Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Very Own "Happiness Project"

I've mentioned "The Happiness Project" in my last two blog posts, so I wanted to take a moment to tell you why I loved this book so much, and why I highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to enjoy their life more and be present in every situation. I honestly don't know where to begin, so I'll just give you a brief synopsis of the book so you know if you would benefit from reading it or not.

Gretchen Rubin, the author, realized that although she was happy, she was letting life slide by without soaking in the moments She knew she could become even happier. So she started her own "happiness project". Each month she concentrated on a certain area of her life to intentionally become a happier person. One month she organized and purged. Another month she focused on parenting. This chapter was especially inspirational for me. She made her kids laugh at least once a day. She gave them time without any other distractions. One of her main rules was "Be Gretchen." She realized that she had to be who she was, not what she thought she should be or what others thought she should be.

Disclaimer: Parts of the book I found unrelatable. For example, one month she focused on finding a spirtual master. Way to "new-agey" for me. I absolutely believe that Jesus Christ should be the center of our life and without Him it is impossible to be truly satisfied, but I also believe that in some ways we are masters of our own fate and there are ways we can make our like better than its current state.

It sounds cheesy, but this book has really changed my life. There. I said it. It's crazy, but it's true. I feel totally empowered and inspired. Let me give you some examples:

  • The other night I was so tired of looking at Ysmaille's pile of clothes on his dresser. So I folded them and hung them up. It took maybe a minute. I immediately felt better and I'm sure he appreciated that I wasn't nagging.

  • Today I was on the internet, for no other reason that it was available. I noticed Ysmaille and Amirah on the floor playing. They were having so much fun together. And although I was in the room with them I was totally unengaged. I stopped what I was doing and joined them.

  • Last night as I was driving to a party the song "Cotton-eye Joe" came on the radio. I immediately turned the station because I didn't want anyone to hear me listening to THAT song. Then I thought, "This is ridiculous. I actually kind of like this song and it makes me happy." So I turned it up and sang along. I was being Melanie. No apologies.

I don't know what the next 12 weeks will look like, but I do know this. I am going to make some small changes to my life that will hopefully add up in a big way.

January's goal: Organize and purge.

I've already cleaned out Amirah's closet and started reading "Simplify Your Life: Get Organized and Stay That Way!" Thanks to Sabrina for the loan.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Resolutions: 1 out of 3 Ain't Bad

In 2011 I made three resolutions.
One of them I dismally failed at (having someone over once a month). Fail.
One of them I succeeded partway (choosing a different friend to pray for and encourage each month). Better luck next time.
One of them I proudly accomplished (reading 12 books- one each month). I did it!

The White Masai is a non-fiction book about a European who falls in love with a Masai, moves to Kenya, and has his child even though it means living in a hut and not sharing the same language with her husband. It's a train wreck, but interesting.

Something Borrowed is a romantic love triangle that takes places in NYC. It's a quick easy read, but certainly not life-changing.

Something Blue is a the sequel to Something Borrowed. It's got a somewhat predictible ending, but it's still an enjoyable read.

If you haven't read any of Alexander McCall Smith's books from the "No. 1 Ladies Dective Agency" you are missing out. They take place in Botswana and are a great look into the culture of this African nation. The characters are fantastic. Kalahari Typing School for Men does not dissapoint.

Sweet Valley Confidential. Okay. Not the most mature pick I've ever made, but I couldn't resist this book because I had grown up reading Sweet Valley Twins and later Sweet Valley High. Scandalous.

I wrote a review of Julie and Julia this summer as part of my Summer List 2011. It's a somewhat dry book, but if you are interested in cooking it might appeal to you. Plus, I generally just enjoy books that discuss someone's resolution to complete a goal.

I enjoyed All the Finest Girls primarily because I could make connections to my own life. Part of the setting was on a Caribbean island. It is a very strange read, but kind of intriguing

Love and Respect. People have been reccomending I read this book for over a year and I finally did. I won't say it revolutionized my marriage, because I am still working on changing how I respect Ysmaille, but I highly reccomend this book. It certainly changes the way I look at love and respect in a marriage.

The Help is fantastic! I love it on so many levels. The characters are irresistible. The setting is in the Deep South during the middle of the 1900s and takes a close look at race relations during that period of time in American history. I highly reccomend this book.

The Flying Carpet of Small Miracles really made me take a closer look at the War in Iraq. It's easy to just thinking of the radical Islamic men being killed, but it's hard to imagine what life is like for the civilians living in a war-torn nation.

Monique and the Mango Rains made me really appreciate the fact that I don't have an arranged marriage, I have been able to give birth in a sanitary hospital, and have running water for a shower. This is a true story written by a lady in the Peace Corps who lives with a Malian midwife for two years.

The Happiness Project. I'm going to write a blog post all its own for this book- my final read of the year. I LOVED it! I can't wait to start my own "Happiness Project" in 2012. I'll tell you more about it soon.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Update on the Fall List 2011

I had a pretty successful fall and am gearing up for the New Year. I can't wait to tell you about a book I am reading as I think it will be the perfect inspiration for my obsessive "to do lists". There is nothing I like more than making a list and checking it off.

Here's what I got accomplished this fall:
1. Made a fall wreath for the door
2. Get a salted caramel frappuchino at Starbucks
3. Took a walk to collect leaves
4. Went on a dinner date with Ysmaille
5. Made a pumpkin roll
6. Carved a pumpkin for the front porch
7. Went trick-or-treating with Amirah
8. Ate breakfast downtown
9. Had a photo shoot with Selena

Unfortunately, there were a few things that were on my list that I didn't get to check off.
1. Go through a corn maze (I want to do this EVERY single year and I never do. Must do it next year!)
2. Make a ruffled tote (I almost got to this one, but after carefully reading the directions I thought I might be a little too much of an amateur sewer for this one, but I did make an adorable apron for Amirah's birthday)
3. Print photos for Amirah's baby book (ABSOLUTELY must do this before the new baby comes)
4. Go to Hagerstown City Park and swing. (It'll be more fun in the Spring anyway)
5. Make a fabric bookshelf (I still plan to do this, but since our two children will share a room I wanted to wait to see what gender this baby will be before attempting this project.)

In summary, out of 14 items I got 9 accomplished. Not bad considering I work full-time outside of the home, do 3 loads of laundry a week, cook at least 5 meals a week, and manage to make time for my family and friends. I'm pretty happy with all the accmomplishments I've made this Fall.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Right Now

Right now I am ...

Watching: Pirates of the Carribean (the 4th one). Really I'm sitting beside Ysmaille as he watches it and I waste time on the internet.

Feeling: a sense of peace over God's plan (I'm sure you'll hear more about this later).

Wearing: pajama pants and my 12 year old SU sweatshirt.

Drinking: ice water.

Hoping: that I get through the next 7 days of school.

Wishing: I had the perserverance to finishing Amirah's baby book.

Waiting for: our trip to Florida.

Loving: all my fun ideas from Pinterest.

So... that's my life in a nutshell.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pregnancy Highlights

17 weeks pregnant today...

Total Weight Gain: 8 pounds (give or take)

Sleep: I pretty much fall asleep on the couch every night by 9:30. The pregnancy is not keeping me up. But my almost two-year-old is. She has decided that she doesn't require more than 6 hours of sleep at a time.

Movement: I felt some movement last week (little flutters), but haven't felt anything in a couple of days. Part of me thinks I imagined it. Part of me feels worried. Do you ever stop worrying when you are a parent?

Gender: I will be 20 weeks on Christmas Day. We only have a boy name, which makes me think we are having a boy. The Chinese Gender chart (which a friend swears is 100% true) says we are having a girl. Time will tell.

Symptoms: Backache.

Maternity Clothes: I don't remember this "nothing fits stage" being so long the last time. Seriously. Nothing fits. My regular clothes pinch and give me an odd form of pregnancy muffin top. I tried wearing maternity clothes last week and Ysmaille (who never notices what I wear- good or bad) said my pants looked saggy. Sigh.