Sunday, June 30, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 18

Today has been a bit of a challenge.  I had happy moments - having a date with E that included buying a new laptop (after my laptop crashed which did not make me happy at all), new shoes, and weekly groceries (also not so exciting), going to lunch, having good conversation, and just hanging out with my best girl, but I'm struggling to be happy while looking at a week of 50% chance of thunderstorms and kids who are antsy to go to the pool, needing to write a letter that will be emotionally challenging as I summarize a horrific year, and motivating myself to finish my dissertation proposal after losing momentum in June.  I've spent the evening reminding myself that a rainy day allows for "school at home" and learning lessons missed or not taught in the previous school year, moving ahead and starting on the curriculum for the next year, and acting out a book, which is our favorite, wrapping up cooking the fabulous produce in our farm box, cleaning and organizing at the house, and just relaxing, playing games, and enjoying each other. 

18 days ago, the forecast of a week of storms and a crashed computer would have sent me into a total tailspin and I would have felt miserable and probably behaved the same way too.  The fact that I have been able to find the good in the lousy weather forecast with chores such as school, cooking, and cleaning, is a stop in the right direction.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-Day Challenge, Day 17

Today I'm tired.  Not the usual hectic, stressed-out, overwhelmed, and depressed tired I usually feel on Saturdays, but a happy, contented tired. 

RJ and my Dad went on their annual overnight to play two rounds of golf and support the local YMCA, so the kids and I packed up and spent the night with my Mom.  "Pack up" sounds funny and dramatic for an overnight, but with three kids and a basement that does not allow for us to hang clothes to dry at this time, "pack up" is what I did.  Bags and laundry baskets of both dirty and clean clothes, hangers, video games, Transformers, superhero action figures, books, stuffed animals, a broken laptop (that I thought I would be able to fix because I moonlight as a member of the Geek Squad), cell phone charger, and three pairs of shoes (plus the ones on our feet - these kids must think life is a fashion show) were shoved in the car and off we went on the 0.75 mile drive.  The night was simple and quiet, and this morning we took the kids to see Monsters U and to buy new sneakers (at least needed because of a growth spurt).  We had a nice day, not just because of the movies and shopping, but because of the simplicity and relaxed nature of it. 

As I type, I hear E and C playing DS in my bedroom, helping each other with games and sharing, and I think that this is what we all need...more time together to enjoy the simple things in life and just enjoy each other.

Friday, June 28, 2013

#HappyMoments, A 30-Day Challenge, Day 16

Over the past few months I have been plagued by the same disturbing dream.  I'm driving a car that I can't control and I keep looking around but the scenery doesn't change.  I crash, and when I get out of the car I learn I have hit a wheelchair.  The wheelchair is not damaged and the person standing next to it says that it's fine, nothing happened, and I should go about my business.  I think this dream sums up the unbalanced, out-of-control life I have been living for the past year (or eight).  Over the past 16 days I have been working hard to make priorities (because if everything is important than nothing is important), find happy moments in each day, and remind myself to be thankful, live in the moment, and that many of the things I worry and stress about don't matter.  Maybe it's the mindset, maybe it's the purposeful happy moments, or maybe it's just too much white wine last night, but I did not have that dream and woke up rested.

My summer started today, and in many ways, summer started for the kids too.  I feel today was a new beginning - an opportunity to heal the wounds of the previous year as a family, enjoy a more relaxed pace of life, and focus on each other.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge, Day 15

My much anticipated seasonal unemployment started today at 5pm.  It was a good day, probably the best day at work I've had in a long while.  I was all business this morning responding to emails and wrapping up unfinished projects.  I packed up my office about 30 minutes before I left - and there was something cathartic about it.  In the past, co-workers would joke that I could move out of my office with just one box or bag, but about a year ago I brought in a few boxes of books that didn't fit into my home office bookshelves.  They were second-tier books from college and grad school...books that I may never use again, but I might if I ever taught the right course (and I couldn't bear to sell them or give them away).  Two boxes were all that was needed for my books and personal belongings and other than three personal photos, an inspirational to-do list, personalized stationary, and an amethyst gem tree (all to be displayed proudly in my home office), I have no plans on bringing these things to work in September or beyond.  A co-worker asked if I thought that I wouldn't return in September and although I am sure that I will continue working, I am not sure if I will return to that office, or at least return with a feeling other than that I am short-timing the job.   I don't think I'm cut out for sharing my personal life with my professional life (I'm really OK with co-workers not realizing I have children and thinking I'm more clueless that I look).  Work ended with a few hugs with co-workers and goodbyes to the students, a margarita and too much queso with Sarah Beth, and LIFE began at 6:10pm.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge Day 14

Today was a happy day for all those who believe that "all men are created equal" and that "man" includes women, people of all races, nationalities, places of birth, socioeconomic status, abilities, sexuality, and anyone else who does not identify as white, educated, heterosexual, land-owning man.  The Supreme Court stuck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied legally married same-sex couples the same federal benefits provided to heterosexual spouses as it violated the Fifth Amendment, specifically, that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."  I hope that this will encourage the LGBTQ communities and allies in the states where same-sex marriage is not legal to rise up and demand civil marriage equity.

Wendy Davis (Democrat, Texas) filibustered for thirteen hours yesterday to block a bill that would greatly restrict abortions and because of her untiring work, SB5 is dead and will have to be reintroduced...if the anti-abortionists dare...  Yet again, I hope that this will encourage more like-minded people to stand up and not allow our politicians to continue to chip away at Roe v. Wade.  Rick Perry, Texas Governor and former Presidential candidate, said that Texans "value life and want to protect women and the unborn."  I know that this would not have been uttered and that abortion would not be an issue if men, and not women, got pregnant.  Politicians would not dare make laws that limit a man's control of his own body.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge Day 13

Today was the last day of school and I'm not sure who is happier, RJ, me, or the kids.  I don't think I could stomach one more day of school dropoff and pickup, homework, and various school communication.  My summer starts on Thursday at 5pm and I can't wait for two months of enjoying the children and filling in the gaps of what was missed in school, making headway on my dissertation, organizing the house, and finding balance (if there is such a thing).  I stopped myself several times today from writing a to-do list for the summer because I envisioned a tome with endless chores and errands that I would never accomplish and beat myself up about.  So I think, instead, I should follow the to-do list given to me from a colleague and friend because I think it will help me have an enjoyable, peaceful, and truly enlightening summer:
  • Count my blessings
  • Practice kindness
  • Let go of what I can't change
  • Listen to my heart
  • Be productive yet calm
  • Just breath

Monday, June 24, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 12

Today had it's ups and downs.  J woke up sick and had to stay home from school - I think he's going to have to stay home tomorrow on the last (and probably best in his opinion) day of school.  At work we celebrated a birthday, had a few laughs, and there were moments of the "good times" we had in the past.   When I got home, my Dad told me that J decided to stay at my parents tonight instead of coming home (probably the most selfish happy moment of any parent- a child who is sick somewhere else) but that meant RJ and I had just C & E. After a quick dinner, we settled down for a family game - Yahtzee - and we played girls against boys.  E started off with a large straight on the first roll and from then on the girls dominated the game.  I told the kids we should make it higher stakes next time - the winning place get to choose the place for ice cream and the losing team has to pay (basically RJ and I pay anyway!), but I think the kids would enjoy the friendly competition.  I'm definitely looking forward to more family game night this summer!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 11

My kids love this book and it's one of my favorites to read to their classes at school.  Being kind to each other and allowing everyone to have self-worth and dignity is, unfortunately, something that needs to be taught in our schools and mandated by the state as bullying is such a problem.  The book is simple - the reader learns that it is easy and gratifying to be kind, empathetic, and show friendship and love and that doing these things "fill the bucket" of both people, but that being mean or exclusionary leaves both the victim and the perpetrator feeling empty inside.  I have made a concerted effort over the past ten days to be less snarky, but I know a number of adults who need to read this book every. single. day. until they comprehend the message.

I think 30 Days of Happy Moments started as a way for us to look at things more positively (especially me - I can be rather cranky), but after ten days of mostly selfish happy moments, I thought about what I could do that would make someone else happy.  And I did something tonight for someone and although I think it will make her happy, I think it made me happier to do it.  Sometimes the old dog can learn new tricks...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 10

With the resolution of being more spontaneous and the inability to use our family room (and our living room beginning to look like a variety store), we decided to take the kids to Hyatt Hills for golf and then to DQ for a cone.  We were definitely slowing people down - the group ahead of us was two couples and at least four kids and with the five of us following, all the couples behind us had more than ample time to rest on the benches and enjoy the scenery.  It was the usual, the kids hitting the ball like they are teeing off and later getting more ice cream on their face, hands, and clothes than in their bellies.  But it was a good time.  There was a lot of smiles (mostly the kids - we were worried about losing our teeth) and I'm glad that we broke out of our comfort zone.

Friday, June 21, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 9

Today has been quite a day!  It started with me finding a bat flying around the house after RJ left for work.  Fortunately, E's bedroom door was closed, but before I could dash into the hallway to close the door to the bedroom that J and C share (so I could hide in my bedroom and call RJ or my Dad for help), the bat flew into their room.  I forced myself to face my fears, grabbed a broom and towel, and went into their bedroom, where yes, I thought I would be able to hit the bat and scoop him into the towel (because when I take a break from being a feminist scholar I moonlight as an exterminator).  I was able to get the boys out of their beds and down the stairs while lying to them that it was a harmless bird.  With the door closed and the bat trapped in their room, we were able to have breakfast, get to school, and pretend that it was a normal day.

The second grade put on a production of The Story of Ferdinand, a children's story of a bull that would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights.  J was in the ensemble which was the perfect role for him - he's introverted and I was surprised that he participated at all.  The children were so happy and proud of themselves and it was an excellent performance. 
Friday is CSA pickup day and that is always a pleasant surprise.  Turnip greens, arugula, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, radishes, pickles, yellow squash, peas, and fresh pasta...I see cavatelli and broccoli, risotto with peas, and arugula salad with hot bacon dressing in my future (and stay tuned for my book, Why I'm not a Size 0 in stores soon).
After CSA pickup, it was time to address the bat again.  I called an exterminator who apparently prefers termites to bats.  He was on a termite call but I was told to open a window and let it fly out on its own because they would feel bad charging me a service fee to do that.  I told them that I had exhausted all my bravery in getting the boys out of their bedroom and didn't have any left to open the window (my Dad did it for me).  And, I didn't mind paying the service fact I might have given them all of my savings to be free of the bat.
When RJ came home he checked the room and said that the bat was gone.  We started to discuss dinner plans and put away laundry (which is an endless chore when you have children) and RJ discovered that the bat was still in the boys room.  Being very brave, donned in work gloves and goggles and waving a trout net and tennis racket, RJ went upstairs to slay the beast.  He was able to trap it in the trout net secured by the tennis racket and release it into the world when it can eat mosquitoes, torment other people, and make more little bats (I would have killed it, but don't tell PETA).  Batslayer RJ got to choose dinner after his impressive and daring capture and off to Lidia's we went.  A day of many happy moments (even the whole bat thing was's gone!) was capped off with sangria, a delicious dinner, and flan. And since the kids are sleeping at my parents, eight hours of uninterrupted sleep!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 8

This week has been bittersweet.  My colleague and friend Rosi is leaving Rutgers for an enriching job and healthier environment and life in Northwest Massachusetts.  And I have only four short workdays before I am voluntarily and seasonally unemployed this summer so I can spend more time with my children, conduct research for my dissertation, and reflect on the path my life should take.  I define myself, in part, as a working mom (although I am cognizant that SAHM's work), and I think we are both anticipating and fretting these changes in routine and environment.  I'm sure, these changes will be challenging and also rewarding, and bring us strength and to a new level of self-actualization.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 7

Today was a day of many happy moments.  We wished a fond farewell to a great colleague and friend as she embarks on an adventure at Williams College.  Rosanna's presence will be missed by her many friends, Rutgers has lost a strong academic woman, and our students have lost an advocate, but the staff, faculty, and students at Williams will be fortunate beyond their expectations to have her as their colleague and ally.

At home, the contractor was able to dismantle the dilapidated sun porch and we have a clear view of our back yard.  For eight years we've lived with blinds on the sliding glass door that leads from the dining room to the porch so we didn't have to see the disaster built by the former owners that we couldn't comfortably afford to address.  I am positive that in the future we will only close the blinds to block the blinding sun that streams into the room in the morning.

With the school year coming to an end and minimal homework, more lenient bedtimes, no television, and limited access to a good portion of our house, we've had more time to spend together as a family.  E's and C's preschool homework this week included learning the nursery rhyme, Little Miss Muffet.  I'm not big on reciting nursery rhymes or reading fairy tales with the children.  I think they are a little frightening and cause children to have nightmares and I'm not sure they teach children the right lessons.  Cinderella's step-sisters cut off their toes and heels for the glass slipper to fit - that is gruesome and no man is worth disfiguring your body.  But E and C worked hard to recite the nursery rhyme and it went something like this...

Little Miss Muppet
sat on a tuppet
eating her turds and hay
along came a spider
and sat down next to her
and scared Miss Muppet away

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 6

It's a rare occasion that I get home from work before RJ.  32 miles on the GSP is much faster than any route involving Route 18 to the NJT.  But tonight I was able get home before RJ and even before my Dad brought the kids back from karate, so I had a few uninterrupted relaxing minutes in the house to get comfortable and start dinner.  But best of all, I was able to spend a few minutes with the kids before RJ came home and just enjoy their energy and stories of the day.  Maybe it's a little selfish that I'm so happy to have them all to myself, but I don't care...I work hard and deserve a little indulgence.

Monday, June 17, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 5

I'm a bit of a foodie.  I like to cook, eat, read cookbooks, food blogs, and browse produce and farmers markets.  This year I purchased a share in a local CSA.  I like stopping at the local farm stand on Friday mornings and being surprised by the goodies found in my share box.  Zucchini and yellow squash have been included for the past two weeks.  I like both and after the kids went up to bed, I decided to shred them and make my gluten-free version of the zucchini tot recipe from Skinnytaste.  This was a happy moment for many reasons.  First, I had some much needed solitude in the kitchen - I get little alone time.  Second, I purchase the food share with the expectation that I'll be able to make creative and healthy food and I was actually able to do that - wow!  Third, I didn't have enough mix to make more large tots, so I made tiny ones that I think are adorable and they make me smile.  And,  what I'm most excited about, I'll have yummy squash tots to share with my family and friends tomorrow!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 4

I don't know a lot about rabbits.  I had a friend or two growing up who had rabbits and seemed to be scarred (literally!) by them.  I think of them as a sign of good luck, prosperity, and fertility, otherwise, I've never given them mind.  In years past, on occasion, we've have one or two rabbits that visit our yard to eat clover, tussle (they can really jump!), and rest in the shade, but this year we have three and see them multiple times each day.  The rabbits have become a constant source of entertainment for all of us.  RJ and I watch them from the kitchen window and the kids would camp on the family room sofa and watch them from there.  We decided to venture out today to look at furnishings for our soon-to-be renovated family room and the rabbits were out in the front.  The five of us spent nearly 15 minutes watching the animals.  They seemed to be protecting their own territory in a standoff similar to the last scene in "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly." This, of course, is totally unnecessary as there is enough clover and crabgrass to go around.  The scene provided us happiness for many reasons...the rabbits are adorable, without television we're looking for a few minutes of viewing something that is mindless and entertaining, and most importantly, we had a few minutes to be outside, relax, enjoy nature, and just be.  I don't know why the rabbits have decided that our grass is best, but I'm glad they have come to hang with us for a while.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 3

"I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers.  It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage.  Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at" - Maya Angelou

I'm an only child, so I don't understand the politics of sibling relationships.  I never had to share a room, I was always the favorite child, and I never developed a personality or interests to stand apart from another person.  And now I'm trying to raise three children who are individuals, feel special in their own way, and are friends and can support and rely on each other well after they live in our family house.  I tell each of the children that they are my favorite, each for different reasons. I think they believe me, which is good because it's true.  Maybe it's the sibling relationship between the oldest and the youngest or the relationship between the siblings who both have strong personalities and desire control, but J and E are usually tussling over something - borrowing video games, who looked at who during breakfast or choose to eat the same meal (two options, three kids - at least two people always choose the same thing), who showers first or last, who gets to play on one of the two swings and who gets the trapeze, and so on.  With construction at the house, we've all been a little short on patience.  Today I took the kids to my parents so I could wash laundry and they could watch TV, but instead E and J choose to play DS together.  One DS, two children, no was heaven.


Friday, June 14, 2013

#HappyMoments A 30-day Challenge. Day 2

"Use a picture. It's worth a thousand words" - Arthur Brisbane, newspaper editor

I had a really nice day today...a much anticipated vacation day from work.  My son and his fellow second-graders were celebrating their "moving-up" to the blended upper elementary and middle school they will attend next year with an afternoon of pizza, Italian ice, freeze dancing, board games, and face painting.  I don't usually volunteer to assist with these types of events.  I'm always happy to contribute something tangible for the party, but I don't usually participate  I'm not much of a joiner, I'm not part of the Mommy Club, and maybe it's related, in part, to raising my own family in the town where I grew up, my family has lived for four generations, my parents taught at each of the middle schools so EVERYONE between the ages of 22-59 has been a student in one of their classrooms (including me, my husband, friends, etc.), and many of the school personnel call me "Cara" and not "Ms. M" or "Mrs. W" like they do the other parents, but I guess that happens when they remember when you were born, you were their student, and you were a classmate and friend of their child or their classmate and childhood friend.  Anyway, it was a lovely afternoon.  The kids enjoyed playing games, dancing, eating, and a Friday afternoon at school without writing and the usual spelling test.  In thinking about today's photo for the challenge, which of my pictures would be appropriate?    I think this one is the best...J wearing a gold t-shirt, is in the foreground.  I think it was suggested that the children wear their school shirts, but J is not much of a joiner or conformist either, so I dressed him to show school pride in a more non-traditional blue and gold ensemble.  The clear photos of him with his friends will be ours to enjoy...but I think this one shows the festivity and fun of the afternoon.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

#HappyMoments: A 30-day Challenge. Day 1

Today, I, along with my colleagues and friends Sarah Beth and Rosi, decided to endeavor in a 30-day challenge.  What could we do that would link us together in some way and help us grow as we move and begin a new job (Rosi at Williams College), write a dissertation proposal over the summer and not feel abandoned by her two favorite lunch buddies at Bishop House (Sarah Beth), and enjoy much-anticipated seasonal unemployment with her kids while conducting interviews for a dissertation (me).  30 days of running seemed unlikely, especially considering the heat, humidity, and chance of thunderstorms that seem to be the daily weather report of New Jersey summers.  30 days of lunching, a challenge we never officially endeavored but probably met many times over, was also not an option.  What could help us be more positive and help us grow?  30 days of documented HAPPY MOMENTS was born.

I love Bikram Yoga.  I love everything about it - the poses, the packed room, the heat, and even the sweating.  My favorite part though is the daily meditation what is read by the instructor.  Each passage speaks to me, some reminding me how far I have come and others reminding me how much further I need to travel on my journey.  Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul by Melody Beattie makes me happy, not just today, but every day.