2012 With a Bow on Top

December 31, 2012

Photo courtesy Klaus Post

2012’s parting gift to me was the Head Cold from Hell, which forced me to slow down, rest, and do nothing. I wanted to do that anyway, but without quite so much mucous production. It wasn’t all bad, though. While I sniffled and coughed in my bed, I also read books I want to finish by year’s end and pondered the year that was:

2012 started out with Contemplation Month and, as usual, some efforts to clear things out and become more organized, a tradition I think I will continue. I chose Passion as my word of the year, and proceeded to ignore it. 

After a rough 2011, 2012 seemed to be following suit after we had a minor car accident in March, but that car accident was a turning point. I changed my expectations and found that 2012 was actually mostly a good year, filled with interesting books, a couple of fun trips, and simple pleasures galore. My son turned 18, I got my office back and this blog turned 3. I finished up the year with a weekend spent having my mind blown at a Parelli Natural Horsemanship event, where—BIG ANNOUNCEMENT—I became a “Social Media Rock Star” and won a prize for my photographs. (They haven’t posted the winners from Tampa yet, so you’ll just have to take my word for it!)

On the more serious side, I noticed that I often felt overwhelmed and too busy in the last few months of the year, and my self-discipline when it came to writing was all but non-existent. These major issues must change and will be receiving plenty of attention in January. 

After watching what others have gone through in 2012, I realize that it’s a privilege to blather on about my emotions and goals, the small and big things that I find interesting and that make me happy. Living through 2012 was a gift, just as each day is a gift for those of us lucky enough to wake up to see it.

As the old year passes away, I face 2013 hopefully. Jan. 1 always feels like a fresh start and I look forward to a new year of simple pleasures and everyday adventures (I’ve been called for possible jury duty again!). I hope your 2012 was a year of happiness and growth, and that 2013 is even better. 

What did you take away from 2012? What are your hopes for the new year?


Be Courageous

December 19, 2012

“Optimism is true moral courage.”

—Ernest Shackleton

Sandy Hook shooting

In Remembrance of the Sandy Hook Victims

December 17, 2012

I’d planned a lighthearted post for today, but after the events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut Friday, I just can’t write about overflowing bookshelves or what I learned about my word of the year this year. Frankly, I don’t know what words would be appropriate at this time. All I can do is grieve for the families affected, and be thankful that my family is whole and healthy.

It doesn’t seem like enough. I want to do something, though what that might be I don’t know. Several suggestions are circulating on the internet, including sending cards to the school, wearing green and white (the school’s colors) in support and remembrance, or donating money in support of the victims’ families. This thoughtful blog post regarding mental health issues at Anarchist Soccer Mom is worth a read, also.

There are no words to adequately express the sorrow that we all feel. No matter what we do or don't do, we'll never be quite the same.


It Shines on Us All

December 12, 2012

Photo courtesy Mark Carter

I realized a while back that there have been over 850 moons that have gone through their phases since I arrived on the earth, and I haven’t taken the time to look at nearly enough of them. Here Molly Fisk, a California poet, gives us one of those many moons that you and I may have failed to observe. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Hunter's Moon

Early December, dusk, and the sky
slips down the rungs of its blue ladder
into indigo. A late-quarter moon hangs
in the air above the ridge like a broken plate
and shines on us all, on the new deputy
almost asleep in his four-by-four,
lulled by the crackling song of the dispatcher,
on the bartender, slowly wiping a glass
and racking it, one eye checking the game.
It shines down on the fox’s red and grey life,
as he stills, a shadow beside someone’s gate,
listening to winter. Its pale gaze caresses
the lovers, curled together under a quilt,
dreaming alone, and shines on the scattered
ashes of terrible fires, on the owl’s black flight,
on the whelks, on the murmuring kelp,
on the whale that washed up six weeks ago
at the base of the dunes, and it shines
on the backhoe that buried her.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2000 by Molly Fisk, whose most recent book of poetry is The More Difficult Beauty, Hip Pocket Press, 2010. Poem reprinted from The Place That Inhabits Us, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010, by permission of Molly Fisk and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


10 Things That Make My Holidays Happy

December 10, 2012

Last year (I can admit it now) I was rather Scrooge-like in my participation in holiday events. I just did NOT enjoy the Christmas season, though I did try hard not to show that and spoil everyone else’s fun. I don’t want a repeat this year, so I’m putting some thought into what I really enjoy about the holidays, what I don’t enjoy (and am not going to do) and what makes me feel festive.

Here are 10 things, in no particular order, that I like to do that say “happy holiday season” to me:

Watch A Christmas Story. I can’t tell you why, but this is my all-time favorite Christmas movie, and I have to watch it at least once. I especially like to watch it while wrapping gifts.

Make molasses sugar cookies—for us and for special friends.

Put up a tree. I say this, because the year we went to New York for Christmas, we didn’t put the tree up and I missed having it all through the month of December.

Christmas in New York 
Decorate the house. We live in Florida, but I still decorate like we live in a log cabin somewhere in the forest. Palm trees and sea shells don’t say “Christmas” the way fir and holly do.

Listen to Christmas music and, usually, buy one new Christmas CD for the collection. This year, I’m leaning towards Straight No Chaser’s Holiday Spirits. (What’s your favorite holiday CD?)

Spend a night or two with the TV off, the fireplace burning (weather permitting—this is Florida, after all), the candles lighted, and Christmas music playing. I find this so relaxing—an antidote to any holiday craziness that creeps in.

Put antlers on the dog and a Santa hat on the horse. Because I just have to.

Give thoughtful gifts. I truly enjoy trying to find the most creative and perfect-for-them gifts for my family and friends. We also try to give something to a local charitable organization for families in need.

Have one big family get-together, usually on Christmas day, where all the relatives who live locally come to our house to feast and make merry.

Last year my husband made Beef Wellington!
Watch the Rose Parade on TV on New Year’s Day. I lived in Pasadena, and both attended and worked at the Rose Parade several times. It makes me a little homesick, even though I haven’t lived in California for more than 20 years. The floats and the horses and the marching bands thrill me every time.

Simple holiday pleasures look different for every person, and these are mine. I’m always on the lookout for new ones though, so what makes the holidays happy for you?

Everyday adventures

Mind: Blown

December 07, 2012

Pat Parelli and friends

I’m sorry I didn’t post on Monday. I wanted to, but I was suffering the aftereffects of a weekend spent having my mind blown.

My friend Marianne and I attended the Tampa stop of the Parelli Horse and Soul Tour Dec. 1-2. We spent two days perched on uncomfortable bleachers, trying to absorb all we could from each session. Sessions included information on the Parelli program’s Seven Games, “Horsenality” (personality types of horses) and rider biomechanics, as well as “spotlights” featuring Parelli-trained humans and their horses and a couple of “horse makeover” segments in which Pat or Linda Parelli worked with an individual and her horse to overcome problems they were having. We saw some remarkable examples of horsemanship, both on the ground and in the saddle. I won’t go into all the details of what we learned, but I will share with you three concepts/lessons I took away.

Para-Olympian Lauren Barwick 
Lauren is paralyzed from the waist down
“Where knowledge ends, violence begins”
Pat Parelli said this in one of our first sessions and it was easy to see how this is true of more than just horse/human relations. When we don’t understand someone or something, we can become afraid. And when we’re afraid, anger and violence too often follow close behind. The more I learn about horse behavior, particularly my horse’s behavior, the gentler I can be with him, and the more he will trust me. The more I understand other people, the gentler I can be with them as well.

Playing the Sideways Game at liberty (with no lead rope)
“Let the horse make the mistake”
Instead of micromanaging the horse, trying to prevent him from doing the wrong thing, allow him to make a mistake. Then correct him and teach him the right thing to do. (Parelli pointed out that micromanaging is really like nagging.) This really struck me because I know I sometimes micromanage Tank. Ask, wait, correct if necessary. That’s it. Don’t ask, ask, ask louder…

I easily see how this can be applied to how I deal with myself and with others. How do I feel when someone nags or micromanages me? I do this to myself all the time, because it seems like I have a pathological fear of making mistakes and doing things “wrong.” I have to remember that making mistakes is necessary for learning. I need to relax about them, allow them to happen, and then learn from them without browbeating myself in the process.

Linda Parelli with Hot Jazz
“Use lateral (not linear) thinking to problem-solve”
Linear thinking follows a step-by-step process, essential if you’re putting something together or cooking a complicated recipe, for example. Lateral thinking uses creativity and an indirect approach, like when you’re brainstorming ideas or actively problem-solving. Lateral thinking is essential when working with horses because every problem that comes up is different because every horse and human partnership is different. If you ask a horse to do something, and he either doesn’t do it or freaks out about it, you’ve got a problem that needs lateral thinking.

I’m not very good at lateral thinking. I’d rather know that if I do X then Y will happen. So often I do X and Q happens and I’m not sure what to do next. Maybe I should try B or Z or even 7? I want to develop creativity and flexibility in my thinking, both with my horse and in the rest of my life. (It’s easy to think of other situations that need lateral thinking—perhaps motivating a teenager to do something he doesn’t want to do?)

Last weekend reignited my passion for playing with my horse and building a stronger partnership with him. I always enjoy my time with Tank, but now I can’t wait to get to the barn. In fact, that’s where I’ll be this morning! Trying out my knowledge and lateral thinking, and letting him (and myself) make mistakes. 

Has anything blown your mind lately?


Was Mark Twain Talking About the Holidays?

December 05, 2012

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
—Mark Twain


One Less Thing

November 30, 2012

Earlier this week, I made lunch plans with a friend while we were both out doing errands. We had tentatively set a time to meet, but in the course of her errands, my friend let me know she would be about 30 minutes later than we planned. I found myself with a decision: what to do with 30 minutes of unscheduled time?

I could have done one more errand before meeting her, but that would have added to my overall stress level and possibly made me late for our lunch date. I had books with me after a trip to the library and a small travel sketch kit in my purse. Dare I—gasp!—simply take that 30 minutes for myself?

You bet.

I snagged a table and a cup of coffee at Panera and lost myself in a new book. I made a conscious choice to slow down instead of speed up, to do something relaxing and fun instead of packing my day fuller.

Too often, I don’t make that choice. Instead, I overschedule, or let guilt feelings keep me from taking all but the tiniest scraps of time for myself. I seem to believe if I’m not doing something productive (for pay, for someone else, etc.) I’m wasting time. Possibly because I feel I’m being lazy if I’m not constantly doing.

However, I’m learning, slowly, that when it comes to getting things done, more is not necessarily better. Not if it comes at the cost of health or well-being. And no matter how hard I go at that to-do list, it’s always going to keep getting longer—I will never, never, have everything checked off, so what’s the point of killing myself to accomplish more, more, more?

I found my little reading break, not to mention a delightful lunch with my friend, to be so refreshing that the rest of my day seemed easier—and certainly happier.

Particularly during this time of year, we can find ourselves stretched too thin, adding item after item to our growing to-do lists. I encourage you to do one thing less today than you had planned. Take that time to something you find relaxing, inspiring or energizing.

What will you not do today? What will you do instead?


Finding the Scarf

November 28, 2012

A Kansas poet, Wyatt Townley has written a number of fine poems about the swift and relentless passage of time, one of the great themes of the world’s poetry, and I especially like this one. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Finding the Scarf

The woods are the book
we read over and over as children.
Now trees lie at angles, felled
by lightning, torn by tornados,
silvered trunks turning back

to earth. Late November light
slants through the oaks
as our small parade, father, mother, child,
shushes along, the wind searching treetops
for the last leaf. Childhood lies

on the forest floor, not evergreen
but oaken, its branches latched
to a graying sky. Here is the scarf
we left years ago like a bookmark,

meaning to return the next day,
having just turned our heads
toward a noise in the bushes,
toward the dinnerbell in the distance,

toward what we knew and did not know
we knew, in the spreading twilight
that returns changed to a changed place.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2007 by Wyatt Townley from her most recent book of poems, The Afterlives of Trees, Woodley Press, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Wyatt Townley and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


Well, That Was Nice

November 26, 2012

 I hope last week was as lovely for you as it was for me. I took last week “off” as much as I could, just keeping up the bare minimum of household activity to keep the family functioning. I indulged in an orgy of reading every chance I got and reveled in the cool weather we’ve been having. Fires in the fireplace and open windows and no sweating!

We celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving with my father-in-law Thursday. And though we usually wait till the first week of December to decorate for the holidays, we decided to take advantage of an extra set of hands (two sets, actually, as my mother-in-law joined us Saturday) to put the Christmas tree up. We broke out the eggnog, put the Florida/Florida State college football game on TV and went to town.

I’d say that was a pretty good start to the holiday season.

How was your week?

Erma Bombeck

The Real Reason We Call It Thanksgiving

November 19, 2012

Photo courtesy S. Brown

“What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets.  I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”
—Erma Bombeck

May your Thanksgiving be filled with happiness and all the treats that spell “holiday” for you.


And the Winner Is...

November 16, 2012

Cheryl! Your name was chosen at random from the entries for the anniversary giveaway. As soon as I have your mailing address, I’ll send your goodies to you.

Thanks again to you and to everyone who has visited and/or commented on the blog in the past three years!


The Spider and the Bike

November 14, 2012

Photo courtesy Mapelc

Here’s a delightful poem by Douglas S. Jones about a bicycle rider sharing his bike with a spider. Jones lives in Michigan and spiders live just about everywhere. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]


The spider living in the bike seat has finally spun
its own spokes through the wheels.
I have seen it crawl upside down, armored
black and jigging back to the hollow frame,
have felt the stickiness break
as the tire pulls free the stitches of last night’s sewing.
We’ve ridden this bike together for a week now,
two legs in gyre by daylight, and at night,
the eight converting gears into looms, handle bars
into sails. This is how it is to be part of a cycle—
to be always in motion, and to be always
woven to something else.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Douglas S. Jones, whose most recent book of poems is the chapbook No Turning East, Pudding House Press, 2011. Poem reprinted from The Pinch, Vol. 31, no. 2, 2011, by permission of Douglas S. Jones and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Remember--you have until 5 p.m. Eastern Time today to enter a comment for the anniversary giveaway here! 


Now We Are Three--Anniversary Giveaway!

November 11, 2012

Three years ago today I pressed the publish button for my very first post on this blog. Some of you have been along for the ride from the beginning, particularly my friend and partner in adventure, Laure Ferlita, who originally encouraged me to plunge into blogging. I can’t say how grateful I am that you’ve taken the time to read my meanderings and thoughtfully comment. You’ve been with me through hard times and happy times alike.  I feel like I’ve made real friends through this blog, even though I haven’t met most of you, and I want to say thank you.

So in honor of Catching Happiness’ three-year anniversary, I’m having my first “Happy Little Things” giveaway. I’ve collected a few things that make me happy to share with you. The giveaway consists of:

A small notebook (a duplicate of the one shown here). 

My favorite pen (when words are flowing, you don’t want your pen to slow you down—this one glides over paper beautifully).

A fancy bookmark (not a forgotten treasure, but one I picked just for you).

Chocolate (requires no explanation).

And last but not least, a $25 gift card to Amazon.com, where I’ve spent many happy hours (and countless dollars) pursuing happiness.

Two of the prizes
If you’d like to be registered for the giveaway, please leave a comment (only one entry per person, but you can comment as many times as you like!) in the comments section below by 5 p.m. Eastern Time Weds., Nov. 14. The winner, chosen at random, will be announced Friday, Nov. 16. You must be at least 18 and a legal resident of the United States to enter. No purchase necessary. Winner will be notified by email. If a potential winner cannot be contacted or the giveaway is returned as undeliverable, the potential winner forfeits his or her prize and another name will be chosen at random.

Thanks again for three years of simple pleasures and everyday adventures!



November 07, 2012

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.”
—Helen Keller


Helping After Sandy

November 05, 2012

day of giving vs 2 wblog ABCs Day of Giving to Help Hurricane Sandy Victims: Live Blog

I was going to post something today about personal space, and how much my husband and I are enjoying having our offices separated—but it just seemed too frivolous in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. We’ve weathered a few hurricanes since we moved to Florida, but nothing like what the people in the northeast are experiencing with Sandy. More than 100 people have died, and more than one million homes are still without power, with a nor’easter bringing cold, snow and wind predicted for later this week. (Click here for a state-by-state summary of Sandy’s aftermath. Jason Good, who lives in New Jersey and still has no power, blogged about Sandy here.) 

I’ve been thinking about the people affected by Superstorm Sandy—wondering how I could help. I can’t volunteer up there, so I’m looking for ways to help right here. Cash donations may seem less personal, but they are highly useful to relief agencies. Cash doesn’t have to be sorted, packaged or transported, and agencies have more flexibility to provide for the true needs of survivors. Here are a few organizations that are taking donations for those affected by Sandy.

The Red Cross. Visit www.redcross.org, call 800-Red-Cross or text the word “Redcross” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also give blood, since many blood drives had to be canceled because of Sandy.

In conjunction with the Red Cross, ABC is sponsoring a “Day of Giving” today.  All day long, ABC’s shows will offer viewers a chance to donate to those affected by the storm.

The Salvation Army provides food, clean-up kits, shelter and “emotional and spiritual care” to storm victims.

Feeding America operates food banks all over the US, and is distributing emergency food, water and supplies to the storm’s victims.

AmeriCares provides medicine, medical supplies and humanitarian aid.

Save the Children focuses on relief and support for children affected by Sandy

The Humane Society is working to help pets affected by the storm, especially those were not able to be evacuated with their families. 

In addition to the above organizations, you can visit the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website for a list of volunteer organizations in your state.

I’ll get back to the personal space issue in a future post (and include some pictures of my husband’s new office). Today, I’m just grateful to have a roof over my head and electricity to power my household.


When Is Negative Thinking Positive?

November 02, 2012

Photo courtesy John Nyberg

Do you get tired of being told to look on the bright side when you express a negative thought? Do you find yourself stifling your concerns out of a desire not to sound “negative”?

Turns out, there’s a place for negative, especially if it’s in the form of defensive pessimism.

I just finished reading The Positive Power of Negative Thinking, by Julie K. Norem, Ph.D.  In this book, Norem introduced me to the concepts of defensive pessimism and strategic optimism. People who use strategic optimism seek to avoid stirring up anxious feelings, often by setting high expectations, then not thinking about what could go wrong.  Those who use defensive pessimism set low expectations and mentally rehearse how things could go wrong.

On the surface, defensive pessimism sounds pretty dismal. However, Norem explains, “Defensive pessimism involves learning to tolerate negative emotions in order to get things done. [Defensive pessimists’] tolerance isn’t passive wallowing in negative feelings; it embodies confronting those feelings and rejecting the premise that feeling good should always be our most immediate aim.” 

These two strategies are used by people who have differing psychic make-ups: those who typically feel anxious and those who do not. Those who feel anxious need to find a way to handle their anxiety so that they can act, and those who don’t feel anxious need to find ways to stay anxiety-free. As Norem demonstrates, the strategies that work for one don’t work for the other, and if you try to change someone’s strategy, their performance suffers. Norem writes, “Defensive pessimism and strategic optimism develop in response to different experiences, and their strengths lie in the ways they address different problems. Defensive pessimism works to manage anxiety and help people feel more in control, whereas strategic optimism works to keep anxiety away and to protect self-esteem. In both cases, these strategies motivate effective action and often lead to good outcomes for those who use them.” (Norem notes that these concepts are different from dispositional optimism or pessimism.)

As in most things, if taken to extremes, both of these strategies can be dysfunctional. Defensive pessimists can spend too much time preparing for disaster and become such perfectionists that they never complete anything. Strategic optimists may become overconfident, ignore real dangers, or keep working at impossible tasks they should abandon

Norem doesn’t believe you should give up your natural tendencies. Whatever your strategy, be it defensive pessimism or strategic optimism, embrace it while making sure not to carry it too far. In addition, accept the strategies of others without trying to change them.

I think I fall more towards the defensive pessimist end of the spectrum, and this book clarified for me strategies to help get me through the anxious period and into the active period. (Truthfully, I often use “self-handicapper” strategies, discussed in chapter five—a tendency I need to overcome.)

Which do you use most often—defensive pessimism or strategic optimism?



Halloween Already?

October 31, 2012

Photo courtesy Karolina Michalak

I’m not alone in noticing how time accelerates as we grow older, and as the seasons grow ever more brief the holidays are gone in a wink.  This poem by Nancy Price about Halloween catches a little of that.  She’s an Iowan whose poems are so heartfelt, clear and useful that we could run them every week and none of you would complain. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

Trick or Treat
The ghost is a torn sheet,
the skeleton’s suit came from a rack in a store
the witch is flameproof, but who knows
what dark streets they have taken here?
Brother Death, here is a candy bar.
For the lady wearing the hat from Salem: gum.
And a penny for each eye, Lost Soul.
They fade away with their heavy sacks.
Thanks!  I yell just in time.
                                                 Thanks for another year!

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2007 by Nancy Price from her book of poetry Two Voices and a Moon, Malmarie Press, 2007.  Reprinted by permission of Nancy Price. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation.  The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


The Last Roll of Film

October 29, 2012

Something’s not quite right with the color of the photographs, and several are completely unrecognizable. The color problem probably stems from keeping the film on my dresser for several years before having it developed, but what’s up with the unrecognizable ones?

I just had my last roll of film developed, and it made me kind of sad. I entered the digital photo age kicking and screaming. I loved my 35mm camera, loved the packets of shiny photos I had developed, loved the photo albums and scrapbooks I made with them. I feared my digital photos would never make it off my hard drive into prints. (I was mostly right about that, too. I don’t know which is worse: boxes of unsorted prints or computer files of unsorted images!)

I’m totally a digital convert now—I love the ability to take tons of photos and, even better, the simple software that allows me to crop and otherwise enhance them so I have images I think are beautiful. I’m looking into websites that allow you to make photo books to replace the scrapbooks and photo albums I used to make. The excitement of sending my film away and seeing if the photos I took are as good as I think they will be has been replaced by immediately checking the images, then popping a memory card into my laptop. Now that I’m converted to digital, I’m going to sell my 35mm SLR camera. It makes me a little sad, but I don’t need it or use it anymore.

So what was on that roll of film? Before-and-after photos of our kitchen when we changed the countertops from Formica to granite and added a new backsplash. (We made this home improvement right before Christmas—that’s when we do all our home improvements. It adds that perfect touch of panic to the festivities.) My husband and I were thinner. Nick was shorter. And Crusher was still with us. (Sniffle.)

Look how young Nick is!
Sometimes technology makes life better—it certainly has made photography more fun and easier for me, even though I still have a lot more to learn. My husband says I’ll soon exchange my paper books for an e-reader, but I’m not so sure about that. There’s more to reading a book than seeing words on a page.

How has technology made your life better? Is there anything you said you’d never do/try/use that you now find indispensable, like my digital camera?


Link Love

October 26, 2012

Recognize the face on the mouse pad?

I’ve spent far, far too much time meandering through (in? on?) the internet lately. In order to justify that to myself, I thought I’d share some of my happy discoveries. Because I want everyone to waste as much time have as much fun as I do…

Puppy cam! Click here for a peek into the puppy room at the Service Dog Project in Ipswich, MA where mom Chaos is caring for her week-old puppies. 

Already thinking about the holidays, I found this post to have some really sweet handmade gift ideas. 

Scott Adams (the creator of “Dilbert”) on “engineering happiness”

Laure Ferlita shared this link with me. Gorgeous photography. 

For a good laugh (no pun intended), visit Jason Good at http://jasongood.net/. One of my favorite posts is here

I just discovered this blog, which has a philosophy I can agree with. I particularly liked this post

Have you discovered anything fun lately?


Little Decisions

October 24, 2012

“Happiness is not a brilliant climax to years of grim struggle and anxiety. It is a long succession of little decisions simply to be happy in the moment.”
—J. Donald Walters 

Note: Today is the 10th annual Take Back Your Time Day. Read more about it here or here.

Everyday adventures

Adventures in Orchids

October 22, 2012


Finally we had some gorgeous, fall-like weather this weekend, so my husband, mother-in-law and I checked out an orchid show and sale at the USF Botanical Gardens in Tampa. Lucky for us, there were only 12 vendors. We still managed to buy six orchids.

It’s a sickness, I tell you.

My husband and I go for variety in both size and color. I’m partial to scented orchids, my husband likes the dramatic and unusual ones. (If it’s variety you want, orchids are your flower: according to Wikipedia, orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants, with more than 20,000 species found in 880 genera. Horticulturalists have produced more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars since the introduction of tropical species in the 19th century.)

The new additions joined their brethren on our lanai where I hope they’ll be happy. One of my next chores needs to be writing down what types of orchids I have and what conditions they like.

I never thought I’d be interested in orchids. I’ve always preferred flowers like peonies, hydrangeas, roses. I can’t grow those here in Florida—at least not very successfully. (I’ve also become resigned to the lack of tulips and daffodils in my life.) But I can grow orchids—they thrive in our humid climate, so I’m going with the flow. If I can’t have a cottage garden, I’ll have a tropical one instead. At least I have flowers.

Here are the new additions. This one is tiny:

Oncidium Tsiki Marguerite
At the other extreme, this vanda is huge: 

This one, also a vanda, is scented:

Just love the color of this:

Miltassia C.M. Fitch ‘Izumi’...or so says the label...
This was unlabeled, but I think it’s a phaleonopsis:

I don’t know what this is, either, and am not sure of what the label says. Any ideas?

It felt good to be outside (and not be sweaty), to drink in the beauty of the flowers, to be with people I love, while at the same time fanning my passion for orchids. A satisfactory Saturday.

How have you fed your passions lately?

Everyday adventures

A Room of My Own

October 19, 2012

I mentioned here that I’ve taken possession of my new office after my husband moved to his new space in our formal living room —really it’s my “old” office as it was mine (hence the lavender walls) until my husband took it over three years ago. I’ve spent many happy hours in here in the past week and a half—would you like a little tour? (Click on the photos to make them bigger.)

I’ve shared pictures of the shelves before, but this is what they look like now. A few things moved around, a few books disposed of and a few more purchased. 

Under my window, I have a white bench with some magazines, an African violet and some storage boxes for hiding messy projects (if only I could remember I put the projects in there…).

My desk—so wonderful to have room to spread out, and to have my little bits and bobs displayed. Last week I had some fresh flowers in that bare space on the left. On top of the hutch is my collection of old Nancy Drew books

I love this glider rocker for reading, writing (I write most first drafts in long hand) and thinking deep thoughts. I’ve had this chair since before my son was born, and I spent countless hours in it, feeding, rocking and singing to him. We recovered it a few years ago so it could go in the office. When I’m not in the chair, one of Scout’s dog beds is. She divides her time between my office and my husband’s.

Next to the rocker is a lateral filing cabinet and hutch. I still need to purge the files as well as arrange the photos and books a bit better.

This is the armoire desk we bought for me when my husband and I were trying to share the office. It’s now my—trumpet fanfare—art station. I keep all my supplies here, and can use the desk top to sketch and paint. It also stores some random office supplies I don’t have room for elsewhere.

Having my own space means a lot to me. I can play music. I can shut the door. I control the ceiling fan, a major bone of contention between me and my husband. It means I (we) take my work seriously because we’ve made a space for me to do it, rather than keeping me bouncing from one place to another.

I didn’t realize until I had to share how much having my own space meant to me. Every other place I tried to work (except my bedroom and that was an issue in itself) made me feel I was on display and I was frequently interrupted. I felt like I “wasn’t doing anything” when I was sitting quietly reading or thinking or even web surfing for work. Now I can daydream, think, and read to my heart’s content and no one looks over my shoulder while I do it. Or asks me what’s for dinner or if I’m doing laundry later.

And that, my friends, is my new artistic space.

I am very happy.

Scout is happy, too.
Do you have a space to call your own?


Wanting In

October 17, 2012

Photo courtesy andrechinn via Flickr

At the beginning of the famous novel, "Remembrance of Things Past," the mere taste of a biscuit started Marcel Proust on a seven-volume remembrance. Here a bulldozer turns up an old doorknob, and look what happens in Shirley Buettner's imagination. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]


While clearing the west
quarter for more cropland,
the Cat quarried
a porcelain doorknob

oystered in earth,
grained and crazed
like an historic egg,
with a screwless stem of

rusted and pitted iron.
I turn its cold white roundness
with my palm and
open the oak door

fitted with oval glass,
fretted with wood ivy,
and call my frontier neighbor.
Her voice comes distant but

clear, scolding children
in overalls
and highbutton shoes.
A bucket of fresh eggs and

a clutch of rhubarb rest
on her daisied oil-cloth.
She knew I would knock someday,
wanting in.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. From Walking Out the Dark (Juniper Press, 1984). Copyright © 1984 by Shirley Buettner and reprinted by permission of the author. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.



October 12, 2012

Twice on Wednesday I found myself talking to someone about how lucky I am. The first time, I was sitting on the back of my horse, talking to my friend and trainer, Gayle, about how my experience with Tank has been one of the best things in my whole life. We talked about how lucky I feel first to even own a horse, and also to have one that I’ve been able to bond with so closely. I mentioned that my life is so much better than I ever imagined it being. Though I was speaking out of the emotion of the moment, glossing over the pain and emotional storms I’ve weathered, it is true that I am lucky. If I started to list the struggles and problems of my life, that lucky feeling would certainly fade. It was then that I realized it’s my choice what version of my life to dwell on, and ultimately my choice whether I feel “lucky” or not.

In the second instance, I had emailed my friend Laure an image of some sketchbook pages I loved, expressing a desire to have my sketchbook resemble them. We emailed back and forth about developing artistic style, and I finished one email with, “I’m lucky to have some lovely artists to be influenced by, aren’t I?” While I’m still learning the basics of drawing and painting, let alone working on my “style,” between the support and encouragement of my friends (my classmates in Laure’s classes as well as Laure herself) and the wealth of material available in books and online, I have the ability to enjoy and learn from many different artists. I can’t help but be inspired. This may seem like an insignificant matter to feel lucky about—but isn’t life made up of “insignificant matters”?

Coincidentally, we have a new resident at our barn, a tiny, elderly pony whose name is Lucky. Poor Lucky was essentially starving to death because his previous owners (well-meaning but ignorant) didn’t realize the condition of his teeth made it impossible for him to eat normally—his food needs to be soaked into soupiness. Aside from his thinness and the neglect of his hooves and coat, he seems healthy.  He’s lucky to have been found by caring people who hope to help him, and a vet who is willing to take on some of his care without compensation. With any luck, he’ll live out his life in comfort, being spoiled by the girls (and the adults) at the barn.

Lucky doing what he does best
I guess what I’m trying to say is that feeling lucky is to some degree a matter of perspective, acknowledging the negatives but choosing to focus more on the positives. It’s part of my “Catching Happiness” philosophy, when I remember to live by it.

What makes you feel lucky?

Beautiful moments


October 10, 2012

“There are few things more sacred than the moment you come to peace with your pieces.”

—Marney Makridakis


Checking In

October 09, 2012

The craziness continues, but it’s good craziness.

After “sharing” home office space with my husband for three years (translation: I had a desk in there but I was rarely at it because our working styles were not compatible), he moved to his new office in our unused formal living room last week. I’ve spent much of the past few days cleaning and organizing my space and collecting my things from where they were scattered throughout the house. I’ve still got some organizing to do, but at least I know everything is here (somewhere) and I again have a door I can close when I need to.

I took the day yesterday to relieve my horse of his winter coat. (Click here to see what that entails.) Yes, even though it’s still near 90 degrees and humid, Tank was sporting his usual premature wooliness. I’m not quite finished—I have three legs left and some tidying—but he’s much more comfortable. Since he’s now shorn, that means it’s likely a cold front will come through and drop the temps. (Bring it on! I have a horse blanket.)

I expect to have a more “normal” schedule in the next week or so and will get back to more regular posting soon.

So what’s new with you?