Friday, January 13, 2012

A Fresh Start

After a whirlwind 2011 year, I'm hoping to update my blog with greater regularity in 2012.  My yearly ritual of new years' resolutions has continued; however, this year for the very first time, I have only one single resolution:  to be happier at this time next year than I am right now. 

Along that vein, I've begun looking for opportunities for increasing happiness in my life, that I'd like to share with everyone.  One of my favorite blogs has been 'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin.  []  Taking her website as inspiration, I have created my own 12 Happiness Commandments for myself.  As I begin to use these in my life, I'll let you know how they turn out. 

Stacey's 12 Commandments

1) Act as you want to feelOtherwise known as 'fake it 'til you make it'.  It's more than just putting on a happy face, though.  It's not about being inauthentic - it's about making a leap.  If I want to feel energetic, I should try doing something energetic.  If I want to feel calm, I should engage in something calming. 
2.) Get up. Get moving. Do it now.  I am the biggest procrastinator couch potato in the world!  I would much rather sit and avoid reality than engage it.  The funny thing is though, when I look at my happiest days, it's always the days I'm up exploring and doing something.  I feel better when I've had physical activity.  I feel better when I've gotten things accomplished and checked off my 'to do' list.  No more Project Runway re-run marathons:  if I feel bored and lethargic, I should get up and get moving immediately.
3.) You matter. Set boundaries. Simplify.  You know, quite often I find it hard to take my own needs into account.  Since I'm very empathetic, I it's difficult for me to create boundaries that may not optimally impact others in my life.  I often find myself overwhelmed, feeling pulled in every direction.  However, I need to stop factoring myself and my own needs out of that equation. 
4.) Put positive effort toward good.  This is kind of a life philosophy for me generally, but it also applies as a commandment because a lot of times I can be easily daunted by big picture stuff and not know where to start.  For instance - finding happiness.  That's kind of a tall order.  Maybe I don't need a detailed plan.  Maybe I just need to blunder in the general direction and thereby gain some foreward momentum.
5.) Ask for what you need.  I pretty much never do this.  I'm terrified of asking for help.  I expect myself to be superwoman and do everything, effortlessly, at all times.  I refuse to admit defeat or failure.  I'm also afraid of being a nag, of putting someone else out, of being percieved as bitchy.  All of this, of course, is ridiculous.  It's perfectly natural given my personality type, but it's detrimental to my happiness.  Therefore, I must begin to recognize when help is needed and then open my mouth and ask for it.  This may take some work.
6.) Give and let go (or don't do it).  So, I'm a big fan of the big gold stars.  I love doing things for people and I love when they take notice.  People-pleaser?  That's me 100%.  Which means, of course, that I'm really bummed when my deeds go unnoticed.  Since I have now identified this as a source of sadness, my new plan is to begin evaluating things that I plan to do with an eye for whether I am able to let go of the outcome.  If I need something back from it (a big honkin' gold star) in order to make the task worth my time, then I shouldn't be doing it.  It needs to be fulfilling for me in its own right - not an investment for a future reward.
7.) Be satisfied; don't maximize.  So, I'm definitely a maximizer.  When looking for a new camera, I have to evaluate every single camera in existence prior to picking the absolute perfect one.  The problem is that I'm often either disappointed or constantly nervous that there was one more out there that I should have held out for.  Studies show that 'satisfiers' are happier than 'maximizers'.  A satisfier would have specifically listed their criteria and, when they went camera shopping, the moment all of their criteria were met, would buy the camera and be ultimately more satisfied with it.  The more I think about the issue, the more I'm wondering why I waste so much time on researching 'things' anyway.  My time could be better spent doing things that are ultimately more rewarding to me.
8.) Feel and accept your feelings.  Oooh, is this a rough one for me.  I recently read 'what we resist, persists'.  I am probably the queen of resistance.  But I have learned that confronting feelings head-on really does release them, and I'm definitely happier afterwards.  I think I'm just perpetually embarassed and afraid I'll end up a permament puddle on the ground if I release my feelings.  This, of course, is ridiculous to hear myself admit out loud.  But I accept that.
9.) Be kind.  This is actually a rough one for me.  I'm not a very kind person, as horrible as that sounds.  I tend to react to people too often in frustration and agitation rather than by being sympathetic.  But that reachest it's highest magnification when turned on myself.  I remember Natalie Goldberg talking about nurturing a 'kind voice' in her head.  She said we would never speak to our close friends the way we berate ourselves incessantly in our own heads.  Nurturing this 'kind inner voice' is definitely necessary to happiness.
10.) Be present. Don't rehearse unhappiness.  Another rough one.  I don't know about you, but I ruminate about past mistakes and future (absolutely unrealistic) catastrophic life events entirely too much.  Being caught in this creates a perpetual loop of self-resentment and fear, both of which are absolutely unnecessary.  The past events are resolved and need to be let go of.  The future events almost uniformly never come to pass in the way I fear.  The only outcome of thes thought loops is to actively rob me of present happiness. 
11.) Buy happiness.  This may need a little explaining.  Studies show that if you want to spend your money in a way that gives you the greatest amount of happiness, you should not invest it in 'things', you should always invest it in experiences.  Which is contrary to what you may think.  I mean, why waste hard-earned money on dinner and a movie, which is fleeting, when you can buy something you really want and have it forever?  Because buying an object gives you an initial boost of adrenaline, but quickly it loses its novelty and becomes part of the background.  However, an experience not only brightens your mood while engaging in it, the memory of that experience continues to lift your mood later when you recall it again.  There are other ways to buy happiness as well - spending it to pay down debt is one; this reduces stress of being, well, in debt.  Also spending money on novel experiences like visiting museums or going to see a play -- stretching our minds in new ways always makes us happier.  Finally, and probably most importantly, is using money to spend more time with friends and family.  One of the greatest factors to increased happiness comes from our relationships. 
12.) Pause to take it in.  This is on the list because I almost never do this anymore.  I'm always rushing around.  Even when I see something new, I'm whipping out the camera to snap a picture.  I need to take a moment.  Breathe.  Enjoy, just for a moment, being where I am.

What about you?  Any New Year's Resolutions?  Does anyone out there have any commandments of your own?  Let me know if you check out Gretchen's blog and what you think. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

20 Days and Counting

It's a big weekend for me - I finished the flowers for the wedding.  Roxanne's on the Strip has been great.  I've been able to pick up bundles of dry lavender in bulk for $10 per large bundle.  Also, they led me to dried larkspur for my flower girl.  Once I pulled off the blossoms, I saw that they will be absolutely perfect.

Larkspur Petals:

The finished bouquets:

For the tables, I ordered brown Kraft paper and plan to scatter around small glass jars with crayons so people can color or leave messages on the paper.  I was originally going to use mason jars, but they proved almost impossible to find off-season.  So, when some friends were getting rid of an old spice rack, I realized the spice jars would be the perfect solution. 

And finally, we now have the all-important license documentation - it wouldn't be a wedding without that!  For those who don't know, we've opted for a self-uniting marriage license, which is a little-known option in Pennsylvania.  Because religious traditions, such as the Quakers, believe that no higher authority can bind two souls in marriage, the Commonwealth allows citizens to unite themselves in marriage without the requirement of an officiant or religious authority.  Along with this, Wil and I have crafted the ceremony ourselves - piecing together elements that we like and writing from scratch many other areas.  We will have a Celebrant (our friend Nick) to be our spokesperson, but he will only guide the ceremony.  Wil and I will approach each other as equals to unite our lives and bind our hearts ourselves. 

On a slightly more mundane note, the programs are ready, but I think we're going to wait a while longer to print them.  I found a template online and then customized everything from there, including adding in our wedding symbol.  We bought acid-free linen paper which is standing waiting for the final print.

Believe it or not, there is still a lot more to do, so I'm off to have another (hopefully) productive day.  However, I'm happy to have gotten a lot done so far.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Crafty DIY Wedding (or what I've been doing with myself)

Hi all!  So, I realize I've pretty much dropped off the face of the blogosphere.  It happens when you're planning a wedding.  So, I thought I'd share what I've been up to. 
We decided early on that a formal wedding wasn't really our style.  We wanted to be out in nature and we wanted it to be relaxed and fun for our friends and family.  We also wanted it to be simple and, since we are after all planning a wedding during a recession, we wanted to do as much ourselves as we could.

We were lucky.  Friends of ours, Nate and Steph, had just gotten married.  They contributed the three tiered wedding cake cardholder and the two baskets pictured above.  Of course, all of these items were in the autumn colors of their wedding theme.  All it took was a trip to Pat Catan's for some flowers and ribbon, as well as my new favorite tool: my glue gun, and PRESTO.  Also very helpful was some old seam tape I found - I used it to transform the basket handle into shimmery purple.

The candlesticks on either side were donated from a friend of my mother's - she had planned to get rid of these. I pulled out the ribbon and once I put the candles on, they'll be ready to go:
We LOVE the sales racks.  We've been haunting them for well over a year now.  One day at Michael's, we found our invitations.  They were DIY kits on sale for $40 total.  It was quite a bit of work, but we both pitched in and finished them assembly-line style.  
The best part?  We could customize.  We made our own wedding symbol - we took the chakra symbol from India that represents the heart:
We photoshopped it from green to our blue and purple wedding colors, and added a flower blossom in the center to symbolize the blossoming and growing of our relationship: 
Since we printed our own invitations and are printing our own programs, we have been able to customize everything with our wedding symbol while still saving money.

We also made the decision to cut out the florist.  Our Plan A was to grow our own flowers.  This is working out quite well for the centerpieces of forget-me-nots, but the lavender for the bouquets just never took off.  The tins for the forget-me-nots were just a buck each at Target:
And as of today, the forget-me-nots are flourishing.  I'm so anxious for the little blue flowers to show - I just bought fertilizer to help them along.
Plan B is working wonderfully for the other flowers (to the great relief of my Matron of Honor).  We went to Roxanne's Flowers in the strip and found some beautiful dried lavender.  Last night, I made the boutonnieres:
and the corsages:
Finally, a major element of the wedding is a handfasting.  Many don't know about this tradition which is Celtic in origin.  Wil and I were handfasted at our engagement - bound for a year and a day.  At the wedding, we will be handfasted with 6 cords binding 6 promises "for as long as love shall last".  The bindings are made with ribbon.  The colored ribbons and dangling charms were personalized with symbols that are important to us: dragonflies, turtles, Asian coins, abalone, amethyst...

After the wedding, the cords will stay bound and kept as a reminder of the promises they seal.

Things are coming together.  I still have the bouquets to wrap, but my tasklist finally seems to be getting smaller.  Hopefully you'll see more of me again in another month or so.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quidditch Coming to New York City

So Nick has informed me that very close to wear he lives, the Quidditch World Cup is currently underway.  All I have to say is "Woah".

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to Premier in 2D

So they've recently announced that Part I of the finale will be released in 2-D instead of 3-D as formerly promised. Producers pointed to a time crunch which would not allow them to convert to 3-D in time for release. I'm ecstatic. I'm really sick of substandard 3-D releases lately. I spend the extra money, wear the stupid glasses, and get to the end movie only to find myself wondering "So, where exactly was the 3-D part of that?" I really think producers have realized that even if they only put one 3-D effect in a film, they can jack up the price and make more money billing it as a "3-D Experience". Good for you, Warner Brothers, for bucking the trend! For those of you who have not seen the trailer:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life Before Google

What, like you couldn't drive a half hour (arriving during limited library hours) to use the card catalogue and peruse a bunch of books to possibly locate the information you were looking for?