Stacking the Shelves · The Happiness Project

A Old Friend

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Today I’m supposed to do a Happiness Project update. You all know that I reviewed my short story, so that went well. To be honest though, there are a bunch of things going on that are making the Happiness Project very difficult. I don’t talk much about my issues with depression here (I save that for my other blog), so I’ll just say that the road is a little bumpy at the moment. Next week, I’m hoping to outline my goals for June and see where we go from there. Hopefully this will be short lived.

And since I didn’t have much to say about the Happiness Project this week, I decided to resurrect an old friend.


When the going gets tough, the tough go book shopping! I haven’t done a “Stacking the Shelves” post in a while, and I did get two new books this weekend. Thanks as always to “Tynga’s Reviews” for hosting this feature.

1. The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long – I heard other people talking about this book in the book blogging community for a while. I think I also heard about it on a podcast, but I can’t say for sure which one. In any case, I fell in LOVE with the title of this book. And the cover is absolutely gorgeous. I still don’t know what the story is about, but the title and the cover drew me in. So when I found a copy of it, in hardcover, for $3.99, I had to get it. Had. To. Get. It.

2. If I Stay by Gayle Forman – This one was recommended to me by a friend of mine, but I’ve also heard other people talking about it online as well. I found this one in paperback for $1.99, so again, I had to get it. This book looks like something that will make me think, so I probably need to wait to read it when I have time to really focus and process it.

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Partial Success is Better Than None

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This is why I’m glad that I moved the Happiness Project posts to Mondays. On Monday, I’m still very focused and gung ho on getting things done. It makes it easier to focus on trying to accomplish some of these goals, since blogging about them automatically makes me feel more accountable.

So last week, I made four goals. Let’s see how I did with them.

1. Next time my daughter is upset about something this week, acknowledge her feelings and don’t try to shove them under the rug.

I’m not sure about my success with this one, mostly because I’m having a hard time coming up with individual issues where she got upset and I had to deal with it. Which probably means I didn’t do very good with this one, because I would have been thinking about it more. Oh well. I’ll keep trying.

In unrelated news, my daughter’s soccer team won their first game on Saturday. The season’s almost over, but hey. They won at least one game!

2. Do one art project with my daughter (and my stepson, if he’s interested).

This is another one that partially got done. I talked it over with my daughter and she seemed interested in doing something like this. We didn’t have much time this weekend to do much, but we did get some ideas. In our living room, there’s a big cabinet that has a bunch of arts and crafts supplies. It’s a mess, to be honest. We went through it and decided what stuff she wants to keep, and what can go in the trash. I think that counts. We’ll get to actually making something later.

3. Plan some sort of activity for the weekend that involves getting out of the house and finding fun.

We did this!!! Yay!!! On Sunday, we went to a really nice park near our house. My daughter calls it “the fairy trail” because, according to her, there are a whole bunch of signs that prove that fairies live there. There’s a really nice paved walking path that twists and turns through the park, plus picnic tables and a playground. The kids brought their scooters and took off while my hubby and I enjoyed a nice, more leisurely stroll. It was really nice

4. Read one of the short stories in the anthology and blog about it on Friday.

Totally failed at this one. Enough said.

So while it wasn’t a complete success, it wasn’t a complete failure either. And planning goals like this gets me back in the Happiness Project mindset and shows me where I need to do better, which is always a good thing. For this week, I probably won’t do as much, because I have some family coming in and won’t have as much time over the weekend as I usually do. My goals for this week will be:


2. Decide on the arts and crafts thing. Will we learn something new together? Will I teach my daughter something that I know how to do? She showed some interest in crochet, so that’s a possibility. Notice that I didn’t say that we would actually do anything for sure. But we will make a decision. That will be good enough.

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Happiness Project – Monday Post

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Here we go! I’m looking forward to getting back to the Happiness Project, although to be honest, I haven’t been keeping up with a lot of the goals set in January, February and March. As always, January starts off with a bang, but then the newness wears off and soon all your good intentions get left by the wayside. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t pick up and start again. I completely missed reading the chapter for April, but that’s okay. Fold it into May and move forward.

The chapters for April and May focus on two areas of my life that I think need a lot of help – parenthood and leisure. Children and having fun. Most people who know me would probably say that I’m a good parent, but for the most part, I disagree. It’s not that I’m a good parent. It’s that my kid is amazing. I am by nature a very introverted person who is perfectly content to spend all her free time alone, preferably with a good book. Having children, even only one, typically removes free quiet time and replaces it with noise, mess, and a fair helping of stress. At least that’s how I usually see it. I’m also very impatient and, usually, fairly selfish as well. Not the best traits for parenting. As far as having fun – that’s a tough one. For the most part, I enjoy the things that I fill my life with, but it’s mostly the same thing over and over. Books and video games. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of these, but it’s easy to feel something lacking when these two things are the only thing you use for your leisure time.

All that said, I think combining these two months will work well. I need to work on being a good parent. I need to find out how to “find more fun.” And I need to learn how to have more fun with my kids.

So here’s some of the points for April. I love that Gretchen Rubin suggests singing in the morning, but I won’t make that a goal. I sing all the time around our house, as anyone in my family can tell you! She does mention something that I desperately need to work on, which is acknowledging feelings. When my daughter gets upset, my initial instinct is to get her to stop being upset as quickly as possible. If she is upset about something that I deem unimportant, I’m usually not very sympathetic. I will cop an attitude or, even worse, get angry and start making threats. “If you don’t stop crying about that, you’re going straight to bed.” I know it’s wrong even as I’m saying it, but in the moment, I just want the tears to magically go away. I want the unpleasantness to be over and done with. That’s something I really need to work on.

Another thing under the parenting chapter is to take time for projects. For my daughter, this will mean art projects. She loves that sort of thing, but I tend to shy away from it because my house is messy enough as it is. I don’t want to throw watercolors, clay, or plastic beads into the mix. The truth is, I just need to suck it up and do it. The few times that we’ve done art projects together have been wonderful, once I got past my pessimistic view of them. We need to do that more often.

May is supposed to be all about being “serious about play.” Not just having fun, but finding new ways of having fun. For starters, we need to find more of it. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, so coming up now is actually perfect. We live in a really cool part of the world. North Carolina is beautiful and there are tons of things to do, both in the city we live and places that are only a few hours drive away. So why don’t we do any of it? It’s easy to say that we don’t have time, but that’s not true. We have time, if we make the effort. Another suggestion for May is to take something you already enjoy and find a way to do it differently. I have the perfect idea for this one, which I got from a podcast I listen to called “Books on the Nightstand.” I love to read, but I typically read the same sort of book over and over. This isn’t because I don’t like other genres – I’ll read just about anything. But I’m always drawn to fantasy, usually with a YA tilt, and lately, something dark or slightly dystopian. My solution to broaden my reading scope? Short stories. I have a huge anthology of short stories that I was told to buy for a class when I was in college, but then we never really used it. I’ve read a couple of them, but not many. There are nearly 2000 pages worth of not just short stories, but essays from the authors of those short stories talking about writing. Other people may not be drawn to this, but I find it fascinating. And since it’s a short story, I won’t be committing myself to a week’s worth or reading, like I would a novel. I can knock it out in an hour or less.

So here are my goals for this week. We’ll see next Monday how I do on them.

1. Next time my daughter is upset about something this week, acknowledge her feelings and don’t try to shove them under the rug.

2. Do one art project with my daughter (and my stepson, if he’s interested).

3. Plan some sort of activity for the weekend that involves getting out of the house and finding fun.

4. Read one of the short stories in the anthology and blog about it on Friday.

That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? And who knows? It might just be fun!

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Belated Happiness Post

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As I said in my last Happiness post, I set some goals for March. The fact that today’s post didn’t happen on Friday is proof that I didn’t manage to accomplish one of those goals (blog five days a week). I’m not sure what happened last week, except that 1). my job decided that it wanted to torture me, and 2). my insomnia was back in full force because of that, leaving me groggy and going to bed as early as possible.

So blogging didn’t happen. I did get some writing in though, although not every day. And I did submit the scene I had written to the writer’s group and got some good feedback on it. I might have to go a different way with it, but that’s okay. It’s giving me ideas, and giving me something to think about. I’ll start the Maass exercises this week, so we’ll see how that goes.

And I did do something fun this past weekend – my daughter had her very first soccer game! She did a really good job and it was fun to all get together to cheer her on. Her team didn’t win, but they did pretty good – the score was 2 to 1 at the end. Not bad at all, especially since they’ve only had two practices so far.

Here’s to hoping that this week is a bit better than last week.

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Happiness Project – Week #9

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I’m finally back with a real Happiness Project post!! Yay!!!

So this week we start goals for the month of March. I have to admit, when I saw what this month was about, my heart sank a little.

Work. With the subtitle, “Aim Higher.”

When I think of the word “work,” I think about my job. It’s instinctual. And I really don’t like my job most of the time (although things are getting a little bit better). So I started thinking about what I really want to do, which worked nicely with how Gretchen Rubin talked about examining how she was spending her spare time. What I really want to do (as most of you know) is write. And I do write. I have a rough draft of a manuscript that I am currently revising/slaughtering. Due to stress in other areas (like my job), I’ve really let my writing slide by the wayside. I don’t mean to, but when given the choice between working on my writing or snuggling under a blanket with a book, after a long day, I tend to choose the blanket.

Goal decided. I will apply this month’s goals to my writing “work.”

For each month, Gretchen lists the key points, key ideas that she takes into further detail as the chapter continues. The first one made me laugh.

  • Launch a blog.

Done! Moving on!

  • Enjoy the fun of failure.

Ugh. This one makes me cringe. I am a perfectionist, a Capricorn down to my toenails. Failure is not in my vocabulary. And yet, I understand what she is saying here. The fear of failure can paralyze you. Take my manuscript. (please!) This the first time I have ever finished a rough draft. Ever. This is a good thing. It means that now, I get to move on to the revision part of the writing process. But here’s the problem – I’ve never done this before. I don’t know how to revise. I do know that there were some serious issues in the rough draft, but the thought of trying to fix them was so daunting, it made it easier to find excuses not to do it at all. Not good. I need to accept the fact that I make mistakes (or a lot of mistakes in a 300+ page manuscript), learn from them, and enjoy that process. Eventually I will be able to do this without gritting my teeth.

  • Asking for help.

Another one that is tricky, but I have been working on it. I’ve been willfully avoiding my writing group because I feel guilty about the writing slump I’ve been in. During one of our email check-ins, I just came unglued and told them all that I thought I couldn’t continue, I couldn’t do it. This was also around the time I was deciding to quit grad school, so I was a bit emotional. They were very, very, very supportive, assuring me that they were there for me and I could do whatever I needed to. They also encouraged me not to give up, even if I just needed a break from things. It was exactly what I needed to hear. I have a lot of resources around me, from my family to my friends. I need to allow myself to rely on them more.

  • Work Smart

I have a lot of unrealistic goals for my spare time (no, really – you should see my day planner). One thing I can safely say is that I need to organize my time better. I tend to come up with huge to-do lists, without having a good plan to actually get things done. This is something I will try to do better.

  • Enjoy now.

This one is so simple, and yet so hard. It’s so easy for me to think about, “When I get published . . .” or “When I can finally leave my job . . .” or even “When I loose 20 pounds . . .” Everything will be better then, right? Probably not. That grass looks a lot greener from where I’m standing, but it probably isn’t. In addition to all this working, I need to let myself enjoy life too. A good example of this was last weekend. When I first heard that Maureen Johnson and Stephanie Perkins, two authors who I adore, were coming to a book signing event near my hometown, do you know what my first thought was? That I had so much stuff to do around the house, I couldn’t possibly go. Yes, I really said that, to both my husband and my mother, who both thankfully helped me change my mind. It was an impulsive decision, coming from a girl who tries to stay as far away from impulsiveness as she can. But then, every time I’ve been impulsive, I’ve been grateful that I did whatever it was that I did. Running back up to New York to try and get Alan Rickman’s autograph? Thrilling! Heading up to the mountains for a weekend with my husband? A lovely time! I need to not be afraid to do things like this, not to let my work rule my life. Do I need to write? Yes. Will the world come to an end if I spend time with my kids playing Apples-to-Apples  Junior instead? Nope. Will I feel happier? Probably so.

So official goals for March:

  1. Keep up with the blog five times per week.
  2. Try to set aside 30 minutes each day for writing time.
  3. Go ahead and submit that scene I just finished to the writer’s group.
  4. Try to do something fun each weekend, even if it’s just playing boardgames with the family.

I think that’s a pretty good start. If anyone else wants to suggest something, please go ahead. For this month, I probably need all the help I can get. See there! I just asked for help! I’m growing already!

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Happiness Project – Week #8

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I’ve sort of skipped over the month of February – seriously, can anyone believe that it’s March already? This year is going by fast! I didn’t set any specific goals for the Happiness Project in February, which was all about marriage and relationships, not because I don’t think it’s important, but because they were all things that I should already be doing. I’ve tried to be better about nagging, and about giving more signs of affection on a daily basis, even if it’s something small. For the most part, I think my husband and I have a pretty solid marriage. It’s not perfect, but really, there isn’t much that I would want to change. He’s a pretty nifty guy. Plus, he puts up with me, so you know he must be something special. 🙂

So on to March. I haven’t read the chapter for March yet, so I won’t go into any goals for this month until next Friday. The chapter heading for this month says that it’s about work, with the subtitle “Aim Higher.” I don’t think I have much of a problem with this one. Honestly, I think my problem is that I tend to aim too high. Such is the life of an overachieving perfectionist. So we’ll see how it goes. Maybe this month will help me to aim higher more sensibly.

To be honest, the Happiness Project is really hard. A lot of the changes I made in January are not sticking as well as I would have liked. I’m nowhere near giving up, so don’t think that. But when real life kicks in, it’s difficult to think that you’ll be a lot happier if you just get your closets cleaned out. Which will be nice when I get around to it, but still. For example, we had a little incident this morning. I was getting ready to take my daughter to school and trying to pack up her backpack. The zipper on said backpack was partially torn off. I didn’t notice it last night during homework time, but it looked like the zipper had gotten stuck and someone had pulled it really hard to try and get it unstuck. The result – the backpack no longer zips at all. Do we have another backpack anywhere in the house? Nope. So there was a lot of scrambling around to find something to put her school stuff in, a lot of lectures about how she needs to take better care of her stuff, and a lot of tears (because she “really loves” that backpack). It was exhausting, but we made something work and I don’t think I lost my cool too much. I was upset, sure, but I did not turn into a raging lunatic (which I’ve done in the past). Maybe that shows progress? I hope so.

We’ll see what March brings.

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Happiness Project – Week #5

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Due to missing several blogging days, mostly due to illness this past month, I haven’t mentioned my Happiness Project in a while. My goals for January were centered around cleaning and decluttering. Did I do everything I wanted to? No, not really. But I did make a lot of progress. My office is neater and more conducive to work. I’ve straightened out several things in my bedroom that keeps it from getting as messy as it used to.

Things I still need to work on:

  • Going to bed early. This is the number one thing. I have the hardest time doing it because I am such a night owl. I’d happily stay up until midnight or one o’clock, which doesn’t work so well when one is expected to be up by six.
  • I also didn’t add any exercise to my daily routine at all. The good news is that I switched offices at work. We work in a two story building and now, my office is on the second floor. That means a lot more moving around, since a lot of the people I deal with are still on the first floor. I need to dig out my pedometer and see just how many steps I’m getting in now.

Other things to work on:

  • Getting my closets cleaned out. This goal went completely by the wayside, which is sad because I think it would be very easy to accomplish in an afternoon on the weekend. I can’t do it this weekend, but next weekend, it is on!
  • Completing any of my “nagging tasks.” I didn’t even touch them.

So now it’s February and with the new month comes a new focus. Oh, I’ll still continue to work on January’s goals, but now it’s time to add another layer to it. And is it any surprise that February is all about marriage and relationships? Mostly, I think my husband and I have a pretty good marriage. It’s not perfect, but I don’t know anyone who has a perfect marriage. I don’t think that really exists. As I read through the February chapter, I had to think about things to work on, things to change. There are five main points that Gretchen Rubin uses for this month.

  1. Quit nagging.
  2. Don’t expect praise or appreciation.
  3. Fight right.
  4. No dumping.
  5. Give proofs of love.

The very first thing that I am going to do is talk this over with my husband. It’s easy for me to sit here and say, “But I don’t nag. I never nag!” Just because I can’t think of an example doesn’t mean I don’t do it. We tend to think of our nagging as justified, and therefore excuse it. The other points are just as hard to see from my point of view, which is why I need to figure out exactly where my weaknesses are by being up front and honest (although #5 seems pretty straightforward, and is definitely something I need to work on).

So the Happiness Project is chugging right along. Is it helping? Am I happier? In some ways, I can easily say, “Yes.” There are some stressful things that have been removed from my life, just with a little focus and work on my part. Hopefully that will keep increasing as I add more levels to the project as a whole.