Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happiness is giving up things

As I've written about before, I've become very interested in the idea of creating my own happiness. I was especially inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. One pattern I've noticed recently in my life is that it's often the things I give up, not the things I do, that contribute significantly to my happiness. This has surprised me, given my focus on setting and achieving goals. So I wanted to share three things that I've given up in the past year.

Running. I set a goal to complete the couch-to-5K program, which I accomplished. I hoped that I would become one of those people who loved to run. I didn't. Yet still I kept forcing myself to run, hating every step of it. Finally I woke up and realized that there are tons of other forms of exercise I actually enjoy (elliptical, yoga, group aerobics classes, walking). Why was I forcing myself to do something I hate? I gave it up about 9 months ago and actually enjoy working out again.

Yard work. Gardening is one of those things that I feel like I should enjoy because so many other people enjoy it. But the truth is, I hate dirt, I hate worms, and I'm not really a fan of being outside. So, I already accepted some time ago that I will not be a gardener. And yet, there was this feeling that it would be shameful to hire someone to take care of our yard. After all, we could do it ourselves. Isn't it a waste of money to pay someone to do it? But, a friend started a lawn care business, so I finally gave myself permission to outsource the job. For the first time in 4 years, our yard looks really nice. I don't get this pit in my stomach when I drive up and see all of the weeds that I know I should be pulling. And I finally got rid of the guilt of not doing it myself. Because honestly, we all could do lots of things ourselves. For example, make our own clothes. But we've decided it's worth it to leave that job to someone else. And I do choose to do things that other people outsource, such as cooking all our meals and filing our taxes. It's just about finding the balance that works for us. 

Shopping for clothes. This was a biggie. Recently, I started thinking about how I could free up more money to give to charities. One of the things I immediately thought of was clothes. The more I thought about it, the more important it seemed. Because not only was I investing a lot of money in clothes that I didn't really need, I was also investing a lot of time looking for those clothes. I decided in July that I wouldn't buy any new clothes for the rest of the year. And it has ended up being a great decision. Before, I was always dissatisfied with my closet. I'd think, "If only I had ______, then I'd be happy with my wardrobe." But now, I know I can't buy anything, so I don't even waste time thinking about it. It's forced contentment! And on a less important note, I've been able to see more clearly that I should be focusing on quality, not quantity, with my clothes. When I resume buying clothes, I'm going to stop picking up random shirts here and there and instead only buy pieces that are actually missing from my wardrobe (e.g., a brown belt, black sandals that don't hurt my feet).
Note: Please don't interpret this as judgment on other people buying clothes. This was something I thought was necessary for me personally, but I don't think everyone needs to do it. It would be very hypocritical for me to say it's ok to pay someone to do your yardwork but not ok to spend money on clothes. :)

What about you? Has giving up something made you happier?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If you happen to see a gold ring...

My dad had a business meeting in Chicago last week, so he came down to spend the weekend in with us. On Saturday, I thought I had a fun evening planned for us. We would go to our church's tailgate party and then to the football game (which Darby and I had gotten free tickets for). Well, while tossing around a football at the tailgate, my dad's wedding ring fell off. We (and at least 20 other people) searched for it for over an hour to no avail. It was crazy. We knew it could only be in a small area, but it's like it just disappeared. This was my dad's original wedding ring, which he's had for 33 years, so I was really sad for him. We finally gave up the search and went into the game. It was an awful game (we lost 52-24) and really cold on top of that. I felt so bad. What a lame night for my dad!

Dad still managed to smile after the ring debacle. This was before he bundled himself up in blankets and cinched his hood all the way around his head. Did I mention it was cold?
I haven't given up on the ring. I'm going to continue to call the Assembly Hall lost and found and will probably go back at least one more time to search the grass. It has to be there somewhere! When I was about 10 or so, I took off a ring my grandma had given me and laid it on a bench in my neighbor's yard. When I went to put it back on, it wasn't there. We searched and searched and never found it. Then one day, at least 8 years late, my neighbor rang our doorbell, and he had that ring in his hand! He said he had seen it while mowing and thought he remembered me losing one. Isn't that crazy? I'm hoping it won't be 10 years before I find my dad's ring, though.

Despite the lost ring and disappointing football game, it was a fun weekend. Dad, Darby, and I had a lot of really good conversations. And Darby was happy because I made an apple pie for my dad (I seem to only make apple pies when my parents visit). My mom was planning to come, too, but she was hosting a luncheon on Saturday, so she had to stay home. We missed her, but I know it won't seem very long before Thanksgiving is here. It's already the 5th week of the semester. Whaaattt??

Monday, September 17, 2012

Reality Check

This morning, I started my ESL practicum, in which I spend 100 hours observing/teaching at a local high school. My supervising teacher wanted me to meet her before school, at 7:30. Ouch. I'm used to my grad. school schedule of never having to be anywhere before 9. I survived, thanks to my trusty Hello Kitty travel mug.

I observed three classes: Life Science for ESL students, Physical Science for ESL students, and a regular ESL class. And, wow, I'm exhausted just from watching! Sometimes I get frustrated by the things my students say, their seeming lack of attention, etc. But, after watching these freshmen and sophomores, I will never complain again! I had forgotten how high school students actually act. I blame this on TV shows like "Friday Night Lights" and "Glee," which portray teenagers as basically adults, just with more drama. No, high schoolers are definitely still kids. That being said, the kids are very fun and seem really eager to learn. And my supervising teacher is wonderful. I think it's going to be a great experience.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

August Books

Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
I'm a big fan of Kathleen Norris's work. This is an interesting look at the history of acedia, which was originally one of the 8 evil thoughts but was subsumed under sloth when the 7 deadly sins were created. It is defined as a spiritual apathy. Norris explains how she has battled acedia in her spiritual life. She points out that many of the feelings we attribute to depression might have a spiritual rather than physical origin (although she is very clear that she does believe in depression as a real illness and believes she has suffered from both clinical depression and acedia). It was interesting to think about the responsibility we have to rouse ourselves from spiritual apathy. The book tended to drag a little in the middle, but I think it was a worthwhile read.

The Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His Dreams by Trent A. Hamm
I had heard about this book on one of the personal-finance websites I read, so when it was offered for cheap on the Kindle, I decided to check it out. I mainly read these books for inspiration to keep going with saving. I don't really expect to learn anything new (live below your means, budget, etc.). This book had pretty standard advice. I got a little annoyed by the author's tone, though. He acted like everyone should be striving to earn enough to quit their job and stay home and write, but I don't think that's a desirable goal for everyone. Bottom line: I think there are better personal-finance books out there.

Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey
This historical fiction novel is set in World War II. The Mona Lisa has been hidden in a French chateau (this part is true), and a Louvre curator and her French revolutionary boyfriend team up with two Swiss secret agents to recover the painting before a Nazi leader can steal it for his personal collection. This story was fast-paced, and the setting was interesting. I'm not sure exactly how accurate it is in its detail, but it seems to portray WWII-era Paris well. A good, quick read. 

Second Honeymoon by Joanna Trollope
This was a Kindle Daily Deal, and I got it on a whim. It's about a British family's struggle to adjust to life after the three kids have left the nest. I thought it portrayed quite realistically the challenges of transitioning into adulthood. The characters were sometimes frustrating in their whininess, but overall, it was a good story. 

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan
The second of the three free Francis Chan books I got for my Kindle. This one argues that Christianity has moved away from its original purpose and that Christians should stand out in their attitudes and service. I know a lot of people LOVE this book. I thought it was good, but I liked Interrupted (one of my July books) better. 

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
A man at church gave me this book to read after I expressed frustration in my sometimes inability to say important things without getting emotional. I really appreciated the practical advice the authors gave. They said that the goal of every crucial conversation should be to be 100% honest and 100% respectful. This is a challenge for me. I worry a lot about offending people, so I end up not being completely honest. I was glad to learn some strategies for telling hard truths in a respectful way. I've also been trying to take their advice to remember the purpose of the conversation. Often, my goal shifts from exchanging ideas with someone to winning some kind of fake debate. I'm trying to curb this. I highly recommend this book.

At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper
This is a young adult novel about a teenage girl who goes to help in her sister's candy shop in London during the plague of 1665. The main character is a redhead named Hannah, so, of course I loved her. :) It was a great story, and I enjoyed learning about this time period, but it ended rather abruptly. Perhaps there is going to be a sequel? 

Thursday, September 06, 2012


Over the long weekend, several of my friends from Robinson CofC got together for our first (hopefully of many) reunion. We rented a house on Lake Whitney, which is near Waco. It was such a wonderful weekend. I was a little nervous because all of our husbands came and they didn't really know each other, but everyone got along so well. When we were in high school, we used to dream about the day that we'd all go on vacation together with our families. And it finally happened!

We started planning this trip back in November, I think. When we were all at church in Waco over Christmas, Stephanie got really excited and came up to me and Jessica and shouted LABOR DAYYYYY!! So, that has been our constant mantra. 

There was (slightly) less silliness than our old slumber parties, and we couldn't really stay up past 1 a.m., but other than that not much had changed. We talked and talked and talked, ate our weight in junk food, and laughed until our sides ached (and Stephanie snorted) playing games. We didn't have karaoke, but we did sing along with Darby on the guitar and Jessica's husband, Chase, on the banjo. And instead of tubing in the river behind Jessica's parents' house, we swam in the lake, sporting our awesome dollar store Disney princess floats.

These girls were such a huge part of my childhood, and I'm so thankful that we're all willing to make an effort to keep up our relationships. We missed Krista, Bobbi, and Adriel. Hopefully they'll be able to join us next year. There will definitely be a next year!

Whitney, Jessica, and Stephanie getting ready to make s'mores on the grill.

Whitney's baby, Finn. Despite what it looks like from the mess in this picture, he was one of the most well-behaved toddlers ever. It was so much fun getting to spend time with him. Whitney is one of my oldest friends, and it is so fun to see her as a mom. She and Clint are great parents .

Jon and Stephanie

Jessica and Chase

The view from our patio. We were very close to the lake, but there was about a 20-foot dropoff to actually get to the water. So, we rode in the back of Darby's parents' pick-up truck down this tiny gravel path. Classy.