Friday, February 19, 2016

Yes. You can control your happiness

Last weekend I found happiness.

Ok, maybe that sounds dramatic. But truthfully, sometimes we need a big, catchy line to jolt us out of our busy trance and remind us about the stuff that really matters in life.

That’s what happened for me last weekend when we returned to our hometown for our annual Valentine’s dinner with some old friends. We have this little tradition now—each year around Feb 14th we get together with three other couples-- rotating houses and switching the duties. One year the wives cook, the next year the husbands cook. The guys pull out their cheesy, heart-covered ties, the wives find something pink or red to wear, and in a steamy kitchen we share expensive wine, eat good food, and enjoy lots of funny moments that feel wonderfully familiar.

This is the bridge we cross with old friends; it’s a magical passage where past and present melds together and we are suddenly in that comfortable place where Real Life reigns. It’s a truthful space; no pretenses, no ‘perfect’ kids, ... actually, no need for perfect anything.

Which brings me to the point of this post and the topic of happiness.

This morning I was reminded of the Harvard Study of AdultDevelopment, the longest running, most extensive study on happiness to-date. Basically since 1938 researchers have been tracking two groups of men--Harvard graduates--to find out what makes them happy. And after 75 years of correlating their social lives with their physical health researchers discovered that when it comes to living a happy life, what matters most is the quality of our relationships.

Did you get the quality part?

Because if you’ve ever been in a crowded room filled with clinking glasses and muffled conversations and looked around and felt strangely disconnected--even lonely-- you’ll understand this.
You’ll recognize the instant warmth that happens when you’re with someone who ‘gets’ you and how the conversation seems to flow. And you’ll know the opposite; you’ll recognize that moment when you’re standing in a conversation with acquaintances wearing a polite smile and wishing you were home with a good book.

It’s quality that counts

There’s a whole lot of interesting results regarding this study, but I mention it because it was referenced when I read the HappinessHack: This One Ritual Made Me Much Happier, and it helped me clarify why I felt so emotionally replenished following our Valentine’s dinner.

In this post the author cites research from How FriendshipsChange in Adulthood and The Harvard Study, both which explore the importance of genuine friendships for a happy life, and shares his decision to deepen his own friendships by creating a group  (or as he calls it, “kibbutz”)  that meets regularly to explore one question in depth.

hmmmm….doesn’t this idea sound intriguing?  There’s so much potential here.

If you have a chance to read this Happiness Hack I’d love to hear your thoughts. What impressed me most was the author’s positive, action oriented approach to his life. Instead of feeling sad or regretful about not having enough nourishing friendships in his busy, successful life he decides to take matters in his own hands.

I love his attitude.

It’s a reminder that we can create our own happiness at any point in our lives-- by beginning with what the Buddhists call an open-hearted attitude. The idea is to spread empathy and kindness to all those you meet, but to also realize that at your core you deserve to be loved and valued and fully accepted. And truthfully, not everyone can offer us a healthy relationship.

 With this in mind I thought I’d share a few of my Red- Warning- Signs for Friendships

  1. After walking away from a long conversation with a  “friend” you realize this person never asked about you or your own life or your kids.
  2. Noticing that you have become the ‘listener’ in the relationship.
  3. After you spend time with someone you end up feeling inferior or ‘bad’ about your own life or kids or circumstances.
  4. You spend a lot of time explaining or justifying your decisions (or your kid’s decisions).
  5. You feel constantly criticized.

 Can you relate to any of these?
I'd love to hear your own thoughts on this topic.

 In the meantime I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be taking a workshop on Yin Yoga and I’m so curious to see how it goes.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Living Room Update- adding built-in bookshelves

Well our bookshelves are finished and I couldn't be happier with this project.
Thank you Dad!!
This is still very much a room in progress
--it's now become apparent that our RH couch is way too big for this room--but I did rearrange the furniture to give you a better view at the bookshelves. 
If this picture reminds you of a certain India Hicks photo it's not an accident. When I ran low on books I remembered her collection of beach hats on her upper shelves. So copy I did,---which-is the ultimate compliment because I love her casual, eclectic style.

When I have time I still plan on styling the books a bit, but you can see how much potential  the bookshelves add to our living room.

Let's take a look at this room before these new built-ins. 
 I still remember walking into this house with the realtor and feeling 'cramped' by the size of this entrance into the living room. Truthfully, I think I was just used to our previous home--with its open floor plan and cathedral ceilings-- and it's been an adjustment living with standard sized ceilings.
It also doesn't help that this house doesn't get as much natural light as I would wish.

In a perfect world I'd love to remove this entire wall
(Chip and Joanna can you please come to my house?) 
but knowing that's not going to happen, I decided to make this wall fit our needs.
 And because we still had boxes of books packed away in the garage I decided this wall could be the perfect place for storage. So when Mom and Dad came on their last visit... guess what project we worked on?

On the foyer side (dare I call it that?) we added simple wood trim to give the living room entrance a more substantial presence (more on this later).

And on the living room side my Dad and I designed these built-in bookshelves.

Ok, ready for some Befores and Afters?



Previous owners


If you look closely you can see the wires running down the corner of this bookcase from the surround sound system that we installed into this ceiling. We still need to enclose these wires.

Now to give you a better sense of this room I snapped a few quickie shots this morning with my phone. Here's the fireplace wall that you see right when you enter.


I actually plan on doing a post and showing you how we transformed this wall with reclaimed wood shelves and these farmhouse doors that can hide the TV--this wall is almost done it just needs a mantel.

Here it is before our transformation.

And now ta-daaaaa...
on the opposite side of the room we have our new bookshelves
 which-I-might add- now perfectly frame the staircase that needs to be done. Ah well,..nothing like living in a fixer upper to cultivate patience.

If you're thinking of adding bookshelves around a doorway or window there's lots of visual inspiration out there, here's a few photos that motivated me.

On a side note, I think pray that my computer issues are finally behind me and I can get back to posting again. Thank you so much for following along and being so supportive whenever I share here--it really means so much.


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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

open shelves in the kitchen and other random fears

Remember this empty corner in my new kitchen nook area?

Well after my Dad left I found some pieces of wood on the side of the house that were leftover from our bookshelf project. I couldn't believe it. There were three pieces of pine --all the same length--that I rescued and decided to use for a few open shelves in this corner.

What's your opinion of open shelving in the kitchen?
Someday when we renovate I'll have to see how I feel about them but for now I thought why not?

 Turn out, I didn't even need to cut them.

After  I painted them I headed to Home Depot and bought six wood brackets and immediately called my Dad and asked him how in the world I was going to get three shelves put up in a straight line. "Straight" is hard for me---so I never do any actual nailing around here, I usually depend on my wonderful Dad do it...
but he just left.
And after staring at this wall I finally got fed up about being so nervous about this project and I decided to jump right into it.

Here's the side of the bracket that goes into the wall.
As you can see there are 2 molly bolts for each bracket.

 Doesn't this look hard? (That's my wimpy voice talking)
Actually I found out that it's not really hard, it just takes some careful measuring and a reliance on a level. Or in my case two levels.

Gotta keep checking these little bubbles.

After they were up I added some wood glue, chalked them and painted them the color of the wall.

And drum roll please......
My new open shelves

Voila! Here they are.
I still haven't decided how I want to style them but I love how they came out.

And wait. There's more. Do you know how one project leads to another?
Well once I got these shelves up all of a sudden my turquoise buffet really stuck out like a sore thumb. My mom has been asking me to paint it white for a while now and I decided she was right.
The only problem was I had never removed vintage hardware before.

Another little fear I got over.


white buffet and new shelves

Do you have something in your life that you're nervous to tackle? If so, this post is for you.
I encourage you to challenge yourself.
It doesn't matter how small and seemingly insignificant it might be. In my case it involved a simple hammer and drill gun and yet, I had this view of myself that "I can't do that kinda stuff." 
I feel the same way about my computer. I've been dealing with some current computer issues that are affecting my blogging lately and even though I've always been intimidated by anything 'techie" I'm actually  learning a few new skills-- I'm talking very BASIC ones but hey, the point is that all of a sudden I'm walking around feeling more empowered.

I just got to a point where I was tired of having all these little fears.

Can you relate?


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