Holidays

Whew, What a Year!

December 31, 2018

Remember this? This happened in 2018!

I don’t know about you, but for me 2018 was f.u.l.l. The last few months have been a mad scramble, and I’m planning some time off this week to recover. I’d take more time, but I already have writing deadlines! (Yay for writing deadlines.)

Before 2018 becomes history, I want to say thank you to you, my Catching Happiness friends. Thank you for reading, for commenting, and even for lurking (I lurk on multiple blogs myself). Working on Catching Happiness is one of the pleasures of my life.

Happy New Year, and see you in 2019!


Quotes

Savor the Present

December 28, 2018


“One of the most important things I've learned during the last fifteen years is how to enjoy and savor the present. When I am writing, I am inside the sound and meaning of the words, playing with them, curling them around each other. When I am eating, I luxuriate in the taste and texture of every bite. When I am alone, I listen to and communicate with the silence within me and the noises and messages of the world around me.

“And when I am with people, I am really with them.”
—Rita Golden Gelman, Tales of a Female Nomad


Happiness

Wishing You Holiday Happiness

December 24, 2018



Prudy, Luna, Tank, and all the humans here at Catching Happiness wish you and your loved ones much holiday happiness, whatever your traditions may be. 

Emily Grosholz

What Will You Miss When You’re Gone?

December 21, 2018


Introduction by Ted Kooser: Do others of you think about what you'll miss when you leave this life? For me it will be the great skies over my part of the world. Heres Emily Grosholzs take on this, from her new book The Stars of Earth: New and Selected Poems, from Word Galaxy Press. She lives and teaches in Pennsylvania.

Here and There


What will I miss when I'm gone?
The squeak of the wheelbarrow's wheel,
Grace note that strikes with every slow
Revolution, and then the hushed, rusty
Answer in triplets from the invisible
Bird in the lackluster maples.

Branches, weeds, last autumn’s leavings
Raked from the moss-eaten pads, beds,
Borders, still untrimmed hedges.
Also the silent pale blue bells
Of my half dozen borage, ringed,
Self-seeded from the woods.

Daylilies my mother liked to set
Roadside in June. Pale Greek anemones
She never traveled far enough
To find wild, as I did once or twice, but
Maybe I'll bring her some, if over there
Windflowers blow beside a cloudy sea.

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 ©2017 by Emily Grosholz, “Here and There (from “June”), from The Stars of Earth: New and Selected Poems, (Word Galaxy Press, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Emily Grosholz and the publisher. Introduction copyright©2018 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.



Happiness

Tools to Help You Build a Foundation of Happiness

December 17, 2018


Friday’s quote from Operation Happiness got me thinking about the concept of building a foundation for happiness—the kind of foundation that will support us when we’re deep in grief, facing some of life’s more wrenching experiences, like losing a parent, watching a child struggle, or coping with the serious illness of a friend.

Building a foundation for happiness of this nature involves more than investing in some bubble bath and chocolate, or even a great book and cozy blanket. While comforting self-care rituals are nice (and necessary), by themselves they won’t be enough to support us during our darkest hours.

I went back through the Catching Happiness archives, and I thought about the things that have helped me most during my hardest times, and here are four I’ve found useful in building a foundation of happiness that sustains me. Perhaps they’ll help you, too.

Create and strengthen close personal relationships. Relationships are the number one contributing factor to happiness, according to a long-running Harvard study. I’m grateful that I have quality relationships with my family and my husband’s family. I also have many close friends, and many “virtual” friends I know only online. They’ve stepped in to offer support, love, encouragement and more when I’ve needed it most. I have several people I know are only a phone call or text message away if I really need help (and I hope they know I would do the same for them). It’s easier to walk through the dark valleys when someone walks beside you. 

Determine and write about your personal values. Surprisingly, this is one of the keys to coping well with stressful situations. Sometimes painful feelings result from not doing what someone else expects you to do, or from making hard choices. When you’re tired of struggling, remembering why you’ve chosen to think, behave, and live the way you do can help. Reminding yourself of your personal values can give you strength when you’re suffering.

Treat your body well. Eat healthfully, exercise, and get enough sleep. If you’re run down or sick, it’s much harder to feel happy. If, like me, you have a few nagging injuries, look into how to treat them…then actually do it! Care for yourself the way you would care for a child or someone dependent on you.

Make a list of simple mood boosters. This may seem frivolous in comparison, but there is a time and place for using mood boosters. When you’re knee deep in misery, you’ll be hard pressed to come up with anything that might lift your mood, so now is the time to think about what generally makes you feel happier. See “Five Ways to Feel Happier (in 10 Minutes or Less)” and “The Dark Side” for ways I boost my mood when sadness threatens to overwhelm me.

If your happiness is built on a foundation of deeper values and practices, it will stay with you, running like an underground river even when you face un-happy experiences. Happy feelings will return, and sorrow and grief are temporary. 

For more ways to seek deeper happiness, check out:


Happiness

How to Build a Foundation for Sustainable Happiness

December 14, 2018


“Part of building a foundation for sustainable happiness involves preparing to weather the most challenging times with as much peace, light, and inner fitness as possible. The way to do this is to gain skills that help us create supportive, go-to responses for emotional pain and tools to help us find the strength to take baby steps toward healing that lift us up, help us process, and empower us through our journey. Part of changing our view about happiness is embracing the idea that there are always encouraging tools and resources to reach for in any life situation if we’re willing to take action.”
—Kristi Ling, Operation Happiness: The 3-Step Plan to Creating a Life of Lasting Joy, Abundant Energy, and Radical Bliss

What tools and skills do you use to cope with emotionally difficult times?

Happiness

Four Things I’ve Been Thinking About Lately

December 10, 2018

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

I’ve been having trouble getting back into the habit of writing for Catching Happiness—maybe you’ve noticed? My life has been…full…lately, and I’m playing catch-up in more than one area. So to ease back into post writing, here are four things I’ve been pondering lately:

Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
Being around people who have lost loved ones has reminded me that so many of the little things I fret and obsess over (which dog food to switch Luna to now that she’s a year old, for example) are just that: little things. They barely matter now, and won’t matter at all in 10 years. That’s becoming my new rule of thumb: will this matter in 10 years? I’m just worn out with all of the obsessing.

I have no idea how long it takes to do anything.
I just read Dan Charnas’ book Work Clean: The Life-changing Power of Mise en Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind, and took away some helpful ideas. Charnas takes principles he’s learned from interviewing dozens of culinary professionals and executives and tweaks them to apply to work and life outside the kitchen. One thing I’ve discovered while doing one of the exercises from the book is that many of my projects take longer than I think they do. I also forget to factor in the time it takes to transition between activities, make and eat breakfast and lunch, take care of our pets, and shower and change clothes after a workout! All those little things add up to a big chunk of day that I’ve not accounted for, and so I wind up scheduling too many things in a day, leaving me feeling unproductive and defeated.

It’s OK to feel sad.
After my dad died, one of my close friends lost her mother, and a friend from my old boarding barn became dizzy and fell while getting out of a car, and passed away from her injuries. Even though my life is unutterably blessed, I feel sad—sad for my friends, sad that I won’t have these people in my life, sad that we have to say good-bye permanently before we’re ready to do so.

But it’s OK to feel happy, too.
Friday as I was pouring my cup of Barnie’s Creamy Buttery Caramel coffee (no affiliation) and getting ready to sit down and write this post, I felt a little lift of my spirits that I haven’t felt in probably at least a month. Do I dare to feel happy? Yes, I think so. Sad doesn’t last forever, 24/7, just the way happy doesn’t. And that’s OK, too.

These are just a few of the ideas that have been floating around in my head as I try to get back to “normal,” whatever that is going to look like. I’d like to thank all of you for your kind comments and for sticking with Catching Happiness when there wasn’t much happiness to be caught!

What have you been thinking about lately?


Flow

In the Flow

December 07, 2018

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

“Water teaches us things, with the most valuable lesson probably being: flow! Go through life with ease and elegance, follow the path of least resistance, bobbing and swaying in the flow. Accept everything that life brings you. Always be prepared to move along without fear or reservations. ‘Water reaches its goal by flowing uninterruptedly,’ Richard Wilhelm wrote in his translation of the I Ching, the Chinese book of change. ‘It fills every depth before it flows on. It does not recoil from anything—no dangerous spot, no fall into the abyss—and nothing makes it lose its essential nature. It remains true to itself under all circumstances…as all noble folk should.’”
—Happinez magazine, issue 9

30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge

Wrapping Up the 2018 Gratitude Challenge

November 30, 2018

Every year since 2014, I’ve participated in Positively Present’s 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge. I love using Dani’s prompts to think about how much I have to be grateful for. This year was a bit of a challenge, since for 10 days I was in California dealing with the loss of my father. I managed to post most days anyway, though this year I opted only to post on Instagram, rather than both Facebook and Instagram, for simplicity’s sake. Here are a few photos and captions from this year’s challenge…because there’s always something to be grateful for.

Day 1: Home


“…I just returned from a three-and-a-half week trip to France…and promptly got sick. I’m sooo glad to be in my own bed with these four-legged “nurses.” There’s just nothing like home when you’re feeling under the weather.”

Day 5: Happiness


“Happiness…is seeing your horse drinking from a water trough. It might seem unremarkable, but when he’s just moved to a new boarding barn and is still settling in, it’s one more indication that he’s beginning to relax. And that lets me start to relax, too.”

Day 9: Laughter


“Day 9’s…prompt, laughter, made me think of my dad, who loved to tease and joke. He recently passed away, and I’m going to miss his humor and spirit. This is the last picture I took of him, and he was getting ready to play penny ante poker with the family—believe me, there was a lot of laughter involved!”

Day 12: Wisdom


“I love pithy sayings that sum up meaningful ideas in a few words. I’m grateful for the wisdom distilled in the sayings that then become mantras for me. I heard a new one from Corinne, the lovely and wise owner of Le Vieux Couvent in Frayssinet, France: ‘You are who you take the time to become.’ Something to ponder when the couch and TV remote control beckon, or junk food whispers my name…”

Day 27: Luxury


“As a middle class American, my life is filled with luxuries and I try not to take them for granted. (One reason why I like taking part in this Gratitude Photo Challenge every year!) Today I’m sharing a pic of one of my favorite luxuries, a personal library. This is just one t-i-n-y fraction of all the books in my house, but I see these shelves every day when I’m at work in my home office (another luxury I’m grateful for).”

And with that, the 2018 Gratitude Photo Challenge is a wrap.

What are you grateful for today?

Announcement

Homeward Bound (Again) and Catching Happiness Housekeeping

November 26, 2018


Today I’m on my way home from California where I attended my father’s memorial service and spent Thanksgiving with my stepmom. We’re all doing as well as can be expected.

For the past two months, life has been anything but normal and I’m sorry it has affected my posting schedule. The November edition of the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter will be delayed, but will hit your inboxes sometime this week. (If you’re not already a subscriber and you want to be, click here.)

Thanks for your patience and support! Posting should go back to normal soon. 

Attitudes

Drop Your Burdens

November 23, 2018


“After all, a vacation is not a matter of place or time. We can take a wonderful vacation in spirit, even though we are obliged to stay at home, if we will only drop our burdens from our minds for a while. But no amount of travel will give us rest and recreation if we carry our work and worries with us.”
—Laura Ingalls Wilder



Everyday adventures

A Picture Is Worth...

November 19, 2018


Instead of talking your ear off, today’s post is going to be a round up of some of my favorite photos from Paris:

The Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier):





The Eiffel Tower:






The Seine by day and night:




Luxembourg Gardens:







Random favorites:









Oh, Paris…you are so lovely. Merci for sharing your simple pleasures and everyday adventures with me!

That wraps up the Paris part of the trip. But wait, there’s more! Still to come, Le Vieux Couvent and the Lot region of France. 


Cluny Museum

Field Trip Friday: Two Paris Museums That Aren’t the Louvre

November 16, 2018

Today I’d like to share information and photos from two Paris museums which are not the Louvre, but held a special attraction for me. Both are much smaller and less overwhelming than the Louvre, and are worth a visit if you have the time and inclination.

First up, the Cluny Museum, also known as the Musee National du Moyen Age. When I was researching Paris, I came upon the description of some tapestries, known as the “The Lady and the Unicorn,” housed in the Cluny Museum. I’m not generally interested in tapestries, but for some reason these intrigued me and though I didn’t know if I’d have time to visit the Cluny, I tucked away the information for future reference. 

As luck would have it, our workshop hotel (Hotel Mercure—no affiliation), was just a couple of blocks from the Cluny. Since we had a free afternoon on check-in day that just happened to be the first Sunday of the month, when museum admissions all over Paris are free, we joined the crowds moving through the exhibits. 

In addition to the tapestries, the Cluny houses a collection of French medieval art, as well as the ruins of a second-century Roman bath. There is also a “medieval” garden you can visit without museum admission, laid out with plants pictured in the famous tapestries.

The sixth tapestry

The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are considered some of the greatest surviving artifacts from the Middle Ages—the “Mona Lisa of tapestry art.” According to the Jean-Patrice Boudet’s “The Lady and the Unicorn” brochure, they are generally thought to have been created in the last two decades of the 15th century, somewhere in Northern France, Brabant, Flanders, or the Netherlands. Intricately and beautifully woven with gorgeous patterns, the series of six tapestries depicts a lady introducing a unicorn to the five senses, plus a possible sixth sense, according to the information card in the museum. The meaning behind the tapestries is somewhat of a mystery—is the sixth sense courtly love, Christian charity, or the intellect? Or something else altogether? No matter—the tapestries are charming and I loved them. (To learn more, there’s a short Rick Steves’ video about the tapestries here.) 

Musee National Eugene Delacroix
Before we left for Paris, I had been reading the Journal of Eugene Delacroix. In addition to being one of the greatest French painters of the Romantic era, Delacroix was an interesting man, and quite thoughtful about life and his painting. Some of his most famous works, including Liberty Leading the People, hang in the Louvre, and he is also known for his murals in the Chapelle des Anges in Saint-Suplice church.

I’m incurably nosy about seeing where artists and writers do their work, so I hoped that I’d be able to visit this museum, which consists of the apartment he lived in from 1857 until his death in 1863, his studio, and a small, private garden. Once more, luck was on my side, and we were also within walking distance of this museum.

The entrance was tucked away in the corner of a quiet square, the Place de Furstenberg, and we almost missed it. His apartment was an example typical Parisian architecture of the late 18th century, and his large, bright studio was built to his specifications. The dimensions of the studio surprised me, but shouldn’t have because of the size and scale of some of his work.

The entrance

Stairs leading to his apartment


Monsieur Delacroix
The best part was the garden, which is hidden from the street, hidden behind the apartment and studio. Laure and I sat and sketched there until we had to return to the hotel to meet the rest of the group. The time we spent in this oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of bustling Paris was one of my favorite experiences of the whole trip.

Stairs down to the garden


The garden, facing Delacroix's studio

No matter what your interests, there is something in Paris for you. Have you been to Paris? What were your favorite experiences? 

My sketch from the Delacroix museum garden

Everyday adventures

Let's Go to Paris!

November 12, 2018


Paris was, in a word, fantastique!

I’ve been to Paris before, but it was always a brief stop on my way someplace else. This time, I spent 12 full days exploring what the city has to offer.

It wasn’t nearly long enough.

Paris is huge, noisy, busy, a city layered with history and culture—and while I was there, a city of brilliant blue skies and mellow light that glowingly illuminated the stone buildings. We had nearly perfect weather, and I can’t help wondering if my impressions would have been different if it had been cold and gray. I feel lucky to have seen Paris at her fall best—lit up by the sun, the trees just beginning to change, with blooming flowers everywhere. Oh, I miss it.

Today I’ll share just a few photos and impressions, because I’m still sorting through my journal and photos (and thoughts). I feel like someone picked me up, shook me vigorously, and returned me to earth, everything still whirling around inside my head. Paris feels like a million years ago, even though it’s only been a little more than a month (already?) since we touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport.

The adventure begins


Laure Ferlita, of The Imaginary Realm and Painted Thoughts blog, and I flew to Paris a few days before her watercolor workshop started. A third friend (hi, Claire!) joined us, and we rented an apartment through Airbnb for the days before we met the rest of the group. That worked beautifully for us, and our apartment host was outstanding (hi, Helen!). If you will be spending more than a few days in Paris, renting an apartment is a fun option. It’s generally cheaper than a Paris hotel, and you get more of a flavor of what it’s like to live in Paris.

Some highlights from our first days included:

The most delicious savory crepe I’ve ever tasted from a little restaurant we randomly chose on our way to the metro station our first morning. It was good, but is there anything as delicious as your first hot meal and cup of coffee when you’ve traveled to a new place and you’re really hungry?


Exploring Rue Cler, a popular market street.  We enjoyed people watching as much as we enjoyed the shops and restaurants. I spent a bundle on tea at Mariage Freres. I’m drinking a cup of Paris Earl Grey as I type this. A highlight for me was a cup of coffee, a buffalo mozzarella flatbread pizza, and sketching at Café Central.




Everywhere we walked, we came upon architecture and details that caught our eyes:




In addition to the larger and more famous parks like the Luxembourg Gardens or the Tuileries, pretty little parks are everywhere—pockets of quiet green-ness in a noisy world:



And, of course, many boulangeries and patisseries where we snapped photos and sampled the baked goods. Heaven!


The adventure will continue...

Stay tuned for more photos and posts about my favorite places in Paris, as well as in our second location, Le Vieux Couvent in Frayssinet. 


The Highest Highs, the Lowest Lows

November 05, 2018

I know you’re waiting to hear about France, and I’m eager to share—my three weeks there were some of the most interesting and exciting of my life. But first I have to share some sad news from my family in California. Shortly after I returned home, my father was hospitalized, and he passed away last week. His health has been declining for some time, but it still took us by surprise. The memorial service is set for later in the month, partly to allow me to have a little time at home before I have to fly out again.

Last week was tough in other ways. I got sick two days after getting home, and I moved Tank to his new barn where he’s still adjusting to his surroundings. I’m finally feeling better, and I hope to get back to working on my trip journal, photos, and sketchbook this week. Thank you for your patience understanding while I put myself back together.


Happiness

Find the Road to Happiness

October 26, 2018


Photo by Ugne Vasyliute on Unsplash

“People can hate on you for doing what it is that makes you happy, but ultimately, it has to belong to you. It shouldn't matter what anyone else thinks. Life is not easy. The road to happiness is not a path well trotted. You have to find your own path to enlightenment.
—Jamie Campbell Bower


Look for my travel writing here