rise and 100 happy days

So, hey y’all. What’s going on? I guess it’s been a while since my last post, but let’s face it—it’s been a fair stretch since I posted regularly anyway. I think about posting regularly; does that count? No? Oh, well.

My last post was about my word for this year: rise. I said that I was looking forward to a better year. That I wanted this IMG_4733year to ascend, to come up from last year. I had plans and goals—specific ways to make that ascent happen.

And then you know what happened? Burn out set in. Like an anchor. Because when you count them up, this is my 6th year and my 12th semester of graduate-level course work. Yeah, you read that right. There were two years between my master’s degrees, but that still means that I’ve been taking grad-level classes for 6 of the last 8 years. That’s a lot. That’s more years that most people take to get a bachelor’s degree. So this burn out, it’s like the crazy, 30-year-old [academic] masochist’s version of  senioritis. My saving grace has been that I’m only taking one class, and it’s on two of my favorite poets, Yeats and Heaney. So it’s not as hard to get the work done, and I’ve done most of the reading before at some point or another. But still. I reached new levels of apathy in the first half of this semester.

And then in the midst of that, I discovered a leak in my roof, which had made a lovely water mark on my ceiling. And courtesy of two freak snow storms, I had to keep rescheduling the roofers to come take a look and let me know what the problem was (and how much it was going to cost to fix it, and if my whole roof was going to need to be replaced). And then water started backing up from the sink into the dishwasher. And then Spur got injured (just a little) and I wasn’t sure what was wrong with her. Come on, Atlanta. What’s a gal got to do to catch a break? All of this weighed me down.

All of that culminated in a [very minor] panic attack that was both weirdly uncharacteristic and had the happy effect of sort of rebooting my emotional system. After it, I felt a little less burned out and apathetic. I started to feel more like myself. And then the weather finally started shifting toward spring, and flowers started blooming. I was finally able to meet with the roofer, and it turned out that my leak was pretty minor and it didn’t take too much to get it fixed. Spring Break happened, and I was able to get some yard work done, and some organization in the house. I went through closets and took a load of stuff to Goodwill (including some things that I’ve been planning to take since right after I moved here). And, crucially, the week before Spring Break, Grace had the brilliant idea to do a fast from tv–to which we had become terribly attached. It was massively liberating, and we’ve decided to limit [pretty strictly] how much we watch (but I’ll tell you more about that another time). And, the best part: I found a place to take riding lessons, so horses are going to be a regular part of my life again, and it’s been far, far too long since that was true.

These things all came together to make me feel better, lighter, happier. In fact, I have been happier in the past two weeks than I have at anytime since I’ve lived in Atlanta. Happier by a lot. And that means that I feel more like myself than I have at any point since I’ve been here. What a relief! It feels really good to be able to say that.

So in spite of a flat start to the year, 2014 is taking off after all. I’m on the rise, finally. And earlier this week, I learned about a little challenge floating around the interwebs called 100 Happy Days. It seems to me to be a perfect fit with my word this year. The challenge is to post a photo to social-media-of-choice of something that makes you happy every day for 100 days, using the hashtag #100HappyDays to identify the photos. The idea is for participants to feel happier by spending time deliberately thinking about what makes them happy (you can read more about it here). It reminds me a little of the daily gratitude blog posts I’ve done in the past—a challenge and a discipline to lift my mood by spending time every day thinking about what I’m grateful for. It’s been effective in the past but last year I learned that gratitude can be very hard, especially when I’m trying to find enough words to merit a blog post. This 100 Happy Days challenge has a similar premise, but I like the idea of posting photos instead of writing blog posts, and focusing on finding something that makes me smile seems simpler than the weightier prospect of gratitude. So I decided to dive into the challenge on Wednesday, March 19th. I’m four days in and I’m enjoying it a lot!

I’m sharing my photos on Instagram (and Facebook), but I know that some of you don’t play the social media game (ahem, Dad and Mark). So I’m going to put my photos here too with a little more editorial (or not, depending on what I want to do). I’ll do it on a weekly basis, so hey—more regular posts! Let’s start with this week.

photo 1-2On Wednesday evening, Grace and I went to Candice and Felix’s house for dinner. Candice is from South Africa and Felix is from Germany but lived in South Africa for awhile, and they both love the South African tradition of braai (which is kind of like a barbecue). Felix’s mom and a friend are visiting from Germany, and they wanted to have a braai for them and invited us along too. I don’t enough about cars to say things about the precision of German automotive engineering, but I have lots of positive thoughts about the precision of German grilling. Delicious! We always have a good time with Candice and Felix.

photo 2-2On Thursday afternoon, I went horseback riding! I had a lesson at this barn. And I loved it. I liked the barn—which is only about 30 minutes from my house. As I was driving out there, I remembered that it took about the same amount of time to get to Betty’s place in Buffalo Gap when I was learning to ride as a kid. I really liked the trainer, who was both knowledgeable and personable, and who wasn’t dismissive of the fact that almost all of my experience and knowledge is Western riding. Since I want to take Dressage lessons—and Dressage folks can sometimes be very pretentious—I wasn’t sure how it would go. But she thought it was great, and when I told her that I used to show reining horses some, she said, “Oh, so you already know a lot about Dressage.” I think that’s when I knew for sure that this was my kind of place. The lesson went really well, and I’m looking forward to going back and getting back into regular riding. I’ve needed this for a while now.

photo 3-1Yesterday, we (I and my fellow TAs) got an email with course evaluations from last semester. The prof had asked the students to include a sentence or two about us on the evals. Usually, I don’t really like evaluations. Students can be mean and vindictive in their comments, and a few years back I had one evaluation that was not only harsh, but full of untrue things (that I texted during class and dressed unprofessionally, for example). That one left a bad taste in my mouth for reading evals. But y’all, not to brag or anything, but I nailed it last semester in my discussion section. It was a great semester, and so I wasn’t dreading this set. And I had great evals from my students, which of course made me happy and warm fuzzies and all that. But this one made me laugh out loud. You know how books and movies will use quotes from reviews in advertising? Maybe I should include this quote as a line on my syllabus next semester in that same capacity.

photo 4-1And today. In December (or January? Maybe November? Who really knows?), I created some much-needed space in the hall closet by pulling out all of the many paint cans that the previous owner’s contractor had left. I set them out by the back door, thinking that I would immediately find out where to take paint cans, some of which were half full (none of it was any good), to recycle them. But I didn’t. Because it would be wildly uncharacteristic of me to actually take care of something like that quickly. But one of my goals for Spring Break was to get rid of them because I’ve realized lately how much clutter really bothers me. And in my search for where to recycle, I found that our county was hosting a household hazardous waste recycling event today. So we loaded up the paint cans and a few burned out florescent tubes and got rid of the mess and reclaimed some space on the patio. It feels so much better already to not have that junk sitting out there.

Next, I gloved-up and went to work on the kudzu in the backyard. In the bottom left photo, you can see how bad it was when I moved in. Last year around this time, I started pulling it down off the trees (because this stuff kills trees), and then I gradually started working on getting it off the ground. It was slow going over the summer, though, because of the rain, and it was hard work. But I got some work done on it over the break, and then I got a thatch rake which really helped today when I went after it. I’m really pleased with how much progress I’ve made, and I think that a couple more days of hard work will have it cleared out of this part of the back yard. I’m looking forward to being able to plant some flowers and other plants back there, and it’s really made me feel encouraged about putting effort into the landscape at my house. Suddenly, the task seems more doable than it used to. And, it always feels so good to get out in the sunshine and do a little hard work.

So, there you are. More of an updated that you wanted, I’m sure, and certainly a longer update than I intended to write. But that’s okay, because writing this made me happy, too.

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