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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gauging Our Happy Meter Wattage

It’s been a bit of a rough week at work, Journeyer…
I won’t bemoan the details, but let’s just say I interviewed with another district, only to be told by one of my supervisors that same afternoon that the two school systems have an “unwritten agreement” that they won’t hire one another’s employees…
I’m not sure this is even legal (quite frankly I doubt it), and I’m waiting on a few more details to come to the surface before I decide if I need and/or want to pursue the subject further, but as you can imagine, it’s been one emotionally charged week!
The bright side to my work week is that my trainee is doing brilliantly and should have no problem passing the proficiency test she takes on Thursday!
The other bit of foul news is that my internet continues to give me problems and hasn’t worked more than about two minutes at a time, if it loaded the pages at all.
Anyone have any idea what this means?!
See the message top right that says "Return to Mobile view?!

Internet is paramount for bloggers and researchers, so that has been a real pain in my backside!
I spent more than an hour on the phone with my satellite provider yesterday, only to have them tell me that the problem lies within my Linksys/Cisco router…which means more phone calls to come…
Though I love my electronics and typically like a good challenge, I am frustrated by this ongoing issue and the fact that the timing sucks!
And, yet, there have been so many good and positive moments these past seven days, some that are super exciting and some that are a little simpler, somehow seemingly mundane…
That’s the beauty of true happiness, though, Journeyer, when it resides within our happy organ, we spend our days paying homage to whatever moment makes us smile, laugh, suck in a breath of relief, pause to reflect, or feel joy within…
Sometimes those feelings arise with an adrenalin rush, and sometimes we can actually feel the moment of peaceful intervention pushing the strife out of our soul…
My quieter moments included shopping with Warren for Halloween costumes…
Too bad this squirrel looks like a chipmunk!

This decked-out mannequin reminded me of Beauty, who has her own flair, hunts with the best of them, and doesn’t have a problem with creepy-crawly things.

In response to the photo I sent her, she said, “Lmao perfect.”
I found this get-up that I thought was most apropos given the fact that part of Warren’s livelihood is electrical work!

Our friends who hosted the party are also in the building business, which made it even funnier.
After texting the image to our three children, Beauty wrote back, “Oh dear God no.” In a text immediately following was another that said, “Please don’t.”
Her jovial brother replied “Please do.”
I had so much fun embellishing the costume with electrified hair!

Warren’s love for making homemade chili can be tasted in every spoonful, so he found great delight in making his first batch of the season, which he entered into the event’s chili cook-off.

Since the contest rules said our dish had to have a name, we decided to keep the electrical theme and went with
…a spiced up and very hot version…

…and a tempered version for those whose pallets like it a little milder…
The many decorations and holiday treats reminded me of all the fun I have holding our Halloween gathering each year and made me excited for the forthcoming party!

Other happy news included the sun that parted the clouds and lifted everyone’s spirits after the pounding rains we’ve had of recent.
The brilliantly colored foliage I see everywhere I go brightens my mood several times a day!
This morning I finally had a chance to take the dog and me for a walk!

Scenery like this made me forget about the brisk air and that wicked wind whipping my exposed flesh!
This large old tree filled the road and its shoulder with hundreds of acorns, which reminded me of the many squirrels I’ve seen running to and fro, preparing for winter, with cheeks bulging or enormous treats clutched between their teeth.

There was this little comic that reminded me of the days when Warren would take a young Big Guy out to watch wildlife or to hunt with him. He'd often return and exclaim how our son couldn't sit still. We all had a chuckle over the cartoon!

Last, but not least is the excitement I’ve been feeling since my Best Teacher’s Gifts Giveaway ended on the 15th!
I haven’t been able to print out the entries, but I’m so anxious to select the ten lucky teachers and get those surprise boxes off to them!
Send me good luck…and if you know anything at all about router issues, I’d LOVE to have you send some links or helpful suggestions my way!
What about you, Journeyer? What was the wattage of your happy this past week?
Until we meet again, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…

    ~AE

Sunday, October 12, 2014

People Who Need People...

Journeyer, as many of you might have noticed, I missed my first Happy Happens post ever.
Though some have been late, I haven’t actually not posted to this weekly column in years…
As my long days progressed and the calendar pages flipped by and a few problems at work seemed to balloon, I did what so many of us do when we feel like we are failing at something.
I started feeling all angsty
When I feel that way I eat.
And eat.
And eat…
And then I feel guilty and bloated and ashamed and saddened and afraid that I’m never, ever going to get my life together and…[fill in the blanks]
I worried that if an agent or publisher does agree to look at my work, they will consider that one missed post as grounds to fire me even before they have the chance to know me…
And then, well, you know, my writing career will continue to be nothing but my love for words and storytelling and connecting with people…
And maybe, just maybe the universe is telling me that I shouldn’t be writing at all…
Those are the places we go to when we’re feeling inadequate and overworked and afraid…
And then we sleep, we take deep breaths, we pick ourselves up, dust off the despair, and put one foot in front of the other…
That’s what I did day in and day out these past two weeks…
Step by step…
Though I didn’t finish last week’s post, this is how it started:
Music is a bit like milk…it does the body good…
It can soothe our nerves, rev us up or rejuvenate…
Last week, I couldn’t help but feel the pull of those lyrics, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
Whether I’ve known you for years, hugged you IRL or in spirit, you are an integral and vital part of my life.
I am constantly inspired by those whose lives intersect mine, regardless of how we’re connected.
As I looked out over the moments that brought me peace or joy or comfort last week, people were there in the midst of it all…
I won this barbeque basket at the benefit for a co-worker’s granddaughter, an event that was standing room only.


I found this great winter project puzzle at the opening of a friend's gift shop.

Big Guy and Warren and I are going to love hunkering down with this bit of fun on the upcoming cold nights!
A friend and I surprised Beauty by showing up for her parent’s weekend game; a ten-hour trip I’d have been hard-pressed to make alone.
After sitting in the cold rain, we went to dinner at this fabulous restaurant that was originally a late 1800’s train station!

I could have sat in front of this brick pizza oven for hours!
Warren and I had another productive counseling session, where I found this inspirational d├ęcor a most poignant reminder that each day is a new beginning.

This photo might leave much to be desired but the sentiment of the quote is very uplifting…

I felt pride and excitement while decorating for Big Guy's senior night recognition for his soccer team.

I adore this ceramic pumpkin Warren brought back from his trip to New Mexico…

I had a blast picking out these window decals to decorate for my students….

And my girlfriend and I had so much fun trying to pick out Halloween costumes for Warren and me!

She and her husband are always joking about how much Warren looks like the guy from Ghostbusters so this one really intrigued me!!

This past week has also involved people and connections…
The owners who let me love on this precious pup during a soccer game…

Preparing to help a friend celebrate her 50th birthday.

I loved the surprise my mother did for my 50th so much that I did the same thing for my friend!
Helping Big Guy gather the ingredients so he and his girlfriend could make a double layer cookie cake for a surprise birthday gathering for one of his friends warmed my heart.

They are the most fun loving and genuine group of young men you might find and the thought of them always draws a smile from me!
There was the fun of watching my friend and her two grandchildren open the fifty little packages I’d assembled…

Playing a few rounds of pool with Big Guy was fun, even if I did lose all three games…
I managed to catch up on some paperwork…
And tomorrow’s holiday means I have one more day to tackle even more projects I’m behind on!
What about you, Journeyer, what Moment(s) brought a smile to your face these past two weeks?
Until we meet again, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…

    ~AE

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Home on a Hill


Journeyer, man was it ever a week!
This hamster wheel month has reached its peak and I barely had time to breathe last week.
Hardly a day passed by that I pulled out of my drive with the sun beginning to rise and returned about the time it set.
That said, I managed to hone in on moments that gave me peace of mind, brought me comfort, and settled my soul for a bit of respite.
Warren and I had a productive counseling session, followed by a dinner date where I had the most delicious fresh veggie Panini…

and this thirst quenching raspberry spinach smoothie.

I had a dream that I was walking along side a bear, which according to this dream interpretation journal represents resurrection, independence, strength, and that I could be going through a period of introspection.
Could that be any further from the truth?
More entries are coming in slowly for the Teacher’s Supply Giveaway! You’ve got two more weeks to submit your favorite educator (which could be you, yourself!)
I helped Big Guy pull together these duds for his homecoming dance and spent Saturday participating in all things Homecoming.

Isn’t he handsome?
I took a long Sunday, scenic drive to go watch Beauty and her team play.



One of her teammates saw Beauty carrying the bag of goodies I’d brought along for the team and asked if I’d made been baking again.
“Your cookies are the best ever,” she said with a laugh.
Just days before, the mother of one of Big Guy’s teammates said to me, “I need to get your chocolate chip recipe because I am told no one makes them like you do.”
I had to laugh. Then I told her that it was a secret family recipe, but I’d share it with her and all the other moms sitting by with their ears perked.
If you want the recipe for the World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER, you can read about it here.
Unbeknownst to me, the drive to my daughter’s match took me within two miles of a friend’s house in Syracuse, and an impromptu call gave us the opportunity to spend the afternoon together.
On the way home from the event, my friend and I stopped at a little pizza shop where I just had to take a photo of this giant tub of shredded mozzarella cheese.

I immediately thought of Fave, who has been known to eat mozzarella cheese straight from the loaf. When he was living at home I always had a bin full of string cheese and would often save for him a chunk from the block when I was making lasagna.
Hubby and Son were in New Mexico for a National competition, where a new record, a personal best, and a gold medal sweetened the weekend and made all his hard work worth the effort.
And throughout the week, there was music, tunes that touched me in many different ways, but the one I noted so as not to forget was Phil Collins’ You Can’t Hurry Love…
Love don’t come easy…but boy is it ever beautiful…
I had to stop when I spotted this little home on a hilltop on the way home from Sunday’s game.

There was just something so special and unique and beckoning, almost as if this little dwelling held some magical quality.
I thought about this surreal setting, about how the abode atop the hill is sort of symbolic of life.
Our uphill climbs are not easy, they require great exertion, frequently demand our full attention, and are often fraught with anxiety, but once we reach the summit, we can rest and relish in the beauty of our energies and success…
Love is a bit like building a home on a hill, there are many unique challenges along the way, but once in place, the views are breathtaking…
What about you, Journeyer? What Moment(s) added joy to your week’s climb?

Until next time, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…
    ~AE
And one more thing before I go: With less than 100 days before my favorite holiday, Christmas trees are out and lighting up my life! :)


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Homecoming


"Dare to dream,  hope, believe, seek, feel, find, and love."
                                                               ~Chinese fortune
This morning I had one of those mother-child moments that was both extraordinary and ordinary.
“I think you’re a pretty good egg, Big Guy,” I said to my son after he remembered that I’d asked him to unload the dishwasher, “regardless of what everyone else says about you.”
He smiled.
He knows.
One of my week’s Happy Moments came when my work involved accompanying his soccer team to a game.
His coach and I had a rambling conversation about students and teaching and parenting and shared different experiences.
He was expressing a few concerns about his son’s quiet nature and wondering if it might lead to him being overlooked or becoming a target for bullying.
His kindergarten son was reading at such an advanced level the teachers were sending him to read with second grade classes.
I shared with this father how my own son had many of the same traits when he was younger and how they ultimately conveyed into him being someone who leads by example more than authority.
“If B grows up to be anything like your Big Guy I’ll be one happy father,” he said.
This young man's peers also voted him in as National Honor Society President
That right there should be in every parent’s handbook: Tell other parents they’re doing a good job.
Hearing from others that our hard work is appreciated, that validation that we have achieved some modicum of success as a parent is so rewarding for us, isn’t it?
Lord knows there are plenty of people who tell us when we aren’t getting it right.
As a mom, it’s my job to let my children know when they’re doing something wrong, but I feel it’s equally important to let them know when they’re making positive splashes in the world around them.
And, like this morning, I try to let them know when they are bright spots in my day.
“So,” Big Guy says to me as he put a mixing bowl into the cupboard, “on that note, I have something to tell you.”
“Is this where you tell me that you got a speeding ticket?”

I ask half-jokingly. Though he is a responsible driver, he does seem to have inherited my lead foot.
He laughed. “No, not that. I’m on the Homecoming Court.”
After a little banter about parents showing up at the dance I promised not to embarrass him any more than any of the other parents would their kids.
But truth be told, I wouldn’t have thought about intruding on the school’s soiree; I would have just taken photos at the football game like I did during Fave’s senior court nomination presentations.
I still might do just that…but then again...there are memories to be made!
After our light-hearted repartee, I ended up chasing Big Guy through the house with both of us in a side-splitting laugh, as I tried to give him a kiss…
Laughter. It does the body, the brain, and the family bonds good…
I had another sort of homecoming this week, Journeyer, one that involves my marriage.
You know how we sometimes reach a point where we don’t see hope or where we’re ready to throw in that proverbial towel?
We find ourselves thinking about ways out of our situation, imagining a different life without realizing that we’re doing so.
We do it all the time: We dream about having a different boss, a different job…house…car…and that family who lives three doors down?
Yeah. We want their lawn.
“You can’t work on a marriage if you’re walking away from it.” That’s basically what our new counselor said.

“What have you done to come toward the marriage this week?” he asked us during our recent session.
One of the things Warren did was to set up this little welcome home surprise that greeted me at the end of a very long work day.

I felt uplifted and loved.
But the sad truth of the matter is that I still had one foot out the door, and so those feelings were fleeting.
“I’m afraid I haven’t been successful in that department,” I replied to our therapist’s question.
I’ve known for a couple of weeks that I either needed to step back in or step all the way out, but I kept lamenting to myself that I didn’t know how to do either.
At the end of the session I realized something about myself: my inaction was making me feel a bit petulant.
I chose to turn off the separation notions and to lean back into my marriage.
Like philosopher Lao Tzu says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
Following that session, Warren and I went out to a favorite Chinese restaurant, where the Fortune Gods validated my decision to step back toward my marriage: "Dare to dream,  hope, believe, seek, feel, find, and love."
Speaking of strides, I was so glad to get out today and take Thunder dog and myself for a walk!
Look at the light bursting through the foliage!
With all of the extra hours at work, it’s been almost two weeks since we’ve had a decent jaunt, so today we went about a mile-and-a-half.
Look at the colors and the glorious light that adorned my path!

Other moments that brought me back to my happy center include Fave sending me a photo of some silliness he and Squirrel were hatching...
A long talk on the phone with Beauty...
And the insurance notice that I have been granted a new, non-smoker rating, complete with a rebate check!

November 16 will mark eight years since I kicked my smoking addiction to the curb and I can honestly say that hardly a day goes by that I don’t rejoice being a recovering smoker...
One of the things I did when I quit smoking was to set aside what would have been cigarette money, which I used to treat myself with things like a shopping spree or a day trip and a show in New York City.
We should always remember to pamper ourselves now and again.
This is one of the first weekends in months where I had two days with no travel planned and no obligations, and it couldn’t come at a better time given a cold that started three days ago.
Since Warren is out of town on a job, I decided to end the week by inviting a friend over for a movie night.
She brought the popcorn and I set up a pedicure station…

And though the film wasn't quite what I'd hope it would be, the camaraderie was stellar!
I can’t think of a better way to round out a week…
What about you, Journeyer? What experiences signaled the arrival or return of your own happy moments this past week?
Until next time, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…

    ~AE

Sunday, September 14, 2014

To Everything There is a Season


I sit at my desk this morning wearing sweat pants, a long sleeve shirt, and warm, fuzzy footie socks.
Outside my window, colorful leaves rest atop my freshly mowed lawn as a stiff breeze tests the strength of the foliage not yet ready to let go.
I pause thinking and typing and go make myself a mug of Constant Comment, one of my favorite hot teas.
It’s been what Glennon Melton calls a brutiful week, one filled with beauty and a bit of brutality.
Seven days filled with a great deal of overtime and a new crop of students who are testing the limits…and my patience…
Seven days filled with an internet connection that has continued to be almost non-existent…
Seven days of fretting that you, my loyal readers and magical/cyber friends, will drift away because I haven’t been connected…
Seven days filled with weather that has fluctuated as much as forty degrees overnight…
What bothers me about that hasn’t been the temperature; being someone who loathes doing things twice, I’ve lamented having to change my clothes midday…
I also hated that Mother Nature New York didn’t lay out a nicer welcome mat for two aunts who came from Texas to bury their mother’s remaining ashes next to their father.
On what was this matriarch’s ninetieth birthday, the skies were gray and wept bone-chilling tears that muddied the cemetery’s dirt drives and filled in its worn grooves.
A large group of friends and family gathered for a celebration of life earlier this summer, at Aunt’s favorite spot in a park alongside a river in New Mexico.
Our small group of remaining northern relatives gathered graveside with umbrellas and parkas.
Though I’m not one to dwell in scripture, I couldn’t help but be drawn to these words the pastor read from this Ecclesiastes’ passage:
(text copied from this online site.)
There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

When I mentioned to Warren’s cousin how much I loved that message, she told me that the well-loved song by The Byrds, To Everything there is a season; Turn! Turn! Turn! was adapted from that book.
Listen to a live version of the performance below!

There is a time for everything, Journeyer, and as I look back on this tiring and troublesome week, I am reminded of that very reality.
There is a time to remember the joys we’ve forgotten, like these many moments that I failed to include in last week’s post…
…like the feeling that washed over me when I hugged Beauty close after last week’s game, or when I hear her excited chatter about the things she’s learned in her coursework…
...and this child's drawing on the entrance door of a gas station...

…these little bits of inspiration and nostalgia found in a delightful 1850’s house turned into a modern day gift shop that we stumbled upon on our way home from the game…

Pregnant kitty who greeted us on the porch and then rolled over for a good belly rub


The original staircase leading up to an attic loft


…this fabulous Yelp restaurant Warren and I discovered…
Entrance to Paddy's restaurant
Mushroom Swiss Burger

…like this fun little banter I had with Fave…
Teasing that his dad was going to buy a real life Tonka truck

There is a time to grumble about nature and a time to be grateful for her abundance and beauty…
View on our drive home from Beauty's soccer game

A morning commute sunrise

There is a time to think only of ourselves and a time to be thankful for those things that remind us of loved ones…
This Willow Tree made me think of animal loving Beauty
Though I'm no fan of blow-up lawn ornaments, my 'lil sis is
That gift shop was full of owl items, which reminded me of Fave's girl Squirrel
This Paddy's door sign reminded me of friends who are avid and exuberant St. Patrick's Day enthusiasts

Shredding mozzarella cheese reminded me of Fave, who used to eat it by the chunk

There is a time for rigidity and a time to revise and regroup, to make shifts in our thinking or changes in our surroundings…
As I type, Warren is reshaping the tree in our side yard, the one that gave me a new clarity about my marriage, a different perspective about my husband, just before our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary.

This looming, gorgeous structure is a likely culprit for our recent internet problems because it is in direct line of our satellite’s southern view, but I’m glad that Warren chose to reduce its size rather than tear it down completely.
A backyard tree that once threatened our home, revived after
Warren cut back rather than cut down
There is a time to live and a time to die…
There is a time to be alone and a time to gather with friends...
Couple's Date night (Hubbies are inside watching football)
There is a time to hold on and a time to let go
As I stood listening to the pastor talk about our loved one’s vitality for life, her passion for people, and how she always made a place at the table for strangers and friends alike, my gaze wandered to the headstone behind our aunt’s burial place.
Afterward, as I gazed upon the marker’s uniqueness, I couldn’t help but marvel at the many contradictions, yet beautiful symbolisms…

When walking through the cemetery to Gavin’s grave, we are always careful to step in-between the plots, a sense that it is disrespectful to tread upon one’s final resting place.
This creative memorial welcomes us with open arms, beckoning us to sit for a spell, to rest our weary or sorrowed souls, or to relax, rejoice, and reminisce about the life’s energy that lives on…
The monument adorning this dwelling is an invitation for us to remember that to everything there is a season…
What about you, Journeyer? What Moment(s) layered your season of joy and filled your happy organ last week?
Until we meet again, yours in healing, hope, and happiness…

    ~AE