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Archive for the ‘Positive Living’ Category

On the first Saturday of October, Kelsi and I spent the entire day together (which spilled over into the evening) hanging out and participating in many Halloween-related activities.

We created a vlog of our jam-packed day, and I want to share it with you today, dear reader. It includes us enjoying a scrumptious lunch at La Madeleine: French Bakery and Cafe, shopping for Halloween decor, baking cookies, and so much more.

Kelsi and I are collaborating on a few more Halloween activities. In fact, tomorrow, 09 October at 3:00 p.m. Central Time, we will be having a LIVE CHAT on Kelsi’s YouTube channel. Our discussion will be about Stephen King’s book, Cycle of the Werewolf and a review of its movie adaptation, Silver Bullet. Of course, we will also sprinkle in all things related to Halloween. I’ve included the link to remind you to join us. It should be a lively discussion.

I am having an awesome time vlogging. I loved working in television, and vlogging is a wonderful opportunity to incorporate my television knowledge and skills in creating content. One of my goals in the near future is to get editing software, so I can edit my own vlogs. Kelsi has been sweet enough to help me out with the ones I have done solo which I am extremely grateful; however, she is super busy between her day job, Halloween-related activities, and creating content for her YouTube channel. It is the logical next step in my creative journey.

As I am wrapping up, a special shout out to Simon, mon frere, who is having a birthday today. He and I have been friends since the 10th grade. What a blessing he is to me! And, later this weekend, I will reveal some exciting news. No, I am not pregnant. Yes, it has something to do with my creative journey. Enjoy your weekend, dear reader. Happiness!

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

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What a busy week! So many adventures, surprises, and milestones happened throughout the past week. I had to take my car to the dealership to check on an emissions leak that turned out to be nonexistant. I received an Easter surprise from my dear friends, the Picone family. I hit the one year mark of walking daily for at least 20 minutes per day (walking streak). Kelsi and I had a ZOOM meeting to finalize details before we launch our virtual book club on April 1st. I got my 2nd COVID shot. And, Sophie, my German Shepherd, turned 13 years old. What a blessed life!

Not only has the past week been busy and a blessing, but the first quarter of the year has also proven to be stellar. I have some PROPS and FLOPS for the first three months. As you know, dear reader, I created a 21 for 2021 list with goals, activities, and courses that I want to accomplish this year. For the first quarter, I chose seven items to work on during January, February, and March. I’m happy to report that I get props for six of the items on my list with only one item being a flop.

PROPS

First of all, I completed #11 (Read Atomic Habits by James Clear) and #8 (One NO spend month). I picked up some great strategies to build good habits from Atomic Habits and saved some money during Frugal February. I now subscribe to Clear’s weekly newsletter to continue receiving terrific information and inspiration about habits, and I plan to do another NO spend month later in the year since it was a vast victory.

#1 (Manage Time) is going well. I schedule my time weekly, and it has been quite effective. #4 (Eat more vegetables) has been a huge success thanks to my hubster. He enjoys cooking way more than I enjoy it, so he has been the one cooking the new veggie recipes. He definitely deserves the props for this item. #14 (Take a WordPress Blogging Course) is going smoothly. I am half way through the course and have picked up some helpful tips. I anticipate completing the course next quarter. #20 (Scrapbook at least two times per month) has been a delightful way to spend my time. I’ve been catching up on the journaling portion of Andrew’s Ireland scrapbook. All of these items are ongoing, so they will appear again on my 2nd quarter list.

I’m happy to report that the various schedules that I created back in January, with the exception of one, have been working really well. I’ve been wholeheartedly sticking to my housekeeping schedule and course schedule. As for my self-care schedule, I have (for the most part) been sticking to everything in that category. My daily routine (#Read21in21, Walk 20 for 2021, gratitude journal, and daily Instagram photo) is an enormous happiness boost, and I look forward to it every day.

Finally, I must mention that I have engaged in some additional fun and fulfilling activities this first quarter. I completed one movie marathon in February and started another one in March that will conclude in April. I am participating in RCIA at St. Margaret Church where I am sponsoring Mr. Mike (Shelly’s step-dad). He will become a member of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, and I will become his Godmother. I’ve been involved in a project called Tranquility by Tuesday with the author, Laura Vanderkam, who writes about time management. And, last but not least, I’ve been working with Kelsi to create a Horror Book Club which will launch this upcoming Thursday. There is still time to take a survey (deadline on March 31st) and help us choose our book club name.

FLOPS

My one flop this quarter was #6 (Declutter and organize each room in my house). I created a decluttering schedule back in January that would have me decluttering and organizing one room in my house each month. Needless to say, it was ambitious and unrealistic to think I could tackle such a monumental item, even broken down into smaller tasks, with everything else I want to accomplish this year while also working a day job. Does that mean I am abandoning this item on my 21 for 2021 list? Absolutely NOT! However, I have set it aside for the time being until I can shed some of my other responsibilities.

My other flop is minor but still needs to be addressed. Since Daylight Saving Time has started, I have not been going to bed on time. I can now walk later in the evenings which puts more pep in my step, and I stay up later doing all sorts of wonderful things. Thus on Friday evenings, I am in bed and asleep by 8:00 p.m. because I basically run out of steam. I need to practice better self-care and adhere to my bedtime, so I do not get sick.


Not too shabby, dear reader. I am pleased with my progress and productivity. So many activities and adventures await me in April. The second quarter will mean the end of some events and the beginning of others, including a book club, Easter break, and summer break. Anticipation, what a glorious feeling! Happiness!

Easter Surprise from Jeff, Joanna, and Jackson

“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” ~ Jonas Salk

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SPRING

Haiku by Katherine Walters Loyacano

Flowers blossoming.

Sun-kissed days amidst chirping,

renew my spirit.

Spring officially arrived yesterday. While temperatures were slightly cooler than preferred, nature welcomed the new season with open arms amid a vast array of beautiful blossoms. To my delight, the sun even made a brief appearance. I spent a good chunk of the day at Fairview Riverside State Park in Madisonville, enjoying nature, the company of friends (socially distanced, of course), and boiled crawfish. It was my first crawfish feast of the season, and those mudbugs were seasoned to perfection.

Spring is a time of renewal, dear reader. It is a perfect time to clear out the clutter (physically and mentally), develop healthy habits, and create some change. Although this can be done other times throughout the year, taking action in the spring feels fitting. For me, it is about completing first quarter of the year goals, wrapping up a commitment, and the excitement of starting something new. I’m more energized and ready to make changes. And, I love spending more time outside surrounded by nature, especially taking longer walks in the evening. How about you, dear reader? What does the spring season mean to you? Happiness!

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature-the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson 

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The day has FINALLY arrived! It is the first day of Daylight Saving Time, and I cannot be more elated. For me, springing forward one hour is a game changer. During this period of time, I am more enthusiastic, energetic, and effective in all of my endeavors.

The time change is not the only celebration for this weekend. Yesterday, Son #1, his girlfriend Kayla, and I celebrated my hubby’s 55th birthday at The Steakhouse located in downtown Hammond. This is also my second new restaurant of the year (#18 on my 21 for 2021 list). We enjoyed a splendid dining experience which included a terrific meal, excellent service, a relaxed atmosphere, and awesome conversation.

Our waiter for the evening was Lance, who was super sweet. We started our evening off with drinks. The Barrys ordered Blue Moon (beer), and Kayla ordered a Coke. I ordered a Watermelon Martini which contains fresh watermelon, house-made simple syrup, and Luksusowa Vodka with a touch of mint. Yum-Yum! We all skipped an appetizer in favor of dessert at the end of the meal. I tried to order one of the specials for the evening, BBQ Shrimp and Grits, but it was unavailable. Instead, I ordered Grilled Salmon, which is seared with their rub and glazed with local honey, and a side salad with honey mustard dressing. Barry, Sr. ordered a 6 ounce Filet Mignon, a cup of mushroom soup, and a loaded baked potato. Barry, Jr. ordered an 8 ounce Ribe-Eye, a house salad, and a loaded baked potato. I ate some of his baked potato. Kayla ordered a 6 ounce Rib-Eye, corn and crab bisque (which she gave to Barry, Jr.), macaroni and cheese, and french fries. We all enjoyed our meals. Finally, to end our delightful evening, Barry, Sr. and I shared The Steakhouse Bread Pudding, and Kayla chose the Louisiana Creole Creamcheese Cake. Both were great choices.

It’s hard to believe, dear reader, that we are a full year into this pandemic. Thankfully, the future is looking brighter. Tomorrow begins the final quarter of the school year which means summer break is just around the corner. I’m optimistic it will be a much better summer break than last summer with more opportunities for me to stretch my creative wings. In the meantime, I will revel in more daylight. Happiness!

“With the coming of spring, I am calm again.” ~ Gustav Mahler

Photo Credit: Alarm Clock photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

Since February is a short month, I have chosen it as a “no spend month” which is #8 on my 21 for 2021 list. Basically, this means that my family and I will not spend money on wants (non-essential spending) but rather only on needs. We will temporarily freeze spending in entertainment/hobby/social related categories (movies, eating out, books, etc.) and hold off on major purchases until after February. This also means NO impulse buying! In addition, I generally cover non-essential items for Andrew (mostly books); however, this month he and I agreed that if he didn’t need it and couldn’t wait until March, he would have to pay for it himself. Psst, he only made it until Wednesday evening. HA! I jest because Andrew is pretty good about saving money, so I don’t anticipate this occurring again this month.

The purpose of me wanting to try this for one month is to evaluate our spending habits, get an idea of what we really need to spend monthly, and help us see how little we can get by with in a month. Additionally, with all the uncertainty surrounding us with the pandemic, if something changes with our household income, we know where we can adjust our spending habits and concentrate on the bare necessities.

Another aspect of this financial experiment is taking the time during the month to audit our monthly bills and track our spending at the grocery store with revamping our budget in mind. This will help us reflect on and revise our financial goals for the remainder of the year. With regard to spending money at the grocery store, we can examine ways of saving money throughout the month by taking advantage of sales, coupons, or using up excess food in the freezer. In fact, I already have a recipe to use up the ham left over from Christmas dinner.

With all that being said, I have found one loophole to dining out this month (#18 on my 21 for 2021 list: try one new restaurant per month). For Christmas, my hubby and I received a gift card for a restaurant that happens to be one that we have never tried; therefore, we will be able to try a new restaurant this month without spending any money allotted for February. Last month, I included extra money with the gift card to cover the tip. By doing this, the money for the tip was technically spent last month and not in February. I call that planning.

Even though this item on my 21 for 2021 may not seem fun on the surface, dear reader, I do think that it will give me a happiness boost when I see how much money we saved at the end of the month. And, I say this because I got a glimpse of the potential savings last spring when everything shut down due to the pandemic. Thus, I plan to approach this month of frugal living as an adventure. Happiness!

“By sowing frugality we reap liberty, a golden harvest.” ~ Agesilaus

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Happy Birthday to Me! My birthday was this past Monday (11 January), and I’m officially 52 years old. I do not feel it mentally or physically although I’m sure I look it. No matter, because I’m happy and grateful to be alive another day and can celebrate another year of life. Despite my special day being brutally cold (thankfully, no carpool duty) and having to work, it was a terrific birthday. I received cards from my fabulous co-workers, a gift and card from my fantastic roommate Julia, and lunch was provided for me by two of my fab friends who work in the school library, Kathryn and Debbie. Throughout the day, I received numerous happy birthday messages, texts, and emails. I even received cards in the mail.

When I arrived home from work later in the afternoon, I had a Desert Beauty plant (succulents and cacti) and a card waiting for me from my sweet friend Denise. Andrew and I had our regular take-out dinner Monday evening from Kirin (sushi for me and ramen for him). My gift from Andrew was a book that I have been wanting by Mary Higgins Clark called Piece of My Heart. (Barry, Jr. is getting me Spellbound by Estée Lauder, my favorite perfume.) I relaxed for the remainder of the evening, reading and responding to birthday wishes. I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the day of my birth. However, since my birthday fell on a Monday, and my hubby was out of town, my birthday celebration extended into this weekend.

I requested that Barry take me to the movies and then dinner afterwards at a new restaurant. Yesterday, he and I went to the afternoon screening of Wonder Woman 1984. While it was not as good as Wonder Woman, the first movie in the franchise featuring Gal Gadot, Barry and I still enjoyed it. After the movie, we went to dinner. Originally, I wanted to try One Thirteen in Hammond. Unfortunately, we did not make our reservations soon enough to dine inside, and neither one of us had the desire to dine outside in the cold. Therefore, we did a little research and ended up dining at Paolo’s Restaurant and Wine Bar located on East Pine Street in Ponchatoula. Paolo’s features northern Italian cuisine. This is my first new restaurant of the year (#18 on my 21 for 2021 list). What an excellent choice! A terrific atmosphere, a friendly and experienced restaurant staff, and delicious food made for a wonderful dining experience.

Our waitress for the evening was Haylee. Since it was our first visit, I asked her for recommendations before I ordered anything, and everything she recommended was AWESOME. I wanted a birthday cocktail and couldn’t decide between the Blood Orange Cosmopolitan and the Moscow Mule. Haylee recommended the Blood Orange Cosmopolitan which contains Vodka, Blood Orange Liqueur, Cranberry Juice, Triple Sec, and Fresh Lime Juice. Yummy! Barry ordered a Bud Light. Barry and I skipped an appetizer, so that we could save room for dessert. I ordered one of the specials for the evening, Grilled Atlantic Salmon over braised brussels sprouts, and Barry ordered the Blue Crab Ravioli. Both of our entrées were scrumptious. Of course, we had to try each other’s entrée. Finally, to end a perfect evening, we ordered the Crème Brûlée which we shared. It was heavenly! Furthermore, since we were celebrating my birthday, our dessert was complimentary which made it even sweeter.

In Other News

I am still tracking my time for the week. Weekends are also tracked even though they look differently from the rest of the week, Monday through Friday. My week technically ends at 4:30 tomorrow morning (Monday, 18 January). I will analyze my time log to see what it reveals and share my findings with you, dear reader. I have already started jotting down some ideas of how I am going to divvy up my time based on the first few days of my log. I have to be realistic.

Also, the room in my house that I am focusing on this month is my office. Andrew and I share this room. I use it to write/blog, and he uses it for school work. The office has furniture in place and one framed print hung up closest to the door. The goal is to clear out the piles of paperwork on top of my desk and in a couple of boxes under my desk. I also have a box of memorabilia that needs to find a home in my house. Eventually, I will hang a bulletin board in this room and possibly a white board. The ultimate goal is to declutter and organize each room in my house by the end of the year (#6 on my 21 for 2021 list).

There is not much else to share at this point, dear reader. I’m grateful to have tomorrow off (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day). Andrew and I both have eye appointments with a new eye doctor in Ponchatoula. In the meantime, I will enjoy the rest of today which includes catching a live stream of Kelsi on Twitch at 2:00 this afternoon. I hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend. Happiness!

Be happy and enjoy your sacred time on earth.” ~ Lailah Gifty Akita

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Happy New Year! It feels wonderful welcoming in a new year after living through a year of disappointment, turmoil, and unpredictability. While there were aspects of 2020 that I am grateful for, I am happy with moving on from that chapter of my life and currently focusing on the next chapter with the anticipation of new opportunities to learn, grow, and increase my joy factor.

FOCUS is my word for 2021. I’m choosing to focus on my health, my home, my happiness as it relates to my career (focusing on creating a new career I have wanted for many years), and my hobbies. My 21 for 2021 list will FOCUS on these four areas.

Kat’s 21 for 2021 List

  1. Manage time.
  2. Maintain a regular fitness regimen.
  3. Create weekly meal plans.
  4. Eat more vegetables.
  5. Try intermittent fasting for one month (Clean & Lean).
  6. Declutter and organize each room in my house.
  7. Write a will.
  8. Try one NO spend month.
  9. Revisit A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle.
  10. Complete The Four Tendencies course (Gretchen Rubin).
  11. Read Atomic Habits by James Clear.
  12. Read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
  13. Create a vision board.
  14. Take a WordPress Blogging course.
  15. Take a WordPress Podcasting course.
  16. Purchase podcasting equipment.
  17. Complete Write a Bestseller course (Jeff Goins).
  18. Try 12 new restaurants (one per month).
  19. Take Becky Higgins Classroom: Photo Tips + Work Flow.
  20. Scrapbook at least two times per month.
  21. Learn how to use my Cricut Maker.

During the month of January, I will focus on managing my time. I want to establish a better daily routine, create schedules for decluttering, housekeeping, working on my courses, and self care, as well as continuing to participate in improv and RCIA. Essentially, I want to use my weekly 168 hours more effectively. I also want to try to break down the remaining 20 items on my list into the four quarters of the year to make accomplishing them more manageable. Naturally, several of my items are designed to run throughout the entire course of the year which is also totally fine. I’m excited about all the possibilities this new year has to offer and look forward to the journey through 2021.

Other Plans for 2021:

  1. On Goodreads, I joined the 2021 Reading Challenge, and my goal is to read 50 books again this year. 
  2. I am participating in Gretchen Rubin’s #Read21for21 challenge. Basically, you read for 21 minutes every day in 2021. While I do read a great deal, I don’t necessarily read for pleasure every day. I’ve also decided to read specific books during my daily 21 minutes to see how many books I read throughout the year just in that daily timeframe. According to Gretchen Rubin, “If you read for 21 minutes per day for 365 days, that’s 7,665 minutes, or almost 128 hours of reading. You can read a lot of books in 128 hours!” 
  3. This year, I also plan to keep a TA-DA list for 2021. Many times I accomplish goals that are not included on my list, and I should be celebrating those accomplishments, too. 
  4. Hopefully, I will be attending my annual scrapbooking convention with my gal pals in June. We didn’t get to attend last year because of the pandemic, so I REALLY hope and pray we can get together this summer. 

What do you have planned in 2021, dear reader? Have you made some resolutions or a 21 for 2021 list? If you could choose a one-word theme for this year, what word would you choose? Let me know what your plans are for 2021. Happiness!

“Focus is the key to accomplish what is necessary – easy word to spell, it contains only five letters but it is probably one of the most powerful words there are in order to move forward with confidence and with the expected results.” ~ Bryan Pulsifer

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2019 was a terrific year for me. I had made significant strides in different areas of my life (health, home, acting). Along with so many people, I was excited about 2020. I felt like it was going to be my year to make a breakthrough as an actor. I started improv classes in January. I knew from the very first class that improv was going to be an important piece of the puzzle concerning my acting career. In February, I completed a series of private sessions with my acting coach, Lance Nichols, and we had outlined acting goals for the remainder of the year. And, then COVID-19 derailed everything in early March. 

Since 2018, I have made a list of tangible goals to accomplish throughout the year with that year setting the number of items on the list. I got this fun idea three years ago from Gretchen Rubin, who is the author of The Happiness Project. In 2018, I completed 14 of the items on my 18 for 2018 list. In 2019, I completed 11 of the items on my 19 for 2019 list. In 2020, I have only completed 5 of the items on my 20 for 2020 list. For me, like for many people all over the world, the pandemic affected the accomplishment of several items on my list this year.

Therefore, let’s start with my 5 accomplishments. I took my first improv class (#7) back in January. Since we can’t meet in person for classes, my improv teacher, David Hamilton, graciously offers bimonthly virtual hangouts to his students to keep our improv muscles in shape. What an awesome gift! I read So You Want to Start a Podcast by Kristen Meinzer (#3). Reading this book has taken my desire to create a podcast to the next level. I finally bought new bras (#12). I found a new eye doctor and scheduled an appointment for January 2021 (#14). Lastly, I spent the summer with Poe (#16) by reading a great deal of Edgar Allan Poe’s work.

There are 3 items on my list that I almost completed, but couldn’t quite finish. Is there a possibility I can complete them by the end of 2020? Anything is possible, but it seems highly unlikely with other activities that I have planned between now and the end of the year.

  • #8 Organize the home office. (moved in, not completely organized)
  • #18 Complete Andrew’s Ireland scrapbook. (several layouts lack journaling)
  • #19 Organize my master bedroom closet. (two attempts made, with so much more to do)

There are 4 items on my list that were impacted directly by the pandemic, so I was unable to complete them the way I would normally.

  • #6 Get professional headshots.
  • #11 Try 20 new restaurants. (only tried 8 due to restrictions; 2 of the 8, curbside pickup)
  • #15 Host a Bunco party.
  • #20 Run a 5K. 

There are 7 items on my list that I made NO attempt to complete. Lack of motivation and poor time management are the culprits for not accomplishing these items. I definitely had the time to complete them.

  • #1 Create a vision board.
  • #2 Read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
  • #4 Try intermittent fasting. (Clean & Lean)
  • #9 Organize the kitchen pantry.
  • #10 Learn ways of living sustainably to be more eco-friendly.
  • #13 Write a will.
  • #17 Take Becky Higgins Classroom: Photo Tips + Workflow

Last but not least, there is 1 item on my list that I failed to complete in the most miserable way. And, there are NO excuses. I did not lose 20 pounds (#5) this year. In fact, I gained weight and added two more pounds to my blubber. As of today, I am 161 pounds which makes me about 40 pounds overweight. I won’t sugarcoat the situation, even though sugar plays a big part. As I have written in previous posts this year, I have the knowledge. Apparently, I lack the desire to make health and wellness a priority as demonstrated by a weight gain instead of a weight loss. 

Indeed, dear reader, I am not humming Beck’s “Loser.” There is no need to beat myself up or get down on myself. Am I disappointed? Sure, only because I had expectations. Keep in mind, I may not have accomplished most of the items on my 20 for 2020 list, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t accomplish other things this year. Life certainly can be unpredictable, as illustrated by this year, and uncertainty can wholeheartedly make us anxious, frustrated, and unhappy. However, unpredictability can also be adventurous, interesting, and exciting. Maybe that is one reason why I’m drawn to the art of improv. Therefore, I choose the latter attitude towards unpredictability. For me, making this type of list is a more enjoyable approach to achieving goals than traditional New Year’s resolutions. It will definitely not thwart my intentions of making a 21 for 2021 list. In fact, I’m looking forward to making a list for next year. I already have ideas swirling around in my head as well as my one-word theme for 2021. Happiness!

“The unpredictability of the future means absolutely nothing to the dreams of an ambitious positive mind.” ~ Edmond Mbiaka

 

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I strive for positive living and look for the silver lining in the most precarious situations. It doesn’t take much to fill my happiness bucket. As a result, the littlest of things tend to give me a happiness boost and bring a measure of joy to my life that I embrace with delight.

I am a fan of the podcast, Happier in Hollywood, which is hosted by television writers, Liz Craft and Sarah Fain. They had rainbow silipint cups made for the show, and I wanted one. So, I ordered one when they first came out which was when the pandemic started, so I had to wait a very long time to get one. My patience finally paid off, and I received one in the mail about two months ago. I get a happiness boost every time I use it while working in my scrapbook room.

I absolutely adore pineapple. Until just recently, I ate pineapple out of a can. It seemed complicated to cut a fresh pineapple with a knife. My friend Shelly had a Pampered Chef party a few months ago, and I decided to buy a pineapple slicer. I already have a slicer that cuts apples and pears perfectly, so I thought this gadget might work just as well. And, thankfully it does…for my hubby.

Receiving a selfie of two of my favorite people on the planet in the middle of a work day provides a ginormous happiness boost. My friend Karen works as a florist at Rouse’s, and our friend Jeff popped in on her at work last week. This picture makes me smile BIG.

I’m a huge fan of children’s literature and cherish picture books. Jan Brett is one of my favorite children’s authors and illustrators. I picked up this gem at my school’s recent Scholastic Book Fair. This delightful tale has been added to my Christmas Fun List for 2020.

Stephen King is my absolute FAVORITE author. I’ve loved his work since I was introduced to him in the 8th grade and read The Stand. I now have three of his POP figures. The first one is Stephen King with his dog Molly aka The Thing of Evil. The middle one is Stephen King as the shopkeeper in It. And, the third one is Stephen King holding a red balloon (reference to Pennywise the Clown in It).

On Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings, I get a gigantic happiness boost from watching my friend Kelsi’s live stream on Twitch. She talks about so many terrific topics that I find both interesting and entertaining. Kelsi and I will be conversing soon about Christmas horror movies.

Today, I added a touch of whimsy to my Christmas shopping adventure at The Home Depot. I’m Kat the Elf, spreading a little Christmas cheer at this joyous time of year. As my friend Kelsi would say, “this is ridiculous,” and I would have to agree. However, adding a little whimsy to your day can be a tremendous happiness boost. This would actually make a good picture on a Christmas card. HA! I tried to convince my hubby to take a picture as the Grinch with Max the dog, but he would not hear of it.

These are just a few objects or activities, dear reader, that add some happiness to my day. I can honestly say that every day there is something or someone that boosts my happiness. The gestures or items may be small, but they are blessings, and their effects are huge. What are some things, activities, or people that give you happiness boosts? Happiness!

Comet aka Tooty gives me a happiness boost every single day.

“Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations given habitually, are what preserve the heart and secure comfort.” ~ Humphry Davy

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Back in June, I had listened to Episode #6 (“Dial D for Distracted”) of Season 2 of The Happiness Lab podcast. The episode included an enlightening conversation between Dr. Laurie Santos and Catherine Price, a science journalist and author of How to Break Up With Your Phone. Shortly after listening to the episode, I bought Price’s book because I felt like I had a phone problem. After reading the first part of the book called The Wake-Up, I scheduled The Breakup which is a hands-on approach to establishing a healthier relationship with your phone. The experience of breaking up with my phone revealed surprising information about myself, my relationship with my phone, and helpful tips to dealing with screen time in general. 

Initially, I thought I was addicted to my phone. After spending 30 days  (July 06-August 04) breaking up with my phone, I realized that I had an unhealthy relationship with screens in general, specifically internet-related screens and mainly with social media. And, that relationship, which was having an adverse effect on my mental health and well-being, took root rather quickly and stemmed from the uncertainty and isolation brought about from COVID-19. At the start, it was fun staying connected through Facebook, playing games, and taking silly quizzes. Additionally, lots of time was spent watching the news, scrolling daily through data on COVID, and reading articles about life during the pandemic. Unfortunately, as time passed, fun was replaced with feeling depleted and numb which then turned into shame. And, being “informed” nonstop about the pandemic and its negative effects on the world was causing me to become anxious. For three months, I spiraled down the rabbit hole of mindless scrolling and unconscious living. Without having the ability to freely go places or engage in work or social activities with other people outside your pod made me feel stagnant. Except for my daily walk, I was not spending my spare time intentionally.

Break up PhoneThankfully, Catherine Price’s handbook brought me back to reality and helped me reclaim my time and sanity. The first task Price assigned was downloading a time-tracking app on my phone. I chose Moment which she recommended in the book for iPhone users. In my opinion, this app is helpful. I still have it on my phone. My goals were set for 3 hours of screen time and 50 pickups. Looking at my Moment Data, it is clear that I rarely go over my screen time or my pickups. There was one day that my screen time was 6 hours and 47 minutes. This was the day that Shelly was taken to the ER in Florida. Texting was our line of communication between one another and our friends. My heaviest pickup day was 12 August with 68 pickups. School was back in session, so most of my pickups were school-related texts. For me, this app curbs my craving to constantly check my phone or reach for it to check Facebook, so that is the main reason I still have it on my phone.  

On Day 5 of the plan, Price recommends deleting social media apps. The only social media apps that I have on my phone are Facebook and Instagram. I immediately deleted Facebook. I rarely use Instagram, so there was no need to delete it. The point was to make accessing these apps more difficult and less appealing. It worked! I have since reinstalled the Facebook app on my phone; however, my time on the app is limited to mainly posting pictures/inspirational content and checking on family/friends, and my usage is at designated times of the day and for a designated amount of time. On Day 9 of the plan, she recommends tidying up your apps by organizing them in categories. This was quite simple since I don’t have many apps on my phone. My only junk food app is Trivia Crack which is an enjoyable game. While it can be a big time suck, it did not consume as much of my time as Facebook, so I chose not to delete it. Since the breakup, I have limited my game time tremendously.

Days 20 and 21 were the most challenging part of the plan. This is the trial separation from your phone for 24 hours. I chose 7:00 in the evening on Friday, 24 July through the following evening on Saturday, 25 July. In addition to disconnecting from my phone, I also disconnected from my other devices. In the beginning of the trial separation, I was antsy. My main concern about this assignment was someone trying to reach me since my phone is also my family’s home phone. To put my mind at ease, I turned my ringer on, so I could answer any calls. Checking text message was limited to twice during the 24 hour period. Once I accepted the challenge and put my phone away, I felt lighter and excited about the next 24 hours. From my data log, the screen time and pickups on Friday were prior to 7:00 that evening. On Saturday, the data shows 4 minutes of screen time and 4 pickups. Clearly, my time was well-spent, and I felt a sense of freedom.

At first, the hardest or worst part of the breakup was feeling disconnected from others virtually. In addition, observing others constantly reaching for and checking their phones made me feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, our world relies too much on technology to feed the mind and soul. I kept a time log during my breakup to see where my time was going when not using my phone. In the beginning, I discovered I was playing a bunch of Words with Friends on my iPad, as well as scrolling mindlessly through Facebook. Fortunately, the best part of this experience outweighed the worst part. I quickly realized that I hadn’t become addicted to my phone, but to social media and games. Luckily, I now view my phone more as a tool that allows me to communicate with others both personally and professionally, listen to podcasts and music, access necessary information (maps, email, appointments, etc.), and record memories through pictures, video, and audio. Facebook is no longer on the main screen of my phone and is no longer checked first thing in the morning. Trivia Crack is played daily but only for a few minutes. Since the breakup, I put my phone away more often when working on tasks or participating in activities. I find that I am more creative, more focused, and happier. As for other devices, I limit any frivolous time spent on them. I would rather use my time to write, scrapbook, read, play card/board games, watch something on television, or spend time with family and friends. 

Breaking up with my phone was a valuable experience, dear reader. I gained new insight about myself, gained more time to be creative, and gained healthier habits with screens. If you feel like you have a phone problem or a social media problem, I would highly recommend How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price. For more information on budgeting screen time, check out Episode 23 (“Good Screens and Bad Screens”) of Season 1 of The Happiness Lab podcast and Catherine Price’s website Screen/Life Balance. Happiness! 

“The difference between technology and slavery is that slaves are fully aware that they are not free.” ~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Game

This is “The Royal Game of Ur” created by Andrew’s girlfriend Aileigh as a gift to Andrew which I recently learned to play in my spare time.

 

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