I Choose Joy: A Week of Joy

In early December, my children and I were driving home from a late night rehearsal in Littleton. When I say Littleton, I mean as-far-away-as-one-can-get-from-Parker-Littleton. We were all in horrid moods. Madeleine and Max were fighting, and I was tired of listening to whiny children after a day of teaching.
“Stop!” I yelled. Their voices quieted immediately. “Guys, we’re being ridiculous. We all need to stop. Let’s choose joy instead.”
Max, who was particularly tired from late night tech week rehearsals, continued to whine, so I asked Madeleine, “What did you do to choose joy today?”
She talked of playing her cello in orchestra and dancing in musical theatre. Immediately her stern face gave way to a bright, beaming smile.
“What about you, Max?” He paused. “Well, today…”
Frankly, I don’t remember what he said, but that’s not what is important. Every day since then, I have asked my children, “How did you choose joy today?”  The love telling me about what makes them truly happy, and it brings me so much pleasure to hear them share their joy.
This is a challenge for myself too. I tend to get wrapped up in what needs to be done and what hangs looming over my head. Instead, I need to stop and choose to do or focus on what gives me joy.  I’m tired of not living the joy-filled life that I want.
 
This is a really long introduction to say that every day this week, I will be posting what I have done to choose joy.
 
Joy Choice #1: Today I finished the first sock of a pretty pair.  Knitting brings me happiness.  I love the feel of fine sock yarn between my fingers.  I like the way the loops join row-by-row interlocking around each other like mini fingers. I love a finished project–when all those minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc. of work finally come together into something that I hope will bring someone else happiness.  The same kind of happiness is brought me to make it.
 
How did you choose joy today?
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Confession: The Source of My Ambition

I’ve heard a few times this month, “I don’t know how you do it all.”  Admittedly I do a lot. I work hard to balance the demands of my numerous roles–mother, teacher, department leader, grad student, web designer (I didn’t actually ask for that one), mentor, friend…Lots of women do these things, and lots of women do it better than I.  I wasn’t always this driven.  In fact, until about sixteen years ago, ambition was a foreign concept.

Throughout middle and high school, I heard that I wasn’t living up to my potential.  If I would only stop being to apathetic toward, well, everything, then I would absolutely be successful.  When I went off to school, it didn’t change all that much.  It mildly helped that I was paying for class, but I didn’t work  hard.  I wasn’t a diligent student or a devoted worker.  I just plain didn’t care.

Then it all changed.

Sixteen years ago, I met ambition.  He was tall, dark, and incredibly handsome. He was a hard worker and oh-so-smart.   At first, he was soft spoken and shy.  He was awkward, and frankly, I was thankful that he didn’t sound like a girl. He knew music, literature, and jazz. He was good at math.  I wasn’t, but I knew that I wanted to solve x when the equation was him + me.  If I wanted to impress this gentleman, I was going to have to turn it up. What did I do?

“Dear Reader, I married him.”

The truth is that I don’t do it all on my own.  Not at all. Not even a bit. I wouldn’t be able to juggle all that life throws at me without him. He’s calm and rational while I’m utterly emotional and a raging storm. He’s funny so I don’t take myself too seriously, and he reminds me that I can be rather selfish.  Above all, he pushes me to be my best self because all I really want in the world…my only true ambition is to make this man proud of me.

Happy birthday, H.B.

photo-11

This is likely my husband’s face every day when he hangs up the phone with me. It’s my favorite picture.

 

It’s Time for Change

On July 3rd, I posted some disgusting pictures of myself on Instagram under a pseudonym as part of a preparation for a  28-day challenge.  They weren’t pretty.  I couldn’t believe I did it.  (I still can’t believe it. )I crammed my body into some bright orange workout clothes that I swear (you’re welcome) to never leave the house wearing and took pictures in front of our foggy bathroom mirror. And I hit post. No filters. Just me.  ACK!

We left for vacation that evening. I wasn’t ready to start the actual eating part of my challenge at all.  We were venturing out to Kansas City, and I did not want to give up KC’s finest barbecue. I also didn’t want to give up my diet soda…yet.  Somewhere in my mind I couldn’t think of a road trip without a diet soda.  This only reveals my skewed thinking about food and drink in general.  Also if I had started changing my habits, I would not have allowed myself to partake in that glorious cookie thing my brother-in-law made for dessert on our visit.  (It was out-of-this-world delicious and about a gazillion calories).  We returned from our trip on Sunday, and on Monday, I made my changes.

I decided no artificial sweeteners and no sugar.  I would limit my carbs to a handful and avoid anything too “starchy.”  I would also stick to 1200 calories/day. (I would likely not have made it this far without the discovery of Refrigerator Oatmeal.  It’s the best!  Seriously.  I’m not even hungry at lunch because this magic breakfast is so filling.)

As I was mentally preparing myself to make this changes, I started to evaluate other parts of my life that I wanted to makeover. I decided that I move less than I should.  This is generally only a problem in the summer as most days I hit my 10,000 steps during a regular teaching day; however, during the summer, I find my corner of our beige sofa a little too comfortable.  If I plop down on the couch particularly in my own little corner, I will get sucked into social media, Netflix, or other sedentary activities.  I pledged to myself to move 30 minutes per day.  Yesterday it was swimming with my kids for an hour along with walks to and from the pool. Monday, it was 30 minutes of Just Dance with Madeleine. (I’m awful but I don’t care).

But eating and movement weren’t the only aspects of my life that I wanted to change.  My outlook and attitude had become rotten. I started to think of myself in comparison to other people and their success. I honestly felt like no one wanted to read my posts on social media.  They weren’t interesting, and frankly, I was bored by my own life.

I also felt like I didn’t have strong relationships with others.  I felt like my relationships with people were shallow.  If I only know about your life because you posted on social media and I call us friends, what does that say?  I should know what’s going on with my friends because we had a conversation about it.  I should see their vacation photos because they showed them to me and I showed them mine….not by posting them on a site.  That’s not a relationship.  It’s lazy communication, and it doesn’t value each other.  It says, “Here’s my life for the world to see,” but it doesn’t create the intimacy that real friendships need.  It replaces the phone calls and personal text messages with forced “Happy Birthdays” from people with whom you have not had a real conversation in 15-20 years.  Sometimes I feel like FB is the gift cards of the gift-giving world.  Gift cards are cool, but they don’t suggest that you know a person well enough to select a personalized option.  We are often lazy gift givers and lazy maintainers of relationships.

So here it is.  My commitment to 28-days of change.  Changes in eating, fitness, and social media. In another week, I will shoot another photo in the same neon orange sports bra and shorts, but I’m hoping the change is less visible on the outside.  #wholebodymakeover #progressnotperfection

(Check out the recipe page for my favorite new breakfast.)