On Your Mark, Get Set...

November 30, 2009

This week marks the lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations. I’m enjoying the cooler weather we’re having (it’s not unusual here to be wearing shorts on Thanksgiving—sometimes even on Christmas!) and planning to make some potato cheese soup this week. Soon, we’ll take down our fall decorations in preparation for putting up our Christmas decorations. The Christmas cards and wrapping paper will get pulled out and evaluated. We will have houseguests over the holidays, so menus and activities must be planned. Any gifts we want to order and have shipped should be taken care of while we won’t have to pay extra for shipping. I’ll buy some poinsettias, decide which cookies to make for our wonderful neighbors and put the holiday collar on the dog. The pace of life will speed up, as I remember someone I should have a small gift for, or my son will suddenly grow three inches and require new jeans right now.

But for now, it’s enough to remember the turkey was juicy, the champagne was cold, and we had warm beds, and a fire, and each other to keep us warm. Hope your Thanksgiving was just as lovely.


Thankful for the Little Things

November 25, 2009

There’s lots of cooking and cleaning going on at the Johnsons as we prepare for Thanksgiving. (Mmmmm, pie…) In between being thankful for the big things (good health, my family and friends, etc.), I’m thankful for the little things—those simple pleasures and everyday adventures that make up the details of my life. Here are five little things I’m thankful for this year:

Cranberry orange scones from my favorite grocery store’s bakery. I discovered these this year and I’m totally addicted. I break off a little piece to eat with my coffee every morning. Kind of makes waking up bearable.

A fire in the fireplace. Yes, in Florida. Now that it’s not 900 degrees outside, we WILL have a fire on Thanksgiving (even if we have to run our air conditioning at the same time).

Glider Rockers. There’s something so soothing about the rocking motion of a rocking chair—and gliders are the smoothest. We just refinished the one on our front porch and I’m looking forward to spending some time in it.

Water brushes. Laure Ferlita of the Painted Thoughts blog introduced me to these little wonders. Using them is like a hybrid of painting and drawing, and so much fun! I’m practicing with them so that I can take one of Laure’s Imaginary Trips next year.

My iPod nano. My husband gave it to me for Christmas several years ago, and I love it! My car is so old it only has a cassette player, so I use a cassette adaptor for my iPod to listen to music while I drive. (And I admit, I sing along. Sometimes loudly.)

Wishing you all a pleasure-filled, Happy Thanksgiving! And pie.  Lots of pie.


Horse Therapy

November 21, 2009

Dr. Tank, Horse Therapist
I indulged in some horse therapy yesterday. I spent several hours with my dream-come-true horse, Tank, and took a riding lesson where we made several small breakthroughs on things we’ve been working on. (Canter leads and cantering through cavaletti with no reins for any of you who are horse people.)

Tank greets me with a whinny when I come to take him from his paddock—and my spirits lift immediately. Horses don’t seem to have the same type of emotions or express love the way dogs do, but they do know who “their people” are. I think Tank greets me because he knows something nice is going to happen: he’s going to get carrots and a good grooming, or we’re going to do something interesting, like go for a ride, learn something new, or find a juicy patch of grass to graze on—sometimes all of those things. For my part, it gives me a lot of pleasure simply to look at him, inhale his scent, or lean my head on his shoulder. It does me good to be around him!

I hope you all have something you can do that cheers you up when you feel a little down. What do you love to do, what always lifts your spirits? Is it painting therapy? Reading therapy? Take-a-walk-in-nature therapy? Whatever it is, I wish you time to indulge today.


A Time for Chocolate

November 18, 2009

Today, my "catching happiness" philosophy is being tested. Today I received a rejection for a personal essay I submitted to a local newspaper two months ago. Today, this piece that I love, that I worked hard on and revised and optimistically sent out into the world came back to me--with a form email telling me "it does not meet our needs at this time."

Sadly, rejection for writers in general, and for me in particular, is nothing new. It's a heartbreaking profession.  My writer friends and I try to encourage each other, try to share any good news we get, and also try to find ways to gauge our "success" in ways other than pieces sold.  I have a file folder full of completed manuscripts to remind myself that I am producing work, whether it sells or not, and that is better than producing nothing at all.  Surprisingly, you can't become a better writer unless you write.  I keep all my rejections in another folder.  (And not because I plan to send anonymous hate mail to the rejecting editors.  Really.)

So how will I soothe my ruffled ego and regain a positive attitude?  Aside from initially questioning why on earth I think I can write anything, I'll remember that this is one piece rejected by one market.  I'll remember that even though I've been writing for a long time, the personal essay format is new to me.  I'm still learning.  Eventually, I'll look at the rejected piece again, maybe revise it and find someplace else to send it.  Because that's what you do when you pursue happiness.  You don't sit around and wait for it to come to you.

But first I think I'll eat some chocolate.


Happiness in a Blanket

November 16, 2009

Meet Scout, the happiest member of the household.  She's relaxing in her bed on her favorite blanket.  This is where she spends her time when she's not keeping the yard safe from squirrels and lizards--and the occasional snake.  Ah, life is good!


Best Books?

November 13, 2009

Today on the SheWrites.com blog, members are debating Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2009 and the marked lack of female writers on the list (none in the top 10, and only about 30% of the total). Are men really better writers than women? The SheWrites members who have taken the time to post on this subject ask many interesting questions, and make some good points. In response to this list, today, Nov. 13, SheWrites is encouraging its members to buy books written by women and post which book(s) they’ve bought and why. “As the Publishers Weekly article proves, men are still taken more seriously. Their books are seen as better, more valid, and about more universal (not girly) topics.” writes Lea Beresford, in “Ask an Editor: Men, Women, Books.”

I’m not sure what to think about this. I find it hard to believe that male authors’ books are really that superior to female authors’. I would be interested to know how many books written by men vs. women are published each year, as well as more details of how the “best” books were chosen. But lists like this are important to authors, because they give them needed exposure. As a consumer, I’m more likely to pick up a book that I’ve heard of somewhere, on some type of recommended list or in a book review.

I read a lot, but the gender of the author is not a factor in my choice of reading material. I choose books that sound interesting to me, or that are recommended by someone I respect, or books that I feel I should read that are related to my work with Mothers & More. Since I keep a record of what I read each year (I know, that’s how compulsive I am), I thought I’d go back and see how many male authors vs. female authors were on my list. Much to my surprise, female authors outnumbered male authors two to one. I’ve read books by women more than twice as often as I’ve read books by men! I didn’t set out to do this. The titles, very few of which were published in 2009, include classics, murder mysteries, biographies, nonfiction, self-help and essays. My top 10 favorite books of the year (so far) would include seven books by women and three by men.

What about you? What do you think about the Publishers Weekly list? Why do you think no female authors appear in the top 10 and does that make any difference? What are your favorite books of 2009 and why?


Falling Down

November 12, 2009

“I think he just likes to fall down,” commented the other mother with a laugh. We were watching our kids play a recreation league flag football game, and my son had just hit the dirt clutching his opponent’s bright orange flag belt. I had to agree with her. Since early childhood, my son has never been afraid to fall—whether it was off a bike, from the top rung of the money bars, or on his behind while learning to inline skate. Falling down, for him, is just part of the deal when you’re exploring or learning something new.

My son pretty much applies this principle in many areas of his life. He has no hesitation in trying something new, even if the risk of falling—sometimes literally—is great.

He does not get this from me.

I have spent much of my life afraid of trying new things because of the ever-present risk of failure—no, not even of failure—of simply looking ridiculous. But as I’ve gotten older, I find that I am overcoming this fear, little by little. I’m becoming less interested in staying safe on the sidelines, and more interested in seeking out new and challenging experiences.

This change really began around my 40th birthday. I have loved horses all my life and always wanted one of my own, despite having little actual experience with them. I started small, by taking some riding lessons at a low-key barn. I learned what was really involved in horse care—and decided I wanted my own horse anyway. I was willing to risk failure because I wanted the experience so much. I didn’t care if I looked ridiculous.

I don’t have any special gift or great natural ability to ride. What I have is a great love for horses and a desire to learn and improve at something challenging. Yes, I have fallen, literally, from the back of my horse. And, yes, it hurts—but only for a little while. What would hurt more would be walking away from a lifetime dream.

A second new activity for me has been taking a watercolor class. I have little or no art training, so I admit that my expectations for myself weren’t that high. I didn’t expect to “fail,” but I also rather expected to look ridiculous, at least for a while. I’ve definitely had “failures,” if you want to call them that, in watercolor class. Pictures—many of them—that don’t look the way I want them to. But they’re not really failures, because I’ve learned something in painting them.

And perhaps the real success had already been achieved. When I walked in the door of the art room, and when I set foot on the barn property, I was taking the chance of “falling down,” risking failure by trying something new and challenging. While I can’t say I like falling down, I now believe that the real “failure” would be not to try at all.

The Pursuit of Happiness

November 11, 2009

Welcome to Catching Happiness! The Benjamin Franklin quote at left kind of sums things up for me. We may have the right to pursue happiness, but whether or not we catch it is up to us. I’ve had (and still have) the opportunity to pursue happiness—and catch it—and I’d like to share those experiences with others, and encourage them to catch some happiness themselves! Catching happiness doesn’t have to be complicated or hard or expensive. For me, it mostly involves simple pleasures and everyday adventures.

On this blog, I don’t plan to write about controversial issues and modern problems. There are plenty of other people who can do that much better than I. What I hope to do is add a little to the world’s store of positive things: information, beauty, entertainment. (Probably there are people who can do that much better, too, but I’m not going to let that stop me from trying!) I’ll try to balance posts that will help you get to know me, with posts that (hopefully) help you learn something new, make you smile or say, “I didn’t know that.” (You can read more about me in the, fittingly enough, “About Me” section. And please feel free to email me and tell me about you.)

So I invite you to join me on this everyday adventure, pursuing happiness, and, sometimes, catching it.