Tag Archives: happiness

Reading Challenges: A Year of Reading, and more!

books-552572_1280How many of you have a stack of books you’re planning to read? Someday, right? And how many of you add to that list every year? I’m with you! I needed to know what happened in the Lunar Chronicles too!

books-1841116_1280That’s why I love the reading challenge created by Estella’s Revenge called #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks. I joined up last year and read 38 out of 131 books. I think I started with double that amount on the shelves (and floor), but one of the books I read was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I sold/gave away 125 books.

I’ve created my current bookshelf list for 2017, should you wish to peruse my shelves.

(And it’s safe to say I’ll be doing this reading challenge for years to come, because let’s face it, I will keep buying books. But now, I do read more that I currently own versus buying QUITE so many.)

***

51j4xd2ntcl-_sx355_bo1204203200_I’m also using the book A Year of Reading to diversify what I read this year. This guidebook separates each month with a theme and gives six different book ideas for that theme. I love its diversity in authors and in genre.

It’s inclusive of authors of color, something I was looking to include more of this year in my reading, and the genre options include fiction and nonfiction, but also more marginalized categories like graphic novels, poetry, and short story anthologies.

The themes range from serious to fun, with a mix of genre styles within them. January was all about happiness, so very timely for that new year, new you vibe.

This month, I completed The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman. 

img_0895

Kalman’s book is different than most books I’ve read because it is also an art book. The pages are her colorful paintings and photography of people, places, and things that catch her eye – whether passing by on the street or musing over a historical figure.

This is a book you could read in a day. But I chose not to. I wanted to savor it.

img_0907

On a surface level, it’s an easy book to read for reading’s sake. But I wanted to muse along with her. Sometimes I learned about a historical figure, or a family member of hers, or even the intricacy of a tassel on a chair. So what you really get out of Kalman’s book is that happiness is found in the little things. The day to day moments where we stop. And just look. Just listen.

What reading challenges are you doing this year, formal or otherwise?
What books have you read recently that made you think? 

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You Are What You Eat, And That’s Why I’m An Oompa Loompa

The past year has been a transitional one for me. I quit my job of six years, I was unemployed and financially broke for months, I wrote a full draft of my book, and I got a new job that I love!

It seems the winds of change weren’t done for me after just one year. I took on the task of planning an international wedding. I continued working on my book. I had a secret civil ceremony abroad. And then my family and I laid my brother-in-law to rest. Four days later, Joe and I had our stateside wedding ceremony and revealed our big surprise.

It doesn’t seem possible that I’ve undergone so many emotional extremes – some of which in one week’s time. I know I lived it. But I can’t believe it. I just knew it was time that I start taking care of myself. Mentally and physically.

The big push to get started came after reading Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive. It’s amazing and well-researched. And I had the pleasure of meeting her at BlogHer14. In her book, she discusses the strengths and increased productivity from exercising meditation, getting enough sleep at night, and separating ourselves from technology for awhile.

BlogHer book signing

I started practicing a few of her tips, like not checking social media an hour before bedtime – and going to bed earlier!

About a month ago, my best friend asked me if I wanted to do the 21 Day Fix challenge with her. It’s a daily workout and meal plan. I was in the midst of the wedding and decided not to, but when it came up again this month, I said yes.

And that brings me to all the green food I’ve eaten.

I’m eating a lot of green food.

cucumbersCucumbers

chicken with avocadoAvocado on top of my Chicken

spinachSpinach and Kale

kiwiKiwi

Everything I’m eating is GREEN!

green foods collage

In addition, I also ate peas, green beans, and asparagus.

I started worrying that if I continued to eat so many green foods, I would eventually turn GREEN!

And then I’d look like an Oompa Loompa!!!

Selfie - OL1

Selfie - OL2

Selfie - OL3

Selfie - OL4

But I still crave junk food sometimes.

selfie - OL collageI’m done with week one. And good news, I’ve gone grocery shopping and bought vegetables of other colors. For now, my pigment is sage safe.

I’m liking how I feel so far. Taking care of ourselves is a luxury most of us don’t honor. But I’m glad I timed myself out and did this. My brain and body feel energized and are able to start processing the events of this past year.

What are you doing for yourself this week?

My Big Fat Secret Greek Wedding

Well the cat’s out of the bag now and we revealed our big surprise to our wedding guests and you that we’ve secretly been married for a month now.

Surprise!!! *throws rice confetti and releases the doves*

Here’s what people are saying about it:

“It was the best wedding I’ve never been to!”

“Most fun we’ve had at a wedding in a long time!”

“It’s so romantic and beautiful.”

“How did you keep it a secret so well? We loved it!”

We are eternally grateful that everyone supported our actions and thought what we did was romantic and dreamlike. It really was.

I mean, look where we were! Can you blame us?

DSC_0026Our wedding day in Santorini was relaxing. Since our wedding wasn’t until sunset, we actually lounged the whole morning, swimming and hanging out in our private jacuzzi with glasses of Assyrtiko wine.

I’ve heard that every wedding day has its minor glitches and mine involved my flat iron.

While we had planned ahead and purchased an international adapter plug, Joe had warned me about voltage conversion issues. So far, things had worked out when it came to charging our camera and my laptop. While getting ready for the big event, I plugged my flat iron in to use it to smooth my bangs down and planned to curl the rest of my hair.

Yes, I know that sounds weird. I use my FLAT iron to CURL my hair. Just trust me it works, and I like how the curls turn out better than with a curling iron.

I had recently just purchased a new flat iron as well. It was so beautiful, a shiny new red handle and it worked really well.

I was straightening my bangs when I heard this little sizzling noise. And about 5 seconds later I dropped the flat iron to the floor because that sizzle I heard was the inside of the HANDLE burning up and scalding my palm. VOLTAGE CONVERSION ISSUE!!!

This day is not about my hair. This day is not about my hair. This day is not about my hair.

Those are the words I repeated to myself in the mirror as I stared at my straight hair. They were followed by gratitude to the gods for the fact that I had smoothed my bangs and NOT begun curling my hair or else I’d have ended up with some half-headed poodle-ized catastrophe.

And my new straightener…ended up in the trash. 😦

In the end it worked out.

DSC_0028Joe also played a trick on me on our wedding day. We’d been talking the week before we left about our wedding vows and all he’d tell me about his were that he “had a good idea” of what he was going to say and he didn’t need to write them down because he didn’t want them “to sound rehearsed.”

Okay, fine. But know that I had stepped up my game when it came to writing wedding vows. When Joe and I first started dating, I was still in college and wrote a lot of spoken word poems. Some even, for Joe. It’d been years since I’d written one. As a meaningful gesture, I wrote my vows in a spoken word poem for him.

The morning of our wedding, we both had to rewrite our vows nicely on fresh paper because we’d only packed the rough drafts. So I wrote mine out on one end of our room, and he wrote his on the other. I finished rewriting mine, meanwhile Joe is still sitting there – slightly staring into the abyss, periodically writing something down.

That worm! Is he just writing his vows NOW?!!

So our wedding time came and I was unsure what Joe’s vows would be. I was half preparing for a bulleted list of nonsense.

DSC_0032His vows were perfect. They were heartfelt, meaningful to us, and touched on the things we both love and find important.

So what the heck had he been twiddling with for so freaking long?

My twerp of a husband was messing with me. That whole time he was sitting there pretending to struggle with his vows, he was scribbling Bruno Mars song lyrics on the back of the paper!

I’ll get you for this, my pretty!

Everyone we worked with from our Grecian wedding planner’s company was wonderful. We had so much fun laughing with them, enjoying our happy moment of foreverness, taking in as much beauty as our eyes would let us, and sharing cake and champagne with them as well as our hotel staff, who felt like our long distance Greek family members while we stayed there.

DSC_0080Makin’ it legal.

DSC_0103Say Aaaaaah!

DSC_0120Something blue.

DSC_0125Cheers to our Big Fat Secret Greek Wedding!

Thank you to everyone who supported us and our big surprise!
We so enjoy sharing our 2 special weddings with you all.

Have you ever kept a big secret from your closest loved ones?
How did it go over when you finally told them?

I’m Enough: Learning Lessons From a Mirror That Talks Back

When you look in the mirror, how do you feel about yourself?

And we’re being  honest here.

Do you believe the only value it shows is what’s on the outside? Does the mirror, to you, amplify your flaws or acknowledge the human being that you are with phenomenal virtues inside and out?

Does the mirror reflect your worth?

This is the question that a group of women from Austen, TX came together to answer. But first, they started a band.

Their group is called The Mrs.

Unable to connect with the songs they were hearing on the radio, well past the years of the teenage heartbreak and club beats, they sought to create music inspired by their own lives as passionate – and busy – wives, mothers, and girlfriends.

The all-female rock band is comprised of drummer Andra Liemandt, lead vocalists/guitarists Mandy Prater and Jennifer Zavaleta, vocals/keyboardist Larissa Ness, and bassist Jenny Mason.

They wrote a song called ‘I’m Enough.’ And from that song, they gave birth to a movement.

They plastered stickers around every mirror and window they came across with messages like “You’re awesome,” “I’m Enough,” and “You’ve never looked better!” Then they took it a step further and concocted what some might dub ‘a magic mirror’, a talking mirror that surprised women all over the county.

At first glance, the mirror on the wall appears ordinary. When you walk up to it, all you see is your reflection.

And then a voice comes on.

That voice greets you, perhaps by name. That voice tells you you’re beautiful. That voice tells you you are loved. That voice tells you you’re enough.

*****

The Mrs. performed at BlogHer live on Saturday, and their talking mirror was in the vendor hall all weekend. My pal, August McLaughlin, and I got to experience the talking mirror firsthand before we even knew what it was!

I went up to it first. I put the headphones on and immediately this friendly voice greeted me, “Hi Jess! Look at that gorgeous red hair!”

MirrorAugust listening to the Talking Mirror

The person behind the mirror told me I was beautiful. She told me I had beautiful, clear skin.

I started crying.

I wasn’t making-a-scene-hysterical, I just genuinely teared up. I don’t tell myself my skin is beautiful.

As my 30th birthday gets closer, I’ve been battling some body dysmorphia. I wrote about it in To Conceal and Carry…My Muffin Top. Besides recent weight gain, I have trouble with adult acne. It began as “teenage” acne, then “college” acne, and morphed into adulthood “I’ve paid thousands of dollars on skincare and make-up” acne. I know my skin has changed and that it has improved. But when I look in the mirror, I see only the bumps, the redness, the scarring.

I knew my attacks on myself were really bad when I nonchalantly made the comment to my sister, “You know how people sometimes ask you ‘If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be?’ Well, mine would be clear skin. That’s all I want. CLEAR skin!”

I immediately felt hurt when I said it. Hurt by my OWN words. I had always been the girl who wanted to fly. How had I let myself get so stuck?

Even on my wedding day, my biggest fear was my face. Not the hundreds of dollars we paid in legal paperwork for an international wedding, or traveling to a foreign country with my wedding dress, or that Joe had not written his vows until the day of (he actually had, but was messing with me for fun). No, I was freaking out over my face. I wanted perfect skin for my wedding day, and that was the one thing beyond my grasp.

I started a mantra, “This day is not about my face. This day is not about my face.” And I said it every morning as I put my make up on for that whole week before our wedding.

So yah. I started crying when the woman behind the mirror told me I had clear skin. And then she told me my writing mattered. That my words brought joy and laughter and insight to others. And I felt – this may sound silly – but I felt like I sprouted wings. Little baby wings that flapped and triggered my brain to say “Go after your dreams.”

She's Enough

And remember I’m enough.

Do you need to be reminded?

Follow more of the movement on Twitter using the hashtag #ImEnough.

 

 

 

Top 5 Reasons To Go To BlogHer

This weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending Blogher ’14.

I can’t even begin to decompress and describe the mind bomb that is this conference. 4,000 bloggers, most of them women, in scenic California, partying it up, networking, and honoring each others’ voices.

I arrived in San Jose, CA on Thursday afternoon and was greeted by cupcakes (made out of lentils???) in a beautiful city. I ask you, does it get any better than that?

San Jose CollageWell yes, it does. Because there are keynotes. AMAZING, funny, gorgeous, talented, and freaking cool keynotes!

Who was on the list?

Jenny Lawson – who you may know as The Bloggess, and author of the hilarious memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I met her, and we talked about funny female authors, and we both just finished reading Nora Ephron for the first time, and she signed my book “Knock Knock, Mofo”. Isn’t she great?

Tig Notaro – the comedian best known for her stand up show discussing the humor and heft of having breast cancer. You can download free tracks of her stand up at her site here, including clips from her famous show, Live.

Arianna Huffington – as in the founder of The Huffington Post! Best speech of the keynotes; she was inspiring, charming, funny, and flawless. And you know what? I met her too, and I spoke to her in Greek! *seriously might faint just thinking how awesome that was*

Kerry Washington – the actor and activist. She shared behind the scenes stories from her show, Scandal, as well as why civil rights and philanthropy are so important.

Keynote CollageWhy go to BlogHer?

BlogHer is drastically different than writers conferences, in my opinion. When you go to a writers conference, there’s a pretty strict schedule of classes to attend. It’s more about learning, networking, and deciding about indie vs. traditional publishing routes. It’s awesome and definitely motivating, but different.

1. BlogHer is basically a giant party.

No I’m not kidding. That’s how it feels. Everyone is smiling. Everyone wants to meet people. Everyone wants to know what you blog about and which classes you attended, and which yogurt you picked in the Yoplait #tasteoff challenge!

Shocker! We picked Yoplait.

YoplaitThat’s me and the illustrious August McLaughlin
hanging out with a giant spoon. #GoodTimes

The Expo room with all the vendors is fun to bum around. And for those looking to write sponsored posts, the connections are yours for the making!

2. The Keynotes

See above. Then wipe the drool from your chin. I can’t wait to see who’s on board for next year’s keynotes.

3. Voices of the Year Community Keynote

If you want to hear the voices that are groundbreaking in the blogosphere, attend the VOTY celebration. I was in awe of these women. And I want to share them all with you. Here are the 12 Voices of the Year that spoke at the conference. (All were phenomenal, but I starred the ones that spoke the most to me personally.)

*Parri Sontag ~ Her Royal Thighness ~ Leisure Suits, Braces, and Beanies: My Life as a Dodgeball Target

Kristin Vanderhey Shaw ~ Two Cannoli ~ More Than Words

Tammy Soong ~ World’s Worst Moms ~ First Reason Not to Get a Tattoo: Your Mom Probably Has One

*A’driane Nieves ~ Butterfly Confessions ~ America’s Not Here For Us

*Meredith Bland ~ Pile of Babies ~ 9 Awesome Things About Having a Physical Disability

*Janelle Hanchett ~ Renegade Mothering ~ We Don’t Start With Needles in Our Arms

Phyllis Myung ~ The Napkin Hoarder ~ Sometimes I Still Wish I Was White

Ashley Garrett ~ Baddest Mother Ever ~ It’s All One Life

*August McLaughlin ~ August McLaughlin’s Blog ~ My Big Brindle Heart: A Love Story

*Grace Sandra ~ Grace Sandra’s Blog ~ Letting The Stupid Little Ni**er Go

Jenna Hatfield ~ Stop, Drop, & Blog ~ The Bridge That is Any Bridge

Lisa Page Rosenberg ~ Smacksy ~ The View From Here

4. Networking and Friendships

Business CardsHoly business cards, Batman!

There are 4,000 bloggers in one building and you get to hang out with them!!! I actually ran out of business cards.

Also, meet bloggers you follow online.

After using Twitter as a ginger beacon homing device, I met up with Aussa Lorens from Hacker. Ninja. Hooker. Spy.

Photo credit - Aussa Lorens

Photo credit – Aussa Lorens

You know who else I Twitter stalked?

Hege and Cotille from StitchFix! Photo coming soon as it’s on Cotille’s phone, but the girls will be sharing their photos from BlogHer and all the StitchFix fashionistas at the conference using the hashtag #StitchFixInTheWild.

*double squeeee* I even went out to dinner with them! And we leisured on Santana Row, San Jose’s trendy hot spot for restaurants and clothing boutiques.

But best of all was meeting fellow blogger, longtime friend, and founder of #GirlBoner radio – August McLaughlin!

August and Jess

Photo credit – August McLaughlin

Truth.

Truth.

5. BlogHer is literally a giant party.

The end of the conference is a big, outdoor party. And Rev Run from Run DMC was the dj. #ILoveThe90s

Rev Run Run DMC

Do you need any more reasons than that?
So, will I see you at BlogHer next year?

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness Boosters and Posts that Promote You

Hello Everyone!  I’ve been training all last week (and still am) in a new Manager Position, so forgive me for not visiting as many of you as I try to. And worse, for not working on that WIP like I should be. I’m currently sitting at 51K on Oops Baby (the WIP). I’ll update you soon! In the meantime, I’ve been reading some great stuff and thought it was time for another mash up! Grab your coffee and settle in!

Coffee Time

Happiness Boosters

With summer finally here, are you feeling like you have nothing to wear? Are you on a tight budget and trying to re-purpose your closet? Nina Badzin shares Wardrobe Rescue – Her story of getting help from a Style Expert who matched up clothes that were already in her closet!

Speaking of wardrobes…What does your footwear say about your love life? The hilarious Tawna Fenske asks herself just that in Judging My Love Life By My Footwear.

Looking for a little life recharge from the solitary writer’s life? Joe Warnimont shares Breaking Through Writing Solitude with ideas to escape cabin fever and refuel again!

The Packing Tips You Don’t Want to Miss

Romance writer Erin Knightley packs 8 days worth of travel into one carry on bag! Need to see it to believe it? She’s got a video! It’s beautiful! I will definitely be implementing her tips when Joe and I take our road trip again this summer.  How to Pack for Nationals

Wondering where to go on your next vacation? I am so excited for author Patricia Sands who joined forces with Women’s Travel Network to plan a trip to Provence, France touring the sites from her book, The Promise of Provence. Looking at the itinerary, it sounds like the trip of a lifetime!  Come to France With Us Next June!

Remember when planes were fun? People dressed up to travel and the food was elegant. Renee Schuls-Jacobson reminisces When Flying Was Fun.

Make ‘Em Laugh, Make ‘Em Laugh

Jenny Hansen of the blog, More Cowbell, shares Dumb State Laws That Made Me Laugh. A few of my favorites from Jenny’s home state, California:

  • No vehicle without a driver may exceed 60 miles per hour. (Whew.)
  • It is a misdemeanor to shoot at any kind of game from a moving vehicle, unless the target is a whale.
  • Animals are banned from mating publicly within 1,500 feet of taverns, schools, or places of worship.

Amy at Left to Write was Freshly Pressed with the post Am I a Millenial? As someone who questions this constantly myself, I feel her pain. I too grew up with a rotary phone in the house and thought the best boy band was New Kids on the Block. And yet I Instagram, therefore I am… ???

Pimp and Promote

Glitter Queen and California Girl, Tameri Etherton, is getting ready to launch her new website. She’s got a great teaser of what it looks like in the form of the coolest business cards ever as well as a name competition to name her dragon mascot!  Dragon Names! RWA Prep! Movies! It’s all here today!

One of my favorite new blogs to read is Madge Madigan‘s. Looking for a laugh from a woman with real snark spark? Ok, snark too. She’s been offering her book, When Life Gives You Lemons…At Least You Won’t Get Scurvy for great deals lately so keep posted to get your copy!

Two of my favorite ladies in one place! Tiffany A. White interviews paranormal writer/blogger Catie Rhodes! Get her take on Ghosts, Haunted Houses, and Forever Road!

Geek Goddess and Steampunk Warrior Ellie Ann has released her debut novel, The Silver Sickle, and a new website! Nab your copy today!

Post-apocalyptic writer Piper Bayard still has her Reader/Blogger Challenge going on to win some PR/Schwag in honor of her amazing new book, Firelands – which I am reading and LOVING! She recently blogged about Currency of the Apocalypse – Whatcha Got?

What did I miss?

Feel free to promote a post of your own in the comments! See you there!

How Does Tarot Work? And Can it Make Me Happy?

It’s Mystic Monday today for the Guinea Pig Diaries and I’m pleased to welcome paranormal writer and Tarot reader, Kirsten Weiss sharing how and why Tarot can make you happier!  Thank you, Catie Rhodes, for introducing us!  Kirsten did a reading for me last week, and it was very reassuring.  Take it away, Kirsten!

*****

Several years ago, I was at a low point in my life and I went for a tarot reading at a fortune teller’s café. It was just for fun. I’ve been reading tarot cards unprofessionally for over fifteen years now, so I can read for myself. But I wanted to hear what someone who didn’t know me had to say.

The reader told me I’d go on a trip in mid-May and I’d meet someone. Maybe it was because I was watching for it, but I did go on a trip in mid-May. And yes, I did meet someone special.

So does tarot work as a self-fulfilling prophecy? A sort of psychic placebo effect? Or is it something else?

The Hanged Man Card from the 15th Century Visconti Sforza tarot deck. In Renaissance Italy, traitors were hanged upside down so it's also known as the Traitor.

The Hanged Man Card from the 15th Century Visconti Sforza tarot deck. In Renaissance Italy, traitors were hanged upside down so it’s also known as the Traitor.

There are lots of theories about the origins of tarot, but the earliest known tarot decks were born in Renaissance Italy, and used in the game Tarocchi. What makes a tarot deck special is its fifth suit – called the trumps or Major Arcana. These are the cards most of us are familiar with from movies – the Lovers, Death, the Hanged Man. Tarot expert Robert Place speculates these trump cards were modeled on the Italian “triumph” morality parades of that time period.

The other four suits, called the Minor Arcana, are close to what you’d see in a deck of “normal” cards, though the court cards are a bit different. Tarot decks have four court cards per suit: King, Queen, Page or Princess, and Knight.

So how does it work?

Jung wrote about tarot: “[The images] are sort of archetypal ideas, of a differentiated nature, which mingle with the ordinary constituents of the flow of the unconscious, and therefore it is applicable for an intuitive method that has the purpose of understanding the flow of life, possibly even predicting future events, at all events lending itself to the reading of the conditions of the present moment.” So perhaps tarot allows us to tap into our subconscious understanding of what’s happening, to invoke synchronicity into our lives, and predict things at a deeper level?

Some readers treat tarot as a complex Roschach test, asking questions that lead the client to interpret their own cards. This can open up your hidden assumptions and beliefs, and force you to think outside your usual patterns. But is it future telling?

The Hermit from the 15th Century Viscontin Sforza tarot deck.

The Hermit from the 15th Century Viscontin Sforza tarot deck.

We tend to live in the same patterns over and over. Frankly, it’s not hard to guess someone’s future when we so often repeat the past. What if, however, we could use tarot to understand our patterns, and to break them?

And then there are some people (not me) who use the cards as a conduit for their own psychic connection. I even heard of one psychic who reads the cards face down. She intuits their meaning without having to look at them.

No matter how it works, in the hands of a good reader, a tarot reading can give a person clarity, direction, and hope, as that tarot reader did for me so long ago. It takes us outside of our regular thought processes, forces us to look at our lives through a new lens – the lens of a deck of 78 cards.

Frankly, I don’t care if tarot is “magic” or not. There’s something soothing about shuffling the cards, laying them out, puzzling out what they’re “saying.” And they’re simply beautiful.

About the Author:

Kirsten WeissKirsten Weiss runs the Tarot Card of the Day for the @ParaYourNormal twitter feed and is the author of the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, and The Shamanic Detective.  Book four in the series, The Infernal Detective, will be available May 21st on Amazon.

Kirsten worked overseas for nearly fourteen years, in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone.  Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

Kirsten, thank you so much for sharing your personal connection to Tarot with all of us.  I had no idea how open the cards were for interpretation and like you said, how they can be an insightful tool, like journaling or blogging is for others; it can show us how we’ve grown and what’s possible.  You’re right, that is beautiful!

See more of Kirsten on Twitter and catch her newest book trailer for The Infernal Detective!

Twentysomethings: The Defining Decade?

*This post was originally published through the Life List Club Blog on April 27, 2012.  Thought it was time for another discussion.

I was driving home one night listening to my guilty pleasure, Wisconsin Public Radio, and the topic for the evening really stunned me.  The radio host, Joy Cardin, was speaking with Dr. Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist who specializes in adult development especially twentysomethings.

Dr. Jay is the author of The Defining Decade:  Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now.  Dr. Jay works as an assistant clinical professor at the University of Virginia and keeps a private practice as well.  Interacting with so many college students and recent graduates, she noticed the hits and misses my generation was making time and time again.

When asked why she wrote the book, Dr. Jay said she’s trying to make an impact on the 50 million twentysomethings who are looking for guidance in their lives while still being treated like an adult.

So why are the twenties so defining? 

  • 80% of life’s most defining moments take place before the age of 35.
  • 70% of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of a career.
  • More than half of us are married or living with our longterm partners.
  • Our fertility rates peak in our twenties.
  • And our brains do their last growth spurt in our twenties.

If you had the same reaction I did, you’re probably thinking, “Sweet God, it’s all over!  I may as well start digging my grave, drop down in it, along with my unfinished book, my birth control pills, and any other unfulfilled dreams while we’re funeralizing!”

*****

Fear not!  Dr. Jay says Never Give Up. 

She does emphasize that my generation is in the midst of some crucial crossroads and the decisions we make now CAN AND DO impact the rest of our lives.

She talks about “identity capital” which she defines as the collateral you build up so when you go in for an interview the person looks at your resume and says “Oh that’s interesting, tell me more about that!” We know we’re in an economic crisis right now.  The job market is not ideal.  The Veteran Generation is staying employed longer in need of more stability, and yet year after year more college graduates are flooding the market.  We’ve got all four generations competing and cohabiting the workforce.  Ages 20 – 70+.

Many of us twentysomethings opted for an alternative route.  I’m sure all of you know someone who decided to take time off, travel the world, date around, etc.  Dr. Jay’s concern with some of these routes is that for those individuals they’re having a harder time trying to get back on track whether it’s the job field or family planning.  Employers start to look at your resume and think “hmm, you really haven’t done too much” and the person that stands out is the twentysomething who jumped right in and planned their career path just like an adult, setting goals or achieving higher degrees, whatever it might be.

In regards to family planning, she wants twentysomethings to be aware of fertility information.  Women’s fertility peaks at 28.  What she tends to hear from the twentysomethings she counsels, is so many of them spend time in cohabitation with a partner or spouse for 4-5 years before they realize that maybe that relationship should have only lasted a year.

Now, I will totally say that family planning is a personal choice!  And Dr. Jay agreed.  What she wants is for us to have the facts about fertility so we are thoughtful in planning who our partners are as well as when we want to start having children because the health risks are increased the later into the 30′s you are.

That being said, I may have ran in from the car, found Joe, and screamed something like, “We have to start having babies now, my fertility is peaking!!! What are we doing with our lives??!”

So then he said, “You’re not allowed to listen to the radio anymore…”

Our generation is at its peak for adaptation.  If there is something you are unhappy about in life, or you’re wanting to make changes, then do it!  We have the capability to transform and rise to the occasion.

When I graduated from college, I started having anxiety attacks.  I panicked about “what I wanted to do with the rest of my life!”  I fell in suit and took the first full time job that came my way.  I worked all the time, and was too exhausted to pursue my writing or hang out with friends.  You know what, I got really sad and really bored real fast!  It’s been an ongoing process to change.  While I’ve done well for myself career-wise, I quickly learned that what makes me happy is writing and travel, and if I was going to get that back in my life that meant change!

So, three years ago I started blogging!  And I met amazing writers and readers online!  Through them, I got involved with some writing contests and critique groups.  I also saved up my money and used my vacation time to attend writing conferences and travel around the world.

There is hope!  And it’s never too late!  All of us can define the decade we’re living in!

So what are you waiting for?!  What’s on your life list?

What do you think about Dr. Jay’s theory and your 20′s being the Defining Decade?  Are you currently in your 20′s?  Would you do anything differently if you could go back?  What advice do you have for a new adult in their 20’s, or for parents raising a 20-somthing?

Guest Post by Timothy McKinney: Can Money Buy You Happiness?

Happy Friday Everyone!  We’re taking a change from guilty pleasures to talk about happiness.  Specifically, that age old question, Can Money Buy You Happiness?  Please welcome the author of The Power of Happiness, Timothy McKinney!

Plus:  He’s offering 3 lucky commenters a chance to win an e-copy of his book!  Leave a comment on today’s post to enter, or double your chances by also leaving a comment on my book review of The Power of Happiness here. All comments must be in by Sunday, September 16th 5pm to win!

*****

Can You REALLY Buy Happiness With Money?

“Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.”

-Helen Gurley Brown

This past month, American cultural icon Helen Gurley Brown passed away after a lifetime of helping people challenge their beliefs. And, her quote about money really captures the age-old question, “Can money buy happiness?”

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as one would think. To illustrate the challenge, let’s look at two people—one with money and one without. To keep as many things constant as possible, let’s imagine that these two people are twin brothers, Bill and Bob. They are, of course, the same age, have the same parents, and grew up in the same environment. They have the same level of health and are both in sales. They’re both married and have two children each. The main difference between the two brothers is that Bill made an investment when he was in college that made him a lot of money. Bob invested the same amount in a different company and didn’t see a return on his investment.

Bill and Bob have a sister, Bonnie. One day, Bonnie comes to her brothers and tells them that her husband has left and taken all of their money. She’s got young children and doesn’t know how she’ll make the rent. She asks her brothers for a small loan. Bob is struggling to pay his own rent and doesn’t have any extra to give his sister. He feels awful, but must tell his sister, “I don’t have the money right now, but why don’t you and the kids come over to dinner this weekend. I can’t give you financial support, but I can give you emotional support.” Bill has plenty of money and is easily able to give his sister the money. “Don’t worry about it, Sis. It’s my gift to you.”

Later that week, Bill and Bob’s mother ends up in the hospital after a fall. She’s broken her hip and needs surgery. Unfortunately, her insurance won’t cover the entire cost of the surgery. Bill says to his mother, “It’s okay, Mom. I can cover the gap. You just worry about getting better.” Bob visits his mom, too. He brings her a huge bouquet of flowers and a copy of her favorite book. He spends the afternoon with his mother in the hospital reading to her.

The next month, during the brothers’ annual “Guys Weekend,” Bill and Bob are sitting on a small boat on a lake doing some fishing. The subject of happiness comes up.  “Bill, are you happy in your life?” asks Bob.

“Yeah, I am. Of course, there are some things I would change…”

“What would you change, Bill? You have all the money you could possibly want. What would make your life better?”

“Well, Bob, I kind of envy you sometimes. Everyone in the family knows that when there is a financial bind, they can come to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love having the ability to solve problems with money. But I envy the personal connection that you seem to have with everyone. It’s almost as if because you don’t have the financial resources I have, you’re forced to give another kind of support. Money is the easiest kind of support there is to give, and sometimes I think it makes me a bit lazy. What about you, Bob? Are you happy?”

“Yes, I’m happy. But, I’d change some things, too. I do wish I had more money. I think I would be happier if I did. It makes me feel awful when I can’t help Bonnie or Mom. I feel like if I just had the money to solve their problems, then I wouldn’t have to feel terrible for other people so much.”

The brothers lapsed into silence for a few moments and contemplated this. Finally, Bill broke the silence.  “I guess it’s like this. Having money makes it easier to do the things that make you happy. It doesn’t MAKE you happy, but it takes away the stresses that can make happiness elusive.”

Bob agreed. “Yeah. I don’t think that one of us is more or less happy than the other, Bill. We each use the resources we have to do the things we can to make others happy. It’s about serving others and giving, whether it’s money or another form of support.”

This story perfectly captures the paradox of money and happiness. You can be happy with money, or you can be miserable with money. You can be happy without money, or you can be miserable with no money. But, there’s no question that having money can at least ameliorate some of the stresses that can make one unhappy. Perhaps, Henry David Thoreau said it best…

“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

Timothy McKinney lives in Redondo Beach, California with his wife Cindy and their two children, Heather and Robbie. He went to the University of Southern California, where he received degrees in Business and Psychology. Since 1997, Tim has been a corporate trainer who conducts workshops on subjects related to happiness and workplace effectiveness. He is a passionate vegetarian who enjoys SCUBA Diving in the Kelp Forests of Catalina Island.

If it says it brings you happiness, you can bet I’ve tried it.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — The Declaration of Independence.

You know, our Forefathers really had this whole foreshadowing of the future thing going on.  They knew, even back in 1776, that people weren’t going to be born happy, all they could do was pursue it.  Kind of makes you wish you could go back in time and clock John Hancock on the head, doesn’t it?  Old mousey wigged, know-it-all!

The constant quest for finding happiness gives me this image in my mind.

(image courtesy activerain.com)

I’s going to get you!

Achieving happiness isn’t the same as a math equation, although I’d be equally in trouble if that WERE the case.  You can’t say that just because someone Earned a Degree + Married + Had 2.5 kids = Happiness.  The standards and desires of each person are different.  But still, we try to make it formulated!  We read articles, we join clubs, we go on juice diets, we hang out in a certain crowd, we buy skinny jeans and then don’t wear them.

Here’s a list of things I’ve done in hopes it would bring me happiness:

1.  Bought and wore on the same day matching clothes as my best friends. 

  • Admit it, some of you have done this too!  It was the absolute hype of middle school trends in my day.  And I have photos where we’re all sporting the same corduroy overalls, “bibs” to the hip crowd.  And I believe there was another incident with matching chartreuse turtlenecks.  Yah, those photos aren’t going online.

2. Dated some boy I didn’t like.

  • I’m sorry but he was an absolute turd of a human being who chewed way too much gum, and then had our mutual friend in band call me to tell me he was maybe-sorta-thinking about breaking up with me.

(image courtesy thirtysomethingsingle.com)

3.  Played Truth or Dare at any age.

  • First off, why did someone invent a game where the ultimate goal is to dig up dirt on your friends?  And second, who in their right mind ever selects ‘dare’?  This stupid game has made me give my pocket money to strangers, steal plates from Pizza Hut, drink water from the toilet, and quote lines from Young Frankenstein while dancing in a leaf pile on campus at some ungodly hour of the night???  And now, I sit back and eagerly await the search engine terms that will link to my blog.

(image courtesy funnycorner.net)

4. Spontaneous sex.

  • Oh sure, it starts out all romantic, you’re sneaking onto the rooftop of an abandoned factory, looking out over the city lights and traffic below.  You start kissing, the kissing leads to clothes coming off, and what’s that…the rooftop is made of fiberglass?!

5. Join an intramural sports team.

  • It’s supposed to be fun, that’s what the people told me who got me to sign up for intramural badminton.  Back to back games with international Asian students kicking our a$$es!  And then, my partner sprained her ankle and I got tendonitis.  For reals.

(image courtesy cybersalt.org)

But then are things that really do bring me happiness!

Despite the pitfalls of fashion trends and a dieting faux pas, there are tried and true things that bring us joy.  I started up this blog to test them.  Some of my particular favorites are:

1.  Movie marathons

  • Having been a video store clerk for 5 years, there were times where I wouldn’t go a day without watching at least one movie!  Reuniting with favorite characters and quoting lines from your favorite flicks is a comfort thing for me.  I love vegging out and having theme movie marathons.

2. Giving and receiving surprises from your friends.

  • You can’t beat girlfriends.  There’s just nothing like them.  It makes my day when a friend surprises me with homemade spring rolls on my porch after a long day at work.  And I felt good surprising a friend who was injured after a bike fall with an accessory box – all the fixings to get dolled up and still wear pants, plus a ticket to the new Sex and the City movie!

(image courtesy fyessexandthecity.tumblr.com)

3. Visiting the library.

  • I am a library groupie.  I love the library.  I rent all my movies and books from here and visit at least once a week.  It’s a place to relax, browse new titles, stock up on as much as you want, and chill in a variety of sitting areas and furniture!

4. Simple dinners at home.

  • You know what my favorite kind of date night it?  Cheese, crackers, and wine at home.  I love laid back, romantics evenings.  Cooking at home or grilling out, making a meal together is fun.  Put on Pandora and enjoy each others’ company.  A favorite recommendation:  making southwest food and listening to zydeco music, then eating alfresco on the patio.

(image courtesy sivanidesigns.com)

5. Going for a walk.

  • It’s not rocket science, it’s fresh air.  Taking a walk is good for you.  I’m lucky to live in an area where there’s a marsh and bluffs to walk or hike in.  I think nature reminds us to slow down.  To literally STOP and smell the roses.

Your turn!  What are the things you’ve tried in the pursuit of happiness?  And what things have you found that truly bring it?  Got a happiness tip for me to try?  Share it!

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