Happiness Project: April

I used to write poems every day. I used to try to write poems every day. I was 29 years old, and I had just moved to a small town in Texas to pursue an MFA in poetry. I sat at my desk that overlooked a front yard littered with pecans that fell from the trees in my front yard as my dog rest at my feet. I looked out into the world and hoped it would give me an image to turn into a line: a red leaf, a smooth stone, a boat by the name of Dance of the Moon.

After receiving my MFA in 2005, I returned to my career as a high school teacher. And the next decade became a blur of my career and motherhood. I continued to write, but my projects shifted away from poems. But I’d like that to change. I’d like to return to the form that fuels me, the form that made me want to be a writer in the first place.

So for the month of April, I vow to write a poem a day. Here’s my first one:

The Edge of Everything

Motivation: the sun
how it warms you into
what you’ve avoided
for weeks. It is easier
to ignore the weight of what
we used to be:      possible
like keys hanging from a heart-shaped
hook. I clung onto the edge
of everything without you.
There was the golden sky
how it opened like a hand
reaching —

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Happiness Project: February Recap

February went fast and slow. It was full of work drama and distraction. I did not accomplish all that I wanted. I wore my Fit Bit but only broke 10,000 steps times. I completed a project that involved sorting and organizing into binders ten years of recipes that I had torn out of magazines; (one of our family New Year’s resolutions was to cook with our kids more, and this project was part of that goal). I gathered all my son’s art that I want to frame but didn’t get the pieces framed. I began to plan an activism project involving press freedom in light of President Trump’s remarks that the media is the “enemy of the people” and his recent actions banning certain organizations from his press conference. I worked on my book but not nearly as much as I would have liked. I only posted to this blog twice.

5 recipe binders: Soups & Salads, Pasta, Dinners, Drinks, and Desserts. I had my kids design the covers.

I acted and took action, but it still feels like I’m not doing enough. Perhaps, we’re all feeling this way. Despite my desires, daily life takes over. The laundry never ends. The lunches need to be made. The bills keep coming. It’s hard to be happy when there’s so much sadness in the world.

Tomorrow, it will be March already. My birthday month, which is why my theme is “self.” More on my plans for March soon, but for now tell me how your happiness projects are coming along, or if you, too, feel like it’s impossible to meet all of your goals?

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Happiness Project: February, Goal 1

My theme for February is Action. Take action. Be active. Activate. Act. Write. Fight. Shout. Get shit done.

My original theme for this month was “exercise,” but I wanted the month to encompass so much more than that.

Here is one of my three main goals for this month (I’ll write about the others in a separate post):

Use a Fitbit. I wore a Fitbit last year from mid-June to the end of October, reaching the recommended 10,000 steps/day most days. I walked more, moved more once I had this simple accountability tool. I exercised more and lost ten pounds. Plus, I loved long walks in the summer and fall, which helped fuel my writing, too.

(Note: It took a while for the weight loss to actually happen — at least six weeks of walking at least 10K steps a day. I tell you this because when I first used my Fitbit, I wasn’t losing any weight at all. I didn’t understand why. I even Googled — why am I not losing any weight with my Fitbit. But slowly, my weight dropped. I will say, too, that I wasn’t — and I’m not — dieting. I’m just trying to be healthier by moving my body more.)

Anyway, I lost this Fitbit, unfortunately, at the end of October while I was serving jury duty. I looked everywhere, retracing my steps and couldn’t find it. And sure enough, without the Fitbit, it was easy to slip into old habits. Plus, The Cubs were in the World Series and there was too much baseball to watch then it was Thanksgiving and the holidays and it was so cold and snowy, and suddenly two months had gone by. I did keep exercising occasionally during this time (we have a treadmill in our basement, which is a huge help), but I’m sure I wasn’t walking anywhere near 10,000 steps.

In mid-December, I bought myself a new Fitbit (a Charge 2) — and it sat in the box until Feb. 1. Because I knew once I opened it, I’d become obsessed with it again, trying to hit 10K steps, and it was too close to the holidays to deal. In January, I wanted to focus on cleaning my house and not steps (although, I’m sure I wracked up some steps doing just that). It’s crazy rationale, I know. As my doctor said back in November: “You should just buy yourself a new Fitbit now and not wait until Christmas, if you know it helps you.” Exactly. But, of course, I waited.

So it’s February, and I’ve got my Fitbit on, and I’m going to keep moving.

 

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Happiness Project: January

*Note: I wrote this two weeks ago, before Trump’s inauguration, but I couldn’t publish this then because of my blog issues. And now this post seems trivial, pointless, selfish. And part of me doesn’t want to hit publish. And part of me wants to abandon this idea of a happiness project all together. But I wrote it, and I want to write and I want to share because it’s a goal of mine for 2017: share more of my work. I was pretty silent in 2016. I vowed speak in 2017 — in every way. So hear I am speaking and sharing. I think all of us writers and artists are feeling this way about our work right now, and we must continue to make art. Always.

I’m in the car at least an hour every day. During this time, I listen to podcasts. One of my favorites is Happier with Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft. I first read Rubin’s Happiness Project when it came out in 2009; I can’t say that I remember much about it or that I particularly liked it. I didn’t dislike it, but I was definitely not at the right point in my life or right age to read that book. I read it – not because I felt the need to be happier but rather because everyone else seemed to be reading it – and as a writer, I like to read trends. For example, I read the first book of the Twilight series and 50 Shades of Gray for the same reason. After listening to Happier, however, since its beginnings and since marriage, kids, work (you know, not enough time) have taken over my life, I find Rubin’s musings and tidbits on everyday life much more relevant – and I must say that I love listening to the two sisters because it reminds me of the relationship I have with my own sister, and our days of recording a “radio show” on my boom box.

At the end of 2016 during episode 97, Rubin and Craft discussed how to embark on a happiness project – and I found the idea of themed months so intriguing that I decided to start one of my own. I also picked up Rubin’s sequel to the Happiness Project, Happier at Home, which I loved and found super relatable. I liked how Rubin begins each chapter with three to four key goals for the month, which I’ve decided to emulate as well.

So, first, here’s a draft of my current themes (although these might change):

January: Home
February: Exercise  in light of current events I’m renaming ACTION
March: Self
April: Poetry
May: Past
June: Adventure
July: Present
August: Water
September: Nature
October: Art
November: Future
December: Family

I began January 3, after we returned home from a new year’s trip to Louisville, where my best friend and her family live. I started in the kitchen because it’s the heart of the home, and I wanted our small room, which we’d love to renovate but don’t have the budget, to be more functional. I went through every drawer, every cabinet, every shelf and purged and reorganized. Then I worked my way through my entire house this same way: dining room, living room, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sunroom/kid’s art room, a front closet, a linen closet, laundry room, my office, and basement. I’m still working on the basement – it’s a beast; thankfully, I had already gone through my kids’ toys before the holidays but our basement has lots of nooks where we like to hide things, like quick-people-are-coming-over-let’s-shove-this-stuff-in-this-space-and-forget-it’s there.

Here’s some of my favorite accomplishments from the month:

  • Putting on a cabinet handle that had fallen off and been left off for at least two years and literally took me two seconds to reattach (it’s the small things)

    From The Container Store

  • Going through three boxes of old papers from grade school and high school that we’re sitting in my office
  • Taking down a heart-shaped shelf in my kitchen that I always hated and was here when we moved in (in 2008!) and I never bothered to remove
  • Convincing my husband to spend ten minutes going through the cabinet full of random wires in our basement and organizing them neatly in a plastic bin
  • Buying this (see right) super cool junk drawer organizer at the Container Store
  • Finally fixing our floating shelves in our bathroom that had been sagging so bad that we couldn’t store anything on them. So I finally went to Home Depot and bought some brackets to lift them up!
  • Loading up my car with four big bags and four boxes of unwanted stuff and donated it to the Vietnam Vets of America

With my house more organized and my possessions in check, I’m ready to move on to February’s focus: ACTION.

Anyone else bit by the de-cluttering bug? I’ve been finding inspiration from Tammi Salas’s blog as well!

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When Your Blog Disappears

Four years of a blog/website gone. Poof. Just like that. I had my blog up for four years. I spent money having it professionally redesigned. I published other people’s love stories. I had links to all my work. And, now, somehow (damn you, Internet! damn my inability to stay on top of things!) it’s all gone.

Let this be a lesson, folks! Back up your website! In case you lapse on your payments and your hosting site deletes all your content. I felt like crying, but I didn’t. The truth is I hadn’t posted on my blog in a year, which is why I let it lapse in the first place (damn you, credit cards that always seem to be compromised, making automatic payments void). So, I put up this new site quickly. It’ll do — for now. I’ve got work to do to rebuild, but I’m taking baby steps here.

You might be wondering what the heck I’ve been doing since — clearly — I haven’t been publishing. Well, I’m still working on that memoir; it’s changed quite a bit and it’s still a struggle but I haven’t giving up on it and the story. I wrote a draft of a YA novel about first love that I finished last June, but I haven’t touched it since. It needs a lot of revision that I don’t feel up to tackling at the moment. I’ve been working on some exciting collaborations that I hope to announce soon: one with my photographer friend, Laura Lopez; and one with my artist friend Michelle Hartney. And I’ve been plotting my own Happiness Project for the year inspired by Gretchen Rubin‘s Happier podcast, which I plan to write about here.

I can’t promise that I’ll write here often, but I’m going to try. One thing’s for sure: I won’t let my account lapse again! (Note: The best way to stay up-to-date with me is to follow my Instagram where I post at least once a week.)

 

 

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