Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 22 - Sigh...

Feeling like this has already been taking way too long.

I think Savageman would agree.

On the bright side, today was absolutely glorious.  It was sunny and about 60 degrees outside.  I opened the windows, cranked up the music, and the boys and I spent a good chunk of the afternoon outside wearing the minimal amount of clothing possible, soaking up all the sunshine and vitamin D we could.

Between that and the return to running, martial arts and kickboxing classes today, I was absolutely high on endorphins and fresh air.

And friendship.

After the last class this evening, I helped clean the dojang and had cocoa with the gang at the cafe. 

Good times.

Grateful for all that is going well right now - hoping the other stuff will sort itself out fairly soon.

We're ready for something to change - just not sure what shape that will take just yet.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Camp 2012

I've been a Girl Scout Leader for two years now. 

It's hard to believe. Especially since I have no girls of my own.

Life takes you in weird directions sometimes, but all in all, I've felt that I've been led, one way or another, to where I'm supposed to be.

And this weekend, I was supposed to be at Winter Camp with 6 girls and 3 women - some truly special people I've had the privilege to know and work with these last few years.

Some highlights:

Friday night was Spa Night.  We applied yogurt / oatmeal masks, painted nails, wrapped hair, soaked feet.  My own contribution was a tube of henna, which the girls (and other Leaders) seemed to enjoy being decorated with. After we closed down the spa for the evening, we let the girls stay up and whisper late into the night, and the four of us had some laughs as well. 

Camp Echo Trail has lots to offer - including a Low Ropes Course on which I was certified almost two years ago.  The girls were thrilled to finally have at the thing, and we were very proud of the way they handled the challenges and how they worked together and cheered each other on, even when it was frustrating for them. 

Every year, our troop plans a party for all the kids staying at a nearby Family Shelter for the homeless.  We spent some time this weekend learning how to make balloon animals for this year's party, and we made and decorated the cakes we bring to share with them.

 Between meals (which the girls planned and prepared) and these other activities, we let them do what they wanted. 

During this downtime, the girls built a stage and planned and rehearsed an elaborate variety show all on their own.  They performed it for us that evening after our dinner of campfire mountian pies and smores. We were invited up on stage to compete in a game show they created and between rounds of that, they sang and danced.    

It's gratifying to see how these kinds of activities - pampering themselves, challenging themselves physically and mentally, planning ways to serve those less fortunate than themselves, leading, following, planning and performing - are helping these girls grow in confidence and character.  I know we're not the only adults in their lives cheering them on, but I'm glad to be one of them. 

Getting my backpacking certification in March.  When they're ready to go, I'll be ready to take them.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 17 - Dystopia Fiction

Middle and I are studying Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.  It's one of my favorite books, and I'm glad to finally be sharing it with him.  He asks thoughtful questions and writes insightful short-essay answers to the questions I give him, and we've had several good discussions about its themes so far.

Reading the book has triggered an interest in other fictional dystopias.  The Giver and Feed are next on his reading list, and we're watching Minority Report together tonight.  I'm debating whether to have him read 1984 or just let him see the movie.  Maybe we'll start with Animal Farm, as we are headed into early 20th century history and can tie it in there as well.  As for Brave New World, it's kind of gratifying to see him making connections between the book and what he's just learned in psychology about Pavlovian conditioning, Skinner and Watson's behaviorism, etc. 

This is the part of homeschooling I enjoy the most.  Picking something cool, tying it in to a completely different subject, recognizing overlaps between science and literature and history and film; using these insights to spark a discussion about religion and morality, free will and what it means to be human.

This is the good stuff.

I hope we still do this kind of thing once he's in Real School.  Because for me, this is what learning is really about. 

I hope he's enjoying it as much as I am.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 16 - Feeling Strong

What a difference today!

I don't know what changed - maybe I actually got enough sleep for once - but today I felt strong.  I ran over two miles and at a faster pace than I'd been going.  Then, tonight, we had an especially tough kickboxing class in which I took the harder option every time we were given a choice.  I was soaking wet, totally in the Zone, and it

One wall of the room we use for kickboxing is almost all mirrors.  I was amazed watching myself doing set after set of 50 jumping lunges or 50 jumping squats.  Ever since the ankle has been better, I have been completely enamored with my feet and legs.  I don't know why - they just seem so beautiful and complex and and strong.  They can jump and land, jump and land, over and over.  All those little bones and muscles and tendons and ligaments need to be so strong and to coordinate so well for these actions to seem so effortless.  A slight change in the position of any of these parts can make running - or even walking - painful to impossible.  But right now, they're perfect.  Watching them in the mirror, flexing and extending, flexing and extending - I was enthralled. 

And running - I can run for miles and miles now and they just know what to do - I don't have to think about it anymore - they just go.

Maybe reading Born To Run contributed to my appreciation of my feet and legs.  It certainly made me think differently about my body and what it's designed to do.

I was born to run.  And kick.  And punch.

Grateful for this body and for all that it can do.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 15 - Grateful

... that Blue Monday only lasted one day

... that we're all healthy in Savageland right now

... that the boys have been getting their work done

... that Savageman and I have been having so much time to spend together

... that we have a nice gym to go to every morning

... that we have a great group of supportive, caring friends

... that we have two sets of supportive, caring parents

... that we have a working refrigerator full of good food

... that we have been active in our Church and continue to find support and fellowship there

... that we have a wonderful dojang family in addition to our biological family

... that we have good movies to watch

... that we have good music to listen to

... that we have good books to read

... that we have a wonderful library system we can use when we run out of any of these things

... that it's election season and we're not fighting over politics

... that our house is getting cleaned and decluttered (this time, the Upstairs)

... that hardships build character and make us stronger

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 14 - Blue Monday

Didja ever have a day where all you wanted to do was lie around and eat comfort food?

I never have those days - except today.  That's how I felt today.

I couldn't even drag my butt out to martial arts tonight, which probably would have made me feel better.  I ran this morning, but only a mile.

I'm craving pasta with lots of cheese.  An English muffin with peanut butter and jelly.  Something rich and gooey and full of fat and carbs.

And sleep.  I want to sleep for a week.

When I realized today was the notorious Blue Monday, I felt a little bit better.  At least I'm supposed to be feeling this way.  I guess.  I had originally planned to host a fancy dress-up / cheer-up party for Blue Monday this year, but those plans never materialized.  Instead I wound up in the grocery store, comparing unit prices on bulk toilet paper.  (I'm happy to report that we won't have to buy toilet paper again until Spring.)

What I really need is some true Down Time.  It would be nice to spend some time just reading, watching a movie (without multitasking), continuing to teach myself to crochet, or (gasp) checking out my NaNoWriMo novel - which is sitting patiently on my hard drive waiting to be read and edited.  I haven't even peeked at it.  The possibility that I will read it and absolutely hate it is just too, too real at this point.  This way, I can at least allow it to be good in my fantasies. 

Sigh.  I think I'm going to go make that English muffin with peanut butter and jelly.  And maybe put in a movie.

And totally veg until bedtime.

Taking comfort in the knowledge that Blue Monday is almost over.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 13 - Clean House

Following Mass, we worked on the house all day.

It feels really good to have a clean kitchen, family room, living room and dining room.

The upstairs office - the absolute worst room in the house by far - is about half-clean.

The bathrooms and the boys' rooms are clean.

Once the laundry is folded and put away, our room will be... still kind of a mess.  I keep reminding Savageman that we need to set a good example if we want the boys to keep their own rooms clean, but change is happening extremely slowly in there.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Maybe once the office is cleaned out, we'll have more space for the stuff currently cluttering up our bedroom.

Tonight, they're all watching football with my parents and I'm here alone going through boxes of stuff, most of which I intend to pitch. 

Or rather, blogging whilst avoiding going through boxes of stuff.

Guess it's time to get to it.  It will feel oh so nice to have more clean, open spaces.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 12 - New Normal

The New Normal:

I get up with the Teen at 6:35.  I make him a smoothie and get him out the door to catch the bus by 7.

I do a few things, make a banana / avocado / coconut milk smoothie for me and Savageman and I go wake him up.

We get dressed and go to the gym where I run somewhere between 1 and 4 miles and he does the eliptical or weights or whatever it is he does.  We talk to people we know.  We leave the gym feeling energized - one thing already accomplished. 

We spend the car ride home going over the plan for the day.

We get home and jump into what to be done around here.  Schoolwork with the kids, cleaning, organizing and decluttering projects around the house, and of course, brainstorming and research, research, research.

I cook up something on the stove or in the crockpot designed to cover lunch, dinner, and usually some leftovers that can be converted into something else.  Little spends some time with Grandma doing spelling and handwriting.  Middle and I go over geometry and psychology together.  When Little returns, he and I do math together and I set him up with his history and science. They both do some independent work until it's time to get ready to go to the dojang.

While we're kicking and punching, the Teen comes home from lacrosse or basketball (or both).  He and Savageman bond.

The rest of us get home and eat and have some family time.  That's been more of a priority lately, which has been one of the surprise Blessings we've seen.

Another is the good conversations we've been having about life and values and goals and priorities.  Asking what God wants of us, tuning in to what feels intuitively right for us at this stage of our lives as individuals and as a family.  Asking how we can help each other; being willing to do whatever is needed.

I realize that the unity we've recently experienced was forged in the fire of the work we've done in our marriage over the last year and a half or so.  A few years ago, we would not have been so quick to support each other through a challenge as we are now.  This isn't to say we haven't had moments - moments are to be expected.  But they are quick moments followed by genuine apologies.  No grudges, no blame, no contempt.

Like I keep saying - we're going to be all right.  I'm looking forward to the coming week and the new information and new challenges and opportunities it will bring.

Glad to have Savageman by my side, and glad to be the one by his side.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 11 - Proud of My Kids

So, not only did the Teen offer to unload boxes in exchange for lunch from the school cafeteria, now Middle has decided that he is going to come up with a way to make money for the things he needs.  He normally mows lawns, but since that is not an option until late Spring, he's been trying to come up with a creative idea. 

He took the Red Cross babysitting course last summer, so he's certified in infant and child First Aid and CPR.  He also assists in teaching the younger kids' classes at the dojang and is extremely patient (yet firm) with hyperactive little kids.  I think that if he decided to market himself as a babysitter, he'd be pretty successful.

We've also been talking about other things he could do.  Trying to think Outside the Box.  Selling stuff on eBay or Etsy.  Printing and selling tee-shirts.  Homework help.

The thing that really makes me happy is the fact that, when faced with a sudden hardship situation, their reaction wasn't to whine or complain about the shift to "necessities only" spending, but to immediately start thinking of ways they could contribute and take some of the burden off of us.  Not only does it make us feel good that they understand and care and want to help, but I'm sure in a way it makes them feel empowered to know that they have some control over the situation and don't have to just helplessly stand by and wait until things get better.

So very, very grateful for these boys, and for the opportunity to see first-hand that the work we have done to try to teach them to be independent and self-reliant might actually be paying off. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 10 - Karate Euphoria

Wow, that felt good.

I mean, it always feels good, but on a day like today - when I haven't had enough sleep, when I was up and dressing for my run before sunrise, when I continued running and running and running all day long without a break and didn't even really want to go in tonight but forced myself - I really didn't expect it to feel good at all.

I took class, which was good, but more of a thinking class than a workout.  Then I changed and got ready for kickboxing.  My usual friends were already paired up.  The only other person without a partner was an older, tough-as-nails, covered-in-tattoos guy who I always see and think, ex-Marine.  We've never worked together before, but at this level I feel like I should be able to partner with pretty much anybody, so I waved to him and we grabbed targets and shields and got to work taking turns kicking and punching the heck out of each other.

This guy had serious power.  I dug in to keep from being knocked backward while I was holding for him. 

When it was my turn, he coached me.  He slapped the shield.  "This is the enemy, got it?"

"Got it."  He had clearly been treating my shield as the enemy, so I was happy to indulge.  I gave it a serious beating, doing my best to match his intensity, and he egged me on, apparently surprised that little 5'4" me had that much power. 

(If he had any idea of the stress I was working off, he might not have been so surprised.)

Working with someone so much bigger and stronger doesn't necessarily hurt - but it does get the adrenaline seriously pumping.  Which makes doing the burpees, crunches, sprints, etc. that much more exhilarating.  I did them all. 

By the end of class, I felt high as a kite.

Of course, then I crashed mid-way through my childbirth class while my couples were practicing relaxation. I think I was still mostly crashed when I met up with Middle and the other ninja buddies at the cafe. 

Now, I'm just feeling pleasantly exhausted.  Ready for a hot bath and bed.

I'll sleep well tonight.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 9 - Good Air In...

... bad air out.

Sometimes I need to give myself these little pep talks.

And, as always, coming back to focus on the blessings in a given situation puts everthing in a different light.

Someone commented on how happy the Teen seems to be lately.  It didn't surprise me - in addition to the hours he's spent in practice, Savageman has been out playing lacrosse with him almost every day.  Having that extra attention from his dad has meant a lot to him, whether he's willing to admit it or not.

Grabbing takeout and eating on the go is no longer an option, so I've been cooking.  I've been making something - a pot of chili, a pot of soup, a big salad - something - in the middle of the day.  We get lunch and dinner out of it, with leftovers to pick at the next day.  Reminding myself of how well I can stretch a rotisserie chicken or a pork roast when I need to makes me feel good, even if I do eat way too much when something's simmering on the stove all day.

Savageman and I have been working out together first thing every morning.  I make us an avocado / banana / coconut smoothie and we head for the gym.  I run.  He either runs, or he works out on the machines or the eliptical.  Almost every day we see people we know, and it's a nice opportunity for some social time.  Overall, it's given us a very good start to our day.

As I mentioned before, we've been ending the day with some special movie time.  The last two nights, we've been watching Glory with Middle, who just finished learning about the Civil War.  Once the kids are in bed, Savageman and I have had good conversations about our situation, how we feel, what we'd like to see happen, what we think God is calling us to do.  The fact that we've been so together on the answers to these questions is a good sign.  We're a team.

There's something about being on the Right Path that feels different.  Signs are clear.  The right people show up.  Yes, it may be far off, outside the illumination of the headlights, but it's there, waiting.  Everything we've done to this point has led us to where we are now. 

There's nowhere to go but forward.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 8 - Productivity

Circumstances aside, we've been extremely productive here in Savageland in recent days and weeks.

Getting serious about finishing Middle up so he'll be ready for Real School in the fall. 

Enjoying Little's newfound enthusiasm for reading, his suddenly quite lovely handwriting (thanks to the work he's been doing with his Grandma every day), and getting him caught up in the areas where he was behind up until now.

Being consistent with our message to the Teen regarding our expectations of him and the amount of responsibility he needs to be taking for his education.

We've been keeping the main floor and basement pretty clean and decluttered and we've started working on the upstairs.  It's coming together.

Middle and I have been working hard at martial arts and I have also been running every day, trying to come back from the injury and build my endurance for ToughMudder in the spring.  Savageman has been joining me every day at the gym, which has been really nice for both of us.

There's a spirit of cooperation and unity here that I think we all appreciate. 

We're going to be just fine in all the ways that really matter.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 7 - Forward Motion

It's been a week.

So far, so good.  We've taken our change in circumstances in stride, I think. 

It's required us to alter our routines, our habits and our priorities, all in a very short period of time, but we've been doing it.

Starting each day with a good run has been an effective way to work out any anxiety and get the ball rolling.  Forward motion - that's what is important right now.

Staying focused on the things that are under our control helps us not to worry too much over the things that are not.  And the truth is, there is a lot in that second category right now.  Worrying about any of it would be counterproductive at this point. 

Forward motion.

Positive thinking.

Gratitude for all that we do have.  Which is a lot. 

Faith that it will all work out the way it's supposed to.  That when we look back on this, we will see the blessing in it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 6 - Family Time

We're hanging out tonight, watching The Empire Strikes Back with the younger two boys.  It's our second night of Star Wars fun, and this was probably my favorite of the series.  Middle remembers the movies, mostly because of video games he's played based on them.  Little may have seen them once, but he doesn't remember them.  So it's been fun experiencing them through his eyes, as we were probably about Little's age when this one came out.

Yesterday, we were working on a special Cub Scout badge with him and he had to gather his family and have us each write nice things about each other.  Afterwards, he had questions to answer about the exercise and one of them was to say what he learned from doing this.  "I learned that I like to do things like this together.  We don't do it too often."

Savageman and I exchanged looks.  Out of all of us, family rituals and together time means the most to Little.  He is the one who gets excited about having a sit-down meal together, the one who looks at the Family Activity on the coloring page in church and actually wants to go home and do it together.  He is the one who asks when we can have a family game night. And he's right - we don't do these things nearly often enough.

I'm glad we have him reminding us of the importance of family time.  Life gets busy, we put things off, and in the blink of an eye, the kids are too old for many of the activities we were sure we'd get to someday.

Well, it's someday, right?

So we started last night, with a fire in the fireplace and a movie together, something we haven't done in a while.  Today we all cleaned the main floor together after Mass, and I threw a pork roast in the crock pot to make Carolina-style BBQ.  We went our separate ways for a while; Savageman and I ran Middle to a friend's house, did some errands, visited some of our own friends for a while and went to the gym.  Little went to a neighborhood friend's house, and the Teen studied for midterms.  When we regrouped tonight, Little set the table so we could all eat together, and now we're snuggled on the couch watching the movie.

It's really nice.

The theme today in church was "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening."  We were encouraged to set aside our own agendas and be open to what God really wants from us. 

If more family time is what the signs are pointing to right now, we're listening. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Counting Blessings - Day 5

Feeling grateful today for this blog and for my daily writing time.

I've been keeping this blog since 2006.  It consists of fairly private thoughts, and there have been times I have been tempted to password-protect it - but in the end I have chosen to leave it open.  There are friends and family across the country who tell me they enjoy being able to come here and catch up on what we're doing through my daily musings and pictures in a way that's a little more intimate than other social media.  I also welcome the (very) occasional stranger who pops by to read or comment.

It's good knowing that the people regularly visiting my space and keeping tabs on us are, for the most part, here because they care for us and wish us well. 

Sitting down and doing some writing is an important part of my day, especially the gratitude journaling, which has been a good exercise for me during stressful times or difficult days.  It improves my mood and puts me in a better mindset, so I approach this space with joy in my heart and almost always leave feeling better than when I came to it.

So if you, reader, are a close friend or family member, or even a stranger who has stumbled upon this blog, I welcome your presence here and invite you to enjoy my daily ramblings and attempts to create harmony out of chaos.  In my own way, and in my own small space, I'm doing my part to provide a different perspective from so much of the sarcasm and negativity so prevalent on the Internet. 

My hope is that you will come away from here with peace and gratitude in your heart for the blessings in your own life. 

It's a time of uncertainty and change for us, and hopefully of growth as well.  As I was explaining to Little yesterday - when you're driving in your car at night toward a far-off destination, you can follow the signs and generally have faith that you're headed in the right direction and will get there eventually if you keep driving.  There are things you can learn along your journey if you pay attention and spend your travel time wisely.

But - if you can only see the 20 feet or so ahead of you that show up in the headlights, you're dealing with uncertainty.  There could be sudden turns in the road, or bumps, or even big holes to go around.  You just don't know, and that part can be a little stressful.  So what do you do?  You take a deep breath and you keep driving, and you sing songs and play games in the car to keep it fun, and you think and talk about all the cool stuff you're going to do when you get to where you're going. 

You say a little prayer that you will arrive safely.

I'm grateful for a general idea of our destination, for lessons we'll learn along the way and for the people who are here to share it, who are encouraging and supporting us and wishing us safe travel.   

And I'm grateful for this space, where I can document all of this - so that a year or two from now, we can look back and laugh. :-)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 4 - More Farm Show!

Today was a much-needed day of fun, spent in the company of good friends.

We began with lunch at the Farm Show and ended with sparring, pizza, and an impromptu after-party that lasted late into the night.

Good times with good people.

And alpacas.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Counting Blessings - Day 3

This is going to be a stretch tonight, but I'll give it a shot.

Ativan?  I could be grateful for some of that.

Okay, being serious now - I just spent an hour kickboxing and two hours teaching pregnant women how to breathe and relax. 

I don't need no stinkin' Ativan. 

Red wine, maybe.

(Deep breath.)

I am grateful for a roof over our heads.  Healthy food to eat.  Boys who are being good and not wasting said healthy food.

Clothes to wear.

(Oxygen.  Oxygen is good.)

Kickboxing.  Kickboxing was really good.

The already-paid-for-the-year gym membership.  And three-months-paid martial arts.

My parents, who are blissfully enjoying a cruise to beautiful, warm places.

Friends who fed me coffee and breakfast this morning, friends who drove my kids around this evening.  Friends to spend the day with tomorrow.  Help that will be there when we need it.

Savageman, the best friend of them all.

(Another deep breath. I'm a pro at the breathing thing.)

Okay.  That's better.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Counting Blessings - Day 2

Tonight I'm thankful for the Teen, who took the initiative at school today and worked it out with the cafeteria so that he could unload boxes for them in exchange for lunch each day.  This will save us hundreds of dollars over the next few months, as lunch in the Catholic school cafeteria runs about $5 per day. 

Kudos to him for taking responsibility for this and making it happen right away.

I'm also thankful for volunteer opportunities of my own today, empowering women at the La Leche League and Girl Scout meetings I helped facilitate.  There will be no free lunch associated with either, but I'll gladly take any good Karma that might come my way as a result of these invested hours tending to the needs of overwhelmed new mothers and rambunctious pre-teen girls. Tonight, we helped the girls plan our second visit to the Interfaith Family Shelter to paint faces, do crafts and play games next month.  Their continued enthusiasm for reaching out to those less fortunate than themselves was inspiring as always. 

Putting the focus on helping others, especially those in immediate crisis or need, can really put things in perspective.

Continuing to remind ourselves of how very Blessed we have been.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Counting Blessings

Especially tonight, as we started moving our books down to their new home.  Savageman and I had a really nice day together, enjoying each other's company, the home we've made together, a bunch of good friends, and of course, our children.

Despite the curveballs Life sometimes throws at us, we are Blessed. 

Sometimes it's the curveballs themselves that help remind us of this.

Tonight, I am grateful for a marriage that has held up through so many challenges, and for a husband who still makes me laugh, who still rubs my feet, and who loves and needs me as much as I love and need him.

We promised each other - for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.  Like I told him the other day, "We may not be perfect, but we're perfect for each other.  And that's what matters."

Going to go find him and hug him now.


Monday, January 09, 2012

At Long Last...

I have a Nice Living Room.

And a Nice Cat to go with it.  (She's on the loveseat.)

I finally finished bolting the bookshelves to the wall today.  96 square feet of storage should do us some good around here.  Can't wait to see what they look like loaded up with books and CDs.

Also, happy to finally have the Coffee Bar I've been wanting in the dining room.  Moving all the coffee and tea paraphernalia out of the kitchen has freed up quite a bit of counter space while still allowing me easy access to my daily caffeine. 

All in all, I'm pleased.  It's been a long process, but we're in the home stretch, finally.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

Thoughts for a New Week

Good stuff here, which I have borrowed and reposted below.  It's simply and cheerfully written, and I'm posting it as a reminder to my children as well. 

More importantly, it is the example I try to set for them each day.

Excellent reminders at the start of a new week and a new year.

12 Things Happy People Do Differently
 by Jacob Sokol
  1. Express gratitude. - When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Kinda cool right? So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy anything. It makes sense. We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.
  2. Cultivate optimism. – Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism. No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it. She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life. People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.
  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority. Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out! If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made. What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
  4. Practice acts of kindness. – Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.) Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness. How extraordinary is that? Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on. A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin. Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.
  5. Nurture social relationships. – The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely? WHOA! There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with. We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
  6. Develop strategies for coping. – How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character. Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable. Forrest Gump knows the deal. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan. It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
  7. Learn to forgive. – Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being. You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion. When you ‘hate’ someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system. You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.
  8. Increase flow experiences. – Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing. Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.
  9. Savor life’s joys. – Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.
  10. Commit to your goals. – Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing. Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.
  11. Practice spirituality. – When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists. Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”
  12. Take care of your body. – Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Friday, January 06, 2012

Sparring Night

The martial arts highlight of the week.

I had two easy matches, two difficult matches against second-degree black belts, and one against my son, who wins trophies at this stuff. 

Of course, this wasn't point sparring. This was continuous sparring, where each round lasts 15-20 minutes without breaks.

I was drenched and exhausted at the end of it, but I felt good about how it went.

And, as aways, there was pizza to enjoy afterward.

Little brought glazed cake pops we made today with his new cake pop device.  Savageman and the other guys watched college football.  The kids made their weekly pilgrimage to the Big Lots and generally loitered outside, riding around on their ripsticks and other skateboard-type devices and showing off for each other.

There was much laughter as always, and we closed the place as always.

Good times.


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Wow, I'm Tired...

After about a week without a martial arts class, I went back today - took kickboxing, then class, then another class for good measure. 

And in both classes, we had to practice various falls, which was a little scary since it was the first time really working on them since the rib injury during my test. 

But I did them, and I don't seem to be any worse for the wear, at least for now. 

Plus, I was in the gym by 7:10 this morning, and ran two miles, which also seemed to go fine, although I was careful to warm up slowly and and ice my foot afterward, just in case.

(Note to self: wearing fresh workout clothes to bed makes it a whole lot easier to get up and go to the gym in the morning.  It's the changing out of the warm pajamas that really makes it unpleasant, and today I didn't have to.) 

The thing that really amazed me was how tired I was, going from the vacation sleep schedule to the bed-at-1 a.m.-and-up-with-the-Teen-at-6:40 a.m. schedule.  That and the lack of exercise really did a number on my mood and energy level these last few days. 

Tonight, after all that work, some time out with friends, and some caffeine, I feel like I'm finally getting back to normal.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Happy Birthday, Little!

Nine years ago, after a three-hour labor spent peacefully floating in a warm bath in a dark room, you came into the world, alarmingly silent for the first few minutes.

Like everything else with you, breathing happened on your timeline, not ours. 

But despite the fact that you totally freaked us out, when you were ready to breathe and cry and do what new babies are supposed to do, you did it and everything was fine. 

Amazing how even after we've raised two boys, another one can come along who teaches us a whole new approach to parenting.

And what's with the left-handedness?  And spending years thinking you were a cat?

Wacky stuff.

Anyway, you're my sweet Little Bear.  My personal chef.  My easygoing, happy-go-lucky little guy who doesn't sweat the small stuff, who isn't rattled when other people lose their cool, who merely shrugs things off and goes on his merry way.

I try to be more like you every day.