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Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

I woke up yesterday morning in my own bed at home filled to the brim with gratitude after spending an incredible week in Utah with my sweet Aunt Carolyn and my awesome cousins. Their hospitality was AMAZING, the mountains were beautiful, and the memories will last for a lifetime. My Aunt Carolyn is one of my favorite people on the planet. We always have lots to talk about, and we pick up where we left off, like no time has passed since the last time we saw each other or talked to one another on the phone.

The only two people missing from this visit were my cousin Max, who now lives in San Antonio, and my charming Uncle Charles, who passed away three years ago. Uncle Charles was one of my Daddy’s older brothers and Aunt Carolyn’s sweetheart. Thankfully, I was able to visit his place of rest to tell him how much he is missed. He loved to tell stories and jokes. I always enjoyed spending time with him.

The last time I was physically in Utah was back in June of 2000 when my Daddy, my hubby, and me flew to the beehive state. With my Aunt Carolyn turning 80 years old in November 2020, and it being seven years (yikes!) since I had last seen my family from Utah at my cousin Max’s wedding in San Antonio, I knew it was time for a visit. I sent a message to my cousin Karen, who Aunt Carolyn lives with these days (in her beautiful basement apartment), and we set a date for me to come stay with them.

Back Row: (Daddy, Karen, Kat) and Front Row: (Aunt Carolyn, Uncle Charles, Barry, Sr.)

The week started off with my friend Kathryn and I traveling together. We flew out of the NOLA airport early Monday morning (12 July), changed planes in Houston, and landed in Salt Lake City before noon. While I was visiting my family in Tooele (about 30 minutes outside of Salt Lake City), she was visiting her daughter and son-in-law in Salt Lake City.

Karen and Aunt Carolyn retrieved me from the airport, and my vacay in Utah was underway. This trip to Utah was all about spending time with family. Karen is married to John, and they have three terrific children (Samantha aka Sam or Sami, Zach, and Taylor). The last time I was in Utah, they were all young children.

Zachary, Taylor, and Samantha

On Monday and Tuesday while Karen and John were at work, my Aunt Carolyn and I hung out at the house or ran errands in Salt Lake City or Tooele. We ate lunch at Applebee’s on Monday and Chili’s on Tuesday. On Monday evening, Karen picked up pizzas on her way home for dinner. She bought them from Papa Murphy’s Pizza where they make fresh from scratch pizza that can be baked, grilled, or smoked at home. I had a couple of slices of pepperoni pizza along with salad and a breadstick. The meal was delicious! Sam along with her adorable three-year-old twins, Carsen and Cory, joined us for dinner.

On Tuesday evening, Karen and Sam cooked dinner for all of us which was yummy (pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans). I got to spend some more time with the twins. They are so much fun! Zach, his wife Teshia, and their adorable baby Maverick joined us for dinner. Zach has a lovely family. Later that evening, Taylor and I took the family dogs, Hobbs and Murphy, for a walk around the neighborhood. Even on vacation, I need to keep up my walking streak, and Taylor was the perfect walking buddy.

On Wednesday morning, Karen went with the twins to swim lessons because Sam, who is pregnant with her third baby, had a doctor’s appointment. Afterwards, Karen, Aunt Carolyn, and I had lunch at American Burgers which is one of Aunt Carolyn’s favorite places to eat. I ordered a BLT (my favorite sandwich) which was tasty. Later, Karen took us for a scenic drive. I love the mountains! We passed through Pine Canyon, and when returning to the house, we stopped above Deer Hollow; then, we rode through some neighborhoods where we spotted lots of deer. Deer are beautiful creatures. Utah is unfortunately experiencing a drought, so they’ll come down from the mountains searching for water. In fact, recently, Karen filled up a baby pool for a deer that wandered in her backyard. Her kind gesture was greatly appreciated.

Later that evening, I went out to dinner with Aunt Carolyn and her girlfriends from church. Her friend Cindy provided transportion for us as well as for Joyce, Janine and Janine’s daughter Barbara. Joanne met us at the restaurant, Los Primos (formerly Stockton Miners Cafe), which is located in a nearby town called Stockton. Karen had driven us to Stockton earlier in the day on our sightseeing adventure. I decided to order breakfast for dinner (French toast with two sausage links, an egg, and coffee). I was so excited about the French toast that I forgot to take a picture when I first got my food. HA! The food was awesome and the company was wonderful. Aunt Carolyn’s friends are cool, and I was thankful to be included in their outing. Back at Aunt Carolyn’s place, I walked around the neighborhood (definitely needed a walk after all those carbs). I spotted some quail in a neighbor’s driveway before heading inside. Sam and the twins had come over, so I was able to see them for a little bit. After they left, I hung out with Karen and John. Karen and I stayed up pretty late talking that night. What a delightful day!

On Thursday after noon, we drove to Salt Lake City and spent time at This Is The Place Heritage Park. I am writing a separate post about this excursion later this week. This is the day that I finally got to meet Sam’s husband Michael. Stay tuned!

On Friday morning, I walked around the neighborhood before breakfast since we were having a big family gathering in the evening. Karen had to work, so Aunt Carolyn and I ran a bunch of errands and ate lunch at Jim’s Family Restaurant. I ordered breakfast for lunch (avocado, mushroom, and cheese omelette with hashbrowns and coffee). Scrumptious! On the way back to Karen’s house, we stopped at the cemetary to visit Uncle Charles’s grave. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend his funeral because I was out of town for a professional development conference for work. Back at the house, I spent the afternoon getting organized for my departure on Saturday morning. I also spent some quality time with Murphy. Both of Karen’s dogs are super loveable.

Friday evening was FANTASTIC! My cousin Scott and his wife Kim came to the house for dinner with their three children. Zach, his family, Michael and Carsen were all there. Sadly, we were missing Sam and Cory. Cory was feeling unwell, so Sam and Michael decided that he should stay home for the evening. It was an enjoyable evening spent eating fabulous food (everything was sooooo yummy), engaging in carefree conversations, and taking family photos. Karen’s savory macaroni salad and mouthwatering key lime pie were a hit with my taste buds. Scott’s daughter Tylee made a delicious chocolate cake that I thoroughly enjoyed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (and chocolate sauce). I definitely splurged this week. Carsen came inside to find me, so I could see the rainbow she spotted in the sky. What a perfect way to end such an amazing week!

Well, dear reader, Saturday morning arrived too quickly. Michael drove Aunt Carolyn and me to the airport where we said our final good-byes. It was time for me to meet Kathryn for our returning flight to Louisiana. What an incredible visit with Aunt Carolyn and my Utah cousins! This trip was assuredly well-spent with some of my favorite people. I felt so welcomed and enjoyed everything that was done for me to make this visit special. The hospitality, generosity, and thoughtfulness of my extended family will never be forgotten. Happiness!

Kat and Kathryn at the Utah Airport (heading back to Louisiana)

“The memories we make with our family is everything.” ~ Candace Cameron Bure

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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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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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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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Happy Birthday, Aunt Carolyn!

Typically, November is the month that plenty of us pause and reflect on our blessings. The celebration of Thanksgiving stirs up the soul to think more deeply about who and what we are most thankful for in our lives. 2020 has been a challenging year for many with the global COVID-19 pandemic, numerous natural disasters, and the presidential election in the United States. I’m sure there are some who would scoff at feeling grateful amidst so much suffering and loss. However, counting our blessings every day, not just during the month of November, is a wonderful way to navigate through a stressful period of uncertainty. 

I chose November 2020 to visually count my blessings with a gratitude project on Instagram called A Month of Gratitude. If you are interested in my project, you can follow me on Instagram @katherineloyacano. Each day, I post a black and white image of someone or something that nurtures my grateful heart. I am fully aware that 30 days will not cover everyone or everything that I am most grateful for in my life, but it is a wholehearted starting point towards being more mindful of the gifts I receive daily. Today, I am grateful for my Aunt Carolyn who is celebrating her 80th birthday. What a terrific person! I wish I could be with her today celebrating such a huge milestone. She has a special place in my heart. 

Undeniably, there is a great deal that stinks about 2020. It has been a year of loss in so many ways. Loss of life, loss of jobs and financial stability, loss of hopes and dreams, as well as the loss of security to name a few. Nevertheless, when you peel back that layer of discontentment, worry, and fear brought on by loss, there is a fresh layer of hope ready to replace all those negative feelings with comfort, calmness, and contentment. This year also celebrated babies, marriages, graduations, and birthdays. In addition, this year has shown us resilience, living in the present moment, and our true priorities to ourselves and others. Those are all something to be grateful for during uncertainty.

It is never too late to develop an attitude of gratitude, dear reader. It is a simple habit that costs nothing to cultivate. With a little time, you will immediately reap the benefits. A grateful heart is rooted in joy. Take some time today to plant some seeds of gratitude and see how your life blossoms. Happiness!

“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

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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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The passing of time has always fascinated me. At times it drags on like a boring lecture while most of the time it seems to fly by like a shooting star; yet, the amount of time is the same. As a child, time feels unlimited. Since I’ve turned 50, time now feels limited and has become more valuable to me. It feels like yesterday that my Daddy and I were enjoying a cup of coffee with my Uncle Manuel in his kitchen in Kentucky although it was a month ago to this day. And, so much has happened to all of us in a month that our time together feels like a distant memory.

Aunt SueMy Daddy had been wanting to visit his older brother for quite awhile. He is one of five siblings (three brothers and a sister) and the baby of his family. In the last three years, two of his brothers have passed away, and it began weighing on his mind that he might not see his remaining brother before either one of them departed from this Earth. Sadly, it took the passing of my Aunt Sue to make the trip to Kentucky a reality. My Uncle Manuel’s beautiful bride died at the end of July, and my Daddy was unable to attend the funeral services. So, he and I talked; and with the help of my cousin Mark, we hatched a plan that I would drive him to Nicholasville, Kentucky.

I was excited about the prospect of seeing family and finally visiting Kentucky since I had never been, but I was also a tad bit apprehensive because I would be driving which is not what I do on a road trip. Thankfully, my excitement outweighed my apprehension. So, on Wednesday, 02 September, Son #1 picked my Daddy up on his way home from work and dropped him off at my house. Then, we loaded up my car and pulled out of my driveway at 6:30 that evening. Our plan was to drive a few hours, spend the night at a hotel in Grenada, Mississippi, and get up early the next morning to drive the rest of the way to my Uncle Manuel’s home in Kentucky. After a few pit stops along the way, we made it safely, and our adventure in bluegrass country was underway.

Road Trip

Kentucky is a beautiful place. Parts of the state are mountainous while other areas are hilly with plenty of farms in between. Near my Uncle Manuel’s home there are many horse farms. What a joyous moment when we eventually arrived at his home! My Daddy and I were greeted by my Uncle Manuel, his new puppy Rocky, and my cousins, Mark and Junior. Even though the last time we had seen each other had been at a family reunion many years ago, it felt like hardly any time had passed at all while we were all hugging and smiling our big smiles. Conversations started up, and the comfort of family surrounded us like a warm blanket on a chilly morning. The next couple of days were wonderful. We stayed with my Uncle Manuel which is a few steps away from my cousin Mark’s house. The weather was gorgeous and provided much cooler temps than back home.

Uncle Manuel's Home

My Uncle Manuel and Aunt Sue had six children: Junior, Mark, Denise, Connie Wayne, Kimberly, and Lelia. Growing up, it was always a big deal when they would come visit. They would stay at my Nanny and Paw Paw’s house for about a week. As time passed and my grandparents were no longer alive, our paths would cross again at family reunions held in Monroe, Louisiana where both my Nanny and Paw Paw were originally from and many of our extended family members still live today.

Manuel Walters Family

Back row: Denise, Mark, Junior, Connie Wayne Front row: Aunt Sue, Uncle Manuel, Kimberly, Lelia

So, it was nice to have the opportunity to visit my cousins in Kentucky. Except for Denise, who was out of town, my Daddy and I were able to spend time with the rest of the bunch and their families. Even though we didn’t get to see Denise during this visit, we did meet Denise’s daughter Jessica and her family. The hospitality shown to us during our visit was amazing.

On Friday evening, Dempsey, my cousin Kimberly’s husband, drove my Daddy, Uncle Manuel, and me to Junior and Betsy’s house for dinner in an old-timey car that he and my Uncle Manuel rebuilt. I believe it took the two of them three years to rebuild it. Riding in that beautiful car was like stepping back in time. It was really cool! I had never ridden in a car like it before and will cherish that memory.

Yellow Car

On Saturday, Mark and Teresa provided their house for a huge family gathering. Mark barbequed and everyone else brought lots of food. Everything that was prepared was delicious. Before we ate dinner, Mark revealed a surprise to my Daddy and Uncle Manuel. He had purchased my Uncle Ronnie’s motorcycle from our cousin Cindy who had decided to sell it. Mark felt it should be kept in the family since it was a reminder of my Uncle Ronnie who had passed away about three years ago. Despite being a little teary-eyed, they were both happy and definitely surprised.

motorcycle

Uncle Manuel, Mark, and my Daddy

 

The time with my Uncle Manuel and Kentucky cousins was certainly not long enough. However, it was pleasant, memorable, and a much-needed boost of happiness for everyone. As my Daddy and I journeyed back to Louisiana on Sunday, we reminisced about our brief but lovely time spent with our family, appreciated the time traveling in the car together, and planned our future visits. Time will not stop, dear reader, and we should all take advantage of spending time with the ones we love. It will be time well-spent. Happiness!

“Family and friendships are two of the greatest facilitators of happiness.”             ~ John C. Maxwell

Brothers

Uncle Manuel and my Daddy

Me & Uncle Manuel

Me with my Uncle Manuel

 

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Reading is my favorite way to pass time, so I added a new reading goal for 2020 inspired by Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project. In 2019, as part of her yearly Design Your Summer and 19 for 2019, she took a literary adventure with Summer of Proust. After reading her blog post “Reflections on My ‘Summer of Proust'” and seeing how much she enjoyed reading all the works of Marcel Proust, I decided I wanted a “Summer of Poe” and put it on my 20 for 2020 list (#16). What a fantastic idea!

Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite American authors. My love affair with Poe’s work began in the 8th grade when I chose to recite the poem “Annabel Lee” for my Reading class. Throughout high school and college, Poe was assigned literature for English classes which always brought me considerable joy. As a junior high English teacher, I felt it was only fitting to impart my love for Poe to my students. For years, my students and I read and discussed “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Raven.” Therefore, choosing to spend the summer reading one author’s work was a no-brainer. 

PoeUnlike Rubin, I did no preparation prior to reading Poe’s work like she did for Proust. In hindsight, I probably should have done a smidge before starting my own literary adventure. From the beginning, I knew the odds of me reading everything written by Poe in one summer would be impossible. One reason, his writing is challenging. I personally cannot read his work quickly. Another reason, because his writing requires so much concentration on my part, I knew I would also need to read other books written by other authors that did not require so much mental effort. Therefore, I chose to read The Edgar Allan Poe: Anthology of Classic Tales since it did not contain a complete collection of Poe’s stories and poems, and it was given to me as a gift from Andrew. To my dismay, while perusing the table of contents, I soon discovered that over my lifetime I had only read six of his short stories and two of his poems. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.

I chose to read all of the short stories, poems, and the one novel, which were organized by genre, in the order presented in the anthology.  It was wonderful to revisit tales that I was familiar with like “The Fall of the House of Usher” (still scary after all these years), “William Wilson,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Masque of the Red Death” (haunting), “The Tell-Tale Heart” (never gets old), “The Black Cat,” “The Raven” (nevermore), and “Annabel Lee” (beautifully written poem about death). If you notice, dear reader, the tales of Poe that I have previously read over the years are included in the horror genre. And, I must confess, his short stories and poems in this category are quite riveting and are probably my most preferred of his writing. Of my new horror favorites, two are revenge stories, “The Cask of Amontillado” (confirms that I will never visit catacombs) and “Hop-Frog” (never underestimate a jester). “Morella” and “Ligeia” are equally creepy and best read during the day. 

My leisurely excursion through this treasury revealed to me that Poe was so much more than a horror writer. He is credited with inventing the detective story, and the two stories in this collection, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” are suspenseful and quite enjoyable. There are seven short stories and his only completed novel under Adventures of Sea and Sky. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the short stories, especially “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall,” “The Gold-Bug,” and “The Oblong Box.” “Mellonta Tauta,” which is set in the far future seems to eerily parallel our current societal times with the past of the narrator who is writing letters while on a balloon flight.  His novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, is about the adventures and misadventures of Arthur Gordon Pym on the high seas. While it took me a long time to read, this novel is interesting and entertaining. At some point in my lifetime, I will revisit it. Surprisingly to me, until I read this compilation, I was unaware that Poe wrote humorous and satirical stories. There are only three of those types of stories in this book; however, in my other book Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, there are a total of 25 stories. Of the three that I read, I adore “The Spectacles” and “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.” Both are incredibly amusing. I cannot wait to read his other stories in this genre. Finally, there are only four poems in this collection, and I fancy all four of them. When checking my other book, Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, it revealed a total of 55 poems. All gems, I’m sure. 

My “Summer of Poe” was a huge happiness boost and has made living through a pandemic more bearable. Clearly, I still have so many more stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe that I must read, so another “season” of Poe is necessary. In the meantime, I will delight in the stories and the poems that I have read by Mr. Poe as I venture into a realm of other books by other authors awaiting my discovery. Have you, dear reader, ever devoted a period of time to reading a certain author or genre? If not, would you consider it, and which author or which genre would you consider? Happiness!

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe Collection

 

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A few changes or a parting of ways of sorts has taken place in my household in the last couple of weeks. Ending relationships are generally associated with people or organizations; however, I think you can also end a relationship with things that have performed an important function in your life. And, while the loss of the relationship with an item may not be as impactful as with a person, the attachment to that item, especially if the relationship with it was lengthy, can elicit a slight pang of melancholy at the point of separation.

This past Wednesday, I parted ways with my lower back tooth on the left side of my mouth. I had been having discomfort with the tooth since the beginning of March and had every intention of going to the dentist at the end of that month. COVID had other plans, and my dental visit didn’t occur until the end of May when I received the delightful news that my tooth had a fracture and would need to be extracted. Two months later, my tooth is gone and has been replaced with bone and barrier with a possible implant in my future. Even though parting ways with my tooth has been painful these last few days, my future self will be grateful to no longer feeling discomfort after every meal.

2005 CorollaParting ways with my money is almost as painful as saying au revoir to my tooth. However, when an special opportunity presents itself, you let go of the dough. My friends were selling their 2011 Mazda3 for a good price which meant Andrew could drive a newer car. Therefore, last Friday, we bought their car for Andrew which left us needing to get rid of the car he was currently driving. This past Friday, Barry and I parted ways with our 2005 maroon Toyota Corolla at A & B Motors, a salvage yard in Amite. It was a bittersweet moment as we pulled away from the parking lot. That Corolla (a car that we owned the longest of any vehicle) was a fantastic car that provided many miles (261,163 to be exact) of enjoyment and reliability.

And, while we are on the subject of parting ways with our moolah, my hubby and I had to shell out some cash for a new water heater; because after 21 years, ours decided to call it quits. Like our Corolla, it provided us with many years of enjoyment (love those hot showers) and reliability. Thankfully, I married a handyman who with the help of Son #1 could install the new one.

The last item or items that I have parted ways with this week are the 19 pairs of running shoes that have been residing on the floor of my master bedroom closet. Yes, this is the same closet that I have been needing to clean out and reorganize for the last two years. A friend of mine at school needs shoelaces for a science lesson, so I decided what a wonderful way to jumpstart the organization of my master bedroom closet (#19 on my 20 for 2020 list). By finally getting rid of all of my running shoes that have accumulated in there over the last couple of years, I have made a small dent in the mess and have ignited a flame of inspiration to complete that task and will hopefully carry over to other areas of the house (pantry and hall closet).

Parting ways with my tooth, the water heater, our old car, and my worn-out running shoes, not to mention the money to replace them with newer or better ones, has made me more grateful for the gift of service each item provided for my family and me. An attitude of gratitude is a lovely frame of mind to embody in everyday life. From the ordinary to the extraordinary, dear reader, gratitude can produce happiness and joy. Now, if I could just part ways quickly with my excess weight and credit card debt… Happiness!

“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

Running Shoes

 

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Kat & Michelle 2Over twenty years have passed since the blossoming of my friendship with Michelle. Our friendship took root while working together at WYES-TV in New Orleans. I was a guest at her wedding and an attendee at her baby shower (and she attended my shower when expecting Andrew). We have remained steadfast friends despite living an hour away from one another. I love her adventurous spirit and the willingness to try new things, especially food. After all, she is the one who introduced me to Vietnamese food. We both like cats, reading, chatting, writing, and putting puzzles together. She also likes plants which is something else we have in common, except she has a better green thumb than I have even though she claims to garden by neglect.

Tall Love Leaf PlantBack in February when I visited Michelle, I noticed a few of her plants on her front porch while waiting for her to answer the door. They were unique looking (one looked liked a plant you would see in a Dr. Seuss story), and I had never noticed them before, so I asked her about them. She told me they were “Love Leaf” plants (Kalanchoe plant, indigenous to the West Indies) and that they grow from the leaf of the plant. She explained that when leaves fall off and are carried off by the wind, depending on where they land, they can grow into a new plant. A leaf had been blown into her fountain and roots had sprouted. I was fascinated since I had never heard of anything so amazing and asked where she found this plant. As you may expect, the story of how she obtained her “love leaf” plant is stemmed from LOVE.

Panama RickyMichelle explained that she discovered this plant 28 years ago while honeymooning with her sweetheart Richard. They went on a cruise and bought the leaf on one of the islands (Grand Cayman, Domenica, St. Martin, or St. Thomas). It traveled all the way back to the Louisiana encased in a sealed cellophane bag (plants can only be brought back to the United States if commercially processed). Love Leaf with BloomsWhen Michelle returned, she carved her sweetheart’s initials in the leaf and planted it (see picture at the bottom of post with “The Lore of the Leaf”).  She currently has 10-15 plants, not counting the “volunteers” that have sprouted up after landing in a spot they can take root. All of her plants have originated from the original leaf although the original plant is no longer alive. The plant does eventually grow bell-shaped flowers that will get a tinge of pink when they mature.

Michelle & Richard

Esneault FamilyMichelle and Richard celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary this month. They met their sophomore year of high school at a Brother Martin Drama Club meeting. Michelle attended Mount Carmel (all girls) and Richard attended Brother Martin (all boys). After a year of just being friends, they started dating and the rest is history. They are happily married with a brilliant and beautiful daughter who has recently graduated from high school. Their love for each other continues to grow like the “love leaf” plants.

Kat's Love Leaf

Kat’s Love Leaf Plants

Since Michelle planted that first leaf, she has shared the love by giving away many leaves and plants over the years. On that visit back in February, she gifted me with a couple of love leaves which I brought home, and my hubby planted them for me. My plants are growing terrifically. Each day, when I see my “love leaf” plants, they make me smile, and I think of Michelle. It is definitely a daily happiness boost.

Michelle's Love LeafGrowing this delightful plant is quite effortless. It can be grown inside or outside. You simply place the leaf on some soil and give it water and sunlight. My two plants are kept on the front porch. Occasionally when I’m expecting rain, I will put my pots out on the bricks of my flowerbed and they get watered naturally. If they are kept outside, Michelle recommends covering them in extremely cold weather, so they do not freeze and die. Additionally, when it freezes, she picks a few leaves to bring inside in case the sheets she puts over her plants do not protect them enough.

What a flowery expression of love that can flourish over a lifetime! I think we can all use more love in our lives, dear reader. My plan is to share more love, whether by sending a card, chatting on the phone, expressing it verbally or physically (hugs and kisses), or giving a love leaf. There are so many ways to express love towards your sweetheart, children, family members, friends, or fellow human beings in general. What are ways you express love? I’d love for you to share your expressions of love. Happiness!

 

“Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.” ~ C.S. Lewis

 

Love Leaf Lore

 

Note: Many thanks to Michelle for sharing photos with me for this post of her plants and of herself with Richard and her daughter Kaitlyn.

 

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