Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Get Happy

There have been a number of things making me unhappy lately. And, as it is my tendency to be caught in a web of my own inertia, I sometimes need to be reminded (or remind myself) of all those things in my life that make me happy. I truly believe (most of the time) that happiness is a choice we can make every day and that, even when it seems like life is conspiring to make us miserable, we can choose to be happy. (Obviously depending on the circumstances we have varying degrees of success in this endeavor.) Today, I choose to be happy.

And to aid in my effort to be happy today I'm making a list in no particular order of the things that are making me happy.

1. The weather: Spring appears to be sticking around a bit and it's really showing off today. I'm surrounded by lush green trees, abundant flowers, blue sky and sunshine. It's gorgeous.
2. My job: It's not perfect and it's not everything I want but I am working in a library and putting on programs for children. For these reasons and more, I am lucky to have this job.
3. Adam: He's silly and wonderful and makes me happy everyday. Enough said.
4. Friends: With the distance between all of us, it's easy to sometimes feel like I don't have any friends. And while it's true that local friends are scarce, I do have wonderful friends. And both the local and far-away-friends are only a phone call or e-mail away.
5. My new shoes: I bought these for wandering around Italy and I wore them to work today to break them in and so far they're nice and comfy! (And they're cute.)
6. Dark chocolate in the break room. Again, enough said.

What's helping you choose to be happy today?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Love in the Library

I just read this article on Slate and I adore it. I loved this line:

There are many reasons why bookstores are naturally romantic environments: the smell of paper, the soft lighting, the baseline understanding that those inside like to read, and are therefore probably not morons.

Adam surprised me before our wedding by adding the Jimmy Buffett song that loaned its title to this post to our reception playlist (and wisely played it for me in advance, knowing how unlikely I was to hear the words in the midst of that evening). Long a believer in creating the perfect playlist for all situations (and a maker of mix-cds and their waaaaay older brother mix-tapes before digital downloads rendered these format passe), Adam played dj for our wedding, creating a playlist on our ipod suited to each part of the evening. I found the gesture of choosing this song meaningful for obvious reasons as well as the fact that I love Jimmy Buffett and Adam...doesn't. Similarly, I love bookstores and Adam...doesn't. We are not the people of this article, wandering hand-in-hand through the shelves, picking up books with which to woo each other. When Adam sees me arriving home from a bookstore, laden with purchases he just sighs and asks where they're all going to go. (When we moved 10 months ago we brought innumerable boxes of books to our new home, our movers hated us.) My working in libraries has translated to a precipitous decline in the number of books purchased (and a corresponding jump in overdue library books).

Anyway, I was just captivated by the author's whole premise. I tried to imagine a similar article praising the library as a place to pick up a date...and I failed. But why? We have the smell of paper, admittedly harsher lighting and...well...I'm going to leave that last part alone. It's not that it (library romance) hasn't been tried. I've yet to meet a librarian who hasn't been asked out at least once by a patron (and it's inevitably the skeezy, smelly patrons). And I do regularly see people use the library's resources to try to further their quest for romance. Patrons use the computers to manage their online dating profiles, social networking sites and when it comes to print resources don't even get me started on all the romance-centric self-help books that circulate. (If I had to hear one more request for Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man last year...) I've seen the library used as a place to hook-up, I've definitely chased teens out of the darker corners of the non-fiction section and we've all heard the stories about the study carrels in University libraries. However, none of these are really the stuff of romance and love songs. I'm not sure what it is that makes a bookstore a likelier place to meet someone than a library. Maybe the ubiquitous attached coffee shops? The later hours? Are bookstores just cooler than libraries?

Plus reading this article now has me wondering, would a bookstore be a place for to try to pick up potential friends? (I will at some point post about how miserable it is to try to make friends as a grown-up [it sucks].)

What do you think, why is a bookstore a better spot for romance than a library?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mambo Italiano

The Italian countdown starts today (28 days until the flight to Rome!) and Adam's almost finished with our itinerary. I made a list of all the places I wanted to visit, things I wanted to see, etc. and he was in charge of figuring out how to make it all happen without us spending the entire time rushing from one place to another. (My list went something like this: museum, church, wine, wine, museum, museum, wine, church, church, get the idea.)

We're focusing our trip on the hill towns in Tuscany. We rented an apartment in a farmhouse near Cortona (the sleepy Etruscan hill town made famous by Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun) and a car for exploring the hillside. We'll be staying a week in Tuscany and then three days in Rome before flying back to NC and I am BEYOND excited.

Which brings me to what I'm reading this week. I've spent a lot of time with the traditional travel guides (Frommers' Florence, Tuscany and Umbria and Rick Steves' Florence and Tuscany chief among them) and I've been reading travel essays (Travelers' Tales: Italy). I was hesitant but I started Under the Tuscan Sun and I'm absolutely loving it so far. There has been some criticism of Mayes' chronicle of buying and restoring a crumbling farm house outside of Cortona, mainly having to do with the dramatic increase in tourism Cortona has seen in the wake of the book's success. (Several travel agencies and websites even offer "Under the Tuscan Sun Vacation Packages.") Despite my trepidation regarding the book, (and feeling a bit of PTSD from my Eat, Pray, Love reading experience) I'm now 3/4 of the way through and thoroughly charmed. The way Mayes writes about the people and the food and the light make me feel like I'm seeing and smelling and tasting everything with her. Her language is evocative without being overdone and if it tends a little toward romanticizing her subject I can forgive her because, really, who can help from romanticizing Italy? She includes simple recipes throughout that I'm dying to try, (especially the Red Peppers or Onions Melted with Balsamic Vinegar and the Semolina Gnocchi). I haven't seen the movie with Diane Lane but I'm considering adding it to my Netflix queue as we speak. And if you haven't read the book it's a pleasant bit of "armchair traveling" and I suggest you pick it up.

Adam wants me to pick some specifics about what we'll be seeing in San Gimignano and Siena but I'm a little stuck. So far all I know I want to do is look at the towers in San Gimignano and be in Siena in the evening and eat something delicious while drinking red wine and looking out at the "Sienese Crests," but I don't think this is quite what Adam was looking for. Do you have any suggestions?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays

It's gray, rainy, windy and cold today. I'd planned to take some photos this week to post of Chapel Hill in the spring (the azaleas around the Old Well, the flowering Japanese Magnolias in Coker Arboretum, Silent Sam amid the greenery) but our beautiful spring weather has been usurped by a cold front that doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon.

Rainy days always make me want to stay in bed. I want to pull the covers up and hide from the day with a book and a cup of tea. I love rainy nights, I love falling asleep listening to the rain on my roof and that damp, almost electric smell in the evening when you know a storm is rolling in. Rainy days make me want to go back to sleep and start over tomorrow.

What about you? Are you pro- or anti-rainy days?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Is your marriage sustainable?

I was reading the NYT's Well column this morning and found myself drawn to a post on The Sustainable Marriage. We seem to be once again entering marriage-season and a couple of good friends have announced engagements and wedding plans. I'm naturally thrilled that these friends have found the person they want to share their lives with, and I'm definitely looking forward to dancing at their weddings. However, (and this is not at all a comment on these friends' relationships, it's more a reflection of how my mind tends to follow certain well-worn paths) I'm always a little concerned about the focus we as a society (and the wedding industry) places on weddings while all but ignoring the marriage that will emerge from these parties. While planning Adam's and my wedding, I was as guilty as the next person of wanting a beautiful day, good food and a great party (and frizz-free curls, let's just be honest here). However, whether because we were engaged for such a long time or because we're apt to talk everything nearly to death, we also spent a lot of time talking about the kind of marriage we wanted to have after the ceremony and reception passed into the realm of happy memories.

What I liked about this quiz and the accompanying article was the discussion about what we look for in a marriage. A good or "sustainable" marriage, according to the article, is a partnership that allows both people to grow as individuals, learn new things and feel good about themselves. In short, a sustainable marriage is just as much about the individual as it is about the partnership. I like the equal emphasis placed on "individual" and "partner." It seems like so many of the articles I read about marriage focus on the fear of losing oneself in a relationship or the fear of growing apart. The quiz seemed a tad too simplistic to serve as a genuine assessment tool, but as a quick, stick-your-finger-in-the-air style barometer, I think it does the job rather well.

What do you think? Do you have a "Sustainable Marriage" or relationship? Does your relationship allow you to "self-expand"? Would you use this quiz or should it be consigned to the trashcan along with all those Cosmo quizzes we've all taken through the years?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eight Days a Week

So, you all know me, you know that I need structure. I read a lot of blogs on a lot of different topics and one of the things that seems to work well is repetition. On The Happiness Project, Wednesdays are Tip or List days, at least once a week the Well Blog over on NYT talks about a certain dietary concern and then provides a couple of recipes to meet it, Diner's Journal (also NYT--I hope the blogs aren't included in their new pay structure) includes a "What We're Reading" segment (with links to the articles) get the drift. This got me thinking that perhaps a "Mondays are ______ Day" approach would help provide the structure I (apparently) can't live without.

I think one of the things that hindered me in the past was the stare of the blank screen and the blinking cursor (for other examples of this phenomenon please see: the latest unfinished novel on my desktop). If I were blogging about food or decorating or parenting or money, I would have a framework to work within for each post. With a blog like this one, where the only unifying element is me, I can write about anything. There's a lot of freedom in this...but there's also some terror. Just because I can write about anything doesn't mean I should. Do you really care what I had for lunch today? (Chopped salad and Jello pudding cup) No? Didn't think so.

Choosing my structure is going to be a bit of a work-in-progress. I think I'll start by picking one or two "days" and see how the whole thing evolves from there. For now, I'm going to take a page from some of the earlier mentioned blogs and go with "What Am I Reading" on Fridays and List/Tips on Tuesdays. We'll see how it goes and
I of course welcome your feedback.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

You Keep Coming Back Like a Song

So I'm going to try to come back to this whole blogging-thing. The blog-related hangups I mentioned in my very first post (why would anybody want to read this?) along with job changes and just that whole grown-up-person-life-thing combined to keep me from posting for the last 5 months. But I'm back now and I'm going to try to 1.) Say interesting things and 2.) Not disappear for another 5 months.

What's been happening...

  • I quit my job at the school library and was hired as a (temporary) youth services library associate with the public library. This is better than the school job in some ways and worse in the end of the day I miss my job in Chicago so much some times I want to scream and cry in frustration and sadness.
  • I thought that my childhood (moving every couple of years) would have me well-prepared for the difficulties associated with being the "new kid" as an adult. I was wrong. More on that in later posts.
  • We've been talking about taking this trip for years now and it's finally happening: we're going to Italy for ten days at the end of April. I'm looking forward to Tuscan hill towns, cobblestone streets, museums and lots and lots of Chianti.
The first three months of 2011 have been exciting. After spending Christmas with my family we rang-in the New Year in the Emergency Room so I could get my appendix removed (it was, of course, one of the few NYE holidays when Adam was NOT scheduled to be at the hospital), we followed up with a 10-day cruise and then went back to work. (Note to all: Always recover from surgery on a cruise ship. Especially when it's cold at home and you're cruising to a warm locale.) The remainder of January and February went by in a work-eat-sleep-repeat-blur and now we're knee-deep in March Madness and I got to watch UNC defeat Washington today with three of my favorite alums! Go Heels!

Now I'll leave you with you a promise to return soon.
Have a great Monday!