Monday, February 28, 2011

You Mean I'm Not Alone?

My friend Laura is a woman of utterly, reliably, good sense. She reads widely and thinks deeply, she has a great sense of humor, she's as loyal as the day is long, and she home schools her two highly intelligent children while her husband regularly works eighty-plus hour weeks as a law student. In short, she's amazing (although she doesn't think so) and I am blessed to know her.

After my recent post on insecurity and the ensuing discussion in the comments and on Facebook, Laura wrote me an email that I loved so much, I asked if I could turn it into a guest post. She graciously agreed. If I had a photo of her handy that didn't feature her standing knee-deep in a creek in her swimsuit, I'd share it. But since I am a woman of unfailing discretion (mmmmhmmm), you'll just have to imagine her lovely face.

Here we go -- take it away, Laura!

Is there a woman alive for whom that doesn't sound familiar? 

Yeeks -- what made me laugh about that was my complete confidence that you couldn't have been talking about me as one-of-those-women.  :-)

Do you want to hear some of my tongue-in-cheek "affirmations" when I feel like that?

- My wrecked house is my gift to my friends.  It is an act of love to allow them a moment to feel superior.
- As long as I have the second-most-scraggly-looking yard in the neighborhood, I am not completely disgraced.
- I refuse to be a woman who clings youth through artificial means.  (And I forgot to slap on lipstick.)

And my favorite -- it felt so good to discuss this with a friend just recently --

Money, when it comes into my life (please someday soon), is meant to buy freedom, experience, charitable works, travel, education, and security, but not doodads.  A well-appointed house and the "finer things" are not on my list of must-haves, regardless of my neighbors. Money can buy what makes me happy, but "things" are not what my money will buy. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Poetry Friday: Opportunity

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

-Julius Caesar, Act IV Scene iii, William Shakespeare

I love these lines, always have. They remind me that when an opportunity arises,  I need to lay hold of it, to take it at the flood, to resist the urge to simply let the current carry me along. 

Last week, a small tide arose in our direction when the kids' taekwondo instructor invited us to volunteer at the U.S. TaeKwonDo Championships, fortuitously being held in our city. It would probably be more apt to call these the World Championships, simply because teams converged on the convention center from all over the globe. We saw athletes from Mexico, Korea, Brazil, even Australia. Crikey!

We even got to listen to a coach berate his athlete in Swedish. Good times. 

I was assigned to operate a video camera at one of the competition rings, which tells you something about how desperate they were for volunteers. Do you have a pulse? OK, you're perfect for the job. My kids worked as "ring runners," scurrying to and fro in the wake of their unruffled instructor, moving sparring equipment, carrying results from the judges' tables, checking to make sure all the candy baskets were ... um, well-stocked for the ... um, judges and athletes. Yeah, that's it. 

It was pretty terrific, all told. 

As a mother, I find myself striking a curious balance. I'm a go-er and a do-er. I like to try new things like this, occasionally at the risk of my comfort zone, perhaps because I have a sense by now of how the tide shifts and changes. The years are short. The years with my kids are even shorter.  There's this sense of urgency sometimes, of wanting to make the most of the time we have (especially with the flexibility of homeschooling), of wanting to help them seize the opportunities that may or may not drift their way again. 

But God gave me a child -- whose personality tends to dominate the sibling dynamic -- who wants to stay home. Who loves nothing better than to curl up in the red armchair and have his friends come to him. Who would rather play Toontown for hours every Saturday, if he were allowed, than go find the place where two roads diverge in a yellow wood. 

Is my way better? Sometimes. Do I know better? Probably. Do I appreciate the value of opportunity -- and the bitter taste of regret for the "omitted" -- more fully than a ten year old? Why, yes, I do. 

But do I need to take every tide at the flood, forcing my reluctant crewmen into the gale of every enriching educational experience? Or can I learn to say "no" to Captain Me sometimes when it's anxiety filling my sails, wanting to steer our course -- so that perhaps the "yeses" matter more? Can we find room for "a full sea" and room for rest in the shallows? 

When we get it all figured out, you'll be the first to know. In the meantime, I'm glad we took this one at the flood. 

Poetry Friday roundup here this week. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You mean it's not really magic?

We got a real kick out of this video this week. I was just as captivated as the kids, since unlike the more cynical grown-up who lives under this roof, I still wonder, wide-eyed every time, How do they do that???

Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with Penn & Teller in any way, and our personal philosophies are worlds apart. You'll get a taste of how polarizing they can be in the YouTube comments ... but don't waste your time, man. Life's too short.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to Completely Surprise Yourself

As promised yesterday, here is my Guide to Running a Half Marathon for NonAthletes. Because we hold this truth to be self-evident: If I can do this, you can too.

(Remember, my sport of choice in high school = piano.)

So here are a few tips that washed up the shore of my conscious mind during the two hours and thirty one minutes it took me to run the Livestrong Half Marathon on Sunday. I hope they help you, because next year, I'd like some company: YOU!

1. The reason I got into this foolishness in the first place was that I needed a goal that had nothing to do with my darling children. Something with a logical algorithm: Hard work -----> Measurable, Obvious Results. I recommend this practice for all adults, but especially for full-time moms. MAKE A SPECIFIC GOAL. Write it down. Tell your friends and family, so you'll feel embarrassed if you back out.

2. Find a group. I trained every Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. with Austin Fit, where no one cared that I'd never run long distances before and had no idea what GU and Shot Blox were. If you lived in another town, search the Web, flip through a local magazine, or ask your athletic friends for a recommendation. The group provides support, momentum (most of us can run much farther in the company of others), information, and accountability. Austin Fit had a weekly schedule with three short runs we did on our own and then our longer group run on the weekend. Which brings me to ...

3. Have a schedule. Do you think I ever felt in the mood to run? Ha! Guess again. But I knew if I skipped my individual runs, I'd be lagging way behind during the Saturday group run. And if I  missed or couldn't keep up with the Saturday run, I wouldn't be in shape for the half marathon. I didn't have years of stored-up running energy to fall back on. Every run counted. See how the goal, the group, and the schedule all work together?

4. Don't be afraid to walk. We always trained in intervals: run a while, walk a bit. My pace group did one minute of walking for five minutes of running. I completed the race in similar fashion. When I mentioned this to a friend, she responded with amazement, "OH! You mean you're not constantly running? Well, maybe I COULD do this." So now I'm telling it to you, too.

5. Build muscle with weight training. I probably could have saved myself considerable grief with my IT Band / knee if I had, well, more of a butt. (Hey, maybe my jeans would fit better too!) Running doesn't really build muscle, but weights too, and building muscle helps with endurance and injury prevention. I started weight training a bit late. Don't be me.

6. Surround yourself with plenty of cute cheerleaders! Like the runners, they come in all ages, shapes and sizes.

7. The best time to start is always the present, not tomorrow. We all have a million reasons not to tackle a goal like this. Back in August, I could barely run a mile without stopping. And I wish I had a bar of chocolate for everyone who's said to me: "Oh, I can hardly run around the block!" We define ourselves so often by what we think we can't do. But listen, as I surveyed my co-racers on Sunday, I saw all ages, shapes, and sizes.  None of us were the cheetahs or even the loping gazelles out there. We just wanted to finish. And we did. You can too.

Or if it's not a half marathon, what is that crazy goal for you?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Multitude Monday XIII: Half Marathon Edition

In case you missed all the hoopla on Facebook and on this very blog, I ran a half marathon yesterday. My first ever. Wonders never cease.

(Jayna and I picking up our race packets on Saturday morning. Dude. I felt like such an athlete!)

It almost didn't happen. This was the situation on Saturday afternoon: I had a bad cold -- congestion, sneezing, the works. Also, a fever of 100.2. I won't mince words: It was depressing.

I had some words with my Savior. The conversation evolved from, "Lord, You know how hard I have been working for six months to do this thing that hitherto seemed impossible to me. You know the many mornings when I dragged myself out of bed muttering "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," because if I skipped my run, I wouldn't be in good shape for my Saturday training run, and then I couldn't do this half marathon. You know all the money I paid for therapy for my foot and IT band. YOU CAN'T TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME!" ... to ... eventually ... "Lord, I know the worst that can happen here is that I miss the race. And since Your heart is unfailingly good toward me, You wouldn't allow that without having a very good reason for it. Also, You owe me nothing. You've already given everything. Your will be done."

Also, lest you think I'm completely heavenly and overcoming, I watched a lot of episodes of Monk. For distractional purposes.

Sunday morning, I arose at 5:00 after little sleep. I scrambled two eggs, rubbed plenty of Vicks VapoRub on my chest and face, and took three Advil. I felt okay to proceed. So here we go, counting the gifts unwrapped that morning:

#128. Vanessa, for coming at 5:30 to pick me up and save me the parking headache. (Plus, my family needed our car for coming to spectate!)

129. Over-the-counter medications. I'm a natural-leaning person myself, but let's face it, OTC meds have their place and time, and this was one of them.

130. Tears at the starting and finish lines. Aren't there moments when crying makes you feel just a tad more alive?

131. The people who prayed for me to be well enough to run: Brian and Julia, Lisa, and many others.

132. The people who got up early on a Sunday morning to come cheer me on: my lovely husband and kids, Sam and Vanessa and their kids, my sister Kristen and husband Allen (who showed up at three different spots and ran that last hard hill with me), Greta (who ran a little ways with me, baby bump and all), CB and Michelle and their kids, and my in-laws. It meant SO MUCH to have those dear, cheering faces on the sidelines.

133. The people who sent me encouraging text messages before and during the race: Meredith, Stefani, Stephanie, and my brother Paul.

134. The women who have run with me Saturday after Saturday for the past six months, making this all possible: Jayna, Deborah, Yvonne, Kathy, Rebecca, Gigi. We did it!!!

135. Cooling breeze on my sweaty face at the crest of a three-mile-long hill.

136. Hearing these lines from God is In Control through my iPod on the cusp of that last, leg-jello, mile:
"This is no time for fear
This is the time for faith and determination
Don't lose the vision here ..."

137. Sprinting the last few yards to the finish! My time was 2:31. You know what's really disturbing? There were people -- actual human beings! -- who finished the FULL marathon at the same time. But they were male. And elite. So we don't need to think about that.

Stay tuned, because my very next post will be my FREE motivational guide:  "From NonAthlete to Half Marathon Finisher in Six Months or Less." (For the grammar gurus: Less time; fewer months.)

(With some of my faithful cheering squad at the end ... thanks, Meredith, for the loan of the pompoms!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Half-Marathon Hi-Jack

Hello everyone. This is the "Professor" and I have just hacked into and hijacked Hannah's blog to enlist your support for a big event. Several months ago, you may remember that Hannah set a goal of running a 5K. Well, she's blown that away while training for the Austin Half Marathon, which she is planning to run this weekend. Sunday morning to be exact. She thrives on cheering, supportive crowds, so if you love her, and if you are in Austin, do what you can to cheer her on! Here is the course website, with a PDF of the route, and here is a handy web page for tracking her progress, if you happen to have mobile net access or can't make it to the race. She'll have to post her pace group info in the comments.
Let me give you a little background so you all understand why this is such a big deal and why you need to go cheer for her, as if running a half-marathon isn't enough on its own. To Hannah's athletic siblings, one of her many nicknames was "Tender." (get the idea?) Let's just say she wasn't known for athletic accomplishment. (Iin my opinion, anyone who gives birth to three children qualifies as a super-stud.) So now she has set this super-stretch goal, and this is a real breakthrough and a substantial personal accomplishment.
In order to help you all help her, I have produced a handy support sign that you can print out and wave or staple along the route. Click here to get the full-size printable PDF version from my DropBox account. (Don't worry, there's no cost.) Print out a few, stake out the route, and be there to cheer her on.

See you Sunday morning!

Signing off,
-The "Professor"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Is she better than you?

So recently -- within the last week -- I've had a couple opportunities to be in the company of women who are clearly more beautiful, intelligent or accomplished than I.

Frankly, it's intimidating. All my insecurities  start buzzing around my head like gnats, and they all sing this kind of refrain:
"You're kinda plain."
"She won't want to hang out with you."
"You won't have anything smart enough to say. She'd rather hang out with more impressive folk."
"She'll take one look at your house and see that three kids and a dog occupy it pretty much ALL THE TIME."
"What if there's spinach stuck in your teeth the entire time she's looking at you?"

I'm just being brutally honest here.

I forget that I have yet to meet a woman who never feels insecure; in fact, admissions of insecurity have sometimes reached my ears from the most surprising of mouths.

But while the gnats hummed softly, this morning I read our selection from the Egermeier's Bible Story Book with the children. In it, Jesus, anticipating his pending crucifixion, prays, "Father, glorify Your name."

And isn't that the crux of the issue right there? Those buzzing gnats find voice because secretly, I hope to glorify my OWN name. I want glory -- admiration, approval, affection -- and I'd like it in spades, please.

What if all I cared about was that my Father's name be glorified, lifted up, admired and approved? What if His was the only smile that mattered? What if I saw people as He sees them, without preference, without undue regard for glamour or resumé? What if I truly accepted His unconditional love? Could I, in the words of a speaker I once heard address these things, "be who I am until I'm different?"

One baby step at a time, I hope to find out one of these days.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Inspiration

"The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God,  here and now."
- Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Some Links to Explore: 

In honor of the season: How to Teach Him to Romance You - Simple Mom.

Ever wonder what a kid thinks of homeschooling? You know, that lifestyle that's supposed to turn out weird, maladjusted social misfits? An 8th Grader's Perspective - Pioneer Woman Homeschooling. 

This crockpot recipe made me willing to host Sunday lunch today, and it got a thumbs-up from my guests. Lots of options on this site that don't require cream-of-MUSHroom soup! - A Year of Slow Cooking.

P.S. For dessert, we had strawberry shortcakes with sliced-up chocolate-covered strawberries (because my homemade versions weren't pretty enough to serve whole). I can die happy now. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

What We're Reading: First Half of February

Yesterday my kids were ignoring me. I know! That never happens! 

The reason? They both (the older two) had their noses firmly planted in a book. At first I was put out. Who wants to listen to the sound of her own voice? Then I reviewed the facts: My children are ignoring me because their noses are firmly planted IN A BOOK. Ian was reading Rapunzel's Revenge for possibly the fifty-third time. Eliza was reading Babymouse #8: Puppy Love (Dear Jennifer Holm: Thank you for writing a book that had my emerging reader engrossed for the first time ever. As your undyingly grateful servant, I will be happy to bake and deliver a Black Forest cake at your command. Sincerely.)

So I went off happily to plant my own nose in a book. Namely, the first Amelia Peabody mystery: Crocodile on the Sandbank. Plucky and intelligent Victorian heroine? Check. Historically and geographically appealing setting? Check. Writing that's a joy to read? Check. I'm in!

Here's what else we're reading these days:

Read-Alouds (mostly to the girls):
The Apple and the Arrow (Well-told story of William Tell)
The Fledgling (Just finished. A total pleasure. Discussed with the kids: Is this fiction or fantasy?)
The Canterbury Tales (A Geraldine McCaughrean retelling.)
Tales of Wisdom and Wonder (Folktales from around the world)
We All Went On Safari  (One of several African picture books we're reading as part of this month's study of Africa. This one teaches the numbers in Swahili.)
Koi and the Kola Nuts : A Tale from Liberia  (and others by Verna Aardema, African folktale queen as far as I'm concerned)

Ian's Reading
Otto of the Silver Hand  (Just finished;  downloaded for free on Kindle for iPad)
Marco? Polo! #16 (Time Warp Trio)
The Trumpeter of Krakow
The Action Bible  (Ian LOVES this. LOVES it. Have I made myself clear? He'd hit a roadblock in his reading through the Old Testament (don't we all?) and  when he got his paws on this nicely done graphic novel version of both Old and New Testaments, he was glued. Laugh if you wish about a Biblical graphic novel, and we can still be friends, but my son yearned for his daily Bible reading, and to me, that's a good thing.)

Eliza's Reading
Plodding her way through a my-first-chapters version of Little Women.

Caroline's Reading
Just finished Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers.

Audiobooks for the Car and House
Heidi - downloaded from (a childhood favorite that's still beloved albeit slightly saccharine to my adult ears)
All-of-a-Kind Family  (another childhood favorite that my girls vow they LOVE)

My Own Reading (besides already mentioned)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (interesting science-leaning nonfiction bestseller with plenty of human interest)
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (worth savoring)
Having A Mary Heart in a Martha World (yup, still. Also worth savoring)
The Dog Listener: Learn How to Communicate with Your Dog for Willing Cooperation (a suggestion from the Comments, since I have no clue)
The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2) (because I love my son)

Yes, I'm reading all of those at once. Is there a problem with that?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Am Not Making This Up

So I was just out for a run in the middle of the afternoon. Which never happens. But it happened today (too cold in the morning, girls at friend's house, stars aligned just so.)

And I pass a kid, maybe six years old? hanging out  on his front lawn  with his bike. I wave and keep on going.

Then, over the sound of my iPod, I hear this "WHOOP! WHOOP!" Like an honest-to-goodness police siren, if the police car were six years old and somewhat adorable. I stop. I turn. Kid is pedaling after me like mad. I wait. Especially because I'm a mom and there's no other parent in sight.

Then I perceive that the kid is actually dressed like a police officer. Like, in a costume, maybe left over from Halloween or something. And with a complete  poker face, never ONCE cracking a smile, he gravely informs me that I was speeding and that he needs to write me a ticket.

Which he does.

Believe me when I say, as God is my witness, that no one has EVER IN MY LIFE faulted me for running too fast.

"I was running too fast?" I clarify with him, desperately swallowing a giggle.


"So ... should I ... walk?" (Because that is the only speed slower than my run, I'm pretty sure.)

"Yes." Still no smile.

"Be careful," he concludes, tucking his pad and pen away. "Lots of cops out today."

I walk until I'm pretty sure I'm out of his sight. Two tickets in one day would just be too much.

Running may not be my favorite thing ever. I may not ever enjoy it (although I DO plan to enjoy hobbling across that finish line next weekend). But has it enriched my life in so very many ways?

Oh, undoubtedly.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Real Pirates!

Last Wednesday, thanks to the organizing powers of a fellow homeschooling mom, we caught the tail end of a fabulous exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural History: Real Pirates, by National Geographic. If Real Pirates reaches your hemisphere any time soon (it's on its way to the Field Museum in Chicago right now), I strongly advise that you get thee thence.

I actually had a whole post written about the history of the Whydah and how pirate ships were  the world's only racial melting pots during the 1700's and how we got to touch real, live pieces of eight that had been touched by real, live pirates who probably had never washed their hands or heard of Purell ... and then I accidentally deleted the whole caboodle.

Go me!

And I'm too tired to rewrite it. But just trust me, this was history coming alive in the truest form you can get without actually diving down to the wreck or stepping into a time capsule.

As a cherry on top, I scored a bunch of educational pirate books for $.92 at the gift shop because the exhibit was on its way out.

Even without the Pirates exhibit, the museum's worth a day's gander. We finished up at the museum's Cockrell Butterfly Center.

That's not fright, folks. It's pure, unadulterated wonder. 

Probably reflecting the look on her mother's face. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Proofs of Love

Hey friends!

I was just reminiscing about my kids' cool 3D valentines from last year.  Thought I'd throw it out there in case anyone's looking for ideas.

Meanwhile, we may do these this year (from Mer Mag via DesignMom.) Or maybe these, from recycled books.  Or something else that's handmade ... and simple. Always, always simple.

The Professor and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day really (although he's welcome to surprise me!) not because we're so contrarian but because we like to be different! And clever! And celebrate the anniversary of our first date two weeks later. So in our house, the day is really about giving proofs of love of all kinds, familial, platonic and divine. Love for neighbors. Love for siblings. Love for parents and children. Love for sugar. Heh.

And this year Caroline has decided that she really must throw a party. And you all know how I feel about planning parties. But because I love my daughter, and I want to teach both of my daughters the skill of being a good hostess (just one step ahead of you, girls!), I'm breathing into a paper bag and sending out a few invites.

We'll probably fill a jar with candy conversation hearts and see who can guess the closest total.

We may do a lollipop hunt in the backyard.

We'll decorate mailboxes for the kids to fill for each other.

Maybe we'll tell the story of St. (Brother) Valentine.

And we'll send them home with these sweet, healthy, and adorable treats. (While I collapse on the couch with a large bar of dark chocolate.)

Other than that, I'm open to ideas. Must ... make ... written ... list  ... or nothing will happen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Multitude Monday XII

"I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."
Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose birthday is today! 

More Gifts today -- more sweet, simple things ...

120. Dates with my daughter.

121. Cinnamon Altoids

122. My Pacifica candle, breathing Nerola Orange Blossom into the heart of our home (especially while Pandora Radio serenades me folding the laundry)

123. The fact that laundry to fold (eternally!) means we have clothes to wear.

124. Snow in Texas.

125. The excitement of living in a place where there can be #123 one morning ... and jacketless strolls through the park the next.

126. Laughter with The Professor about how much conversation three boys can mine out of an incredibly narrow band of topics: Star Wars, Nerf guns, and Nerf war Youtube videos. And passing gas.

127. Letters from our Compassion children.

What sweet, simple thing are you grateful for today? 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Inspiration

Is it still Sunday? My writing time this afternoon disappeared with a whoosh, into the whirling vortex of:

1. Taking Pongo to his first obedience class ... where one of my kids was strutting some really AWESOME social skills. Eeps!
2. Taking Eliza out on a mommy-daughter date. Treats from Yogurt Planet and browsing/candle-sniffing  at Anthropologie are where it's at, friends.
3. Planning our home edjamacation for the week so I don't wake up Monday morning in a cold panic. I mean a mild sweat. Wait. What do I mean?

Ahem. We now return to our regularly scheduled, reflective and serious Sunday post. 

"but we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of power may be of God and not out of us." - 2 Corinthians 4:7

I took this award-winning photo at the Houston Museum of Natural Science  last week (details later). No, it's not Ali Baba's cave. It's a giant amethyst. Not much to look at on the outside (in fact, a museum guide informed us that they obtained the rock for $50 since some farmer just wanted to get a big rock out of his field) ... but inside? Brilliant. Gorgeous. And very, very sparkly.

Awash in its wonder, I jumped on the following train of thought.

I am, to my shame, often judgmental. That is, often prone to make sweeping judgments about folks I see or meet, based on how they present themselves. Whether it's the mom on the blanket at the park showing an eyeful-and-then-some of cleavage, or the tattoo-covered girl slouching down the street, or the parent who drops her child off at my house without a hello followed by six hours of radio silence ... I have my opinions.

Oh, and when I'm not busy despising other people, forgetting how Jesus cheerfully reclined among the tax collectors, the sinners, the smelly fishermen of Galilee, I can stay pretty busy dwelling on my own faults and shortcomings. Like, say ... being judgmental. And around we go!

We're all rough rocks on the outside. Oh, sure, your surface may be shinier, more polished than mine. And mine may be a bit more cleaned up than hers. But at a passing glance, there often isn't much to distinguish us from our mundane surroundings.

But inside! Hew open that rock, and ah! The treasure! If we could see what He sees ...

We slap price tags on ourselves and others. Fifty bucks, tops.

He knows what's inside -- or what could be there, what He longs to create in there if we'll let Him -- and already paid full price.

The highest price.

You, my friends, are each a treasure. You're breathtaking, beautiful. You glitter, reflecting His light.

Never forget it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Not To Be a Hoarder

A couple months ago, I stumbled across a couple of online discussions of Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project. Feeling skeptical (oh, please, not another navel-gazer telling forth the virtues of wandering the world and ditching everyone and everything that doesn't exist solely for her happiness) yet intrigued by the chatter, I tried the first chapter on Kindle.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunThen I picked up the full volume at the library and buried my nose in it. Gretchen Rubin had lots to say that I found pretty compelling, honestly. Including the argument that making an effort to be happy is less narcissistic than it seems. If you're happy yourself, it's a whole lot easier to make  the folks around you happy. Think about that for a half a sec. Whom do you most like to be around? Who lifts you up? Who's most likely to rejoice with you in your successes or genuinely feel your pain without making it all about them?

The book left me thinking. And thinking some more. And making a few changes. For example: Rubin confesses to being an underbuyer. An underbuyer? I thought. You mean there's a word for people like this? People like me, who can't bring themselves to buy toothpaste or waxed paper at the store, even when it's on sale, until they're absolutely out of it and no-holds-barred need the thing right now? And then don't have the time to run to the store? People who know the bigger quantity of, say, organic chicken feed is a better deal, ounce-for-ounce, than the  half-size bag, but buy the half-size bag anyway because it just sounds cheaper right now?


Spend out, Rubin urges. Which is not the same as, live beyond your means. She's talking about losing your fear of stocking up, of having what you need on hand before the need becomes dire. About using the good things (the nicer china, for example) now instead of leaving it stored away for that pie-in-the-sky "some day." And also, about letting of the need to obsess over whether every single expenditure of time and money is "worth it."

I remembered these words the other day when it became clear to me that 75% of the large batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies I had made had mysteriously disappeared during a  window of time when about ten different children had occupied my home. I wanted to sputter, "HEY! Don't you guys know that we have to SAVE those cookies?! Can't you make a batch of cookies LAST more than twenty four hours?!"

Spend out, a voice in my head whispered.

As if my cookie-making time is just sooooo valuable. I could have been calming the riots in Egypt or bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan during that time, you know. Oh, and those ingredients! So expensive! The hidden caviar and cardamom  tucked inside each cookie! What ever will I do if Michelle Obama  stops by for tea and I don't have a day-old cookie to offer her ... because my kids and their friends were happily wolfing them down???

Now, if you'll excuse me, I hear there's a sale on milk at my neighborhood grocery store. With all those little cookie eaters running around here, I'd better go stock up. Happily.

(Cookie photo from Yum.)