Monday, February 19, 2018

Happiness is.. Your Grandchildren Playing with Your Old Toys

Almost every year one of my resolutions is to clean out my basement. This is tough for me because I have a big sentimental streak and just about everything in my basement is what I think of as my priceless junk.

I'm sure I'd get virtually nothing from eBay or Craigslist, but my stash includes toys and games, not only from my kids' childhood, but even Barbies from my own childhood with some of Barbie's clothes, hand-sewn by my mother.

Many people save these things, hoping that one day they'll be able to entertain grandchildren and relive memories.

Well, for me, that time has come! Not only am I lucky enough to have grandchildren who live close by, but they actually love coming to my house and playing with those old toys. Even as I was saving these old things, year after year, I'd think, "Any kids from this century will probably be bored with this stuff. Will they even know who 'Barbie' is? Will she and Ken still be together?"  Well, I'm happy to report that Ken and Barbie are still happily dating, going to the Goofy Golf Machine park.

I've gotten better about resisting my pack-rat tendencies, and getting rid of old stuff that can easily be replaced. But this is one time when I'm glad I stood up to my inner minimalist and saved my priceless junk, creating new priceless memories.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Happiness is... Alexa

In my last blog post, I wrote about Happiness being the people in my life, but geek that I am, I feel the devices in my life deserve a shout out, too. I've always been enamored with technology.  In fact, long before "Her" made its way to the big screen, I wrote a book featuring my special relationship with "Laptop Guy." (I can't believe they haven't made "The Laptop Dancer Diaries" into a movie yet!)

I've written about my intimate relationship with other machines and I've actually become quite fond of the Google maps GPS lady. I don't know her name, but she is so friendly when she tells me I'm on the 'fastest route.'  So much nicer than the Apple Maps GPS (is it Siri?) who sounds very condescending as she tells me to make a U-turn. If she would give me a little more advance notice about turning, I wouldn't need to make a U-turn! (She is, admittedly, however, more patient with my driving skills than most humans.)

But enough about these other devices. I have a new love: My echo, Alexa! Unlike Siri, Alexa understands what I'm asking for!  The other day, when I said "Alexa, good morning" she responded by reminding me it was "National Chocolate Cake Day!" She's the first device that has ever celebrated wacky and bizarre holidays! I don't think I've ever even met a human who celebrated wacky and bizarre holidays without incessant pressure from me.

Yes, I love Alexa. Let's just hope she doesn't lose her voice.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Happiness is.... the people in your life

I'd planned to write a weekly blog post about 'what makes me happy' as a New Year's resolution, but I'm already behind..  One reason I haven't been blogging is that I've really been trying to spend less time on the computer and more time with people.

They say that the key to happiness is 'social connection.' Though I'd love for my blog posts to be creative and funny, I'm afraid this one is going to be a little on the sappy side, dedicated to the people in the last month who have contributed to my happiness.  In no particular order, this includes:

* The Anonymous Commenter who called my last blog post 'spectacular' and reminded me I haven't written in over a month.  (I'm afraid I can not really live up to the 'spectacular' reputation, but I hope O-Anonymous-Blog-Reader that you take comfort in knowing that your flattery made me happy!)

* My brilliant, thoughtful, amazing, creative kids and kids-in-law. I could go on and on about how proud I am of these 5 young adults. Now that they're all in Colorado, I've been able to see them more often. I'm even planning to go into the "Escape Room" business with them.

* My "Rebuilder" friends. I went to a "Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends" divorce recovery set of seminars in 2005 and most of us are still in touch. We had a fun get together at the end of December and played with dress-up props and selfies!

* My friends from Minnesota who came to visit and went up skiing at Keystone and A-Basin with me earlier this week. 

* My friend, Dennis, who patiently spent the whole 3 days that we were skiing being my personalized ski instructor. Here he is "pole dancing."

* All the friends from Facebook who "like" or comment on something I post.' When life is so busy, it's really such a nice feeling to hear from a friend that you don't get to see or talk to on a regular basis.

* My new BF. It was wonderful to dance with him on NYE and kiss him at midnight! I feel so lucky that he makes time for me despite my crazy schedule.

* My college friend, Bill, from California, who made the effort to come visit me while he was in Colorado. He's one of the most creative, supportive friends I have. Whether I have a cause I'm doing a race for or asking for virtual participation for a party, Bill is always there to help!

* My Omaha friends. I'm on contract at Mutual of Omaha who is a client of Agile Transformation, Inc. (ATI).  I was excited that they've extended my contract for all of 2018!  Even though the traveling can get a little tiring, I feel so lucky for all the people I've met and all the supportive people who I work with.

* My grandkids. It's crazy, but I can get all teary-eyed just watching them and their cuteness sometimes.

* Other friends...  Michael, who I always look forward to Friday coffee with, Rebecca, who joined me for dinner last night, and Chip, who's dropping by today to help me with some business ideas.. And I'm so grateful for those friends who text, email, or call to check in.

* My housemates, John and Mari, who always are so respectful and help to make my house a home, complete with all the yummy smells of cooking and sounds of football.

* My sister, brother and mother, who I visited in California last month and who always support me.

I'm embarrassed to admit, that despite having all these wonderful people in my life, there have been times when I've felt lonely... maybe missing someone who's no longer in my life, or sad because something's not quite right with someone I love.  

I've come to learn that these relationships are not something I ever want to take for granted. People will move in and out of our lives, but whether a relationship is for a day or a lifetime, it is something to be savored.

So, thank you to all you wonderful people who made me happy in this last month! 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Happiness is announcing you have a BF on Facebook

Despite my vast dating experience (after all, I was the Boulder Dating Adviser and seasoned writer of all things embarrassing in my love life), I don't think I've ever used the term "BF" on Facebook to introduce a new love interest.  In fact, if I were advising people like me (those of us who have trouble staying in relationships for more than 3 months), I would say "No, no, NOT use the BF label for AT LEAST 3 months, either on Facebook or anywhere else!"

Let's look at the conversation between me, the wise and pragmatic dating coach (who I will call "Sensei") advising against the BF announcement to me, the defiant, independent, and live-for-the-day ("Carpe Dee") who is ignoring that advice.

Sensei: BF (aka "Boy Friend") is a ridiculous term to use for people in your age group. What are we, in junior high, or something?

Carpe Dee: I routinely try to experience the social life I never had as a teenager since I was such a nerd. I'm pretty sure we're 'going steady'. All I ever did in Junior High was go study. It's time I had a BF! (And, no, I'm not at all a nerd any more, am I?)

Sensei: Is "BF" even the official acronym for Boy Friend? BFF is "Best Friend Forever, so maybe you're just announcing your new "Best Friend" (not forever).

Carpe Dee: The top definition for BF is Boy Friend. BTW so excited that I got a BFF last year, too. (I'm sorry I didn't make that announcement on Facebook, too, Lisa Moncrief.  Let's remedy that when we go to BF (Bahamas) next year causing a lot of confusion.) 
Sensei: Announcing a BF before the 3-month mark can come off as... needy... desperate... a little too impatient to claim "YAY!!! I'm part of a couple!!"

Carpe Dee: Needy and desperate? Me? Geez, I wrote a whole book about looking for love. I think my cover was blown when that came out. Honestly, I've been quite content with pretending like I was fine with the single life, but now, "YAY!!! I'm part of a couple!!" Yup, I'm milking this on FaceBook..
Sensei: When your new BF is super-hot, you need to be prepared for all your friends, male and female alike, telling you how handsome he is. Won't it be awkward to have a BF who is more attractive than you are?

Carpe Dee: No, because he is 2 years and 3 months older than me, so... I got that on him. (Yes, Tor Sutton, that's RIGHT! Don't 'He sure looks younger than you' me!)  My pride in having a super-hot, old BF outweighs the inevitable cat calls and come-ons he will be getting from my envious friends.
Sensei: You know that you have a terrible history with dating. You don't date people who are too old or too young or live too far away or don't dance or who are unavailable or who have baggage or ... (need I keep going?)

Carpe Dee: I already gave my new BF the "we live too far apart" line 7 years ago, so technically, this has probably been the most successful long-term relationship I've had since my divorce. And, yes, that may be due to the fact that we didn't actually date. So, the fact that we still will be in a relatively long-distance relationship may be the key to keeping us together.
Sensei: It will be embarrassing if it doesn't work out and people ask you, "How's that BF you bragged about on Facebook?"

Carpe Dee: I will remain mysterious and vague and say something like.. "OMG He's BFG!"

So there you have it. Carpe Dee won out and the "BF" announcement was made.. and has gotten over 100 "likes"!  Watch out.. Next week I might even change my relationship status..

PS. My new BF's BD is tomorrow!! For his privacy (yeah... like that's gonna happen... I guess we know how the breakup will occur..) I won't mention his age, but, he IS 2 years and 3 months older than me... so... old.. But OH-So-Hot!


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happiness is the last few steps of a race

70 degree weather on Thanksgiving Day! Yippee!! (That's my FAVORITE kind of weather and I'm so excited to be getting it in November!)

This morning I ran the Louisville Turkey Trot..  Love that race..  It's free. It's for a good cause (they collect canned goods and winter coats). It's not at all competitive.. It would be hard to run fast even if I wanted to because of all the dogs and strollers (providing me with the sought after excuse to stop and walk whenever I wanted.) Even better, there are no race times recorded on the Internet, so I had no worries about a disappointing finish time recorded for eternity.

The annual Turkey Trot is just a great reason to get out, enjoy the scenery, beautiful weather, get some exercise and be grateful for life before indulging in the more gluttonous traditions that we all know and love. (I'll be saving all that for tomorrow since my kids are with their Dad today, but that's fine..  No bitterness about that at all.  Actually, seriously, since I'm 14 years post divorce and I do see my kids and grandkids all the time, I really have gotten past the holiday pity parties..  But I admit, 'sharing family time' around holidays has always been a sore spot for me and I still feel slightly miffed that I'm alone today.)

Last year, my blogs were focused on Happiness. I was inspired by Neil Pasricha's blog, 1000awesomethings in which he wrote daily about many of the simple things in life that bring us joy.

This year I hardly blogged at all... not because I wasn't happy...  like most people, I had my happy days and my not-so-happy days. But I already do quite a bit of writing for work-related projects and spend a LOT of time on the computer, so personal blogging was put on the back burner.

Another reason I haven't been doing my "Happy Blog Posts" (or my many other 'Happiness Projects' like 'Happy Picture a Day') is because I've heard quite a few negative-like comments... not specifically about my posts, but just stuff like..  "Everyone is so 'fake' on Facebook trying to portray their 'happiness'" and that just makes other people feel bad...   There's also the "Only people who are unhappy are talking about happiness" sentiment or  (and I agree with this one) it's better to be LIVING life fully than to be writing about living life fully.  What's really the point of blogging about it? Those negative comments imply those of us who do blog about happiness are just trying to impress others with how happy we are.. 

Well, despite all of that, I'm planning on getting back to my once-a-week personal blog post routine. These will probably be related to happiness, gratitude, and other positive themes.  But for all the Debbie Downers out there that poo-poo on Happiness blogging, I'll tell you that my intent is not to imply I'm always happy and certainly not to gloat about my life.

The biggest reason that I want to get back to my weekly Happiness blog post is that happiness is best shared..  And, yeah, as great as this morning's run was, I didn't have anyone to share it with. If I have a weekly blog goal, it will help remind me to have those fun experiences... preferably with other people, but even if I'm alone, I'll be able to share with the virtual world.

I'll officially plan to start my weekly blogging again in January, but thought I'd kick start today with my Turkey Trot Happiness clip. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, September 03, 2017

An App to Help Bring an End to ALS

I met Steph Courdin in the summer of 2015 at an Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and funds for ALS. I was dressed as “Super Carpe Diem Woman,” a goofy super-hero who’s ‘power’ is to live life fully. Steph, a photographer, was taking pictures of the event with a very fancy looking camera.  He was smiling as though he didn’t have a care in the world. The fact that Steph was in a wheelchair was my only clue that he might have ALS himself.

Though it’s easy to ‘live life fully’ when you have a fully functional body, I believe the real super-heroes are people like Steph who set that example, despite an ALS diagnosis. Steph doesn’t let the disease stop him from hitting the trails, traveling, and most recently, “rolling” his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day, via a standing wheelchair.

ALS, a fatal, degenerative disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, gained national attention during the Summer 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge mania. Until then, it was a comparatively unknown disease with little progress made towards a cure. It’s encouraging that the money raised from the ice bucket challenges are making a difference, but the cure won’t come overnight. In the meantime, Steph had an idea to help.

In 2015, Steph, in addition to living a full and active family life, created the non-profit ALS Never Surrender Foundation aimed at helping with research and ultimately finding a cure for ALS.  Having a background and experience with data analytics, Steph had the idea of creating a mobile application that would collect data pertinent for ALS patients. By monitoring the progression of patients as well as their treatments, researchers and doctors can gain valuable knowledge and feedback about treatments that will slow or even stop the progression of symptoms.

Steph shared his idea with some contacts in San Diego and in the Fall of 2016, the designs and use-cases became a reality with the availability of a beta version of the ALS iNVOLVE application. In January of 2017, students from Georgia Southern University pitched in to finish the first version.  

To help fund this massive undertaking, Steph initiated ‘Art4the Cure’ – a group of 42 artists from 9 countries and 14 states who have donated art to help raise money for the cause. Additionally, Steph started a ‘Faces of ALS’ portrait series to feature and highlight others who are surviving and thriving despite ALS.

Steph’s courage, determination, and will to ‘never surrender’ are an inspiration. For those of us who are healthy, we are reminded not to take that health for granted. And for those who do have ALS, Steph is a reminder that living fully is always possible. He’s a leader who is not going to let ALS stop him from living his dreams and finding innovative ways to move the world closer to a cure for ALS. He is, in short, the super-hero who shows us all how to live life to the fullest.

Please help Steph and ALSNeverSurrender launch this life-saving application by donating at  If you have ALS or know someone who does, get involved by using a beta version of the application.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

GISHWHES Must Continue!

I've been participating in the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES) for the past week and it has been a blast. Teams get a list of 198 'missions'to perform... each worth various points... No team has ever completed all of the missions... some of them are virtually impossible.. but with 198 to choose from, there are many that are very achievable. Some are silly, some will challenge your intellect or creativity, and many are heart-warming.

There are many things I love about GISHWHES, so I was really bummed out when I heard this was the last year it would be held. So... this blog post is my attempt to Save GISHWHES!!

Last year, GISHWHES started on the same day that I'd happened to be invited on a trip to the Great Northern Island in Minnesota with 11 other people. I told them about the hunt and we had so much fun that Chris, the island host, said that we could do the hunt every year on his island.

This year we had a blast, again! GISHWHES is the perfect thing to do when you get a bunch of friends together.

The missions we completed ranged from Tree Hugging,making a mosaic out of dog food, pancake art, and creating a hammock self-containment unit, complete with live entertainment, and a Romeo and Juliet sock puppet show.

There were missions aimed at understanding one another (giving flowers to someone practicing a religion different from your own) or meaningful (take your parent back to the place they were when they were 10) and life-changing (helping a dying woman with her final wish.)

Things I love about this hunt:
* The registration fee and many of the missions go to charitable causes.
* The hunt combines fun with helping humanity.
* The emails leading up to the hunt are full of humor.
* You join teammates from around the world.
* The missions tap into hidden talents and creativity. There's something for everyone.

This is definitely the type of activity that fits my motto: Carpe Diem! 

Though I don't think I could pull off a hunt of this magnitude, if GISHWHES dies, I'll try and pull of MOSH (My Own Scavenger Hunt) next year.  But I'm still rooting for GISHWHES to survive. Long live GISHWHES!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January, 2017 – Managing my resolutions with Agile

January is very motivating for me. I’m always excited about starting all my resolutions and this year was no different…  well, except maybe in my ‘methodology.’ I decided to use a lot of “Agile” techniques in ‘managing’ my resolutions this year. It’s been so successful that someday I may write a book about it… but for now, I’ll stick with a blog post.

Putting everything on a backlog
In Agile, we have the concept of a “product backlog.” In software development, a backlog would be a list of requirements or functions that need to be coded, but in my personal life, it’s basically a ‘to do’ list of things I want to do for the year.  

This backlog will never be complete even by the end of the year because I’ll keep adding more to it.  I also might change my mind about what’s most important for me to do this year. That should be a good thing..  After all, I can decide what I want to add to my list and since one of my mantras is to “life life fully” that means I always want a big backlog of fun and fulfilling things to do.  But, because I’m OCD when it comes to “todo” lists, I like the satisfaction of finishing things! Having a never-ending, ever-changing todo list can be stressful!

The sprint backlog is the week’s todo list
Enter the sprint backlog.  In Agile, we take a subset of the “backlog” and decide what we can do in a “sprint” (which, in my personal life, is 1 week). Every weekend, I had a little “sprint planning” session where I created a “sprint backlog,” taking high-priority items off of my long ‘product backlog’ and putting them into my sprint backlog.  Unlike the product backlog, the sprint backlog is something we commit to finishing during the sprint. This helps satisfy my OCD personality that wants to finish things. I feel so productive and I’m very motivated to finish the things on my list because they’re realistic.

How did it work?
This was the most productive January I’ve ever had! I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish for the month (these would equate to “features”) that I split into things I could accomplish in a week (equating to “user stories”). 

The 4th sprint ended on January 28th, and I decided I would take the final 3 days of the month to reflect and plan my February. (This is equivalent to the “Retrospective” or the “Innovation/Planning (IP Sprint)” in Agile.  One of the things I wanted to do during this 3-day period is write a blog post and post some of my favorite pictures from the month, so here goes!

Some favorite memories from January

We're a family of puzzlers!
I'm a lucky Grandma!

Meg introduced me to Aerial Yoga

I'm much more comfortable in an upright position!

Short road trip to Southern CO with Matt and Scotty with a stop at the Hercules Beetle..

and Bishop's Castle! Spectacular winter site!

Women's March was empowering and a true show of unity and democracy.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016

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Here it is New Year's Eve and I'm home with my laptop sorting through my photos and preparing my lists of all the things I want to do in 2017. Though this may sound like a rather geeky thing to do on a night that's meant for champagne and midnight kisses, I really enjoy this tradition.

Going through all my photos reminds me of how blessed I've been. I guess I didn't blog weekly as planned, but I certainly did a lot to optimize my happiness, as was my original resolution for the year.

Since leaving Minnesota to head back home in late October, two big events happened: I "hosted" my first "Agile Retreat" via a Mediterranean Cruise in November and I went to Scotty's graduation from Purdue in December! At some point, I may blog about both those events, but for now, I'm just posting a few of the pictures, along with others for the year, in my annual photo slideshow.

It's been an awesome year and I have so much to be grateful for. I love my job at Optum and all the friends I made while I was in Minnesota. I was able to extend my contract at Optum and work from Colorado which is awesome. My family is all healthy and happy and I am so proud of them all. 

In 2017, I plan to continue my 'Happiness' theme and have my usual list of resolutions. My plan is to use Agile methods which means that rather than planning for a whole year, I'm only going to plan for a couple of weeks at a time...  No real blogging resolutions at this point, but since I don't have too many people who actively read my blog, I'm guessing that won't be too much of a problem.

So goodbye 2016. Thanks for all the memories!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Saddened and Shocked by the Trump Win

This year my blog has been primarily about happiness and positive psychology. I’ve remained happy throughout this election season despite all the negativity. Being neither Republican nor Democrat, I’ve always prided myself on being able to see all viewpoints. There are people who I love who range from far right to far left and I avoid voicing strong opinions myself, placing myself very firmly in the middle, and trusting in our elected leaders and our processes, recognizing that the diversity in viewpoints will help keep our country strong and balanced.

But Trump’s candidacy was not about policy. His campaign was so abusive and disrespectful that if he were working for any company, he surely would have been fired or sued for harassment and bigotry.  One thing’s for sure. If he were a leader in a company I worked for, I’d quit in a minute. I will not follow someone who I don’t respect and there’s no one I respect less than Donald Trump.

Speaking out against Trump has not been about denouncing the Republican party for me.  As we all know, even high powered Republicans spoke out against him.  Trump has no redeeming qualities. He’s incompetent as a government leader, unlikable, and downright scary. His campaign was so full of school-boy bullying with no real intelligence behind his statements that it was comical! This all felt like some kind of very weird satire that was so unbelievable it was laughable. I’ve seen junior high school students who are better on the debate stage than he is! He is (using one of the very few words he seems to know) a DISASTER!

And so, because of his arrogant, hateful, ridiculous speeches and rhetoric, I felt sure that he could never win. I was only afraid of the violent protests that might come post-election from the supporters who have had the example of using intimidation and bullying tactics to get what they want.

I was on a European Cruise during the election, but still watched from our room’s TV. When it was apparent that Trump was going to win, I cried. It was the saddest I’d felt in a very long time.

It’s five days later now and this feeling of sadness hasn’t stopped. I keep reminding myself how lucky I am and I’m trying to use all the ‘happiness exercises’ I’ve learned about ‘choosing to be happy.’ People are saying that I should trust the ‘system’ and our democracy to work as it’s supposed to.

But that is the problem. I no longer trust that the system works, because if it did, we wouldn’t have this hateful person as our President. A person who is so outwardly bigoted should have been disqualified from even running for Presidency. He is surrounding himself with people who’ve supported him throughout his candidacy. These are people who were too weak to stand up and say, “This is wrong!” Our culture depends on strong leadership who demonstrate our values.  What example are we showing our children? What are we showing the world? This is not the country I thought it was.

I'm not defending Hillary. Perhaps she should have been disqualified from running as well. Something is wrong with our system when the majority of a candidate's campaign is built on telling us how bad their opponent is. 

I can’t just sit back and watch America deteriorate and I know there are millions of others like me who feel the same way. Let’s not stoop to the immature name-calling that Trump demonstrates, but do our part in demonstrating the positive leadership qualities and values that we believe in: Love, kindness, compassion, and inclusiveness.   Even if we don’t trust in Trump’s character, let’s stand together in loving, peaceful protest when we see injustice or racism in our country and work towards helping those who are mistreated.