A fishy Easter #WeekendCoffeeShare

If we were having coffee…

Wasn’t that coffee tasting fun?

I know, you may not be such a Starbucks supporter, but these monthly events are now something my husband and I look forward to. So far, I’ve learned that I do not like Latin American coffees, and African ones are hit-or-miss. You heard me ask Barista Dean about the types of coffees I like, and it’s the Asia-Pacific ones that seem to offer the mouth feel that I like. The roundness, was that what he called it? You’d think me a coffee drinker fresh out of the womb, but it was an acquired taste, born from the sleepiness of 5:00am film crew calls. That’s a story for another time. I want to tell you about last night.

My husband and I went to a Lenten fish fry.

This was my first fish fry since my Pittsburgh childhood. Oh, memories.

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Our current Peeps haul is larger than this…

Tomorrow is Easter. We’re already overflowing with Marshmallow Peeps, a childhood tradition and a joke between me and my husband from my 2009 article about the History of Marshmallow Peeps. I’m saving my one Cadbury Creme Egg for tomorrow, another family tradition.

And maybe I’m being extra-reflective because of the blogs I’ve been reading lately. Yes, I actually made time this week to read blogs, a lot of goal-setting between the ROW80 Round 1 wrap ups and A to Z Challenge Theme Reveals (you can currently find me at #493).  It’s the Throwback Thursday historic posts that have focused on family and memories in addition to goals. I’ve commented on these with my own family memories, which brings me back to fish frys.

Catholics typically don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, the weeks that lead up to Easter. Regardless of my parents’ health, what state I lived in or current religious activity, my family always observed meatless Fridays during Lent. It’s ingrained in me, so when I found this fish fry back in February, I so wanted to go.

There are so many pleasant memories about that. Riding the PAT bus through the neighborhood to St. Benedict’s, a school and a monastery. As we walked up the hill, what felt like a mountain, I always wondered what made a nun want to be a nun. Neither Mom nor Dad could tell me, but Dad would regale stories of his schooldays that every year involved nuns and wooden rulers on finger knuckles. The brick building with the ramp I had to go up instead of the steps. The stark hall, dull with tan walls yet screamingly bright from industrial overhead lights. The hum of chatter, voices laughing, saying hellos. The fast-food smell of cooking oil. A buffet line, find your seats first. White cardboard plates heavy and soggy from the river of coleslaw juice running under fish pieces. Sitting with Mom, Dad and my aunt. It was a party, and since we didn’t eat dinner out often, this was an event.

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Military rather than religious, it could almost be Pittsburgh

It took us until Good Friday to finally make it. We drove past a fish fry on the way to this fish fry. Who knew? At the VFW in Plymouth, we had the choice to sit in the Hall, which could’ve been my Pittsburgh memory plopped down in Michigan, or in the VFW Bar. 

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Baked and fried fish options at the modern-day fish fry

My husband chose the Bar. For the ambiance, he said.

We sat at a table across the room from the pool tables, next to the jukebox. It was the 4th Friday so live music started at 7pm and the pitchers of beer came out.

This was not my childhood fish fry.  It was still a good one.

Birthdays are in the details

“Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.”~Ausonius, Roman poet

Another February 15th rolls to an end, another birthday for my husband curls up for a 365-day nap. Birthdays are in the little touches.

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Bright balloon bouquets should greet very birthday boy and girl–no matter their age–when they walk through the door.

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Pooh napkins and cupcakes for either chocolate/vanilla mood, complete with separate forks so flavor-contamination…or for sharing.

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Don’t forget the Happy Birthday flags, a separate color for each cupcake.

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To the last detail: birthday balloon bouquet tied with smiley face ribbon.

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Don’t cover up words with a little red bow; let each one delight the gift. What’s fun without some Penn State-colored beads?

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Hershey’s chocolates in a bedside kiss. Good night!

It’s all fun and games with a twist this Halloween

Welcome to the annual Halloween Blog Party hop sponsored by A Fanciful Twist. Come stay, play and eat for awhile, and then hop over to the other parties you’ll find.

For now, walk up to the door.  Don’t be scared by the warning.  The zombies just cross the sidewalk; they don’t come inside the house.

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Greeted on the other side by our host, Sehlat.

“Welcome to my 6th Halloween party here.  Tonight is just about fun and games.  Come in, come in….”

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“Are you hungry?” he asks.  “There’s a buffet table in the other room.  Help yourself to some finger food.”

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“The coffin dip is on the kitchen counter.  Don’t worry about the crypt keeper.  He just hangs around.”

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In the living room, there’s a furious game of Scrabble in progress.  Snufflet and Finse keep score, but they’re in third place.  Lasso is last for the moment.  Socks is winning by 9 points, and she is quite happy about that. 

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Blue places her tiles for a score of 6, and the fourth round begins.

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Snufflet and Finse study their tiles intently….

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On the other side of the room, a game of Jenga has just started.  Boo Peeps celebrates his skill removing the his block.  It’s Snuff’s turn, so he looks up and studies the tower.  Otter, Brownie and Frost offer suggestions as they pace around the structure.

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There’s a warm, smoky smell coming from the kitchen. Appetizers are out of the oven.

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“My famous homemade Mummitizers,” Sehlat says, straightening his shoulders as he sets the tray down. “There are two types: savory and sweet. The sausage wraps are ones are a tad smoky. The banana ones have a touch of hazelnut spread to them. Be sure to take a napkin because the mummies are known to leak the sauce out onto your fingers.”

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It’s tough to say “Thank You” with a full mouth, but a nod is enough for Sehlat. With a smile and nod back, he takes off the oven mitts, grabs a nutty mummy and wanders into another room to mingle.

In the parlor, Whiffer and Ploppers hover over a handheld game. They’re playing Nintendogs on the special pink paw Nintendogs Nintendo DS console, a unit that was a limited edition.

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On the screen, Rosie the dachshund has been fed, washed, and now decides between a nap or playing ball.

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Wades, Tuesday, Prickles and Ice start a game of Clue.

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“Clue is a murder mystery game,” says Wades.  “Does anyone object to a more appropriate setting? 

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“Not at all,” says Prickles.  “What did you have in mind?”

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“This,” says Wades, and with a click flick of her wrist, the black light turns on.

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“What do you think?” she asks.

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“Oh, this is much better,” says Prickles.

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“Spooky-eerie,” says Tuesday, smiling beneath his mask.

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“Indeed,” says Ice.  “Let’s roll.”

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“Desserts are ready,” says a booming voice in the kitchen. Frankenpudding with tart orange cider.

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Hyde has already wandered over to the freshly-dipped caramel treats. He’s a favorite of the nut covered ones, but the smooth caramel looks enticing tonight.

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“It’s a football Saturday,” Catnap tells new lion. “Before Penn State takes the field, let’s get in some practice now.”

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If you’re looking for more games, there’s a pile in the corner, and there’s lots of Guys around to join in the fun.

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Sehlat calls the partygoers over for a round or three of group MadLibs.

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Friendship. Games. Chocolate. Makes for a good party. Hope you’ll be staying for awhile….

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I’m (kinda) ignoring you this #WeekendCoffeeShare

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more, be more, then you are a leader.”~John Quincy Adams, American president

If we were having coffee today, I’d be mostly ignoring you. Don’t take that wrong way. I’m relaxing at the dining room table casually reading blog posts. My husband is on the couch, and he’s playing his newest jazz CD. He and I randomly throw a sentence at each other–“I’m going to have a salad for lunch,” he says–and then we get back to ignoring ourselves. We’re probably doing the same, sharing something we’re enjoying. I like to think that you are enjoying yourself with a book or tablet of your own. I’m sure you’ve had a busy week, so share in the quiet company of having someone nearby without the stress of having to entertain each other to feel close.

While he was gone, I spontaneously saw fireworks in a park about a 15 minute drive away. I registered for my NFPW Alaskan tours, and I’m re-editing–again–the wording for my upcoming GoFundMe campaign to get me there and accept my writing awards. My Deadwood Writers Group congratulated me. The group had a rousing critique session and saw some new members in the crowd.

My husband returned from his overseas business trip Thursday, and it’s been a gentle weekend.  He brought German chocolate home again, and it’s yummy.  Care for a piece?  See, there’s plenty here. 

Friday, we saw local fireworks, good, but not as creative as the ones I saw Monday. Saturday, we went into Northville to share a new old coffeehouse I rediscovered last week. I sat down and WROTE. Yes, we sat across from each other, savoring the fresh-baked peanut butter cookie, and I wrote and edited my memoir. Oh my gosh, that felt so good! I’ve ignored it for far too long, using everything else as an excuse to get that done so I had time to focus on that book.

Yesterday, I made the time.

He didn’t feel like driving 20 minutes to see fireworks again, so we ordered pizza and watched Live Free or Die Hard, taking a break from the yearly Independence Day marathon. At 9pm, the neighborhood exploded! I almost forgot how good the unprofessional fireworks displays were around here. Michigan has relaxed regulations, and the fireworks I saw from my backyard and at the corner down the street could not be outdone by professional displays. My head couldn’t swing around fast enough to catch ever blast occurring simultaneously to my left, down the road, across the street and behind the across-the-street fireworks. Please, stop I thought, something you should never hear from fireworks-loving me. That plea meant that the explosions are too awesome for me to keep up with.

Here’s a smidge of what I saw last night. Disclaimer: These are not professionals, but do not try this at home:

Highlights from your local neighborhood DMZ. #Canton #Michigan #fireworks #dwhvideo

A post shared by Diana Hirsch-Writer-Zentangle (@dwhirsch) on

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That’s why we’re chillin’ here. I began reading a book that is disappointing. It’s not grabbing my interest, but I feel an obligation to read since I blogged about it on my Writer’s Group website. I’ll give it maybe 20-30 more minutes of my time because it’s making me cranky. Ever have a book like that? Making time to read has been such a struggle these days that I refuse to waste it on a non-interesting book. That’s why I’m enjoying this blog time: un-stressful reading that’s fun and interesting. I may have even visited your blog today during this Coffee Share weekend. I’ll leave a comment if I do, and I hope you’ll do the same.

Have a second cup and relax. It’s good to just sit sometimes and be selfishly subdued.

Ooooo… the A to Z Challenge 2015 continues

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Welcome to Day O of the A to Z Challenge. What you will learn this month is: 26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer
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15. The 15th way to procrastinate a writer is with OREO cookies.

The Oreo cookie is perfect to distract your writer because there is a flavor for any mood. There is classic chocolate cookie with vanilla cream filling. Golden Oreos are for those rare, bizarre writers who do not like chocolate. For those writers who like a thicker, sweeter snack, Double Stuf Oreo cookies are sure to satisfy. For the writer who wants an extra chocolate boost, consider the fudge covered flavors. If your writer wants creme variety, there are flavors for everyone which include: mint; berry; extra chocolate; cookie dough; red velvet; caramel; candy corn; lemon; candy cane; birthday cake; peanut butter; and reduced fat for those mindful of their weight as they snack lazily at the computer.

‘Nuff said.

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Jayne Writes Right

Jayne tapped the ENTER key and hit Save. She finished her paragraph.

That’s worth a treat, she thought.

She sipped her cup of coffee and wandered into the kitchen. The cabinet was full of chips that Tom bought and a bag of honey wheat pretzels for Jayne. That wasn’t much of a treat. She spotted the cookies bought for the party next week. No one would miss one cookie from one package, right? Jayne pulled them out and lined them up.

What flavor? She could try one of each, but if she liked one best, she would have to all the way back to the kitchen to get more. She should definitely get two of each, at least. Maybe a third of a few flavors, in case she wanted to mix some flavors together. Jayne wasn’t necessarily in a peanut butter mood, but the squooshed creme on the inside plastic was too enticing. She could be in a peanut butter mood after all, but if not, a mint cookie would clear the taste out of her mouth. Definitely grab an extra one of those.

One package was almost empty. Tom must have dug into that one, Jayne thought. It would be embarrassing to show up with just about seven cookies of that flavor, so she should get rid of the cookies in there. They could always get a new package.

There was one flavor Jayne had never seen before. Tom found some limited edition cookie boxes. That would be very good for the party. However, if guests liked those special flavors, they might be disappointed because the cookies won’t be available in stores anymore. Jayne should try them out first to make sure the cookies were good flavors.

After a pile of cookies ended up on the plate, Jayne realized that there was no milk in the refrigerator. She had her coffee, but what were cookies without milk?

The first way to procrastinate a writer

AtoZ-LetterA-2015

Welcome to Day A of the A to Z Challenge. What you will learn this month is: 26 Ways to Procrastinate a Writer
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1. The first way to procrastinate a writer is to ASK a Question About Their Writing, such as, “How Is Your Writing Going?”

Asking a question allows the writer to focus on their progress, or lack thereof. The writer will ruminate on their productivity for the day, week, or month, focusing on elements such as word count or page numbers. Most likely, the writer will realize their simple expectations were way out of the universe, what were they thinking, and how much a failure they are. They will stop writing and stare into the computer screen or the piece of paper, willing the perfect words to flow, but realizing that their muse is on vacation.

On the rare occasion when the writer has been productive, you won’t get them to shut up. They will wax on about character development, plot twists, ninjas and romances and the perfect murder (not necessarily together). After all, their words are super-awesome-cool, and a best-selling novel is waiting on their porch. Since an interview on some late night TV show is in the future, they move away from their work of art to practice those answers, sinking deep into a well-deserved slump night in front of the TV, often with a beverage or chocolate, or both.

Jayne and Her Writerself

The blank laptop screen hissed at Jayne. “You are worthlessssssss.”

Well, not literally, but if computers could talk, that’s how Jayne imagined hers would mock her: snooty and dismissive. It didn’t matter that he was custom built by a local computer store. The best computer for her bestseller, Jayne told herself, because a successful novel–many of them, in fact–should be typed on the latest and greatest, a machine powerful as her words. Only today, there was more sound from the coffee maker than from the keyboard. Being top-of-the-line just made her laptop’s snobby taunts justified.

A door slammed behind her. “Hey, hon, how was your day?”

Jayne hadn’t heard the door open, but Tom’s keys clanked in the bowl beside the door. She swiveled her head, brushing strands of frizzy blonde hair out of her eyes. She watched Tom set the grocery bag on the countertop, a smile on his face.

“Hi,” Jayne replied. “Okay.”

“Just okay?” Tom asked.

“Yeah, okay,” Jayne said as she turned back to the computer, stretching her shoulders as if they were cramped from an afternoon of hard writing.

“I had a great day at work,” Tom said as he crossed the room, taking his coat off, a casual toss onto the couch. “The production meeting went well. Frank liked my presentation, and he asked me to update it for the sales meeting next week.”

“That’s great,” Jayne said, her voice both warm and distracted.

“So how’s the book coming along?”

It’s not coming along, she screamed in her head. I don’t know what my hero wants, or if he’s even the hero anymore. His backstory was fun to write, but that’s not write-writing. I wish that was the story, but no, I had to choose this guy who wants to leave his family for…for what? What am I even writing for?

“I could use a break.  Let’s cook dinner,” she said, closing the laptop lid.  Take that, stupid computer.  Try talking now.

<to be continued>

Zentangle Anniversary and the story of the CZTs

Three years ago, I became a Certified Zentangle Teacher. Woot!

I think this is the perfect time to explain about my CZT Guys. They think so, anyway. It’s long overdue, and they are fumpy that I haven’t told their story yet.

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A tangled flag welcomed us in Whitinsville

I’ve always been into stuffed animals. Yes, I had a Barbie as a kid, but I didn’t like dolls in general because their faces and bodies were made of hard plastic, and that was not good to cuddle with. Stuffed animals were soft and squooshy. Much better for nighttime snuggles. More socially acceptable as companions as a female grows up rather than a doll. Stuffed animals were just cute.

And most of them smiled. Happy and furry is a good combination. I had a lot of stuffed animals growing up, at least one new buddy every year under the Christmas Tree, per Mom’s insistence.

This love of fuzzy critters continued into college and adulthood. It carried over with some boyfriends–some, not all. And then I met my future husband.

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Peaceful Zen scene near the workshop

He embraced stuffed animals as he did me. He was, and still is, a good listener, and he picked up on my college desire for a Snuffles teddy bear. I had mentioned this to past boyfriends, but none of them got the hint. On our first trip together to Penn State, he bought a smaller Snuffles bear–a Snuff–from the Penn State Bookstore on campus while I was browsing elsewhere. And so began our collection of Guys, “Guys” being a gender-neutral term that simply identifies one of ours from just any ordinary stuffed animal.

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Soon to graduate from the CZT6 certification workshop


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Work can be a lonely place at times, stress-full or slow, busy or mundane.  My husband and I both wanted a reminder of each other during the workday.  It’s like an unexpected phone call just to say “Hi, I’m thinking of you.”  I sewed him an apple-sized bear to keep him company while he traveled on business. He found an even smaller Snuggles bear (we named him “Snufflet”) to keep me company while I worked at the University of Delaware. The pink fish, Finse, well…he joined my office crew soon after, and the two of them have been with me at every job I have worked.

I often snuck a Guy or two into my husband’s suitcase when he traveled, just as I would any love note or I’m-thinking-of-you card. He did the same for me.

Which leads us to the Zentangle workshop.

Of course, Snufflet and Finse were coming along. Office Guys and all. Work hard, play hard. They always travel with me. I made sure they were snuggly in my purse next to me on the plane.

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The CZT 6 with their collaborative tile. From bottom right, clockwise: Snufflet, Finse, Purrz, Catnap, Greybar, and Thistle.

Unbeknownst to me, my husband had tucked two Guys into my suitcase and two more into my carry-on. I arrived in Whitinsville, MA with six Guys. I was certified in the sixth CZT class. I’m a CZT6. They are the CZT 6.

You will always find CZT Guys with me when I teach. There’s usually two of them, working in tandem to help instruct the students. And to eat the class chocolate. Let’s not forget about the chocolate.

They often eat so much that they are stuffed.

Mega Meet 2014, Day 2: Tangled up in friends

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”~John W. Gardner, American educator

Yes, this is a totally Zentangle-y quote, almost a bit cheesy, but it’s always worth the reminder. Especially with Zentangle classes.

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Friday’s Zentangle class. My students got heart.

The first day, yesterday, is always the freshest. Things are new and exciting, even the last-minute configuration of my classroom. Today was an exhausting day: two morning classes, and afternoon meet-n-greet at the Michigan Scrapbooker table for writers and designers, followed by teaching my class, shopping and finally cropping until midnight. I was tired. My Zentangle class may not have been the best, but it was still good. I was on a caffeine I.V. since the morning, so here’s to that. And to chocolate.

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Vamping it up the Photo Op with my editor, Carrie, from Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine

The grunge class was by far the best class I’ve had here since Tim Holtz taught. Cheryl led us on an adventure of mixed media using lace, Silks acrylic glaze paint, matte medium and gesso. Class was a use of those techniques to collage the inside of our large to-be-filled-later art journal. Cheryl was open enough to let us take photos of her art journals for inspiration. Awesome creativity all around.

And I was interviewed in that class! Maybe I was the teacher’s pet, or maybe I was just fortunate because I was last to clean up. I’ll post a link as soon as I find it. My husband’s taping it: 10pm on Channel 20 in Detroit on WMYD.
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CZT Guys Snufflet and Catnap demo today’s Zentangle heart card class.

Just as I’m setting up for my Zentangle class, a woman walks up to me and says, “Are you Diana Hirsch?” Yes, I am. “We miss you in the Bizarre Holidays, ScrapPea.” Oh my gosh–a member from the ATC site I have been absent from since November 2013 when NaNoWriMo took over my life! How cool is that?! It’s too cool for words, so I won’t even try here.

I won a raffle prize, a free necklace charm from a booth I planned to shop at later. Sweet.

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And then cropping. I finished my MegaMeet mini album from yesterday’s class, and my friend Bev printed pictures from her portable photo printer. Vendors show up to sell product at the crop at sale prices. This haul represents a part of my purchases from the vendors selling at Friday nights crop party. The showroom floor…that’s another matter.

And finally …sleep…for the few hours I have.

How to find daily happiness

“Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories.”~Thomas Fuller, English clergyman

I got suckered into an April Fool’s joke, the first one played on me in…oh, years…. That’s why I didn’t expect it. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

April got better after that.

A friend of mine is participating in 100 Happy Days, an ongoing project where you force yourself to notice daily things that make you happy for the next 100 consecutive days. You take photos of each one as a reminder and share them socially with others as you are comfortable doing so. Yes, force yourself to be happy.

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30 days of happiness

I do something similar through this Photo 365 app, although I approach it from a scrapbook-memory-keeper aspect than a this-makes-me-happy POV. I would include photos of personal struggles or loss. That’s a historical context, but even the sadness is happy in a sense that I had that memory. I would have to say that every picture makes me happy.

This month, there are photos of me at the Penn State Blue-White spring football game. The game itself was not the draw, but the trip back to my home campus was. The Lion. The ice cream. The first time I ever laid down on the football field just like a PSU opponent after being tackled by our players. Then there’s all the things not captured in photos: a visit with my dear college friend; trying the Thursday daily special at Baby’s just because I’m never in State College on a Thursday; a photo op with the new football coach; the fellows who tried to pick me up in the hotel lobby (that’s right, I am cute but totally devoted to my husband); driving around campus with said my husband and sharing our undergrad memories.

That trip inspired the following week’s Throwback Thursday photo: me at the now-removed Joe Paterno statue that used to live outside Beaver Stadium.

The trip also preceded a visit to my in-laws, which produced great memories of family and the puppy.

Then there are the games played, both electronic phone-app games as well as Yahtzee with my husband. Us spending time together at coffee shops. seeing movies and dyeing Easter eggs with glitter that is still drifting through the house. Me spending time with pseudo-extended-family: art friends and writer friends. My writing was a focus, especially as I explored my haiku poet side through Ku, the app formerly known as Heyku. There’s also the grand success of my WiiFit adventures: for the first time, I achieved perfect 50-50 balance during the body test portion of the routine.

Looking back, how can I choose just one thing a day that makes me happy?

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