Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Accentuate the Positive

I was talking to my mom about goals for the next year and how we planned to achieve our goals in the upcoming year. Then my mom pointed out that while she was thinking of things to do she realized how much she had actually gotten done last year without realizing it.

 It made me wonder, what did I accomplish last year that I should celebrate?

It's really easy for me to see everything I didn't do right, things I failed to finish and goals I just flat out ignored. It's not always easy to focus on the small successes. Here are three things I accomplished in 2016:

1. Our family took a vacation to Disneyland. We paid for the entire trip in cash. No debt. This was HUGE for us. We used a budget and made a few sacrifices in terms of staying at a different hotel than we wanted, but we had a guilt-free great time.

2. I went on a week-long trip with my mom to California. I had never been away from my girls for more than 2 nights (they're 8 and 10)... also I had to fly. The kids survived. The husband survived and I had so much fun spending one-on-one time with my mom. (Added bonus: we learned a ton at the conference we attended and even managed to accidentally get a tour of the 'Gangland' neighborhoods on our way to grab groceries -- Thank you Uber driver for that delightful information.)

3. I made somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 from my writing business last year. That's almost twice what I made last year. I also learned to say hell-to-the-no to cheap-skate clients and I picked up on a few warning signs to help me avoid getting hosed again in the future (thank you life lessons 101).

When I look at those three things, they're actually kind of a big deal, but I didn't realize it while I was plugging along. It's so easy to get caught up focusing on everything that sucks. It's so easy to keep a record of all our failings, missteps and mistakes.

It is important that we recognize our mistakes, but it's just as important to celebrate our successes. If you keep moving from one point to the next without stopping and recognizing the good things in your life, you'll miss out on all the joy! If life is a road trip, your small successes are the giant balls of yarn and Grand Canyons on your way to the final destination.

Two things I'm taking away this year:

1. Small things matter. Really. Small, simple changes make a huge difference over time.
2. Be okay with success. Recognize it and celebrate it. These small successes make it easier to keep pushing towards the bigger successes.

What did you get done in 2016?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Friday, November 11, 2016

A tale of trolls and presidents

In the wake of an emotionally draining election year, I’ve been feeling discouraged. Despite my personal opinions and frustrations, I made the decision that no matter what happened on election night, I would be supportive of the winner and try to stay upbeat. The drudgery, anger, and negativity that filled the entire campaign season had worn me down. I could not handle it anymore. So, I just decided not to.

I went to bed accepting of the results. I woke up optimistic and peaceful. For those who know me, I’ve never been shy about my dislike for Donald Trump. I think he’s mean and bigoted and he lacks any ounce of tact. Still, I conceded that having someone in the White House who isn’t a career politician could be a good thing. With both the House and Senate squarely controlled by Republicans (including many who have been outspoken about their disapproval of Trump), I have hope that they’ll be able to steer him in the right direction.

I knew people would be angry. But I didn’t know how angry they would be. I never anticipated the rioting and hatred. Protests? Sure. But the attacks against cops, mocking of voters and violent rhetoric that have blown up all over the place (from both parties) … not so much.  The anxiety and anger stress me out. I find myself unable to focus on work, I snap at my kids, and I constantly comment on Facebook posts only to delete my comments moments later because I know rationality is lost on the people who need to hear it most.

Trolls changed my attitude

Luckily, I had an odd realization today as I sat in a dark movie theater. My youngest daughter has been nagging us to go see Trolls. Daily. For weeks. Since before it was even in theaters. We marked today on the calendar weeks ago (accented by stars, hearts, and arrows) so we could point to the day every time she asked when we were going to go see it.

I knew going in that the movie was going to be silly and a bit perky (I mean trolls… in technicolor…) As much as I enjoyed the film, I suspect it’d be even more entertaining in states like Colorado and Oregon.

In case you haven’t seen it: the movie follows two trolls named Poppy and Branch. Poppy is the future queen of the Trolls. Always happy and cheerful, she sees the world through rose-colored glasses. She believes everything will always be okay. Branch, he’s more of a realist. He doesn’t understand why Poppy is so positive all the time.

The two pair off after a Bergen kidnaps some of the Trolls. The Bergens are creatures that believe the only way to be happy is to eat trolls and absorb their happiness. (I know- it doesn’t sound very kid friendly, but it’s not nearly as Silence of the Lambs as it sounds).

During one scene Branch asks Poppy why she’s so happy. Why does she refuse to believe bad exists in the world? Why can’t she accept that bad things happen and that fear is the only way to protect yourself from the bad.  Her answer was simple: “Because I’d rather believe the world is all cupcakes and sunshine.”  In other words: It’s a choice.

Near the climax of the movie, the situation turns dire and Poppy loses her joy. As the trolls are all standing in a pot together their colors fade. This movie which has been so vibrant and bright is suddenly dark. The scene feels hopeless. They are waiting to die while the Bergens are shouting in almost riotous glee.

Suddenly Branch leans in and starts to sing. Perhaps it was Justin Timberlake’s crooning voice or maybe it was the song choice (True Colors), But, I remembered: Happiness is a choice.

To quote Poppy: “Happiness is not something you put in your body,” (also a good quote for the front of the refrigerator!)

These people rioting in the streets because they are angry are choosing to be angry and hateful. Nothing anyone says or does can make them behave that way. It’s a choice. It’s also a choice to be happy despite the insanity. It’s a choice to feel peace even when the world feels like it’s going to hell. It’s a choice to see the positive, to see the possibility.

Go see Trolls. It’s bright, vibrant, and funny. It’s cheesy, but it’s hopeful and I don’t think this movie could have come out at a better time. I left feeling a little happier and a little more optimistic because that’s how I want to feel. That’s how I want my kids to see me feel.

Choose to be optimistic. Choose to be the kindness you want to see. Choose to give hope a chance. Choose not to fall prey to the drama and doomsday tellers. Choose to be positive and happy. 

Happiness is inside all of us, sometimes you just need someone to help you find it