Remembering to be happy

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post I wrote a while back. Recently, an old friend reached out to me and told me that she has read this post multiple times and it really helps her remember to find joy in things even when life isn’t perfect.

That kind of knocked the wind out of me because, honestly, I haven’t been doing such a great job of that myself over the last two months.

Things have been really stressful at work since the new year. I’ve been feeling a bit homesick for the first time in four years. (Not always for a place, but for the people and life I used to have at the time. Ahh ’twas simpler back then.) Compounding all that is our impending move, needing to finish packing, needing to actually find a place in one of the most cut-throat real estate markets, needing to move all our stuff…

It can be really hard to find the joy when you’re dealing with a perpetual stomachache and stress headache.

But I’m not doing anyone any favors (least of all myself) by dwelling on the things I can’t control and just have to deal with. So, in the name of the Happiness Project, I give you a list of things that I am happy about:

1. Joey and I had a really fun date last night. We’ve been so busy lately (me with traveling and work, him with side jobs and work) that we haven’t really been connecting as much. And because my patented stress management technique is bottling up my feelings until I finally burst into sobs over something as unimportant as breaking a dish, I know I’ve been wall-ing myself off instead of opening up and letting him help me. So last night we used up some Outback Steakhouse gift certificates he got from work (SUP.), followed it up with some fro-yo and The Walking Dead, and basically unloaded everything we were dealing with. I know I felt tons better. My husband is pretty awesome.

2. WE SOLD THE CHINA CABINET. I know the all-caps might imply that I’m more excited about this development than the date night, but I think I’m just more surprised.

I had originally posted my (elegantly crafted) Craigslist ad on President’s Day, and despite getting a few nibbles, no one ended up buying it. I renewed the ad on Monday and got three offers by the afternoon (and another one last night). Last night, a woman who lives in our town came by and said she would take it. Left a deposit and everything! So it will hopefully be in its new home by Saturday night.

Lesson learned: No one Craigslist shops seriously on President’s Day.

You guys. I am so relieved. I have literally been stressing about reselling the thing since we decided to move. And it’s especially nice to cross something off my things-we-need-to-do-before-we-move list.

3. I’m looking at apartments tonight! Which isn’t exactly positive necessarily, but it could be. At least I’m doing something besides emailing countless ads only to be told that place I’m looking at has sold but would I like to look at some uglier apartments in bad neighborhoods?!?

Answer: No. And I hate you for tricking me.

So anyway. Those are the things I’m being happy about. Not a bad list, right?

Everyone leave a comment about something that’s making you happy. LETS START A REVOLUTION! (OF JOY!)

Book Review: A Good American

I was compensated for this review by the BlogHer Book Club. The opinions expressed are my own.

So. What to say about The Good American by Alex George.

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Before I start, I want to say something: I didn’t not like this book. It was a fairly charming story about a time period I happen to enjoy reading about.

That being said, I’m not sure I liked it.

Here’s the thing: I’ve studied writing for a while. I’ve been writing even longer. So I know and readily admit that often times writers ten to develop things. Things they do in their writing that sort if become habits. If we were boxers, we would call them tells, or something like that.

They become even more apparent in long-form writing, because usually a writer will employ these same tricks over and over again, not even realizing they’re doing it. It’s like when you’re in a job interview and you keep using the same phrase over and over again. Eventually, it jut sounds tired and phony.

The Good American‘s tell? Cliffhanger sentences. If I had to read the phrase “but things were about to get so much worse than we had ever imagined” one more time, I was going to tear the book in half.

Because you can’t use the shocking sentence every time, remember? Sooner or later, you need the story to propel the reader on, not the narrator.

And while this book is riddled with tragedy, there are only a few things that happen that are actually shocking. Really, it’s just a wee bit depressing (but mostly because the narrator sounds a bit bored with the whole thing most of the time). Even the actual surprise near the end is just kind of…confusing.

See why I had to start this post with a disclaimer? Because, really, it’s not that I didn’t like the book. The Good American follows the life of an immigrant family making their way through America at the turn of the century. It’s interesting reading how the family learns to adapt with the changing times and to see how these changes are reflected in their family business, a bar-turned-restaurant-turned-diner.

So, I liked the book. I just didn’t love it. I read it in one sitting on a 6-hour plane ride, which is probably for the best because if I had put it down, I didn’t have much impetus to pick it back up. (Despite all those (gasp!) cliffhangers.)

Have you read this book? Did you have similar hangups? Or do I just need to embrace the drama?

Join the BlogHer Book Club in our discussions here.

Box maze.

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Well, the packing has officially begun. As has the if-I-pack-this-will-I-be-glad-I-did-or-need-it-in-the-next-four-weeks game. I do not like this game.

So far I have almost the entire living room, a bit of the dining room, and a bit of the kitchen packed up. Unfortunately, these are also the best rooms to hang out in. Or, at least they were before they became cardboard labyrinths. Plus, the majority of the stuff I can pack weeks in advance is the stuff that we don’t really need but that makes the apartment pretty. Like picture frames, vases, books, and the occasional knick-knack. Basically, things are looking quite bare.

My next project is to buy more bubble wrap and finish boxing up everything in the china cabinet. Then I think it will be time to tackle the bedroom. Clothes are a challenge since I don’t know what we’ll want to wear for the next month, but I think I’ll have enough stuff I know we don’t need to fill at least a box or two.

By the way, have I mentioned how much I hate packing? (YUP.) It’s annoying and tedious and turns your apartment into a box maze. Plus, buying boxes knowing you’re going to throw them away later is maddening. (That being said, if anyone wants ours in April, lemme know.)

Plus I still get a stress ball in my stomach when I start thinking about the process of getting our stuff from point A to point B. I mean, we’ll have to rent a truck. And hopefully enlist a few people to help us carry things. Ugh. I’m just rambling now.

The point is, we’ve started the process. There’s just still a lot more to do. At least we started filing our taxes? That will be done next week. An we can check something off of the to-do list.

Leave your best packing words of wisdom in the comments to help me feel less panicked, please.

Nostalgia tour.

It’s official, you guys — we’re in moving mode.

Last night, we had a couple friends over for what we had already agreed was going to be our last entertaining venture in this apartment. Starting March 1st, we’ll begin looking at apartments, so we’ll want to be as ready to go next month as possible. Meaning we have to start packing. And selling anything we don’t want to bring with us.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, that includes our china cabinet.

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She really is a good ol’ gal. It’s kind of amazing given the amount of dishware/glassware we have (occupational hazard of working for a dinnerware company) we have that everything fits. Plus we can use the hidden compartments in the server to hide a bunch of other random stuff. If you live in the Long Island area (or are willing to make a trip, I guess?) and want to give it a good home, info is here. (By the way, how much do you love my product description? Can you tell I was a professional copywriter for six months???)(Ugh…at least the pictures are nice, right?)

Speaking of which, I guess I must be getting a little nostalgic because I actually took a bunch of pictures of our living room/dining room to share with you guys. A belated apartment tour of the only rooms I really feel comfortable showing people. (Well, except the bathroom…I let people see that. But it looks the same as it did in this post. Minus the weird yellow tinge. I mostly mean that I’m still not showing you our bedroom because it never stopped being a disaster. And the kitchen is clean, but just not that pretty in photos.)(OMG LONGEST DISCLAIMER EVER. JUST SHOW THEM THE PHOTOS.)

Here we go!

{living room, facing the gallery wall}
{living room, facing the gallery wall}
{living room, facing the TV}
{living room, facing the TV}
{living room, facing the windows}
{living room, facing the windows}
{living room, facing the dining room}
{living room, facing the dining room}
{dining room}
{dining room}

So there you have it. All in all, it was a pretty great first apartment. Sure, the outlet in the bathroom didn’t work, the thermostat was super sensitive, the kitchen cabinets were miniscule…I could go on about why it wasn’t perfect. But I’m pretty sure the first place isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to give you memories.

Job well done, apartment. Job well done.

Grown-up apartment goals

It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that when I’m not self-inducing stress stomachaches over our impending move, I’m getting really excited about decorating a new apartment.

Hey, I am who I am, okay?

Now that Joey and I have almost two years of marriage/living together under our belt (I know, right? Where does the time go?), I feel like one of the most important things I’ve learned is how we live together. When we start looking for our next place in the coming weeks, there are specific things (like more storage/an extra room, bigger kitchen cabinets, and a building that allows dogs) that I know we have to look for.

But more importantly, I have a more defined idea of what our style is. Part of my goal for 2013 was basically polishing up the parts of my life that I didn’t have together yet. I definitely lump our apartment into that category. Because while, in general, it’s fine and fairly grown-up looking, there were a lot of things we just never got figured out even after two years.

So here is a quick list of my hopes and dreams for the new place:

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1. Stop hurriedly buying cheap versions of what I want and invest in nicer furniture/art/whatever that will last a lot longer. If I can’t afford it, make do with what I have until I can. (Or find a really convincing DIY knock-off.)

That doesn’t mean everything has to be expensive. I just want to stop wasting money on “for now” things. Instead, I’ll save the money I would have spent on them to put toward what I really want.

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2. Have a grown-up bedroom. For all my talk, this was the one place in our apartment that never looked out together or decorated.

I’m determined not to let our new bedroom become storage. Hopefully we will have a bit more space in the next place to help avoid this, but more than that, I really want our bedroom to be a restful, serene place.

3. Thrift more furniture. This probably sounds at odds with my first goal, but let me explain. We live in a pretty wasteful society. And it killed me that I would spend a hundred-something dollars on a dining room table from IKEA, only to spot a Pottery Barn one on Craigslist marked down to $75 from $400.

The point is, I can have higher quality stuff for lower prices, I just have to work a little harder.

I’m also hopeful that our new apartment will have some kind of outdoor or roof area where I can sand/paint things I find on Craigslist. That’s the dream, right?

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4. Have a more grown-up office area. While our little desk area was totally fine, I think now that we know the types of papers we have to store regularly, we’ll be able to set up an organized file system from the start. (And, of course, by we, I mean me. Joey knows better than to get involved when I start getting crazypants abou file systems.

So basically my goals are to be more thoughtful in our decor and more organized from the start. That shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Round-up.

Ughhhh. February, We get it. You’re the worst month ever. You have the worst weather ever. You can dump 30 inches of snow and then encore with freezing rain. We get it.

Now knock it off, okay?

For those of you not enjoying the splendor of this winter nightmarewonderland, here’s what I am staring at as I type this:

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Gorgeous, non? (Answer: Non.)

Soooo anyway, now I’m cold and wet. It’s magical.

You would think having grown up in the Midwest, where this kind of weather is an all-too-common occurrence, I would be used to it.

Spoiler alert: I’m not!

Whatever. I’m over it. (Mostly.)

Anyway. This weekend was good, at least. After traveling so much over the last couple of weeks, the hubs and I finally got to hang out. Yesterday we had a zombie-themed day (quite on accident) when we saw Warm Bodies (hilarious, by the way. You just have to go in expecting ridiculousness. And “forget what you know about zombies”, as my husband hilariously put it. Just try to out all that wizened, scientific knowledge out of your head that you have garnered from The Walking Dead.) and then later, incidentally, watched the “mid-season premiere” (ugh) of TWD.

We also had dinner at my in-laws’. But that wasn’t zombie-themed. (Unfortunately.)

Next weekend, we’re having a couple of people over for dinner, and then it will officially be the end of guests in our current apartment because it will be time to start packing it up. Eeee.

I’m excited and preemptively stressed out at the same time. That’s a thing, right?

So…you wants to come help me bubble wrap things next week? Eh??

Mean Girls.

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I’ve never been a bully.

I mean, sure, I’ve had my mean girl moments. I’ve said unkind things. I’ve gossiped. I’ve watched other people do mean things and, to my own ever-lasting shame, done nothing to stop it.

I’m not perfect. This post is not about me talking about how nice and wonderful I am.

What I have been is extremely fortunate in terms of bullies and mean girls. I survived middle school and high school with good memories and no scars. No one really ever picked on me in earnest.

I like to think that there was just something about my personality that gave off the impression that I wasn’t a victim. I might be a little nerdy and have my own insecurities going on, but make no mistake — I am not to be trifled with.

In all honesty, I think I was just not that threatening in terms of the things girls get threatened by. (The blessings of being a late-bloomer.)

Because of this fairly friendly introduction I had with the world, I find that I am repeatedly stunned when I encounter mean girls and bullies as an adult.

Don’t get me wrong — I know there are mean people in the world. I watch The Real Housewives. I occasionally turn on the news for a second before getting depressed and turning it off a few minutes later. (To watch more Housewives.)

But even though I consider myself a rational person with realistic expectations of humanity, I find that I am still surprised when I come across someone who is nasty, cruel, or entirely inconsiderate as a grown-up.

And yet. I encounter mean girls and bullies at work. I encounter mean girls and bullies in acquaintances. Heck, I would need at least both hands and possibly my feet to count the number of “friends” I’ve had over the years who have turned out to be mean.

And every single time, I’ve been completely shocked.

I mean, don’t you usually grow out of being an a-hole? Isn’t that what our parents always told us would happen?

Fair warning, folks: It doesn’t always happen. (And if Dance Moms is any indication of the future, we’re got whole new generations of awful heading our way.)

On the bright side, I’m not the only one who gets it. I mean, this woman gets it. (And by it, I mean, that being a mean girl is not the best way to accomplish anything except hurting other people. It doesn’t make it easier to work together, it’s not good for business, it doesn’t solve any problems.) All being a mean girl does is create more mean girls. Or destroy more nice girls, depending on how you look at it.

Maybe I’m just a really bad judge of character, and that why I’m always caught unawares. Or maybe I’m really trying to assume the best of people.

I don’t know how to conclude this post because there isn’t really a solution here. I’ll keep trying to be a nice girl without being a doormat. If I have a child one day (and I hope to), I’ll do everything in my power to help him or her turn out kind too.

Because, really, Regina George is the only Mean Girl I have any interest in having in my life.