Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Happiness is... New Friends

For the past few years I've been very interested in friendships and social connection. According to all the 'positive psychology research,' social connection is the key to happiness. According to this video, 25% of Americans report that they have ZERO friends! The lack of friendships is literally making people sick. The guy in the video says what's needed is "a framework for people to connect."

A framework? That's exactly what I teach, coach, and write about. It's a "framework" for Agile software development, but there's a lot about teamwork, leadership, communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence.. all things that could be used for a social connection "framework." If I add in stuff that I've learned from positive psychology, I could absolutely create a framework! Move over, Oprah, I'm about to get famous.


Only one problem. Meeting new people is totally out of my comfort zone. But since deciding I was going to be the new expert on how to make deep friendships, I've been trying to practice all the things I would teach. And guess what? It's been working!


A couple of weeks ago, I saw a woman on my bus ride home from the airport who was wearing really cute, comfortable-looking shoes. After 10 minutes or so of thinking I'd really like to have a pair of shoes like those, I did the obvious thing.. I surreptitiously took a picture of her feet, figuring I could show the picture around at shoe stores like a detective searching for a missing person.

But then I thought, "Wait a minute! I don't need to sneak around like a predator with a foot fetish. I can simply ask her what kind of shoes she's wearing." She kindly tells me, "They're Dansko shoes."


After searching Dansko shoe images and not finding any like hers, I intrusively move to her seat and tell her I REALLY like her shoes but can't find them when I search. She graciously offers to send me more information if I give her my number. I do. While we're still on the bus, she texts me the exact ad from Nordstrom Rack, where she bought the shoes.



We both get off the bus at the same stop and I find out she's a contractor in the Tech industry like me. She says maybe we could get together for a hike some time. This is crucial in making a friend out of a stranger..  The suggestion of getting together. I'm usually not brave enough to do this, but luckily, she was! And she hasn't even read the book I have yet to write! It's like she intuitively knew "the framework."

I got home, ordered 3 pair of Dansko shoes, and when they arrived, I texted my new friend, Deseree, to thank her for her help and ask if she wanted to go on that hike.



The next week we hiked along Boulder creek and got to know each other better. She even tried to set me up with one of her friends who likes to dance. Now I'm not really looking for a setup right now but it was thoughtful of her and made me feel good that she would even want to set me up.



Since then I've been smiling more at strangers and stepping out of my comfort zone so much that it's getting easier and easier to meet new people and make new friends. 
 

The book I wrote 10 years ago was about looking for romantic love. I've dreamed for a long time about finding love, but as I've written on this blog many times, love comes in a lot of different forms.



So.. that's going to be what my next book is about! Stay tuned for a bunch of embarrassing new stories, a workbook, and workshops as I author the new framework for creating loving friendships!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Happiness is.. the Bolder Boulder

Today I participated in my 20th consecutive Bolder Boulder! This is the first year I didn't run, but it was the best time I ever had!



First a little history..  My brother, Chris, an Air Force pilot and runner, died in a car accident on Memorial Day, 1997.  This was the day I learned what heart-breaking grief is all about. Chris was 35 years old and about as full of life as any one person can be. He was fun, full of energy, and always ready to play. Whatever we were doing, he was 'all in.'

In 1999, we moved to the Bolder area and I heard that the Bolder Boulder 10K race was one of the biggest Memorial Day celebrations in the nation. Even though I wasn't a runner (we're talkin' worst athlete ever..) I thought it might be an event that would help me remember Chris.

When I saw what a party that race was, I knew Chris would have LOVED it. And when the Memorial Day tributes took place after the race in Folsom Field stadium, I was reminded of how much grief others have lived through... how much sacrifice was made so that we can have all the freedoms we take for granted.

It was at that time, and because of that first race, that  I became "a runner." I've run countless races since that day, some years more than others, but the one annual race I never miss is the Bolder Boulder. I made a promise to myself that every year I'd train to run it in under an hour. It's been a great motivator, come January, for me to get in shape. For 19 years, every Memorial Monday, I've run that race, thinking of Chris, and thinking how lucky I was to be alive and healthy.

Fast forward to January, 2018. After more and more back pain, a physical therapist recommends giving up running.  And the pity party in my head begins. "Poor, poor, me. No more Bolder Boulder. And this was going to be my 20th year!" (This is oddly reminiscent of my husband wanting a divorce when I'd been planning for our 20th Anniversary party!)

As I was telling my pathetic sob story to my grown-up kids, my sweet daughter-in-law, Stella, offers, "We can walk it with you."

"Really?" I ask (knowing that my sons are pretty competitive and would undoubtedly think walking was for wimps!) "Would you wear costumes?" (Another thing that my sons are unlikely to want to do...  and that's putting it mildly.)

"Sure," she answers! (Luckily, Stella has a lot of influence with my sons.)

So, today, on the 20th Memorial Monday since I began this tradition, instead of running like I usually do, I fully experienced this amazing race with my two sons and daughter-in-law. We danced to the bands, we jumped on the trampoline, we slid on the slip'n'slide, we took advantage of every high-five, water spray, and food offers from people on the sidelines.

My sons took the opportunity to drink way too much beer that was offered all along the route, and when the military songs played, they both proudly stood and sang their respective anthems for the branches they serve (one for the Army and one for the Air Force).

As I listened to the patriotic songs and Memorial Day tributes, 21 years after Chris's death, tears welled up in my eyes like they do every year.  My tears are partly still grief, but more than anything, they're tears of pride and gratitude.

I will always be sad that I lost my brother, but he's the one that showed me how to live..  to get in the race... whether I'm running or walking or dancing or being pushed in a wheelchair.

I learned an important lesson about the Bolder Boulder today:

The front runners may be fast, but those in the back are having a much better time!





Friday, May 04, 2018

Happiness is... Sunny Days and Fridays

We've been having some very rainy weather this week, which, like Mondays, tend to bring me down. I must have heard that Carpenter's song, "Rainy Days and Mondays" hundreds of times.The Carpenters album was one of my first and favorite records.

Of course back in THOSE days (the same days that my father walked uphill in the snow both ways) we listened to records on record players and I played that record over and over again.

Is it any wonder that rainy days and Mondays always get me down? I've been brainwashed to think that!  (It might also explain why "stars suddenly appear, every time you are near," but we'll stick to the rainy days and Mondays depression for now.)

For all of my adult life, I have wondered why I get a melancholy feeling on Mondays and rainy days, and I just realized it's all because of that stupid song! And don't even get me started about the part about having to go out and run to "find someone who loves me!"  I really think this is a breakthrough that I should report to psychologists! All this time, they've been thinking brain chemistry is to blame for depression! Why haven't we been thinking about lyrics from our favorite childhood songs?

Well, of course, for the sake of the future mental health of our children, I've rewritten the lyrics of Rainy Days and Mondays:

Sunny Days and Fridays

Talkin' to myself and feeling great.
Now when the days are bright;
Everything seems just right;
Hangin' outside, lookin' at that gorgeous sky!
Sunny days and Fridays always make me high!

When it's dark I tend to get the blues;
I blame that old song;
But now that the days are long;
I'm hangin' outside, lookin' at that gorgeous sky!
Sunny days and Fridays always make me high!

Funny, but it seems I'm fine with leaving home my phone;
Nice to know my people love me
Funny, but it seems I'm fine with being here alone;
I know I will always love me.

What I feel is thankful for the day.
No need to talk it out;
We know what it's all about.
Hangin' outside, lookin' at that gorgeous sky!
Sunny days and Fridays always make me high!

Of course, the children of today are probably not listening to Carpenters music, so maybe re-writing the lyrics won't help them. What's the last song I listened to with my granddaughter? "Rotten to the Core" from Disney's Descendants.  Uh oh.

* Addendum..   I was challenged to rewrite the lyrics to stick with Rainy Days and Mondays, so here's what I came up with:

Rainy Days and Mondays

Talkin' to myself and feeling good.
Even though the weekend's through;
Another week to start brand new;

Workin' my brain, listenin' to that pouring rain!
Rainy days and Mondays are good times to abstain.

When it's warm I tend to drink too much.
Stayin' out way too late;
Eatin' and gaining weight;
Workin' my brain, listenin' to that pouring rain!
Rainy days and Mondays are good times to abstain.

Funny, but it seems I'm fine with going to my job;
Nice to know I've got an income;
Someday I'll travel south and become a wealthy snob;
Nice to know I'll be a beach bum;

What I feel is we can pick our fate.
No need to talk it out;
We know what it's all about.
Workout your brain! Or hop on a frickin' plane!
Rainy days and Mondays are times to go insane.



Sunday, April 15, 2018

Happiness is... the Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival in Boulder

 Spring in Boulder is a wonderful time of year. For one thing, winter is OVER! I'm so happy to have survived those cold, dark days and to have many months ahead of warm weather to look forward to.

And even though we do get a few Spring snow storms here in the Boulder area, we have plenty of sunny days, more daylight hours, and we see the Spring flowers making their colorful appearance.

One of my favorite Boulder spots is Pearl Street and I especially love it when the tulips are in bloom. There's an annual Tulip and Elf festival where kids come dressed up as fairies and elves (well, that's the idea... There are LOTS of little girls with wings and beautiful fairy princess dresses, but not as many elves.  The boys are more often pirates or, in the case of my grandson, a pineapple.)

Since I have a collection of funky hats, glasses, and costumes, I let my grand-kids rummage through my stash before we headed out for the festivities. Once we arrived, we were able to get the requisite wings for my granddaughter, and my grandson got a pirate flag and bow and arrow to go with his 'costume.' Even though these things had nothing to do with either elves or pineapples those were the 'boy props' that were available and he seemed very happy with them.

I wore a bunch of purple (my standard 'Super Carpe Diem Woman color)... Next year, I'll really have to find some wings to complete my look.

In summary, the things about this day that really made me happy were:

  • Spending the afternoon with my grandchildren
  • Dressing up in fun costumes
  • Seeing all the beautiful fairies and 'elves'
  • Sunny weather
  • Flowers on Pearl Street!
  • Pretty butterfly face paints
  • Watching the fairies and elves dance to live music
  • Enjoying a beautiful Boulder tradition!


Friday, April 06, 2018

Happiness is.. Days for Girls



A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Shelley Gordon, asked if I might be able to volunteer at some workshops she was hosting.  Here's what her message said:

Hi Yvette! Hope you are doing well. I wanted to invite you to come to our Days for Girls kit making team days. Days for Girls is a nonprofit who makes feminine hygiene kits for girls around the world who would otherwise miss school due to lack of supplies. The kits last 3 years which gives a girl back 6 months of school. I have started the Superior CO team and we are making 100 kits to go to Ghana this summer. Sewers and non-sewers are welcome as we have jobs for both. Jim and I took 91 kits to Tanzania when we went and I did the education program at a school there. It was an amazing experience.

In my usual sure-I'll-volunteer-some-day-when-I-have-more-time attitude, I was very non-committal, but asked if I could drop in for a little while.  I fall into the 'non-sewer' category..  That's one who does not sew..  Not to be confused with someone who doesn't live in the sewers like Ninja turtles.












When I walked into Shelley's home I saw stacks of brightly colored fabric cut neatly and ready for assembly. Shelley gave me a little of the history of Days for Girls..  she told me how in some cultures girls are separated from others and quietly sit on cardboard or rocks, basically excluded from society, while having their periods.

Geez. There were some pretty awful stories about what girls have to go through. It's funny how we don't know how lucky we have it here in the US.  I never once thought to be grateful for feminine hygiene supplies!

Thanks to a lot of volunteers like Shelley, kits are being created that provide girls with washable, brightly colored liners and shields, underwear, and soap, so that girls are able to continue to go to school and interact normally with others when they have their periods.

One quote from the Days for Girls Website that I love because it's very "Agile" is:

Developing the DfG Kit has been a labor of love. We've gone through 27 iterations, incorporating feedback from thousands of women and girls around the globe in the design process.

(I'm an "Agile coach" and one of things we teach is to "iterate," get feedback and keep improving!)

Even though I didn't do any sewing, I did help with some pinning of fabrics and told Shelley I would help spread the word.  I was very impressed and in admiration for all the work that's being done to help these girls.

If you want to help, leave a comment and I'll put you in touch with Shelley.  Or check out the Days for Girls site and find out how you can get involved.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Happiness is.. a Bahamas Vacation with your BFF


Those of you following along (keep up, people), may remember that my Bahamas vacation got off to a rocky start when 1) the bus driver to the airport asked if I qualified for the 65-and-older senior discount (I'm a newly-turned 58) and 2) I realized at the airport, I'd forgotten my wallet.

All was wonderful, as usual, upon meeting up with my BFF, Lisa. She always makes me feel better by laughing at my foibles. It's nice to have a BFF who thinks I'm funny and let's me know that I'm not alone in my quirky travel habits.

Lisa generously told me she'd cover me for any cash needs. I thought my credit card would cover everything, but it turned out we needed lots of Bahamian dollars.. 

These were not for cabana boy strippers, as I'm sure you must have assumed, but mostly for local bus rides and tips. Yes, we were quite the "savvy travelers" after all, figuring out the local bus system, only almost getting run over once (traffic is in the opposite direction, there, so knowing which way to look when crossing is quite important!)

And though there were no strippers (actually, we were really quite boring with our most exciting 'night life' being a Rotary Club meeting) we did get 'hit on' (I think) by one of the bus driver's side-kicks. "Star" was his name.. (Much like my ex's wife's name, Roxy, I think this type of name conjures up images of dogs or prostitutes, but I don't like to be too judgey, especially of names..  My name has  problems, too..)

In any case, when Star told Lisa and I that our hair looked "bouncy" and asked if we were single, Lisa quickly (and notably with a cheery tone) said she had a boyfriend and let Star know that I was a grandma. Star was not deterred and said he'd dated women as old as 56. When I had no response, he said he'd even dated a woman who was 62! (Was he going to keep going until I told him how old I was? At least he started at 56 and didn't tell me about any senior discounts..) As we left the bus, he reminded us that we could tip..  Ah ha! His true motivation for the 'bouncy hair' and 'I'll be your boyfriend even though you're old' comments revealed!

It turns out I'm much better at being a long distance BFF gal-pal  than I am at being a long-distance GF, so it would never work for me and Star. I couldn't even make it work with someone in the same country. I broke up with my BBE (Best Boyfriend Ever) right before the trip.

I know this is probably no surprise to anyone who knows of my dysfunctional inability to have a LTR.  As I told Lisa, after we watched a confused flamingo who seemed to be of a different breed from the others: "I'm aimlessly wandering.. marching to the beat of a different drummer.. just like that poor, clueless flamingo."  (For the record, I'd like to note, the marching flamingo show at the Ardastra Zoo was a very cool memory! I have quite the "thing" for flamingos and a special fondness for confused ones who don't really seem to know what they're doing.)

Since this is a happiness blog, I'll skip the endless over-analysis of my relationship issues. (Though you'll find them chronicled in the over 10 years worth of blog posts.)  Lisa's a real friend for listening and saving me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on therapy. 

I would also like to recommend the audio book,  "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari for anyone who has just gone through a breakup. It was available from my library via Overdrive and the perfect audio book to listen to while lying on the beach. It's laugh-out-loud funny and helped me realize that lots of people out there are even more dysfunctional than me when it comes to relationships and dating!

The beautiful beaches, along with my BFF, helped me really get to my "Happy Place"..  There's nothing like the Bahamas to give you that "Don't Worry, Be Happy" feeling.. 

Happy Highlights include:

  • The awe-inspiring beaches. Harbour Island, with its pink sand, was probably the most beautiful beach I'd ever seen.
  • The friendliness of the locals. They all go above and beyond to help the tourists.
  • 70-80 degree sunshine on my shoulders! Yes, John Denver, I know we get that in Colorado, too, but not in winter!
  • Having a BFF who travels like me..  We had a nice balance of site-seeing, exercise, relaxation, eating, imbibing, talking, celebrating, and soaking up the beauty.
  • Finding fun, pretty sundresses at the Straw Market that we bought without even trying them on..and they fit perfectly!
  • The colorful Caribbean architecture, music, and laid-back culture. 
  • Conch -- the shells, the salads, the soups
  • Celebrating my birthday and Lisa giving me some super-comfy lounging pants that go perfectly with one of my Carpe Diem shirts.
  • The cool animals, including gorgeous peacocks, tropical birds, monkeys, capybaras, and of course, the marching flamingos at the Ardastra Zoo.
  • Rum Punches, Bahama Mamas, and many other exotic 'signature drinks' at Marleys, Twisted Lime, and our own concoctions.
  • Getting my 10,000+ steps in (yeah, I'm a Fitbit addict) by walking on beaches and exploring the artsy neighborhood surroundings.
  • Listening to thunderstorms at night.
  • The yummy fish dishes that we enjoyed both in restaurants and using our own cooking talents in the condo.
  • Drinking wine and talking on the patio of our condo.
  • The serenity of the beaches we went to. We avoided the louder party-beaches and we were able to enjoy those that let us doze to the sounds of the birds and ocean waves.
Beautiful place and a beautiful friend to share it with. Now that's happiness..








Saturday, March 10, 2018

Happiness is... Flying Happy

I love to travel. I even thought seriously about purchasing a CruisePlanners franchise until I realized I'd probably be spending a lot more time arranging, marketing, and selling travel than actually doing it.

Since becoming an independent consultant 3 years ago, I've traveled so often that it's becoming routine. As I wrote about in a blog post a couple of years ago, I've figured out little treats for myself that I enjoy as part of the "flying experience." Whenever there's a delay, I treat myself to something special (often involving alcohol).  Between Netflix, podcasts, my Kindle, and Overdrive, I have plenty of entertainment options and I almost always really look forward to the flights.

Today is even better than usual because I'm flying for a vacation to the Bahamas! I'm meeting my BFF, Lisa (who lives in Minnesota), in Miama, and we're flying from there together to Nassau. YAY! My traditional winter getaway is about to begin!

However, I've already had a few not-so-good travel experiences..

First, as I've already complained about on Facebook, the bus-driver questioned whether or not I was a "senior." Now I get it...  AARP starts counting you as a senior when you turn 50 and there are a lot of places that start giving discounts at 55. But the bus definition of senior is 65!

As I was standing in line in security feeling quite indignant that the bus driver would mistake me for someone "old," I reminded myself how "young" I really was physically and mentally! After all, look at all this savvy traveling I do without missing a beat! While other people are all "nervous" about packing or getting to where they need to be, I just confidently know exactly how to pack efficiently. I mean, I practically know the floorplan of DIA!

Then it happened. OMGOMGOMGOMG!!! I forgot my wallet!!!! PANIC! There are two things I must never forget or lose when I travel because I can't buy them elsewhere! Phone and wallet! I have only just recently stopped checking obsessively that I have put these in the appropriate zipper-closed place in my backpack. How in the world did I forget my wallet?

OK, calm down. This did not happen because I'm old. It happened because I'm scatterbrained. That was true even when I was much younger. I quickly dug out my passport (yay, wonderful passport!) and two credit cards, that I always keep in my "travel purse"... Look how organized I am! And realized that I could make it to the Bahamas without my wallet.  And now, without my driver's license, I even have a legitimate excuse to not do any driving.  Credit cards will surely suffice to buy anything I need.

Time to board the plane! This old gal is ordering up a drink and flying happy!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Happiness is.. celebrating birthdays!

I'm totally into celebrations. I love celebrating EVERYTHING (need I remind you about the wacky holiday calendar?) So you better believe that I'm gonna milk my birthday for all it's worth. 

Of course, some people like to hide away and not get any attention on their birthdays, but that is not me. The way I see it is we only get a finite number of these birthdays in which the day is all about us. Let's not let those go to waste. Here are things I do to celebrate this momentous occasion:

1) Eat sweet treats. This also means shamelessly telling restaurant personnel that it's my birthday and hope they'll bring me something free with a candle in it.

2) Celebrate for at least a week by having lunches, coffees, happy hours, and dinners, all in honor of my birthday. To prepare for this it requires a year's worth of going to lunches, coffees, happy hours, and dinners to celebrate my friends' birthdays and then subtly reminding them when my birthday is.

3) Flowers - a real treat since I'm tired of winter by this time of year. (This year I got flowers from my neighbor, Bonnie, but I'm not above buying them for myself!)

4) Get out of the winter cold!  One of my birthday traditions is to take a trip to a warm weather destination..  I'll be going to the Bahamas with BFF, Lisa, in a couple of weeks!

5) Phone calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages with friends and family.  I love every one of them!
FaceTime with my sister, Michele, from Southern CA

6) Enjoy every "Happy Birthday to You" song!



7) Enjoy new experiences and surprises! This year, my awesome BF took me to the Historic Boulderado Hotel and to see "Humor Me" with Elliot Gould at the Boulder International Film Festival. And my incredible kids are treating me to a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater next weekend.



8) Have a theme party...  Note: I did NOT do a theme party this year, because.. well.. I've learned that having a birthday party for yourself might be best saved for the "big" years.. (There's only so much attention I can ask everyone to lavish upon me.)  The "big" year for me is 2020..  and you'd better believe I'm going to want to do it up BIG.  That means I'm going to want participation from friends.. even virtual participation! Maybe a short dance video... maybe a message video... maybe some other theme-based homework.  Stay tuned and save the date: Feb.26, 2020!





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.