Remember Fun?

July 07, 2023

Photo by Manda Hansen on Unsplash

This week, the U.S. celebrated the 4th of July with barbecues, fireworks (or drone shows), pool parties, etc.

How did my husband and I celebrate?

We ordered a new washer and dryer because ours is dying a noisy death.


(At least I didn’t clean the bathrooms, which is something I usually do on a Tuesday.)

Starved for fun

Despite “Fun” being one of my words of the year, I’ve been seriously starved for fun. Sheer, unadulterated, non-productive fun. For the past several years, between COVID restrictions, caregiving, loss, and grieving, I’m not sure I remember what I think fun is. 

I know I’m not the only one. Many of us are out of the habit of having fun. Part of it is stress and busyness, part of it is coping with the constant onslaught of terrible news and social media outrage. We’re tired and overwhelmed and sad. (Or is that just me?!) It feels like too much effort to do anything more demanding than sit on my couch and scroll Instagram while binge watching whatever show we’re currently into.

Isn’t it time I—we—had a bit more fun?

What IS fun, anyway?

I’m glad you asked. Different things are fun for different people, and the ways you have fun are totally OK. What’s fun for me might not be fun for you, and vice versa. I’m going to use a definition from Catherine Price’s book, The Power of Fun: “True Fun is the confluence of playfulness, connection, and flow.”  She goes on to say that the signs of true fun include: “laughter, a sense of release/freedom/letting go, feeling like you’re having a special, shared experience, losing track of time, feeling free from self-judgment and self-consciousness, feeling like you’ve temporarily ‘stepped out’ of normal life, being fully absorbed and present, not caring too much about the outcome, and a feeling of childlike excitement and joy, a positive boost in energy, feeling totally yourself.”

Wow, does that sound great.

Looking back, here are a few things I can point to as genuine fun:

Visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Attending the touring Broadway production of Six at my local performing arts center. 

Sitting with artsy friends at a table laden with art supplies, working on our travel sketchbooks.

Playing in the pool with my husband and our dog.

I didn’t list every possible fun experience, but I did have to work a little to find moments that fell into the definition of fun. While I’ve experienced many moments of pleasure, contentment, even quiet joy, I see that I haven’t been having a lot of fun. Even my summer fun list could be more FUN. Even though I want to do those things, they actually aren’t all specifically fun as defined above. 

But how do I have more fun?

How do I change this? I don’t want to turn fun into work, but I may need to push myself a little to get off my couch to investigate what might be fun for me. I’d like to expand beyond some of the activities I do all the time.

For one thing, I have been trying to add in weekly adventures, as described in Laura Vanderkam’s book Tranquility by Tuesday. Vanderkam encourages us to do at least two things that will be worth remembering each week—one little adventure (an hour or less) and one big adventure (one that takes a few hours). 

I’m going to follow my curiosity, and allow myself to look for opportunities to connect and play. I’m saying yes more often.

Fun is an antidote to the seriousness of life. Fun is a powerful contributor to happiness, as Price writes:

“That’s yet another power of fun: it produces happiness. More specifically, the pursuit of fun provides a blueprint for happiness by shifting our focus from an amorphous emotional state (I want to be happy) to an active experience (I want to have more fun). Given that we are invariably happy while having fun, the more fun we have, the happier we’re likely to be; the ingredients for fun are in many ways the ingredients for happiness, but with better instructions. Fun also helps us sneak up on happiness without scaring it away. In fact, one of the reasons that orienting our lives around fun may make us happier is that happiness isn’t the direct goal.”

That’s a good enough reason for me. Let’s go have some fun.

What do you find fun? Please share some of your fun favorites in the comments!

For more information on the importance of fun and joy:

The Power of Fun, Catherine Price 

Tranquility by Tuesday, Laura Vanderkam 

This Is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch, Tabitha Carvan


When Choosing One Word Isn’t Enough

January 20, 2023

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

The practice of choosing a word of the year is meaningful to me, probably because words are meaningful to me. Since 2010, I’ve chosen a one-word theme each year (except for 2013—I either didn’t choose one, or I didn’t write it down anywhere I can find it now). My word of the year is often something I aspire to (“flow”), or want to have more of (“delight”). I try to choose a word which will influence many areas of my life, one with layers of meaning I hope to discover over time. Some years I’ve found my word meaningful, while others I’ve barely thought of it, or it wound up being a mismatch for what the year turned out to hold (I’m looking at you, “Dare”/ 2021).

I also continue to incorporate previous years’ words in my life—I still try to work “deeper,” for example, and 2022’s “simpler” will continue to guide me for the foreseeable future.   

Life moves swiftly and is complicated, so having just one word/concept to guide me simplifies things when I’m making decisions or unsure of something. However, this year I couldn’t land on one word that resonated. I played with at least a dozen, until earlier this week, I realized 2023 needs three words.

1.      Flexible

As most of you know, I’m the main caregiver for my mother-in-law, Carol. At this point, she needs support more than actual physical care. I mostly coordinate with Hospice, manage her medications, and try to keep her supplied with foods she finds appealing. I’m able to leave the house when I need to, because mostly she takes care of herself (and our adult son is currently living with us and can keep a watchful eye on her). This situation could change at any time, and fast, so I don’t want to load myself with commitments and goals I might not be able to complete. I’m not actively seeking freelance work (though I’m still available!), but I have some writing projects I’ve been working on, off and on, for years, that have no deadlines. While this can sometimes be death to my productivity, this year, I appreciate the flexibility. I plan to use my writing time to explore them. (I’m hoping to spend more time with Catching Happiness, too.)  Which brings me to the word…

2.      Forward

Even before Carol’s health crisis, I’d been waffling about my way forward. Do I still want to write? If so, what types of writing do I want to do? If not, what meaningful work could I do instead? I don’t want a new career (I don’t think?!), but I still want to engage my mental faculties. I also want to earn money. I’ve been stuck for a while. I want to move forward.

3.      Fun

And last but not least, I want to have fun in 2023! The past three years have been decidedly un-fun. I want to be more proactive about finding and indulging in fun. I’ll write more about fun in future blog posts!

There you have them—2023’s words of the year: flexible, forward, and fun.

Do you have a word of the year? Please share in the comments below!

For more information on choosing your own word of the year:

Everyday adventures

Field Trip Friday—The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

December 09, 2022

Welcome to Hogwarts 

Every now and then, you have to leave the real world behind and have a little fun. That’s what I did on Tuesday with my friend Mary. Ever since The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Studios Florida, we’ve wanted to go check it out. But we’re Muggles with jobs and responsibilities and busy schedules, so this was easier desired than done. Finally, Mary took the initiative and chose a week she could make work, and after some back-and-forth, we found a day we were both free. If there’s one life lesson that keeps slapping me in the face, it’s “If you want to do something, don’t wait—there may come a time when you won’t be able to do it and you’ll live with regret.”

So off to Harry Potter World we went.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually split into two parts—one section, Diagon Alley, in Universal Studios Florida and one section, Hogsmeade, in Islands of Adventure. Pause here to admire the marketing genius of Universal Resorts: if you want to see the entirety of Harry Potter World, you have to buy a Park-to-Park ticket. Fortunately, they also offer ticket deals for Florida residents, and while the entrance fee was not cheap, it was doable. I also think if you’re a Harry Potter fan, it’s worth it to spring for the entire experience.

Diagon Alley

Hidden behind the London waterfront, is Diagon Alley.  Before you even enter the area, you can see the the Knight Bus (which in the books, picks up stranded witches and wizards), and 12 Grimmauld Place, the ancestral home of Sirius Black’s family, and the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. I missed this, but apparently house elf Kreacher looks out of an upstairs window every few minutes.

Once you enter Diagon Alley, you’ll find in adorable detail many of the locations made famous in the books and movies, including Gringotts Bank (topped by a fire-breathing dragon, see below), Ollivander’s wand shop (“Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC”), and the Leaky Cauldron (a restaurant). In one shop, you can trade U.S. currency for Gringotts bank notes, which you can use to buy things in the Wizarding World as well as a few select places in Universal Orlando.

We strolled through Knockturn Alley, the “seedy underbelly” of the wizarding world—dark and spooky, anchored by the shop Borgin and Burkes—just the place to go if you want to get out of the hot Florida sun while you search for objects of magical properties.

Before leaving Diagon Alley, we rode Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (fun) and, yes, we drank a butterbeer.

All aboard the Hogwarts Express

To get from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade, we boarded the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station. From Platform 9 ¾, of course. The short train ride left us on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, which, amazingly in sunny Florida, retained snow-capped roofs.

Hogsmeade nestles up against Hogwarts Castle, where we walked through the passageways of the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry before joining Harry and his friends for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a “scenic dark ride” where, among other things, you follow Harry through a Quidditch game and escape from the Whomping Willow.  

In Hogsmeade, we also braved Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which was a true roller coaster, and left us screaming and laughing…and staggering a little since it was a bit more exciting than we were expecting!

To recover, we went to sweet shop Honeydukes, where I bought a chocolate frog and some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.

My friend and I had a fantastic time exploring Harry’s world, and there were so many things to see and do that I would be happy to go back. I loved seeing kids and even some adults dressed in Hogwarts’ robes—it was so fun to feel immersed in a magical world for just a day.

Harry Potter magic

I have really fond memories of reading the Harry Potter books to our son and later, going to see the movies as a family. For me, forgive the pun, the series has been magical. As the series progressed and our son grew up, eventually I was reading the books just for myself! In fact, I preordered the last in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and read it over the course of a day or two when it was released because I didn’t want anyone to tell me how it ended. The first and last time I’ve ever done that.

Hope you’ve enjoyed a peek into the magical world of Harry Potter—and that the next time an opportunity for some silly fun comes your way, you take it!

When was the last time you had a fun and silly everyday adventure?


Summer Fun 2021

May 28, 2021

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

It’s almost that time of year again. Summer. Some of my favorite bloggers are designing their ideal summers and creating Summer Fun Lists. Most people are looking forward to summer and are eager for the longer, warmer days to arrive.

Bah humbug.

I have mixed emotions about summer and creating a summer fun list. On the one hand, I’m all for planning for fun. On the other, I no longer get a scheduled summer vacation and I live in Florida where summer is one long procession of hot, humid days with the occasional hurricane thrown in for variety…let’s just say that summer is not my favorite.

In addition, historically I’ve had mixed results creating and fulfilling my summer fun list. I think it’s great in theory, but what it has turned into is a list of things that don’t get done that consequently makes me feel like I’m failing at the fun part of life.

I don’t want to give up on the idea altogether, though. The point of having a summer fun list is to have something to look forward to, as well as something to look back on. Too often, we allow life to drift by, filling our hours with work and chores and responsibilities and we forget to have fun.

Since Florida summers prostrate me (see above: heat, humidity, hurricanes), this year I’m going to make a super short and sweet list. Micro fun, if you please.

  • Have an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins (many of my happy growing-up memories revolve around B & R, as we fondly called it)
  • Read and/or write at a café (now that I’m vaccinated)
  • Create and read from a summer reading list (post to come)
  • Get together with friends I haven’t seen in more than a year, because, well, you know…

This has got to be one of the most pathetic summer fun lists ever, but I’m hoping that if I loosen my grip on trying to have fun, I’ll actually have more. Who knows? It’s a work in progress.

I think what’s important here is that we do make plans for fun, but we also allow for differences in life stages, personal preferences and situations. Summer, for me, is not the time to push myself too hard. It’s the time to relax, loosen up, do less, lie on the couch and read, and conserve my energy as much as possible.

Do you love summer? Do you make seasonal fun lists? If so, why not share some of your fun plans in the comments below?

Previous summer fun lists can be found here, here, and here.


Bucket list

Summer Bucket List, 2016 Edition

June 10, 2016

Tell me something. When was the last time you made a list of fun things to do…and actually did them? Don’t look now, but it’s already June (how?!)—the Friday night of summer, as Laura Vanderkam says. Now’s your chance. Time to plan some simple pleasures and everyday adventures to make the hot, sweaty months pass more happily. I did this last year (click here to read 2015’s list), with mixed success. Take Tank to the beach? Check. Go to a Rays game? Yup. Make frozen pops, spend a day by the pool, or watch the sunset at the beach?


Lucky for me, I get a do-over. Summer has already barged its way into central Florida (complete with a tropical storm, thank you very much), so I’m trying again. Here’s my list for the summer of 2016:
  • Have a pedicure (thanks to my friend Mary for the gift certificate to a local salon).

  • Add some new tunes to my music library.
  • Go to the movies with my Broadway season ticket buddies (we don’t have another show until October).
  • Make homemade ice cream.
  • Practice riding Tank bridleless, while it’s hot and he’s mellow lazy.

  • Go on at least one field trip with Laure Ferlita. Maybe here or here. Hmm...I see a food theme developing...
  • Create a new summer reading list—and start reading from it.
  • Finish filling at least one sketchbook. I have two that are nearly full.

  • Plan a trip to visit my family in California.
  • Buy meals from Dinner Done so I don’t have to cook so much.

Sure, I’ll be working on my writing business, painting my bathroom, cleaning out the fridge…but I’m also planning some serious fun. I hope you will, too.

What’s on your bucket list this summer?

Everyday adventures

Streaming Happiness

February 26, 2016

You’ve probably heard the term “income streams,” referring to various ways to bring in money. Whether it’s salary, interest or dividends, selling items on eBay or Craigslist, the idea is the more income streams you have, the better. What if we apply the concept to happiness, too?

It’s just as important to have multiple “happiness streams” as it is to have multiple income streams (and a lot more possible, for many of us). The more sources of happiness we have, the happier we can be. And if one area of life isn’t going so well, having other sources of happiness to turn to can be comforting, and perhaps even keep us from becoming downright unhappy.

This blog is mostly about simple pleasures and everyday adventures and how they relate to happiness. I know, however, that there a number of common happiness streams, including:

Health/Vitality. Our health is one of our most precious gifts—to keep it a source of happiness, we need to care for our bodies lovingly, with nutritious food, adequate sleep, and movement that makes us feel good. At the very least. It’s hard to be happy if you just don’t feel well. I’ve noticed that when I feel ill or in pain, my mood often crashes.

Appreciation/Gratitude. When we take time to notice and appreciate the good things in our lives, our happiness levels rise and we tend to notice even more things to be happy about. (What we focus on expands.)

Relationships.  Even for introverts (like me), the people we love play a huge role in our happiness. Our family and friends, co-workers, even the friendly lady at the checkout in the grocery store, can cause happiness to flow.

Accomplishment/Learning.  Working on and completing projects, as well as learning new things, is a major happiness stream for many people. I notice a lift of my spirits when I do something as simple as check off an item on my list of things to do, especially if it’s something that’s been weighing on me.

Fun/Adventure. (Or should I say, simple pleasures and everyday adventures?) It’s essential to program fun and adventure into our lives along with all our work and chores. No doubt making time for the occasional movie, vacation, meal out, afternoon spent [insert your favorite hobby here] boosts happiness.

Spiritual Practice. Whether we belong to an organized religion or pursue spiritual growth independently, many of us find comfort and joy in a spiritual practice.

So you see, we can boost our happiness by opening ourselves to many different happiness streams. I’m generally happy with how my streams are flowing, but in 2016, I’m spending more time cultivating health and accomplishment.

How about you? What are your happiness streams? Are they flowing freely?


The Pleasure of Reading at Random

January 25, 2016

Since I decided not to participate in any reading challenges this year, I’ve been having so much fun! Instead of considering whether or not a book falls into any of my chosen challenge categories, I’m reading almost entirely at whim. Yes, I’m still reading from my own shelves—lest the books completely overtake my closet—but when a book catches my attention, sometimes I immediately request it from my library. Here’s a peek into what I’ve been reading since 2016 began:

Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss novels. I’ve finished Street of the Five Moons and I’m reading Trojan Gold. (I read Borrower of the Night and Silhouette in Scarlet last year.) Even though I know I’ve read these before, I don’t remember anything about them. I’m thoroughly enjoying Vicky’s adventures with that slippery character Sir John Smythe. 

Ngaio Marsh’s Death in Ecstasy. Last year, I bought a handful of Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn mysteries at my library’s bookstore. These vintage mysteries are a cut above the average—interesting plots and characters as well as some humor. I’m now developing a literary crush on Roderick Alleyn. 

Last week, I read about How to Blog a Book on Leanne Sowul’s blog. I picked it up from the library this morning, though I haven’t yet had time to open it.

The Cruelest Month is the third book in Louise Penny’s Three Pines series. I just discovered these books, and I’m loving them. Oh, to be enjoying the hospitality of Gabri and Olivier in the local bistro. 

How am I keeping track of all these series books? I just learned about from Danielle over at A Work in Progress. FictFact is free, and in addition to keeping track of your series reads, it can also help you with recommendations of other book series, help you connect with readers with similar tastes, and let you know when a new book in your series is about to be released. Sometimes it’s tricky to find out which book comes first, or next, in a series, and now I don’t have to rely on my memory to keep track of where I am in the ones I’m reading.

To round out the month, I borrowed two books that had been on my TBR list for ages: Bridget Jones’s Diary and Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Bridget was a hoot, and Beatrix Potter is fast becoming one of my heroes.

Even though I loved participating in reading challenges, I’m rediscovering how much simple pleasure can be had when I have no agenda, and no rules to follow. Now let’s see what that Vicky’s up to…

What have you been reading lately?

See what I mean about the books taking over? This is just one shelf.


When Rules Don't Rule

October 05, 2015

Photo courtesy Ryan McGuire

“One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.”
—Bertrand Russell

I’ve been a good girl all my life. I (mostly) obeyed my parents, got good grades, did my best to fit in and please others. As an adult, I generally follow the rules, even if no one is watching. And while I think it is a good idea to be a law-abiding citizen, rules—especially unwritten, unspoken ones—can be taken too seriously. They can lock us into behaviors and beliefs that aren’t true, don’t serve us, and don’t reflect our deepest values.

Rules can become tyrants. Here’s an example: Last week, I returned a DVD to the library without watching it, thus breaking my unspoken rule: once you check something out, you must read/watch it. When I dropped the DVD into the return slot, I felt a sense of relief and freedom all out of proportion to the act. This made me wonder, what other unspoken rules complicate my life and keep me from the happiness I want?

I know I can be too rigid. What am I afraid of? That once freed from my rules I’ll run wild? Maybe. “Without rules, we may feel more vulnerable as if the looseness and lack of structure will lead us toward defeat,” wrote Leslie Levine in Ice Cream for Breakfast. “But rules can also be constricting, keeping us from stretching or even soaring every once in a while. If we can improvise—make up the rules as we go—it becomes easier to reach a middle ground, a place where rules help us grow and thrive.”

In her book Life Is a Verb, Patti Digh tells a funny story about the time she tried to order toast and a side of avocado slices in the middle of the afternoon at a restaurant and was told by the waiter that it would break all the rules to serve her those things—it was past toast time, and sides were only available with entrees. There are “toast rules”? she wondered.

She wrote, “It’s one thing to acknowledge the absurdity of other people’s rules; it’s another thing altogether to recognize and own the absurdity of the rules we’ve made up (helpful hint: They’re all made up, some so ingrained that we can no longer see they are Toast Rules). So when a rule pops to the surface, see it for the Toast Rule it is, made up to serve some social norm that is itself made up—or to serve the convenience of a waiter, where waiter stands for ‘person’ or ‘group.’”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.” I think this is a useful distinction. I aspire to live by principles like treat other people the way you want to be treated and be kind. These reflect principles I value, that benefit me as well as others. Never return a book or DVD to the library without reading or watching it? Not so much.

Let’s examine our rules. Do they still work and have value? Rules often start with: I can’t or I should. Think twice every time those words start a sentence. We may be bumping up against a rule that no longer serves us.

Levine wrote: “Even our capacity for uncontrollable laughter is somehow diminished by the rules that govern adulthood. Instead of giving ourselves permission to be joyful and do the things that make us happy, we arbitrarily create rules that prevent us from enjoying as much as we can. So instead of lingering in the tub…, we bathe as fast as we can. Instead of celebrating our own birthdays…, we minimize the day and let it pass almost unnoticed. These made-up rules may give us some order in the short term but ultimately shortchange what could be a more fulfilling and fun life.”

What rules do you live by? What rules do you want to break?

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”
—Katherine Hepburn


Field Trip Friday: Renninger's Antique and Collector's Extravaganza

November 21, 2014

Last Friday, Laure Ferlita and I rose before the crack of dawn to trek out to Mount Dora, FL, where Renninger’s was hosting an “Antique and Collectors Extravaganza.” This popular 3-day event attracts vendors from all over the country, and many thousands of visitors. We wanted to be there when it opened so we could cover as much ground as possible. 

It was a gray and drizzly day, which kept a few of the more casual buyers away early. By late morning, the sun had come out and by the end of the day, we were glad of the trees shading many of the booths. (Florida may not have traditional seasons, but we like to pack as many weather changes into one day as we can.)

Laure is an experienced Renninger visitor, but it was my first time. I was astonished by the sheer volume of antiques and collectibles—including antique and vintage furniture, art, jewelry, collectible glass, porcelain, sterling silver, architectural pieces and much more. We wandered the aisles, admiring, questioning the wisdom of, laughing, drinking in the sights and sounds, generally filling the inspiration well with a complete change of pace from our usual routine. (We also ate mini donuts—they weren’t beignets, but still pretty tasty! We had to keep our strength up, after all.)

My only purchases were three of these spools:

…and a copy of A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner. However, I was mightily tempted by some Beatrix Potter figurines (which I unfortunately did not get a picture of) and hope one day to start a little collection of them.

I did collect a few things that were not things that day, including:
  • Appreciation of some people’s creativity
  • Inspiration to be more creative myself
  • Realization and gratitude that I have nearly all of the “things” I think I need to furnish my home
  • Happy memories of spending time with a good friend
  • Very sore feet!

Altogether, a most satisfactory field trip.

If you had been with us, what would you have been looking for? What do you collect?

See anything you like?


Link Love, Iced Tea Edition

June 20, 2014

Welcome to the summer edition of Link Love. Pour yourself a cold drink and explore some of the Internet’s bounty.

Twelve rituals happy, successful people practice every day. As Marc writes, “Am I willing to spend a little time every day like many people won’t, so I can spend the better part of my life like many people can’t?”

Simplifying life often means getting rid of things. Click here to read “10 Things to Add to a Simple Life.” 

Ever wished you could read more about the good happening in the world? Check out, “…a search + discovery platform that highlights and supports businesses doing good things.”

If you’re like me, you struggle with feeling driven to do more. I loved this thoughtful post at Always Well Within that helped me see my “driver” I a new light.

Here’s a list of the 100 greatest non-fiction books, according to The Guardian. How many have you read? I’m embarrassed to say I’ve only read eight.

What kind of life do you have? Brendon Burchard briefly examines three types: caged, comfortable and charged. Click below:

And finally, just for fun, five minutes of my favorite comedian, Brian Regan:



Are We Having Fun Yet?

March 07, 2014

When you were a kid, didn’t you think being an adult was going to be awesome? You’d be free—no one would tell you what to do, you could play all day if you wanted to, eat what you wanted, go to bed (and get up) when you wanted to. You’d fill your days with fun!

Scout and Nick: these two knew how to have fun.

I don’t know about you, but except for dimly-remembered college breaks, adulthood hasn’t followed that pattern for me! I’ve gone from college to working full time, to raising a child while working part time, all the while taking charge of an apartment or house, etc. Even now, with my child in college and with no job to report to, I spend most of my time doing things to keep my life running: shopping, cooking, cleaning, oil changes, doctor’s appointments, vet appointments, doing research and writing, exercising (because I want to be healthy, not because I love it), paying bills… When, exactly, is all that adult fun going to start?

I enjoy (to some extent) and value almost everything I do, but I do few things “just for fun.” I also manage to turn things that should be just for fun into learning opportunities instead of just play. Take reading, for example. I can’t just read for fun. I have to take part in reading challenges. Though I am careful to choose only challenges that appeal to me and don’t seem too difficult to complete, somehow labeling it a “challenge” adds an element of pressure to reading.

What about spending time with my horse? When I ride, I’m not just having fun. I’m working to become a better rider or teaching him something, even when I’m not taking a lesson.

I’m not saying learning opportunities, challenging myself, and so on is bad. On the contrary, I think using things I like doing to learn and grow is a great idea. I also think that I take it to extremes.

I really want to have more plain, old fun and to live more lightheartedly, so here are a few things I’m doing right now to make that happen:

Adjusting my attitude. I’m stepping back from the “challenge” aspect of my reading challenges and simply choosing the book I most want to read right now.  With Tank, I’m lightening up my expectations of our time together, and at least once a week just hanging out with him with no agenda.

Increasing the fun factor in areas that aren’t primarily fun—like cleaning the house. I listen to music on my iPod or I turn on a favorite TV show and clean while watching, or during commercials. (I’ve whipped my kitchen into shape in the past two weeks watching HGTV.) I open Pandora while working in my office (I’m typing to Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” right now.) I set a timer for 15 minutes and promise to quit work when it goes off and do something just for fun, like play with Prudy or read (for fun!).

Doing something just for the fun of it. No other reason. Just because I want to. Not because I’ll learn something or help someone, just for fun. Something that just occurs to me—like going to a food truck rally or spending the entire day in my pajamas.

Managing “false fun.” Who am I kidding? I have plenty of free time to do fun things—it’s just that I spend more of it than I’d like to in front of a screen, whether surfing the internet or watching TV. I enjoy both of those activities, and I don’t want to cut them out completely. So I have to manage them so I don’t play on the computer or watch TV when I have the mental and physical energy to do more worthwhile things, and so that they don’t eat up more time than they deserve.

It seems a bit ridiculous to have to put this much thought into fun—but I don’t think I’m alone in being hyper responsible sometimes, in feeling guilty if I’m not doing something “productive” all the time. I’m productive enough. And so are you. So let’s have some fun!

What do you do just for fun? When was the last time you did something just for the fun of it?

Wanna hang out?

30 days

30 Days

April 26, 2013

If you’re at all familiar with home organizing websites (or Pinterest) then you’ve probably come across the concept of “30 Days of Organizing.” With my affection for lists and for clearing out and decluttering, I’m always drawn to these lists and often start off making my own with a burst of enthusiasm—enthusiasm that fades approximately five days into the whole deal. You see, I’m always attracted to the fantasy idea of “getting things under control” in a set time, like 30 days. Never mind that life itself resists efforts to control it, and likely will never be under control. Never mind that my list often sounds about as fun as 30 days of dental appointments. (How much interest can I really drum up in cleaning the bedroom ceiling fan?)

So as I was making my latest dreary home organizing list, I pondered taking the 30 days concept in a much more enjoyable direction. What about scheduling 30 days of creativity? Or 30 days of sketching, writing, gratitude, or even pampering? Oh, oh, oh—or 30 days of chocolate! Gee, those sound a lot more fun! Frankly, I have more need of scheduling creativity and fun that I do chores. Despite my sensitive conscience and obsession with contributing to family life, I do enough. Instead of adding more to my workload, I’m going to schedule in some fun.

As I was thinking about this idea, I also remembered something I’d read on Matt Cutts’ blog—a slightly different take on the 30 days concept.  Matt is a software engineer and head of Google’s Webspam team and he chooses a new 30-day challenge every month. Some of his challenges have been 30 days of: exercise; acts of kindness; avoiding reading, watching or hearing the news; drawing something; and ukulele! Here’s a link to a video of Matt giving a short TED talk about 30-day challenges: 

I decided to go for 30 Days of Creativity, and here are a few things I’ve jotted down on my list (any suggestions?): go on an artist’s date; finish filling my sketchbook that only has two or three blank pages left in it; write a haiku; take some photos. At this point, I’m not going to limit myself to any one area of creativity, but I am going to try hard to make it 30 consecutive days. That will be a big challenge for me, because I often find it hard to do anything for 30 consecutive days, even fun things. I usually miss a day here and there, but I won’t beat myself up about that. Any step in a more creative direction will be progress. To keep me honest, I’ll let you know when I officially start my experiment, and post updates about it here on the blog.

In my opinion, we don’t need to add more work to our lives. We need to add more joy, more play, more fun and creativity. There will always be more than enough work to fill our time—but is that really how we want to fill it?

What would you like to try for 30 days?


Reading Challenge Update

January 24, 2011

My two reading challenges are off to a great start, and already I'm having so much fun. I'll periodically post about what I'm reading, and I'll keep an updated list on my separate 2011 Reading Challenges page if you want to check in between posts. So far, here's what I've read: 

Off the Shelf Challenge (Goal: 15)

A Pelican at Blandings, P.G. Wodehouse (fiction). I love P.G. Wodehouse and his gentle, goofy humor. This book cost me 50 cents at my library's "Friends of the Library" bookstore and it was delightful from start to finish.  The first paragraph reads: "The summer day was drawing to a close and dusk had fallen on Blandings Castle, shrouding from view the ancient battlements, dulling the silver surface of the lake and causing Lord Emsworth's supreme Berkshire sow Empress of Blandings to leave the open air portion of her sty and withdraw into the covered shed where she did her sleeping. A dedicated believer in the maxim of early to bed and early to rise, she always turned in at about this time. Only by getting its regular eight hours can a pig keep up to the mark and preserve that schoolgirl complexion."

Drinking the Rain, Alix Kates Shulman (memoir). When she turned 50, Shulman, a novelist, began spending her summers alone at her family's cabin on an island off the coast of Maine. Sound romantic? The cabin had no indoor plumbing or heat! Shulman read, wrote, even foraged for food in the tidal pools (particularly mussels) and the area surrounding her cabin. Alone, she discovered the interconnectedness of all life.

A favorite quote: "For years, I avidly read books and eagerly wrote them, systematically trying to stuff my head with all the thoughts of mankind, but always so determined to master a subject or pursue a goal that I seldom practiced the simple pleasures of reading whatever caught my fancy or following a thought wherever it happened to lead. My plans and projects were usually so backed up that no matter what work I was engaged in at any moment, I suspected it ought to be something else." (I know just how she felt.)

The Shadowy Horses, Susanna Kearsley (fiction). A new author for me, thanks to Danielle at A Work in Progress. Kearsley's been compared to vintage Mary Stewart (Madame, Will You Talk? My Brother Michael, etc.), and I found her writing very similar. I'm thrilled because I love vintage Mary Stewart!

Verity Grey, Kearsley's protagonist, comes to Scotland to work on an archaeolgical dig searching for remains of a Roman marching camp. "I woke in the darkness, listening. The sound that wrenched me from my sleep had been strange to by city-bred ears. Train-like, yet not a train...the rhythm was too wild, too random. A horse, I thought. A horse in the next field over, galloping endlessly around and around, galloping, galloping...." There are no horses anywhere near the house Verity is staying in--why does she hear them running every night? What other ghostly presences haunt Rosehill?

The Summer Book--Tove Jansson (fiction). Jansson is a Swedish writer, who is known mostly for her children's books. I also discovered her through Danielle. (I've gotten tons of great book recommendations from Danielle's blog--you should check it out!) Reading this book felt like being wrapped in a warm summer day--pleasant in chilly January. It tells the story of a 6-year-old girl and her grandmother spending the summer on an island off the coast of Finland (I must have a thing for summer island books!). It's more like a series of vignettes than a true novel, but each story is quietly beautiful. From page 36: "[Grandmother] turned on her side and put her arm over her head. Between the arm of her sweater, her hat, and the white reeds, she could see a triangle of sky, sea and sand--quite a small triangle. There was a blade of grass in the sand beside her, and between its sawtoothed leaves it held a piece of seabird down--the taut white rib in the middle, surrounded by the down itself, which was pale brown and lighter than the air, and then darker and shiny towards the tip, which ended in a tiny but spirited curve. The down moved in a draft of air too slight for her to feel."

Vintage Mystery Challenge (Goal: 4-6)

The Crime at Black DudleyMargery Allingham. This is her first "Albert Campion" mystery, and a pure delight. I found Allingham's writing flowed easily and made me want to keep reading. I also enjoyed the characters in this story, and I will be reading more of her work. (Sorry I don't have a quote for this one--I returned it to the library before I wrote this post!)

I've requested my next book from the library: The Norths Meet Murder, by Frances and Richard Lockridge.

What are you reading right now?


The Fun Will Come Out Tomorrow

February 11, 2010

Does your to-do list look like this?

  • Workout
  • Clean out guest room closet
  • Return library books
  • Take dog to vet
  • Laundry
  • Clean oven
That’s what mine often looks like. Did you notice anything particularly fun on that list? Me either.

My husband and I recently marked our 22nd anniversary. We usually plan a weekend getaway to celebrate, but have we made any hotel reservations? No. My father-in-law gave us a gift certificate to an excellent local restaurant—have we made reservations there? No.

What is wrong with us? Sure, we’re busy, but not unbelievably so. Why are we procrastinating fun?

I’ve also been putting off starting “artist dates,” an exercise recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. (An artist date is a block of time set aside each week for an excursion you take all by yourself, to someplace that will nurture your inner artist. This might be a secondhand store, the beach, an art gallery, even a movie you go to by yourself.) I know I need down time, time to putter around, time to refill my creative well, and yet I don’t take it. Artist dates would be particularly good for me in my goal of being open in 2010, but I feel guilty about taking any more time away from my responsibilities.
Apparently, putting off fun is common for many of us. A Dec. 28, 2009 New York Times column discussed research that indicates that people put off until later pleasurable things, like visiting local landmarks, using frequent flyer points for travel or using gift cards received as presents, that could be enjoyed right now. Somehow, we always think we will have more time for enjoyment tomorrow.
Why not put at least one or two strictly pleasurable things on that daily to-do list today? Adding fun to daily life doesn’t have to cost money, and many fun things require only modest amounts of time. We could:
  • Watch the birds on the bird feeder.
  • Cuddle the dog or cat.
  • Eat some chocolate.
  • Listen to music.
  • Walk in the park.
  • Browse the books, magazines and DVDs at the library and take some home to enjoy.
  • Do a crossword puzzle.
  • Call or email a good friend.
  • Soak in a bubble bath by candlelight.
  • Look at family photos.
  • Work on a hobby—drawing, knitting, cross stitch—whatever we enjoy.
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle.
The point is that we shouldn’t be so compulsively responsible that every item on the to-do list is a chore. Our work will still be there after we take 15 minutes to read a book or sketch in a journal. Who knows? Taking time every day to inject a little pleasure may help us to move on to bigger goals, like learning to scuba dive or traveling to Italy. That’s right—our long-term goals should also include some things that are just for fun. (Repainting the house does NOT count.)

What pleasure are you postponing?