Category Archives: Happiness Project

2014 Christmas letter

I suppose it is traditional to write a Christmas letter and enclose it with my Christmas cards.  I have failed to do that for the last several years. It feels presumptuous to me, I guess. I don’t really know. Maybe in the age of Facebook, I don’t feel like the Christmas update is as necessary.

There is some value in introspection though, so I’ll give it a shot.

Dear Friends and Family-

Well, can you believe it? We managed that annual trip around the sun once again.  I hope this season finds you all in good health and high spirits.  Just remember, winter is coming. 😉

This year has been a good one for me, I think.  A lot of things have come to completion, which is nice, and I have probably grown a lot too. Continue reading 2014 Christmas letter

Things that are making me happy right now

I thought I’d take a few moments to just list out some of the things that are making me happy these days.

1) My favorite blueberry farm opened up temporarily after having announced that the polar vortex cold of winter had damaged their crop. I picked my fill.

2) Audible.com + Bluetooth is allowing me to listen to books with reckless abandon.

3) My flowers are absolutely gorgeous. The gladiolas are blooming right now.

4) Ginger beer. Mmmm….

5) I was approved to give a TED style talk at the Affirmation conference. I’m going to apply the Start with Why principles to living an authentic life as an LGBT Mormon.

6) The 2014 Emmett Family Reunion went off without significant hitches.

7) This video from the reunion. (I love the soundtrack!)

8) Also, this video: (I feel like the soundtrack is perfect on this one too!)

9) The flavor of sun warmed cherry tomatoes.

10) The Ann Arbor District Library Summer Game. This library is awesome, and I have a good time playing along every summer.

11) My Primary class.

12) My new dehydrator, blender, and ice cream maker.  Funny how the right tool at the right time can improve your life so much.

I think things are going fairly well right now, but it always helps to stop and count the little things. What is making you happy?

Happy August!

 

Midyear Goal Introspection

It’s the middle of the year, I’m stuck for a blog topic, and it’s an eep day to boot. Looks like it is time for some introspection about how my goals are going.  Here are my goals and how they seem to be doing:

[ ] Create more – I seem to be on track

[ ] Constellation Quilt: I’ve been a little stalled out on this one. Quilting isn’t a summer thing, plus I’m down to the stars on the section that I’m working on, and I really haven’t figured out to do those efficiently. But all in all, it has gotten a lot of work, and will get done.

[ ] Say Hey Doctor K video collab 1x/month : Oh yeah, this one is on track. Have you seen them?  You should watch them all! 

[ ] Blog 2x/month: Modified this to 1x per month, and I’m hitting that one. (If I get this published today, that is.)

[ ] Daily Diary: On track. It’s sometimes hard to find something to write down, but the fact that I am space constrained helps a lot.

[ ] Be kinder: Hard to measure. Anyone want to give me anonymous feedback. Am I doing a good job of being kinder?

[ ] Be more active – Seem to be on track, I derailed once on purpose in order to spend out on a relationship.

[ ] Symbolic Bike Riding Goal (tbd): The tbd is sitting at 500 miles at the moment. I haven’t really figured out what that symbolizes. I have logged 165.5 miles as of today.  I have derailed twice, paid my fine, and am on track presently.

[ ] More steps than 2013: On track, no derailments.  As of today, I’m sitting at 1.17 million steps for the year.

[ ] Do more yoga: Completely off track. I didn’t set up a beeminder on this one, and I haven’t really done any yoga at all. I’m kind of thinking of a monthly daily goal in August or September to try to remedy this.

[ ] Cook more – I am on top of this one. I have been on a cooking jag all year. I have days when I don’t feel like cooking, but overall, my habits have changed significantly.

[ ] Plan meals: Have I sung the praises of eMeals?   Oh, that’s right. If you listen, I have probably talked your ear off about it. I highly recommend it for people like me who have a hard time planning. It has taught me a lot about menu development. I have used the Vegetarian and Paleo meal plans, and like both of them.  I am spending more at the grocery store, but less for lunches at work, and I’m throwing away less food. Here’s my referral link: eMeals.com

[ ] More Vegetarian Meals: Thanks to eMeals, I consider this one a success, even if I am currently on the Paleo plan, which is very definitely not vegetarian.

[ ] Spend out: I feel like I’m doing ok with this. I spent out on a closet system that is making my life better. I got some art I love and some other tools that I am using (hello, new ice cream maker and dehydrator and shelves). Also, some concerts!

[ ] Plan better: This is a perpetual problem for me. I’m starting to get a system down at work, and need to transition that into my personal life.

[ ] Plant a garden: Planted

[ ] Eat what I grow: So far, the harvest has been green beans, sugar snap peas, squash and zucchini , and herbs. Yummy. Looking forward to / slightly terrified by the prospect of the tomatoes

[ ] Be ok: Yes. I am ok.

[ ] Be braver: I went to Nauvoo all by myself and didn’t know anyone. That’s brave, right?

[ ] Be a good Primary teacher: I think I’m doing ok. I just changed classes from the 9 turning 10 class to the 7 turning 8 class.  That’s a whole new ballgame, that is.

[ ] Deliberate practices – 1000 paper cranes: Paper cranes are all over my house. I have folded or caused to be folded 541 so far.

[ ] Host more dinners: 6 so far, my favorite was a waffle party.

[ ] Invest in relationships: I’m trying, but I sometimes let my emotions and Eeyore side get in the way.

[ ] Take a class: I’ve taken 2! Both at Zingerman’s. I may need an intervention, and/or enablers and gift cards.

[ ] Do things I’m not good at: I’m not sure. I’ll have to introspect on this one a bit more.

So, that’s where I am at. I feel like I’m doing pretty good. I’m most happy about the Be More Active and Cook More goals, plus the collab goal with Kara for Say Hey Doctor K. Those three seem to be my brightest successes.

Here’s to the best of the rest of the year.  How are you doing with your goals for the year?

2014 Resolutions

I’ve been putting this off.   Here goes, it is largely based on last years goals:

[ ] Create more

[ ] Constellation Quilt
[ ] Say Hey Doctor K video collab 1x/month
[ ] Blog 2x/month
[ ] Daily Diary

[ ] Be kinder

[ ] Be more active

[ ] Symbolic Bike Riding Goal (tbd)
[ ] More steps than 2013
[ ] Do more yoga

[ ] Cook more

[ ] Plan meals
[ ] More Vegetarian Meals

[ ] Spend out
[ ] Plan better

[ ] Plant a garden

[ ] Eat what I grow

[ ] Be ok
[ ] Be braver
[ ] Be a good Primary teacher
[ ] Deliberate practices – 1000 paper cranes
[ ] Host more dinners
[ ] Invest in relationships
[ ] Take a class
[ ] Do things I’m not good at

Update 2/28 – Finally figured out what I want my 2014 Theme to be: Engage

Resolutions Update

So, you can see from the graphs in the post below how I did with my personal challenge to try to get 10,000 steps in a day.  If you throw out the final data point for a day when I forgot my Fitbit, I averaged about 9600 steps a day, which is a fantastic average.  My long term average is 5,400.  I had 16 days over 10K steps, which is the same as what I had in all of 2012.  I ended up getting a new Fitbit One mid-month, when my Fitbit Classic kind of fell to pieces.

2013-03-10 08.58.37-3

 

Things I learned:
– To get that many steps, I have to do a Morning Mile without fail. (Thank goodness for Radiolab)
– It’s still pretty cold in the mornings in March.
– The Fitbit One has a nifty feature that allows it to vibrate an alarm. I use it to remind me to get up and walk around at work mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
– I still have troubles getting my steps up on Sundays
– The Briarwood Mall is about 1200 steps round trip
– Sams Club is further away than I expected it by foot.
– If I walk while I’m on the phone, I can up really up my steps

Other goals:

I’ve been doing more Yoga via a Rec and Ed class. It’s been challenging and rewarding.
I have been shaving with a razor (instead of an electric shaver) since the beginning of the year. It’s nice because I don’t have to shave every day anymore.
I spent out on a few things that I wanted for myself. (A new television!)
I’m not very good at getting reviews of the media I am consuming written up.
I am about 36 miles into the 130 miles of the Huron River. I am right on track.  The graph below is my Beeminder graph, so you can see when I’m slacking. I don’t actually know if it live updates or not. (The closer the dots on the graph, the more frequent I am rowing. As long as I stay above the yellow/orange line, I’m on track.)

 

I think my April goals are Plant a Garden (I planted flowers and built myself a raised bed garden last Saturday. Now I just have to fill the garden with soil and figure out what to plant in it.) and Be Braver. I’m also testing Take a Real Vacation.

Goals for 2013

[ ] Create more
[ ] Be kinder
[ ] Be more active
[ ] Row the length of the Huron
[ ] Cook more
[ ] Spend out
[ ] Take a real vacation
[ ] Plan better
[ ] Plant a garden
[ ] Be ok
[ ] Be braver
[ ] Be believing
[ ] Deliberate practices
[ ] Host more dinners
[ ] Invest in relationships
[ ] Dress better, take better care of my appearances
[ ] Take a class
[ ] Do more yoga
[ ] Shave with a razor
[ ] Do things I’m not good at

10 Awesome Things

One of the blogs I read regularly runs a column called “10 Pieces of Inspiration.”  It’s kind of fun to see what is inspiring that blogger each week.  It’s usually about things that are meaningful to him and his family. My buddy TP did the same a while back.

I’m always stumped when my dad asks me what I’ve been up to.  I’m just living life, and sometimes I don’t take the time to sit back and see what parts of it are awesome.  I’ve been pretty blessed with awesomeness of late, and I thought I should take a week to think about and capture the awesome parts of it.  This blog post is the results of that test.  I was up to 5 by Tuesday afternoon, and I filtered a lot of awesome out to keep this post to just 10 things.

These are presented in approximately chronological order.  What awesome happened to you recently?

1-  The Mormons Building Bridges contingent in the SLC Pride parade inspired me this week.  The outpouring of love and acceptance for people on both sides of the divide was incredible.  Every time I read these stories, I tear up.  Here’s my favorite article: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2012/06/take-pride/   Hattip to Katherine F. for this article. FMH isn’t in my regular blog rounds yet.

Photo by Michael Budge

 

2- I saw this on Wil Wheton’s tumblr, and it made me laugh.

 

3- I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a more inclusive Mormonism.  I’ve taken to calling it Big Tent Mormonism, where there is lots of room for many different takes on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In my fast last week, I pondered these thoughts, and then I found these articles, which felt like answers to prayers.

http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2012/05/33-mcs-the-other-road/

http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2012/04/26-mcs-mormonism-lite/

http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/06/03/the-hepatization-of-the-body-of-christ/

 

4- The transit of Venus – I recently read Seeing in the Dark by Timothy Ferris, and kind of became an astronomy nerd again.  I haven’t quite purchased a telescope yet, but trust me, it’s on my wishlist.  Seeing Venus transit the sun was pretty awesome, and it won’t happen again until 2117.  I thought we were going to be too overcast to see it, but after work, just as the transit began, it cleared up.  I met up with Peter and Katherine and we stood in line and chatted.  I’d say it was a pretty awesome event.

 

5- I got a Christmas card from my Aunt – In June.  You never really expect to get Christmas cards at this time, which makes it twice as awesome.

 

6- On Thursday night, some of my favorite people came over to play boardgames.  We played Lords of Waterdeep, a newer game in my collection.  I managed to pull out a win, which surprised me a little.  I wasn’t playing a really consistent game, but some of my choices paid off a whole lot better than I had guessed.

 

7- The Huron River is pretty awesome this time of year.  I took a meditative paddle and saw this:

and this:

I also saw (and scared) a deer on the river bank.

 

8- Saturday was one of those Michigan days that makes the whole year worth it.  The weather was great, it was warm but breezy.  I played paintball, went to a ward picnic, sat in the sun, and went to a play.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

9- Work has been hectic for the last few weeks. This week, one of the members of my team nailed a presentation to our manager and it made my day.

 

10- I’m having a hard time picking #10, so I’ll pick a really encouraging set of emails from a friend as my last awesome thing of the week.  I saw a friend post something that inspired me, so I emailed him to say thanks. (The “Like” button just doesn’t do justice sometimes.) We exchanged a few emails and I left feeling even more inspired.  I should probably respond to his last email at some point.

 

There was so much of awesome, and I think there always is.  I didn’t list any of the youtube videos I watched this week, and I didn’t even mention that there was an actual treasure hunt in one of the books I read earlier this year.  I’m not so great at always remembering to see it, but I’m guessing that it is always there.

John Green signs off his Crash Course videos* like this: “As they say in my home town, Don’t Forget to Be Awesome!”  So– don’t forget!

* If nothing else, you should watch the first minute of this video. It’s awesome!

Smiling

SheYesterday, Labor Day 2011, was a pretty great day.  I was surrounded by people and things that I love. Of the many many wonderful moments, one stood out that I wanted to share.

As I was shopping at Meijer for a BBQ later that day, I was wandering down the milk aisle and I noticed an old lady standing with a cart off to the side.  We’re talking very old, oxygen tank old.  In the cart was a baby in a car seat.  For no real reason, I made eye contact and gave the woman a big grin, just because I was feeling so good. (I whistled a Guster song that was stuck in my head through the entire store, I was feeling that good.)  And you know what, she gave me a genuine smile back.

And it made my day.

Mindfulness – February’s Happiness Theme

Park Ellis

To kick off my Happiness Project, I picked the theme of Mindfulness.  It’s strikingly similar to Gretchin Rubin’s February theme of Self-Awareness.

Mindfulness has been coming up in my reading fairly regularly over the past few months.  It is a process of paying attention to one’s self and one’s emotions, and accepting them.  One of my favorite articles on the concept, posted at Zen Habits, had this to say about mindfulness:

Inner peace is revealed when the inner war ends. We stop looking outside ourselves for solutions to our problems and, instead, turn our attention inward to make peace with our own experience. This simple movement of attention is revolutionary. It heals, calms, and clarifies like nothing else.

Trent, over at The Simple Dollar, didn’t call it mindfulness, but his experience seems to be typical of the practice of mindfulness meditation:

Once or twice a day, I go into my bedroom, turn down the lights, lay on the bed, and look up at the ceiling. I start off by reflecting on a small handful of things that have really brought me significant joy in the past few days. After a few minutes of that, I focus entirely on emptying my mind for a while, and once that’s done, I just drift without anything in my mind. Sometimes thoughts drift in and out of my head – sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I doze off for a bit – other times, I don’t.

After about twenty minutes of concentrated mental relaxation, I almost always feel refreshed and much more able to tackle whatever is on the table in front of me, whether it’s a household task, some work to be done, some bills to be paid, or anything else. I get that stuff done faster and better than I ever would have done before the meditation.

Call it meditation or prayer or whatever you wish – it flat-out works.

I don’t know a lot about Mindfulness right now, so my first weekly goal is to do some more reading and research.

I’m going to start with the following two items and add a few more to it:

By this time next week, I’ll know a little more about Mindfulness.  By the end of the month, I intend to be practicing some Mindful Meditations.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Does anyone know of any other resources on Mindfulness that I use to learn more?


My Happiness Project 2011

Jump!
He looks happy!

Over the past few months, I have been doing a lot of thinking about happiness.  I won’t say that I have been unhappy.  I will say that I have struggled to be as happy as I think I can be.  Some portion of that is attributable to energy levels and work-life balance, but not all of it.  I realized that I am in control of my own personal happiness and I can do things that will improve my happiness.

Last year, I checked out Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project three times before I actually got it read. When I finally did get it read, I was floored.  Here was a happy woman who took it upon herself to try different things that might make her even happier.

Her “First Splendid Truth” of happiness is “To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.”  And so, I have been thinking about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in my atmosphere of growth.

I know that last year I had some really dark times, especially when I wasn’t getting enough sleep or when I wasn’t proactively working to balance my life.  I had moments when I felt lonely and times when I was overwhelmed by the goodness of my friends and family. I had my fair share of good times as well. I had love and I had heartbreak (and I had Bernadette Peters singing to me, but I digress).

I also know my outlook for this year.  I have a good understanding of where I will be challenged, and I fully expect to be surprised as well, by the good times and the bad times.

I kind of see happiness as a kind of metaphorical muscle.   In the same way that I don’t expect to run a race if I haven’t trained for it, I don’t expect to be happy in the face of difficulties without having practiced it beforehand.

As such, I decided to do my own happiness project this year.  I’ve been reluctant to get started for some reason, but here it goes…

I’m kicking off my Happiness Project 2011 on January 31.

My themes for the year are Simplify and Strengthen.  I’ll follow up on what I think that means to me in a followup post.

My intention is to pick a monthly theme and set weekly goals of things to do every day related to that theme.   If I get ambitious, I will also set a few month long goals as well.

My hope is to document it here on my blog, as both an accountability mechanism and as a way to process what I am learning about myself.  I will try to be honest and not hide myself.  I hope that you, dear readers, will talk to me in person about happiness and how I am doing with my goals.  I can use all of the encouragement I can get.

And if you want, you can join me in doing your own Happiness Project as well.   All it takes is a willingness to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right in an atmosphere of growth.  Do you have that?