Friday, September 19, 2014

accomplishing something.

Thanks for all the kind words about the last couple of posts. It was an added boost I needed to get me motivated. You guys are the best!

In between submitting countless applications and rehashing my resume over and over and over I try to take some breathers, do something that could possibly be perceived as fun. I haven’t done a very good job (hence the new goals) but over the last few weeks I’ve started getting things in gear and here’s what I have to show for it:

A batch of beautiful homemade pickles. I LOVE pickles and I’ve always wanted to try making my own. When I came home with a sack full of cucumbers after a Labor Day visit I figured this was the perfect chance to experiment. I’ve helped my mom can various things throughout the years and made a batch of freezer jam but I’ve never done anything all by my little old lonesome before. I have to say, they turned out gorgeous! And the popping sound as each bottle sealed after processing was one of the happiest sounds I’ve ever heard. I haven’t broken into any of them for a taste yet but even if they’re disgusting, I’m pretty darn proud of myself! 

A practically perfect Saturday morning. A friend and I met at a once-a-week-only food truck for some ah-maz-ing breakfast followed by a trip up the canyon for the first glimpses of fall. Saturday's Waffle is exactly what the name implies; waffles on Saturday! The truck shows up in the parking lot of a grocery store every Saturday morning. They’re there for breakfast and lunch and have a range of toppings for their Belgian-style waffles, everything from local yogurt and granola; fresh basil, tomato, mozzarella; sausage and gravy; and my own choice for the day, peach cobbler. The fresh, local peaches were topped with candied nuts, caramel-ly foster sauce and coconut whipped cream. Yum! Then, sufficiently fed, we drove up the canyon and took a couple of short trails capped by a walk around Silver Lake at the top of Big Cottonwood where the air was crisp, the sun was warm, and the trees were beginning to change. Hints of scarlet, gold, and orange flamed against the emerald, making me excited for the weeks to come! (My 'hiking twice a month' goal is quickly becoming a weekly thing!)

There was also a trip to the Oregon state fair where I indulged in a deep-fried bacon-wrapped Reese's peanut butter cup. (Yep, it was as delicious and heart-attack-inducing as it sounds!) An excursion a little ways north for an open house visit of the newly remodeled Ogden Temple. (More information about temples and their purpose can be found here.) And the first couple sessions of my harmonica lessons.  (I can just about play "Oh, Susannah"!  Maybe when I get really good I'll post a video :)

How have you spent your time lately?  Outdoors enjoying the beginnings of fall? Indoors getting back into the habits associated with a new school year? 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

a deep thought.

Nothing can be more life-changing than an escape from your own preconceptions.
~Roger Housden

I've been working on this a lot lately.  As I haven't been 'working' in the traditional sense there's been plenty of time for introspection and self-discovery (and of course, job hunting) which is all really, really hard work.  And I don't always like the results.  Of any of it. I have a lot of thought patterns that aren't very healthy, habits that need to be broken and skills that need to learned. But there have been many positive moments of enlightenment along the way as well.

I've been reading a lot of books about finding yourself and finding your passion and reinventing your life.  I've got a few reviews of some of my favorites in the works to share with you all but for today it's enough to tell you that a recurring theme in all of them is basically the idea of being forgiving of yourself, of being okay with who you are and where you are and accepting the fact that it's all what it's supposed to be no matter how bleak it may seem at the moment. Or even how great.  This too shall pass. All we really have is right now and it's no use fighting it. The key is to make peace with it and with ourselves.

Nothing new, I know. That's why it's showed up in pretty much everything I've read (not always in those words but in various incarnations of such.)  But, while it's something I've known and even believed for a long time it's not something I've ever really applied. I am a control freak and if things don't go according to my plan then I tend to fight against it or fall apart. I have a timeline, and goals, and images in my head of how things are supposed to be and so often I fail to take into account that other people, nature, and God are going to get in the way of all of that. And that's okay. It will all be okay.

I've had several great conversations with friends who have validated my various frustrations and commiserated with my woes and then gently reminded me of the good things in my life or shared with me stories of the miracles, lessons and unexpected blessings and pleasures that have come in their lives from detours, thwarted plans, and unfulfilled dreams. There is often something greater than we could have imagined or planned for ourselves on the other side of difficulty.

So, another of my goals for the moment is to work hard to re-imagine the preconceived possibilities I had anticipated for my life and open myself up to the opportunities, be they good or "bad", that the universe has in store for me. Have you had any similar experiences?  How do you get out of your own way when it comes setting goals, remaining 'present' in negative circumstances, and course corrections after the unexpected?

Thursday, September 11, 2014


There are a lot of obligatory 9-11 posts everywhere today, as there should be. The events of that day thirteen years ago shaped our lives and our continued existence and unfortunately, were just the beginning of so many things (though possibly not as dramatic) that continue to shape our world, many would say for worse. It's so easy to look around at all the horrible things going on around us, the hatred and anger, governments collapsing, wars raging, natural calamities so rampant on the news and fighting their ways into our homes and minds at every turn and give in to the feelings of discouragement, despair, and fear that they bring.

Since I've confessed my tendencies to fall prey to these feelings anyway, I put myself particularly on guard at moments like this and limit my time spent news watching or feeding the social media frenzy. And I find myself clinging to the stories of human goodness that inevitably arise from the ashes if we look hard enough; the people who rushed back into the burning towers to save complete strangers, those that fought to overtake the terrorists and bring down their plane in a field, the countless unsung heroes who did their jobs day in and day out under a cloud of smoke and fear. It's a testament to humanity that those things happen but unfortunate that it sometimes takes a tragedy before they do.

This morning I read a quote on a friend's facebook page (thanks, Abby!) I'd read the words many times before, they tend to resurface around this time each year as they were spoken just days before the attacks. They were prophetic then and continue to be. And in light of all I'm going through at the moment, they were words I needed to hear.

I come to you tonight with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life that we try to "accentuate the positive." I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort. I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man or woman who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his or her course.

What I am suggesting is that you turn from the negativism that so permeates our modem society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom you associate, that we speak of one another's virtues more than we speak of one another's faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically my wise father would say: "Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve."

...I am not suggesting that you simply put on rose-colored glasses to make the world about you look better. I ask, rather, that you look above and beyond the negative, the cynical, the critical, the doubtful, to the positive and the affirmative.  
(Gordon B. Hinckley, CES Fireside, September 9, 2001.)  To read the full address go here

Words of wisdom, and ones that I am trying to live by more fully than I have been. 

I'm grateful for those who live the examples of goodness, particularly in trying times.  For those who remind us through word and deed what is important. And for those who stand by to lift and support those of us who falter. No matter our circumstances there is goodness around us and goodness within us. May we all be reminded of that truth and never forget.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

a new goal.

Fall, for me, is always a time of renewal. I realize that’s the opposite of what it actually is, the harbinger of winter and months of death and dormancy but the cooler air and rich colors bring a bit of vibrancy and revitalization that I love. Perhaps it hearkens back to all those years as both student and teacher, the start of a new school year, a notebook full of the blank pages of possibilities, the smell of anticipation and new clothes, ‘bouquets of newly sharpened pencils’, the works! You’ve got a clean slate, unlimited potential, so many new things to learn and discover. I love it! (plus I love the sweaters and boots and pumpkin flavored everythings, they’re like a happy bonus!)

This year especially, though I’m not a part of the onslaught of scholastic beginnings for the first time in years, I’m in great need of a personal re-beginning. And you are going to be my witnesses and maybe I can convince you to be my cheerleaders and goal auditors. In addition to stepping up my job application/hunt efforts I’ve decided on a few goals that need some focus through the rest of the calendar year (and possibly beyond.)

First up, harmonica lessons! I’m super excited about this. Maybe more than I should admit. I love taking classes and since I’m not doing the school thing myself I decided to check out the community ed offerings and when I saw beginner’s harmonica I knew I’d found a winner. I’m sure you’ll hear more about this as the weeks go by.

Next, mountains. I was so looking forward to living near them again and yet I’ve only been in them a handful of times since I’ve been home. My new goal is to go on a new hike at least twice a month while the weather holds and then bust out the snowshoes come winter. I’ve already enlisted a friend to help me with this one!

I’ve been a bit homesick lately for the DC area and all of the amazing things that are available there. Museums, concerts, road trips, history, you name it. Everything is so close and accessible. It’s not that there isn’t anything to do in Utah, you just have to look a little harder to find it. So, each month I’m going to find at least one tourist-type event to participate in or site to see.

Between some crazy travel and losing any sort of control over or access to a personal kitchen I’ve managed to gain quite a bit of weight over the past year, which hasn’t helped me feel great about myself. I’ve got a few ideas for getting back into the swing of healthy eating and exercise that I’ll be putting into action in the next week or so and I’ll let you help keep me accountable there as well! (more info when I get started.)

And finally, in an effort to step outside of myself and my own problems and worries, I’m on the lookout for a cause to champion. I love to serve and haven’t made an effort to do so recently so I’ll be participating in at least one service experience each month with the big goal of finding somewhere to give my heart. There are a lot of causes I believe in and places I’ve donated to monetarily in the past. That’s not in the unemployed budget so I have to step up and give my time and that extra commitment has made me realize that not all causes are created equal. I want to find something that truly speaks to me and makes me want to spend an entire Saturday hard at work rather than just soothing my conscience by writing a check. Does that make sense?

Re-cap: monthly service experience, monthly tourist experience, bi-weekly mountain experience, harmonica lessons, lose weight/healthy living (details to follow). Think you can keep me motivated and accountable?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

an epiphany and a new start.

I’ve tried writing this post about a million times. I had such grand plans for the last couple of months and, as so often happens in life, nothing has gone as I had hoped and anticipated. Instead of finding a fabulous job, getting my own place to live and starting on a new set of goals I’m whiling away my time in my parent’s basement and dealing with the depression, frustration and low self-worth that can come with being unemployed. It’s been a rough journey that isn’t anywhere near over.

I wanted to wait until I was in a good place with something wonderful to talk about before I wrote again but a couple of things have led me to change my mind (for better or for worse.) One: I miss this! I love writing and being a part, no matter how small, of the blogosphere. Two: I’ve had several friends ask about my return and tell me they’ve missed me (thank you!) Three: After Robin Williams’ death I read a variety of articles and posts and comments about depression and its effects on our actions as individuals and society as a whole and it made me realize a multitude of things that I wanted to address and face.

First of all, let me put forth this disclaimer: I am not suffering from clinical depression though I have been treated for it in the past. Having dealt with it I know the varying feelings and lack of feelings that can come with it. What I am currently dealing with is a serious case of frustration with moments of despondency and feelings of helplessness that are similar to (but much milder than) those I felt during my depression. I’ve always struggled with these and I’ve always felt like it was something I should be able to deal with on my own, that I would be looked down on for struggling, that I should find a way to just power through. And some days I have a little more mental power over that than others.

(Again, NOT the same as depression. You can not just power through, there is nothing wrong with needing help and life isn’t meant to be perfect. If you’re not sure if what you’re dealing with is something you should be able to handle on your own, do the brave thing and just talk to someone. Someone you trust. Sometimes a different perspective is enough to shake things up and put you back on track, but if it’s something deeper a trusted friend can help you recognize that and get you the help you need.)

There was a lot of awareness and commentary after Robin Williams’ death and I felt so empowered reading about people who acknowledged their limitations and were brave enough to step outside of the confines of the edited, superficial reality we constantly create through the media and remind us that life isn’t always picture perfect and in fact is better for it. I realized how much I wanted to emulate their bravery, if on a smaller scale. And I reminded myself that that was why I started this blog in the first place, to take charge of my own happiness. In an effort to look on the bright side, to see the beauty in everyday things, to be happy even when things don’t go as I planned I titled my blog ‘happiness is’ so that I would have a public/accountable reason to look for and be reminded of all the things that make me happy.

Avoiding writing because I didn’t feel like I had anything ‘cool’ to write about, or a less than perfect life to portray goes directly against the purpose of my blog, and well, life in general. So, I’m back. And I vow to be honest and real about life while still striving to stick with the goal of being happy. I’m just not quite sure how that will all play out. I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a second blog; one to be a little more personal and ‘real’, the other a little less so, filled with the book reviews, music, travel and fluff. I haven’t decided yet which direction I’ll take so as I continue to post for the next little while the ‘theme’ here may become a bit fuzzy. But please, bear with me!