As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been reading more about happiness lately and trying to put into practice some of the things I’m learning. I recently finished the book Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin and I’m looking forward to reading some of her other books on the subject. I liked the approach of Happier At Home where she dedicated each month to a specific aspect of life to focus on improving her happiness.
She began in September which sounds odd except that she has two school age daughters. Like most parents, watching your kids go off to school each fall feels a lot more like a new stage in life than January 1st ever does.
The topics Gretchen chose for this project were:
As she goes through each month, she echoes a lot of the lessons learned in her earlier book, The Happiness Project. I admit I wish I would have read that first but it’s not absolutely necessary. She reviews many of those lessons and what she calls “The Eight Splendid Truths” about happiness whenever they apply. There is also a section at the end of the book listing them all together in more detail.
Two of my favorites were truth number 3 and 6. They are great words to live by.
A few other nuggets I pulled from Happier At Home were ideas she had like celebrating holiday breakfasts with your family. Some holidays like Valentine’s Day are difficult to celebrate as a family but she realized they generally were all together at breakfast. She went all out for fancy breakfasts with decorations for several holidays. That doesn’t work for everyone but it’s a cool idea.
I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily a happier person after reading the book but Gretchen definitely lays out a lot of ideas for you to think about. Remember, I write these posts as much for myself as I do for others. I know darn well I need to keep reminding myself of the two Truths above when I get so frustrated with my kids. It’s a process, maybe you could call it a journey even, but I don’t think happiness is necessarily a destination. It takes work and positive thinking.
There will always be good and bad times, and different aspects of your life to focus on. The monthly topics listed above may not be the same topics you or I would choose to focus on right now, but in a section at the end, she encourages everyone to embark on their own unique happiness project.
Good luck with yours.
It Takes A Village
They say it takes a village to raise a child but in our case, it takes a village just to give birth to one. We can’t thank everyone enough for everything they have done or even offered to do for us over the past weeks. And the outpouring continues.
The last nine months have been a whirlwind as we prepared for having our fourth child. She’s one of the greatest surprises ever. Keeping our sanity through just the preparation and birth though, wouldn’t have been possible without so many generous friends and family.
Since she was born a week later than expected, we spent a few weeks constantly coordinating plans with friends to handle all of the activities our other three kids have going on. It’s been one message after another of “well, if it happens on this day so-and-so can get this kid to their activity and this other person can bring them home”. Even after the birth we are still making those plans so my wife won’t have to leave the house with a newborn in the midst of one of the worst flu seasons in decades.
The day she was born, I made three trips home from the hospital. That night, I came home exhausted (certainly not as exhausted as my wife was though). I sat down to enjoy a glass of Scotch to celebrate my new addition to the family and do some writing.
I looked at everything that needed to be done at home and felt like I should do the dishes and shovel the snow in the driveway. Instead, I keep reminding myself how important it is to enjoy this time and get the whole family to appreciate the miracle of it all. There will always be something that needs to be done but it’s a good reminder that if we have less stuff, there will be less to do.
Now we’re all home with little Maggie and trying to get into some sort of routine. She was unexpected but is greatly loved. If God is going to throw me a curve-ball in my forties, this is as good as it gets.
There’s something I kept catching myself doing in the hospital though that really bothered me. I wanted to tell everyone the great news so I sent out text messages and emails. Then, I found myself sitting there with this beautiful new baby in one arm but looking at my phone trying to respond to all the attention I was getting. I suddenly felt ashamed for ignoring my daughter for my phone. As if the most important thing I needed to be doing at that moment was responding to text messages and emails.
I told myself how stupid that was and to focus on her instead. I had to keep forcing myself to put my phone down and stare at her. Then I would hear my phone buzz again and I had to see who it was from. I decided that I have to pay more attention to those around me and less attention to my phone.
That is one of the primary reasons to live with less stuff. We all need to spend less time handling all the distractions that keep us from what is really important.
Thanks for reading but now do yourself a favor. Put down your phone or tablet, close your laptop up, and take a look at your spouse, your kids, your friend, or whoever is around you waiting for your attention. Spend some time with them now before you miss something.
How do you prepare for a baby when all the bedrooms are occupied and your kids already have too much stuff? First, you procrastinate by pretending that you have plenty of time. After a few months, start asking friends and family if they have any baby stuff they were planning to get rid of anyway. Finally, a month before the due date, start to completely panic.
Spend a Thursday night touring the new birthing center of the hospital. Follow that up with a Friday night shopping spree when you're tired and your decision making abilities are severely impaired. Fill the weekend by clearing out a room for the baby by moving your youngest son in to share a room with his messy older brother. Don't worry about finishing it all that weekend. Hopefully you have a couple more weeks before the baby comes.
Continue spending all your free time cleaning, rearranging, and buying the last few things you need while hoping the baby doesn’t come early. I forgot how much stuff babies come with!
Strangely, one of the last things we bought was a simple diaper bag. We were being indecisive because with our first three kids, we didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl so most of the baby stuff was neutral. This time, we know it’s a girl so we wanted a diaper bag that looked like it was for a little girl. They’re not as easy to find as we thought.
The generosity of friends and family made all this possible. Many people gave us gift cards for the above mentioned shopping spree, and/or bought something for the baby. We also received hand-me-down clothes, shoes, toys, etc. Some friends were even generous enough to come over and help us sort through all the clothes.
Here we are less than two weeks from the due date though and we’re ready enough. The car seat is sitting in the house and each car has a base installed for it to snap into. The crib is set up with bedding and she has clean clothes in the dresser and closet. While it was a surprise to find out we were having a baby at our age, we are blessed to have so many generous friends and family members to help us out.
She'll be here before we know it and I'm sure we'll find out there's something we forgot to have on hand. Now, if we could only decide on her name.
Copyright Dave Lubke and www.davelubke.com, 2017