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What's Making You Happy?

Happiness is contagious.

I listen to quite a few podcasts, though some more regularly than others. The Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcast has a regular feature called "What's Making You Happy" where the panelists talk about what in pop culture (typically, sometimes it's personal) is making them happy during a given week. I was thinking about that today when a link to a blog post I wrote on happiness last year popped up in my TimeHop App. (Timehop is an app that reminds what you said on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, and can also comb your past photos for photos you posted on social media sites.) Here's an excerpt of what I said then: WE OFTEN THINK ABOUT HAPPINESS AS A KIND OF GOAL, SOMETHING TO ATTAIN IF WE DO ENOUGH X OR Y OR Z AND THAT ONCE WE ACHIEVE IT, THAT’S SOMEHOW ENOUGH. BUT HAPPINESS IS A STATE OF BEING, A FEELING, AN ENERGY, ONE YOU CAN PROJECT OUT INTO THE WORLD. I OFTEN WEAR A BRACELET THAT HAS “HAPPINESS IS CONTAGIOUS” STAMPED ON IT AS A REMINDER THAT IT MATTERS HOW I BEGIN MY DAY. IT MATTERS THAT I WANT TO BE KIND, THAT I TREAT PEOPLE I MEET WITH POSITIVE ENERGY.

These weeks have been challenging as I readjust to the hectic pace of a new semester, as I try to get to know my students and let them know me. Today was humid. I was sticky with sweat from walking across campus. I gulped water like I was desperate for it. And even with that discomfort, I loved being in the classroom, loved offering students a piece of what I know, loved asking them to challenge their notions of what it means to compose. Not for the first time, I felt so incredibly lucky for the work I do.

Here are some other things making me happy lately:

Zumba. I am awkward. I sweat profusely, embarrassingly so. I have no rhythm to speak of and yet I'm drawn to the energy of Zumba classes. I  try to take a class at least 3 times a week if I can. It doesn't bother me that I don't always get the steps right, or that things move quickly and sometimes it takes me a few beats to catch on. I still love it.

My August Playlist. I keep wondering if I'm going to get tired of the same songs but instead they've become this great soundtrack to my days.

Trail Mix. I'm a little crazy over Salted Caramel Craze Trail Mix from Kroger right now. It's the perfect amount of sweetness when I'm craving it. Also, more than a handful or two and I feel a bit overwhelmed so it helps me from overindulging.

It's September!  I love Fall as a season, the crispness of the air, the way the leaves change around here. I have some awesome plans this month to hang out with friends. Also, it's football season! Finally. (Poor M, she doesn't enjoy football or the fact that I play fantasy so she has to watch more than one game). But I also love September because my shows come back on in a few weeks. I'm mostly excited for Elementary, despite the way last season's finale broke my heart. I want to know what's going to happen. I want to meet Sherlock's dad. I need things to get better.

My students asked me about my favorite books and then took notes as I talked about them. I hope some of them end up reading some of the work I mentioned.

Tejava. I just discovered this micro-brewed tea and it's incredible. I may have to go get a few more bottles while they are on sale.

What's making YOU happy this week?

a few more random things

I saw this on Lindsey's blog. Of course! We share a joy of the small details of life, of personalities, favorites. Inspired by her answers, I thought I'd share my own responses. (Slightly edited to reflect where I am right now). Go-to weeknight recipe?

Hmmm... right now Mediterranean Turkey Loaves because they're easy, tasty and great for leftovers. My go-to crockpot recipe is probably chicken tikka because it makes so much food and you can eat it for days until it gets too spicy and you have to add some yogurt to cool it down.

First job?

My first job ever (besides babysitting) was working the desk and cleaning at a tanning salon in a small town where I lived. I was paid under the table each week and one day my keys wouldn't open the door. After we moved from that town, I worked at a dancewear store fitting toe shoes, ballet, jazz and tap shoes as well as selling all dance and gymnastic-related clothing and gear. It was a great after-school job with a proper paycheck and everything. My first professional-in-my career type job was as a writing center tutor during my Master's program.

Inspiration?

I'm inspired by the women in my family who held jobs when many women didn't, who taught me to tell stories, to stand up for what I believed, who seemed larger than life, strong and funny, clever and warm.

Hometown?

That's an interesting question because I moved throughout my childhood. I consider Mobile, Alabama where I visited family, and where I went to undergrad and grad school my home.

What would you put on your neon sign?

Live fully. Love deeply.

Wouldn’t leave home without?

My phone. Lip balm. Headphones. A bottle of water. A sense of adventure.

Essential beauty products?

Lip balm.  Sunscreen. Sea salt spray.

Wouldn’t fly without?

Xanax. My ipad. Headphones. A protein bar.

Things you buy in bulk?

Black Bean burgers. Toilet paper. Quest bars.

Favorite book?

Novels: Frankenstein, The Hours, The Awakening, Never Let Me Go, The Unbearable Lightness of Being  Poetry: Last Night on Earth Poems (Bukowski), anything by Nikki Giovanni, Adrienne Rich, David Lehman, Philip Levine Non-fiction: The Prince of Frogtown (Rick Bragg), Object Lessons (Eavan Boland), anything by Susan Sontag or Joan Didion

First celebrity crush?

also my first girl crush, Alyssa Milano circa Who's the Boss

Favorite movie?

The Big Lewbowski 

People on speed dial?

I don't have a speed dial but I do have a favorites list on my phone, which means even if I'm in do not disturb mode, the call comes through. My wife, my mother, my brother and sister-in-law, are on this list

Preferred form of exercise?

Zumba. Rowing. Biking.

Drink of choice?

Iced tea

Best moment this year?

being at MythAirport with old and new friends

Perfect Sunday?

A bike ride on a day that isn't too hot, followed by brunch at our favorite spot, playing a board game with friends, getting fro-yo and enjoying each other's company

Currently, August 2015
Pretty much what I wore all summer

Weather: after an intense rainstorm, yesterday was beautiful and today is shaping up to be pleasant. It's still quite warm, but next week is supposed to be in the high 70's rather than the high 80's so I'm looking forward to a bit of a break from sweating so much.

Eating:  I've been exploring a variety of recipes, one for a version of pork Banh Mi sandwiches I will share with you soon. What makes the sandwich that much better is the pickled pineapple topping. I love pineapple and I've been eating a lot of it this summer.

Drinking: Sparkling Raspberry Iced Tea, and occasionally peach. M bought one of these for me to try and I really liked it. It has a bit of carbonation which I find refreshing but it has more flavor than sparkling flavored water. And it's only 70 calories so I can allow that for a treat. :)

Wearing:  2 pants sizes smaller! An amazing thing happened when I returned to Oxford. I was able to get into my smaller pants and shirts sizes.  So, while I will still wear workout gear (pictured above), I now have more choices than one pair of black pants. For some reason, I have like 5 different pairs of black dress pants in the smaller size. I've reclaimed my wardrobe! Now, I need to get organized so I can see everything I have.

Reading: I feel a little burned out on my reading choices lately. I've been reading some YA stuff and quick thrillers, murder mysteries. I'm waiting for something to capture my attention the way Station Eleven did at the beginning of the summer and so far, I've not found it. Recommendations welcome.

Watching: I haven't been watching much recently. I keep up with SYTYCD but that's about it. Football season will start soon and then I'll be actually watching TV instead of Hulu or Netflix.

Listening: I haven't completely given up my Summer Playlist but I've been listening to some other stuff recently as part of August's playlist. Handsome Ghost has become one of my favorites. I'm particularly enamored with "Weight of It All" which doesn't yet have a video but you can listen to it here. Such a damn good song. "Roads to oceans let's retrace the moments I had half erased; I'm going to be better."

I'm also digging Oh Wonder, who is putting out a song a month for a year. I like "Dazzle" and "Drive" and I can't wait for the entire album.

Here's "Dazzle"

I'm also intrigued by Coleman Hell's "2 Heads". The video is a bit weird but the song is cool.

Feeling: a tad anxious about the start of the semester but I figure the wrinkles of the first week will work themselves out

Anticipating: a full calendar but one with fun agendas, too

Enjoying: the last few days before the semester kicks off, sleeping without an alarm set

Preparing: course materials and schedules; also trying to mentally prepare for the pace the new semester will bring

Exploring: ways to optimize my energy, a new slate of fitness classes at the rec

random, and no longer secret things about me

Since my little wordpress meters tell me I have some new blog readers and because it's the ending of my summer and I'm feeling overwhelmed by my calendar and to-do list, which of course I thought I'd have more time to accomplish, I decided to repost some of my previous posts that I really love or ones that I thought might help new readers get to know me. This is a post from two summers ago, June 2013. And has been updated to reflect current truths.

1. I read something about my Aquarian self every day. Sometimes this means reading my twittascope, which I highly recommend, by the way. But sometimes it means going deeper, reading detailed horoscopes or profiles.

2. I believe we are complex arrangements of where we have been, who we have met, things we have seen, lessons we learn, and things we want to do and see.

3. I have never seen the film Citizen Kane. I have seen parts of it, but never watched the whole thing from start to finish.

4. The only Jane Austen book I have finished is Sanditon and that was for a class I took in my Master’s program. I just can’t get into it. Also, not a big fan of Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, though I did finish it.

5. I desperately want to go to Ireland.

6. I think sheep are really cool. (Though that isn’t why I want to go to Ireland).

7. I find it fascinating how we, as humans, adapt to situations, locales, routines. I found my old journals from when I was in England and it struck me how everything seems so amazing when you visit somewhere, the whole tourist on vacation thing, but when you begin a kind of daily life in a place, it becomes something else. That transition can be challenging.

8. Which reminds me that being mindful is a practice. We have to practice awareness of the cool and great things in our lives every day. Sure, sometimes it feels like it’s easier when there are actual castles and historic sites and things we’ve never seen before, but appreciating what you have and where you are is important, too.

9. I have a secret desire to attend small town festivals.

10. Sometimes when I’m having a really tough or crappy day, I think, “Well, at least I’m not living in theSupernatural/Lost Girl/Buffy universe, fighting some kind of weird demon/fae/vampire or trying to prevent the impending apocalypse.”

11. I didn’t drink coffee regularly until I was in my mid-twenties and in my Master’s program. Now, I can’t survive without at least one cup a day.  (This could also be because I gave up soda a year ago, but still need the caffeine).

12. I have been blogging, in some form, for over a decade.

13. Even though it is a completely manufactured and unreal flavor, I love blue-raspberry.

14. I oscillate between the fear of missing out on things and the desire to relax at home.

15. I have no interest in sky-diving. Ever.

16. I do, however, want to zip line, but somewhere cool. And also safe-ish. Maybe. I'm rethinking this now.

17. I'm always building a soundtrack or playlist in my head. 

18. I'ma  bit of a music snob. 

19. If I could play any instrument it would be the harmonica. Or spoons. Both of which fit in your pocket.

20. When I finished reading, Never Let Me Go  by Kazuo Ishiguro, I was really sad because I would never be able to read it for the first time again. I also felt that way about The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. (Please do not see either film before you read the books, if you are interested. In fact skip Never Let Me Go’s film altogether).

21. I like to talk through my ideas, and I thrive off of conversation, connection, collaboration.

22. But I recharge like an introvert, alone and in the quiet.

23. I adore handwriting, though I think my own is terrible. I love handwritten notes, cards, fonts that look like handwriting.

24. If I were to go back to school or undertake serious study in something, I would want to study the brain, maybe neuroscience.

25. I smile a lot. Though I can be way too serious for my own good, little things make me happy, so I smile. I don't always notice I am smiling until someone smiles back or I see my own reflection.

26. I love watching TV series, marathon-style, over weeks and months at a time. I have a Gilmore Girlsmarathon every year, usually in the Summer. I have also watched the entirety of Sex and the City more than once, though I exclude the films. I’ve seen every episode (except the newest season) of Supernatural at least 4 times if not more. I own all 3 of those series but have watched a lot of other series, including LOST on Netflix.

27. Every time I lock the door, I do a silly dance so that when I am anxious, later, about whether I locked the door, I can say to myself, “Remember, you did that silly dance?”  (I read about the benefits of doing these kinds of things to stave off anxiety, but can’t remember where).

28. The sound of a key turning in a lock kind of scares me. I don’t know if it’s the anticipation or if I’ve seen one too many horror films. Even when I open my own door, I hate the sound of metal against the lock.

29. Actually, I am not a fan of the sound of metal, in any form, crashing, clanging, or even magnets against metal. There must be some pitch it hits that bothers me.

30. Sometimes I wish time travel were possible, so I could send a letter to myself through time and it would say, “Chill the f’ out.” And also, “You are amazing. You could have so much happiness if you could believe that.” And definitely, “It’s going to be okay.”

31. I have dreamt in black and white, and in French. It wasn’t the same dream, thankfully. I have also had a dream narrated by Bill Kurtis (a CBS news anchorman and also narrator of Cold Case Files and other similar shows). It was a really weird dream, obviously, and involved zombies and fire. ( I almost wrote immolation instead of fire, and then wondered if that was the correct word so I looked it up, in an actual dictionary, and it wasn’t exactly so I left it at fire).

32. I am a terrible singer. And tone deaf.

33. I get nervous on the first day of class every semester, every class. It’s also one of my favorite days, when everything is new and you have a blank slate, especially in freshmen classes.

34. I have a school supply/office supply fetish. Post-it notes and pens. Blank journals!

35. I hate when people ask me my favorite book/song/movie of all time. I cannot choose. I don't like to choose. There's way too much pressure. Although most of the time, I say Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.