Only 33 Reading Days Left

November 29, 2013

It’s the end of November and you know what that means…only one more month to finish all the books I’ve started in 2013, and plan for next year’s reading! Danielle at A Work in Progress recently put up a post about finishing the books she’s started so she can start fresh in 2014—admirable plan. I told her I planned to steal her idea, so I rounded up all the books I’m currently reading and I have more in progress than I thought: 

  1. No Name, Wilkie Collins. My copy has just over 600 pages and I’m a little more than halfway through. This is challenging but doable if I read about 60 pages a week. I’m enjoying the story and the writing immensely, but it’s not a book you can whiz through or you’ll miss too much.
  2. Against Wind and Tide, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The final collection of AML’s letters and journals, spanning the years 1947-1986. Another book I prefer to savor rather than gallop through.
  3. Some Buried Caesar, Rex Stout. Light reading at bedtime, featuring Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin and a prize bull (the Caesar in question).
  4. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Martin Seligman. Happiness research that deserves and hopefully will get its own blog post.
  5. Personal Pleasures, Rose Macaulay. Essays. I just started this book, and it deserves to be savored also, so if any book makes the cross over into 2014, it will be this one.
  6. The Daily Mirror, David Lehman. A journal in poetry. A few times a week, I read a couple of poems before bed. I’m in December already, so should have not trouble finishing.
  7. Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn. I read a few pages of this book (on meditation) every morning. As long as I continue that, I’ll finish by Dec. 31st.
Looks like I have a lot of reading to do between now and the end of December!

Then what? There’s that unending TBR stack that I’ve barely made a dent in. There are new reading challenges on the horizon. I’m sure there will be reading at whim, detours and bookish wanderings…and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Reading is one of my favorite simple pleasures and contributes greatly to my happiness.

Do you have any end-of-the-year reading plans? Have you already started thinking of what you want to read in 2014?


10 Things That Make My Holidays Happy

December 10, 2012

Last year (I can admit it now) I was rather Scrooge-like in my participation in holiday events. I just did NOT enjoy the Christmas season, though I did try hard not to show that and spoil everyone else’s fun. I don’t want a repeat this year, so I’m putting some thought into what I really enjoy about the holidays, what I don’t enjoy (and am not going to do) and what makes me feel festive.

Here are 10 things, in no particular order, that I like to do that say “happy holiday season” to me:

Watch A Christmas Story. I can’t tell you why, but this is my all-time favorite Christmas movie, and I have to watch it at least once. I especially like to watch it while wrapping gifts.

Make molasses sugar cookies—for us and for special friends.

Put up a tree. I say this, because the year we went to New York for Christmas, we didn’t put the tree up and I missed having it all through the month of December.

Christmas in New York 
Decorate the house. We live in Florida, but I still decorate like we live in a log cabin somewhere in the forest. Palm trees and sea shells don’t say “Christmas” the way fir and holly do.

Listen to Christmas music and, usually, buy one new Christmas CD for the collection. This year, I’m leaning towards Straight No Chaser’s Holiday Spirits. (What’s your favorite holiday CD?)

Spend a night or two with the TV off, the fireplace burning (weather permitting—this is Florida, after all), the candles lighted, and Christmas music playing. I find this so relaxing—an antidote to any holiday craziness that creeps in.

Put antlers on the dog and a Santa hat on the horse. Because I just have to.

Give thoughtful gifts. I truly enjoy trying to find the most creative and perfect-for-them gifts for my family and friends. We also try to give something to a local charitable organization for families in need.

Have one big family get-together, usually on Christmas day, where all the relatives who live locally come to our house to feast and make merry.

Last year my husband made Beef Wellington!
Watch the Rose Parade on TV on New Year’s Day. I lived in Pasadena, and both attended and worked at the Rose Parade several times. It makes me a little homesick, even though I haven’t lived in California for more than 20 years. The floats and the horses and the marching bands thrill me every time.

Simple holiday pleasures look different for every person, and these are mine. I’m always on the lookout for new ones though, so what makes the holidays happy for you?


Happiness Is

April 06, 2012

When I was in elementary school, my school produced the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. (As a chorus member. I did understudy Lucy, but my friend Roxanne refused to get sick or break a leg so that I could assume the role.) One of my favorite songs from this play is, fittingly enough, “Happiness Is.” The lyrics, written by Clark Gesner, sweetly show how children know that it’s the simple, everyday things that bring happiness, things like: learning to whistle, two kinds of ice cream, five different crayons (obviously written in a simpler time!) or sharing a secret. (If you know the song, it’s playing in your head right now isn’t it? For those of you who don’t know it, click here.) 

There are plenty of things to be happy about in my life, and sure enough, plenty of them are simple. I made a list of some happy things—there’s some overlap with my list of 100 things I love, but it was a good reminder to me how simple happiness can be.

Here’s a partial listing of some of my happy things:

The smell of a horse.

The taste of chocolate.

Taking a nap, wrapped in a cozy blanket.

Slipping into a bed made with fresh sheets.

Sitting outside listening to birds sing.

Getting lost in a really good book.

Starting a new journal.

Waking up in the morning with a free day in front of me. (Yes, it happens, but only if I schedule it.)

Singing along with the car radio while driving with the sunroof open.

Go ahead and make your own list. Then come back here and share some of your happy things—I want to know what makes you happy!


Surprised By Happiness

September 09, 2011

When you think of being happy, do you primarily think of doing fun things, getting what you want, or having your life running smoothly? Me, too—but that’s only part of the picture. Happiness is not just something that appears when you reach a goal or finally have that free time you’ve been longing for. Here are some surprising sources of happiness:

For many, work is a source of deep and lasting happiness. Ariel Gore wrote in Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness: “ recent years I’d noticed a growing disconnect between the things I imagined would make me happy and the things that actually did. Potentially ego-boosting rites of passage in my career, for example—awards or good reviews—only seemed to cause me anxiety. Allowing myself to be absorbed in my work, on the other hand, whether it was writing or teaching or doing some familial chore I outwardly complained about, brought a quiet contentment I could feel radiate from my chest.” She continued later in the book, “When we strike a balance between the challenge of an activity and our skill at performing it, when the rhythm of the work itself feels in sync with our pulse, when we know that what we’re doing matters, we can get totally absorbed in our task. That is happiness.”

I don’t know about you, but when I need a quick shot of satisfaction, I begin cleaning and/or organizing. One of my favorite bloggers, Crazy Aunt Purl (Laurie Perry), coped with a scary and unexpected move by scrubbing grout! Perhaps putting one small area of our lives in order helps us cope with chaos elsewhere, I don’t know. All I know is a clean and organized office/refrigerator/hall closet is cause for rejoicing.

“Happy women know that no one gets to be happy all the time,” according to What Happy Women Know, by Dan Baker, Ph.D, Cathy Greenberg, Ph.D, and Ina Yalof.  As Gretchen Rubin notes in her blog post, “Negative emotions are a key part of rational thought and effective performance. Also, up to a point, they can be of great service to happiness. They’re loud, flashy signs that something isn’t right. Because they’re so unpleasant, they can sometimes prod us to take action when nothing else can.” Negative emotions are a part of life—feel them, accept them, learn from them—then let them pass.

According to Dr. George E. Vaillant of Harvard Medical School, what seems to contribute most to happiness as we get older are the coping mechanisms we develop to handle the inevitable pain of life. Coping mechanisms like humor, a positive outlook, willingness to control anger and hostility, and treating others the way we’d like to be treated, help us avoid depression and foster connections with others—both of which make our lives more enjoyable.

This makes me…happy. I see that many factors contribute to a person’s happiness—factors we can control, and ordinary things that are likely already part of our daily lives. Happiness is waiting…we just need to recognize it.

What surprising thing makes you happy?