Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Happiness is...

When I think about happiness, I imagine Snoopy doing his unbridled happy dance, although it's almost as charming when Schroder shames him into stopping.

Happiness has to be one of the most elusive things out there. Kind of like bigfoot. Yet for some crazy reason it is written into the Constitution that we have the right to pursue it. So it must be a worthwhile goal, right?

I'm going to guess a formula for happiness might be:

Happiness  = basic needs are met + good health + free time to do what we want

Basic needs being met and good health are clear enough. It would be harder to be happy if you were homeless, hungry or on a respirator, although not impossible. The last one is perhaps less obvious. Parents of young children such as myself seem to have it all, yet so few of us are happy because of that free time part of the equation. Our time is almost never our own. Then we feel guilty for not appreciating what we have. So the cycle goes.

Buddha had a very different approach to finding happiness. He said we should look at the root cause of our suffering. This makes him sound like a pessimist, but his point was that only in understanding why we are not happy do we stand a chance at finding happiness. Now that sounds like one of those Zen koans that are impossible to answer, but there is sense to this. If you look at what is bothering you straight on, maybe you can make it stop, or at least see it clearly enough to realize it's not so bad after all.

What's my point? I may not have one. Today, an acquaintance was lamenting not being able to do it all as a mom. Her passion is writing, but she feels guilty for not being there every moment for her children. I say let them eat frooty pebbles sometimes and skip the guilt. Not even Oprah has it all, as she openly admits. So let's all cut ourselves some slack and find joy in the little things, like the smell of Fall in the air today. It's kind of making me feel like doing a happy dance.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What do people want?

I have a hideous, awful, horrible confession to make: I am unoriginal. I used this title in another blog post that I used for a writer's group blog, but I promise not to repeat content. And my answer is different this time: Mint chip ice cream.

The what-do-people-want question was floating through my head as I scooped my third helping. Why do people do what they do? And why does this stuff taste so damn good eighteen spoonfuls later?

The answer to the second is scientific manipulation of my taste buds but the first is more interesting and slippery, almost as slippery as melted ice cream which is why I don't waste time when eating it.

Our brains are goal-oriented. Without goals, we wouldn't do anything, ever. If you don't believe me, try it out. Tell yourself it doesn't matter if you brush your hair today, go to work or finish that novel and see how far you get. (I'll tell you this much, if you are me and you go outside without doing something with your/my/our hair, we will be picked up in no time flat as an escapee from the local loony bin.)

We respond to incentives, whether it is financial (showing up to work) seeking out good feelings (the pleasurable sensation of that cold, refreshing, sweet stuff on our tongue) or the rush we get from finishing a chapter and thus getting one step closer to our goal of finishing the dang novel before I turn 100. As far as grooming goes, the sensation of the hairbrush might feel good to our scalp, but I think for most of us, the incentive is to avoid the look of pity in others' eyes that we have devolved into a bag lady.

I am in the process of making tags and putting clothes on hangers for a semiannual consignment sale. My husband asks, 'Why do you do that? Why not just donate that junk?' It's a valid question, although I do take issue with the word 'junk' when we've got a whole basement full of his treasures. I do it because it makes me feel good. I get to sort through all my kids outgrown clothes and get one last nostalgic rush before sending them on to the next owner who will hopefully look as cute in them as my kids did. I also do it so I can get the first shot at buying from the consignment sale. Win-win if you ask me. Hubby looks at me like I'm a crazy bag lady. (I've been busy and can't find a comb. So sue me.)
We all have our pleasures, but do we take time out to think about them? Check in and see if they still fit or if it's time to let them go?

Oh, hey, what a great metaphor with the outgrown clothes. Gosh, I feel like a genius. I deserve a treat. If you want some mint chip, get your own. This container is just the right size for me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Kiddos went back today. Everyone is shouting hip hip hurray except me. It's not that I'll miss them. The little buggers'll be back before I know it. It's just, when I think of all the things that schools could do with that time versus the way they choose to spend it, it makes me sad. I want my kids to want to go to school. Hard to feel that way about place where the ditto stacks go all the way to the ceiling and the list of rules do too.

My brilliant, totally-not-thought-out-yet plan is to bring back apprenticeships. My son isn't a bad kid; he just needs something to DO that doesn't involve sitting at a desk, filling out boring paperwork. My idea is if they would give kids jobs doing anything at all, including sweeping the halls and reorganizing the book shelves, they would be a lot happier about their day.

I wish I knew more people with interesting jobs, but heck, I wish I knew anyone who might be willing to give my idea a shot. Because children never want to learn from their own parents, we could exchange our kids and teach them anything we could think of that might be useful, or just anything that is fun. I, for example, know how to do needlepoint and speak French. My mom makes awesome bread and butter pickles and my husband can fix anything, even if it's not yet broken. I figure someone else might like to know how to do these things too.

If you think a kid-swap apprenticeship program has merit over traditional schooling, comment below. Maybe we can get a grass-roots thing going.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Living Life in Reverse

My kids are doing their summer in reverse. The first day of the vacation, they were doing the,
"Mom! He's touching me with his toe nail!"
"Mom! She's breathing on me!"

Now they're playing sweetly together and can't be nicer to each other. Their creativity astounds me, makes me feel like a complete hack. The semi-funny scene I churned out this morning is nothing compared to the elaborate games these two dream up.

It reminds me of the Dr. Seuss quote about adults being obsolete kids and that true success is the ability to bring some of a kid's freshness to adult life.

So I give it a shot. I ignore the pile of dishes, step carefully around the detritus scattered across the living room floor.

My foray into kidhood lasts about seven minutes before my blood pressure shoots up to dangerously high levels. The sharp corner of a lego in my foot doesn't help matters.

I wish I didn't care so much about clean, clear spaces, but boring old me does. It's okay though. My mommy brain is needed to go break up the argument in the other room about who gave who a wedgie first.

I'll have to save channeling my inner kid for when I'm older. Something to look forward to.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Home Again, Home Again

Jiggity-jig. There's nothing like a long vacation with nothing to do to make you appreciate the dump you live in.

I was crawling these four grimy walls two short weeks ago. Now, my fresh perspective on peeling paint, stacks of mail and broken washing machines is how wonderful.

We have gone to visit my mom's second home faithfully every year for the past decade. It's a nice place, on the water, lots of space and privacy. My husband relaxes by doing things like whacking back the jungle that threatens to swallow the house and chasing bees out of the gutters where they set up a sizable nest during the many months when no one is around. The kids used to entertain themselves by swinging from one antique table to another, but they've taken up other interests, like falling off the dock onto the rocks in the swampy pond and playing croquet in the poison ivy. I rested on the porch this year with the bees who also like the damp wood under the deck and enjoyed the scent of kitty litter wafting out from a nearby window.

 My mother is selling that house this year and I could not be happier. Is there any better feeling than having no regrets about letting something go?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

IC Publishing Blog Tour

I'm taking a break from my usual hard-hitting reportage on things like emerging trends in the up-and-coming penis cozy market to participate in the IC Publishing Summer Blog Tour.

I must first say thank you to Louise Redmann for inviting me. Louise is the author of a medieval romance The Traitor's Legacy as well as numerous vignettes and short stories. I'm excited to read them all. You can find out more at her blog.

Now on to my assignment:

How do you start your writing projects?
My imagination has always been a problem.
I mean, being imaginative has never been a problem for me, except at school, work and other places where people expect me to pay attention and do the boring tasks they dream up.

I get ideas everywhere, like this little critter I made from the rejected ends of my daughter's snow peas:
My kids and I recently collaborated on a story about a coconut ice cream bar who lives in a tree house with her friends, cup of water, ear of corn and chocolate chip cookie. (Can you guess what we had for lunch that day?) Coconut loses her skate board, but ends up getting it back and making a new friend out of a sock monkey in the process.

My point is, you can make a story out of just about anything.

How do you continue your writing projects?
I love to write so keeping going is no problem. Rather, I would say, if I didn't have writing to look forward to, getting out of bed in the morning would be a lot harder. The opportunity to be creative energizes me.

How do you finish your project?
I would like to state for the record that I have never knowingly inflicted my stories on anyone from Finland. I can't say I haven't nibbled a few danish in my day, however...
What? Not that kind of Finnish?
As Gilda Radner would say, Never mind.

Finishing is tough. Sometimes I just have to say enough is enough. But with electronic publishing, I can always tweak… Oh, it's bad. Finishing is really hard.

Writing Challenge
You have just emerged from the bathroom in a public place to see two members of the opposite sex waiting to use it. You must explain why you were in the wrong bathroom.
I'd love to hear your responses. Post them in the comment section below.

Passing the Pen
I am thrilled to introduce Cayenne Michaels. A decade ago, she went to do a monthlong gig of fieldwork in Namibia. She is still there.
Cayenne is working on her first novel, entitled Life of Chi. I am so happy I got to go first on this tour because her blog puts mine to shame.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cozies: they're not just for teapots anymore

Due to the smashing success of my last post about penis cozies, I am encouraged to continue the 'cozy' theme. You may not be aware of this, but there is a whole world of cozies out there. Cozies for toilet paper rolls have been around for a while of course, but there are also water bottle cozies, and cozies for cell phones. Just about anything you love deserves a cozy.
In a more unusual vein, there are cozies for turtles, also known as 'reptile warmers.' They actually serve a dual purpose: warmth and to make your pet easier to find when he disappears among the greenery.
Below are some animal cozies I cooked up.
The first is a banana wearing the penis cozy:
Below are stuffies modeling different styles. They could work for a variety of household pets: fried egg, blueberry pancake, smiley face, Belgian waffle and then psychedelic on the end. 
(Please note, the animal wearing the psychedelic model is a somewhat failed attempt at a kangaroo and joey, not a chipmunk with a hard on.)

* Note: No fruit or stuffies were abused during this photo shoot.
Get your orders in early. Christmas will be here before you know it.