Monday, March 14, 2016

Some Little Things

4 more school days until spring break. Here are 5 small pleasures to help carry me through:

A harbinger of spring.

A vaguely St. Patrick's Day-themed bouquet.

Nearing the completion of a project.

A cozy afternoon nap.

Labradorite earrings and a new lipstick.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Weekend Mini-Adventures

My brother was in the general DMV area for work this week, so my parents came in for a Saturday mini-reunion. We had brunch at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, MD, and then took in the sights of the NASA Goddard Visitor Center. Mini-adventures like this one and last weekend's goat farm visit are perfect for getting out of the daily grind and getting a change of scenery. Especially with spring's official start right around the corner, I want to make a point to get out of my neighborhood at least once a month. Too much time in a 10-mile radius and my perspective narrows; I get bogged down in the little details of life that don't really matter that much. Plus life is sweeter when there's always something exciting just around the corner!

Are you a fan of the weekend mini-adventure? How do you expand your horizons?

'Science on a Sphere' is definitely the star attraction.

The Sphere in motion.

A little planetary whimsy to take home.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What People Talk About in a Complaint-Free World

If you are in the habit of complaining, it may seem a little daunting to try to converse with other humans without immediately defaulting to the negative. If you have noticed that you tend to default to whining, you may think, "Well what on Earth am I going to talk about instead?!" 

What's going on in your life that's positive? If you find it hard not to complain at work, what do you do after hours that brings you happiness? If you're tempted to say, "I can't wait to get out of here," try, "I can't wait to get back to the book I've been reading." If the grocery store is especially busy, instead of commiserating with the person behind you in line, quietly remind yourself that the ability to hop in your car for a quick trip to the store actually means that you are quite privileged. It takes some effort, but you can redirect most everyday complaints into something positive.

When all else fails, just change the subject to something better. Here are some things I'm going keep in mind for when I'm talking to someone and resisting the urge to complain:  

Projects I'm working on.

The book I'm reading.

Upcoming adventures.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Bliss List and A Complaint-Free World

The focus of this is post is the driving concepts behind two books that I have not actually read. 'The Bliss List' by J. P. Hansen challenges the reader to determine what makes him or her happy and then parlay it into a job, and 'A Complaint-Free World' by Will Bowen challenges the reader to give up complaining for 21 days. (Spring break reading, perhaps?)

Teachers, as a general rule, have a pretty serious case of the Whine Flu, as Hansen calls it. It's not that we hate being teachers, but we bond by commiserating, and, frankly, the public school system often provides a lot of fodder for that. There are times when venting lets off some steam or when making a complaint brings about a solution, and sometimes it's confirm that you are your work friends are all in the same frustrating boat. However I've been wondering lately just how often there's a positive side to the negativity. Every time I retell a story about something genuinely frustrating, I'm really just reliving the frustration, and, about 90% of the time, there's no reward to reap. I just got to relive the worst part(s) of my day however many times I tell the story.

I grew up at a time in which there seemed to be only two kinds of TV shows: sugary-sweet family sitcoms (think 'Full House') and shows about neurotic urbanites (think 'Seinfeld'). As I got older and realized that life's problems do not solve themselves in 22-minute segments, I think I subconsciously bought into the image of sophisticated, urban adults as judgmental complainers with therapists. (Not there's anything wrong with that...) Complaints are almost a form of currency; it's a signal that we're all in this (apparently) horrible world together. If you aren't complaining, then you're either a naive Pollyanna or a jerky show-off.

But here's the thing: I think I'm ready for a better currency. Complaining is a cop-out for real engagement with others and with the world--it might seem like you're sharing your feelings and connecting with others, but you're often not. You're just bitching about the copier.

I'm going to do an experiment for the next 2 weeks. I'm not going to complain and see how it affects my overall outlook. Instead of reaching out to a friend when something bad has happened, I will reach out when something good has happened. If others come to me to complain, I will just listen and offer support as appropriate. It may very well be super-annoying to those around me, but I'm curious to see how it will affect my own mental state.  

Have you ever put a deep-freeze on complaining? How did it go? Do you have any tricks for breaking the habit? 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

1000 Things To Be Thankful For: 141-160

No clue if those hooves over my shoulder are coming or going.

141-160. Goats

Yesterday I had the good fortune to be a volunteer goat-snuggler at Caromont Farm in Esmont, VA. I can't begin to describe how joyful and restorative it was. As fun and light as goat snuggling is, it was also nice to be reminded that goat farming is no joke, and that there are real people hard at work behind the scenes of every food we eat. (For clarity, the product of this farm is goat cheese, not goat meat.)

"I'm just going to take a nibble of your braid, if you don't mind."

I played with two groups of about a dozen week-old goats. A kid was born just before I got there, and another had been born that morning, so I was delighted to get to see the tiniest of tiny babies. The kid "playpens" pretty much vacillate between complete chaos and nap time--there's not much in between! I didn't really know what to expect, but I told a friend that I was hoping to be covered in goats. That is pretty literally what happened. If they were awake, they were all over me in such a sweet, playful way. It's not for everyone; the kids were more or less hurling themselves at me, and it was a sea of ears, (blessedly dull) teeth, knobby knees, and wagging tails. It was the very definition of my jam.

While goat snuggling is a lot more active than, say, sloth snuggling, I left feeling refreshed and at peace rather than tired. It was one of those experiences that recalibrates your mental state. It's easy to get bogged down in the minutia of everyday life, particularly the annoying, nagging aspects, if you don't take time to find your bliss. I will officially return to the real world tomorrow when I go back to work, and my Sunday afternoon to-do list includes strategizing about how to get more bliss into my day-to-day. 

This kid is basking in the glow of his own goatiness.

How do you inject some tranquility into your week when a trip to the goat farm (or equivalent) isn't in the cards? When was the last time you felt truly at peace?