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December 27, 2010

2011: Git ‘er done

Filed under: Happiness Project Wednesday, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 4:00 pm

Over the past couple weeks of illness, I took my Google Reader from about 200 unread blog posts/news articles down to 0.  (Paradoxically, this has saddened me because now I have less to look forward to during that precious internet time.)  But it has also stimulated my thinking about goals/dreams/resolutions as many people have been musing about these topics as 2011 approaches.  Two posts in particular have kept coming to mind: my friend Jen’s “Mommies Dream Too” and my wannabe-friend (she did once comment on my blog ;))  Gretchen Rubin’s “Choose One Word To Set the Tone for the Next Year.”  I didn’t set any goals or resolutions for 2010, which was wisely done since as I suspected, it was a quite a disorienting year of illness and new mommyhood.  But truthfully, I haven’t really ever been a resolution-type of gal, which is why the one-word theme resonates with me so much.

So that’s what I’m doing this year, picking a word to guide my efforts, but not setting rigid time lines or exact tasks.  And in honor of James, one of my interviewed men in jail whose interview I have been analyzing of late, I’ve chosen git ‘er done.  I know it seems like more than one word, but trust me, to him it’s one, all-encompassing word.

Like I said, it’s not going to be minutely detailed or rigidly planned, but I’m going to try to finish things I start as well as things I’ve started in years past.

Some things I hope to get done this year:

  • Thesis
  • Three in-process papers submitted to journals
  • Reading Getting Things Done (I’ve been in the middle of this book for about a year, and I desperately need to get some sort of system in place for organizing our chaos)
  • Rach and Todd’s wedding quilt (you got married in 2004, was it??  Ha!)
  • Finish or discard the 50-some blog post drafts I’ve started
  • Roll over 403b into Roth IRA (soon enough for it to be for tax year 2010)
  • Cross off two or three more states on my life list (although this may be superseded by a new plan to visit my friend Tara in China — she’s only there for two years on her foreign service post, so time is of the essence)

So a few questions for you:  Is there anything I’ve promised to do for you and never done?  Now’s your chance to remind me (thankfully, my parents don’t read my blog very often . . . their list would be way too long)!  Have you ever tried a theme for the year (one word or otherwise)?  Did it help?  How did you keep it in mind throughout the year?  What are you planning for 2011?


June 16, 2010

Happiness Project Wednesday: Identify a quick fix

Every Wednesday I’m recording how The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has influenced my daily life.  To read my introductory post, click here.

Last night I woke up at 4:00am feeling horribly ill.  It wasn’t just a little nausea . . . I was so sick to my stomach that it made me hurt all over.*  In the hour and a half that I lay awake (thanks, Nikki, for helping me with the lay/lie issue) feeling quite miserable, I thought about quick fixes.  How do I get a quick hit of happiness to help me get through a seemingly unbearable time?

And you know what came to mind?  Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts.  [Does this date me?]  As I ran through some of them in my mind, I really did get a boost of happiness.  I thought of this one first:

To me, it’s always a good idea to carry two sacks of something when you walk around.  That way, if anybody says, ‘Hey, can you give me a hand?’ you can say, ‘Sorry, got these sacks.’

and all the times that Neal and I have quickly picked up sacks when we knew the other was going to ask us for help with something.  Then I laughed out loud when I thought of my favorite:

To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kinda scary. I’ve wondered where this started, and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.

Never gets old for me.

I sometimes give quick fixes a bad rap because I feel like as a culture we often defer the grander, in-depth changes that would make us better, happier, healthier people.  And I don’t want to defer doing the hard things merely because they’re hard.  But I’m also coming to see the value in these quick fixes, like listening to a favorite song, one of Gretchen’s preferred methods.

I’m starting to get more serious about identifying my quick fixes.  Jack Handey quotes.  “The Office.”  “I Love Lucy.”  And this song, which is one of my all-time favorites (and made all the better by this slightly bizarre, early-90s video, which I had never seen before):

What are your happiness quick fixes?

* I’m feeling much better this afternoon.  I found out that my cousin Emily had the same problem last night/today, which likely means it was food poisoning rather than a bug since we went out for a treat together last night.

June 9, 2010

Happiness Project Wednesday: Buy needful things

Filed under: Books, Happiness Project Wednesday, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 6:00 pm

Every Wednesday I’m recording how The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has influenced my daily life.  To read my introductory post, click here.

To some people, this is a no-brainer.  Of course you buy things you need.  But I honestly struggle with it.  Even when I have a problem that could be solved with a $5 purchase, I fight it tooth-and-nail.

But we’re working on it, especially now that we have a baby and it’s getting harder to just make do all the time.  Our first triumph:

This magnificent rolling laundry sorter is basically saving our marriage.  See, my old hamper was too heavy for me to carry to the washer (even without clothes in it) and so I depended on Neal for that chore.  But the hamper was so clunky and awkward that it was also a pain for Neal to carry out, and frankly, he was kind of a pill about it.

After months of Neal complaints, I finally agreed that we should fork over the cash to find a better solution.  But man, did it bug me — I guess in my mind $25-30 is just far more than one should ever pay for something to put your dirty clothes in.

Now that we have been using this bad boy for three months, I concede that Neal was right all along.  I get a lot of pleasure out of how easily I can roll it around the house, even on carpet.  It is virtually effortless, which is about all my body can handle some days.  No more complaints while I wait for Neal to bring the laundry out.  No more Neal proclaiming what a martyr he is for having to do such an unpleasant chore.  (Not to mention it’s dual purpose as a disciplinary measure for our little girl).

Not that this has opened the flood gates to every sensible purchase.  Neal is currently working on convincing me that a new CD player to replace our years-old and frequently-skipping boombox is a needful thing.  I’ll let you know who wins round two . . .

June 2, 2010

Happiness Project Wednesday: Do what needs to be done

Every Wednesday I’m recording how The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has influenced my daily life.  To read my introductory post, click here.

I have searched in vain for the blog post (or maybe it was in the book?) where Gretchen talks about how her mom taught her this:  do what needs to be done.  Don’t procrastinate, don’t hem-and-haw, just do it.  For the most part, this is not the time in my life where I get to do this very often.  I’ve got a pile of medical bills for which I need to write dispute letters.  We’ve got what I’ve affectionately termed “junk alley” in the hallway, stuff that needs to be put away, sold, or donated.  Our car needs new tires.  But I’ve also got a three-month-old who’s becoming a bit of rebel when it comes to napping.  Not exactly a recipe for getting stuff done.

Lately I’ve realized this sentiment is about more than these nagging tasks; it’s also about prioritizing.  Do what needs to be done.  And be honest and realistic about what those needs are, and what has to slide for the moment.

In that vein, I’ve decided to prioritize two things.  First, scripture study.  This is a need that’s taken a huge hit since Addison was born.  See, my norm with scripture study in my pre-baby life was heavy on the study.  I’m the type of person that would have about five books out, looking at cross-references and commentary.  I was in the middle of studying Isaiah when baby arrived, and it has taken me some time to accept that, at least for now, there will be no more heavy Isaiah studying.  Luckily, I’ve found an alternative.  My friend Anne from D.C. gave me a book by her father, 101 Powerful Promises from the Book of Mormon, quite a while ago and I’m using it now to scale back my expectations and instead focus on consistency.  No matter how crazy a day feels to me, I can always find a few minutes to read two pages devoted to a specific promise from The Book of Mormon.

Second, therapy.  On my post about how I was still dealing with postpartum depression, another D.C. friend, Linsey, assured me that I was self-aware enough to know if I needed to do something more aggressive to deal with my depression.  I definitely felt that was true, but at the same time realized that I was avoiding making the decision to go back to counseling.  Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE therapy.  I will sing its praises all day long.  I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t want a captive audience for an hour a week?!  But I was really fighting it simply because time feels so precious to me.  I felt like there were so many other things (e.g., medical bills, junk alley, and the like) I needed to do during the time I get away from Addison.  I finally decided that I needed to start counseling again when I realized that even when I had free time, I couldn’t figure out what to do that would really rejuvenate me.  Neal would tell me to do something fun, and it was getting to the point where I couldn’t remember what I do for fun because nothing felt fun anymore.  That’s when I knew I needed to see a therapist again.

That, and Neal telling me that I needed to see a therapist again.

Sometimes we need other people to remind us to do what needs to be done.

May 26, 2010

Happiness Project Wednesday: One-sentence journal

Every Wednesday I’m recording how The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has influenced my daily life.  To read my introductory post, click here.

Family history is a big part of the LDS faith; it serves both practical purposes and grand theological ends.  Consequently, there is a great deal of emphasis on keeping our own records, writing a journal, etc.  Unfortunately, I have always been bad at this in its more traditional form.  Even with this blog, there have been times of feast and times of famine.

So when I read about Gretchen’s experiment with keeping a one-sentence journal, it seemed like the perfect idea.  If I tell myself I only have to write one sentence a day, it doesn’t feel so daunting.  And it will still be creating a record of the early days of my daughter’s life, which, if she’s anything like her mother, she will one day just eat up.

Some days I have only managed a sentence like this one from April 28, written after a two-week lull:

I thought I would rock at a one-sentence journal, but apparently, I also suck at this type of journaling.

But other days I have written 4 or 5 run-on sentences.  Well done, me.

May 19, 2010

Happiness Project Wednesday: Spend out

Every Wednesday I’m recording how The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin has influenced my daily life.  To read my introductory post, click here.

This is Gretchen’s (oh yes, she’s Gretchen to me; after all we’re both redheads, concerned with the subject of happiness, and a bit miserly by nature) 7th personal commandment.  She explores various dimensions of spending out in this post, but basically she means “to stop hoarding, to trust in abundance.”

I could probably do a whole series just on this one concept because, well, it’s a big problem for me.  Like Gretchen, I “save” things.  I have long thought that there are two kinds of people in this world, those who wear a new outfit the day they bring it home and those who “save” it in its pristine, untouched form.  I am most definitely the latter.

I buy a new sponge because the old one is disgusting and I keep it under the kitchen sink because it will get dirty if I open it.

I get new underwear because my old stuff is worn out and I keep it in the package and continue to wear the old pairs.

I bring home a nice plastic bag, say from the BYU Bookstore, and I save it in my bag drawer.  [I mean, after all, I may never get my hands on such a nice bag again.  Except for the next time I go and they give me another bag, just the same as they’ve been doing for the past 15 years that I’ve been visiting the BYU Bookstore.]

See how this is a problem?

While the bag drawer issue is probably not going away anytime soon, since family and friends have staged interventions to no avail since I was about 9 years old, I have made a small positive change in the “spending out” arena.

Behold, the soap:

I LOVE the Bath and Body Works warm vanilla sugar scent.  Although I have never purchased any for myself (my extreme frugality is the subject for another day), my mom has been giving me the soap, lotion, shampoo, and whatever else she can get her hands on for Christmas for about a decade now.  I get so excited when I open it up, smell it, admire the pretty bottles.  I rejoice!!

And then I put it at the bottom of the linen closet to save for a time when we own our own, perfectly designed, exquisitely clean home.  Considering that I may be like 45 when Neal graduates from college, this may be ill-advised.

So I decided it was high time to spend out.  I put a bottle of the fancy soap by the kitchen sink.  I put one by the bathroom sink.  I put away the other cheap, mixed-with-water-to-make-it-last-longer soap dispensers so I wouldn’t keep using them.

Now when I wash my hands, which I do far more frequently with an infant on board, I do it in sheer luxury.  I rub my hands together longer and I smell them afterward.

Spend out.

Someday I may even work on the lotion:

Baby steps.

May 13, 2010

Books that changed my life

Filed under: Books, Happiness Project Wednesday, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 5:52 pm

I have long pointed to two books (outside of the scriptures) that were life-altering for me: Beloved by Toni Morrison, which is, to me, the most tragically beautiful thing ever written, and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which includes my all-time favorite scene when a murderer and a prostitute sit down to read the Bible together.

And now I have a new one to add to this elite list.

Doesn't the cover alone just make you happy?!

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin is in an altogether different vein.  For starters, it’s nonfiction (but I still think you might enjoy it, Nikki!); the story of her efforts to increase happiness in her daily life.  And while I believe happiness is a lofty topic, it certainly reads differently than the other two and their themes of poverty, slavery, guilt, forgiveness, suffering, redemption.

Although Neal has also been reading The Happiness Project, he initially expressed that he could see how it could be ground-breaking or eye-opening for some people, but most of it is territory that we have already talked about at length as we’ve considered the sort of life we want to build together.  It certainly didn’t feel life changing to him.

But that comment made me realize something quite wonderful about the book (as well as Gretchen Rubin’s related blog which I’ve been following for about a year now).  It is not a paradigm-shifting book for me, as the other two were when I first read them in high school.  It has not made me rethink life, the universe, everything.  Rather, it has seeped into my consciousness and started to reshape the small and simple things about my day-to-day life.  And it couldn’t have come at a better time, as I try to adjust to new motherhood and beat this postpartum depression.

So although I haven’t started a formal Happiness Project of my own just yet, I’m going to spend a series of posts sharing some of the ideas I’ve garnered from Gretchen Rubin and how I’m applying them to my life to become a better, happier person.

Blog at