Monday, March 11, 2013

A Happy Life

I am always amazed that when you put something out there in the universe, you see it come back to you in so many different ways. As I have begun my happiness challenge, the idea of happiness seems to be everywhere. My friend shared this great blog the other day that sure enough is all about happiness. It's a great blog, where the author pretty much shares that happiness is not her goal for her children. She goes on to say that she hopes they find their purpose. When she became a mom, she found her purpose which in turn has made her happy. Hmmm... I hope you read it (after mine of course), its a great blog -

It's not that I don't agree with her, but I think it's more a difference of definition. The first definition I found of "happy" was "Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment." This is probably the definition that most people think of when they talk about being happy. It is impossible to be happy (as defined here) all the time. I know that, most people know that. Some days are good days, some days aren't. Sometimes it's minute to minute. But the second definition I found, "Having a sense of confidence in or satisfaction with (a person, arrangement, or situation)"is much more on target for me. When I end the sentence with "myself or my life as a whole," I think that happiness is a perfect goal.

I was so very lucky to grow up with two very loving parents. And I would definitely say that my childhood was happy. Was is carefree? No. Was it conflict free? Nope. Did I get everything I wanted? Not even close. There were times when my parents fought, times when money was tight and  my friends could afford things we couldn't and times of self-doubt. But I was raised to be strong and true to myself and I know that this is why I have been lucky enough to be happy in my life no matter what unexpected things are thrown at me.

The truth is that life will not always be easy. In fact, the good things are usually a lot of hard work. I wasn't always happy putting in the hard work I needed to do to achieve my goals, but I was overjoyed when it finally paid off. I also truly believe that while we can't always choose what happens to us in life, we can choose how we are going to react. We can make lemonade or we can pout in a corner. Happiness is a journey, it is a state of mind and it is a choice.

So do I want my kids to be happy? You bet. I want them to believe that with hard work they can achieve anything. I want them to have faith in themselves and know how wonderful they are. I want them to see that even in the hardest of times, you can find happiness if you look hard enough.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

30 Days to Being Happier - My Rough Start

Okay, so I have two days of "being happier" behind me now and I have to admit they were terrible failures. My hypothesis was, that by acting happier myself, my family would in turn be happier which would make me truly happier (and not just pretending to be happy) - kind of like "fake it til you make it." Apparently, my husband and kids did not get the memo.

I am pretty sure that happiness might be elusive while you have a 5 year old and a 12 (almost 13) year old living at your house. And if you are one of those woman who say, "love and appreciate them now because they will grow up so fast and you will miss them when they are gone," then I call bullshit. Honestly, you are either completely delusional or you have a full time nanny. Besides, who said they would ever be gone? Seriously, ask my parents - they probably see us more now than when we were in high school and I guarantee they like us more now anyway.

I will admit that I did yell less. But this was simply an act of will. Yesterday afternoon I remember chanting the words, "I will not yell, I will not yell..." over and over under my breath as I walked up the stairs for the tenth time to break up the kids fighting because the little one was "being annoying" while the older one played video games online with his friends. Sure, I could have turned the video games off but that would make my life way more difficult and so I trudged through. I did a little better at bedtime as well, simply leaving the room when my five year old pretended to fight zombies instead of rolling over to go to sleep. The temper tantrum that ensued when I walked out was the same had I yelled however, so not sure who won that round.

I tried really hard with my husband too, overlooking the fact that our darling son was still awake when I got home from my Jr. Women's Club meeting at 9:30 pm as well as unbathed. That turned around to bite me in the ass however, because apparently you have to actually let this stuff go instead of just suppressing it which leads to an angry explosion 24 hours later and tends to make things worse.

As I am having a hard time finding success on my own, I decided to reach out to the ever accessible world on the internet looking for some direction or inspiration. I remember hearing about a 'better wife challenge' at some point and so that is where I decided to start. If you are interested it's called "Loving Him Well" and its quite honestly the biggest load of crap I have ever heard of. It's all about finding out what your husband needs from his wife and being all that - I am pretty sure you had to check your self-esteem and self-worth at the door and turn into his perfect Stefford Wife. No thanks, keep looking...

Then I found a pretty great blog, that had both a 'Be a better spouse challenge' and a 'Be a better parent challenge.' These seemed pretty easy to follow and not too self-deprecating and so I figured I could follow along. My assignment for the first two days with my spouse was to Let Bygones be Bygones (meaning leave the past in the past and not keep bringing it up year after year) and To Accept Them For Who They Are (pretty self-explanatory). I think after our fight yesterday, I pretty much bombed on both. These should be so easy in theory but god are they hard. I will be the first to admit that I want both of these things in return, so why can't I offer my husband the same respect? Clearly, I have some work to do...

On the parenting front, my assignment for day one was "Being present for my kids." I have known for some time that this was an issue for me so I have been trying to work on this one. Basically, the dishes can wait 5 minutes to listen to your kids or even just to snuggle. I swear I have OCD when it comes to a clean house, but I have to remind myself constantly that in the long run that is not as important as my kids. Not to mention that I am constantly reminded of a saying, "Cleaning with kids in the house is like trying to brush your teeth while eating oreos." This is a work in progress for me but a great reminder. It also gives me a chance to take a break, slow down and smile and snuggle which is a great way to be good to myself at the same time. I will need to remember to this much more often.

Day two on the parenting front challenges me to "Punish without anger." Again, this is one of my own goals as well, goes hand in hand with the less yelling thing. This is definitely easier with my five year old because when we count down from 5 to 1, he is usually doing what we asked him to do (or not to do) by the time we get to 1. Although he has begun throwing tantrums lately and his own anger has been getting the best of him. I find hugging and kissing with him as well as refocusing his attention is usually enough. But the tween, that is another story. It's like a test of will with him and an all out battle to see who can hold out longest and be most stubborn. Too bad for him that I have a lot of practice being stubborn and there ain't no way I am giving in. Unfortunately for both of us, this leads to some pretty nasty fights. And it is super hard to punish him because no matter what I say I am going to take away, he turns around and says, "Go ahead, I don't care." And honestly, grounding him is much more of a punishment for me. I truly believe we all benefit from him going to hang out at a friend's house. Typically when the kids misbehave it does make me angry so this is a really hard challenge...

I am trying through all of this to do things each day that make me happy too, like take a bath or get my nails done. Oh yeah, and wine - that has been very helpful :-)

Stay tuned for day three...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Can You Be Happier in 30 Days?

Lately life has been challenging over here to say the least. For the last 60 days I feel like I have been living in survival mode. I haven't given much thought to the food we ate, cleaning the house or anything above just getting through the day or the week. Now that things have settled a bit (BIG THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED ME THROUGH), I realize that I also didn't put much effort into making sure my family or myself was happy. In fact, happiness seems to be one of those things that we tend to think a lot about in theory but not really try to put into action on a daily basis. For example, if I had X then I would be happy. Or we say (mostly in frustration because our kids are fighting) "I just want everyone to be happy!" And in the long run I know most parents have the goal of your children growing up happy. But what does that really mean? And what will really make you or them happy?

This past weekend was "one of those days" (or many in a row) where I was just angry. No one in my family could do anything right and most things I might normally look the other way about, I would scream and yell and roll my eyes. I might have been a bit hormonal, but I will never actually admit that and god forbid if my husband suggested it. When the angry haze cleared I realized a couple things that put life in perspective.

First - I was playing the victim. This one struck me pretty hard especially because over the last 2 months I refused to be the victim. I was a strong warrior who could push through anything or anyone to make things happen for the ones I loved. Maybe I was tired of being strong, everyone has their breaking point. But I am not a victim and I don't want to be. I have to stop blaming everyone for everything. I will, I promise.

Second - I was making things worse. This was also especially hard to swallow. One of my goals in life is to make things better for my family, not make it worse. No one wants to be yelled at. My husband doesn't want it, my kids don't want and I don't want anyone to yell at me either. In fact, yelling is the perfect way to guarantee that no one will listen to you. This one is hard. I try not to yell, I really do. But after you have asked like 10 times, yelling seems to be the only solution. But it always makes everyone feel worse, including myself. Therefore, I will stop yelling (I would say I will try, but as I tell my kids 10 times a day, "there is no try, only do.").

Third - How could I expect perfection from everyone else, when I wasn't giving it? Now I know that no one is perfect so I guess I need to let go of my expectation of perfection from everyone. What I guess I mean is that I cannot expect my family to speak nice to each other if I do not speak nice to them. Which has led to my personal challenge for the next 30 days...

I hereby pledge, that I will take on the Be A Better Person Challenge for the next 30 days. Anyone with me? This will mean different things to different people. I plan on looking at 3 separate yet equal facets of my life - my husband, my children and myself - and do something everyday to be a better wife, mother and self. This is not going to be easy, but I am hoping that if leading by example will encourage my family to be better as well. Wish me luck!