Wednesday, September 30, 2015

10 Secrets to Happiness, According to Someone Much Wiser Than Me

I was not raised Catholic (though Tom and I met as members of the Newman Singers, a traveling contemporary choir based out of the University of Iowa's Catholic Student Newman Center, and later married in the Catholic Church as well), but throughout the last two years I have begun to pay closer attention to the Pope. I don't necessarily agree with everything Pope Francis says, but I believe in what he stands for and emulates: inclusion, acceptance, simplicity, humility, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and love.

Like many others, last week I watched coverage of Pope Francis' visit to the United States. I jotted down notes on his messages as well as a few favorite quotes, and though I don't believe he said it last week, this quote made its way into one feed or another and prompted me to pause and then delve a little deeper.

"Have the courage to be truly happy."

After spending a more than a year on the #100HappyDays challenge (which turned into 365+ happy days), I appreciate any words of wisdom that encourage me slow down and appreciate the moment, the environment, and my place within them.

And when those words of wisdom come from the Pope? Well, that just makes them even more powerful.

Back in a July interview with the Argentine weekly "Viva", Pope Francis revealed his 10 secrets for happiness.

1. “Live and let live.” Everyone should be guided by this principle, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist — gaucho Don Segundo Sombra — looks back on how he lived his life.

“He says that in his youth he was a stream full of rocks that he carried with him; as an adult, a rushing river; and in old age, he was still moving, but slowly, like a pool” of water, the pope said. He said he likes this latter image of a pool of water — to have “the ability to move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life.”

4. “A healthy sense of leisure.” The pleasures of art, literature and playing together with children have been lost, he said.

“Consumerism has brought us anxiety” and stress, causing people to lose a “healthy culture of leisure.” Their time is “swallowed up” so people can’t share it with anyone.

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.

“It’s not enough to give them food. Dignity is given to you when you can bring food home” from one’s own labor.

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have. I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'”

8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down.' Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”

9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you’. No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing.”

10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars, and the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic.

I post the Pope's secrets to happiness not in support of one religion over another or lack thereof, but because so many of them spoke to me on a human level. In the future, when I need a reminder of how I can make my life even happier, I'll return to here, to this post and Pope Francis' secrets.

The full text from Pope Francis' interview can be found on both and but have edited them down slightly for length. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesdays With Tux (9.29.15)

It's tough to focus on the game when multiple teeth are burrowing into the surface of your skin, but Will can handle it.

Tux also does this when, in our sleep, we move our feet just the slightest bit…which is why Tux is no longer allowed to sleep on my bed.

Monday, September 28, 2015

54 Years Late to the Bake-Off

This post falls into the category of "neither here nor there", so please proceed with the knowledge that this story has little to do with life in Texas, life in the Midwest, or even life in general. Sometimes I just like to share things that make/made me smile.

Every summer I organize my mom's recipes. I have no idea how this "tradition" started, but now that it has, it seems my mom no longer bothers to keep her recipes neat and tidy - which is very out of character for her - because she knows I'll clean them up when I come visit. (A reverse scenario plays out when my mom comes to visit me, except instead of organizing my recipes she cleans my mop sink.)

Back in July I found this "Special Offer" stuffed inside a folded recipe.

Despite the fact that the coupon was printed 18 years prior to my birth, I decided I couldn't pass up an opportunity to get all 100 prize winning recipes from Pillsbury's 1961 Grand National Bake-Off. I filled out the coupon, enclosed a check for $0.35, and mailed both to the address listed.

Not surprisingly, my envelope and its contents were returned to me wearing a sticker that read "not deliverable as addressed, unable to forward". Makes sense, since apparently we didn't use zip codes back then.

I wasn't quite ready to give up though, so I repackaged everything and mailed it to the General Mills headquarters. 

It took a month (surprising, I know, given the importance of and priority given to requests for cookbooks printed in 1961), but last week I received a personalized letter from Pillsbury regarding my request. 

I have no plans to contact Bonnie in search of the 1961 Grand National Bake-Off cookbook because even though I went through all this trouble, I did so because I thought the cookbook would make a fun and funny gift for my mom...not because I have any interest in vintage cookbooks myself. (I'm more of an internet recipe kind of girl.) I will, however, make an effort to shop Pillsbury when I can - good customer service is hard to find these days!

I have no affiliation with Pillsbury or General Mills and did not receive any compensation for this post.

Friday, September 25, 2015

High Five for Friday (9.25.15)

1. I posted a few photos from our Boosterthon Fun Run earlier this week, but I saved these three because I felt they deserved a little extra attention…

First, this photo because…well…because HALLIE. I can't look at this photo without laughing.

Kind of like this picture, taken at the Alamo, and so many others...

Second, this photo because I absolutely adore watching these two cuties grow up together.

And third, this photo of because it perfectly captures the love between these four friends. Of note #1: the little girls holding hands. Of note #2: the way Kaylee is looking at Will. My heart might burst.

2. Two good friends celebrated birthdays this week, and while we're not partying for one of them until early next month, we surprised the other with a birthday dinner on Sunday night. I look TERRIBLE in this picture (what am I doing with my face?!), but I'm posting it anyway because everything else about it - especially the people - makes me extraordinarily happy.

Happy birthday, Nuria! Happy birthday, Isaac!

3. After months of negotiating and paperwork, we finally closed on the refinance of our house on Wednesday. I despised every minute of the long, drawn-out process, but I'm so grateful we finally signed on the dotted line hundreds of dotted lines and for the immeasurable amount of assistance my dad provided us from start to finish. A great big care package is on its way to your front door, Dad!

4. My friend and new neighbor (we were already friends, but she and her family recently moved in across the street from us) had her third baby last week. I didn't want to show up unannounced the day they came home from the hospital, so I put together a little care package, left it on her front porch, and texted her to let her know it was there. Later that evening her two older kiddos walked over to say thank you, and when they did I happened to notice my friend standing out front holding the baby. Like a crazy person, I ran out of my house, across the lawn, and through the street, and then immediately behind me came both Will and Hallie. It wasn't until I was cuddling that itty, bitty baby by the side of the road that I realized I was wearing my pajamas, Hallie only a tee-shirt, and Will only his bathrobe. Eek.

I'm so happy this sweet little boy came into the world, that we have wonderful new neighbors, and that we live in a neighborhood where I can run across the street in my pajamas and not worry all that much about what people think.

5. Happiness Highlights:
These little cuties are practicing
to be mice in the upcoming Ballet
Brazos production of The Nutcracker. 
I kind of want this as my next birthday cake.
I happened upon this picture and could hardly stand the adorableness.
These delicious treats are back in stores! 
In between eating apple slices, practicing her
cartwheels, and watching My Little Pony she
trains for Road Runners. Barefoot, of course.
Fly high, little one.
Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Life is Like a Ferris Wheel… (Giveaway!)

Life is like a Ferris Wheel…you must get past the fear to enjoy the ride.
       ~ Linda Poindexter

In early August I wrote a "Few Words Wednesday" post about George Ferris and his ingenious invention: the Ferris Wheel. A week or so later I received an email from Kathryn Gibbs Davis, a well-known author of fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults. As she explained in her email, a late-night online search for Ferris Wheel-related sites led her to my post, and after she learned that my family had connections to George Ferris (and that both she and I are from Wisconsin), she reached out to say hello.

As it turns out, Ms. Davis' most recent publication is a fascinating, beautifully illustrated, and award-winning non-fiction book called Mr. Ferris and His Wheel. She graciously offered to send a copy to Will and Hallie, and when the book arrived they were thrilled to discover a personalized message inside the front cover. Ms. Davis' also included a Ferris Wheel bookmark and postcard, as well as a copy of another of her books - Wackiest White House Pets - which both Will and Hallie loved.

I was so touched by Ms. Davis' generosity that I decided to pay it forward and purchase a copy of Mr. Ferris and His Wheel to give away to one of you. To enter, share with me - via Facebook, the comments section, or email ( a photo of a Ferris Wheel, yourself on a Ferris Wheel, or your kiddos on a Ferris Wheel. I'll select a winner on Monday, September 28th at 9pm CST.

Can't wait to see your photos!

This is not a sponsored post. My children received their books as a gift prior to my decision to write this post, and I purchased the copy of Mr. Ferris for the giveaway. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesdays With Tux (9.22.15)

When Tux arrived at our house he was a black and white cat.

He spends a significant amount of time outside now, where his favorite activity is rolling in the dirt; at some point this past weekend Tom and I looked at Tux and noticed that he's no longer black and white...he's now black and dingy

 He's really let himself go...

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Banner Day

At the end of August I wrote a post - a rebuttal of sorts, in response to a uniquely honest and humorous middle school PTO fundraising letter - about the importance of student-involvement in elementary school fundraising. The response to that post was overwhelming (in terms of numbers), so I decided a quick follow-up was in order...

Here we are, just three days after the finale of our elementary school's biggest fundraiser of the year. (I consider it "our" school, rather than just Will and Hallie's school, since I sit on the Board of the PTO and take great pride in the work we do on behalf of our teachers, parents, and students.) I think I speak for the entirety of our team when I declare us EXHAUSTED. We worked l…o…n…g hours for the nine days leading up to and on the day of our Fun Run. We temporarily put the rest of our lives on hold so we could give this fundraiser the time, energy, and focus it deserved. We have fallen behind on work, house cleaning, laundry, groceries, and errands, and I for one am woefully behind on preparing for Will's upcoming ninth birthday. We will spend the next two weeks catching up on life in general while simultaneously wrapping up the collection and assessment stages of the fundraiser. 

And you know what? Every last minute of work was absolutely, positively worth it.

It was worth it to hear my kids and their friends talk about the character lessons in which they participated. To listen to them overcome their nervousness and both explain the fundraiser and ask for donations over the phone. To see their faces light up when they secured another pledge. To see them run their hearts out on the day of the Fun Run. To watch them cheer for their friends who needed a little extra help on the racetrack.

I could be wrong (I'm wrong quite often, as Hallie would gladly verify), but I bet 95% of the parents who attended our Friday Fun Run feel nothing but grateful their kids participated in this kind of fundraiser. I bet they didn't mind helping their kids make phone calls and enter pledges online because they realize how significantly the benefits outweigh the negatives. I bet they understand that in many cases, easy isn't always best. And isn't that what we're trying to teach our kiddos?

Thanks to everyone who supported our fundraiser by donating money and/or time, and thanks to all of you who support your kids…and your grandkids…and your nieces and nephew and other people's their schools try to teach them how they too can make a difference.  

Friday, September 18, 2015

High Five for Friday (9.18.15)

1. My mom made all of my sister's and my Halloween costumes. Sara and I dressed as a wide variety of animals, cartoon characters like Tweedledee and Tweedledum, jesters, genies, flappers, vampires, angels, and celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. We received compliments at nearly every house we visited while trick-or-treating.

My mom taught me how to sew when I was in middle school, and while I know how to use my sewing machine, my skills pale in comparison to hers. (Not to mention the fact that I don't enjoy sewing at all.) I could never sew Halloween costumes for my kids, but I can shop Amazon and use my Prime membership to have adorable costumes delivered right to my front door. This week our themed Halloween costumes arrived in the mail…here's a little teaser!

2. After the last two seasons of city league soccer didn't live up to his expectations, Will asked us if he could play in a different league. Tom and I agreed, and a few weeks ago Will joined a more intense and higher level soccer program. His first game took place last Saturday morning, and he had an incredible time. (It helped that his team won and he scored a goal...which I unfortunately missed because I had to leave early to take Hallie to Nutcracker rehearsal.) I LOVE watching him play soccer.

3. When not watching Will play soccer, I thoroughly enjoyed watching these two run laps around the field. Why yes, Hallie is running laps in her leotard, tights, and dance boots.

4. After Monday's commentary on the Texas foods we've grown to love, this picture made me laugh...not only is it funny, it's pretty darn accurate.

5. Happiness Highlights:
These two cuties started pre-k and 2/3 preschool
earlier this week. They are spitting images of their
parents - Lily is a mini-Sara and Carter is a mini-Jeff.
On game days in Aggieland, everyone 1) drives a maroon pick-
up truck, and 2) transports passengers in their truck beds. Here
are two examples, and we saw at least six more last Saturday. 
Last Saturday Hallie sat outside and "drank tea" (spooned water
into her mouth) for 40 minutes straight. I love to watch her play
with Will and her friends, but I also appreciate how at peace she
is when playing by herself.
$5 on Amazon, baby. Saturday night is movie night!
This little pipsqueak's hair is finally long enough for pig-tails again!
And last but not least, my future Aggie #1...
…and future Aggie #2.
 Happy Friday, friends!

Linking up with High Five for Friday!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tradition: Spirit Walk

Shortly after we moved to Texas we began learning about and even experiencing - sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally - the traditions for which TAMU and Aggieland are known. These traditions come in all shapes and sizes, from pride- and awe-inspiring to powerful and spiritual to bizarre and kooky, and we've enjoyed each and every one.*

Last weekend, while on campus to celebrate the grand reopening of Kyle Field as the largest collegiate football stadium in Texas (and the third largest in the country), we stumbled upon a tradition we hadn't yet experienced or even heard about, for that matter.

After walking two-and-a-half miles, petting the horses, dancing to live music, eating frozen yogurt, and admiring the new stadium, Will and Hallie had begun to fade. (Earlier that morning Hallie had danced for an hour and gone on a playdate, Will had played an entire soccer game and competed in a Tae Kwon Do tournament, and Tom and I had driven them both all over town; it's surprising any of us made it as long as we did.)

We started walking back toward our car, but paused when we noticed Aggies gathering three and four deep alongside one of the streets near the stadium. Tom asked a friendly-looking Aggie what everyone was waiting for, and when he explained that the Spirit Walk was about to begin we decided to stick around...despite the heat-related whining and having no idea what "Spirit Walk" meant.

As we soon discovered, the Spirit Walk is appropriately named. Approximately two hours and 15 minutes prior to kick-off, the football players arrive via bus at the Association of Former Students. The Aggie Band, already assembled and having just performed for the crowd, leads the players as they walk from the Association of Former Students to their locker room in the Bright Complex. Little kids stick their hands out for high fives, adults take photos of their favorite players, and Aggie players soak in the overwhelming amount of support radiating from the crowd.

We may not make special trips to campus for future Spirit Walks, but should we find ourselves in the vicinity approximately two hours and 15 minutes prior to game time, we will certainly join the crowds of people waiting to cheer on the Aggie football team. We will also most certainly stand on the shady side of the street...