Happiness Is The Best Revenge

One of my favorite HGTV personalities, Candace Olsen, once said, "You know what they say, 'You can never be too rich, too skinny, or have too many pillows.'"  Well said, Candace.  Well said.

And although she said it well, I actually don't believe a word of it.  I know some filthy rich people, and they've got boatloads of problems, just like the rest of us.  Sometimes they're not the same problems I've got, but they're problems none the less, and they're not problems I want.  So the 'too rich' part doesn't really pan out for me, because rich or poor, everybody's got problems, and clearly, money won't solve them.

The 'too skinny' part doesn't wash with me either.  Too skinny is just naysty.  Sometimes, I think maybe some people should throw in a sandwich.  Mmmm, openface tuna melt.

Finally, if you've got a bunch of pillows on your bed, it's just the same as having a boatload of stuffed animals.  And, as every parent knows, stuffed animals are like resorts for dust and its living counterpart, dust mites.  Thirty five pillows may look good on your bed, but you're going to have some funky stuff living in your sinuses.  So yes, you actually can have too many pillows.  I'm not a spartan.  I'm practical.

The point of Candace's statement is clear, but the parameters are off.  Her quirky little colloquialism refers to never having too much of the best things in life.  But in my opinion, money, skinniness, and pillows are not the best things in life.  So I propose a new statement.

"You can never be too happy, too healthy, or love too much."

The thing that money can't buy is satisfaction with the way your life is going.  Yeah, there might be some meh moments here or there, but for the most part, when you're living your life in a good, stable place, and you've got the people around you that you want, you're happy.  You can't have too much of that.  That's just good.

Too healthy.  More on this later, but suffice to say, health is the be all and the end all in my world.  Healthy mind, healthy heart, healthy soul.  Strive for it.  Your brain, body, and heart will thank you for it.

Too much love is a blessing.  You cannot love too much.  You cannot be loved too much.  Love is not finite.  The more you give, the more you have to give.  It's like Bill Gate's money - you can't give it away fast enough.

So when times get tough, stop for a moment.  Take a breath.  A big deep breath.  Ask yourself, "What are the best things about my life?"  Do you enjoy gardening or walking, or thrift shopping or working on cars?  Do you have a best friend?  What is your greatest achievement?  Think about the things that you look forward to, or that bring joy while you are doing them.  They're there.  Just look!

Then ask yourself, "In what way am I healthy?"  Do you eat healthy food?  Do you take walks?  Do you have a strong religious connection?  All of that is health, and you have it in you.  Your list can be short or long, but there are many ways in which you are very good to yourself.  Take pride in being good to yourself!

Finally, ask yourself, "In what way do I show love?"  Do you let your spouse sleep when your child wakes up at midnight?  Do you make your wife a cup of tea every morning?  Perhaps you sing your children a lullaby every night, or call your grandmother once a week.  These acts of love are selfless and simple, and they make the people around you feel special.  The trick is, when you make others feel important in your life, you become important in theirs.  Everybody wins!

If you feel like the world is conspiring against you, your best revenge is happiness.  Nobody can beat down a happy person.  Nobody.


This Can't Be Good

You guys.  Seriously.  I can't make this up.

Lexulous Fail.



Ooooh, She's Sassy!

In a word: Sticky

Sometimes, when Life hands you lemons, the best thing to do is to sqeeze all the juice out, make a fresh glass of slightly sour lemonade, throw it in Life's face, and walk away.

Well friends, today I started sqeezing.  I chatted for a while with a friend who advised me to make an action plan of things I'd like to change in my life.  I'm on it, but can't share it.  You never know who's reading (especially because nobody leaves freakin' comments.  Helloooo?)! 

In my world, a dramatic hair chop usually accompanies an equally dramatic life change.  But, I'm really enjoying long hair, especially since my straightening iron and I are having a genuine love affair.  And, my houndstooth fedora looks sasstastic with long hair.  This time, I took a different route.  No short hair needed this time.

Instead of extricating myself from the shackles of long hair, I'm ridding myself of my posessions.  How badly did I really need to keep 20 terra cotta pots?  Not that badly, as I hadn't used them since we moved here.  In 2005.  Gone.  Did I really need to hang on to a box of bike equipment that, even when I was riding, I never used?  Au revoir!  Paring down my posessions feels just as liberating as cutting my hair, and it's much more productive (and lucrative!).  I enjoy eliminating ugly things that people give me, or my kids, that I've kept out of guilt.  

I've found that I like getting rid of stuff.  The notion of owning fewer things lures me because I believe less on the outside leaves more room on the inside.  Giving away things, and selling things, makes room for my spirit to grow.  I feel empowered every time I put something of mine into someone else's hands, as if to say to them, "This is not something I need any more.  You want this more than I need it."  Additionally, I am not replacing these things with anything else.  They are extra physical things that will not hamper me, weight me, contain me, any more.  They are things that have exhausted their use.  I am past them.  I've grown beyond them.  When they are gone, they leave space, both physical and mental.  Giving them away acknowledges that growth.

This is how I've started making my lemonade.  Just as slicing a lemon and squeezing enough juice for a full glass of lemonade involves a little agression and a lot of will, so it will be with the next steps I take.  Life handed me a bucket of lemons.  I'm going to make something delicious and throw it right back.


I'm Blowin' Sunshine Tonight! (You Should Be So Lucky)

I'll start out by pointing out the obvious.  Life is hard.  It's hard for everybody.  Even people who we think have it easy have their own battles raging.  Most of us are just struggling to make it through the day with the bills paid and milk in the fridge.  However, if you are reading this post and are not one of these people, you might have queued up in the wrong line.

Thinking about all the ways we struggle is really easy.  It's frighteningly simple to hang some balloons and streamers and throw yourself a pity party.  But guess what?  Nobody's going to show up because they're all too busy trying to deal with their own stuff.

After a long conversation tonight with my awesome mom, I learned a few things about complaints and self-pity.  I should be so lucky.  My complaints usually surround a blessing that, in my opinion, has gone awry.  Well friends, tonight I'm turning those complaints back on their end.  I'm going to find what's good.  I've included in (parenthesis) the accent in which each response should be read.  If it is not entertaining to you, then whateves.  It was hilar for me!

Here goes:
  1. I'm alone a lot because Dave travels for work.  It's tough because I don't have any support throughout the day, or at night, when I get tired or frustrated.  (In a strong Irish brogue)  Ah yes, the ol' martyr complaint.  Well, dearie, you're blessed because you've a hard-working husband with a strong work ethic and a secure job.  You're blessed because he works hard to provide for his family.  You're blessed because you are learning to be strong and resiliant and to work through problems on your own.  You're learning self-sufficiency.
  2. I'm not really in love with my job.  (Like Joy from "My Name is Earl")  Oh please, honey.  Who does?  In this economy, a job is a blessing.  A job you love?  Now that's a luxury.  You complain about your job and I'll find 15 people scrambling to take your place.  What?  You work 3 miles from your house?  Oh snap.  Shut your mouth and get back to work.
  3. I have to drive 30 miles each way to my in-laws for childcare.  (Passive-agressive grandmother) How nice for you that your children will know their grandparents.  How nice that your drive is from Ventura to Santa Barbara, along California's central coast.  Oh, with an ocean view, you said?  Must be nice to have that problem.  And how much do you pay them?  Hm.
  4. We have a bigger mortgage than I'd like.  (Guy sitting next to me in a bar after a long night of complaining)  So, now you're wanking about owning a warm house that is not in forclosure?  Especially after a really nasty rainstorm?  Really?
  5. My son has had some medical problems that have been expensive and continue to be worrisome and time consuming.  (A pediatrician)  OK, I just want to clarify.  You're actually complaining that your son has survived a life-threatening heart condition and an acute hypoglycemic episode?  You are.  A word to the wise: Don't make those same complaints around all the parents who have lost their kids to the same things you're lucky enough to be treating.
So there you have it, the answers to my top five broken-recordish pity party lines.  It feels good to turn things around.  It feels good to be appreciative.  Mind you, life is still going to be hard.  The list things that need to fill up my day will still be long, and I'll still get overwhelmed, but I'll be reminded that goodness lurks in unexpected places.

What blessing can you find in your most common complaint?


Uh-Oh! I've Got A Mad Girlcrush!

In a word: pitterpatterpitterpatter

Soooo, last night I went to the Alicia Keys concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl.  You know, no big whoop (LIE).  I took my girlfriend Erin, and she was a spectacular date.  Dave was supremely disappointed, because he's got a major crush on her (Alicia Keys, not Erin).  He like, really loves her.  He had "Songs in A Minor" before we even started dating.  I was pretty impressed.  He has aquired every one of her albums as they've been released.  He's a fan for realsies.

When Dave and I found out she was coming to town, we jumped at the chance to see her.  We jumped without looking at the calendar, though.  Sadface because Dave had to be in Phoenix for work.  Whateves, though, because Dave still really wants to see her, and I'd D.I.E. to see her again, so...looks like somebody's going to be in line again next time she tours!  I will most likely wear my gray houndstooth plaid fedora with a feather again, as well.  It so ruled.

Anyway, here's my synopsis of her performance.  Imagine being in the place that inspires you the most, like church during an amazing sermon or the beach as a storm is clearing.  Or listening for that one note of your favorite song.  That's what it was like.  The whole performance was about being the person you are meant to be, and that nobody else is going to get you there except you.  She is positive and inspiring, and while watching her play the piano, I got the impression that she's simply comfortable in her skin.  She's not trying to be anything that she's not.  As a woman with a boatload of insecurities, and as a mother of a little girl who will be a woman, I thrill at the thought of people like her being in the world.  It gives me hope.

To top it off, she came onstage in a pair of silver sequined pants.  Srsly.  I think that's when my girlcrush started.  She was in sequined pants, in a cage.  FTW.  Her hair was wild and all over the place, and her voice is epic, and she pretty much rules.  Her freaking piano had it's own grand entrance, for crying out loud!  And she is so beautiful, and her voice is like sand and honey, and every single person in the audience melted at least once.  I might have spent the first 10 minutes of the show with my jaw on the floor.  I'm not kidding.  Ask Erin.

Here she is being beautiful:

And here she is being awesome.  Hi.  Those earrings and that hair remind of somebody who talks like Rosie Perez in "Do The Right Thing."  Mooooookie!

So that's it.


Best and Worst of the Weekend

In a word: jumbled

I like delivering bad news first, so I'll do the not-so-great parts of the weekend first.  There's not too much, so here's the meh:

1.  Dave complains regularly that my car is messy. 

*Newsflash: Cleaning my car fell to the bottom of my List of Priorities when children entered my life.*  I don't have the time, and frankly, I don't care.  My time is better spent doing things that actually help the house run smoother.  However, in an effort to stop Dave from weeping like a child every time he sat in the front seat of the family truckster, I cleaned, waxed, and detailed my car on Saturday.  I'm not saying it wasn't nice to get it done.  It was nice.  I had a lot of other things to do that day, but I did it, and he was happy.  But, all the things that I needed to get done still needed to get done.  The worst part was not spending the time doing the job, though.  The worst part was that it rained the next day.  Yes friends, that blew. 
Wah wah waaaaaah.

2.  My sister wasn't feeling well. 

Say a little prayer that my sister gets well.  She had a brief hospital visit and is now on pain meds, but she's got two kids and my brother-in-law travels.  By the grace of God, my mom is helping out.  But they're both going to be exhausted, and I want my sister to be healthy again.

3.  I didn't have time to do any baking. 

I often think of all the wonderful things I would do if I didn't need to earn a paycheck...  I wanted to bake cupcakes or cookies or bread, but the aforementioned "car washing fiasco" combined with the demands of two adorable little kids and a job sucked away all my time and energy.  There's always Mother's Day, right?
And as for the best, the list is always long.  The best parts of my weekend were:
  1. Date night
 Dave and I got to work together on Friday, which meant we had the same schedule.  That meant that we could go out and do a little Easter Bunnying and catch some grub together.  We were thrilled with the excellent service doled out by Monty, our remarkably dry-humored server.  Outstanding!!  I delighted in my Kung Pao Spaghetti from California Pizza Kitchen.  I relished the strawberry cheesecake.  The true highlight, though, was enjoying an uninterrupted hour talking and laughing with Dave.  Sometimes, I feel like we get so caught up in trying to make ends meet and take care of the kids that we sort of forget what it's like to just hang out with each other.  We're best friends, after all.  It's good to remind ourselves why.

2.   Dave came to church

 After church he said, "You know, Jesus wasn't such a bad dude."  Fer realz.  He liked the part about Jesus cooking the Apostles a breakfast barbeque after a long night of fishing.

3.   Decorating the kids Easter baskets

The challenge, of course, was decorating a basket appropriately for a boy.  How would I accomplish such a feat?  Silk flowers were definitely a no-no!  So, I chose animal prints.  I made a pipe cleaner/toilet paper roll flower, clipped on some bugs, and fashioned a simple, real florist-y bow.  Cute and chic, just like my kids!

4.  My in-laws celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary! 

Frankly, I find that amazing!

5.  Summer salad. 

My mother-in-law makes this epic salad of macaroni, peas, cubes of cheddar cheese, sliced olives, and some sort of mayonaise-y dressing.  It's amazing and I think I might have had a summer salad hangover this morning.

6.  Girls and their Easter baskets

Is there a sight more endearing than that of little girls in their frocks opening their eggs and munching on the nastiness of gummy worms?

7."The Sound of Music" was on ABC Family

Dear Julie Andrews, I love you.  Love, Natalie.  I've seen the movie about a million times, and I listen to the soundtrack at least once a week.  I know every song.  This time, I took care to notice the costumes.  Oh my!  Elsa's dresses are divine.  And Maria's green pencil skirt when she comes back to the von Trapp house after running away?  Swoon.  I sometimes think I was born in the wrong time.  I wish we still had pleated nightgowns and tailored dresses and travelling cloaks.  The music, the costumes, the dancing, Salzburg (I want to go!)...it was a wonderful way to spend Easter evening.

My weekend was a mixed bag, which is how most holidays are for me.  I have a difficult time with big, all day family events.  Dave's family is really loud, and I get overwhelmed with all the noise and people and conversation, so, by the end, I'm usually too drained to enjoy it any more.  I need down time in the middle, and I rarely find it.  However, I loved remembering what Easter is all about, and celebrating His renewed life.  I loved seeing Alexandria and Marcus play and laugh and giggle.  I loved Easter dresses.  I loved feeling happy.


A Painted Pony Farm

In a word: Pastoral

Ventura is more like a coastal hamlet, surrounded on three sides by farmland.  The fourth side is ocean.  We're on the coast.  It's beautiful.  (Shh.  Don't tell anyone.)  People drive through my town to get to other places, but that's OK with me. I like to keep it small. It's nice that way. Anyway, there are two main roads out of town, the 33 towards Ojai (like Oh haaaai), and the 126 towards Santa Paula. When you get to Santa Paula, you can veer a little to the right, and keep going, you'll head back towards Ojai.  It's like a triangle.  If you are lucky enough to take that right, you will embark on an unbelievably beautiful drive.  Here is one place you can visit if you take that drive.

Storytime:  I trekked out with the kids for a field trip arranged by my friend Melissa. Note: Since I'm a mom with a money-earning job (read: All Mothers Are Working Mothers), I've fallen a bit out of the loop, which sucks. I don't feel as connected with women who are raising kids the same age as mine. So when the opportunity arises for the kids and me to spend time with these wonderful people, we take it and run. Or drive, as the case was this week. Anyway, Melissa arranged a group to convene at The Painted Pony Farm in Santa Paula. We drove towards the hills, rising from sea level into the beauty of Santa Paula's lemon orchards and ranches, on roads cut into towering cliffs and deep ravines. Last month's rain turned the hills into a billowy quilt of green. The grass grew high. The clean, warm air tasted like spring.

We pulled into a little dirt parking lot next to a cheery yellow house with a lush green garden. Our friends had already arrived and were playing on the grass in the front yard. Farmer Pam greeted us wearing red overalls and plaid shirt. The kids could hardly contain their excitement for the oncoming adventure.

First on the agenda was the chicks. Each child, with the help of a parent, held one baby chicken. Frankly, any parent who doesn't melt at the sight of their baby holding a baby animal lacks a soul. The kids were enchanted!  The chicks were adorable.  Alexandria let hers run around, and she just watched.

Farmer Pam then took the kids to make ice cream from fresh goat's milk. Now, there may be naysayers out there who might scoff at the idea goat's milk ice cream, but let me tell you, this was something special. Each child participated by adding one ingredient, and then Farmer Pam threw in the elbow grease. She put the ice cream in the mixer, and off we traipsed to the corrals.

First, the kids got to milk a goat. Seriously. They got to milk a freaking goat. Then they got to feed the goats. Then, they got to chase the goats. Lots and lots of goats. Farmer Steve then let out the sheep, and by then, the kids were kind of on overload and they didn't know what they wanted to do next. Farmers Pam and Steve have a wonderful menagerie of animals, including goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, a HUGE pig, and ponies. And most of these animals just had babies.  Talk about cute.  I'm sorry, but little kids and baby farm animals?  Ridonkulous.  I wanted to punch somebody it was so cute.  On a side note, Farmer Pam and Farmer Steve are two of the most generous, kind souls I've ever met.  Farmer Pam kept calling the kids "Lovebugs" and Farmer Steve chatted it up with everybody.  They seem like people who have met their calling.  They are a joy to be around.  You can read their wonderful story here.

About 45 minutes of chasing, herding, petting, and feeding farm animals tends to wear out small people, so out of the paddoc we headed.  By then, the ice cream was done, and we all enjoyed a visit on the grass in the shade.  The day had warmed up, and we'd all wilted.  The ice cream perked us up perfectly.  Our two hour visit to A Painted Pony Farm came to an end, but the storytelling and chattering had just begun.  Alexandria talked the entire ride home about, well, everything.  Except she kept mixing up Farmer Pam with Peter Pan, and so Farmer Pam became a hybrid: Peter Pam.  Hilar.

If you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods, or know that you and your little ones are headed my way, please call Farmer Pam and schedule a visit.  You will love it.  You will absolutely love it.  Unless you don't like farms or farm animals or nice people.  If that is the case, then you might be uncomfortable.  Otherwise, you will love it.