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Archive for December, 2010

Reduce, reuse and SWAP

December 15, 2010 2 comments
Color Clothes

Image by Orin Zebest via Flickr

I had forgotten how utterly distracting a roomful of clothes yet to be discovered can be.  Clothing swaps, although tons of fun, are no place to catch up with friends.  My long lost pals from distant neighborhoods across the bridge would enter, say a quick hello, and then get down to business surveying the scene.  If you did attempt to engage them before they had properly done so, it was obvious they were only half listening – no matter how fabulous your story was, their eyes would dart from rack to rack behind you.

It is a feast for the eyes: racks of silent treasures, hanging modestly, waiting for you to fall in love.  Once again, the clothing swap was a resounding success, everyone of us leaving with something a little more treasured than we had given up, giddy from chatting and bubbles.

As always, there were coveted items that caused no end of plotting.  The highly acclaimed Diane Von Furstenberg dress was back, under the rumor that it had been consigned after its last swap showing (horror of all horrors!), but somehow mysteriously made itself back into the fray.  Sisterhood of the traveling dress in the making, and much more sensible for a wrap dress to flatter different body types than jeans.  If Hollywood could only have that one over.

There were twice as many women in attendance, a nod to its burgeoning success, causing us to round corners even more slowly lest you bowl over a half clad stranger.  As I stopped to zip up one such stranger and glimpsed a view of her behind, it occurred to me how truly funny it is that we were all running around trying on things and garnering public opinion on their effect.  A de facto benefit from this night is viewing up close and personal all of the underwear choices out there, be they Panties by Post or the Gap.  A stunning array.

Winning the item of your desire is a numbers game – the better your number, the better your chance of getting a coveted item.  Just when I thought I had scored a great number – 22 out of a possible 70 – our gracious hostess Ruthie changed the methodology on us, freeing both the first and then the last of the numbers to choose their items, once again ensuring I was one of the last to choose.  The cloud of bad luck follows me at these gigs, so I’m a good target to sit beside if you want a good number.  Nevertheless, I got a sweet pair of high brown Franco Sarto boots that I can’t wait to wear with the dress I am now looking to buy, so it’s all good.  I missed out on the DVF dress, but my great friend Nancy swiped it, so it was a victory in two ways; my friend got the trophy and now that dress hangs a stone’s throw away in an attainable closet.

With its expanding attendance, it is a great evening for women entrepreneurs to showcase their artistry and products, so also on display were beautiful prints and jewelery, cool housewares, environmentally friendly cleaning products, and Sun Ice ski jackets at wholesale prices.  I scored a beautiful long necklace for a ridiculously reduced price which I would tell you, but then I would have to kill you, so let’s leave it at ridiculous.

At the end of the evening, all of the remaining clothes are donated to a local women’s shelter, which is of course the biggest victory of all; women helping women.

Chistmas is killing me

December 13, 2010 2 comments
MD-80 by a Nose

Image by caribb via Flickr

I had the most vivid dream last night: I was standing on an island at the water’s edge.  Not so far away, a 747 was taking off in my direction.  I stood, transposed, as this magnificent beast lazily lifted first its nose, and then slowly its rear, its huge bulk improbably hanging in mid air.  Suddenly, in a horrifying twist, its nose turned downward and it was heading straight towards me.  This prior magical moment, full of wonderment at the marvels of modernity, turned into the shock of modernity causing my death; there was no where to run.

And so it is with Christmas, another altogether beautiful, mass market, man made beast.  It has become an industry that spawns an entire collection of movies, its own section in book stores and the library, encourages even the most gifted of musicians to cover Christmas classics (as if anyone could improve on Nat King Cole’s version of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, but still, they try).  Most importantly, it is the crowning glory of everything retail; spend! spend! spend!, advertisements tell us.  As the days of December tick quickly by, the nose of that 747 has taken a nasty downward focus.

The internet has supposedly made shopping easy: one click and it’s on its way.  Yet I am paralyzed.  I have not bought one gift for my best customers, my children.  The lights are too dazzling, the smell of pine intoxicating, the wrapping paper too varied, the choices of gifts both big, small and insignificant, overwhelming.  I am frozen by the sheer volume of my growing list, and now it is too late to order online.

As the mother who wears the purse, if not the pants, in this family, I am the unspoken provider of Christmas.  I have three little girls who fully expect Santa to bring them a boatload of presents on December 25.  We are working our way through the multitude of Christmas movies Hollywood has faithfully produced, all with the same message: you must believe in Santa for him to come.  Yet, try though I may to believe (dutifully, like all of the cards shout from my mailbox, Believe!), this higher being has yet to materialize.  It will be me trudging through malls this week, battling frantic shoppers who are decidedly not in the holiday spirit as they beat me to parking spots and dash in front of me in long checkout lines.

I know this; I have been out there already.  I haven’t bought one present for my family, but I’ve been trying hysterically to keep up with the other demands of Christmas.  My daughters are each doing Secret Santa gift exchanges at school, at gymnastics, and now, they tell me, since they are so much fun, with their friends.  They are collecting money for coaches and teachers, to give them gifts, and since it is all about giving, who can argue with that?  Each of their classes are putting together a gift hamper for families in need – the most useful gifts I will purchase this season – but adding three more to my list.  For every party they attend (classroom, school play, gymnastics, soccer) they bring items for the food bank, so my pantry is disappearing before my eyes, and I’m also expected to bake and decorate cookies for these events, as if the twelve other plates of gingerbread men are not enough.  There are dresses and shiny shoes to be purchased,  snow boots and ski suits that must be upgraded for the impending weather.  I’m exhausted and broke and I haven’t even started on the list that includes my own family.

sporting their finery during Christmas 2009

Our tree is up, but my children are begging for more decorations, more lights, more everything.  When, they keep asking, will the presents be under the tree?  Oh yes, those elusive presents.  Telling them I’ve been a bit busy doesn’t fly: doing what? they ask.

The ten shopping days remaining are reduced to five for me, since school vacation starts at the end of this week, at which point I morph into camp director, shepherding my children to the skating rink, ski hill,  indoor pools and playdates in an effort to entertain them.

The nose of the plane is now closing in on me, I am deafened by the roar of its engine.  Should I run or swim, I wonder.  It really doesn’t matter, since it is landing on top of me in any event.  Just as the Grinch discovered, you can’t stop Christmas from coming; but unlike those gracious Who’s in Whoville, my children will not peacefully gather around a tree without presents underneath it, singing carols.

all smiles Christmas morn '09 - no pressure!

Running: the ultimate mood booster

December 10, 2010 4 comments
Sunset Beach

Image by Rusty Russ via Flickr

Something happened today that happens rarely: I did not want to go running.

Normally, no matter what the weather or circumstances, I cannot wait to lace up my shoes and hit the pavement; it is something I look forward to from the moment I wake up.  But not today.

Today I was cranky and in no mood for my workout.  Even the fact that it was not raining, as forecast, couldn’t levitate my sourness.  I hadn’t slept well, so despite the fact it was 9 am I was tired.  I had eaten breakfast ridiculously early since I couldn’t sleep, and was now ravenous.  I was freezing cold and could not feel my hands before I started, not helping matters.  And I was scheduled to do long intervals, which I find hard at the best of times.  I was not a happy camper.

But I had dutifully dressed for my run, ready to do battle with whatever came my way, so I soldiered – less than half heartedly – on.  It occurred to me that this is what many people feel like on a regular basis before their workout, and I had a flash of empathy for them.  This was not fun.  This was what I felt like before going to the dentist.

Of course you know what happens next; it is a truism, a fact, a sure thing: I immediately felt better as soon as I started running.  It took all of one minute, and I shook off all of my complaints, the cloud of distaste evaporating in a puff.  Once again, I was off and running, soaking in the views and the joy of movement.  One minute and I was virtually transformed into a happier person.  Am I really that flaky?

I know not everyone experiences the joy of running, it can be daunting and uncomfortable.  It’s hard.  But doing the workout, instead of calling it a day before you begin, will always make you happier (barring injury, obviously).   As I have read hundreds of times in running related magazines, on days you really do not want to run, at least start your warm up, then determine your workout.

I’ve always known running is a great way of dealing with my emotions, whether I am feeling down, sad, angry, or confused.  I go for a run and things sort themselves out somehow, and I finish feeling better than when I started.  For me, it is the best medicine, and I often tell people this.  But it was a jolt to me today to realize how quickly the endorphins (or perhaps just fresh air) can positively effect demeanor.  I was an entirely different person post workout, and it helped me enjoy the rest of the day immeasurably.

The point, of course, is to just do it.

Categories: Health Tags: ,

Christmas vacation plans, anyone?

December 9, 2010 2 comments
a commercial christmas in hawaii #4

Image by nayrb7 via Flickr

It’s starting already.  Whenever a school break looms, the calendar days gapingly empty and devoid of the regular nine to three tolling of the school bell, that question: “So, what are you up to for the holidays?”

If you pay close attention, this question comes almost exclusively from those who actually have vacation plans for the upcoming break, since posing this question provides them with a segue into their plans after you answer, “Not much, how about you?”.

This is a tad facetious, since holiday plans are not a bad conversation starter, especially among those whose answer to the question might be “We’re going to Kauai for the first time, have you ever been?” and they are off to the races talking about the pros and cons of islands in Hawaii.

These lucky soon-to-be vacationers obviously have travel on the brain, having had to load up with sunscreen or ski goggles, as the case may be, in preparation for their trip, so innocently may think everybody flies off to exotic destinations when faced with two weeks of having no teachers to babysit their children.  Let’s face it, the alternative is not so rosy.   After the first day of sitting around in your pajamas watching old Christmas DVD’s, the kids start getting on each others nerves, which gets on the parents nerves, which makes us all throw on our boots and coats and head out into the miserable rain or snow or slush and then things really go downhill.

I am sensitive to the topic of actually going somewhere on your school break, since my parents chose to have numerous children instead of implementing a holiday budget (luckily for me since I was the last of the nine kids, I got life whereas my siblings never got Disney World).  We never went anywhere.  I hated that first day back after spring break where classmates would show up sporting tans and even worse, stories of their travels.  I was green with jealousy.

Inadvertently rubbing salt into my wounds, my family finally planned a vacation, but it went awry.  When I was in high school, my parents announced we would be going to Quebec’s Winter Carnival for spring break.  A twelve hour drive, but still, a great destination.  I was jubilant, overjoyed, and ran around asking all of my classmates what they were doing for their break, barely letting them answer before blurting out “well WE’RE going to the Quebec Winter Carnival!”  However my mother contracted a brutal case of the flu on the road, so we holed up in Edmundston New Brunswick for the week.  My dad did drive us over the Quebec border, so we could say we had been there.  And the Edmundston Ho Jo had an indoor pool where I learned my back dive, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.  But I have been careful not to gloat ever since.

Likely I am marred by my childhood experiences, and overly sensitive to this question, when people are just saying what first comes to their mind.  I should grow up, not be so judgmental, be happy for them.  I know this, and will tell my own children to do exactly this when they complain that we are not going anywhere.  I will tell them to think of all the people who have so little, and be happy for what we do have.

After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year; there are good times to be had without leaving your house; magical moments abound. But unabashedly I would rather be having these moments in Mexico; and news flash for all of those who pose the question: so would we all.

So please: if you have holiday plans and I am in your midst, put a lid on it.

Eat cake.

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment
Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting topped ...

Image via Wikipedia

I can’t bake to save my soul.  Which is either a crime, since my favorite thing in the world is homemade chocolate cake; or a blessing, since I could quickly and easily devour an entire cake in one sitting.  My waistline says blessing.

Many women can laugh off their inability to bake, saying their time would be better spent shopping or chatting or fill in the blank with your favorite woman stereotype.  But as a stay at home mother – of girls to boot – it has not escaped my children’s notice that I cannot bake.  What is more synonymous with “stay at home” mother than baking?  It’s in the job description, wedged between changing diapers and folding laundry.  In fact the only thing I detest more than baking itself is baking with my children – magical moments spent creating chocolate chip cookies whilst wearing matching aprons do not occur under my roof.  That’s what Grandma’s are for.

Recently, my oldest daughter had a friend over to dinner.  I had, ahem, slaved to make a cake for dessert, it being a particularly stormy and dismal Sunday.  The cake had turned out well – as they normally do from the box.  Duncan Hines rarely disappoints.  But my child was mortified – mortified – when her friend asked me to pass on the recipe to her mother and we told her it was from a box.  She had no idea such a concept existed.  Her mother, clearly, would never dream of baking from a box, my daughter told me later.  We all have our strengths, I ventured.

I have the extremely good fortune of having a friend who not only bakes, but bakes very well.  She made me a chocolate cake for my birthday, and let me tell you I have thought of nothing else since.  It was rich, dense and moist, an explosion of goodness on my palette.  The frosting – also chocolate – was likewise rich with a hint of coffee.  Too rich for my friend’s taste, she said she has never combined the two.  But perfectly rich and beyond delectable for me.  Try as I might, I will never be able to describe its perfection on my tongue, but will simply say:  Best. Cake. Ever.

We handily polished off half of it the night of my birthday.  The next day the kids went to school and we were alone together, me and that cake.  I stared at it, and it stared right back.  In the light of day, it looked even sexier and more alluring than it had in its virginal state the evening before.  All day it beckoned me, and I purposely busied myself and avoided the kitchen.  It was exhausting, not eating that cake.  I waited until my kids were home from school before having another piece, forcing myself to share it equally among us.  There was no way I could stop at one piece otherwise.  It was a very long six hours.

It subsequently dawned on me that it is a blessing, indeed, that I don’t bake.  I could not muster such amazing restraint on a regular basis.

Categories: Life Tags: , , , ,

Conquering the bucket list: photography

December 8, 2010 3 comments
Nikon D700 camera

Image via Wikipedia

When my brilliant friend turned forty, she proclaimed her new attitude on life: “I’m no longer going to ask why; I’m going to say why not!”, and we all applauded wildly.  The concept is a sound one.  Practicing it, however, can be a different story altogether.  Who has time for bungee jumping?

But it did make me take a hard look at my bucket list.  It continues to grow, but I have checked very few things off of the list.  I stalled out after “have kids”.  What, exactly, am I waiting for?  I hit the forty marker yesterday, so decided there is no time like the present to tackle the things I want to do before I die.

Photography ranks high on this list.  A long time ago, back when neon was in and I had the ski suit to prove it, my parents bought me a 35 mm Minolta camera for Christmas.  Note this was back in the days when cameras used film, so experimenting with apertures and shutter speeds was a costly process, and unless you had access to a dark room, your results took a week to receive.  I happened to be perennially short of time and money, not to mention patience, so photography and I didn’t get very far.

I have been wielding point and shoot cameras ever since, replacing them every few years for a model with higher pixels when the camera inevitably dies after throwing around one too many times.  They are handy contraptions, and every now and then even produce a great picture.  One day I would revisit photography, but until then my cheap and cheerful models would suffice.

I thought my day of reckoning came last year.  On Christmas, to be precise.  Santa heeded my many hints, and I received a Nikon D-5000 digital SLR.  These have come down in price substantially in an effort to be competitive in the massive camera market, which now includes smartphones.  I noticed the automatic setting, and not wanting to argue with the camera’s own trusty computer, switched the dial to this setting and began shooting.  What did I know that the camera didn’t?

I have used this setting for a year now; and have the questionable pictures to prove it.  They are certainly no better than my point and shoot camera produced, with the added burden of carrying a cumbersome, weighty piece of equipment that doesn’t fit in my purse.  The automatic setting was not cutting the mustard, and my photography was getting nowhere.  Inspired by my friends’ new “why not?” motto, I enrolled in a course.  Twenty years late but better than never.

In three hours I learned enough to feel like I can conquer the world; Annie Leibovitz look out.  My instructor taught me his “Big 6” – the main concepts he uses when composing a photograph.  He blew the dust off of terms like aperture and f-stops, reacquainted me with shutter speeds, and explained how metering modes effect your pictures.  He discussed the concepts of white balance and exposure compensation, and readily expressed his views on available software for putting the finishing touches on your photos.

My homework is to practice using the various settings (but never, under any circumstances, am I to touch automatic mode), and then return my findings next week.  Now that I can speak this camera’s language, of course I cannot wait to play with the different settings and see how that translates to my pictures.

The total course length is six hours, its cost $150.  If only my other bucket list items – learning Spanish, reading the complete works of Shakespeare, owning something Prada – could be accomplished so easily.

Advanced Digital Training is on Welch Street in North Vancouver, http://www.ADTschool.com

Categories: Life Tags: , , , ,

What is the appropriate age for cell phones?

December 6, 2010 3 comments
Cell phone camera

My daughter started asking for a cell phone when she was in grade two.  My response was very contained and reasonable, and included the words “over my dead body.”  Perhaps I should have chosen my words more carefully, since I am still alive and she is now in grade six.  It is safe to say she wishes me dead.

Unsuspecting people who plan on having children should be aware that procreating in this day and age also means additional phone plans, so make sure your provider is up to snuff and offers additional phones at knock out prices; at the rate we are going kindergarten will be the new high school when it comes to the age that is appropriate for acquiring hand held devices.

In my child’s defense, many of her peers have their own phones and use them to text furiously with alarming frequency.  So in effect, she is being left out of the conversation.  Perhaps the upside is it leaves those dinosaur landlines available for other members of the family; although she commandeers our home computer to Skype with her friends in lieu of texting.

Curiously I notice my children’s phone skills are suffering.  I remember getting home from school and our phone would start ringing on cue, and we would begin dissecting what happened to who in school that day, despite having just said goodbye to these friends moments before.  When my daughter’s friends call – which they do rarely –  they have monosyllabic conversations that last less than a minute; a drastic departure from the hours I used to spend with the cord wrapped around my wrist, other household members ducking underneath it on their way to the kitchen.

Remember those cords?  Or how long it took to dial “0’s” on those rotary phones?  (Our family’s number ended in 7000 – brilliantly easy to remember, but you could have dialed Europe faster.)  Or even the first cell phones, the size of a shoe box.  The changes in telecommunication  in my lifetime alone like a roller coaster ride; I can understand her desire to ride the wave.

But unfortunately for her, as dogged as she is to acquire one, I am doggedly against it.  (This does not sway her a bit from asking for one every birthday, Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day that passes, however.) The health risks are inconclusive, but it makes great sense to me that putting a phone up against your ear is akin to putting your head inside a microwave.  Especially since her brain is still developing, I see no need for her to take such risks.

Of course she is quick to point out she wouldn’t need to use it for talking, since it’s all about texting.  But to that end she can easily email, which I understand is slightly slower but effectively the same. And do I really want her to own yet another little screen to stare at?

She uses the safety argument, preying on my motherly instincts if nothing else, but the fact is she is rarely if ever on her own, which is another problem altogether.  In our hovering society, she is most often shuttled to and from school, play dates and activities, seldom out of arm’s reach of a land line, or at the very least one of her friend’s cell phones.

Everyday I hear about another one her friends whose parents have caved in to the cell phone pressure; or more pointedly she tells me of the younger kids in her school who flash the little beasts around.  It is the peer argument that smites the most; I get the overwhelming desire that she has to acquire something that seemingly everyone else has.

But adversity breeds character, I tell her.  You need a cell phone like you need a hole in the head – and at the end of the day, a hole in the head is precisely what we are trying to avoid.

Cross country magic on Cypress Mountain

December 3, 2010 2 comments
I took this photo of cross country skiing at G...

Image via Wikipedia

You could say I’m a fan of Vancouver, since I love everything about it.  It is a seamless and beautiful blend of urban and nature, the city itself wedged between ocean and mountains.  On any day you can choose between the sea, forest, or funky urban neighborhoods for your playground.  I have never been to a city that rivals its beauty.

One of my favorite aspects of this city is its proximity to the North Shore mountains, and the incredible range of recreation they offer.  In particular, the cross country skiing at Cypress Mountain, is one of its best kept secrets.

On a typical gray day in Vancouver, I take a short ten minute drive up the mountain from my house and it is like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia: the wet pavement transforms to slush and then powdery snow as your ears pop with the rise in elevation.  The trees are laden with snow and a winter wonderland appears before your eyes, with no White Witch in sight, just a few chipmunks, the occasional skier, and stillness.

It is truly magical, and a better mood booster than a sunlamp.

If the sky is blue and there is fresh snow, as there was today, I make my way up to the top of Romstad, about a twenty minute climb, to a junction where you occasionally meet up with back country skiers and snowshoers.  Everytime I curse the steep terrain and wonder why I am doing this wretched sport, and everytime I turn around and fly down the wide open trail and am rewarded by the swift speed you can reach unencumbered by heavy downhill gear.  A quick loop of Triangle Lake and back up Romstad; my memory is short.

My favorite loop is Unknown Lake, where on a slick day where your skis run fast, I try to remain in a tuck position for the better part of the trail, the closest I will come to a downhill race.

I took a skate skiing lesson ten years ago, and have been hooked by the combination of cardiovascular exercise and skill it requires ever since.  It truly is a blend of skating and skiing, with the added benefit of an upper body workout.  Climbing hills – of which there are many  –  it is hard to tell which is more taxed: your searing lungs or the lactic acid build up in your legs, but the rewards of gliding along a trail that ebbs and flows through the forest make all of the climbs worthwhile.

This sport doesn’t come easily, for me at least.  The technique improves with years of practice; there are expansive movements involved as your upper and lower body work in different ways to propel your body forward.  I am still a student; occasionally I feel as graceful as a bird but more often like a fish out of water.  In my mind’s eye I look like Becky Scott, my favorite Olympian, who makes skate skiing look completely effortless; in reality my form is a much more cumbersome attempt at gliding.  Thankfully I have never had to watch myself, so Becky Scott wins the day.

Sweating in the fresh mountain air, as the snow glitters like fairy dust and my eye is calmed by incredible vistas, is my idea of a cleanse, Vancouver style.

Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty

December 3, 2010 4 comments
Part of this year's twenty. Geez, I'm getting old.

Image via Wikipedia

Shhhh.  Don’t tell anyone, but I am turning 40 this week.

I want to keep this a secret because of the pressure to do something big, or, even better, huge, to mark its passing.  In my circle, the unspoken rule is that you celebrate turning forty in grand style, and every decade marker hereafter.  It’s the middle of road, on the way to the end of the road, so in lieu of the ability to stop time altogether, we throw ourselves big parties.

Perhaps what you decide to do for your fortieth is yet another indicator of success.  I know of people who have done pilgrimages to Machu Picchu, taken their friends to Hawaii, done golf trips to Ireland, gone to Vegas, and many others who have thrown huge shakers with live bands.  In the Maritimes, I remember seeing the occasional lawn bedecked with several (perhaps forty, come to think of it…) pink flamingos and a big sign that read “Lordy, lordy, look who’s forty!”, but perhaps that is just a Maritime thing.  If how you celebrate it is an indication of achievement, I am an abysmal failure, because my deepest desire is to do nothing.

It is all so predictable and foreordained.  Like Valentine’s Day.  Who wouldn’t want roses any other day of the year for half the cost?

In the same vein, there are lots of things I want to do and places I want to see, and I suppose I could use my fortieth as an excuse to embark on my wish list, but I would rather just embark on my own accord, regardless of the calendar date.

I love my friends – there is nothing I like better than a great night out with my peeps.  But I deplore being the center of attention – my wedding, bridal showers and baby showers – any event that centered around me – are memories I cringe at; not my finest moments.  I love to celebrate other people’s birthdays, just not my own.  I’m comfortable with wall flower status, just let me fade to black in peace.

My desire to sweep this birthday under the rug has nothing to do with being melancholy about getting older.  I have no issue with aging.  I continue to feel better than I ever have, I’m fit, healthy, and happy, a wee bit smarter than last year I would wager.  I continue to look forward to the many benefits aging brings, like an empty nest, and wisdom.  I fail to see the significance of entering my 40’s as anything other than another day in my life.  As people start saying at this age, “it’s better than the alternative.”

The concept often bantered around – “it’s all downhill from here” – doesn’t alarm me in the slightest; like Mark Twain said,  “Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”  There are still things that excite me about the future, so what’s the big deal about crow’s feet and gray hair?  Marks of distinction, in my mind.  My looks were never one of my best qualities anyway; losing them can only help to level the playing field.

So I’m not bothered about the number,  I don’t care for the attention, and I feel like I celebrate my life on an ongoing basis.  But ironically I need to explain this to people, and although they nod and murmur something to the effect that they can understand my position, the look in their eyes reads, “you poor thing, no one would throw you a party?”

I’m celebrating in a small way; my way: with a few close friends over a boozy dinner at Chambar, my favorite restaurant, under the strict instructions that no one is to mention my birthday; and absolutely no gifts, although hugs and kisses will be gracefully accepted (and I might make an exception for a diamond tiara).  Hold the speeches and slideshow.

I am asking for one thing actually:  a new bike, just like my tenth birthday, incidentally.  After all, as Chili Davis said, “Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.”  Nothing says living more than flying down hills on your shiny new ten speed, in my book.

Categories: Life Tags: , ,

The Happiness Project – one cynic’s review

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment
Cover of "The Happiness Project: Or, Why ...

Cover via Amazon

New Yorkers are synonymous with hustle and bustle.  The term itself conjures up an image of thousands of foot soldiers stalwartly making their way up Fifth Avenue, like an army of ants returning to their queen.

I only have one friend who calls New York home, but I imagine its inhabitants to be “Type A” people, each with long “to do” lists that they keep beside their beds in the event they think of another thing they may want to accomplish in the middle of the night.  I know this is a stereotype, but it seems to be backed up by portrayals of New Yorkers in many books, shows, and movies, so I’m sticking by it.  (Hollywood doesn’t lie.)

So in reading “The Happiness Project”, although interested in this noble cause: finding happiness; I couldn’t quell the idea that author Gretchen Rubin had put “get happy” on her to do list, and was going to go to any length to achieve it, no matter that happiness is actually an intangible aspect of our beings.  This year: happiness.  Next year: wealth.

By December, the month she had decided to put all eleven methods of getting happy into play, I was so worried she was going to have a nervous breakdown that I couldn’t grasp whether or not she was succeeding.  I read on just to make sure she didn’t drop dead mid sentence from the sheer effort of forcing herself to do all of those things on her list (that didn’t necessarily come naturally to her).

Aside from this niggling feeling I had throughout the book, Rubin makes some valid points about steps you can take to improve your mood.  Strangely, I had just written a post about reducing clutter entitled “November: a new year begins”, wherein I felt so much better after ridding closets and drawers of unused items.  Likewise, the first month of Rubin’s project is dedicated to organizing and cleaning her apartment of clutter.  I agree that putting in this time and effort is well worth the reward, and can contribute to an overall sense of achievement that translates to happiness.

Another aspect of her happiness project that resonated with me was her determination to “Be Gretchen”, and ascribe her personal happiness to her own unique personality, and not base it on what she feels she should be doing.  For instance, she feels like she should love going to jazz clubs, but in actual fact she doesn’t; so she rightly learns to listen to her true self.

But the absolute most important point she hit upon was that we are all happier when in stages of growth.  Continually evolving as humans and expanding our horizons is of utmost importance when measuring happiness.  Whatever way you achieve this – by taking a course, learning a trade, reading a book, taking up an instrument, traveling to a new place – your overall well-being will stand to benefit.

Applause has to go to Rubin for her efforts to make the world a better place by sharing her Happiness Project.  If she has helped one person, and she undoubtably has helped thousands if book sales are any indication, it has been a worthwhile project.

That should make her happy.