Tracking the good stuff
One good thing leads to another
Last year on a walk around the neighborhood, we stopped at the Little Free Library box that's tucked in a break in the split-rail fence, two blocks down.
Inside the box I saw the bright yellow spine of Shawn Achor's book, On Happiness. I was familiar with Achor's (funny) TED Talk and took it home.
A new practice
Achor's book is filled with stories and studies on how to boost your happiness. One way is to create a daily list of three good things. It's much the same as a gratitude, list, but I like the idea of three good things.
As you sit with pen in hand, you might at first wonder what good your ordinary day held.
Stick with it
Take a step-by-step run through your day ... you'll find there were good things.
1) that warm shower after a chill
2) seeing the sun after the rain, or
3) a smile from that stranger on the street
It's surprising how comforting and reassuring it can be to recall even the smallest moments.
Taking it to another level
Yesterday, I decided to try something different ... same exercise, but in a new format. Every day for the next 100 days I will continue to list three good things about my day ... and illustrate one.
The idea is inspired by Michael Beirut's 100 Day Project. My goal is to experiment with writing (maybe a poem or short essay), collage, painting, drawing, and photography.
In keeping with Beirut's outline, I will keep the project simple and work on it for only 15-30 minutes a day, for 100 days.
Will you join me?
You don't have to illustrate your list and no special skills are needed.
Just write down three good things at the end of each day. You can list them in a notebook, on sticky notes, a chalkboard, or document them on your phone.
Whatever is most convenient, and makes it more likely you'll stick with it.
I started with a blank notebook and keep it on a side table where I'm sure to see it every day.
If, like me, you want to take it to another level, pair an illustration or photograph with one entry from the day's list.
If you like hand lettering, hand letter your list.
Experiment with abstract images, shapes, and colors that represent how the good feels, or looks, to you.
Either way, it's a good exercise to remind ourselves that if we look, really look, there is something good to be logged and appreciated every day.
I hope you'll join me.
p.s. I've created a blank template to keep my 100 day entries consistent ... if you like, download and use the template for your list.
Weeks into winter, we were 17" below average for snowfall, and then came the storms, one after another, and they dumped enough snow to make up the deficit.
After the first storm it seemed we were living in a snow globe. Snow covered rooftops, trees, and streets ... for days. It was beautiful.
After the snow came, I realized I missed the hush of a snow-covered landscape and the crisp air and blue sky that follows.
But winter is cold, often frigid, dark, and sometimes it seems like spring is just so far away.
One way to get through it is to get outside.
This is Snow Sculpting Week.
For the past 15 years, I've made a winter beauty for my Happy Snow Days greeting card that goes out in December. Sometimes I plan ahead and make one in January or February for the following year. Other times I take a chance and hope for snow early in November or December ... and it's always worked out.
Until it didn't.
For the first time in 15 years I didn't have a winter beauty for my winter greeting card. It was a mix of disappointment ... and relief.
Every year I shiver at the thought of going outside to start another ... afraid I won't come up with anything as good as what I've done before ... worried I won't find the right materials or create the right expression.
And it's cold.
Each one takes about two hours from start to finish.
I struggle with the thought of heading out into the cold and wring my hands and furrow my brow with concern. About halfway through, I have serious doubts. I take photos from the left and right to gain a better perspective ... to figure out what working, and what's not. Forage again for a different leaf, sprig, or twig to make the mouth right. Or the nose.
My fingers get stiff with the cold and by the time I'm done, the cold has reached my core.
Creating, making, and building things come with challenges. It's to be expected. With each winter beauty there was doubt, but when they were done, I felt a sense of accomplishment, glad I braved the cold and pushed aside my doubts.
But I cannot ignore that sense of relief I felt when it didn't snow.
So I've been mulling it over. ... will I make another, or have I done all I can do with them?
How do you know when to stop? When persistence no longer applies. When walking away from a project you've enjoyed is the right thing to do?
There's plenty of snow on the ground, but I'm not sure ...
It's hard being a beginner
Knowing takes time
When I placed the order for materials to make paper flowers, I had to wait a week for delivery.
It was disappointing, but I did what I probably wouldn't have done had the materials arrived sooner ... read the book I borrowed from the library (the whole book, not just a chapter here or a passage there, the whole book), watched some videos (thank goodness), and found lots of examples of what's possible with paper flowers. Amazing.
And then the paper arrived.
I waited until the next day to get started, suddenly seized by doubt and overwhelm. The anticipation was over, now it was time to do the work.
It's hard being a beginner
Deep in crepe paper with sticky fingers, glue on my clothes, and scraps of snipped paper all over the place, I found myself mired doubt. This might be too much, I told myself.
And I pouted ... wondering if it really was all too much.
But, after multiple breaks to wash the glue from my fingers, a lot of deep breaths, and three hours of concentration, I had my first flower. A white cosmos.
The finished flower was such an accomplishment. It's given me the incentive to keep going. To keep trying.
Eager to see how well I did, I took the paper flower up the street and nestled it in among the real ones growing on the corner lot.
I'm working on my second flower and feeling the same doubts ... is this worth it? Do I really want to pursue this? I'm not sure, but I do know what I need to do:
Give it time.
It would be easy to give up now. I'm frustrated and want quick results, but I know better.
It's a familiar feeling. The same feeling I get when I start writing ... this newsletter, a letter to a pen pal, and just every other writing project.
It's the feeling I got when I was painting room after room in the house these past few months. And so many other projects.
But I've learned: staying with it matters.
Is there something you're ready to bail on? Would it be better to hang in there a bit longer?
Sometimes, it is good to say, "Nah, I think I'm done." But other times, we just need to dig a little deeper, hang in a little longer.
After all, you never know how things might blossom ...
My second flower, the thistle, is a work in progress. The purple bits are too long, but I'm afraid to cut them. Afraid I'll cut too much and regret it. So I'm leaving it alone for a while. But I'm not giving up ... yet.
Unsolicited but welcome advice from my neighbor, Charlie
It wasn't the first bit of advice from Charlie, but I remember it because I realized how much I had to learn.
"Them there are pole beans." he said, "You need to put a pole in the ground so they can climb."
We were standing in the backyard admiring (well, I was admiring) my first vegetable garden. Things had started to sprout and Charlie spotted the green beans.
While I was well aware they were green beans, I missed the "pole" part. He was right. They needed poles to climb.
I pushed three poles into the ground and watched them twist, turn, and reach new heights every week.
The next summer he got me with a bit of a joke.
It was this time of year, early July, when he came out back and said, "July fourth's come and gone, time to put the storm windows back on."
My eyes widened and his twinkled as he let loose a big smile and a chuckle.
It was a bit of an exaggeration, but there was some truth in what he said. Summer is fleeting. How do we make the most of it?
What are your must-have and want-to-do activities this summer?
How do you remember and squeeze in all the things you want to do?
Use Tinplate, the new activity journal.
Use Tinplate, to find inspiration, track, and record the best that summer has to offer. It's an activity journal filled with stories and prompts to boost your curiosity and encourage you to do more with the time you have between the things you have to do for the things you want to do.
It's available now!
I think you'll like it.
People love stories, and you've got some good ones.