Posts tagged behappy linkup
Turn It: Granny Smith Blessings

Today's post is an addition to the Turn It series and a beautiful bonus from my friend, Paige. Check her out over at Approaching Joy, but not yet...cause you gotta read this first!Isn't the natural world awesome?

I mean if it were my job to make apples, I'm pretty sure I would have been impressed with a Red Delicious and would have stopped there. 

But Nature?  Not a chance.  

Granny Smith, Gala, Jonathan…Nature knows that when it comes to apples (and most everything else) variety, options, something that differs from the rest is a good thing.  

I think it's the same with our own blessings and the things which we count under "things to be thankful for" column.  It's easy to see the good things and be thankful for them - super supportive friends, a loving family, a home that is comfortable and warm. These things are the obvious blessings of the "Red Delicious" variety.  

It's the other things that aren't easy to see as blessings.  Stressful Mondays, mortgage payments, traffic jams, crying kids… these all just seem like the low points of life.  But when you take a second and step back, you realize that these are simply Granny Smith blessings.  


The stressful Mondays mean you are healthy and productive.  

The mortgage payments mean you have a roof over your head.

The traffic jams mean your family wasn't involved in the wreck ahead.

The crying kids mean you were blessed with little ones.


So many people don't have these things to be thankful for.

So next time you're sitting in traffic, writing that check, or wiping those tears, remember that this distinctly tart variety of blessing makes you appreciate the sweeter blessings more fully.


Thank you for your words of perspective, Paige!! Those tart blessings are right there for us to discover if we just turn our perspective a bit. So good!!

XO, Paige and MJ

Be Happy: In the end

Today's post is another great installment in the series Turn It wherein Miss Joy from Frock Files and I offer some perspective on life's challenges thrown our way. Check out more posts here, here, and here!!

Button pushing. Sitting and twisting that one nerve you have left. The last straw of patience.

You have had that morning or afternoon, haven't you?

These two little ladies could tell you the color, shape, size, and exact location of my buttons. Despite my best efforts, (seriously, how did they figure it out so fast?) they know how to tease, taunt, and aggravate one another and me. To their credit, they also know how to love and share like nothing else, too, but that's not this post.

Thursdays are our extra-busy, what-was-I-thinking-when-I-crafted-this-schedule kinda days. After school pick-up blends right into ballet one, then pre-ballet, that then overlaps with gymastics and somewhere in there we have homework, dinner, and bath/showers.

As you might predict, Thursday evenings can also be our crankiest, and that's not even taking into account children's behavior.

M and C were having a back and forth evening. M would call C a name, and C would lash out at M. M would cry, and C would tattle. For a solid two hours, it was a bad ping pong match of little girl banter at a high pitch frequency.

Typically my hubby is here for teeth brushing, prayers, and general calm, but this Thursday was an extra ordinary one, and he had a late night meeting.

After tucking my 3-year old son into bed, I walked over to the argument that I'd already heard brewing. I could not handle any more name calling, and I (had my own little tantrum) informed the girls that they were to go straight to sleep with no story (very rare). And that they'd better "learn how to treat each other a whole lot better."

I even had a dramatic huff (unintentional) as I closed the door. I really don't know where they get this melodrama. :)

It was quiet for a moment.

I stood outside the door and I listened. I heard the slow build up of tears coming from my younger daughter. She loves bedtime stories. And, moreover, she knew that I was upset ...they'd pushed just a bit too far.

And then I hear M say in her gentlest tone, "Sissy? Don't cry."

Whimpering quiets.

"Sissy? Do you want to hear a story?"

C: sniff "Yesss."

M: "Once upon a time there lived a magical princess and her sister. They lived in a beautiful castle way up on a hill.."


This time from me. My anger totally diffused. M went on to tell a lovely fairytale about the two of them saving the kingdom and living happily ever after.

I wasn't in the room, but I'm pretty sure little C fell right to sleep with a happy grin on her face. Her big sis who she loves and adores (and swats) created a whole world just for her.

And M, well, she felt her own magical powers to calm the storm.

And in the end, that's what they'll remember from the day - that extra special, one-of-a kind, sister moment. And if they had to turn all my buttons to get there

So be it.


Be Happy: Windows of Joy

Wishing all of our friends affected by Hurricane Sandy a hopeful start to November in the midst of challenges ahead. I felt a pang last night reading messages of delayed and canceled Halloweens (and much worse, of course).

Our evening was a full one. Temperatures here dipped into the forties and it rained a steady drizzle all day and night long. I dressed the kiddos in layers but the chill was still very much a part of the experience of Trick or Treat this year. We doled out 10 bags of candy for two hours, and my daughters had so much fun being the ones charged with giving out candy to our costumed neighbors from our front porch.

We ran through leaves, costumes covered by ski coats and fleeces, to every house in our neighborhood. It's funny how this silly holiday bring you eye-to-eye with people you haven't seen in ages or seasons and who live just a few steps away.

Honesty here, friends? Life is filled with stressors. Around us we've had a few major ones pop up in the last year, but those are not my stories to share. These stresses add weight to our shoulders and our hearts. Some moments are heavy.

I thrive on the windows of joy. They (and a great husband, kids, and my faith) get me through it. My children were so excited to see each open door last night and get another piece of candy for their bags and buckets. They giggled with our neighborhood children as to who would be brave enough to go up to that extra scary house.

I saw them work together, and bubble over with childhood joy, and soak up all that I've wished their childhoods to be.

For my part, I added a little silly. Mary Poppins has long been my favorite movie, and my kiddos now love it, too. Being silly with my little ones was a great way to spend the evening, and they loved that Mommy got into it WITH them.

Life can't always be filled with happiness. We have struggles that will challenge. We also have the gift of windows of joy, opened to us to reveal the Goodness that abounds.

It's the feast of All Saints today for Catholics, and we're grateful for the wonderful men and women who have come before us to show us what it means to live a good and holy life. They offer peeks into those windows, too.

Wishing you moments of joy for this November!


Happiness: In Our Home

My home is a place of unconditional belonging, which is part of its pleasure, part of its pain–as Robert Frost wrote, home is "Something you somehow haven't to deserve." At home, I feel a greater sense of safety and acceptance, and also of responsibility and obligation. With friends my hospitality is voluntary, but my family never needs an invitation.

~Gretchen Rubin, Happier at Home

How about it, friends? Let's start something new. After the great reminders and reflections in The Happiness Project I'm ready for a little more Gretchen Rubin and her latest book Happier at Home is right up my alley.

My mom and mother-in-law were both stay at home moms for most of our (hubby and mine) childhoods, and I think they both did an awesome job of creating a space of comfort, safety, and love.

For me home is my reprieve and it's also my mainstay. As a professional who works in and out of the office, my home can't always be a place of total relaxation; it must also function as deadline keeper and motivation hot box. Home is not always a clear equivalent to happy.

Every other Thursday (when I'm not chatting with Joy about turning challenge into goodness) I'll be offering you my own reflections on happiness in our homes, grown-up style, and sharing snippets of Gretchen's book as well.

Here are some of the great topics coming your way:

  • Possessions and Simplicity
  • Marriage
  • Parenthood
  • Interior design
  • Time
  • Body
  • Family
  • Neighborhood
  • Now

What one thing makes you happy every time you enter your home? I'd argue that we all need something that elicits something happy right when we enter.

Mine? This silly canvas of my son with a face full of spaghetti. It's larger than lifesize and it greets me, with a smile, every time I come home.

It's good to be home.

What's yours?




Happiness: Wrapping Up the Book

I can't believe it, but we've finally come to the close of The Happiness Project. I flipped open the first page of chapter 12 and reminded myself that Gretchen spread her monthly project over exactly one year...and here we are.

No worries, though, thanks to all my buds and the BeHappy linkup, I'll continue to share happiness every Thursday. Next Thursday will be extra special with the continuation of my collaboration with Joy and the Turn It series!

I'm also thinking of diving into Gretchen's latest book (it's on hold waiting for me at the library!) Happier at Home. Have you read it yet? I'm really interested to see what she has to say about some common struggles we all face.

To wrap up her quest for happiness, Gretchen instituted Boot Camp Perfect, wherein she set out to follow all of her resolutions all at the same time. Reading this made me nervous for her. :) Seemed like a lot to tackle, and remember, and evaluate. True to form, she kept on track, and when she didn't she was still happy because she had her plan to return to happiness already in place.

I took careful note of how she came back to happiness when a bad mood hit. I am one very prone to moodiness (in the most positive and negative ways), and if I'm not careful I can let a mood determine my thoughts on an entire day.  And so I think I want to revisit and have at the ready my own mood-boosting strategies. Here are some that she used:

  • Go to the gym.
  • Get some work done.
  • Cross a nagging task off my to-do list
  • Spend some time having fun.

Do you have a go-to list of mood busters? I'd love to know!

Here's a happy thought for you, one that always busts me out of a bad mood, and one that Gretchen shared as one of her husband's gifts:


PS. Be sure to check out all of the happiness posts by stopping over at Art Social.

Turn It : A new collaborative series


Oh, my dear readers, I think I have a really good something for you. It's a new series coming atcha every other Thursday from now until Thanksgiving (it's all about gratitude, my friends) only here at Pars Caeli featuring the writings of the talented Joy from Frock Files and me. Joy and I have been all crafty behind the scenes coming up with some stories/ideas/fresh perspectives that we hope will make you recognize opportunity in the problems that come your way and prompt you to use your creative juices for the power of good.

I am so indebted to Joy for her many gifts and especially for this one right here:

Doug Dietz was at a hospital to check out an MRI machine that he had created. He was proud of it and excited to see it in action. But when it came time for the patient to get into the machine, it was a painful thing -- the machine was being used to scan a 7-year-old girl who, for obvious reasons, found the whole experience to be absolutely terrifying.  For an MRI machine to work, the patient must lie still. Getting that scared little girl to be still while the machine made loud, foreign noises around her was impossible. Her parents were upset, the technicians felt helpless, and the little girl did not want to have the scan done.

This was a lightbulb moment for Dietz. While he could have turned around and dismissed the experience by saying there was nothing he could do about it, Dietz instead began thinking about how they could transform the experience for kids by using their own strength of imagination. Along with a local children’s museum, Dietz observed children, interviewed doctors and parents of patients, and began to understand how they could incorporate the simple act of play into the MRI procedures.

The team took their findings and went to work on the MRI rooms with adventure themes. One was turned into intergalactic expedition, simply by painting the walls with murals that looked like outer space. And what better rocket than the already space-age looking MRI machine? The patients became astronauts, while the technicians became mission control. As the once frightening noises of the machine began, the technicians spoke through the machine’s speakers to let their astronaut know that the rocket’s engines were starting up. By making the experience fun, Dietz turned the experience from one of tears to one in which kids come out excited, saying to their parents, “Did you see how fast I was going?”

When this story aired on TED Radio Hour a couple of weeks ago, it struck something deep inside me. While, of course, it made me so grateful that the kids I know are healthy, it made me think about something that’s become increasingly important in my own adult world, as well: sometimes a simple change of perspective is all you need. I thought of all the things I dread and how easily I could turn them around if only I’d incorporate some imagination and play into the ways that I understand them.

From now until Thanksgiving, MJ and I will be doing a series here on Pars Caeli with different ideas about how we can implement this kind of transformative process in our own lives -- for ourselves, the children around us, and our loved ones. By shining new light on unpleasant experiences, we can begin to enjoy our lives more fully -- and that’s definitely something to be grateful for. We hope you’ll join us as we begin this exploration into the power of perspective!

Is there something in your life ready for the Turn It challenge?

XOXO, MJ (and Joy)



Be Happy: Be Content

Shortly after having my second child, I signed up for a parenting class offered through my Church. I was ready for a fresh perspective and some new ideas as I headed into life with 2 kiddos. One of the opening exercises we did was to reflect on the question of what kind of children you wanted to raise. I wrote down a sheet full of adjectives that I would use to describe my dreams for my children. During the group sharing portion, I offered one idea. "Content", I blurted out. "Content?" he questioned. "Well, let's leave that off the list. That one has so much more to do with how they feel about themselves. And do you really want contentment? Isn't it better to be going FOR something?"

I left that evening puzzled. Contentment, as I had seen it, was a good thing - a state of being that said I am pleased (enough) with myself and my surroundings that I can be happy.

Enter Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. I've been reading it all summer and posting my reflections on each chapter. My curiosity was piqued when I came to Chapter 11 entitled Keep a Content Heart. Hmm. What would she have to say about contentment?

Her resolutions were these:

  • Laugh out loud.
  • Use good manners.
  • Give positive reviews.
  • Find an area of refuge.

She talks about "a heart to be contented" Do I have a heart to be contented? Much like Gretchen, I weigh in more on the dissatisfied, fretful, and a pain to please. Just ask my husband. Oh, wait, don't. :)

Contentment is our perception of happiness. It is in some ways the highest form of happiness because it adds the rest together and makes the broadest brushstroke, and, when actively present, contentment allows us to evaluate ourselves as happy.

As Gretchen quoted in this chapter, "It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light." Perhaps contentment is the lifting off of the heavy to allow the inner lightness to float up and out.

Let me leave it with this. I read this sign, that was in fact over my head on the ceiling today, as I went for a yearly check-up. It's where I am with contentment.