Cats

A Lovely Old Cat

November 30, 2016


Introduction by Ted Kooser: We've been selecting poems for this column for more than ten years and I can't remember ever publishing a poem about a cat. But here at last is a cat, a lovely old cat. Ron Koertge lives in California, and his most recent book of poems is Vampire Planet: New & Selected Poems, from Red Hen Press.

Lily

No one would take her when Ruth passed.
As the survivors assessed some antiques,
I kept hearing, “She's old. Somebody
should put her down.”

I picked her up instead. Every night I tell her
about the fish who died for her, the ones
in the cheerful aluminum cans.

She lies on my chest to sleep, rising
and falling, rising and falling like a rowboat
fastened to a battered dock by a string.

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 ©2016 by Ron Koertge, “Lily,” from Vampire Planet: New & Selected Poems, (Red Hen Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Ron Koertge and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge: 2016 Edition

28 Days and Counting--Gratitude Challenge Review

November 28, 2016

For the past 28 days I’ve been participating in the 2016 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge, sponsored by Dani from Positively Present and Caroline from Made Vibrant. Each day, I’ve used a prompt to write about something for which I’m grateful, added a photo, and posted the results on Instagram and Facebook. Some days I’ve gone deeper than others, some days practically wrote themselves, and other days I’ve had to mull over the prompt all day before I could come up with something to write about.

I really am grateful for all that I have, and all that I’ve experienced and learned, even the hard things. My life isn’t “perfect,” but it’s perfect for me. Twenty-eight (and counting) days of gratitude have reminded me of just how good I have it. As promised, here are a few of my favorite posts along with their photos (prompts are in bold):

Day 2/Love: 

“Love them with your heart, not your ego.” I can’t remember where I read this, but it has been a life-changing lesson for me when people I SAY I love don’t behave the way I want them to! It’s helped me to let go of my expectations for others and simply love them. It’s brought me peace instead of frustration and pain. It’s even helped me love myself when I’m not (surprise!) perfect. This photo is of my cat—who I love with all my heart, even though she sometimes (ahem) behaves in ways I don’t want her to!

Day 9/Wonder:
It took half a lifetime of dreaming, but 12 years ago this guy came into my life. I’m still filled with wonder when I’m with him, even today, when I finished up his fall clip (in Florida, he won’t need his winter coat until about February) and came home covered in sweat and horse hair. So grateful for him.


Day 10/Art:


Julia Cameron wrote, “My feeling is that if you are making art, you are already an artist. Over time you may become a better one, more skilled in your craft, but what do real artists do? They make art. If you’re making art, even beginning art, you’re a real artist—at least today.” By this definition, I’m an artist, because I make art. It’s not art to sell, or even always to share, but I’ve begun sketching, either in pencil or using watercolor, every day for at least five minutes. I’m grateful for this simple way to bring art into my life, as well as the quiet moments spent this way, and the memories brought to mind by looking through my sketchbook pages.

Day 11/Memory:

This photo is of my mom’s house, which used to be my grandparents’ house, in Northern California. It holds many of my happiest childhood memories, including playing card games, and indulging in Grandma’s homemade bread and boysenberry cobbler. Now that my mom lives there, we’re making new memories. I’m grateful for the love, peace, joy, and continuity this house stands for.


Day 15/Gift:
One of the best gifts I was ever given came from my husband. It was near my birthday, and our son was just about to enter elementary school. My husband bought me a cake with our son’s photo on it and the words “Thank you Mommy. You were there when I needed you” written in icing, as well as a beautiful opal necklace. It wasn’t so much the gifts themselves as the sentiment—your contributions to family life are important, and what you do matters—that meant so much to me. When our son was born, I’d left work in our business and become a stay-at-home mom. I wanted this very much, but had found the experience much more difficult that I expected. I was (and am) grateful for the recognition of my work and sacrifices, and felt loved, appreciated, and respected. Photo is of me and Nick at the zoo.

Day 23/Progress:

My motto is “progress, not perfection.” My spirit animal is the tortoise. Ninety percent of the progress I’ve made in writing, riding, sketching, and so on, has come from baby steps. I’m proud and grateful that I’ve continued making progress on goals that are important to me, even though that progress has been slow. I haven’t given up. As Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” 

What are you grateful for today?

gratitude

Time Out for Thanksgiving

November 23, 2016

Photo courtesy Lutece

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
—William Arthur Ward

It is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. tomorrow. All over the country, and here in the Catching Happiness household, we’ll be cooking, eating, bickering talking with our families, playing games, watching football, and so on. I’m looking forward to taking time out for thanksgiving. All is currently well in my world, and I’m grateful.

Wishing you and yours a warm and loving Thanksgiving! (If Thanksgiving is not a tradition where you live, then have a very happy Thursday!)

Achievement

Why Positive Thinking Is Holding You Back--and What do Do Instead

November 18, 2016

What could be wrong with positive thinking? Shouldn’t you maintain an optimistic belief in your success when you set out to achieve something? After all, popular culture is full of inspirational quotes like:

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”

 “Leap and the net will appear.”

“Wishing makes it so.”

While these quotes may make you feel good, they fall short when it comes to the practicalities of figuring out how to “make it so.” Instead of spending time only visualizing, wishing, or dreaming about achieving a goal, there is a system that can make you more likely to achieve your goals and dreams.

It’s called mental contrasting.


Mental contrasting is a visualization technique developed by researcher and professor Gabriele Oettingen and her colleagues, and is discussed at length in the book Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation

Daydreaming all by itself, according to Oettingen, makes people less likely to realize their dreams and wishes. Why? Because, she writes, “The pleasurable act of dreaming seems to let us fulfill our wishes in our minds, sapping our energy to perform the hard work of meeting the challenges in real life.”

We shouldn’t stop dreaming altogether, though. In fact, dreaming is a big part of mental contrasting. However, it goes beyond the simple dreaming stage into more practical waters.

This brings us to the handy little acronym WOOP, which stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. According to woopmylife.org, “WOOP can support all areas of behavior change. It is for people who feel stuck and don’t know what to do. It is also for people whose lives seem just fine but who feel they can do better. And it is for people who face a particular challenge or transition….Use WOOP to excel at work, promote good health, enjoy relationships more, and live a happier life.”

According to woopmylife.org, the four steps of WOOP work like this:

  1. Wish. Choose a wish or goal that is important and challenging for you, but one that also feels doable within the next four weeks.
  2. Outcome. What is the best possible outcome if you were to fulfill your wish? How would you feel? Imagine this as fully as you can.
  3. Obstacle. What is the biggest obstacle within you that stands between you and your wish? Figure out what that is, then take a moment to imagine that fully.
  4. Plan. Once you know what stands in your way, take some time to figure out at least one way you can overcome it. Create an “if/then” plan: “If…, then I will…”

If you want to try WOOP, click here for a template to use for planning purposes. There’s also an app and a “woop kit.” 

Just as The Upside of Stress changed and broadened my thinking about stress, Rethinking Positive Thinking gave me a new way to plan and execute goals and dreams, and I wanted to share it with you. For most people, happiness includes growth and accomplishment. Mental contrasting is one tool likely to help you with that facet of life. All the vision boards in the world will not help you if you do not act. Wishing does not make it so. But WOOPing just might.

For more information, here is a short video explaining the science behind WOOP:


What goal, wish, or dream would you like to “WOOP”?

Carolyn Miller

The World As It Is

November 16, 2016

Photo courtesy Patrick Fore

Introduction by Ted Kooser: It is enough for me as a reader that a poem take from life a single moment and hold it up for me to look at. There need not be anything sensational or unusual or peculiar about that moment, but somehow, by directing my attention to it, our attention to it, the poet bathes it in the light of the remarkable. Here is a poem like this by Carolyn Miller, who lives in San Francisco.

The World as It is

No ladders, no descending angels, no voice
out of the whirlwind, no rending
of the veil, or chariot in the sky—only
water rising and falling in breathing springs
and seeping up through limestone, aquifers filling
and flowing over, russet stands of prairie grass
and dark pupils of black-eyed Susans. Only
the fixed and wandering stars: Orion rising sideways,
Jupiter traversing the southwest like a great firefly,
Venus trembling and faceted in the west—and the moon,
appearing suddenly over your shoulder, brimming
and ovoid, ripe with light, lifting slowly, deliberately,
wobbling slightly, while far below, the faithful sea
rises up and follows.

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 ©2009 by Carolyn Miller, from her most recent book of poems, “Light, Moving,” Sixteen Rivers Press, 2009. Reprinted by permission of Carolyn Miller and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2010 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Anniversary

Seven Years and 813 Blog Posts Later...

November 11, 2016


Guess what? Today marks the 7th anniversary of Catching Happiness. That’s a lot of simple pleasures and everyday adventures!

Catching Happiness began as a place for me to explore a more personal form of writing than what I had been doing, writing articles for magazines and web sites. I hoped to sharpen my skills, and, ultimately, see if I had material for a book. As I got into it, I developed a way to look at life and a personal philosophy that I feel comfortable with and that, I think, is a positive addition to cyberspace and the world. Over these past seven years, I’ve also learned to notice more because I want to share things with you.

There have been highs and lows to write about, discoveries of happy little things, Field Trip Friday excursions, and many new online friends. The structure of posting has kept my writing muscles limbered up and ready to go. Now and then I’ve burned out and wondered whether I should shutter Catching Happiness and spend that time pursuing paying writing outlets, and every time I’ve decided not to—Catching Happiness is a labor of love and I’m just not ready to let it go. I just renewed the domain name for another year.

I want to thank each one of you who has taken the time to read my posts, even if you never or rarely comment. I’m grateful you take the time to visit. Your thoughtful comments and encouragement have meant a lot to me for the past seven years.

So as we go forward, I have this to ask you: What would you like to see more of? Less of? What are your favorite types of posts, and what could you live without? Do you have any suggestions or comments to share? I’d love to hear from you.

I believe I wouldn’t have learned as much and had as many adventures without Catching Happiness. I will always be grateful for it, and for you, the reader. Thank you for being a part of the past seven happy years!

Growth

At the Edge of What's Possible

November 09, 2016

Photo courtesy Joshua Earle

“Life is lived best in the place of risk and trust. Things are more thrilling when we are at the edge of what’s possible, beyond what is expected or considered normal. And when we push ourselves to do what we aren’t sure is possible, we grow.”
—Jeff Goins

Bill Murray

Link Love: How Can It Be November Already? Edition

November 04, 2016


I’m not complaining, but how did it get to be November already? It seems like it was January just a few moments ago!

Recently I haven’t spent much time roaming the internet (I’m w-a-a-y behind in reading the blogs I follow), but I do have a few tidbits of interest to share:

“How Living Like a French Woman Helped Me Lose 75 Pounds” is not really about losing weight—it’s about embracing life.

Click here for more ways to live a happier life today. 

This film sounds intriguing. Read an interview with the filmmaker here.

Making a vision board is fun, but you have to actually do something if you want those envisioned dreams to come true. Tonya Leigh writes about the importance of taking action in “Vision Boards Are a Waste of Time. Try This Instead.” 

Whether it’s due to a life-changing illness or simply the natural process of getting older, many of us are questioning and reordering our priorities. Here’s one woman’s take on that: “Priorities: The Art of Letting Go of Things That Don’t Matter.”

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for their World Series win! Here’s Bill Murray, using an, um, unorthodox singing style, performing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch of game 3.


Have you discovered anything interesting online lately?

Natasha Trethewey

We Save What We Can

November 02, 2016

Photo courtesy Gerhard Gellinger

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Beginning writers often tell me their real lives aren't interesting enough to write about, but the mere act of shaping a poem lifts its subject matter above the ordinary. Here’s Natasha Trethewey, who served two terms as U. S. Poet Laureate, illustrating just what I’ve described. It’s from her book Domestic Work, from Graywolf Press. Trethewey lives in Georgia

Housekeeping

We mourn the broken things, chair legs
wrenched from their seats, chipped plates,
the threadbare clothes. We work the magic
of glue, drive the nails, mend the holes.
We save what we can, melt small pieces
of soap, gather fallen pecans, keep neck bones
for soup. Beating rugs against the house,
we watch dust, lit like stars, spreading
across the yard. Late afternoon, we draw
the blinds to cool the rooms, drive the bugs
out. My mother irons, singing, lost in reverie.
I mark the pages of a mail-order catalog,
listen for passing cars. All day we watch
for the mail, some news from a distant 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 ©2000 by Natasha Trethewey, “Housekeeping,” from Domestic Work, (Graywolf Press, 2000). Poem reprinted by permission of Natasha Trethewey and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2016 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. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


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