happiness

My favorite things: nature

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Sharing an heirloom variety nasturtium flower from my vegetable garden with my granddaughter brought me great joy!

As far back as I can remember I have been curious about nature, both flora and fauna.

Behind our little house in South Miami, when I was in junior high, I had a container garden. I had taken an old picnic table bench, a few pots, and soil from the area around our banana trees in the backyard.

I grew tropical plants, but also cultivated bonsai.

In our front yard, we had a huge ficus tree. One of my favorite things when I was between 8 and 13 was to climb among the tree’s dense foliage and hide. I loved looking down upon my family members knowing that they couldn’t find me.

But it was mostly the shade and cool leaves that refreshed my tired and stressed soul. This tree fed me in ways that food couldn’t.

 

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When I was in my 20s, we moved to the Texas Hill Country. I learned to enjoy day hikes and fishing. I loved to pitch my tent in one of Texas’ amazing state parks and sleep among the live oaks, cedar and hunting, scavenging amardillos.

When I was in my 30s I purchased my first digital camera. While I captured my children playing, climbing, jumping and celebrating holidays and birthdays, I as often pointed my camera at my garden plants, the plant life I encountered in my yard and on neighborhood walks, and the occasional egret, pelican and seagull (because we were living in St. Petersburg, Florida).

Many, many years later, I landed in Connecticut where I am still (but only until this summer where I will join my heart which I left in Texas in 1992).

Connecticut is beautiful.

I remember clearly the moment in October 1999 when we reached the state of Connecticut with a minivan full of kids, a cat, and our suitcases. I declared  that the whole state is like a park.

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My years here, though painful in many ways, have given me access to a level of nature I had never known before, especially when we moved to a small town to live on a few acres of land in the woods.

After becoming sick with Lyme disease and not recovering, I was reminded that nature could be cruel.

What I had once loved became frightening for me as I was reinfected with Lyme disease multiple times.

One day I just decided that I was going to go outside and walk in the grass again. I had hidden from nature for years  out of fear of reinfection.

I decided to grow a vegetable garden again. I planted some ornamental plants in the flower beds and began to spread wildflower seeds from plants that popped up around the property.

And I photographed it all.

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Yes, I found deer ticks on me, but I was sick already. So what?

My time in the garden fed my soul.

I took walks on many of the hike and bike trails in nearby towns.

My body ached, but my soul was nourished.

And I knew that no matter what happens in life, I must never again stay away from nature, because it is definitely one of my favorite things.

 

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My favorite things: evening out with sons

On December 15th, I told my sons, 23, 20 and 16, that on Friday the 17th I would like to take them out to eat and then go Christmas shopping together.

On a normal day, I am lucky to get a grunt in response to questions and, if I am especially fortunate, eye contact.

Following my announcement, I got eye contact, verbal affirmation that it was a great idea, and a promise to be available.

It took a little bit of coordination to include my 20-year-old because he worked in Rocky Hill at the time, the opposite direction from where we typically shop and eat out.

Three of us headed to Waterford at 3 p.m. to get ahead of the Friday evening Christmas  horde. My 23-year-old was in contact, via text, with his younger brother letting him know where we were as we shopped.

We visited Books-a-Million first (great place to find interesting, unusual gifts) and Best Buy next, where my tall 20-year-old caught up with us. I saw him out of the corner of my eye and immediately smiled.

We were together.

We talked with a salesperson for a bit about the differences between XBox One, Playstation 4, Playstation Pro and Nintendo’s new gaming console that will release in a few months, then spent a few minutes looking at PC gaming peripherals.

I bought a hard drive docking station so I can access my collection of old hard drives. We headed to Buffalo Wild Wings for an early dinner.

It was approximately 5 p.m. when we arrived at a very loud restaurant, from the music, not people talking; the place was practically empty. I asked the host if there were any quiet tables. Thankfully, there was a side room where music was not piped in where it was bearable. I was there to spend time with my sons, not listen to bad music.

Since it was the first time for two of us, it took us quite awhile to figure out how the menu worked. It is unnecessarily complicated. Seriously.

We ordered three appetizers and drinks. I had to hit the ladies’ room, so I asked my 23-year-old to order me something dark or amber from the menu. He knows what I like.

When I returned, it was only a few minutes before my delicious amber ale arrived.  Yum.

The best part of the evening was that I was sitting with my sons around a table with fun, tasty, high-calorie food at hand. I didn’t cook any of it, and we shared everything. Stuffed mushrooms, fried mozzarella, spinach artichoke dip–we were all reaching over one another to taste everything, sharing dips, passing baskets and chattering away about unimportant, nonserious topics. We were all happy.

We were together away from a chronically messy house, distracting technology, and work.

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My three sons with me at the mall.

After dinner, we hit Bed, Bath & Beyond. We spent at least 10 minutes in the coffee making appliance department where I was looking for a stainless steel carafe (they had one kind only — ONE). I bought some replacement stoppers for my wine keeper system, got a wonderful massage in one of their display chairs, and enjoyed time with my sons.

Next, we walked all the way to the other end of the mall to check out what fun stuff FYE had in stock.

At my 23-year-old’s recommendation, I picked up Kubo and the Two Strings. Wow, what a wonderful movie!

We looked at all of the licensed merchandise, discussing which TV shows, games and movies were successes and which were failures.

Blu-ray in hand, we left the store.

And suddenly, everyone was exhausted. We are a family of introverts. Four stores, two in the mall, and over an hour at a loud restaurant had worn us out. We headed home.

Several times during the evening, I thought to myself that this might be the last time I go Christmas shopping with these three sons. My two oldest sons and daughter weren’t there because they have very busy lives and two of them live 1,800 miles away.

I enjoyed that evening while it happened and will treasure the memory the rest of my life.

Spending time with my grown kids is definitely one of my favorite things.

My favorite things

I have been singing “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music all morning.

 

When I became a mother I believed that my children had to come first, no matter the cost to myself. For awhile this devotion made me happy.

I bought into the motherhood = martyrdom myth.

I have since dismissed this particular concept and replaced it with one that is much healthier.

I believe in the importance of my own happiness and its pursuit. And the hard truth is that no one else is going to make me happy.

Although I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, I have decided to make the focus of 2017 my own happiness.

This is not the same as discovering what causes unhappiness.

This is a much more positive focus.

What makes me happy? Is it stuff, experiences, choices or money?

What do I need to do or not do to be happy? Is it an active pursuit or merely learning to appreciate what I have?

I will try to share something at least once a week as I make discoveries. I would love to hear what you do to make yourself happy, too.

What will make you happy?

Sharing an heirloom variety nasturtium flower from my vegetable garden with my granddaughter brought me great joy!

Sharing an heirloom variety nasturtium flower from my vegetable garden with my granddaughter brought me great joy!

My daughter is in town for two weddings. One has occurred, the vows spoken, the first dance danced, and the couple away on their new life. The other is this weekend.

In a quiet moment, I asked my daughter if she was happy. I was sad at the response I got but we talked about what to do to pursue that happiness.

Women have been slaves to the institution of marriage and family for thousands of years. The biggest change that has occurred in the past century is that women can examine their lives and ask themselves, or let someone else ask them, if they are happy.

If the answer is in the negative, women have the power and opportunity to change the course of their lives in pursuit of happiness.

There is nothing selfish or ugly about asking yourself if you are happy. If you are, wonderful! If you are doing exactly what you want to be doing, or are content being where you are, excellent!

But, if you are not sure, if you are feeling discontented, unhappy, or are in an abusive situation, it is time to ask the question and then honestly evaluate the answer.

I will not say that women have a right to be happy. We all know that is a pipe dream. Happiness is a fleeting feeling, one that eludes most of us most of the time. Yet, if we are not happy, women have the right to pursue happiness just like our beloved Founding Fathers expressed in the Declaration of Independence. They were so forward thinking that they didn’t even realize that that document included women and minorities. But it did. Just like the Bible speaking to and of man means mankind, male and female, equally.

Women are masters at martyrdom. We know how to suck it up, do what’s right, and meet needs right and left. We care for others, put the needs of others before our own, and neglect ourselves in droves. We are so good at it that we don’t even realize that we are unhappy.

What makes me happy? College makes me happy. Spending time with my kids helping them find their voices makes me happy. Nature photography and gardening make me happy. Having control over my own life makes me very, very happy. So I focus on those things. They are all challenging, which is a big part of the happiness factor in them. I paid a high price for the right and ability to engage in these activities. It was well worth it.

What makes you happy?

But what if you’re wrong?

About what?

Of course I’m wrong about a lot of things.  I am probably wrong about most things.  Most people are.  That is the key here.  Most people are wrong.

Humans have an extremely limited ability to see.  Anything.

I am very human.  I will always be very human.

People who know me know that I am kind, but sometimes mean.  They know that I am generally well-mannered and polite, except when I am rude.  I am honest to a fault, except when I feel the need to hide (though I still don’t lie — I just hide myself away for a time until it is safe to come out).   People who know me know that I am strange, different, just not quite right, enigmatic (I’ve been told).

One thing that I have discovered about myself is that although I want to be loved, want loads of approval and attention, desire to be adored by someone, anyone, I will not stop being me.  I tried that and it didn’t work.  I got completely lost.  I am finding my way again.

So what if I’m wrong? I will continue to project myself onto the world.  I might hide parts of myself away to keep them safe, the most fragile and delicate parts of me, but I will use my voice because I must.  I am compelled by something deep down, something primal maybe, to speak out, to be present, to not be silent.

I will not be afraid.  I will feel fear and concern, be insecure and doubtful, wonder whether I am just delusional, but I will not be afraid to speak.  Someone has to speak.  Women must speak.

In my on-campus classes (I take  online classes, too), one common behavior I witness is (are) the soft, quiet, tentative voices of female students.  The guys speak up, loud and clear, tend to overwhelm classroom discussions, but only a handful of women speak out, and when they do they can barely be heard.  If one of them is sitting next to me or in front of me or behind me, I tell her to speak up, use her voice, don’t be afraid to be wrong; speak up and be heard.

So I write.  I speak.

I most certainly am wrong.  I see life and the world through my own clouded filters.  So does everyone else.  That’s the key here:  everyone sees the world through clouded, cracked, oftentimes dark glasses.  I love when the glasses I put on some days are beautifully clear and bright.  I love that!  But it isn’t always that way, and that is okay.

People who know me know that I fall down a lot (sometimes literally) but I always get up and find something to look forward to.  Every single day.  For those who have only met me through this blog, my other current blog is entitled, “Serendipity:  Life is a Garden.”  Such a contrast, I know, to this blog.  I have lived by the premise that life is full of serendipity and that life is a garden, sometimes quiet and seemingly dead while it is merely resting, waiting for sunlight and warm temperatures to wake it up and give it new life.  Life is beautiful, magical, delightful, amazing.  It is other, not-so-nice things, too.  We can’t just ignore the ugliness of life, just focusing on the nice stuff.  But we cannot live stuck in the muck of ugliness, either.  We must be able to wade out of the muck, make it to shore, wash off and dance, at least sometimes.  I want to dance.

My other blog: such a contrast

My other blog: such a contrast

I might be completely wrong about Christianity and religious leaders and men who think they are in charge because God said they are.  I might be.  That’s okay.  I am just speaking up and being heard.  I am not afraid to be told that I am wrong (I have been told that my entire life — I can’t ALWAYS be wrong, right?).  I am writing my way through life, and that’s the bottom line.  I write to be heard, to express parts of myself that otherwise would stay completely hidden.  If I’m wrong, so be it.

But what if I’m right?