Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott

November 29, 2017

Louisa May Alcott is a heroine of mine—more because of the person she was than because of her writing (though I enjoy that, too). She was born 185 years ago today, and in honor of her birthday, here are two happiness-related quotes attributed to her:

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.”

“One of the sweet things about pain and sorrow is that they show us how well we are loved, how much kindness there is in the world, and how easily we can make others happy in the same way when they need help and sympathy.”

In 2013, my husband and I visited Orchard House, her family home in Concord, MA, pictured below. (I wrote about it briefly here.) 

If you want to know more about Louisa May Alcott, check out Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women. I’m currently reading Louisa May Alcott: An Intimate Anthology and enjoying it very much.

Are you a Louisa May Alcott fan? Which of her books is your favorite?

Black Friday Link Love

November 24, 2017

Rather than participate in Black Friday, my husband and I are enjoying a short break from the usual routine, and fighting crowds for bargains doesn’t qualify as “a break” in either of our minds. In case you’re off today and have a little time for some web surfing, here are a few fun and thought-provoking tidbits I’ve found online recently—no lines and no waiting:

I loved Positively Present’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide—there’s something for everyone on this list, and I guarantee you no one will return your gift. 

Doing nothing is harder than you think.

I found “How to Go from Discouraged to Empowered in a Scary World,” by Sandra Pawula at Always Well Within an encouraging read.   

Seth Godin on “Full vs. Enough.”  

Do To-Do lists work for you? If they don’t, you might want to try one of the other types of lists described by Gretchen Rubin in “The Surprising Truth About Why Your To-Do List May Be Failing You.” 

Don’t forget Giving Tuesday next week—it’s a good way to share with others, and in some instances, your donation will be matched. Click here to read about how that works.

I don’t think I’ve shared this before, but even if I have, it’s too good not to share again.

Have a happy Friday, Black or otherwise!

G.K. Chesterton

The Critical Thing

November 22, 2017

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted
or take them with gratitude.”
—G.K. Chesterton

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. Wishing you a very happy day, whether or not celebrating Thanksgiving is a part of your tradition!  


Already Overwhelmed by the Coming Holidays? Here Are 7 Ways to Find the Holiday Happy

November 17, 2017

Photo by +Simple on Unsplash

Can we postpone Thanksgiving? Maybe until sometime after the New Year?

It’s not that I don’t have plenty to be thankful for, I do—it’s just that I’m feeling overwhelmed. The last three months have been a blur and things don’t seem to be slowing down. Thanksgiving is next week, and then, oh then, here comes Christmas. (That’s right. I said the C word.)

I’m not ready.

This seems to be a theme with me around the holidays—feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I don’t think it’s just me, however. There are many reasons someone might not feel that happy about the upcoming holiday season. Perhaps you’re feeling sorrow over a death in the family, fighting an illness, or you’re overloaded with work or other responsibilities.

Since I don’t want to be the Bah Humbug of the holiday season, I sat down to ponder what I—and anyone else finding him or herself overwhelmed by the prospect of the upcoming holidays—could do to find some Holiday Happy.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Work on your communication skills. Communicate what you need for yourself and what you need from others. If necessary, practice saying what you need to say so that you don’t explode or cry or go silent when you have the chance to speak up.

2. Ask for and—even more important—accept help. Gatherings are more fun for everyone when we all get to contribute. No one wants to see you become a shell of yourself because you spent the entire day cooking a fabulous meal and then it was all over in 10 minutes and WHY DID I EVEN BOTHER, YOU UNGRATEFUL WRETCHES. No, no one wants to see that.

On a related note, cut back and outsource. Don’t try to do everything you’d normally do as well as all the holiday preparations. Pick up dinner at the grocery store, have the gifts professionally wrapped, hire a housecleaner just before your holiday party. See: “former shell of yourself,” above.

3. Don’t expect too much. We often raise our expectations about a number of things during the holidays. How our homes look, how much fancy cooking we do, even how we or others will behave. It’s OK to expect to have some special moments during this festive season. Just try not to expect everything to go perfectly. Don’t expect Uncle Elmo to suddenly become the warm fuzzy of the family when he’s more likely to be the Grinch, or that the cat won’t climb the Christmas tree and break at least one ornament. I speak from experience.

4. Take care of your health. Don’t skimp on sleep, vegetables, or exercise. A few late nights or an extra piece of pie will be much easier to recover from if you maintain your basic health habits. And I’m sorry, but pumpkin pie doesn’t count as a vegetable.

5. Choose one or two special holiday rituals and let the rest go. I know there are tempting experiences around every corner, but you’ll just make yourself crazy if you try to do them all.

6. Focus on what you want to celebrate. Being together? Gratitude? Your personal religious tradition? Your child’s (or grandchild’s) first holiday? The fact that it’s cool outside and you don’t have to run the AC on Thanksgiving Day this year? There is always something to celebrate and something to be grateful for.

7. Develop your sense of humor, and don’t take everything so seriously. It’s not the end of the world when the squirrels eat your holiday pumpkin display on the front porch, for example.

I’m going to try to follow my own advice, and make this a happy—not harried—holiday season. How about you?

What special holiday experiences do you look forward to every year?


Is There Better Than Here?

November 15, 2017

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

“So often we imagine that There is more full of gold than Here. It is the same with love and dreams and the work of our lives. We see the light everywhere but where we are, and chase after what we think we lack, only to find, humbly, it was with us all along.”
—Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Everyday adventures

Field Trip Friday--Ghost Ranch

November 10, 2017

One of my favorite things about traveling is discovery—not just discovery of a place, but discovery of people and subject matter I was previously ignorant of. Back in April, on my enchanted meander in Arizona and New Mexico, I went to a place I had previously never heard of that completely, well, enchanted me: Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM.

Ghost Ranch came by its name when cattle rustlers spread the rumor that the area was haunted by evil spirits in order to keep their neighbors from discovering the stolen animals hidden in the canyon next to Kitchen Mesa. The name, “Rancho de los Brujos” (“Ranch of the Witches”) eventually evolved into Ghost Ranch. 

In 1934, painter Georgia O’Keeffe visited Ghost Ranch. At the time, it was a dude ranch owned by Arthur Pack and Carol Stanley. O’Keeffe began spending summers there, renting Pack’s own residence, Rancho de los Burros, so she could have the privacy and isolation she craved. In 1940, Pack sold her the house and seven acres. She returned every year until the last few years of her life. Ghost Ranch’s logo is an adaptation of a sketch O’Keeffe gave to Arthur Pack in the 1930s.

The landscape of Ghost Ranch offered O’Keeffe many subjects to paint. One of her favorites was the flat-topped mountain she saw from her kitchen window, Cerro Pedernal:

Ghost Ranch is now an educational conference center owned by the Presbyterian Church. Visitors can take guided tours, hike the grounds, visit the museums of anthropology and paleontology, take an O’Keeffe-inspired trail ride (I wish we’d had time for that!), or simply soak in the peaceful atmosphere.

Exploring the world, whether on road trips or Field Trip Friday, whether near or far, will always be more than just a simple pleasure for me, or even an everyday adventure. At the risk of sounding clichéd, it feeds my soul. It takes me out of myself and my daily cares and responsibilities, broadens my outlook, helps me feel connected to other people who may (or may not) have those same daily cares and responsibilities. I’ve got several Georgia O’Keeffe-related books on my TBR list now, and I still intend to paint an O’Keeffe inspired watercolor in my sketchbook. (I’m just wrapping up Laure Ferlita’s Imaginary Visit to the American Southwest class, and that should help!)

Where have your everyday adventures taken you lately?


Grateful for the Small and Simple Things

November 08, 2017

“Sometimes we should express our gratitude for the small and simple things like the scent of the rain, the taste of your favorite food, or the sound of a loved one's voice.”
—Joseph B. Wirthlin

What are some small, simple things you’re grateful for?

Happy Little Things

Happy Little Things—Planner Madness

November 03, 2017

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when the air is cooler, the days are shorter, and those of us who use paper planners are inundated with possibilities! You might recall, as I wrote in “Paper or Plastic,” I am a paper planner kind of girl. Since I wrote that post, I’ve retired Old Faithful (at least for now), dallied with the Happy Planner (how could I resist given the name?), and finally committed once more to a binder-based system, this time the Franklin Covey “Ava”. (I have no affiliation with any of the brands mentioned.) 

When I was deciding what my next planner would be, I spent a ridiculous amount of time stalking planner binders on eBay, reading planner reviews, and visiting various and sundry stores that carried ones I was interested in. I discovered there’s a whole planner subculture, and spent hours watching videos of true planner addicts going through their planners section by section. Some of those planners were works of art, and while I loved seeing them, I had no desire to work that hard over my planner pages.

This may sound like a whole lot of fuss about nothing, but I use my planner heavily, and would find myself lost without it. It’s one of my most important tools, and it matters to me that my tools be both functional and pretty, given that I use them every day.

Choosing the tools we use on a regular basis can be a simple pleasure—and I take full advantage of that. While also trying not to become obsessed and waste large amounts of time…

So here we are again in Planner Season, and I have a decision to make. The Covey system worked well, but I wish the paper were a little thicker, and last year it took some doing to find a refill with my preferred vertical orientation. I admit I’m tempted by some of the other beautiful brands out there…

Uh-oh. I feel planner madness coming on again!

Do you use a paper planner? Which one is your favorite? Are there any other objects of daily life you obsess over?

30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge: 2017 Edition

30 Days of Practicing Gratitude

November 01, 2017

“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness—it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention, and practicing gratitude.”
—Brene Brown

It’s Gratitude Challenge time again! For the fourth year in a row, I’ll be participating in Dani DiPirro’s 30-Day Gratitude Challenge. Starting today, every day in November I’ll be posting on Facebook and Instagram a photo and a few words about the day’s prompt. I love doing this challenge, because it reminds me how much I have to be grateful for—often times things I take for granted or have even forgotten about. If you don’t follow me on Facebook or Instagram (and even if you do!), at the end of the month, I’ll do a wrap up on Catching Happiness of my favorite prompts. (Click here for last year’s review post.)

This year, participants can post photos, illustrations, or just words—the point is to share something for which you are grateful. And no need to do it all 30 days. Jump in whenever you feel like it. Use #Gratitude30 so others can see your posts, and visit #Gratitude30 to see all the gratitude goodness. 

Want to play along? Click here for more information.