Some Things I Did Last Week

Last Monday I climbed these stairs.

Four times.

There are 377 of them. That’s 1508 steps. But I also climbed them four times the week before and every time we go we do a little bit more so I climbed 50 more. Plus if you really want a 100% accurate count (you do, don’t you?) there are two extra steps at the top before the fence cuts off the last flight that I climbed as well as sort of a bonus, so I climbed 1568 steps total.

And yet. My jeans are still tight.

Rude.

I talked to my son on the phone four different days (once twice in one day!) and texted with him every day. That is a new world record for us. When he went away to college he made it clear to us that he was an adult who was ready to lead his own life and certainly didn’t need his parents anymore. (Probably because we didn’t have any money.) He would call once a week (if we were lucky) for a perfunctory “check in” call that would last five to ten minutes.

But the last year of school, his calls sometimes came a little more often and were definitely more enjoyable. He actually seemed to like talking to us. He’d tell us funny stories or we’d discuss current events. Sometimes these calls would last for an hour.

This week he called to tell us about his new job, ask for advice, or just to tell us things that were happening. It made my sadness (mostly) go away.

I watched Dance Moms with my husband and daughter. God that show is a train wreck and I kind of hated myself for enjoying it so much because surely there are so many things I could have been doing that would have been more productive. But sometimes mindless fun is exactly what we need.

I spent Saturday with my best friend on Main Street in Ventura. We drank and ate and shopped and walked. The weather was beautiful and it was a perfect day.

I found this shirt in a thrift shop:

I texted my daughter: I think I have to buy it.

She texted back: I think the law is you have to buy it.

To which I responded: The Supreme Court has ruled yes.

I consciously practiced gratefulness every day. I kind of do this already, when I sit down to write about my happy moment for the day, but I took it to another level for a project I am participating in by focusing on a person that makes me happy (and stretching beyond my son, my daughter, my husband (hmmm… did I ever write my husband???) to a coworker I like to gossip with or the cashier at Trader Joe’s who is always so friendly), a place that makes me happy (you know, other than my bed) and something that gave me pleasure (a glass of wine, dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt, Dance Moms).

To throw a cliche (or perhaps a few) at you – the days are long, but the years are short. And it turns out that every day is not actually an adventure. But I’m trying to seek out the extraordinary in my ordinary days. Or at least the little bits that make me smile. Or the bits that are hard and terrible (because, I have to be honest, those stairs are pretty hard and terrible), but still so great because I did something hard and terrible and lived to tell about it.

I can’t stop even the most ordinary of days from slipping by so fast. But I can take the time to reflect on them.

What are some things that you did last week?

Reflections of 2018

Is it too late to write a blog post where I reflect upon 2018? (Is it reflect upon or reflect on? I don’t know. I’m too lazy to look it up. Anyway…)

Probably.

In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons I was never successful as a blogger. Well, there are many reasons. But I won’t bore you with all of them today. (And yes, boring you is probably one of them. Whatever. Moving on.)

It’s because I was never very topical. Whatever the topic of the day (hour, minute) other bloggers were writing about, I was always late to the party. I tend to let things like life and family (and general blaziness) get in the way of getting my butt in the chair to write.

I did sit down the first day of the year to relax and read my 2018 Happiness Journal to reflect on (upon?) the year that had just passed us and to set an intention for the year ahead.

Some wonderful things happened in 2018. Chandler turned 21. Marley turned 18, graduated high school and went on a trip to London and Edinburgh. I went to Stagecoach for the 6th year in a row and was back up in the VIP section. (Whoo Hoo!) I took on new responsibilities at work and got to travel to Las Vegas, Vancouver, Denver, Illinois, Texas (twice), Washington (twice), and Nashville. (Nashville! Squee!) Dave joined me on the Denver trip to mix pleasure with business and my friend Rita joined me when the work part of my Nashville trip ended and I extended the trip into an awesome girls’ weekend.

And some unspeakably terrible things happened. The Borderline shooting. The sad and sick truth is that everyone in this country knows what it feels like to wake up to the news of a mass shooting. But I have to tell you something. When it happens in your town it feels different. Because you were just at that nightclub having the time of your life two weeks beforehand. Because it was College Night and at least three of your friends had kids who were invited to go to the club but didn’t (thank God).  Because your daughter knew one of the twelve people who were murdered. It’s different. And for those of you who don’t live here I hope it’s a difference you never have to feel.

And then less than 24 hours later the Woolsey Fire raged through our town. Before we had a chance to get over the shock of the shooting (let alone even begin the process of grieving) we had to evacuate our homes. My family was lucky. The fire came to our back hill, but not to our house. Just down the street, starting four doors down there are three houses that suffered damage. Some of my friends are still displaced due to damaged homes. Some of my friends lost their homes completely.

backyard burn marks after woolsey fire
My hill after the fire – if you look closely at the Eucalyptus tree, you can see where it was on fire.

When I reflect on (I actually think I can use on or upon) 2018 I think a lot about luck. I’m lucky that I was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m lucky that the wind did not shift towards my house when the fire was on my back hill. I’m lucky to live in a community that has grown stronger in the wake of two terrible tragedies.

Every morning I try to sit down a think about the day before and focus on the one small (or sometimes big) moment that made me happiest. It teaches me to be grateful when life is stressful or busy or boring or wonderful or even terrible. To find light even when the tunnel is so long and so, so dark. And to not take for granted the light that shines brightly when it does so many days (weeks, months) in a row.

Here are some of my 2018 happy moments:

January 5 I took the day off work and spent it with Chandler. We went shopping and had a sushi lunch and visited Tom and Lisa. At the end of the day he hugged me and said thank you and that he liked spending the day with me.

February 8 I wore bright Kelly green pants and a pink shirt to work today and it made me feel cheery.

February 17 Dinner at Larson’s with Dale. It was so great to see her. She’s such an awesome person and I need to be a better friend and see her more often.

March 9 Writers’ Group at Julie’s. And Lexi was there – yay! Julie gave us HER BOOK! Holding Lily in my own hands filled me with so much joy!

March 14 Watching Marley’s speech on National Student Walkout Day. My daughter is a rockstar.

national student walkout day speech
A rockstar in the making.

April 6 I was walking Geordie and a saw a man coming home from work. When he opened his door I heard a little boy yell, “Daddy!” Oh how I remember that. Such joy! How wonderful!

April 21 Writers’ Group was brought to a whole other level – karaoke! I sang Lady Antebelum’s A Kiss Goodnight and it was magic!

April 27 Stagecoach. Those first steps walking into the pit and the excitement of the beat of the music pounding in my chest.

midland stagecoach
My view of Midland in the pit at Stagecoach. You’re welcome.

May 20 My mom had a 100 year party for my grandparents and I had a happy/sad moment when I realized how much my grandmother would have loved that party – to be honored like that. I miss them.

June 8 Hugging Chandler. Breakfast with Chandler. The four of us in one room. Chandler is home.

June 15 Marley graduated high school. Hearing her name called was sublime. She was so happy and proud of herself. And I’m so happy for her.

graduation cap and gown
Look out world, here she comes.

July 5 Dinner alone at the hotel bar in Vancouver. A cute bartender/server. Delicious food. An eight ounce glass of wine. Heaven.

July 14 Hanging with Dave in Denver. Reconnecting. So nice to have a mini-vacay.

August 2 Talking to Marley after dinner about music and watching her eyes light up. Priceless.

August 19 Concerts in the Park with Mary. Drinking Sangria. Talking to friends. Loving my town.

September 23 Breakfast tacos with Rhiannon. A long solo walk on the San Antonio Riverwalk. Wine at an airport bar. I had a lovely, lovely day.

October 19 Borderline with Rita, Keri, and Linda for Jerrod Niemann. Country music – even when you don’t know the songs it makes you feel so good. (This one really breaks my heart.)

borderline
Our last night at Borderline.

November 5 My dad and I had to run an errand and he opened the car door for me and I remembered that is something that he does. Such a small gesture, but so nice and it made me happy to have stirred up that memory.

November 18 When I got home from writing group (after midnight) Marley and Hunter had made a very elaborate fort and were laying in it watching TV. Oh how I love that!

December 23 There was a time in the afternoon when we were all together in the house. Marley and I were baking cakes and I just had such a warm, happy feeling that we were all together. Home.

I’d love to hear from you. What do you think of when you reflect on (or upon) 2018?

backyard after the woolsey fire
My backyard last week – new growth (and hope) after the fire.

Good Deeds, Smart Husbands, Sweet Country Music, and Lucky Days

Last Thursday I went to run a quick errand at Target and saw the 100.7 KHAY van in the parking lot and saw a station remote set up. I walked by and said hello and was asked if I wanted to try to win VIP tickets to the Oakheart Country Music Festival on Saturday.

“Oh, I already have tickets,” I said, “but I’ll take a swag bag, if that’s okay.” I chatted with the radio station people for a few minutes and then went into Target for my errand. (You’re dying to know what I had to buy at Target, aren’t you? Well, guess what – I’m not going to tell you, because it’s irrelevant to the story, and I’m trying to be more pithy with my words.)

What was I saying? Oh yeah. As I was paying for my purchase, I realized that they were giving away VIP tickets and I had GA – why not try to win? So I marched back to the tent and told them I did want to enter the contest. They told me the winner had to be present and they were drawing names in 20 minutes. It seemed I had a pretty good chance as there were only a couple of people lurking around, so I went into Target to kill time before the drawing and looked at all their cute summer clothes that I will not be buying due to my serious money diet and (baby) steps towards minimalization.

I came out and there were about five people milling about hoping to have their name pulled. A one in six chance at VIP tickets? Sweet! At precisely 2:30 a name was drawn and… it was not mine. Oh well. Then the guy from the radio station said he had a pair of GA tickets, did we want him to draw another name? Everyone said yes, so he pulled another name and I WON!

“You know what?” I said. “I already have GA tickets – I was just trying to get an upgrade. Pull someone else.”

He pulled the name of a woman who was so happy to win. “I tried to buy tickets, but they were sold out,” she told me. “Thank you so much,” she said, giving me a hug.

I went home feeling happier about my good deed than disappointed about not getting the upgrade. When I told the story three separate times to my three family members at home, every one of them said, “You should have taken the tickets and sold them.”

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked them. “It felt so good to see that woman so happy. I’m writing it in my happiness journal.”

On Saturday I sat down at my computer at two-thirty to print the tickets as my friend, Simmah was coming over at three o’clock to pick me up for the show.

Only.

I couldn’t find them.

What?!

My search for Oakheart resulted in 20 different emails telling me that tickets were on sale, Josh Turner, David Nail and Drake White were added to the line up, get your VIP tickets NOW, and tickets are almost sold out – hurry!, but no email with a link to my tickets.

I logged into Eventbrite, figuring I’d find my tickets there and saw my tickets for the Boots and Brews Country Music Festival in two weeks, but no Oakheart tickets.

I found the email to Simmah dated December 15th – did she want to go? Tickets, normally $50, were on sale that day only for half price. The line up hadn’t been announced (or even secured), but it seemed like a $25 gamble worth taking.

I did buy the tickets, didn’t I?

I searched my bank records to find that indeed I did. I looked up the company i purchased the tickets from online and tried to get in touch with their customer service department. I sent them an email. I called them. I even tried to contact their Customer Service Manager via in-mail on LinkedIn. But it’s a small company located in Georgia and it was now almost six o’clock eastern time. On a Saturday. No luck.

According to their FAQs (which were ridiculously hard to find, BTW) they mail their tickets via USPS. I didn’t remember getting tickets in the mail, but I purchased them six months ago. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, so it’s possible. (Okay, I do actually remember what I had for breakfast yesterday -full fat plain Greek yogurt with fruit and granola- the same thing I have every morning, but you know what I’m saying!) There are only a few places I’d put something like that so I searched all those places. Nothing.

My book says the F word 42 times. I said it a lot more times than that in this frantic half hour period.

Simmah got to my house and I told her the news. She helped me look for the tickets. I did more email searches. And yes, I checked my spam folders. Still nothing.

Why did I give away the tickets I won to that stupid woman?! They only sold out five days before the show. She had a whole six months to buy them! I’m crossing that out of my happiness journal. I do something so nice and look what happens to me. There is no such thing as karma. Why do bad things always happen to me? Shit!

I was so mad at myself for waiting until the last minute to print the tickets and mostly for disappointing my friend. She said it was fine, things happen, we’re going to a bunch of concerts this year. After two hours of fruitless searching we decided to do what any rational person would do in this situation: sit in the backyard and drink wine.

“Why don’t you just go and see if your name is at will call,” Dave said, sticking his head out of the sliding glass door. “Then at least you can tell the company you did everything when you call them on Monday and demand your money back.”

I rolled my eyes. Husbands are so dumb. There is no way I’d be on a will call list, but we finished our glass of wine and decided to try. The festival was only 15 minutes away and we’d put some feelers out to see if anyone had extra tickets – maybe we’d get lucky.

And miraculously, we did.

My name was on the freaking list.

So I guess sometimes husbands are pretty smart. (But don’t tell him I said that!)

“I hate it when you’re right,” I texted him. “My name was on the list. We’re in.”

“I know shit about shit,” he texted back. He’s right. He does.

The music was great. I saw my niece. I ran into a good friend. Two different people bought us beer.

It was our lucky day.

“I listened to my husband and he was right,” I wrote in my happiness journal. (But seriously. Do not tell him I said that.)

 

 

Remembering the Good in 2016

 

On the morning of New Year’s Eve while Dave was walking the dog and the kids were still sleeping, I curled up on my favorite chair with a blanket on my lap and a cup of coffee in my hand to reflect on the happy moments of 2016 (yes, there were happy moments) and read my Happiness Journal.

Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar, I would sit down at the end of each night and reflect on the little moment that made me happiest that day and write it down in my favorite calendar. Well, I aspired to, anyway. But can I confess something? I don’t think I ever once sat down at the end of the night to write my moment. I would try to capture it as it happened. This is my moment, I’d say to myself as Marley told a funny story at dinner or Chandler called unexpectedly and stayed on the phone longer than usual or I opened my front door to a full moon, shiny and bright at 5:15AM on my way to the gym. But after (another) night of falling asleep with while watching TV with Dave and Marley, I’d tumble into bed always, always, always taking the time to wash my face and 87% of the time brushing my teeth, but never having the energy to write my happy moment.

Many mornings I’d write my happy moment from the previous day (like this morning), and most mornings I’d write down two or three (or four) at a time. (What was your moment on Monday, Charlene? Think!) 

This year, as always, I have resolutions.

Write a sequel to Frosted Cowboy.

Lose the holiday weight (again).

Waste less time.

Make healthier meals for my family.

And take the time before bed to reflect on that moment. Because even the shittiest of days (and years good riddance 2016) have wonderful moments. Some of them big, some of them quite small, but they should be recognized. Reflected on. Cherished.

Here are some of mine (big and small):

January 1st: I saw a father teaching his daughter how to ride her bike in the park.

February 8th: I held my book in my hands for the very first time.

February 22nd: The moonrise was amazing tonight. I called Rita to share it and she got in her car and drove to a high point to see it. That made me so happy.

March 23rd: My writers’ group always fills my soul with happiness. (BTW, we meet monthly and I wrote some variation of this every month.)

April 4th: Lunch with Dale and Mera. A hot waiter. An elixir with lavender, cucumber and mint. Happiness all around. So much love at that table.

April 15th: I watched the funniest commercial on YouTube. It sounds lame, but it gave me belly laughs. And belly laughs make me happy. (Want a belly laugh? You can watch it too.)

April 16th: Cheryl’s ballet boot camp class. So freaking hard. But if felt good to do something hard, even if I didn’t do it particularly well.

May 1st: Dancing in the pit at Stagecoach and feeling the energy of the music.

May 8th: Finding out Marley has Brown Eyed Girl on her “Feel Good” music mix and singing along with her. She knows the words better than I do!

May 10th: Hugging Chandler. He’s home!

June 5th: Having a margarita outside on a Sunday afternoon.

June 21st: Marley turned 16 today. Giving her a gift that she wanted but didn’t expect made me so happy. She knows that I listened.

July 11th: When we drove Chandler to the airport he said, “I’m glad everybody came.”

August 8th: Being home with Dave and Marley, just chilling with pizza for dinner after going out five nights in a row was heaven.

September 11th: Listening to Marley tell a story at dinner about the seniors vs. the sophomores. That girl is hilarious!

October 11th: I wore boots today! Fall is really (almost) here.

October 14th: I had to go to Ventura court for work and saw two couples getting photos taken for their weddings. They were dressed up and happy and in love. It felt so great to witness that.

November 8th: Voting for HRC made me so proud. (Remember, it’s my happiest moment of the day and not necessarily how the day turned out.) 😦

November 28th: Interviewing Matthew Ramsey on the phone and having a goal I set for myself be realized. (Matthew Ramsey is the lead singer of Old Dominion & interviewing them was a writing goal I set for myself. The interview was featured in an online magazine called Songwriter Universe and you can read the interview here. If you like.)

December 10th: Watching Marley give her speech and stand up for what she believes in at her march. Watching people rally around her. I’ve never been more proud.

Taking the time to reflect on the happy moments of my year filled me with such peace, such joy, such happiness. I noticed just as I did the year before, so many of my moments were repeated – listening to music, the feeling of accomplishment after a hard workout, laughing with Dave and Marley at dinner, talking to Chandler on the phone, spending time with friends.

And yes, most will agree that 2016 was sort of a sucktastic year. The entertainment world was robbed of beloved icons, there were too many terrorist attacks, and he-who-shall-not-be-named was elected president. And trust me when I tell you that I have taken plenty of time to wallow in the sadness of 2016.

Carrie Fisher Flipping people off
Like oh so many, I feel this about so much of 2016!

But we can spend our time focusing on the sad times or the happy times. And while acknowledging the sad times is important and doing what we can to change them is necessary, I believe our well-being depends on reflecting on, acknowledging, cherishing the things that fill our hearts with happiness – both big and small.

What made you happy in 2016?

 

 

 

What Made Me Happy in 2015

Every year my mom gives me a National Geographic desk calendar for Christmas. It’s always my favorite gift. The calendar is in a weekly format and there is a different breathtaking photo for each week. The beauty of nature astounds me and the photographs in these calendars often leave me awestruck.

national-geographic-2016-calendar
My 2016 Calendar

 

Near the beginning of last year I read that Elizabeth Gilbert kept a Happiness Jar and at the end of the day she would scribble down the happiest moment of her day on a piece of scrap paper and put it in a jar. (She said that on sad days she would write down the least-crappy moment.)

Happiness Jar
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar

 

I thought this was a great idea, but I decided to write my happiest moments on my National Geographic calendar instead. My plan was on the last day of the year to sit down and read over my happy moments and reflect on my year as I prepared myself for the year to come.

I will admit that I wasn’t the best at keeping faithful to this practice. In fact I would almost never write down my happy moment before heading to bed. Usually I would write it down the next morning. Okay, maybe that’s not even true. Usually I would sit down near the end of the week (*cough-Saturday Morning-cough*) and think to myself, what the hell made me happy this week?

happiness-calendar
Some days I was better than others at recording my happy times

 

The good news is, I’m a genuinly happy person, so being happy isn’t hard for me. But I am trying to be more mindful and I wanted to focus on specific moments that filled my heart with joy, no matter how small. In fact, the smaller the better. Sure seeing Chandler march down the aisle at his high school graduation ceremony or Marley earn her varsity letter made me happy, but I wanted to reflect upon the little moments. And as the year went on I did get better at recognizing little happy moments of my day and writing them on a piece of scrap paper to transfer to my calendar later.

  • My stinky ninety-pound dog climbing on my lap (even though he knows he shouldn’t) and staring at me with those puppy eyes in a way that gives me no choice but to kiss his smelly head and pet him.
  • Watching a butterfly flit past.
  • Singing Adele’s Hello (before it was overplayed) at the top of my lungs while driving to work.

So on New Year’s Eve, when Dave was walking the dog and the kids were hiding away in their rooms I sat down with a glass of wine in my hand and a plate of cheese on my lap and went through my calendar.

National-geographic-photography-calendar
Mmmmm cheese makes me happy!

 

There were many moments that repeated themselves. For example, my writing group meets once a month and every month I noted it as my happiest moment that day. Going out with friends made the list twenty-seven times, singing in the car made the list seven times, working out at the 5:30AM class made the list nine times and running made the list eight times (which I know is weird since I hate running, but my happiness had more to do with the fact that I was able to run and not die).

2015 was a great year for me – in many ways epic. Chandler graduated high school and went away to college. Marley finished her first year of high school and went on a month-long trip with her grandparents. I received a publishing offer the day after my 50th birthday. I’m telling you, it was a fantastic year full of big wonderful moments. But I believe what also made it great was taking the time to notice the little moments.

Here are some of them:

January 27th: I was stopped at a light and the woman in the car next to me was blowing bubbles out of her window.

March 6th: Dave and I walked the dog after dinner tonight and had such a nice talk.

April 2nd: I talked to my friend Pat today. He always makes me laugh and feel young and happy.

April 26th: Dancing with cute gay men (who only want to dance and nothing else) at Stagecoach Music Festival. Music and dancing always make me feel so young.

April 30th: Marley took out the recycling and told me to come outside so I could see the sunset. It was glorious and I was so happy that she wanted to share it with me.

May 10th: I was vacuuming and Chandler came home from prom and said, “Can I do that for you, Mom, since it’s Mother’s Day?” (Um, Yes!)

June 6th: Pulling weeds -or at least seeing the result- my yard looks so nice!

June 26th: Walking on the beach for hours looking for sea glass. So meditative.

July 11th: Spending the morning yard saling with Chandler. (And finding a Lululemon top for $1.00!)

August 29th: Watching Bridget Jones’s Diary while drinking a Frosted Cowboy.

October 16: Wearing a coat and gloves for the first time in so long and feeling the cool, crisp air. (We were in DC visitng Chandler and it was still ridiculously hot in LA.)

November 16th: Marley thanked me for making her breakfast, just as she does every morning. It always makes me so happy when she says, “Thank you.”

December 14th: Finding out my book was well-reviewed in Publishers Weekly. (Okay, this was kind of a big moment!)

December 19th: Sitting in the car with Chandler eating tacos from a taco truck in the rain while thrift shopping.

December 20th: Baking with Marley.

December 22nd: I was standing in front of the silverware drawer when Dave offered to set up coffee for the next morning. Then he said, “But for that to happen I need two things. 1.) for you to move and 2.) for you to give me a kiss.”

I loved reading and remembering the small things that made me happy and it was such a lovely way to reflect on my year. I am definitely continuing this daily practice (well, daily-ish practice) of writing down my happy moments. And I look forward to December 31, 2016 when I’ll find a quiet space (and some wine and cheese) to relive them again.

What made you happy in 2015?

 

Photo credit: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Happiness Jar