Keep This in Mind When Setting Goals

February 23, 2024

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

“The way we think about growth often has us laser-focused on the end goal. Yes, we might be aware of the steps that it takes to get what we want, but we think about grinding our way through them in lieu of a process we actually enjoy. When you think about your goals, take into consideration not only the objective itself but the journey of reaching it. Ask yourself: Will I like the ways that I’ll change along this path? Do I like the process of learning, of supporting others, of working with new people? Reflection can help you get clear on why you’re prioritizing certain goals and if they’re really representative of the life you want for yourself.”

—Isabelle Eyman, “We Can’t Be Productive Every Day—So Why Do We Continue to Glorify It?”


Catching Happiness Is 10 Years Old!

November 08, 2019

 Ten years ago Monday I pressed Publish on my very first blog post.

Since then, a post has gone live on Catching Happiness 1,095 times, including today. That’s a lot of words!

Over the course of that 10 years, I redesigned the blog’s appearance (see image below), and started a newsletter. I read hundreds of books, lost animals and people I loved, welcomed a new puppy, burned through a laptop, watched my son grow up and leave home, restarted my career as a freelance writer and editor, and traveled to some amazing places. Basically I experienced what anyone of my generation experienced as they moved through this particular stage of life; I just chose to share a bit of it publicly.

Original Catching Happiness header

Little old Scout

I’ve also shared information on positive psychology, the Danish practice of hygge (which seems to be everywhere now!), written many posts about books and reading (possibly my favorite simple pleasure), and even shared my love of a frosty shake known as a Black Cow. None of my posts ever “went viral,” and by far the most viewed post has been “Happiness A to Z—26 Things That Make Me Happy.” 

Baby Prudy

Baby Luna

What’s next?

I am so grateful for all your kind comments through the years. I’ve made many online friendships through Catching Happiness, and through reading other people’s blogs. It’s been a fantastic experience and I’ve met with nothing but kindness and friendship. Not everyone can say that of their online experiences.

But it’s time for things to change. What started out as a way for me to explore a more personal style of writing grew into a project that has consumed many of my hours. It’s been a labor of love and I don’t regret one minute of it, but as I’ve taken on more freelance work over the past two years I now have less time to spend on Catching Happiness. I don’t want to say goodbye…but I also feel like I’ve said just about all I have to say about simple pleasures and everyday adventures!

Tank and friend

Previously I’ve tried to stick to a twice-a-week schedule, except when taking a deliberate break from blogging, but I’m not going to hold myself to that going forward. I’ll only post when I feel like I have something special to share—when inspiration strikes. It may be once a week, or it may be less frequently. I’m not sure yet what my posting will ultimately look like. I’m also going to look into assembling a “Best of” compilation of my favorite posts, possibly for sale as an ebook.

Staying in touch

If you subscribe to posts (see the sign-up info on the right side of the page), you’ll always know when something new is published. You can also follow Catching Happiness on a feed reader like (basic version is free, and I have no affiliation with them). I’m planning to continue the Happy Little Thoughts newsletter for the rest of 2019, but I may discontinue it in 2020—I haven’t decided.  

If you want to stay in touch between posts, you can always connect with me through email or social media. Click here for more information about that. 

Thank you all for 10 years of friendship, growth, happiness, and, of course, simple pleasures and everyday adventures!


Five Lasting Ways Travel Can Affect You

October 21, 2019

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
—Henry Miller

As I was pressing Publish on last Monday’s “Simple Pleasures—Art and Flowers on the Maine Midcoast,” I realized that I’ve been sharing what I enjoyed on our trip to New Hampshire and Maine without sharing how those places and experiences affected me—and have continued to affect me, even now that I’ve been home for a couple of weeks. 

Aside from the relaxation and fun of the actual trip, I’ve found most trips leave traces behind: lasting effects on my happiness, a deepening of my understanding of the world around me, and even sometimes a change in how I live. Here are five ways travel affects me once I return home:

Spurs curiosity

Traveling reveals just how much I don’t know about the world. I often don’t know how things work in a new place, occasionally I don’t speak the language, and can easily find myself in a position of vulnerability. Excellent for reminding me that I don’t know it all, and that there are many ways to live and many reasons for doing things a certain way. It’s a perfect opportunity to be quiet and observe, and to ask questions.

I often come home wanting to learn about something I saw or experienced on vacation, also. Since I love to read, some of our excursions have been to authors’ homes, inspiring me to read or reread their work. Seeing one of Robert Frost’s homes has made me pull out a collection of his poetry I haven’t looked at for years. Visiting Mark Twain’s home in Connecticut spurred my interest in his writing, including his doorstop-sized autobiography.

I love exploring natural places and gardens, and wonder about various plants we see—what are they? Will they grow in Florida?

Encourages exercise

There’s nothing like a hilly hike the first day out to bring to your attention that your job is sedentary, and frankly, my dear, you’ve let that exercise program slide. Most of my trips involve exploring, whether it’s the hills of San Francisco, the city streets of Paris, or the hiking trails in New Hampshire. Exploring on foot is great…so long as your body can take it. Our recent trip was a big wake-up call—I need to make some changes to my fitness routine. In other words, I need to get back into having a fitness routine.

Rekindles creative drive

I almost always come home wanting to sketch more, take more photographs, write poetry, or add more creative flourishes to my non-fiction writing. Travel refills my creative well. This time, I came home wanting desperately to make something beautiful. (Maybe because we saw so much beauty?) Much of my writing work is service-oriented, which I love, but it isn’t necessarily beautiful. I need to find an outlet for that part of me that wants to make things pretty (see below).

Inspires us to add beauty to everyday life

A trip to England many years ago ignited a desire to plant flowers for cutting and grow pretty window boxes. I very much enjoyed aperitif in France, though without having someone to prepare it for me, I haven’t had much luck in instituting the practice. I even enjoy watching how people dress—as a work-at-home writer, I most often wear shorts or yoga pants and a t-shirt, so my fashion sense is, shall we say, stunted.

Aperitif at Le Vieux Couvent

Breaks the chain of bad habits

At home, I watch too much TV, eat too many unhealthy snacks, and get lazy about various life maintenance tasks. When I’m on a trip, life is distilled down to its essence. I have a bare minimum of things with me, and my to-do list becomes very short and sweet. I have time for the things I enjoy most. Suddenly reruns of Castle hold no appeal and I’m too busy doing something interesting to snack mindlessly. When I’m not actively exploring, I read, write in my journal, or sketch.

After I return home, I usually have a burst of energy and good intentions. At least for a while, my bad habits are reduced. The trick is holding on to good intentions, making better habits easier than falling back into the old bad habits. I haven’t entirely licked this problem, but I’m working on it.

Life is short, but it is wide, as the saying goes. There are so many good and interesting things in the world, so many simple pleasures and everyday adventures to discover—and traveling reminds me to look for those things, and incorporate them into daily life after I’m home.

What lasting traces do your travels leave behind?


A Tank Update

February 18, 2019

Today is my horse Tank’s 24th birthday! As a registered American Quarter Horse, he “officially” turns a year older on Jan. 1, but I still celebrate his actual birthday—or foal date, as it’s known in the horse world.

As you may remember, back in November I moved him to a new boarding barn. This was wrenching for me, and I was worried about how he’d handle the change. We’d been at our old boarding barn for all of our 15 years together. Happily, he’s done very well overall.

The new barn was still under construction when we moved, but it was completed enough for the horses to move in about a week ago. It’s a big, airy space (and smells like new wood). Tank seems to really like his new stall.

Especially the way it tastes. (Face palm.)

We’ve faced a few challenges since the move—he developed a case of hives, and then a painful hoof abscess—both things have happened before and aren’t related to his new home. I’m also still trying to develop a routine of care and exercise for him. Most recently, though, he spooked one day while I was riding him and threw me. I pulled muscles I didn’t know I had trying to stay on, but I wasn’t seriously hurt. (Apparently there were horse-eating monsters in the woods bordering the field in which we were riding!)

Tank’s new schedule will involve being stalled part of the time and being turned out into various paddocks the rest of the time. He’s still getting used to being turned out in different areas with different horses nearby—he makes it clear he DOES NOT like being the first one turned out or brought in!

All this adjustment to different conditions can be hard on a horse, just like change can be hard for most people, myself included. I try to help him by going to see him as often as possible and not making any other changes in his management.

And while it may feel uncomfortable at first, change can also be beneficial. For horses, it can provide new stimulation and learning opportunities. For humans, change helps us be more flexible and creative. And, really, we’d become bored if nothing ever changed.

I’m trying to make the best of the recent changes in my life, and Tank is, too (I assume. He seems like he’s trying to understand what’s happening, and communicate his feelings about it!) Eventually, these changes will become the new normal…and then any further changes may feel uncomfortable! 

What changes have you experienced recently? How have you been coping?


Under (Re)construction

May 19, 2017

I’m in the midst of a redesign and update of Catching Happiness, so it might be a little quieter than usual here for the next week or two, depending on how smoothly the transition takes place, and you know how that goes! I’m excited about the changes, and hope you’ll love the new features, which will include a whole new look, a monthly newsletter, and a special sign up bonus for anyone who joins my brand new mailing list.

I’ll be back to sharing simple pleasures and everyday adventures with you soon!


The Discomfort Zone

December 16, 2016

I indulge in the comforts of life—comfort food, comfort reads, comfortable routines—at least as much as the next person. But I must admit that dis-comfort has also played an important and positive role in my life. As much as I hate to admit it, discomfort does more to help me towards my best life than comfort does.

Why is discomfort important? Discomfort prompts us to change. It’s a sign that something is wrong or needs attention. If things are great as they are, why would you want or need to change? It’s that restless, edgy, something’s-not-quite-right feeling that spurs us on to better things.

For example, when I become uncomfortable in my body, I increase my exercise and monitor my eating if it’s my weight that’s bothering me. If I’m exhausted, I get more sleep, and if I’m hurting, I make appointments with professionals who can help me feel better. When the mess in my office becomes uncomfortable, it’s time to go through the paper piles (see photo!). Most recently I’ve become uncomfortable with the amount of stuff in my house. I’m not a minimalist (or a hoarder), but my belongings are weighing on me rather than bringing me joy and comfort. I’ve tipped over the edge of enough into too much. Discomfort will help me pare away the “too much” and reach the “just right.”

Sometimes I’ll notice that nagging feeling of discomfort around my behavior. I’ll say or do something and wonder later what I was thinking. Or I’ll hear myself talking griping about a situation to a friend or my husband, and realize there’s something about it that’s getting under my skin. Often, this means it’s time to examine my motives, my needs, and my true desires. Do my actions match up with my stated goals? If not, time to change.

I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with being in our comfort zones…sometimes. If we were constantly uncomfortable, it would make for an unpleasant, unhappy life. Our comfort zones can be places to relax and recharge, places to regroup and ready ourselves for a return to the discomfort zone—because that’s where real growth takes place.

Is anything causing you discomfort right now? Does something need to change?


Like Flowing Water

September 28, 2016

Photo courtesy Ales Krivec

“If you leave a puddle of water standing for a few days, it will become poisonous and nasty, ridden with algae and bug larvae. On the other hand, you can get fresh, clean drinking water from a spring that has been running for a thousand years. People who refuse to change are stagnant and old by their twenties. People who actually pursue change are guaranteed to die young. They are like flowing water, forever refreshed and refreshing.”
—Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star


Small Changes Coming to Catching Happiness

November 20, 2015

After six years, it’s time for a change. This blog was never intended to make money (except in my wildest fantasies), and good thing, too, because it’s been a crashing failure in that regard. It was intended to be a creative outlet for me, and a way to make connections with other like-minded people. In that regard, it’s been a complete success. But now it’s time for me to put my primary writing focus elsewhere—on building my freelancing business. You may have noticed a couple of other changes as well: I’ve updated “About Me” and streamlined the sidebars. (Don’t worry if your blog was in my sidebar—I’ve added it to my feed reader and still plan to visit often!)

I love writing for Catching Happiness and will continue to post here, just not quite as often. My plan right now is to post once or twice a week instead of two to three times a week. I’ll continue to share simple pleasures and everyday adventures, as well as bits of happiness news and other happy little things. I still love to hear from you, so please share whatever is on your mind via the comments section, or by contacting me directly. Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment over these past years—your words mean more to me than you know.


First Change Inner Beliefs

July 08, 2015

“There is little sense in attempting to change external conditions, you must first change inner beliefs, then outer conditions will change accordingly.”
—Brian Adams

Amanda Stuermer

Why You Should Be Inspired Every Day

February 16, 2015

“Sustainable change is driven by inspiration, not shame.
—Jena La Flamme

Have you ever wanted to make a change in your life, or accomplish a significant goal? In what ways did you motivate yourself to do what you needed to do? Did you seek out inspiration and encouragement—or did you use shame and anxiety to prod yourself into action?

In the last two days, I’ve come across two different references to the importance of inspiration versus shame and/or anxiety in making change and accomplishing goals. The first instance is quoted above. How many times do we use shaming tactics to try to effect change? And how has that been workin’ for us? Not well, in my case. Browbeating myself about what I haven’t accomplished saps my will to do pretty much anything except surf Pinterest and eat M & Ms right out of the bag. It gets me nowhere on the road to my big dreams. 

I found the second reference in this piece, written by Amanda Stuermer, on Jennifer Louden’s blog (emphasis hers): “I believe we choose the direction of our days, and that choice begins with our first waking thoughts. If I wake up worrying how I will ever get my to-do list done, I will feel rushed and pressured the whole day through. My words, actions, and habits will reflect that sense of anxiety. If instead, I wake up grateful for the opportunity to pursue my passions, I will feel inspired and my words, actions, and habits will reflect that. I would so much rather that my character and my destiny be guided by inspiration than anxiety.”  

It seems that inspiration can help us both with lasting change and with how we go about our daily tasks. I want to be guided by inspiration, not anxiety or shame, and I’m guessing you do, too. So how do we make this shift? We can start by getting rid of comparisons and blame (of ourselves and others).  Instead of stewing about lost opportunities or mistakes, we can turn to words of inspiration or stories of people who have done the things we want to do. Instead of being frustrated by others’ perceived success (or our own perceived lack thereof), we can choose to be inspired by them, rather than depressed. I know from personal experience that this is not always easy. I can’t control who gets the breaks, but I can at least try to control my emotions if it’s not me.

We can also use the rhythms of the day to infuse inspiration into our lives. Rather than check email or social media (or, even worse, the news), begin the day with something that lifts us up, such as music, inspirational reading, meditation, a walk, or a few yoga poses. When we take a break during the day (and you are taking breaks, right?), use that time for further inspiration—flip through a magazine with beautiful images, get out in nature if possible. Even five minutes away from “to do” will help. At bedtime, we can turn off all our screens and end the day with the practice of writing down good things that have happened or what we are grateful for. Keeping our minds constantly tuned to what inspires us will help us through times of stress, struggle and change.

Inspiration looks different for everyone. Some of my sources of inspiration include the “Acoustic New Age” radio station on Pandora; my Pinterest boards Truth, Beautiful, and Isn’t That Cool?; blogs like Zen Habits , and inspirational speakers like Brendon Burchard.

What inspires you? Compile your own list of people, places, quotes, etc., you can use to inspire yourself every day—and please share in the comments section!

Inspired by paralympian Lauren Barwick


Me, Too

January 28, 2015

“Acceptance isn’t stagnation—you will change no matter what. You can’t avoid changing. The question is whether that change comes from a place of acceptance and love, or a place of self-dislike and dissatisfaction. I vote for unconditional love.”
—Leo Babauta


Getting Ready for What Comes Next--Beyond the Empty Nest

August 26, 2013

As you can imagine, the past few days—without our son—have been…different. Even though I looked forward to this day, planned for it, prepared for it, I underestimated the impact of that empty bedroom. That bedroom that still smells like him….

OK, enough of that.

For more than 19 years, Nick has been my first priority in most things, and suddenly—pfft—he’s gone. I’m not feeding, clothing or supervising him. Now if he sleeps in and misses class or lives like a slob in his dorm, I don’t have to do anything about it! It’s time to finish letting go, a process that started when he climbed, crying, out of the car to go to his first day of preschool.

Just as in any life transition, I expected a period of adjustment. Here are some things I’m finding helpful in my transition—you might also find them helpful during a transition of your own:
  • Scheduling things to look forward to—lunch with a friend, date night, a day off.  
  • Keeping busy with my normal routine, and even throwing in a few extra activities. That way I don’t have time to sit and mope.
  • Allowing myself to feel sad or lonely when those feelings come over me. I acknowledge my feelings, then let them go. Soon enough, more positive emotions replace these negative ones as I revel in not having so much responsibility for another person.
  • Not concentrating on the full scope of the change (he’s gone—maybe forever!), but enjoying the smaller, positive details (the kitchen is so clean after dinner!).
  • Talking with those who are going through or have recently gone through the same change, including my husband. I have several close friends whose children have left home for college, and I ran into a volunteer at my library bookstore who just took her daughter to college last week. We spent a few moments comparing what situations made us teary-eyed before wishing each other luck with the transition.

Like so many life changes, attitude makes a huge difference, and here I’m on solid ground. I’m mostly excited about what’s happening right now. I want my son to grow up and be on his own—that has always been my goal, and the fact that he is already quite independent is a credit to us. I’m looking forward to the extra time, emotional and physical energy I’ll be able to devote to other interests—to my husband, my writing, my horse, even my house. I’m choosing to see this as a time of exploration, adventure and rebirth. I’m eager to see what comes next.

What do you do to cope with the big transitions in life?


Happy Habits

March 01, 2013

Morning habit

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then,
is not an act, but a habit.”

“Good habits, once established, are just as hard
to break as are bad habits”
—Robert Fuller

“Motivation is what gets you started.
Habit is what keeps you going.”
—Jim Rohn

Habits—good ones—can be our best friends. Research studies have revealed that as much as 45 percent of what we do each day is habitual—done automatically almost without thinking about it, driven by cues such as a specific place or time of day, a series of actions, certain moods, or the company of specific people. (Do we feel the need for a snack while watching TV perhaps, or do we check email as soon as we come back from lunch?)

In the areas of my life that run smoothly, I’ve developed good habits: I have a regular exercise schedule and a system for completing household chores, for example. However, I also have habits that need to be reassessed, like when and how I access email and Pinterest, and new habits I’d like to build, like sketching 15 minutes a day. How can I begin to develop new good habits and change bad ones?

The first step is simply to begin…somewhere, somehow. Since I want to add sketching to my days, I can pull out the kitchen timer, set it for 15 minutes and choose a time of day I feel will be conducive to that activity. I may have to try different times of day until I find one that works. I’m usually pretty good at this getting-started stage—it’s the sticking to it that’s a problem for me.

And stick to it I must if I want to firmly establish a new habit, and not just for 21 days, as we’ve often heard. Apparently, “21-days-to-a-new-habit” is a myth. One study found that on average it took 66 days for a new habit to form (so if you’re instituting a New Year’s resolution, you should be prepared to keep at it until March 6 in order for it to become a habit). The time it took to form a habit depended on how difficult the habit was (drinking a glass of water as opposed to doing 50 sit-ups, for example) and the individual him/herself. It seems some people simply find it easier than others to form habits. (During the study, one person took just 18 days to form a habit, while another was forecast to do so after 254 days, long after the study had ended.)

What if I want to change a bad habit? I found an interesting little tidbit about that when I was reading up on habit research: “…habits are responses to needs. This sounds obvious, but countless efforts at habit change ignore its implications. If you eat badly, you might resolve to start eating well, but if you’re eating burgers and ice cream to feel comforted, relaxed and happy, trying to replace them with broccoli and carrot juice is like dealing with a leaky bathroom tap by repainting the kitchen. What’s required isn’t a better diet, but an alternative way to feel comforted and relaxed” (Oliver Burkeman, “This Column Will Change Your Life: How Long Does It Really Take to Change a Habit?” The Guardian).

When I check email or putter on Pinterest, I’m usually looking for a way to relax or (I admit it) I’m avoiding doing something I don’t really want to do. To relax, maybe I could try simply sitting in my rocking chair with my eyes closed and taking a few deep breaths. I can also schedule email checks at certain times of day, instead of randomly doing it when I’m trying to avoid another task. Pinterest or other internet wanderings can be used as rewards after I finish some work, and I can pull out that timer again so that I won’t be completely sucked into the internet abyss.

I think these are small steps towards developing new habits that I can actually stick with, but I’d love to hear from you. What new habits are you developing and how are you doing it? What old habits are you trying to break?


How to Change the World

September 26, 2012

“Am I going to change the world, or am I going to change me? Or maybe change the world a little bit, just by changing me?”
—Sarah (“Sadie”) Delany, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years


Slack Tide

July 30, 2012

Every life has a series of tides, times of transition and fluctuating circumstances. For example, as children grow up, a parent’s focus changes from the physical care of changing diapers and feeing babies to supervising homework, and on to grilling teenagers about where they’re going and who they will be with. Parenting is a series of ebbs and flows as children’s needs change from one day to the next. Marriages, friendships, jobs, hobbies and interests all have their own rhythms of ebb and flow.

I’ve been thinking about ebbs and flows as my son prepares for his senior year in high school. In most ways he requires little care, and can even be helpful. In others, we’ve had to tighten up certain rules and practices. We’ve also made it a point to spend as much time with him as possible (and as he will allow!) while he’s still at home. In a short time (God willing) he’ll be gone, and we’ll be faced with the complete ebb of our roles as parents.

While this is happening, I’m trying to shift my focus from household responsibilities to writing projects. I’m finding this hard to do because there’s no guarantee my writing projects will be successful (and they’re certainly not contributing to the family finances right at this moment) and it’s easy to see when the bathroom is clean, the laundry is done and dinner is on the table. The problem is, my writing projects will never be successful if they don’t get the time and attention they need to blossom. That time and attention has to come from somewhere, and I can’t (and don’t want to) give up all leisure time, so some household stuff is just going to have to take a backseat.

While I’m learning to cope with the ebbs and flows of life, I’ve found these principles helpful.

Pay attention. What you need, what your family and friends need from you, may—will!—change. Maybe instead of a nap you need a bike ride, or vice versa. Maybe your best friend needs a kick in the pants instead of a listening ear, or vice versa. What was soothing or energizing last month might not do the trick today. As a sailor studies tides, watch for changes in the current of your life.

Go with the flow. Don’t fight the current. Don’t get hung up on what you “should” do or “should” have or “should” want. If you feel strongly that the tide is taking you away from where you want to be, know that new tides will come. The ocean, and your life, is always moving, always changing. Down times give way to up times. Try to keep your head above water and watch for a break in the current. Fighting the tides will exhaust you and can be dangerous. Allow the current to take you. You might end up someplace wonderful.

Float when you get the chance. Slack water, or slack tide, is the moment that tidal current ceases. This occurs just before the tide turns and begins running the other direction. If you’ve been paying attention and going with the flow, you should be able to sense this change and float for a while before flowing off to who knows where. Relax, gather strength and look forward to what’s next. (That’s kind of where I feel I am now.)

Ocean tides are among the most reliable natural phenomena in the world. In life, we are sure to face times of ebb and flow, just like the ocean. How about you? What is flowing into your life? Out of it?

P.S. I’ve had a big uptick in spam lately, so I’m putting word verification on for at least a little while—sorry for the inconvenience!


Happy Little Changes

March 26, 2012

I’ve written here before about my dislike of change. However, in smaller matters, I do seem to like change, even seek it out. I’m frequently reading about ways to better organize my life, get more done and bring in more happiness.  

Recently, I’ve made several little changes that have made a happy difference in my life, and I thought you might be interested in them:

I began to actively manage my email. I have several email accounts for various reasons.  After reading the suggestion to “zero out your inbox,” I did just that with the one that gets the most messages. I read and discarded or printed emails, made email folders for some of the regular newsletters I receive and so on. Now, instead of being bombarded with 25 messages every time I open this account, I usually only have a few to deal with. I can easily see anything new or urgent. If I can’t deal with it immediately, I put it in the applicable folder and voila! Empty inbox. (And what a nice feeling that is.) I plan to do this with my other accounts, too.

I reorganized my recipes. Even though I’m not wild about cooking, my family has this pesky habit of wanting dinner every night. Despite the fact that I tend to make the same things over and over again, I had a huge collection of untried recipes as well as a big three-ring binder full of recipes we’ve tried and liked. My binder was old and tattered, and our tastes have changed, and clearly it was time to do something with this mess. I could never seem to find that new recipe I wanted to try when dinnertime rolled around. After seeing a couple of versions of recipe organization systems, I took an afternoon and evening to go through all my loose recipes, keeping the ones we either already like or definitely want to try, and throwing away all the rest.  Family favorites either went into page protectors or photo sleeves (depending on their size) and the untried recipes got tucked into a pocket divider at the beginning of the appropriate section of the new binder I found. I typed a master list of our favorite recipes and slipped it into the front of the binder as well.

Even though I don’t like cooking any better with this new system, at least I can find the recipes I want when it comes time to make them. (One thing I didn’t do that I wanted to was put the date on the untried recipes, and after six months or a year if I haven’t tried them, out they go. I’ll incorporate this with any new recipes I add.)


I stopped writing “Morning Pages”…and started writing them again. Ever since I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I’ve been writing “Morning Pages” every day (well, M-Fri.) Some days, that was the only actual writing I did. Day in, day out, three pages in long hand would pour (or dribble, depending on the day) into my composition notebooks. Every day began to sound the same (what I did yesterday, what I will do today…). I bored myself. I wasn’t getting the bubbling up of ideas I got when I first started writing Morning Pages, and frankly I was a little sick of them. So I quit writing them. Surprisingly, the Creative Police did not come and arrest me, and after a week or two, I found I missed them. I was at a loose end in the morning, drifting without anchor. One day I picked up my composition book again, and words poured forth. Now I’m back to writing Morning Pages most mornings, if not all.

I began Yoga Journal’s 21-Day Yoga Challenge, beginner level. Each day, I get an email with a link to a yoga routine and meditation, a challenge tip and a recipe (and yes, the Yoga Challenge has its own email folder). I’ve dabbled in yoga off and on for years, and wanted to add more yoga to my exercise routine because it makes me feel good. The longest video so far has been 35 minutes, so I’ve been able to fit them into my days fairly easily. Every morning I check the daily video to see how long it is and what time of day it would be best to do it—some of the routines are relaxing and some are invigorating. I’ve been surprised at exactly how difficult some of the poses and routines can be, even though they are labeled for beginners.

Finding a way to fit in an extra 15 to 30 minutes of exercise doesn’t seem like it would be too hard—but sometimes it is. I’ve figured out, though, that because it’s a “challenge,” I’ve taken it on as such, and really make an effort to do it every day. When I focus on getting it done, I find a way. (I’ve missed two days in the past two weeks.) I’m wondering what else I could “challenge” myself to do—maybe 15-30 minutes of extra writing every day? I think that’s doable!

None of these changes is anything very flashy or earth-shattering, but taken together, they’ve made my day-to-day life a little more pleasant.

What happy little changes have you made lately?


Out With the Old, In With the New

December 31, 2011

What is it about a pending new year that inspires so much hope and energy? I’ve just spent half an hour making a list of major areas of interest in my life and what activities and projects I want to tackle in each one. Looked at as one entity, it’s a pretty daunting list! But in my current frame of mind (which may last only until the reality of that list sets in), I feel like I can accomplish the whole darn thing. And that’s probably just because the old year is fading, the new year is on the horizon, all shiny and full of possibility, stretching ahead in series of gleaming hours as yet unfilled…surely this will be the year when I’ll accomplish xyz…

Before I get too carried away, however, I need to remember I don’t need to change everything, or expect to tackle my whole list the first couple weeks of the new year. (I say “I”—do you do the same thing?) I need to remember the principle of baby steps and approach all this with an attitude of love (not disgust that I’ve let my life become such a shambles!), acceptance, and patience.

The ending of an old year and the beginning of a new one is a natural time to take stock of one’s life, and maybe plan for some changes. Especially when we’ve just come through the holiday season, when the usual routine gets thrust aside and lives become a little messy. When the holidays are through, as they will be for most of us tomorrow, we’ll be faced with return to “regular” life, and all its attendant responsibilities. Those responsibilities can quickly fill up those shiny new days, leaving little time for the new list of goals I’m making right now. The trick is to blend the old with the new, letting some things fall away, being open to new processes and habits and not giving up altogether when I fall short of my ideal.

Do you get introspective about your life at the new year? What are some of your plans for 2012?


Making Change

October 31, 2011


Change is a small word packed with heavy meaning.

I hate change.

I think most people do. Which is funny, because life is all about change—our bodies constantly change on a cellular level—so we should be used to it by now. And, really, what we mean is we mostly don’t like change when something good and comfortable is involved. We are less likely to complain when something unpleasant ends or changes for the better, though I know some people hate change so much they mourn even that.

I just experienced a big change that on the surface appears negative: my two close barn buddies moved their horses to a different barn. This is a positive change for them (except, I flatter myself, that they will miss me), but not one I am willing or able to make at this time. Since they broke the news, I’ve alternately walked around with a knot in my stomach, cried, felt lonely and bereft, and tried very, very hard to find a bright side. I’ve returned to sayings and mantras that have helped me through stressful times before: “Let it happen. Let it go,” “Don’t cry because it ended. Smile because it happened” and so forth. I teeter from sorrow to hope that this change will bring me something good. Truthfully, I really need to spend less time at the barn. I have some major writing goals that I’ve been neglecting for far too long. Having dear friends at the barn causes me to spend more time than “necessary” to care for my horse (though I wouldn’t trade one single second of that “unnecessary” time) and I’ve worked my barn schedule so that I could meet up with them there, when perhaps a different schedule would enable me to get more work done, at least hypothetically.

This is an ending to one phase of my riding life, and the beginning of a new one. This change, though sad and unwanted on the surface, may turn out to benefit other areas of my life. This may be the boot in the breeches I need to make some necessary…changes.


How has change affected you and how have you handled it, whether it was wanted or unwanted?


Good-bye, Ladies.