What makes me happy right now

Coffee, daisies and a book to read. A beautiful combination, don't you think?

Coffee, daisies and a book to read. A beautiful combination, don't you think?

Happiness is one of those things that we're programmed into thinking is a life goal. Do what makes you happy. Don't worry, be happy. Live happily ever after. Happiness is...you fill in the blank.

I like feeling happy, but I also get how fleeting an emotion it is. I've learned to appreciate the depth and breadth of feeling joy - whether I feel happy or not. But happiness isn't something I'm going to turn away when it comes.

There's never going to be a list of things that make me happy that isn't topped by my family. Matt is the most kind, caring, funny, supportive husband. He's the yin to my yang. I'm messy; he's not. I'm a daydreamer; he's not. I drink wine; he doesn't (more for me). I don't like to vacuum; he does. I meticulously sort, fold and hang clothes (when I get to the laundry); he doesn't. I read and sing; he doesn't. I'm not into video games; he is. We also agree on a lot of things - both trivial and critical. 

When Matt walks through the door at the end of the day and smiles, it lights up my world.

Brandon's so much like Matt, it makes me smile. He's got his dad's quick wit and my tendency to tease. It's a combination that keeps us all laughing. But Brandon's also one of the most genuinely sweet children I've ever known. He's still an affectionate cuddler who isn't afraid to tell anyone how much he cares. I hope he hangs onto that as he gets older.

Every time I get a hug from my little guy, my cup of joy gets filled up.

I've spent the last few years focused on writing and stories, so I get immersed in story practically every day. The medium doesn't matter. I love a good story in a song, a book, a TV show or movie, pictures and more. I even make up stories in my head starring strangers around me. Most of those stories get lost in a vault buried deep in some unknown tunnel in my brain. This isn't a bad thing.

Stories help me see new perspectives, explore new ideas, and occasionally escape from the monotony of life.

When I was a kid, I used to think once you finished school there was no more learning. Back then I didn't think this would bother me in the least. "No more pencils. No more books. No more teachers' dirty looks," sounded awfully nice. But somewhere along the way, I realized how much I liked learning and I just kept doing it. There's so much interesting stuff in the world to learn. I want to soak as much of it up as I can.

Learning makes me a better writer and a better human.

I'm also blessed to have so many truly wonderful people in my life, from my family to friends to colleagues. Life is rich in unmeasurable ways when you're surrounded by so much good. Also, coffee. And daisies. Daisies are such a happy flower. :)

A birthday like no other - I feel really special

I woke up this morning when my son started to get fussy in his room. His Thomas toy just wasn’t doing it for him anymore. And though he was awake, we weren’t really ready for him to come out of his room. Fortunately, we have a distraction that works incredibly well. Distraction, thy name is iPad - also affectionately known as Addy when Matt and I don’t want Brandon to know what we’re talking about.

I stumbled across the hall to deliver Addy under his bedroom door. As I turned away, I said good morning to Matt coming up the stairs. He was carrying a plate of food in his hand and I thought, “Wow - he’s really ahead this morning.” Except, the food wasn’t for Brandon - it was for me. He had a plate in one hand and my coffee in the other all set to deliver it to me in bed. (I’m not making this up - my husband is truly that awesome.)

I foiled his plan (sort of), but I climbed back in bed and ate my breakfast and drank my coffee knowing the day was going to be nice. 

Except it wasn’t. 

At some point - maybe around 6:45 - my friend, Lara, texted me and we got into a conversation that lasted pretty much the entire time I was getting ready. Towards the end, she asked if I had lunch plans. She was going to be downtown and wondered if I’d like to get together. I said yes and she proceeded to tweet it out to the world. And the world responded.

This cheesecake was delicious!I logged on to twitter later to see that our lunch date had grown - and it grew and grew to include 10 people and 4 children. We went to Spin Kitchen & Bar and were given the royal treatment by the staff there, thanks to Anathea. Great friends, great food, great fun. I got to meet Jenn who asked me to go be a social media judge at Yuk Yuks tonight, which I must admit is a pretty cool and fun way to spend my birthday! I also got to see Amy for the first time in too many months. Krista decided to come and “crash our party”. Stéphanie very skillfully convinced Sara and Anna that it really would be okay to come with their children - and I am really glad she did. And Vicky braved the parking challenge to make a special trip downtown as well. All with a couple of hours of notice.

I told you my day wasn’t nice. In fact, it’s been FANTASTIC!

Thank you to each and every one of the dozens upon dozens who have left messages on Facebook and twitter for me. I appreciate that you took the time to do it. You made my day special and made me feel special. And that is worth more than any material item in the world.

Thank you for being such awesome people. You absolutely made my day.

*****

P.S. You can read about my birthday gifts to myself over at Losing it in Ottawa today!

Just in the nick of time

The early part of this week was hot for this time of year in Ottawa. All over twitter, I was seeing the #Hottawa hashtag in use as everyone tried to make it through the days without melting.

I had a few interesting conversations because I don’t like the heat, yet I’m from Florida. Born and raised. How could I not like the heat? Well, I just never have liked hot weather. I’m a moderate weather girl, preferring the comfortable temps of a spring and fall to the extremes that come with summer and winter. Hot weather reminds me of the many years without air conditioning in houses or cars, which is miserable in Florida, let me tell you. Heat rash, itchy sweat, lethargy. Heat drains me much the same way that being in a crowded room does to an introvert (I might know about that from personal experience too).

The worst summer, by far, was 1998. Perhaps because I was old enough to actually remember and document it. Perhaps because it was just a memorable year in general. Perhaps because it was just so hot it was burned into my brain. Or maybe that was just the year - for better or worse - I finally started making decisions for myself.

One decision I made was to go with my best friend to visit her father and step-mom on the east coast. To get there, we had to drive east from Tally over to US Route 1 around Jacksonville and down the coast to their town. This wasn’t the quick way, but the faster route was closed thanks to the rash of forest fires that year. 

The trip from Tallahassee to Jacksonville was fairly uneventful, probably because we left at approximately 2:00am-ish. Our methods of staying awake were questionable, but effective. What we weren’t prepared for was the drive down US Route 1. The smoke from the fires was so thick in places we had to slow to a crawl. The smell permeated the car and I’m not sure that car was ever the same again.

The most alarming part of the trip was the charred forest we drove by for miles, only to come to a lush green section that went on for just a quarter of a mile (if that) before we saw a gas station.

After that sight, much of the trip is a blur. I don’t think I remember anything about our return home. But I will never forget the sight of smoke, charred wood, and the visible evidence of just-in-the-nick-of-time work that was done to keep a bad situation from getting exponentially worse.

*****

This post was based on the prompt “Share a memorable road trip story!” from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.

Smile, because you aren't wearing braces anymore.

Matt and I took this week off to spend time going through the piles of accumulated junk in our house. We’re purging, cleaning and organizing our little butts off. Today, in particular, we gutted our home office and started the process of going through boxes that have barely been touched since we moved in.

I happen to be a fairly sentimental type and I keep things that mean something to me. Sometimes they are reminders of the really amazing friends I’ve had throughout my life.

When I opened one box, I knew I’d be spending a while examing its contents. It was filled with cards, letters and notes from people I’ve known - mostly as a teenager and into my early twenties. There was one note that hurt to read - though not as much as when I received it. My relationship with the authors had changed and I don’t think it ever fully recovered back then. Now that we’re all adults, the memories of those times have faded and I see the people they have become and I’m glad I’ve restored contact even though our paths diverged in life.

I kept the note. It doesn’t have the power to hurt me that it did back then. But it taught me today that nothing is insurmountable.

What was overwhelmingly obvious was that I have had many people in my life who appreciated and cared about me - even if they were only a part of my life for a short time. I saw names that I no longer remember saying beautiful things to and about me. Piles of birthday cards and Christmas cards from my (then) teenaged friends. I don’t remember doing Christmas cards for my friends, but maybe I did.

There was one note that stuck out above all the rest. There is no name, but it was clearly written by a boy in one of my classes. I think I know who wrote it, but there are 3-4 possibilities, so I’m not 100% sure. It was a note passed to me in class. And it had to have been in 10th grade*, though there is no date. This note made me smile and I couldn’t resist sharing it:

Hey Karen, what’s up? How are you? Why do you seem so depressed lately?

Me: I don’t know exactly. I just haven’t been very happy with anything.

Smile, because you aren’t wearing braces anymore.

Me: That really won’t help any.

So?

Indeed.

I often forget how blessed I’ve been by friends throughout my life. This friend just wanted me to smile. He cared enough about my state of mind to work at coaxing it from me when I wasn’t willing.

I hope I smiled when I got this note like I am as I read it again nearly 18 years later.

I think I’ll keep this note, too.

*****

*My braces were removed two weeks into my 10th grade year. I walked into classes late that day, smiling wide as one of the guys yelled out, “Do your teeth feel like snot?” And all the kids who’d had braces laughed because, yes, they did.