Monthly Archives: October 2015

Need Some Hygge In My Life

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As I noted in my last post, I’ve been in a bit of a rut. I do not like saying good-bye to summer and the holidays really stress me out. The other night, when I took a break from my Pinterest investigation of Halloween costumes, I came across on article on MSN.com about the Top 5 Happiest Countries. Curious and searching for internal happiness myself, I opened the article and found the list:

Top 5 Happiest Countries:
1. Switzerland
2. Iceland
3. Denmark
4. Norway
5. Canada

Where’s the US you ask… No.15. Honestly that really didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was who the top 5 were. When I think of these top 5 places, I mostly think of cold, long dark winters and I don’t associate cold and dark with happiness. The list comes from the World Happiness Report, which was first started in 2012.

How do they rank happiness? The World Happiness Report researchers ranked countries based on factors including healthy life expectancy, social support, GDP per capita, the happiness of a country’s children, social capital, civil economy, absence of corruption and subjective well-being. An under-lying current with the happiest countries are those with strong social ties, a strong sense of community and a healthy work-life balance.

What does that mean? Well, partially, it means you can’t buy happiness, although jobs and economy are very important. It really made me wonder what makes these places and people so happy. I mean, I can’t just up and move to Scandinavia. Are there things they do in their lives that make them happier people? I did a little digging.

According to one article, Denmark has been voted one of the happiest countries in the world for over 40 years and was No. 1 for 3 years. I didn’t read all of the scientific research on why their ranking changed (feel free to do so at http://worldhappiness.report/), but what I did find was the Danish cultural concept of hygge (pronounced hooga). It intrigued me. What’s very interesting is that there is no exact translation of hygge in English. The closest are “cozy” or “homey”, but really do not do it justice. So what is it? From what I can tell, it’s a mood or state of mind – a conscious effort to create a peaceful, warm feeling and atmosphere-using candles a lot, usually with friends and family, although can be done alone. It also seems to be associated with gratitude and being in that moment. Here’s how the article “The Secret to Danish Happiness” put it (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_secret_to_danish_happinessone):

 Try to imagine going to a drama-free family gathering. There are no divisive discussions about politics, family issues, or Aunt Jenny’s dysfunctional kids. No snide comments, complaining, or heavy negativity. Everyone helps out, so that not one person gets stuck doing all the work. No one brags, attacks anyone, or competes with another. It is a light-hearted, balanced interaction that is focused on enjoying the moment, the food, and the company. In short, a shelter from the outside world.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this definitely doesn’t describe my family gatherings (no offense to family members reading this…).  And Danes devote more than 16 hours each day to leisure and personal care activities (including sleep… hmmm). WOW…

Other cultures have similar concepts. There’s the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, focused on accepting and learning from the imperfect. Norway has friluftsliv, which translates to “free air life” and stresses the importance of being outside. And there’s gemütlichkeit — essentially the German version of hygge.

So what about Switzerland? The one thing that really stuck out about Switzerland was that 96% of the population feels they have people in their lives they could rely on in a time of need. That is the highest figure of all the countries. Maybe that’s part of the strong social ties or the sense of “shelter from the outside world”, creating a sense of hygge?

To me, a lot this feeds into being at peace and creating a sense of harmony. I saw a poster at a yoga studio with this:

“Be happy. Appreciate this moment. Resist nothing. Love yourself and others. Be grateful for small blessings. Make happiness your number one priority.”

So this weekend, I plan on practicing some hygge. Tonight, I will complete my Halloween costume (yes I found a party to go to!!), then light a candle and snuggle up with my big fat cats with a feel-good movie. Tomorrow I will spend with wonderful friends, enjoying my time with them and being in the moment!

Go be a hyggelig fyr (someone who is fun to be with) and  have some hyggelig time (social, fun, relaxing time).

Lost Mojo.. please return

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I’m tired…

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dreaming of summer

Of blowing my nose, itchy, scratchy eyes, freezing in my office no matter what time of year, being cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon….. I’m just tired and unmotivated. Not sure if it’s the winter blues starting to set in or not. I know it’s not even winter yet, but I hate saying good-bye to summer. I am not a cold weather person at all. I don’t ski, snowboard or ice skate, in fact, I hate being cold and wet, period. Ok, one nice snow is pretty, but after a day or two of it, it’s just messy.

Not really a big holiday person either. Don’t roll your eyes all you holiday revelers out there. I can take Thanksgiving. I enjoy eating , cooking and seeing family. There’s really no pressure involved. But Christmas… the only part of Christmas I truly enjoy is candle light service at church on Christmas Eve. Mom and I are the only ones that attend now. I miss my dad terribly, especially presentover the holidays. I don’t like to shop, although I do enjoy wrapping presents. A glass of wine and a bunch of wrapping paper and ribbon and I’m set for the evening. Creative outlet? Maybe I could work a deal: wrap other peoples’ gifts as my gift to them? I used to enjoy decorating , but now that’s just more to do xmas treein an already busy time, especially when I’m the only one that will see it… and I’m the only one to put it all away when it’s all said and done. Yes, I will still put up a tree. I’m not that much of a Scrooge. The stress of holiday parties and having a date for said parties is tiring too. And New Year’s Eve…. With all the hype and pressure to have plans and a date, it’s so easy to get depressed and be let down. There is a reason the holiday season is one of the highest for suicide…

 

Halloween is more my speed. I’ve always loved Halloween. It’s challenging and exciting to come up with a creative costume. A few of my favorites below:

HALLOWEEN 31

Can we say “old bride’s maid dress”…

wk halloween 2008 holloween  hillbilly rasta

halloween2

4 weeks of work!

 

 

 

 

Once, I put about 4 weeks into designing a costume. I don’t buy ready-made. That’s no fun. Again, maybe it’s the creative outlet I  enjoy, and just being able to act a like kid. No real high expectations; it’s just about having fun. I’m one of the few at my office to dress up every year. The guys expect me to now. They come down the hall just to find me. This year though, I have no motivation to do it; no Halloween party to attend. I’m truly starting to think something is wrong with me. I just don’t get excited about things any more.

I need to find my mojo. It is definitely lost somewhere. Am I having mid-life crises? How do I get out of this funk? I thought maybe I should try dating again, but I just cringe when I open an online dating site. Just can’t do it yet.

I think I know what I need to do… plan another trip. Traveling seems to be the only thing that truly excites me these days. I need to get something on the calendar… or at the very least, start researching a place to go. Can’t do too much until after the first of the year, which means I have to get through the holidays…ugh.. Please everyone, bear with me these next few months.

Weekend with Mom

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me and mom

I spent Saturday and Sunday with my mom. For those who know me through Facebook, you are familiar with the typical conversations mom and I have: I don’t wear enough makeup, I need to brush my hair and something about whatever I’m wearing. Somewhere along the line, she’s become a very negative person.  I love my mom to pieces and I try to accept that this is just how she is. She’s not meaning to hurt feelings; she’s just from another time when things weren’t so casual. And she says she’s earned the right to say what she wants.  She will be 84 at the end of November, and I am thankful that she is still with me, but… WOW she just wears me out.

The itinerary for the weekend was to go on the annual October Tour of Historic Homes in Salisbury, NC where I’m from and mom still lives. Well, Saturday it rained…again. Thank goodness I had Plan B: a movie, but I knew I could be opening a can of worms with this.

Here’s mom’s take on today’s movies:

“They’re all just about these special effects; no story.”
“Why does every other word have to be a curse word?”
“I don’t want to see all these disaster movies. The world’s depressing enough.”
“I like suspense, not all this gore and blood and stuff.”
“What happened to nice looking leading men? I’m tired of looking at ugly people.”
“Where do they get all of these ugly people?”

You get my point. I was hoping I had a chance with the new movie The Intern, with Robert DeNiro. At least she knows who he is. To my surprise, she laughed out loud several times. She did make sure to point out that Anne Hathaway was not wearing jeans with tears in them, “Look how nice and neat she looks; no holes her jeans”… Sometimes, I have to remind her to keep it down in the movies…and church. “Other people can hear you mom.” I get the stink eye. When it was over, she actually said, “I enjoyed that.” My mouth about hit the floor. I asked her if she could say that again so I could record it. Again with the stink eye.  “Well, it didn’t have all the bad language and sex,” she comments.  Glad you liked it mom.

That evening, we settled in with the TV. Now TV is another big sore spot with her. She has cable with tons of channels, but basically only watches PBS, so she limits herself to about 3 channels. She complains there’s just nothing on. She watches these old British sitcoms and mysteries I know she’s seen a million times. “Well, I like Judy Dench,” she says. In the next breath, she says she can’t understand half of what they say. She falls asleep half way through them, wakes up and gets irritated because she doesn’t know what’s going on.  If you try to get her to watch one of the network channels, she vehemently says, “I’m not watching those channels. There are too many damn commercials.” When she did switch to one, and a commercial was on, she quickly muted it and said “oh drop dead.” Ok then…

My brother calls mom Joe LeVan. He was mom’s dad and lived with us for a few years. Well, I should say he lived with me, mom and dad; my brother and sister where pretty much already out of the house. Grandfather, which is what we called him, was quite the character: spoke his mind -loudly, and also did not like commercials. I actually saw him spit at and kick the TV one time. I suppose there is something to it when they say we become our parents. Wonderful…

Yep, they were lined up...

Yep, they were lined up…

Sunday rolls around. Mom is supposed to be a greeter at church. She decides to go do that, and come straight home. Mom’s having some issues with church too. The old traditional ways are changing. They are trying some more “modern elements,” which she is not the least bit happy with… but that’s an entire different story. ..

She gets home. I thought we would have some lunch before we go. I got the quick reply, “No, we don’t have time. They are already lining up at some of the houses.” The woman wouldn’t even let me eat lunch! This is another issue… she really doesn’t like to eat or drink anything…especially water. Eating is just something she has to do. I definitely didn’t get this trait. The doctor has gotten on to her about the water, which I think almost makes her more stubborn about it. I tell her to drink her water and she sticks her tongue out at me.

So out we go for the day. I did manage to get her to smile for a selfie. I think the only reason she complied was because people were standing around us. She doesn’t like to have her picture taken either.  Imagine that.  It was a rather long tour and we did ok for most of it. I could tell she was getting tired. These past few years, mom has lost what little patience she had and has gotten really bad about questioning everything.

“I want to catch the trolley to the next house,” she says.
“Ok mom,” I replied, “but we have to walk back down to the corner.”
“How do you know?” she asked.
“Because it’s marked with a “T” on the tour guide map,” I said.
“Are you sure?”
Ugh..

At the last stop, there is a pastry shop next store. Now about the eating, she does like her sweets. When I come home, we have to eat out, unless I want cookies and ice cream for dinner. She decides she wants to get something. I happily comply because I’m starving at this point, and probably getting grumpy myself. She enjoys a freshly made cinnamon roll. I tell her to drink some water. With a grudge, she did. With her sugar fix, we completed the last stop.

It wasn’t five minutes after we got home, she was stretched out on the couch.  She was done.  I told her if we do the tour again next year, we would split it into two days.  “Yeah, yeah,” she says. We’ll see about next year.”

Photos in Boxes

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Does anyone else have a box like this? I have two. At one time, they were sort of organized, but after moving and being shuffled through numerous times, they are just a mix of my life from college through my early 30s – before everyone had a camera on their phone. I keep saying I need to go through them and throw some away. But that is so hard. I begin the sorting process then start reminiscing and laughing and sending them in text to people. I never get very far.

These days, with digital cameras and cameras on every phone, I rarely print pictures any more. It’s a shame really. When I was growing up, I remember sitting for hours going through old photo albums asking mom about this and that. I’m the youngest with an older sister and brother. I refer to myself as a “gift”, they refer to me as a “mistake”.  If nothing else, I was definitely a surprise to my parents. By the time I came along, they were busy with other things, and didn’t seem to take a lot of pictures. The photo albums where a way for me to connect with the past I didn’t share with them.

I did start printing pictures of my big vacation trips and putting them in photo albums. Now, when I start feeling down or thinking to myself, “I don’t go anywhere”, I pull them out and start flipping through them; reconnecting with the past and thinking, yes, I’ve done a lot of things. I may just now have ventured to Europe, but oh the adventures my friends and I have had, and still have, are priceless. I’ve done most of my traveling with the same group of friends from college. The stories we have are funny and bind us together.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

We hit Vegas for a week (which is too long to be in Vegas I think) and took in the Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon. When one decided to move to Phoenix for a few years, well, that was just another excuse for a trip. We made our visit into a vacation, driving up to the Grand Canyon, staying in Sedona on the way back. It was beautiful. We hiked, laughed and explored a new place together.   There have been numerous beach trips, road trips to Charleston and even longer road trips to Florida, including Key West, and a most memorable excursion to Jazz Fest in New Orleans. I’ve taken a cruise to Hawaii

Dallas TX

Dallas TX

Hawaii

Hawaii

and the Bahamas, trekked up to New York City in a van, sat on a long horn in Texas, ventured across the border into Mexico several times, watched the start of the Iditarod in Alaska, sat and had dinner at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle and sipped fruity drinks on a beautiful beach in the Dominican Republic.

Mostly though, the pictures jumbled in my boxes are snapshots of brief moments: quick trips, parties, evenings in, birthdays, holidays, nephews etc. Maybe they don’t seem as special as big planned vacations, but they evoke memories just the same. Life happens in between the big trips too; college, first true love (and broken hearts), nephews growing up, first houses, and of course memories of dad.

  college   me brian adam

dad and michael  fishing with dad  dad making gravy

jamie and santaSome photos just make me smile, reminding me of times we laughed so hard, we had tears in our eyes. There were the annual Memorial Day weekend beach trips, with margaritas to be consumed and mischief in the air.  Yes, I remember the firemen from Rockaway Beach, NJ.  Good Times…

jamie going away 2rjamie going away  doris wedding   beach 1  image   halloween

me and chris So many years and so many memories in these two boxes.   It is so hard to decide which ones are disposable. If I throw one away, will the memory be gone forever?  Regardless, they deserve a better home than a box. I suppose I will invest in several photo albums, and on a cold, yucky February weekend, I will begin the tedious process of culling through my past.  We’ve had a good time ladies!  Maybe I haven’t been everywhere I want to go, yet…. but I’ve certainly lived my life.  There’s little I would change… well, I maybe could have done without the short marriage stint, but even then, there were a few good times.  I think my photos are some of my most treasured items.