Are you Happy?: The Catalyst for Change

be happy

Ever since I quit my professional career to facilitate my family’s move to Vermont, I have assumed I would go back to work shortly after settling in.  After a longer than expected settling in period, I figured I’d go back to work part-time, once my youngest was in pre-school. Once she entered kindergarten, I figured I’d get to work.  She’s in third grade now.  I dabble in substitute teaching and occasionally elementary-school-kid-sitting (which is what “mainstream teaching assistant” sub positions feel like to me).

I have friends who have gone back to work full time. I have friends who have gone back to work part-time. I have friends who have never gone back to work and have no plans to.  I have never seen myself in the latter category.  Something has been driving me to be the professional I once was.  But what?

The other day, my sister posted the above image on my FaceBook site with a question asking me and others essentially “is happiness a goal in your life? Something you strive for? Did your parents encourage you to ‘be happy’ ”  It got us both thinking about our childhood and I realized that despite the fact that I am in my, ahem “late forties” and my mother has been dead now 10 years, I still have her little voice inside me pushing me to “be something”.

You see, growing up, Mom was a great believer in her daughters. She would encourage us to work hard, to be leaders, to volunteer so we could  get a job later, to be independent and strong, to be courageous.  She told us repeatedly “you can be ANYthing you want to be.”  She never brought up happiness.  I remember sitting in my sister’s bedroom — she had a huge bedroom with a couch in it so often we’d be hanging out there — and mother drilling me on what I thought I’d want to go to college for.  I dunno.  And in college, the conversation continued and I’d have just enough of the pressure to finally say, “Look Mom, I just want to be happy”.  Maybe because I grew up in a house that lacked its share of happiness. My parents persisted in a marriage “for the kids” for 24 years; my middle sister brought much stress to our family.  Maybe because “happiness” was something I valued over all the others.  I’ve always had a bit of an independent streak.

Was happiness not discussed because it was not considered a goal in and of itself or was it expected to be a natural consequence of hard work, maturity, a good job and civic leadership?  I don’t know.

And so it happened that this thinking of “happiness” occurred on the same day I was negotiating for what seemed to be the perfect part-time job: 25-hours/week, 8:30-2pm, summers off.   The perfect formula.  During the negotiations, however, I realized that kind of schedule doesn’t pay much <sigh> and that being the “church administrator” didn’t strike a passionate enough cause for me to work for just $11,000/year.  All of the sudden, thinking about working for that job made me very UNhappy.  I withdrew my name from consideration.

I realized at that moment that it was time I finally figured out what I wanted to do with myself to make me happy.  Was I really happy?  Yes, I have a loving husband, a good marriage, delightful children, awesome friends, enough money to feed everyone and support a travel hockey player.  What more did I need?  I needed to feel happy; to smile more; to worry less; to cut myself a little slack.  I need to find a way to create more everyday happiness in my life.

Maybe that will lead to a new job.  Maybe it won’t.

But I feel really good about taking a “pause” from the mental pressure to “do something; be something; work; be independent, yadda yadda yadda” long enough for me to be mindful about creating happiness around me.

I don’t believe happiness is just a by-product.  I believe it can also be the objective.  And I believe that as I work to create this around me, I will better see my path in life.


Pig-Headed Do-Gooder Sports

“You are the volunteer of last resort” my husband chided me this weekend. I’m just not sure how to take that!?  The truth is, I am reliable and I commit cautiously, but fully.  Those qualities make me a perfect glutton for punishment. And in the world of parent-volunteerism, there’s plenty of punishment to be had.

What makes matters worse, however, is that I have two other qualities that delude me in my volunteerism: “do-gooder” and “pig-headed”.  Those are the more common names for my qualities. I tend to refer to them as my lofty-dreamy-isms and my love of the sport of running-down-the-slim-odd.

So altogether, you have a girl who believes she can make the world better, is not deterred by the odds, and who will do the dirty work, even if no one else will.  Seriously, I am a cause’s wet-dream! Continue reading

Raging Madness

I write three blogs with varying regularity. I can’t decide which blog is more appropriate for this post: the one about adapting to Vermont, the one about parenting, or the one titled “managing the madness”. This one feels like it should be in the latter, but that one is focused on a different source of madness, and the first, it could go in because it’s got to do with living here, but it’s also about our life, and how it colors our life, as people and as parents. Continue reading

Revelation from TV

My parents always warned us about too much television.  They planted an early seed of fear of technology. That certainly wasn’t the intent. They were worried about our eyesight “don’t sit too close!” or radiation and dumbing our brains.  They’d both be surprised at how far technology has come.

I know this because that was my reaction when i stopped in at BestBuy last week to buy our first flat-screen TV. I’ve since walked in and out twice without a television, but WITH an education.  And then I’ve immersed myself online in more of the latest technology to try to understand everything: Roku, Vudu, streaming HD, blu-ray, interlaced vs. progressive, LED, LCD, etc.

I realized as I watched online videos explaining the technology that this all might make more sense if I had an iPhone, ’cause this TV stuff looks like what I’ve seen on other people’s phones.  I am feeling WWAYY left behind by technology.

After all, I have the now two-year old “free” phone from Verizon.  I don’t text, although I have received them. It has a camera but I don’t see the point w/a crappy phone. I’ve been resisting all this technology stuff because I am trying to be frugal and live a simple life, but DAMN, I realize I NEED to get with it (or my kids will be calling me granny soon).

And then today, I started thinking about how I could help move the needle for a friend’s business.  I HAVE a marketing background. I dabble in social networking for my neighborhood organization. I started imagining how I could create videos of cool stuff he’s doing and write blogs to promote it.  Uh, it would be a LOT easier if I had an iPhone w/camera and uploading / facebooking abilities.  Then I went to the library and looked up blogging to see how I could be really smart about it.

THEN, crazy me, I downloaded information from Champlain College about their web design program. I thought, “hey, I just need to update my skills, fill in a few holes in my interactive toolbox” and then I could really start something big for my friend…and maybe others.

This is the coolest thing. I was feeling PUMPED about my future for the first time in forever (ok, since I joined the present).  And THEN, the phone rang and it was Champlain College calling to follow-up on my interest. And when I told him my story, he said, “I’ve got an idea for you, think about it and let’s talk”.

Now I have a tendency to put the cart before the horse when it comes to my excitement, like I already looked at office space (online) and imagine my whole marketing plan! Way out of order. What matters is that I’m PUMPED.

The FIRST thing I want to do is go to BestBuy and just buy that G-D TV and stop being afraid of new technology.  The SECOND thing I’m going to do is update my phone.  And yes, this is all going to cost us more money. But it also might help us MAKE more money.

Go Figure!