happiness

Getting To Happy Already (Part Three)

by Becky on February 19, 2013 · 5 comments

in Food, Fun, Music, Travel

Friends! Here are some Happies! Share around! Find your own, too!

First, for your heart:   http://365grateful.com/.  The twitter feed alone on this site will hitch up your smile a little, especially if it’s on a downturn (your smile, that is).  Think about starting your own gratitude project, or just journal your gratitude, one item at a time, even one item a day.  Be warned, though:  it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to articulate gratitude for one thing and not want to write down a second thing.  If you don’t believe me, try it.  My Grateful (‘grateful’ as noun) for the day is the bright pink vintage flamenco dress I saw at a thrift store down the street. Directly connected to that is the picture in my head of the way either of my petals would look in it.  (And how often do you see an authentic flamenco dress in a store window, just begging to be admired?)

Second, for your ears.  Music by ubercool Spanish indie rock/jazz group Jarabe de Palo, a favorite of mine for years, though I tend to like the jazz-informed stuff better than the rock stuff.  If you can listen to their take on Jobim’s “The Girl From Ipanema” and not feel instantly happified, then you should check your pulse to see if you are alive. (And see if you can detect that gorgeous Castillian theta, used on letter combinations Ci, Ce, and Z; you don’t hear it anywhere else! The word ‘gracia,’ while spelled the same, is nevertheless pronounced grahthia. Beautiful. And Happy!)


Or, if you’re in the mood for classical, then by all means Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, also Spanish, with the immortal Paco de Lucia on the guitar.


Third.  For your tongue.  Spanish olive oil!  Just.  Wow.

Carnival Thursday_8480

Next time you’re at the market, pick up a bottle of good Spanish olive oil, one of the products for which Spain is known. I picked up my current favorite–very light, delicate, just amazing–at a little market, a coop of sorts, in the Catalunyan countryside, but you can no doubt find some good ones in the states.

Fourth. For your eyes. An apparition on the metro: Miss Zinnia. No doubt you have your own ‘apparitions.’ See them!  Name them . . .

Carnival Thursday_8518

Fifth. For your hands. Vintage gloves. These belonged to my mother’s mother, Olive Estella Harker. Every woman of a certain age needs a pair of great leather gloves–a seriously happy acquisition.

Becky's Outfit_9428

Sixth. For your sense of adventure. One of the magically labyrinthine streets in the Born District, maybe my favorite district in the city.

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Hope you’re getting your Happy plugged in. Just writing about mine, I realize I am smiling. Really big.  (And me smiling means my family is probably smiling, too.  Funny how that works.)

Happy Day lovely gals . . . and besitos in abundance.

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Getting to Happy, Part Two

by Becky on February 18, 2013 · 4 comments

in Books, Parenting

Tessa heel clicking on bridge_8768

I sometimes think of the word ‘happy’ as a noun: a thing I can grab and go with, like a colorful scarf or an e-reader(!) or the (absolutely) lovely Spanish olive oil I’m almost out of. My children often trigger my Happy–when they’re being imaginative, when they’re laughing hard, when they’re being kind to each other.  My teens inspire my Happy when they show maturity and generosity of spirit.

But the other ‘happy’ word, ‘Happiness’–the Capital-H kind–that’s a journey, for me, at least. So I thought I’d share a few favorites with you today and tomorrow–things that could trigger your Happy and also give you pause to think about your own road to Capital-H Happiness.

The first is the notion of a Happiness Project.  I heard Gretchen Rubin speak maybe ten months ago, and I found her really inspiring. Her story:  she wanted to get closer to Happiness but didn’t quite know how to go about it, so she started what she called The Happiness Project, which eventually turned into a book–The Happiness Project–which quickly became a New York Times bestseller and then an international bestseller.  I own the book and have loved it, particularly the way in which she takes you into the very personal machinery of her life, starting with her Twelve Personal Commandments. She actually made the study and the practice of Happiness a year-long pursuit, each month focusing on one aspect of what she considered an essential ingredient of Happiness.

I love her writing voice: she sounds like the best friend you didn’t know you had. Upbeat and positive without being cloying, she’s also never afraid to make herself the target of her own irony. Yet she never denigrates herself. Indeed, formulating a stronger sense of self quickly becomes part of her project and a key component of it. Each day in my inbox, I hear from her in the form of a passage from some brilliant or important or just gifted-ly happy person. A Tolstoy quote from a couple of weeks back read, “Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.” Interesting, don’t you think? Her new book, Happier At Home, is on my “Read!” list. Check out the book trailer (which alone is inspiring!).

In a way, my blog has become a Happiness Project, allowing me to talk in highly specific ways about the culture of family and bringing culture into family, including a focus on my teens. Especially powerful for me is mapping our relationships, particularly as they intersect with travel, literature, music, and other forms of culture. This has helped me parent more consciously and generously. In short, it’s a daily trigger for my Happy as well as a daily marker along my road to Happiness.

Stay tuned for Getting to Happy, Part Three.

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Act I. So the youngest member of our household lost three teeth the night before last. Not one. Not two. Three. On discovering that they were loose, he got down to business and simply yanked them out.

Silas looses 3 teeth in one night

Problem is, someone has to signal the tooth fairy when that happens. Right? Otherwise, how will she know to come??? You feel me? You would think that something as, well, SEISMIC as three teeth(!) being released from an eight-year-old’s mouth would be its own signal and that the cosmic ripples from such a life-altering event would, given how powerful they were, knock the Tooth Fairy upside the head, causing her to go all bug-eyed as she suddenly realizes that a young man down in the Land of Teeth has lost THREE at the same TIME! But no. Just like any diva, she’s got to have the proverbial banging on the dressing room door, reminding her that yes, yes already, it’s show time.

Act II. Seems the Tooth Fairy forgot to come that first night, a fact which caused everyone connected with this young man (especially his older siblings) to look at their mother all disgusted, like, “Really?”—which caused her to look around defensively, as if to say, “What!? I fell asleep!”  (Which is no excuse, but still.)  

See, the mother’s job is to coordinate with the Tooth Fairy—at least telepathically, before falling asleep, to—you know—communicate the Great News.  But, as a result of having failed to do this, she now needed to make it up to her Youngest in a big way, by using a bull horn this time to call the Fairy, instead of a weakly telegraphed afterthought dispatched on the road to sleep.

Act III. The older children in this family were well favored of the Tooth Fairy. Once, to my oldest, she brought a tiny castle sculpted of sand and a corresponding note written in glitter ink. Can you just imagine? How generous, our Fairy! Which made it imperative that she revisit her glory days, so to speak, and really bring it for the second grader who of course deserves the same consideration his brother and sisters routinely received. So, maybe out of a sense of guilt, the Fairy went a little crazy last night. Here are the items found on or in our youngest’s bed this morning: a small box of rainbow Goldfish (a perennial favorite); Fruit Punch Icebreakers (sugar-free, naturally); a box of Angry Birds Adhesive Bandages (a crowd pleaser); a box of multiplication flashcards (not such a crowd pleaser); a box of Kraft SpongeBob macaroni and cheese (huge hit); and (the coup de grace) a Mega Bloks brand authentic Need for Speed Collector’s Series Nissan GT-R Key Launcher 14-piece race car in matte blue.

Silas eyeing his bounty

This morning, you could hear the cheers and hoots all the way up the street.

 Tooth Fairy is now on better terms

Act IV. At breakfast, the following conversation occurred between my two boys. Silas, scorer of fairy booty: “I think my fairy is a boy.” Clave, my older son, with a derisive snort: “Dude, your fairy is a girl. Come on, this is real life, not some Disney movie!”

Wait . . . you mean life’s not a Disney movie??

So the point is, the fairy came, he/she was generous, and a certain mother was redeemed. (For now, at least. Until the next tooth falls out and she has to scour the house for a cell phone, which I hear is the latest mode of communication preferred by delinquent fairies.)

Act V. On his way out the door to school, Silas brought his treasure hoard to me and said solemnly, “Hide this from Clave. You know he wants it.”

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Little Miss Manners

by Becky on April 5, 2012

in Parenting

So my middle daughter was practicing her manners this morning, complimenting her dad on the oatmeal he had made for breakfast. He does indeed make oatmeal extraordinaire—just the right amounts of this and that, so that the final product has the perfect flavor and texture (an important trait in a bowl of oatmeal). But what struck me was the fact that she made a point of thanking the oatmeal chef.

Gratitude for Honey on Oatmeal

Does articulating a compliment—even quite simply—make the giver of it happier? I absolutely think so.

Gratitude for Whipped Cream on Oatmeal

The evidence: this daughter gives compliments more readily and handily than almost anyone I know, and she is likewise happier most of the time than just about anyone I know. I pointed this out to her, and the very pleased smile that instantly lit up her face told me she logs compliments as well as she gives them. Everyone deserves to feel special—even the makers of the day’s highly acceptable oatmeal and the givers of heartfelt thanks.

Below are ten ways to compliment anyone—especially your teen. To be completely successful, a compliment should be sincere and specific. Give one. Watch the beneficiary of it begin to smile as her sun comes out.

Also below is the recipe for perfect oatmeal, which takes a long time to digest, which, according to nutrition and diet gurus, is a function of its low glycemic index, which is a desirable thing in a breakfast food.

The Eleven O’Clock Adjust-for-context Compliment Roster
What a great/amazing/fantastic job you did on (fill in the blank).
Your hard work/dedication/persistence is truly admirable, and it paid off.
I love your attitude; it’s inspiring.
I never knew someone could (fill in the blank) like that. You’ve educated me.
Thank you for being kind.
Do you have any idea how much (fill in the blank) meant to me? Thank you!
Wow, this is so completely cool/delicious/beautifully conceived! Nice work.
Hey, what you did/said just now was kind/mature/unselfish. Nicely handled!
You have such a gift for (fill in the blank)!
I appreciate your help; I couldn’t have done that without you!

Gratitude for Cup Measures to scoop out Oatmeal in the right proportions

2-1 Ratio Oatmeal
For one person: ¾ c oatmeal, 1 ½ c water, plus a pinch of salt (roughly the size of a dime).

Gratitude for Oatmeal

Bring water to boil. Add salt. Add oats. Lower heat to simmer for roughly 5 minutes (or until oats have reached desired consistency). Eat.

Gratitude for Dad's Great Oatmeal

Be sure to compliment the maker of the oats. If that was you, give yourself a humble pat on the back for your culinary efforts.

For more in-depth ideas about how to give praise, see http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2011/04/, where Gretchen Rubin, New York Times best-selling author and happiness seeker talks about how to spread it around. These are great ideas that can be quickly transposed to conversations with compliment-deserving teens!

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