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… 🙂

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!

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.

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. 

A Happier 2017: The Foundation of Your Nature

Last weekend our Happier calendar read the following: “You can build a happy life only on the foundation of your own nature, your own interests, your own values. Your happy life will look very different from the happy life of someone else.”

This is very true, and yet so easy to forget.

When I read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo (because seriously, at this point, who hasn’t read it?), I discovered the same thing. So much of our happiness is tied into who WE are as unique individuals. My happiness has absolutely zero percent to do with yours or anyone else’s happiness. What makes me happy probably won’t make you happy, and that’s okay! Reading that book helped me dig deeper into what my “ideal life” looked like, how it felt, and what it meant to me.

Why, for example, am I drawn to an aesthetic best described as modern rustic? On the surface, it’s warm, cozy yet simple, and created with natural elements. But why?

I dug into it. If I could create my ideal home life, it would involve a light-filled, airy cabin in a wooded, mountainous area. That setting is important to me because I love the peace I feel when surrounded by nature. But I don’t want to feel like I’m locked or stuck anywhere, hence the airiness of the cabin. Think large windows showcasing the view and lofted ceilings with exposed beams.

I would have a living room complete with a grand piano, built-in bookshelves, and a fireplace. The piano is, of course, because music is so important to me. If I could afford a beautiful grand piano of my own, that would mean I’m financially stable enough to spend that sort of money. I’m not materialistic and I don’t need much money, but knowing I could purchase a piano (in my ideal life) and still live comfortably would be a source of happiness and peace. The bookshelves would hold books (because I love to read) as well as photos and treasures from travels. I think it’s important to surround oneself with happy memories and continue to expand your mind. The fireplace would encourage the coziness and relaxation at home. I grew up in a very chaotic house and have intentionally made sure my living space as an adult has always been peaceful, zen, and cozy.

My kitchen would have windows and shelves to grow herbs. I love creating food with fresh ingredients. The bathtub would have an old claw-foot tub to soak and relax in. The bed would be covered in a quilt made by my grandmother, with matching nightstands and reading lamps for symmetry. Outside I’d have a garden and grow enough vegetables for us to eat and preserve. We would have a few chickens for eggs and bees to pollinate. And those expansive mountain views would surround it all…no nearby neighbors.

This probably isn’t your idea of a happy life. Maybe a vacation, or a long weekend. Or maybe this sounds great to you. The point is, it sounds great TO ME, and happiness comes from within. So, while the walls in which I sit don’t look like this, how can I do my best to create this happy life?

I’m bundled in a blanket given to me by one of my grandmothers. My digital piano sits across the room. My cat’s purring stands in as the background noise instead of the crackle of a fireplace. Travis sits next to me, reading a book, and my stack of library books is on the table in front of me. We can afford the piano (it was a gift from a former employer) and the books (thank you, libraries everywhere!!) without any impact whatsoever on our financial well-being. There’s no need for us to worry about having enough of what we NEED in order to enjoy some of these wants.

It’s not perfect, but when I think about the details, I really have it pretty good. There will always be room for improvement as I work toward my ideal, but I’m very goal-oriented, and I like having it that way. I don’t expect to have my dream happy ideal home anytime soon, but I can stay on the path toward creating it.

What’s your happy home life? What would it look like?

A Happier 2017 – Habits

Today’s “A Happier 2017” asked “Are you more likely to indulge in a bad habit in a group or when you’re alone?”

First I thought, “well, obviously, in a group. I keep a pretty healthy home.”

Then I thought about the times I’ve done things alone I normally wouldn’t do with others due to judgement or consequences (nothing that bad, I promise, but we all do things like eat peanut butter straight from the jar), and now I’m not so sure. I’m fairly certain I tend to make worse decisions in social settings because it’s easier to go with the flow. It’s easier to skip working out to have happy hour with friends (both indulgent choices) or order dessert as long as someone else does.

But, left to my own devices, I’m not totally self-motivated to be good. I’ve eaten Nutella for dinner. Wine and cheese has been dinner. When I’m tired, I might scroll through my computer instead of working out. I’ve managed to discipline myself by not purchasing Nutella, closing my Facebook account, and putting a timer on my computer for anything more than 45 minutes spent on certain mind-numbing websites. Nature and age have tempered my ability to subsist on wine as an entree.

I could still be better, and not just to look good on paper, but to be better to myself. I don’t always sleep well, and I could do better to actually go to bed when my bedtime alarm goes off. Although I mostly eat well, I could still dial down some of the sweets I enjoy. I could probably even enjoy one less glass of wine or beer and still be just as much fun as I am now. And I could make myself work out every single day, no matter what.

Would I be truly authentic if I did those things? Are those slightly-bad habits just who I am, or can I improve upon this framework? Is the juice worth the squeeze?

I’ll have to spend some time examining my indulgent habits over the next few weeks and report back about how I can be happier, healthier, and better to myself.

A Happier 2017 – Month One

About a month ago I outlined my goals for the year. I don’t call them “resolutions” because I don’t like the idea of “resolving” to do something. Rather, they’re my goals for the year – achievements, milestones, and actions to take pride in. To keep myself accountable, here’s my first monthly recap of how I’m doing this year so far.

Practice mandolin at least once per week with book. I’m doing pretty well on this one, actually. My callouses have come back with a vengeance. Those tiny, tightly-wound strings really do a number on your fingers. I will say I was a bit lax this past week due to a wrist injury, but I’ve been pretty consistent.

Pay off my student loan. Done, as soon as we returned from our holiday family trips. What a relief! That said…Invisalign is back (see bottom of post). 

Write 2 blog posts per week. I’m doing it! Once this post is complete, I’ll have 8 posts for January, and for most four-week months, that’ll be a solid average! Downside: January was a five-week month. I have a little work to do, but the habit is definitely sticking. 

Read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson as well as at least one John Muir book. It’s sitting on my living room table and I’m about 15% of the way in. In my defense, I read three OTHER books this month, plus I have a fourth on my nightstand. I’m doing really well reading more in general. 

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

Hike the Long Trail. See directly above.

I also mentioned I’d likely have some additional goals as the weeks went by. I sure do. Here they are, in no particular order:

Pay off Round #2 of Invisalign. Oh boy. Now that my top teeth are looking great, my bottom teeth are looking (and feeling) comparably worse. Luckily, Round #2 is only about a third of the cost of Round #1. This won’t take too long, but I was hoping to bank all that extra money for at least a couple months. 

Cut out the noise and enjoy the stillness. I logged out of Facebook maybe six weeks ago and I honestly haven’t missed it. I keep a page for my teaching, writing, and music, but nothing personal anymore. There are occasions I’ll think, “Huh, I haven’t heard from so-and-so for a while, I wonder what she’s up to,” but the thought will leave my mind just as easily as it enters – unlike before, when I could type any name into the search box and find out unnecessary details about anybody who crossed my mind. Outside of social media, I signed up for a daily news digest and deleted the News app from my phone. No more mindless scrolling. That’s been super helpful as it prevents me from falling down the headline rabbit hole. I will admit to listening to more NPR and less classical music during my commutes over the last two weeks as the country’s leadership has drastically changed and I want to stay informed but I am trying not to let it control me. 

Read 12 books (one per month). Killing this one. I better keep it up. My 12-year-old self would be disappointed in such a low goal. 

Do a guided meditation once per week. I could improve. I think I’ve done four, but I doubled up during a particular emotional week. 

Write one handwritten letter per month. Tomorrow is the last day of the month. Who wants a card? I forgot about this one. Whoops. My grandma turned 80 last week so she’ll probably be the lucky recipient. 

Have “Happy Hour” once per week. I mentioned Happy Hour last month and I’ve been wanting to incorporate it into my regular routine a bit more. However, I’ve been pretty bad about it. I HAVE been making a point of working out, reading, and playing music, but I haven’t actually set the timer to do “whatever” on any of these days. I need to get to it. 

Sleep more, drink less. Max 2 drinks per day, preferably wine if during weekdays. Meh…I had some whisky when we went to the jeweler to design a setting for a Colombian emerald I have. And by some I mean I’m glad I wasn’t driving. Otherwise, I’ve been pretty good, although I’m meeting a friend for wine and pizza Wednesday and I may have more than two glasses there as well. Still, now that Travis and I have both cut back on the booze, we’re sleeping better, waking up more easily, and feeling more alert. The problem is we really enjoy the taste of a rich, dark beer or a full-bodied red wine – we just don’t like the effects. Le sigh. 

And there we have it. My list of goals grew, but remember, I accomplished my 30 Before 30 list in a year, and those were some pretty big goals. These are more like habits – much easier to achieve.

How are you doing with your resolutions? Do you prefer goals or resolutions?

A Happier 2017 – Choose One Word

I read Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” last year and I realized how far from happy I’d gotten. Happiness, it turns out, isn’t a destination – it’s a constant journey. As soon as you think you’re happy, you’re not – at least in my case. For me, it’s because I tend to get complacent with happiness. Once I achieve my goals, I’m satisfied. I can look back at my achievements and see how far I’ve come. But if I forget to set new goals that align with my idea of happiness – and they can be small or large, easy or challenging – I can quickly fall into a routine.

After I finished the book I saw she was coming out with a Page-A-Day calendar for 2017. Since I wasn’t (at the moment) overjoyed with where my life was, I ordered it, and it’s been sitting in my office supply box, staring me down for the past couple of months.

When we arrived home after visiting families last night, I opened the box and flipped to page one. Choose one word to serve as your overarching theme this year. I read it to Travis. “What would your word be?”

“Passion.” Sounds good to me. He’s been working very hard for, well, most of his adult life, climbing the ladder and doing everything right. Although successful in the traditional sense, he’s pretty far removed from spending time on his passions. Good idea. “What about you?”

“I don’t know.” It’s been 24 hours and I still don’t know what my one-word theme for 2017 should be. I considered “musical” because I’d like to get more serious about both practicing instruments new to me and growing my music teaching career. I considered “healthy” because I want to continue on the nutrition and movement journey I’m on – and get even more serious about taking care of my health. I considered “write” because I want to write so much more. I want to finish my book, write more in my blog, and write more actual letters to people. “Adventurous” because we plan to move and make a major life change? “Outside” because we’ll be spending more time in the great outdoors? “Positive” because I want to be more positive?

I can’t decide. Rubin calls this “analysis paralysis” and both Travis and I suffer from it fairly often. With too many options, it’s nearly impossible to decide.

Actually, in this moment, a word came to me:

Quiet.

This is probably the best one I’ve considered yet. I logged out of Facebook to quiet the noise. I deleted unnecessary apps on my phone for the same reason. I’m reading more books and less news. I’m avoiding marketing and advertising as much as possible (choosing public radio, not having television, not reading magazines, using an ad-block). I’m minimizing the noise, both figuratively and literally, in my life. By actively choosing to enjoy the quiet, I can focus on what matters to me.

This year, I will choose to be strong, healthy, and happy by choosing to quiet the noise that surrounds us.