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This week’s Truth Thursday is on things that make me happy – a bit simple, yes, but absolutely essential. Whenever I’m down, these things have the power to bring me back up.

1. Otters – I had a rough weekend last weekend for no extreme reason. When boyfriend noticed me getting sad, he entered “otters” or “curious otters” into the Google Images and pulled up a picture. Immediately, I lit up. He also posted a picture of a mama otter on my FB wall this week, and last week, he randomly changed my desktop picture to an otter. Boyfriend knows me well. Anyway, the point of all this otter picture rhetoric is that I FREAKING LOVE OTTERS. Although if you didn’t already know that, you probably haven’t been reading my blog.

I should not have looked up otters at work. Cannot...contain...squees...

2. Berries – I love most fruit, but I especially love berries. Strawberries and raspberries are some of my very favorite foods. I have been known to purchase 2 lbs. of strawberries and go through them in less than 48 hours. I would say the same about raspberries except that they’re so expensive that I’ve never tried. I also love a lot of food with strawberries and raspberries, like pancakes with strawberries on top. Yum. Okay, I’ve made myself hungry. Moving on.

Oh. My. God. What are you and why are you not here in front of me?

3. Farmers markets – I knew about farmers markets way back when. I didn’t really go that often, but they seemed pretty cool. When I moved out to California, however, I truly discovered the joy of farmers markets. California has these markets everywhere year round and the locals present the most amazing food. You have to pick and choose what you get – some are overpriced or picked over – but you can almost always walk away with some great, tasty finds. I cannot wait until my city’s farmer’s market opens up next week! Damn Minnesota and its winter ruining my farmers markets.

4. Thunderstorms – I love thunderstorms. I like rain in general, and I sure love sunshine, but nothing beats a good thunderstorm. There’s just nothing like waking up to the sound of rain. I usually open my window or my patio door when it’s raining at night just so I can hear it. Any water sound is calming to me, but particularly rain does the trick. I do NOT like tornadoes, however – they scare the hell out of me. Sending good thoughts to the people in north Minneapolis, Missouri, and Kansas right now.

5. Finishing a good book – Reading a good book is great, absolutely. But finishing a good book? Only that can give you the mixed feelings of satisfaction, sadness, loss, joy, fulfillment, and confusion about the mixed feelings in general. After I finished reading “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” for instance, I cried for at least 15 minutes and could not shake my mood for the rest of the day. Something in that book resonated with me, and that’s pretty powerful.

What simple things make you happy?


Sally from Already Pretty linked out to this recently and I really liked the positive self-image prompts posed here. I decided to not only complete the prompts, but to share them so that you could all benefit from answering these prompts as well! Check out Margarita Tartakovshy’s original blog post for others.

  • I am beautiful because…every woman is beautiful in her own way. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, but if you believe you’re beautiful, it can’t help but show through you and make you beautiful to others.
  • I am strong because…strength is not reflected only in the physical form, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
  • My favorite physical activity is…swimming! I absolutely love the water, and while I rarely actually get around to swimming, I love doing it when I can. A fair warning, though – do not attempt to learn to swim on a swim team.
  • I nourish my body because…I can. It took me a while to know how to answer this question, mainly because I think of nourish in a healthy way, and I honestly am not good at that. But I am good at splurging on unhealthy food. I’m very good at that. And I often do it because I feel like it’s unfair that I should have to basically be anorexic in order to be the size of one of my friends, who is not a stick. I would never be a stick. It’s just not my body.
  • My loved ones make me feel great about my body when…they compliment me. 🙂 I think compliments are underrated. It’s obvious when they’re insincere, but when they’re not, they’re a great confidence booster! I also really like when my boy touches me (stop thinking dirty) anywhere, like stroking my face. He’s always really gentle and it makes me feel loved.
  • My loved ones make me feel bad about my body when…they make fun of my eating habits. I know I eat poorly. I really do. But I guilt myself enough, so guilting me even more doesn’t help and isn’t going to make me change my dietary ways.
  • I feel best about myself when…I believe in myself. Wow, did that sound cheesy. But it’s true. When I have confidence in myself, I feel amazing.
  • I feel bad about myself when…I compare my body or my life or my issues to someone else and come up lacking. It’s a bad habit that I really need to break, but I’m sure everyone can attest to how difficult that is. I heard some great advice today that if something makes you feel badly – no matter what – eliminate it. Her example was “if looking at a coworker’s vacation photos makes you feel bad, close the web page. It’s not worth it.” Truth.
  • A truly positive body image means…not only accepting your flaws, but embracing them as well. I’m getting there on acceptance, embracing is next.
  • I love being me because…I survive. No matter what happens or how much I struggle, I still survive.
  • I wish that I could give myself permission to…not feel guilty!
  • I always feel comfortable in my own skin when…I’m wearing a fun, flirty dress. I’m not sure what it is about dresses. The right sundress can make me feel great about myself. The somewhat ironic thing is that I don’t like my arms and sundresses are often sleeveless. That just pushes the acceptance part just a little further.
  • The lesson I’ve learned about my body image this year is…I can be beautiful no matter what size I am. I still struggle with this, but I recently read an article that has helped me open up to this concept. Body image acceptance, here I come!
  • If I could change one thing about my life it would be…that I wouldn’t have to focus on seeking happiness – that it would just be available. Or would be easier to find, at the very least.
  • My favorite part about spring is…Tulips! Or sprummer! Or nice weather after months and months of crappy weather. No, wait! BABY DUCKIES!!!

I like ducks.

The lovely Kate passed along a great image to me and I felt the need to share it.

See the original post here.

Last month, I posted about my favorite fiction books. Although I prefer fiction, I read a fair amount of nonfiction books as well, especially lately. As promised, here is the list of my favorite nonfiction books in no particular order:

Malcolm Gladwell - I love the hair.

1. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell – I just finished this book and I really enjoyed the subject matter. Blink discusses snap judgments and how our brains automatically perceive information. One of the ways Gladwell demonstrates this is through the Implicit Association Test administered by Harvard. It’s a fascinating look at your underlying, automatic preferences. It’s also free – check it out! My only critique of the book is that Gladwell says he’ll teach us how to train our brains to make snap judgments accurately and rely on them, but I didn’t get much of that throughout the book. Overall, I still highly enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading his other works.

2. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne – When I first heard about this book, it sounded kind of cheesy – like one of those traditionally “spiritual” blah-blah-blah books. When I finally decided to read it, however, it really made sense to me. I realized that you can’t really explain the context of the book in a way that doesn’t come across as spiritual blah because we, as cynics, are trained to think that way about spiritual guide books. The only thing I will say about it is the idea is that thinking positively about scenarios – truly believing that you can and have what you want – will help bring it about. This makes a lot of sense to me – our brains will believe what we tell them is true. Take placebo tests, for example – people who unknowingly take placebos instead of actual medicine show increased signs of improvement. Is it foolproof? Of course not. But it’s an interesting start.

This is an example that makes me happy.

3. Postsecret by Frank Warren – I stumbled across this book in Barnes & Noble and couldn’t stop looking through it. Postsecret is simply a community mail art project – people anonymously write a secret on a postcard and sent it in. You would be amazed at what people send in. Some things brighten my heart, some things make me want to cry. In fact, “postsecret” has continued on to this day and become quite popular. There is now a website – check it out.

4. The Single Girl’s Manifesta by Jerusha Stewart – I should mention that I haven’t been single in almost two years. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love this book. It’s actually weird for me to be in a long-term relationship – I was the girl who was always single, whether I liked that or not. This book really helped me appreciate being single and learn to appreciate myself more. It took me a long time to not only accept being single, but also enjoy it. Of course, when I finally did that, my silly boyfriend came along. 😉

This is the old edition I have.

5. Our Bodies, Ourselves published by The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective – This was one of the main books in my Introduction to Women’s Studies class and I adore it. The book discusses all sorts of women’s health topics, such as menopause, childbirth, sexual orientation, sexual health, etc. It was published in 1973 and has improved through a dozen fresh editions. It’s my goal to own the original copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves from 1973 and see just how much has changed. I’m close – I have a copy from 1975 that I scored at a garage sale!

6. Colonize This! edited by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman – This is another book from my women’s studies course that I absolutely love. I love it because it’s not your traditional white-feminist-from-the-70s book. It’s much more characteristic of third wave feminism, which includes art, music, and as this book discusses, race and feminism. This book contains essays written by feminists of color and discusses how those two crucial ideas constantly entangle. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re at all interested in feminist literature (and let’s remember that when I say “feminism,” I simply mean equality of men and women – that’s the definition).

7. Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath – You may have heard of another book written by the Heath brothers called Made to Stick – I think this one is better. Switch talks about why real change is so damn difficult and how we can go about making change work for us. They have a terrific analogy regarding a rider and an elephant – the rider (our willpower) holds back the elephant (our desires), but there’s only so long that a rider can keep up the strength. Their language also makes it very easy to read, which is essential to me with nonfiction books.

8. The Chemistry of Joy by Dr. Henry Emmons – I’ve mentioned this book before. I LOVE this book. I know I said no particular order at the top of this post, but I lied – this is my number one book. I’ve gotten such great advice from this book. I don’t like having to use medications (read: anti-depressants), although I think they make perfect sense for others (it’s a weird conundrum). This book explains depression and then provides drug-free ways to combat depression – through food, nutrition, exercise, and eastern practices. Dr. Emmons says that drugs are sometimes necessary and helpful, but his methods have allowed me to find natural ways to combat depression. He has also written The Chemistry of Calm for those who suffer from anxiety.

Damn right.

9. Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti – I recently read this book and it is probably the best feminist book I’ve ever read. Ever wondered why rape is so prevalent in our culture? Read this book. Ever wondered if there were a way we could change our culture so that rape is less prevalent? Read this book. Never wondered either of those? Open your eyes to our culture and READ THIS BOOK.

10. This Book Will Change Your Life by Benrik – This is one of the oddest books I’ve ever read or owned. It has 365 things that one “should” do in order to change his/her life. I’ll let you in on a little secret – it’s a satirical book. That being said, it’s kind of amusing to attempt some of these activities, and in fact, most of them really should be done. I just advise against doing ones like “volume test your neighbors – blare your music louder and louder until they start complaining.” If you get through all of 365 days of activities, there are sequels as well.

What are your favorite nonfiction books?

I was reviewing Kate’s Currents on the blog of the ever lovely Kate and began thinking about my own currents. That’s the thing about blogs – they inspire other people to write! Here are some of my currents:

Books I’m reading or about to start reading:

  • The Chemistry of Calm: I’m a huge subscriber to the ideas in Dr. Emmons’ first book, The Chemistry of Joy. This book is his second and talks about natural, drug-free ways to reduce anxiety and instill calm into your life. I haven’t gotten past the first chapter yet, but I’m looking forward to reading more of his ideas.
  • Made to Stick: I’m currently reading this book for a book review blog at my work. I started reading the Heath brothers’ latest book, Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard, and really enjoyed it but didn’t finish it (a woe that often occurs with me and nonfiction – ironically, this whole list is nonfiction). Made to Stick discusses why certain ideas stick and what we can do to make our ideas “stickier.” It’s a great read so far – again, only a couple of chapters in – and hopefully will give me some ideas of my own.

A good read so far!

Blogs I’m loving:

  • Divergent Musings: As you know, I often steal ideas or link out to my dear friend, Kate, but it’s only because she has fantastic posts! Kate is the person who got me interested in blogging again, and it’s only because of her that I now blog so frequently. Her posts often inspire posts of my own. Kate’s blog is actually the only blog I read on a regular basis. I definitely recommend checking out her site!
  • Blog Giveaways: This is the site that I post my monthly giveaways on (thanks to Kate). If you have any kind of a giveaway on your blog (sponsored or self-funded), simply shoot the blog owner an email and she will post a link to your contest. The blog has over 1,500 followers, and that doesn’t include the readers who don’t subscribe. It’s a great way to announce your giveaway and (hopefully) get more readers for your own blog!
  • Cake Wrecks – My colleague introduced me to this blog when she sent me a link to Dr. Seuss cakes (who could resist that?) and I immediately loved the humor and sass of this blog. Send me something sarcastic, I’ll probably like it. The blogger somehow manages to routinely find pictures of horrifying cakes for every occasion. Good times.

I want a wedding just to be able to have this cake.

  • Sex and the Fat Girl – I don’t remember to read this often, but there is terrific commentary on here about fat acceptance and sex. It’s a great blog for anybody who’s bigger in size and feels self-conscious about weight. It’s good for skinny people, too, to truly understand about different people and individuality. I highly recommend it.

What I’m watching:

  • Boogie Nights – My boyfriend and I haven’t seen this movie, but we both love Mark Wahlberg, so we decided it is high time that we watch this movie. He has it on Netflix – we just haven’t had the chance to sit down and watch it. It’ll be our movie night movie.
  • Criminal Minds – Although my boyfriend is in town, I’ll probably still end up watching this tonight since he’s going to be hanging out with friends. This is my second favorite crime show (Castle is tops) – I love the psychological aspect of it.
  • Angel – I’m slowly streaming season 4 of Angel on Netflix. I probably won’t get around to watching any this week, but as things start to slow down, I should have more time available to catch up on this.
  • Buffy – As soon as I finish season 4 of Angel, I’m planning to finally finish season 7 (final season) of Buffy. I can’t wait!

This is a sad statement.

Things I’m looking forward to:

  • Sleeping in on Sunday – I coach Speech at a high school and we’re nearing the end of our season, which means I spend about 15 hours a week coaching or judging at tournaments in addition to the 40 hours I work for my full time job. Which means I don’t sleep enough. Sundays are my only day off for another two weeks, so I fully intend on taking advantage of sleeping in on Sunday.
  • Eating 2 lbs. of strawberries – I bought 2 lbs of strawberries last night at Sam’s Club and intend to eat the entire container by tomorrow night. Strawberries are one of my favorite foods and needless to say, they don’t last long around me.

Don't judge me.

  • Movie night with my boyfriend – My boyfriend lives two hours away from me, but he’s on spring break and staying with me for the week, which makes me really happy. Sometime this week we’re going to have a movie night and veg out with snacks and relaxation. Sounds ideal.
  • Finding out the amount of my Secret Rewards card from Victoria’s Secret – I recently replaced my old mascara and got a Secret Rewards card. In April, I go back to VS and find out if I received a coupon for $10, $50, $100, or $500 dollars off my next purchase. No matter what, it’s a good deal, but I can only imagine the shopping I’d do if I managed to score a $500 card.

What are your current pleasures?

I’ve written so many blogs lately with TV shows that I felt like I’ve been neglecting my love of books! Therefore, in no order – because that would be impossible – here are my 10 absolute favorite fiction books (nonfiction will be coming):

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – I saw the movie about a year ago and enjoyed it, and I had heard very good things about this book, so I figured I should read it. Oh. My. Goodness. I absolutely down-to-my-soul loved this book.  I cried for about half an hour (even though I knew the ending) and the book stayed with me for a full day. That rarely happens, even with amazing literature. So good. So, so good.

2. The Virgin Suicides by Geoffrey Eugenides – You might not have heard of this book, although you may have heard of another great Eugenides book, Middlesex. I prefer this one, however, due to its unique story and darkness. It’s a beautifully written, bold novel. I definitely recommend it.

3. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – Who doesn’t love this series? I even mostly like the movies – well, the later ones, anyway. Between the characters, the plot, the incredible ending – this series was automatically on my list.

4. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer – Don’t judge me – I love these books. No, I do not like the movies. Seriously, these books have a beautiful love story. They hook me every time. I was a skeptic at first, too, but decided to give them a try and I’m very glad I did. Oh, and I’m a Jacob fan, in case you were wondering. 🙂

5. Any book written by David Sedaris – This man is my creative nonfiction idol (creative is the reason it’s on this list). He is hilarious. I met him at a book signing at the University of Minnesota and he mocked me for coming alone and I still adore him. You may think that you don’t like short stories, but you will after you read his stories. Love.

6. Like the Red Panda by Andrea Seigel – I have no idea where or how I heard of this book, but I love it. It’s another darker book and reminds me a bit of The Bell Jar, only a more modern version. I also really love the ending – it’s completely atypical of most books. I wasn’t as impressed with Seigel’s second book, but I’m hoping her third will be better.

7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – This has been one of my very favorite books since I was a little kid. It started because they talk about “tesseracts” in the book and I went to Tesseract School for preschool. I love the story, I love the characters, I love all of it. I don’t care that I can read it in less than an hour. It’s stuck with me all these years.

8. The Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson – I was a very brief member of a younger female book club crowd (like, two months), but they went over the first book of this series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and I couldn’t put it down. I actually skipped the monthly meeting to finish reading it because I was so into it. I love this story. It’s not my usual favorite style of books (a little crime/journalistic), but I love the characters as they’re unique and perfectly delineated. I would definitely recommend the entire series.

9. Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel – Technically this is an autobiographical story, but being a writer of creative nonfiction myself, I feel like it fits better in the fiction post. If you couldn’t tell that I love dark, heavy literature by now, I think this book would clear that up for you. Wurtzel shares her story of debilitating depression and her journey of antidepressants. It’s a beautifully written and shockingly honest book. I highly recommend it – unless you’re depressed, in which case, I actually wouldn’t.

10. The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss – I love Dr. Seuss. The man is a hero of mine. The Sneetches is my very favorite Dr. Seuss story. It talks about diversity and hatred, and shows us that we’re all the same at the end of the day. I want a Sneetch onesie. Seriously, how awesome would that be??

Honorable mentions: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Quake (play) by Melanie Marnich, Seascape with Sharks and Dancer (play) by Don Nigro, anything written by Eve Ensler (which draws on true stories/events)

What are your favorite books?

Last year, my boyfriend bought me a GRE study guide so that I would finally stop talking about graduate school and just start working towards it. I spent three months preparing for the test and $160 to take it, and it did not go as well as I’d hoped. I spent the next five months preparing my graduate school admission materials – stalking teachers for letters of recommendation, writing a statement of purpose and a personal history statement, speaking to professors in the program. I applied in early October to one school and banked my hopes on it, knowing that the chances were slim and that I had other options if I didn’t get in, but living life as if I would.

I didn’t get in.

This is another in a long line of failed dreams. It’s really frustrating to watch everyone around me get everything I’ve worked so hard for so easily – and in less time than I spend. I don’t know why I can’t seem to break out of the rut I’m in, but each time I get a rejection of this magnitude, or each time I start a new career path, I have to create a new path on my blank slate. This week I don’t have a list of truths, just this one:

1. I’m tired of rebuilding my blank slate, but I WILL color it in someday.

I’m thinking about reapplying next year, but it’s not my priority. My priority is to change my toxic environment. My priority is to accept that I don’t know if I have truly long-term goals, but I have long-term skills and that’s enough for now. My priority is to bring enjoyment back into my life instead of bringing in more stress. My priority is to get out of my depression. We’ll see where life goes from there.

When have you had to rebuild your dreams? What is your current life priority?

Since the weather is so horrible outside, I thought that I would post an uplifting song today. I enjoy some classical music – this song is my favorite classical piece and always brightens my mood. Enjoy!

Debussy “Arabesque”

You may recall that I talked about the Happiness Project in a previous post – today’s newsletter asked the questions, “Whom do I envy? Why?” That question brings up a lot of thoughts for me. Let’s face it, we all envy something about someone. I’m not ashamed to admit that I envy a lot about other people. I want to be skinny, have money, be able to travel around the world, work in a job where it’s more like play than work, have a perfect relationship, see my boyfriend whenever I want, live where I want, own hundreds of pairs of shoes.

Photo: DramyJohnson

I could probably go on for much longer, but the point isn’t what you envy, the point is why do you envy people for these things? Generally, people want what they don’t have or haven’t had – for example, I’ve never been near affluent, so I see the ease of having money and it makes me wish I had that ease. In some cases, such as with body image, it relates back to self-esteem – if we had more self-confidence, it wouldn’t matter as much what we look like. Sometimes all we need to break ourselves out of the pity party is realizing that no one has the perfect situation. What may look like an ideal relationship may be falling apart at the seams, or perhaps a couple does have the perfect relationship but is struggling financially. No one’s life is perfect and everyone’s life has positives.
The goal in asking these questions is that you pinpoint things that make you unhappy and work to avoid them, while trying to better appreciate the good in your life. The next time I start feeling sorry for myself and jealous of what someone else has, I promise that I’ll try to think about the good in my own life.

Whom do you envy and why?

I subscribe to a daily newsletter regarding happiness written by the woman who created The Happiness Project – if you haven’t heard of it, check it out! Today she asked readers the following question: What did you do for fun when you were 10 years old? Since I want to explore happiness and past journeys in my blog, I thought I would share my thoughts on this question. I also want to know: How can I translate that into my current life? In other words, how can I use what made me happy when I was 10 to help make me happy now?

This question required some mental digging. I don’t have the best memory and a lot of my childhood is a little fuzzy in recollection. My parents divorced when I had just turned 9, which means I would have been just starting 5th grade when I turned 10. This was my last year in Rosemount – my mom moved to southern Minnesota for a few months at the end of 5th grade and then we moved up to Lakeville, where I would remain for the rest of my adolescence. During this time, I didn’t have a ton of friends, but I really enjoyed spending time with the friends I had. I would ride my bike over to a friend’s house and stay all afternoon. With one friend, we would play “school” where someone would be the teacher and the other would be the student. With another friend, we’d talk for hours about various things. When I wasn’t hanging out with one of my friends, I would read, watch TV, going on walks, playing with toys – the typical things that kids do.

After much consideration, here are the things I enjoyed then that I could bring into my life now:

  • Biking – Every time I go to Winona (when it’s not abhorrently cold and snowy), I go biking with my boyfriend. I didn’t expect it to bring me as much joy as it does. I’m excited to invest in a really decent hybrid bike for California.
  • Teaching – I brought up that point about playing “school” for a reason – I really enjoy teaching, whether it’s through coaching speech or leading a work project. I love leading a group. I love helping another person learn something new.
  • Reading – When I started feeling depressed on a low level, I stopped reading. I just didn’t find it appealing anymore. I’m now making an attempt to read a few times every week – which is a good thing since I have a stack of books from the library just waiting to be read!
  • Watching TV and movies (on DVD) – I know this is supposedly a bad thing because it’s inactive, but I’m so busy that I really value the time that I get to spend relaxing. Beyond that, I enjoy watching TV shows and movies because I get to experience an entirely new world. Perhaps it’s because I’m a fantasizer, but I absolutely love getting into another world. I wanted to be an actor for that reason – it was a chance to live someone else’s life for a while. I miss that.
  • Playing – This is where I need to find some ways to add these into my life. How do you play when you’re an adult? What constitutes play? I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but I know that some of the ways I try to play are through board games, word puzzles (English major), and going to playgrounds with my boyfriend.

What did you do for fun when you were 10? What can we incorporate into our lives to make them more playful and fun?

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