Category Archives: Uncategorized

Five Easy Ways To Happy

“Happiness is not something ready made, It comes from your own actions.” ~ Dalai Lama

Life isn’t always a happy place. What with all the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve, gain, do for others, make the world a better place, not throttle the teen when the data overages on the cell phone bill are higher than your car payments, happiness can be hard to find. I get that. Boy do I ever! The thing is, happy isn’t just waiting around for you, you have to go out and find it.  Maybe give these five easy ways to happy a try, they work for me… most days. Not on cell phone bill paying day, naturally.

Five Easy Ways To Happy

In a busy life, whether you’re a parent to humans, fury folk, or just yourself doing any combination of these five things can help put a little happy into any day.

Five Easy Ways To HappyDance, Dance, Dance!

Remember how good it felt when you were a kid and dancing was pure joy? Oh man, Lips Inc took me to Funky Town and I could have cared less who was around – beep! beep! Give yourself permission to groove, spin, plié, two-step, Dougie… whatever. If you’re worried about looking silly, close the office door or head to the laundry room {we know nobody is going in there voluntarily} and shake it.  

I love to put on my wireless headphones and shake a tail feather while doing dishes. It’s liberating, and happiness inducing. I’m even not too mortified when I find that I’ve been singing along with JT and The Tennessee Kids and while my own kids are filming me from the hallway.  So what if I’m on the down slope of 40-something, I can still take it on down to Dancinville – it makes me HAPPY!

If an abiding adoration for Justin isn’t enough to justify {<– see what I did there!} dancing in your book, how about doing it because it makes you smarter? So says Physiology Today.

Put Pen To Paper

Even if you don’t write for a living, or even as a hobby, the written word still has power. Try writing down six things a day that made you happy. Just simple stuff, not an essay. You can even break that up into three in the morning and three at night. I know I’m happy about coffee when it’s 6:00am, my treadmill when I finally get that endorphin rush three hours later, and sleeping kids are bliss.

Exhale

Sing it with me kids… shoop, shoop, shoop, shoobie doop, doop doop. Okay, that’s about as much Whitney as I can do.  The point here is to take time to breath in the good and exhale the bad. Just breathing deeply, quieting your brain for the span of five or six breaths, can bring with it a jolt of joy. The great thing about doing this is anyone can do it, any where, any time, in any situation. 

Quiet is hard for me. Not even so much because I have a house full of kids, nor because they’ve all adopted Italian speaking volumes, but because I just have a noisy brain. There is always something rattling around in there, often keeping me from being truly in a moment. Breathing brings me back. That moment may not always be a happy place to be in, but taking control – even for just those few points when I exhale – brings me peace. 

Send It To Get It Back

I recently read an article about what’s believed to be the world’s oldest Message in a Bottle washing up on the shores of Germany. Ocean currents had buffeted the bottle around the North Sea since first being set a drift by an English Marine Biologist had set it afloat in 1906. Inside was a post card asking for the finder to fill out where they’d found it and send it back to the university from whence it came. 

The thrill of those who found it spread to joy at the folks at the British Marine Biological Association, as well as to people like me who read the story.  One little post card touched so many. So why not send off something yourself. Not an email, we get enough of those already. Something written, a note, a card, or even a package, for no reason at all. See how long it takes the happiness to float back to you.

Drink Tea

I completely understand if you aren’t the tea type. I happen to be, but that isn’t the point. While in Ireland this spring one of the best moments I had was just sitting in a tiny tea room, overlooking the cobblestone streets on a rainy afternoon. Just letting life wash over me, hearing the Beatles softly play in the background as heavy accents of gaelic brogue and baking scones filled the air, was probably one of my happiest moments.

You don’t have to travel to Ireland to get that, or even drink tea. Just carve out some time in your day to wrap your hands around a warm (or cold) drink and be.

There is happiness to be found in the simplest of things.

Though this was not a sponsored post, it was inspired by Shari’s Berries’ #HappinessHappens. I adore this company, not just for their treats but because they enjoy spreading happy. 

 

 

Storytelling Through Pictures

There are some places we visit that inspire such awe as to rob us of words. (Which can complicate things if you happen to write blog, or hope to send an email to your mother who awaits word of your adventures like an Elizabethan spinster. ) Were it not for storytelling through pictures, many a story would be lost.

I started traveling, in earnest, in my late teens. From the tiny seaside town in Southern Spain that served as home, we’d take weekend jaunts into new worlds. Phoenician archaeological sites in Segóbriga, mysterious labyrinthine passageways of Morocco, and luminous Greek beaches — sadly, I’ve few pictures to tell the stories of these places that changed my world.

Back-in-the-day the only photographic tool I could operate was a disposable camera. Sure it was the, “High Tech” option of the era, but I still managed to cut people’s heads off, miss shots, and miniaturize epic works of art through my inability to grasp the concept of scale. Though I did capture blurred visions of what may or may not have been ghosts. At least that’s what I’m going with, it wasn’t just a bug flying through the shot – Marc!

As I’ve trod the winding path of this journey called life, I’ve lost so many of the stories from those early days — simply because I couldn’t take a decent picture, or was too lazy to go get them developed.  Then came the smart phone, and the DSLR, tools that can make storytellers of us all.

Truth be told, I’m still not the best shutterbug. The stories are getting better though. I have a DSLR, but frankly I’m still rather confounded by it. Having a phone with a good camera feature has made all the difference.

I recently moved from iOS and a trusty -if outdated- iPhone4 to the Samsung Galaxy Note4. The differences between iOS and Android have been rather like being abandoned a foreign country without speaking the language.  (I’m slowly learning to converse with the natives.)

My Rosetta Stone moment came with a visit to the new Verizon  Destination store in Boston as part of my participation in the #VZBoston event. Here the Mediums of Modern Technology help  we everyday folk to see through the fog and communicate with the devices that inhabit our daily lives. 

Verizon Destination Store of Boston

The store is packed with products that make our lives better; WiFi-powered “canary” air quality monitors, connected home devices that allow you to adjust your thermostat, turn on/off lights, even view live video of your home – remotely.  Here is the place to test out those electronic fitness devices you’ve been on the fence about,  pilot a drone,  snap a Boston-Themed selfie, or print your a skin for your phone, tablet or laptop. Better than all of this though, is there are actual experts there to show us how to use all this mind-blowing stuff.  Which brings me back to stories and pictures.

Timing couldn’t have been better for my visit to Boston’s Back Bay and this treasure trove of inspiration a on Boylston Street. I’d be heading to Ireland the following week and could use some expert help with using my phone to snap photos. No heads would roll in these photos. 

What I Learned…

Download the Dropbox to your phone and set it for camera uploads. Note: This can eat up your data. I have mine set to upload only when attached to WiFi.

The Galaxy Note® 4 has a wide-angle, 3.7MP front-facing camera so you can capture crisper selfies. Photograph anything else, the Galaxy Note 4 comes equipped with a 16MP rear camera with built-in Optical Image Stabilization. That means I can zoom and stabilize at the same time, so no more miniaturized works of art or blurred “spirits” of questionable tangibility.  

There are several photography settings on my phone, and most “updated” phones that  allow for focal changes, capturing panoramic and action shots, and best of all (on my phone) correcting things like blemishes, under-eye circles, and wrinkles that resemble the Grand Canyon – YEAH for “Beauty Face!”

Taking photos with a phone – as opposed to a full-sized camera like a DSLR – allows you to flexibility and more spontaneous shots.   Laying on the moss in a cemetery to shoot up at a historic Celtic High Cross – so much easier with a phone.

Droim Chliabh - A Celtic High Cross remains of the monastery founded by Saint Colmiclle  between 900 and  1200 in Drumcliff, County Sligo, Ireland.
Droim Chliabh – A Celtic High Cross remains of the monastery founded by Saint Colmiclle between 900 and 1200 in Drumcliff, County Sligo, Ireland.

Social sharing is storytelling, one picture at time. And, much easier from a phone!

The result of the advice I got in Boston? So. Many. Stories.

The old reflected in the new. Copley Plaza, Boston
The old reflected in the new. Copley Plaza, Boston
Fore Ireland Kirk at For Abbey
Fore Ireland Kirk at For Abbey
Doors of Dublin, Ireland
Doors of Dublin, Ireland
The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
Acient Archway at Fore Abbey, Fore, County Westmeath, Ireland
Ancient Archway at Fore Abbey, Fore, County Westmeath, Ireland
Celtic Crosses in the Kirk Yard of the Church at Fore, County Westmeath, Ireland
Celtic Crosses in the Kirk Yard of the Church at Fore, County Westmeath, Ireland

 

Disclosure: Opinions expressed are entirely my own, because honesty is always my policy. I have relationship with Verizon Wireless as part of the #VZWBuzz Social Media Team . I was hosted as a member of the team for my visit to Boston and the opening of the Verizon Destination Store there. I have not been asked to, nor required to provide a positive opinion. No monetary compensation was revived for either the visit or this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share A Meal – Change A Life

The small act of sharing a meal could have a big impact on a family in need. It can also have an even bigger impact on your own family. As they say, “Sharing is caring,” right?

Our family has a holiday tradition that sprung from a question my youngest son posed after our annual holiday party five years ago…

Mom, what about kids who can’t go to a cookie party because their families don’t have cookies?

A simple question with anything but a simple answer. How do you explain hunger and need to a six year old child? It’s rough. Our solution was to give them not just an explanation of what need was, or why it happens, but to give them a way to make it tangible, while also showing them how they could make a difference – however small.

That year a silly, bowling pin shaped, piggy bank became their “Charity Bank.” They put their own money into it. Change from spending allowances and buying gifts. Coins found in sofa cushions. Quarters given by sweet elderly family friends. All that added up to over $45. It’s grown each year since.

When December hits, they can’t wait to cash it in and hit the store. We let them shop for hats, gloves, scarves, and food that THEY like. Then we head over to a local family shelter for the kids to deliver – with much glee – the fruits of their savings.

The Charity Piggy Bank Project

“Tell me I forget. Teach me I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

This year we chose to help the kids focus on food with their giving. Learning from Unilever’s Project Sunlight, that so many children in America suffer from hunger on a daily basis, it seemed the perfect fit for involving the kids so that they’d learn how far-reaching the impact of sharing a meal can be.

We talked about how this problem was so big that there were likely kids they knew that are impacted.  With that in mind they headed to the coin exchange and counted up this year’s savings. $59.78 in hand they went shopping.

First it was at Walmart where they hand-picked the meal items to share. Then it was over to a local grocery store that prepackages meals, then donates them to a local food bank.

Share a Meal Getting the kids involved

I pitched in at the end to pick up some grocery gift cards to be dropped off at the local Fire Department. As the child of a Fire Chief I know that fire fighters have some of the biggest hearts known to humanity. Often they’ll keep a cache of clothing, toys, and household items to be donated to families who’ve lost things due to fires, accidents, and even just those who they meet while out in the community, that find themselves in need.

We all learned that sharing a meal doesn’t have to mean sitting down at the table together – though I highly recommend that as well.  It can be as simple as one of the things we did, stopping by the local food bank with some non-perishable food items, reaching out to a local shelter or donating your time at any one of the organizations that helps feed those in need.

Need more ideas on how to help stamp out hunger? Visit Unilever’s Project Sunlight website and follow along on social media using the hashtag: #ShareAMeal. Or stop by Project Sunlight and tell them why you’d share a meal, they’ll help spread the word and we can all have a bigger impact!

disclosure: this post is part of my participation in Unilever’s “Share a Meal” campaign. I was compensated for a portion of my participation. That said, my opinions are my own. Our family will always support projects that help those in need and we hope yours will as well.  

 

10 Things NOT to Expect When Your Teen Visits for Holiday Break

With Winter Break 2015 just around the corner, I thought I might dust this post off as a reminder of what I should NOT be expecting this time around. Then again, maybe since he’s no longer a teen there may be hope. Yeah, no.

It’s been seven months since Not-So-Little Nugget #1 left the nest. In some ways the missing him got better with the passing weeks, starting with less laundry! Most of that progress was erased by the approach of the holidays. So I did what needed to be done… I bought him a plane ticket home for Thanksgiving. He has been home for a week and a half now and I’ve gained some perspective. Let me lay some wisdom on ya, Nuggets style!

Do not expect

  1. Them to arrive with clean laundry in their suitcase. Seriously, who packs dirty socks? That is just gross!
  2. That they are no longer nocturnal. Noon remains an acceptable hour to wake up.
  3. Them to eat like a guest. Somehow they retain their penchant for foraging through your fridge, eating at will, with the door open.
  4. That they won’t still text you several times a day, even when sitting three feet from you on the sofa.
  5. That they’ve remained somehow frozen in time, on the day they left you. You won’t be getting back the same person, they’ve grown in ways you didn’t know they could.
  6. That their friends won’t have a clue they are home and leave you with days of uninterrupted family time.
  7. That they’ve outgrown bickering with their younger sister.
  8.  Them to miraculously want to help out with the dishes.
  9. That you can hold it together in the terminal when you see your baby emerge from the crowd.
  10. That you won’t start counting the hours until they’ve been taken from you once again, leaving you the mess you were months ago.

This parenting gig just gets harder as they grow. WHY was that information NOT in the manual?!

 

 

 

How to get your kids to take a good family photo

Good Family Photos

You spend hours searching for the clothes, the location, the theme and the perfect Photog (or camera if you’ve got those mad skills – which I lack in spades) only to spend even more trying to get everyone to, “smile for real”.. “sit still”… “say cheese!”

I’ve found the perfect time-saving-awesome-picture-resulting-easy-as-heck solution for you.

Are you ready?

Just snap a picture of them acting like weirdos and post it on your blog and every social media account you own! Trust me, nothing gets them to shape up and take a decent pic than you sharing a bad photo of them on the interwebs.

My. Work. Here. Is. Done.