Sunday, February 17, 2013

Happiness is.....

What is all the fuss about happiness? I am not denying anyone their constitutional right to pursue it, but it seems one can't achieve happiness these days without a guidebook....literally. There was a recent article in the NYT about happiness (what country has the most of it, when money can and cannot buy it, etc.) that lead me to think about happiness as a commodity. Can we buy it? Can we sell it? I went on Amazon and typed in "happiness" in the search bar. The search returned 23,249 hits! At the top of the list was Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill. Slightly below that item was 18 Rules of Happiness: A Pocket Guide. Really? Do we now have to follow rules with regard to happiness? Must we carry a pocket guide to remember them? And what about Gretchen Rubin's NYT bestselling book, "The Happiness Project", that correlates happiness with de-cluttering? Maybe my dimwittedness has caused me to overlook some greater lesson that Ms. Rubin is trying to teach, but I don't think so. What in the hell is going on here? Is this strictly a Western cultural phenomenon? Of course it is. We've turned ourselves into tantrum throwing toddlers. "I WANT HAPPY! GIVE ME HAPPY! HAPPY IS MINE, MINE, MINE!"
I am finding all of this happy-speak rather humorous. Don't get me wrong. I want to be happy. We all do. We also want everyone around us to be happy, because it makes it easier for us to be happy. Nothing clears a room faster at a dinner party than when someone is asked, "How have you been?", and they begin their answer with, "Not so good lately." Run for the hills! I hate a pity party as much as anyone, but maybe it's time for us to define happiness differently or at least more broadly. Maybe it should be as simple as the feeling you get when you take that first sip of java in the morning. Maybe it's the “job well done” feeling you get after you've finished doing all, and I mean ALL, of the laundry....for once. Maybe it's your volunteer work. Maybe happiness starts with gratitude for all of the things you have loved, held, earned, created, and, yes, even those things you've disposed of. Maybe the other question we should be asking is, "Why do we have to be happy ALL the time?" Isn't it okay to be sad, angry, frustrated, bored? Aren't those the emotions that cause us to re-think, re-tool, and re-imagine our lives? Maybe being a balanced person means experiencing all kinds of emotions and being okay with that. Even the smiley-face emoticon has evolved to include a range of emotions. If emoticons can do it, so can we!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Frogs Not Dogs

We have two dogs. One is as old as dirt (sorry, Samantha) and the other is a rowdy bulldog mix who we call Essie, Esmarelda, Essie-Bird, BooBoo, or whatever comes to mind. She thinks her name is "Down", "Off", "Hey, you come back here and I mean it!". Essie has developed a habit of stealing my 17 year old daughter's old stuffed animals and racing around the house proclaiming, "Finders, Keepers!".

My husband retrieved a sad little frog stuffed toy yesterday and commented (to the dog), "Maybe we should have frogs for pets instead of dogs" and then proceeded to sing a little song:

Frogs, frogs are better than dogs,
They are very small and quiet.
Sometimes in summer you can hear them sing,
but when they poop you can't smell a thing.
That guy is funny. He has been known to break out in song over just about anything. He's my very own Mandy Patinkin. I can't believe he doesn't have his own blog of funny songs. He doesn't even have a Twitter account. Imagine that!
Here's what the perp stole yesterday.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Reading at 4:00 a.m.

Okay, I don't actually read at 4:00 a.m., but I do have lots of books on my bedside table. I am the A.D.D reader who can't seem to stick with just one book from start to finish. When someone asks, "What are you reading these days?", and I try to recall the list, I have to visualize my bedside table. Here is what is on it today (and the author):

Symmetry (Marcul Du Sautoy): I love a well-written book about mathematics...always have. See also, Fermat's Last Theorem.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Lisa Abend): A great book about the experimental chef, Ferran Adria and his restaurant, "El Bulli". See also, Cleaving, and anything by Anthony Bourdain.

River of Earth (James Still): First published in 1940, this beautiful novel is full of life in Appalachia and written in Southern vernacular. See also, The Dollmaker or The Yearling.

Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott): This is her writing instruction manual. Watch her documentary by the same name. This book is funny and will make you feel that you can tackle Herculean tasks "bird by bird". See also, So Many Books, So Little Time.

Southern Appalachia, 1885-1915 (Roy Edwin Thomas): Oral histories on life in the farthest western tip of North Carolina. See also, anything in the North Carolina Archives at D.H. Hill Library, NCSU.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Marisha Pessl): I have been trying to finish this book for years. Very interesting prose. It has the tone of two teenage girls, so you have to, like, you know, really, like, read it slow. See also, Spy Girl, by Amy Gray. (Hers is not a novel, but she shares a general disregard for anyone over the age of 30.)

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Alexandra Fuller): This is what I am reading for my bookclub. See also, Let's Pretend This Never Happened. Okay, they aren't remotely the same, but a well written memoir (and these both are well-written) illustrates that life can be more interesting than fiction.

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