’m going to devote a few hours of my life to learning something, I’d like to enjoy the subject at hand.

Be yourself. Give yourself permission not to do what everyone else is doing. Give yourself permission to change your mind on something if you find it’s not to your liking – that’s the only way we can grow.

Reading Books vs Reading a News Feed

Taking the time to unplug from social media gave back hours to devote to reading books and it’s been awesome. I’m remembering the joys of devouring words for an entire afternoon or evening. One of my goals for the year was to read one book per month. I’m already easily more than halfway to 12 books and it’s barely March. I’ve always loved reading, but as social media crept into my life, I spent more time reading news feeds, status updates, and “content, and less time reading actual books.

Is this really a problem? I’m still reading words, right? So it can’t be that bad.

Not so fast.

A cursory Google search pulls up studies showing how technology is rewiring our brains – and yet it takes about 50,000 years for the human brain to actually evolve, so we’re not adapting nearly as quickly as we think we are. Our attention spans are diminishing while our desire for instant reward grows. As a teacher, I’m seeing this happen faster with younger students. I’ve been teaching for about a decade and students today have far more distractions and far shorter attention spans. They don’t have the discipline to practice because they don’t have to work hard to win a game on a device. We click links to “learn” or “discover” something, but we’re mostly rewarding ourselves with clickbait. “Content” is, by nature, short and engaging, because we apparently get bored when reading an article approaching 1000 words or more.

Stepping away from social media is allowing me to enjoy actual learning, real reading, and delving far deeper into subjects than a status update would allow. I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” and I’m continuously fascinated with how much more creative, intelligent, and innovative people were when we didn’t have so much information at our fingertips. If someone in the 1800s wanted to find out how old the universe is, or why the sky is blue, or at what temperature water boils, s/he had to devise, carry out, and record an experiment.

We live in the information age and yet so little information is sticking. We’re learning to store information outside the body and our brains are creating pathways to use search terms, not remembering the information. For example, our grandparents could bake pies without a recipe. These days, you simply input the fruit and type of pie you’d like to make, and endless options await in your search results. You no longer need to memorize the perfect recipe because you can try a new one every week.

I’d much rather read a book than a status update. I’d much rather write a book than a status update. I haven’t made too much progress on my book, but (as my post history will show) I have made progress on the blog, and that’s a big step for me. I’m focusing much more on long-term rewards, what TRULY makes me happy, and slowing down. I don’t actually NEED to know what’s going on with everyone in my social circle in order to be happy myself. Learning, storing, and recalling information in my own head is thrilling – even with challenging concepts like quantum physics and the size of the universe. It’s fun to challenge myself to grasp these big ideas at a time when it feels we are constantly bombarded by fluff. What really matters?

What would Laura Ingalls Wilder do? If she wanted to know how her friends were doing, she’d get in the wagon and go visit, take a walk to visit, or write a letter. There is no need to be so involved in the lives of everyone around us and the content companies generate to encourage us to click. Be at peace with yourself. Be at peace with the silence. Learn to let things go, and what’s important will find its way to you without being constantly connected.

Be Kind to Children

I will be the first to admit I’m not a typical baby/child fanatic. Case in point: a close colleague of mine just had a baby and everyone in the office is gushing over how cute the baby is. I’m mostly just happy my friend is happy, and a little bummed she’s not in the office to trade cute pet photos with now. Travis and I are not having children. I can’t have children, even if I wanted them (which I don’t).

However, that doesn’t mean I actively dislike these tiny humans.

To the contrary, I’ve recently found my aversion may actually be due to how much I truly care about children.

I LOVE teaching. It’s fascinating and energizing to engage young minds at a time during which they’re growing in so many directions. It’s amazing to see my work turn into a tangible skill in the hands of a child. Although I’m generally not a very patient person, I somehow find steel reserves of patience when teaching a child about the wonders of music.

But there’s a bit more beyond my chosen occupation.

Last year, whilst reading The Happiness Project, I came to a page where Ms. Rubin mentioned a statistic that stuck with me: 80% of the messages children receive from adults are negative. No, stop, that’s wrong, bad, etc. Since reading that, I’ve been far more cognizant not only of my interactions with my students but children in general. I want my students to feel comfortable, happy, and safe learning with me, and I want them to be excited about what they’re learning.

Why children in general?

Well, a quick disclaimer: I’ve found I recently tend to have issues with parents, not children (see our previous post about the long flights to and from Hawaii).

I dug a little deeper into myself after a routine trip to the Post Office really bummed me out: I was in line to send something for work. A little girl, maybe 2 or 3, was standing quietly to the side, clutching a stuffed animal, with her mother who was filling out shipping forms. The greeting card display was precisely eye-level with the little girl. “Mommy, look, a mom dog!” the little girl cried with glee upon seeing a silly card with a photo of a dog on the front. I generally try to mind my own business as I’m fairly uncomfortable with strangers, but I looked down and met her eyes. She looked much like my cousin’s daughters: brown curls, deep brown eyes, a big, toothy smile.

Her mother didn’t acknowledge, didn’t turn around, didn’t say anything, and my heart broke.

I know that feeling.

I was that little girl, and although it’s been years, that little hope of sharing something special with another person is still in there.

When the mother finished filling out the forms she finally turned to the little girl, now holding the card she so desperately wanted to show her mother.

“You put that back right now!” the mother ordered.

“I’m sorry, Mommy, I just wanted to show you the mom dog!” the little girl replied. My heart broke a little more. She was just trying to connect, to be sweet and funny, and instead it was shot down and instantly her fault for doing something “wrong.”

I have been that little girl. I once wanted to show my mother a Curious George book in the bookstore and she tugged on my arm so forcefully she dislocated my elbow, trying to get me to focus on whatever it was she had come to do. The next day, after the doctor put everything back in the right place, my mother purchased the book for me out of guilt.

Please don’t be the mother in the post office. Please don’t be my mother. If you’re going to have children, for the love of everything kind in this world, please be kind to them. I am aware parenting is a difficult job (which is why I am choosing not to take it on) and I know not everyone is perfect all the time. But please remember, when you’re little, all the little things matter to you. The way you speak to your child, the way you do or don’t show them respect, the way you do or don’t value their ideas and thoughts will all stay with them long after the incident has passed for you. Please try to treat your children (and other children with whom you may interact) with kindness. Kindness costs absolutely nothing and the rewards are great.

One of my friends had a mother similar to mine, and although she and her husband do not have a lot of extra money, they have a LOT of extra love. Their children will never have to doubt the love and kindness they find at home. My friend knows what it’s like to grow up without it, and she’s ensuring her children will never know that feeling.

Kindness is free, and takes just a little bit of forethought and a tiny bit of decision-making to work properly. Respond instead of reacting. Think before speaking. Actively listen, and try to see what the speaker is trying to show you.

And please, be kind to your children. They need it more than you know. When they’re  just little and the world is so big, they need to know your love and kindness are there to shelter them as they grow. Encourage their creativity and willingness to share. Show them they matter to you, and you value their thoughts. The entire world could use a bit more kindness, and those tiny ripples can create incredibly beautiful waves.

A Happier 2017 – Month Two

Last month I followed up on my goals for the year with a recap of the first month of 2017. I outlined my progress with the goals I’d created prior to the year beginning as well as a few new goals. Now that we’re at the end of Month Two, let’s check in on my progress.

Practice mandolin at least once per week with book. My wrist is still bothering me so I’ve continued to be lax here. However, I’ve managed to progress, and I can now play a range of standard I-V-IV folk/bluegrass tunes in the keys of G, D, A, E, and C, which is pretty great. Seeing how the chord shapes relate to one another (just like all other instruments) has been helpful. 

Pay off my student loan. Obviously this is still done, although I’m still awaiting my payoff letter. Come on, Navient…

Write 2 blog posts per week. I slacked off a bit here. I’ll have 6 posts for February by the completion of this post, and if I don’t write again tomorrow, that means 6 for the month. Still more than usual, but not quite as consistent. I’ve started a ton of posts with prompts about topics I want to discuss, so at least the ideas are actually out of my head!

Read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson as well as at least one John Muir book. “Silent Spring” has been read! Hooray! And boo for chemicals…wow. More on that later.

Leave my corporate job. Not yet. Patience, grasshopper.

Hike the Long Trail. See directly above.

Pay off Round #2 of Invisalign. Done, although I had a little less in my bank account than usual since I sucked it up and paid it right away. But now I don’t have to worry about it. 

Cut out the noise and enjoy the stillness. I’m doing pretty well on this. My daily news emails didn’t show up for a few days so I had to sign up again, but in the meantime, I didn’t bother logging onto a host of news sites to dull my brain. I hop on Reddit here and there, mostly to check out the wedding planning forums, and I limit my NPR listening to my commute home instead of both ways. 

Read 12 books (one per month). Four down, currently reading two which must be returned in a month, so I have to get cracking. 

Do a guided meditation once per week. I’ve been doing them Tuesday afternoons between leaving the office and going to my piano students. They’ve helped me shake off the day before I go do what I love doing, and approach the students and the lessons from a more peaceful place. 

Write one handwritten letter per month. I wrote TWO this month! Go me! One was to my aunt because Travis and I found her a little gift from an art museum in Philly. The other one only half-counts as it was on the back of a (very large) postcard, sending guitar strings to one of my old bandmates. His girlfriend makes awesome handmade jewelry and I’d been saving strings for her for a while. 

Have “Happy Hour” once per week. I mentioned Happy Hour last year and I’ve been wanting to incorporate them into my regular routine a bit more but I’m still not doing very well with it. I have been making a much larger general sweep of reading, writing, making music, and working out without setting the timer, which is probably better in the long run. Still, on those busy days, it’s good to make sure I set aside time.

Sleep more, drink less. Max 2 drinks per day, preferably wine if during weekdays. Epic utter failure. That wine and pizza night I mentioned last time? I haven’t had any red wine since. Our tolerances have really gone way down. I’ve been fine with a glass of white wine or a couple beers here and there, but whew boy was I in rough shape after a “normal” amount of wine. I still love the taste but I’m in no rush to crack open a bottle of wine at the moment. I’ll stick to a post-workout refreshing, replenishing brew for the time being.