I Love/Hate Checklists

Me and checklists?  We have a love-hate relationship.

One time, I went to a training seminar in which teachers were there to learn about differentiating instruction to meet individual student needs.  In one of the opening activities, the instructor held up four pictures and asked the room full of teachers to walk towards the corner of the room that held the picture that they identified with the most.  The four pictures were:  1.  a microscope  2.  a checklist  3.   a puppy  4.  a beach ball.  For anyone who has a clue about me, it will take you about 0.00005 seconds to know which one I chose.  Obviously, I marched straight to that adorable puppy picture and waited for the rest of the room to join me.

But they didn’t.  Three other teachers stood alongside me beneath the ridiculously cute puppy while about 70% of the group made a beeline for the checklist.  I was shocked and appalled!  The beach ball was clearly my second choice.  Followed by microscope and then checklist…dead last.  The instructor told us that people who chose the microscope were usually scientific/analytic types (high school teachers!), beach balls were outgoing and fun, checklists were organized and structured (of course the majority of teachers went here!), and puppies usually wound up being the sensitive nurturers…aka the kindergarten/1st grade teachers.  The instructor told us she was a beach-ball trying to be a checklist.  She hated lists, but being a beach ball, she had to make them to rein in her impulsive tendencies.

In the same way, I am a puppy trying to be a checklist.  I love checklists for the same reason I hate them.  Because I need them.  Without checklists, I would never, ever, ever get anything done.  I mean that.  Never.  For this reason, I love them.  They help me function and focus.  They create order out of chaos.  They help me control situations that seem daunting or overwhelming.  I need them.  But I hate checklists too.  I hate adding stuff more quickly than I can cross it off.  I hate leaving things hanging.  Wouldn’t it be great if we always were able to check everything off at the end of every day?  No unfinished business.  No worries.  But it’s not that neat.  Life is messy.  When it comes down to it, checklists simultaneously calm me down and stress me out.  Remember the sensitive puppies?  That’s me!  Emotions run free….good when it comes to love, joy, compassion, etc.  Bad when it comes to sadness or anxiety.  I feel everything.  Strongly and deeply.

I have to break up with checklists.

I’m not saying I’m done with lists.  I already told you-  I need them.  But, I am done with my negative relationship with them.  I am done focusing on all the things left to do, instead of all the things I’ve accomplished.  I am done feeling guilty for not “doing it all”.  I am through with letting lists create anxiety instead of managing it.  DONE!

Why the rant about checklists?  Well, because I didn’t get everything checked off of my Happiness Project list for May…and now it is June.  What’s left?

May Goals:

  1. Create a visually happy environment (Project Micro-Makeovers!)
  2. Eat right & exercise (Project Un-preggify!)
  3. Focus on the “here and now” (Project No More Flashbacks and No More Flashforwards!)
  4. Spring clean (Project Declutter!)
  5. Avoid “baby bombs” (Project Stay Happy!)
  6. Maintain the right attitude (Project Pooping Butterflies!)
  7. Accept the One who really has control (Project Let God Do His Thang!)

My goal last month was to focus on the things I could control, rather than the things I cannot.  Good idea, and I think I did ok, but the problem is that some of these items are not checklist worthy.  They cannot be simply crossed off and forgotten.  For example, Pooping Butterflies…maintaining the right attitude.  I have to make this choice every single day.  And guess, what?  Sometimes, I don’t!  Sometimes my attitude stinks!  I realized that I am allowed.  I am human.  A human who’s been through a lot!

And for the things that are not crossed off…well, that’s because they are the hardest or longest for me.  Project Declutter…I started!  I really did.  I got one closet completely cleaned out.  I also cleaned out a purse last week.  This will give you insight into why decluttering takes me forever.  Inside I found (amongst a crapload of old papers and receipts):  a roll of magnetic tape, a pouch of instant hot chocolate, three different zip drives, cotton balls, five shades of lipgloss, a pair of socks, and of course, seven different checklists…all of them incomplete.  Those are just the highlights.  Decluttering is not a strength of mine.

Lastly, I have tried…really, I have!…to do Project Let God Do His Thang.  I have prayed every single day for some degree of acceptance, for my trust to be restored, to be renewed.  I think I am closer, but I know I am not there yet.  If I was, I would feel better than I do.  I would feel peace.  I do know that God has a plan for me.  But right now, I am kind of mad at Him for giving me this plan, for taking me down such a rocky road.  I am angry a lot and have lots of negative thoughts that are swimming around with the positive, hopeful ones.  Nope, not at peace, not there yet.  So I can’t cross it off.  And that’s ok.

Because me and checklists?  We are through.  I’m just going to be content being a puppy instead of a puppy-trying-to-be-something-else.  I don’t get happiness from lists, so creating them for my happiness project was self-defeating.  What will I do in their place?  I don’t know…

Maybe I should make a list?

haha, I kid.

When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.  xoxo.

 

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I Can’t Run Away From Mother’s Day

I want to run away.  Far, far away.  Maybe my new home will be a lush tropical getaway.  I will listen to the waves crashing.  My body (obviously, it will be super-hot with six-pack abs in my dream world) will get kissed by the sun.  My husband and I will drink fruity drinks through a fun curly straw.  And everything will be perfect, right?

Wrong.

I have encountered a flaw in my happiness project.  Originally, I wanted one of my goals to be to “Stay Happy”…see below:

May Goals:

  1. Create a visually happy environment (Project Micro-Makeovers!)
  2. Eat right & exercise (Project Un-preggify!)
  3. Focus on the “here and now” (Project No More Flashbacks and No More Flashforwards!)
  4. Spring clean (Project Declutter!)
  5. Avoid “baby bombs” (Project Stay Happy!)
  6. Maintain the right attitude (Project Pooping Butterflies! ha, can’t wait to explain this one!!!)
  7. Accept the One who really has control (Project Let God Do His Thang!)

And I would achieve this goal by avoiding what I would like to call “baby bombs”.  What is that, you ask?  A baby bomb is something baby-related that serves as a trigger for sadness.  If you are a grieving parent, you know what I mean.  Like when I get an advertisement in the mail for Enfamil, for example.  It serves as a little “baby bomb” by creating an explosion of grief in an otherwise happy day…or maybe a crappy day that gets a lot crappier.  When I originally wrote my goals, I had firmly resolved that I was going to avoid baby bombs at all cost.  Realistically, I knew I wouldn’t be able to avoid them all…but again, I am trying to focus on the things I can control.  Do I have to watch Grey’s Anatomy when I know that taking an infant off of life support is the main story line?  NO!  I am now only watching completely brainless television like American Idol.  Do I have to read books with a sad plot?  NO!  Thanks to a good friend who loaned me the whole series, I am now currently plowing through the safe and magical world of Harry Potter.

But like I said, my plan was flawed.  You see, I wrote these goals in April…before the calendar marched forward and reminded every marketing company in the world  that Mother’s Day is on it’s way.

It.  Is.  Everywhere.

TV commercials where happy parents cuddle babies.  Radio ads promoting flowers for Mom.  Junk mail and emails flood my mailboxes.  Social media- don’t even get me started.  Baby bomb cityyyyyyyy!  I thought I could stay happy by avoiding all of these things…but I’m pretty sure the only way to avoid it would be to travel to my make-believe land, close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears and scream LA-LA-LAAAAAAAAAAA.  For 3 weeks.  Clearly, this is not an option…tempting as it is with the fruity drinks and lure of a sun-kissed tan and all.

So, I am revising my goal.  I realized that running away from hard things is not the answer.  And neither is seeking the hard things out and trying to tackle them James Harrison Steeler-style.  Nope.  Instead, I am changing my goal to:  “Accept the baby bombs as they come and try not to get blown up.”  When I encounter a baby bomb, I will take a deep breath (or two), conjure up some feel-good imagery, and I will recite a few different mantras depending on the situation (mantras are my new thing).  I will use the mantras like a safety helmet to protect me from the crash.  I have accepted that the bombs will come, they will make impact, but I can try and prevent it from creating deep trauma…more like a bruise.  Still hurts, but doesn’t interfere with the rest of my day.

My mantras?  Well, that’s between me, Callie, and the Big Guy.  Most of them involve me sending Callie a little message in heaven or a short one-line prayer like, “Give me strength” or “What Would Jesus Do?”.  But I will tell you that sometimes I whisper “Poop butterflies” to myself.

I have accepted that Mother’s Day will be hard.  I also know, after reading some tips at my therapist’s office today, that one way to get through this day is by telling everyone what I need since friends and family often do not know how they can help.  Hmmm, what do I need?  Acknowledgment that I am a mommy even though my baby is in heaven, but space to get through the day.  Don’t ignore me, but just know that I will probably ignore you.  I hope that is not mean.  I hate being mean.  Just trying to survive…  John and I are going to a beautiful wedding at the beach this weekend and then we will visit Callie in the garden on Sunday.  Annnnd I think I will most likely enjoy a nice bottle of wine and some funny movies.  I hope that visiting Callie on this day becomes a tradition even in happier times.

Acceptance of the sadness actually makes me feel less sad.  I have realized that this avoidance dance I was doing really just made everything worse.  There is no running away from grief.  It catches you and suffocates you if you do not DEAL WITH IT.  So, I’m dealing.  My helmet is on.  Just praying that I land in the grass instead of the concrete…

Lord, give me a soft landing, a safe place to fall.  And, oh if you could throw in a hangover-free Monday that would be great too!  😉

Project Pooping Butterflies

May Goals:

  1. Create a visually happy environment (Project Micro-Makeovers!)
  2. Eat right & exercise (Project Un-preggify!)
  3. Focus on the “here and now” (Project No More Flashbacks and No More Flashforwards!)
  4. Spring clean (Project Declutter!)
  5. Avoid “baby bombs” (Project Stay Happy!)
  6. Maintain the right attitude (Project Pooping Butterflies! ha, can’t wait to explain this one!!!)
  7. Accept the One who really has control (Project Let God Do His Thang!)

Ok, so I am skipping a few because I really can’t find it in me to write about decluttering my closets right now.  And I’m pretty sure, you guys won’t care about me alphabetizing my pantry (just kidding!!!!  I’m not that crazy!).

All of these goals are aimed at one thing:  Focus on the things you can control.  

There are SO many things right now that have been interfering with me doing just that.  My silver lining has a few holes in it and I’m trying my very, very best to patch them.  So, today I thought I’d refocus on my attitude by writing about Project Pooping Butterflies.  Just writing that makes me laugh and I feel so much better.  Let me explain…

My good friend, Mabby, sent me this video a while back with no real explanation.  As soon as I saw it, I knew exactly why she sent it to me. (If you cannot view the video below, please click here)

Ha, I have had so many moments like this with my students.  Goofy.  Silly.  And that is exactly how I want my world to be.  Everyone is a pony.  They eat rainbows.  And poop butterflies!  Ok, so the real world obviously is not always filled with ponies, rainbows, and butterflies.  But I can dream, right?  There is nothing wrong with envisioning the kind of world you wish to live in…and then creating it.  Losing Callie was AWFUL.  I wish I could invent my own word that captured how terrible it was and still is, because “awful” just doesn’t cut it.  But there was so much beauty in her short life and the aftermath of her death.  It is natural for me, in my grief, to focus on the bad parts, the things that make me sad, and my empty arms.  But if I put on my “Everyone is a pony!” glasses, I can shift my thinking to the good things… that I got to meet Callie and she changed my life, that I got to hold her, the fact that God chose us to be her parents because He knew Callie needed us (and only us), that God sent us signs of his love (umm…hello Maggiano Angel and the Yellow Balloon??), the generosity and kindness of others, and the fact that tiny Callie has had a tremendous impact on the lives of so many.  I have to keep reminding myself of these things.  Because, let me tell you, it ain’t easy.

“Pooping butterflies” is now my mantra.  It symbolizes the attitude I would like to have.  Positive.  Rosy.  Optimistic.  Focus on the good.  The here and now.  This one moment.  Birds chirping.  Cheery music.  Yellow rain boots on a dreary day!  I hope you will poop butterflies with me.

😉

I’ll leave you with some pictures of our team “Celebrating Callie” at the March for Babies this past weekend.  We raised over $2000 for the March of Dimes to help babies have a better start.  Yay us!

My favorite pic. Look at that sunflower balloon 🙂

Project No More Flashbacks/Flashforwards

May Goals:

  1. Create a visually happy environment (Project Micro-Makeovers!)
  2. Eat right & exercise (Project Un-preggify!)
  3. Focus on the “here and now” (Project No More Flashbacks and No More Flashforwards!)
  4. Spring clean (Project Declutter!)
  5. Avoid “baby bombs” (Project Stay Happy!)
  6. Maintain the right attitude (Project Pooping Butterflies! ha, can’t wait to explain this one!!!)
  7. Accept the One who really has control (Project Let God Do His Thang!)

I have cried pretty much nonstop for two days.  Why?  Well, besides the obvious reason that I miss our baby, I am not really sure.  If I knew, I think I’d be able to change it.  Yesterday, was perfectly normal…woke up, got showered, checked email, went for a run…that is, everything was normal until I went to Home Depot and broke down crying at the mere sight of clear, plastic bins…the kind I’ve been meaning to buy to pack up Callie’s clothes.  I tried to push through, but the garden hoses I wanted to buy for Callie’s garden made me cry too.  The lady in the aisle near me probably thought I was nuts as I cried into the phone to John as he encouraged me to step away from the cart and go back to the parking lot.  I was a complete wreck for the remainder of the day until John got home.  The cart was still there later that night when we went back to Home Depot together, a reminder of my complete mental breakdown.  And, now, today…I woke up feeling resolved to have a good day.  I made a mental list of things to accomplish.  After a really great yoga class, I tried to go to the grocery store.  And by tried, I mean I drove there two times…one of the times I actually entered the store, but wound up crying next to the corn on the cob stand.  No particular reason.  Just overwhelmed with sadness.  I screamed “Why?” the whole way home.  Very dramatic.  I’m lucky I didn’t wreck.

I have been suffering from particularly bad flashbacks lately.  Sometimes they make sense, like being in the presence of another baby in a store and, all of a sudden it triggers the memory of holding Callie again during her last moments on this Earth.  Sometimes they are totally random attacks, like in the produce aisle in Wegmans.  I wish I could make them stop.  There are certain flashbacks I have repeatedly…staring into John’s eyes after Callie was born and I was lying on the operating table, being wheeled into the NICU to see Callie before she was transported, sitting in my stretcher willing my eyes to stay open while doctors caught me up to speed at Children’s, and the worst words I’ve ever heard in my life, “She’s gone.  Time of death:  1:55 p.m.”   These memories come flooding in at the most unwanted times and sometimes in the middle of perfectly normal conversations, causing me to pause and forget what I was saying.

Mixed in with the flashbacks have been “flashforwards”.  Also the name of a short-lived TV show John and I used to enjoy, flashforwards are what I like to call the little fantasies I have in my mind of a make-believe future with Callie.  I imagine her nursing, learning to walk, and calling me “Mommy”.  They might be more cruel than the flashbacks and I have them more than I’d care to admit.  This is not the kind of daydream that is good for me.

I’m pretty sure that the only thing that can help with this issue is time (gag me if I hear that one more time!!!  But I know it’s true.).  But my “in-the-meantime” plan is to focus on the “here and now”.  Live in the present…not the past and not the future.  In the midst of a nasty flashback (or forward!), I try and grab something nearby that can ground me to the moment and tell myself, “That was in the past.  You cannot change it,” or, “That is only a dream.  You will see Callie again one day.”  I try to acknowledge the thought and then release it and focus on my surroundings or on the person I am talking to.  I wasn’t very successful with that today, but I’m hoping I will be the next time.  It has worked in the past.

Living in the present is so hard sometimes.  I believe this is true for all of us really.  No matter what we are going through at the moment, we all have a tendency to dwell on the past or worry about the future.  But by doing so, we miss the “right now” stuff.  This moment, right now, is my life.  I’m not gonna lie…my life kind of stinks right now and sometimes I wish I could press the fast forward button.  But even with the sadness, there are things I wouldn’t want to miss.  Like my puppies sleeping at my feet right now, the gentle sound of rain this morning, and the way my husband laughs.  The small things, the sweet moments.  How fitting that our “Daily Om” in yoga class today was entitled “Enjoying Life:  Remembering the Moment”.  I will leave you with a quote of yoga-goodness:  “It is only in the present moment that we experience being alive.”  Live. it. up.

Project Un-Preggify!

I recently started a happiness project ala Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project.  For the months of April and May, I chose the word “control” as my theme.  I am focusing on the things I can control, rather than the things I cannot.  I decided to follow the author’s lead by dividing my monthly theme into small attainable goals.  Here are my goals for control:

Control Goals:

  1. Create a visually happy environment (Project Micro-Makeovers!)  still working on more micro-makeovers to share!
  2. Eat right & exercise (Project Un-preggify!)
  3. Focus on the “here and now” (Project No More Flashbacks and No More Flashforwards!)
  4. Spring clean (Project Declutter!)
  5. Avoid “baby bombs” (Project Stay Happy!)
  6. Maintain the right attitude (Project Pooping Butterflies! ha, can’t wait to explain this one!!!)
  7. Accept the One who really has control (Project Let God Do His Thang!)

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, you know that I have had several unpleasant encounters with nosy strangers asking if I am pregnant.  The leftover baby weight makes people curious…is she? or isn’t she?  It has been such a struggle to stay positive because the second I start to feel good about myself, I just happen to get beat down again by the rude questions.  It can be quite deflating.

I am happy to check in with you, however, and tell you that I have been following my plan and it’s gone so well!  I am renaming the plan “Project Un-preggify” and I copied/pasted the original post and wrote my updates in red:

Exercise:

Weeks 1-2:  Lay in bed and cry.  It’s ok.  Give yourself time to heal.  (Check.  Did this, and then some.)
Weeks 3-6:  Walk-  going for long walks is healing because it gives you time to think and process your emotions.  My doctor said this was fine as long as I went slow and listened to my body.  Even if it’s just around the block…at least it was something. (Check.)
Week 6-8 (after doctor’s blessing)-Week 12:

  • Start “From the Couch to the 5K” program.  It uses interval training to increase your endurance.  I started after my 6 week postpartum checkup and I am now on week 2 :-)  UPDATE:  I am on week 7 of the Couch to 5K program:-)  Two more weeks to go.  I had a brief period where I had to switch from the treadmill to the elliptical because my stomach was kind of hurting.  I was nervous I was doing too much, so I “listened to my body” and was able to keep on track using the more gentle cardio equipment.  No worries…went to the doctor and everything is A-OK.  Apparently, they weren’t kidding when they said that C-section recovery is longer and harder than the good ol’ regular way.  I’m back on the treadmill again and have built up a lot more stamina.
  • Do yoga/pilates at the gym or with a video.  Gentle strength training, and healing meditation at the same time… winning combo.  This is going well 🙂  I took some time off for the same reason I mentioned above, but I am back at it.  I love yoga so much.  It is challenging and relaxing at the same time.  And the meditation time at the end is my ‘moment of zen’ where I cry and no one thinks it’s weird.
Week 13 & Beyond:
  • Hit the gym hard!  Go to group classes at the gym like weight lifting, step aerobics, zumba, kickboxing, etc.  This is the beginning of week 13, I have highlighted the classes on the gym schedule that I would like to do 🙂  I’m going to try sprinkling them into my routine slowly since I am still doing the Couch to the 5K.  Hopefully, they have room for the uncoordinated people in the back of the room (a.k.a. ME!).
  • Sign up for a 5K and train for it!  2 more weeks left in the Couch to 5K!  I use their app when I run and I love that it tells me when to start and stop.  John and I will be running a 5K on Memorial Day weekend!

Diet:  Great resource for diet-  http://assets.babycenter.com/ims/Content/post_baby_diet.pdf
I like that it has portion size visuals :-)   I really hate the idea of counting calories, but I realized that I needed to pay more attention to what I was eating.  I keep a food diary on My Fitness Pal.  It has an iPhone app that makes it incredibly easy.  Very helpful! 🙂

I also wrote in my original post about attire and attitude.  I am working on the attire thing.  I need to go shopping for some new pants!  Woohoo!  Attitude…well, I am still working on the attitude.  Mostly, I have to keep reminding myself that it has only been 13 weeks.  I am super guilty of dwelling how far I have left to go instead of how far I have come.  Slowly, but surely I am making progress.  I am trying to improve upon this though!

I have lost 6 lbs and an inch on my waist since my original post…25 lbs since coming home from the hospital 🙂  I gained a total of 38 lbs with Callie so that means 13 left to go!  I’m really glad that I am sharing this with you all, because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to hold myself accountable without this.  Project Un-Preggify is well underway.  Thanks for all of your support!!

Project Micro-Makeovers

Following up with my post on my happiness project, I am currently working on focusing on the things I can control, rather than the things I cannot.  I decided to follow the author’s lead (The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin) by dividing my monthly theme into small attainable goals.  Here are my goals for control:

Control Goals:

  1. Create a visually happy environment (Project Micro-Makeovers!)
  2. Eat right & exercise (Project Un-preggify!)
  3. Focus on the “here and now” (Project No More Flashbacks and No More Flashforwards!)
  4. Spring clean (Project Declutter!)
  5. Avoid “baby bombs” (Project Stay Happy!)
  6. Maintain the right attitude (Project Pooping Butterflies! ha, can’t wait to explain this one!!!)
  7. Accept the One who really has control (Project Let God Do His Thang!)

I’ll start by talking about Control Goal #1:  Project Micro-Makeovers.  I figure that adding little things here and there around our house that will make me smile will help me feel happier.  I have a giant list of little “visually happy” projects around the house that I will be working on and reporting back to you about periodically.  The list is so long that it will definitely carry over this month, into the next, and beyond!  Creating little “micro-makeovers” within our home gives me small goals that are not too overwhelming (or expensive!) and allow me to have a bit of control over my environment and how I spend my time and energy.  Here is a glimpse into Micro-Makeover #1:  Our Bed.

Our bedroom is painted a soothing grey color with a deeper grey color on the ceiling.  I love it.  Well, except that it is boring…and grey makes me think of rain which is sometimes kind of sad.  I’ve been thinking for a long time about adding a pop of color but I wasn’t sure what color to pick.  After losing Callie though, yellow has become my favorite color and it just so happens that yellow and grey are kind of cool right now.  Last week, I went to Target for some retail therapy and found a cute duvet cover that I thought I’d fold up at the end of our bed to look like a quilt/blanket.  (Also, strategically placed where our dogs lie on the bed…dog hair catcher!)  But, mixing the patterns did NOT look good so I returned that sucker and popped into SteinMart and found this cute yellow quilt for the exact same price!  Way better find 🙂  And I couldn’t help but pick up a little yellow sunshine pillow.  Please ignore the cluttered bedside tables!  And, yes I know I need something above the bed.  I have always wanted to mount a giant birch branch on the wall…but I’m not sure exactly how to accomplish this 😉  That will have to be another micro-makeover sometime!

Sorry, no before picture! But how happy is this??

Micro-makeover #1- complete!  The yellow makes me smile and our room is so much happier…and, therefore, so am I!  My happiness project is off to a good start 🙂

Retail Happiness

So I’ve been having trouble practicing what I preach lately.  You know, the whole ‘live life to the fullest’ bit?  Yeah, not so much this week.  I’m trying…I really am.  But all of a sudden today, I woke up out of a trance and realized that I have been just going through the motions.  I mean, who can blame me really…but still.  It’s not who I want to be.  So sad, so sullen.  And it’s raining.

I hate rain right now.  It means the sun is not shining and I lost that burst of happy energy that it gives me…that warm reminder that my sunshine angel is watching over me.  When I say that I woke up out of a trance, I literally mean just that…I was being a human zombie.  And when I did wake up, the true weight of my emotions started to sink in.  I hurt so badly that I considered for a moment going back to being numb and lifeless.  But that is not really living, is it?

Sometimes, living…really living…means feeling EVERYTHING.  The good, the bad, and the ugly…yes, that ugly means I let out a scary cry today.  I even threw in a scream or two for good dramatic measure.  It was the stuff of Lifetime movie legend.

When I was done, I gathered myself together, raced for my car and drove straight to my Favorite Place on Earth #1.  People, I am talking about Chick-fil-a.  I love that they serve Diet Dr. Pepper with the good ice.  The fresh flowers on the tables.  The way they say, “My pleasure!” instead of, “You’re welcome!”  And of course, the waffle fries.  I love Chick-fil-a so much that the only thing that motivated me to cheer at the Washington Wizards/Cleveland Cavs game this past weekend was the opportunity to win a free sandwich if the Cavs missed both free throws in a row.  (Didn’t happen- how is that possible?!?)

While I enjoyed my delish grilled chicken sandwich, I got out my Kindle and picked up where I left off in The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  In it, the author has an epiphany one rainy day where she realizes that “time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.”  She sets herself on a mission to test out old sayings/beliefs about happiness as well as experimenting with current research on the topic.  I have just started the book, but I absolutely love her quest for living life to the fullest.  And she does so in true me fashion with checklists and goal sheets.  Each month she focuses on a different ‘resolution’ all while trying to maintain the previous months’ goals.  She read books and studies galore on this topic and found that one of the best ways to be more happy is to act happy even if you aren’t really feeling it.  Just the sheer act of trying to be happy made people feel better.

As I sat there in my favorite place, I realized that I needed a big dose of acting happy in that moment…even if it meant pretending.  On this rainy, dreary day, I needed to focus on the positive and at least give happiness a shot.  So, naturally, I headed over to my Favorite Place on Earth #2 which is Target!  I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to buy, but retail therapy always makes me feel better.  There is something about having a shiny, new purchase in a Target bag that fills me with unrivaled happiness.  Shallow, yes.  But oh well.  Inside the store, I found myself gravitating to all the cheery yellow things.  Shoes, handbags, scarfs…  I bought the happiest things I could think of.  A yellow blanket for the end of our bed, a towel ring to hold a sunny towel set that will soon be mine from World Market, and sunglasses.  You betcha, this chick bought sunglasses when it was raining…and I wore them out of the store.  Rain drops be gone!  It worked…well it didn’t stop raining…but, acting happy actually made me happy.  🙂  I smiled the whole way home.

My new shades. Trying not to be mad that the purse I am carrying just went on clearance...don't you hate that?

Retail happiness

Lifted by my experience, I have decided to make my own happiness project.  Each month I will focus on one word and try to spin that word into creating more happiness for myself…and maybe after a while, my heart will actually match my actions.  This month (and May too since I’m halfway through April already) my word is CONTROL.  Ok, weird word to pick at first, but let me explain.  When my entire world got turned upside down with Callie’s death, absolutely everything felt out of control.  I worried and fretted over the things that I couldn’t do one single thing about.  I can’t control other people (ahem, jerks that ask if I’m pregnant).  I can’t control what God gives me in this life.  I can’t control the rainy dismal weather today.  The list goes on and on of stuff I can’t control.  But there are lots of things I can control.  I can eat right and exercise.  I can organize spaces in our house that I let fall into a disorganized wreck.  I can choose to not go on Facebook if it upsets me.  I can focus on the things I have instead of the things I don’t have.  See where I’m heading?  Life has rained on me lately…actually it has been a downpour.  But I have the ability to open the umbrella and protect myself as much as I can from getting drenched.  From now on, I am going to try and do my best to only focus on the things I can control.

One thing that has been a continued source of anguish for me is what to do with Callie’s belongings.  I dwell on it and torture myself over it.  Well, I can’t control what happened to Callie, but I can take small steps to controlling the aftermath.  And that’s what we are doing.  We ordered bookshelves.  Yep, bookshelves.  How does that help anything?  Well, it gives us a place to put some of the things that reminded us of Callie.  Step one.

New bookshelves. The pretty basket holds all of the sympathy cards we received.

Callie's Shelf

Callie's Memory Box

Next step was cleaning out the blackhole that was our ‘office’.  That was a major chore, but we survived.  I am too embarrassed to show you pictures of what it looked like before, but I will show you the awesome office cabinet thing we got that now hides all of our files, etc.

Daisy sat on the directions

Pretty office in a cabinet!

Step three was taking the large items like the bouncer, the swing, the stroller, the bassinet, etc. and storing them in the space we cleared out from the office.  That’s where we are now.

The next step will be hard.  Plastic tubs for Callie’s clothes.  Ugh.  It makes me cry just thinking of it.  But approaching it this way helps me control and make sense of this maze of difficult choices.  One step at a time…like a giant connect-the-dot.  I’m not sure what the big picture is, but we are getting there one little dot at a time.  I’ll fill you in on how I’m doing with my happiness project at the end of May.  Care to join me?