June 29, 2018

 “We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness….”
—Tom Waits


“Happiness Is a Warm Puppy”*

June 22, 2018

Today is Take Your Dog to Work Day, and while I tried to convince my husband to take Luna to the office with him, he declined. Since I work at home, every day is Take Your Dog to Work Day for me, and while that has its drawbacks, overall I love being able to take a break for cuddle time with either Luna or Prudy, my other fuzzy office mate.

For many, myself included, pets are a lasting source of happiness and simple pleasures. In honor of the dog in my life, here are a few quotes about how dogs and happiness:

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.”
—Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

“When we adopt a dog or any pet, we know it is going to end with us having to say goodbye, but we still do it. And we do it for a very good reason: They bring so much joy and optimism and happiness. They attack every moment of every day with that attitude.”
—W. Bruce Cameron

“Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What's one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully.”
—Jon Katz

“My idea of absolute happiness is to be in bed on a rainy day, with my blankie, my cat, and my dog.”
—Anne Lamott

(Sounds good to me!)

“Because of the dog's joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born.”
—Mary Oliver

Happy Friday, everyone—and if you have a dog, cat, or other animal companion, give them a little extra love today.

*Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts

Summer Rerun--Artful Living: Applying the Five E's

June 18, 2018

Now and then I dip into the Catching Happiness archives and share a post from the past. I hope you enjoy this one, from 2012. 

Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion, Athens

I recently completed Laure Ferlita’s online art class, An Imaginary Trip to Greece, an experience that qualifies as both a simple pleasure and an everyday adventure. One of the main focuses of her classes is learning how to quickly capture a scene on location where conditions can change quickly, you can be interrupted, etc. One tool Laure stresses in class is the “five E’s”—concepts that help us figure out what we want to sketch and how we can make each sketch uniquely our own. The Five E’s are: Evaluate, Eliminate, Edit, Exaggerate, and Embellish. Always on the lookout for principles that could be useful in living a happier, more artful life, it occurs to me that the five E’s could be quite useful:

Evaluate. Just as an artist evaluates his or her subject to find its most pleasing aspect or determine what is sketchable in the time available, you can evaluate your life to see how it's running. What feels good and bad, how you’re measuring up to your standards, how you’re progressing toward your goals. Taking stock of the who, what, when, where and why of life. In stopping to evaluate, you bring awareness to your life instead of drifting (or charging) around mindlessly.

Eliminate. On location, once you’ve chosen your subject, you want to eliminate anything that doesn’t significantly add to the sketch. You simply won’t have time to get every detail down on paper, so choose your details wisely. In the same way, life is short! After you evaluate it, you might decide you have some things to get rid of. Maybe literally, like that closet of items you want to donate to charity or a stack of old magazines and catalogs you’ll never get around to reading. Maybe it’s a chore or other commitment that has outlived its usefulness. It might even be a person who drags you down every time you’re together. What can you get rid of to make your life better?

Edit. In sketching and life, once you’ve decided what you want to focus on and what you want to eliminate, what’s left? Maybe you don’t want to eliminate something all together, but you can pare it down or simplify it.

Exaggerate. In class, Laure advises students to “use your creative license to exaggerate the elements to make it a great piece of art.” In sketching, that might mean darkening the values, or adjusting the direction of the light hitting your subject to make a more interesting composition. To translate this into life, choose to focus on, encourage and support the positive.

Embelish. The fun part! In art, this is where you add your own style to your sketch. In life, this is where you find ways to make it more beautiful—buy the fresh flowers, eat the chocolate, go see that movie, play, concert or sporting event that interests you. Life should be more than a list of chores and responsibilities.

Just as Laure’s five E’s make sketching on location easier and more fun by giving me a framework to help me choose a subject and execute a sketch, using the five E’s as a framework for living helps me feel like an artist in my own life. (And thank you to Laure for introducing me to these principles in art and in life!)

Do you have any principles that help you lead a happier, more artful life?


Happiness Is Like a Cat

June 15, 2018

“Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you'll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.”
—William Bennett


Summer Reading List 2018

June 11, 2018

I’m feeling a bit bookish, how about you? Watching the premier episode of The Great American Read reminded me of just how much reading and books have meant to me, and how passionate readers are about their favorites. Plus I’ve been inspired by blogging friends who’ve posted their own summer reading lists: Leanne Sowul has an ambitious list of 37 books on hers! And Danielle Torres has a cool theme for her summer reading. Check it out here.

Me, I’m all over the place. I want to read All The Books. I’ve chosen quite a few from my groaning TBR shelf, and a few from the running list I keep in my planner.  I know I won’t read them all, but that’s OK.  I love the process of choosing books to read. Thinking about reading is almost as fun as actually reading.

The first two books come from the Great American Read list of 100 novels: The Giver, by Lois Lowry and The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m not sure I’m up for this chunk of a book, but maybe. Or maybe I’ll woman up and choose War and Peace?  

I’m very intrigued by Circe, by Madeline Miller. 

Blandings Castle, by P.G. Wodehouse. Sometimes I just need a little Wodehouse. (I was disappointed to see none of his novels made the list for the Great American Read.) 

Starting to prepare for Paris in the fall with these possibilities: 

The Light of Paris, by Eleanor Brown. This one is waiting for me at the library as I type. Thanks to Danielle for the recommendation.

The Little Pleasures of Paris, by Leslie Jonath.

Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide, by Jessie Kanelos Weiner. I’m already reading this charming little book.

Speaking of Paris, I should be practicing my drawing and painting prior to the trip. Am I? No, I am not. Maybe one of these books will jump start my practice:

Keys to Drawing, by Bert Dodson.

The New Creative Artist, by Nita Leland

How about a peek into someone else’s life? I have the Journal of Eugene Delacroix on my shelves, as well as Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden.

Surviving Your Dog’s Adolescence, by Carol Benjamin. Because Luna.

Upstream, by Mary Oliver. I love her poetry, and look forward to reading this collection of essays.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Leport. Because now I have a thing for Wonder Woman.   

Queen of Bebop: The Musical Lives of Sarah Vaughan, by Elaine M. Hayes One of my favorite jazz singers

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club. by Gil McNeil. Because it’s been on my TBR list for years!

A collection of short stories: either by Eudora Welty (I have a collection on my TBR stack at home), Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors, Edith Pearlman’s Honeydew, or Ellen Gilchrist’s Acts of God.

These are the books I feel like reading now—and that list is likely to change over the summer as new books catch my eye. Will I find a new favorite author or will one of these books rate as a “best read” for 2018? I can’t wait to find out.

What will you read this summer?

Best Friends Day

Celebrating the Simple Pleasure of Friendship

June 08, 2018

“Close friends contribute to our personal growth. They also contribute to our personal pleasure, making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder
because they are there.”
—Judith Viorst

June 8 is Best Friends Day—let’s celebrate the people who bring so much happiness and pleasure to our lives!


Why I'm Not Making a Summer Fun List This Year

June 04, 2018

Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

Those of you who know me know I hate summer in Florida. It’s too hot and humid to enjoy being outside, and those conditions drain my energy and kill any desire I might have to get things done. Unfortunately, the need to get things done doesn’t go away with the advent of summer conditions. Every year, I tell myself I’m not going to complain (much) about the weather, and I am going to plan fun things to look forward to during the hottest, stickiest months. (You can read about previous summer fun lists here and here. Last year I was deep in the redesign of Catching Happiness and didn’t make a list—instead, I asked friends to share their favorite summer pleasures.)

This year, I’d planned to make a summer fun list again, but I’ve been struggling to come up with anything that sounded like fun.

Yes, I can make a struggle out of having fun.

Then I realized that part of the problem was that I was making a list of things to do. If you were already fighting an energy drain, would you want to pile more things to do upon yourself, even for the sake of “fun”? Probably not.

What will make me happy this summer? To have more time to relax and do nothing (or very little). What that translates to for me is: time to read a book on the couch in the afternoon, time to play with Luna in the pool, time to sit in my rocking chair and daydream, even time to putter around my house tidying up the inevitable messes that materialize here and there. (It makes me happy to have a pretty and tidy home.)

In 2018, I’ve been busier with freelance work than I’ve been in a long time (for which I’m very, very grateful), as well as training and supervising Luna, which means I’m stuffing other necessary and pleasurable activities into a smaller box of time. It feels like every moment of my day is full, and there’s a waiting list for my time and attention. So this summer, I want to rush less and savor more, to float rather than dog paddle

I’m looking for an easy, relaxed feeling this summer (flow!), not to cram it full of more things to DO. I’m still experimenting with not over-planning my schedule after my mini-breakdown in March. 

Does this make me a slacker? No, it does not. My summer fun list doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s in order for it to be right for me. And neither does yours. I don’t want to run around a lot, but maybe you do. Maybe you’ve been cooped up all winter and you’re ready for adventures! Maybe you still have kids at home who’ll drive you insane if you don’t get them out of the house to do something. I remember those years.

Sure, a movie or a museum visit with a friend will be most welcome, and I’ll likely create a summer reading list since I haven’t done one for a couple of years…and that couch is beckoning. Beyond that, I don’t think I want to commit to doing anything else!

For me this summer, that feels right.

Tell me about your summer fun plans. What will you do—or not do?


Play Beckons

June 01, 2018

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

“Why is play so elusive for some grown-ups? Because we are so strongly attracted and attached to a profoundly goal-oriented, work-ethic-driven society. Like other forms of nonwork, play connotes wastefulness, a stoppage in the way of what needs to get done. Yet often what really needs to get done has more to do with our hearts and spirits and less to do with a deadline or longstanding project. Play beckons to us, urging us to live in the present moment, a moment that becomes more luminous when we disallow interruptions like work and worry.”
—Leslie Levine, Ice Cream for Breakfast

How will you play today?