the happiness factor

When I was just a little child (little child)
Happiness was there awhile (there awhile)
And from me it… it slipped one day 
Happiness come back I say

Cause if you don’t come
I’ve got to go looking
For happiness

-Bob Marley

The level of dopamine found in humans, (a chemical found in your body that can be attributed to emotion), begins to decrease beginning at around age 20.  Lowered levels of dopamine are found to be links to causes of Parkinson’s, ADHD, and schizophrenia.  It has been attributed to the addiction of sugars and cigarettes.  It can be blamed for lust or craving.  It has had numerous fingers pointing at it declaring it to be the responsible party for lack of motivation and attention.   Dopamine regulates mood and metabolism.  In fact, scientists have found that rats with obesity have dramatically lower levels of dopamine.  It is probably the most well-known chemical in our brains, it has even been referred to as “the Kim Kardashian of molecules”.  It can be attributed to so many mental illnesses, the studies really are only just beginning.

Sometimes I wonder if this beautiful feeling has to be so fleeting?  I see my boys react with such unabashed joy to the simplest things; laundry basket boats, flower petals, jumping, splashing, monster trucks, sitting in the car, breakfast, cake, oh cake, “fast” sneakers, grasshoppers, trees, bubbles, the list goes on and on- and when I see this I can’t help but think, “I want that too.”.  It seems unfair that these everyday occurences mean so much to new eyes, and become mundane and normal just two decades later.  I have heard that 50% of your “happiness” can be attributed to your genetics.  10% is related directly to money (though interestingly enough, once your basic needs can be met, money does virtually nothing to the level of ones happiness), and the other 40% is up to the human being themselves.  It is their choice.  It is our choice.

There are specific things that people can do to increase happiness, build close friendships, stay in contact with family and community, exercise, have a varying schedule, pursue something you are passionate about, get in the “zone” or in a “groove” with something where your mind is taken by the subject, breathe fresh air… but these are things we know already.  And sometimes, even still, it is difficult to slap on a smile, or find the joy in the not much.

As a mom, sometimes as a very tired mom both mentally and physically, it is overwhelmingly difficult to muster up the energy to make this choice.  But I swear I try.  And the trying often turns into pretending, and pretend long enough and you just are.  It works.  It really does.

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Sometimes just by proximity a bit of that wonder occasionally spills over onto me.  And when it does,  I feel free.  

It’s easy to trudge through motherhood changing diapers, making meals, cleaning up after them, mopping milk, changing more diapers, breaking up fights, planning, more cooking, more breaking up fights, more everything, and never seeing the light.  A conscious effort is necessary at times.  But it can be done.

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the signs are a changing


The day has been as humid as this Georgia summer is long.  Sweat has been dripping down my back and chest and even the creases of my elbows all day.  It is officially october.  Autumn in most parts of the country, and yet as hard as I search I find no signs.  I try to open the windows and let in the autumn air but it’s no use.  The air conditioning still chugs on, even though I set it at a toasty 84.  The leaves, while they show tinges of red and maroon are still fresh atop the tree’s.  The air is still thick like mud.

Oh, I suppose I am being a cynic.  It is probable that this season of my birthday brings back little glimpses of a time where autumn meant change.  It meant fresh crisp air, and apples and pumpkins, and warm sweaters and wool socks.  But around here, as far as I can see those things are none to be found.

Of course, there are other hints of change in the air.  Things I never associated with the coming of the cold season before.  But, alas my brain is still malleable and I must have a brighter outlook.  We are smack dab in the middle of a glorious migration path.  Butterflies of the most glorious shapes and hues, hummingbirds that buzz by your ears at light speed, and giant storks pass through on their way to the tropical south florida.  Windy rains are becoming a welcoming event to cool the air just a touch.  Evenings below seventy have been known to happen.

So you see?  It is all in how you look at it.  And if you look at it.

SIgh.  Yes, I will continue to do just this.  Take a deep breath, look around and exhale… February.  It will come soon.  Soon enough.  And in the mean time I will continue to know this landscape in the most meaningful and real way I know how.

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, and drink the wild air.” -Emerson

Here is to the signs of autumn, whether they are knock down obvious or just a subtle shift.  Welcome.

a new kind of spring

A bright golden sun and a blue bird sky is the weather report for this day in mid march.  Even with this unmistakably beautiful day I feel a little somber.  I remember last year.  I remember thinking I felt lonely.  I remember cursing that small town we found ourselves “stuck” in.  I remember lugging out my jogger and plopping my growing boy all bundled inside and squeezing my enormous belly into a much too tight winter jacket and heading out for yet another snowy slushy walk.  We would head to the coffee shop for a warm drink and a scone, head to the park, stroll the neighborhoods, check out some ducks on the bridge over the river or stop by the library.  It always lifted my spirits despite the bitter cold and desperately dreary weather.

Then one day, like magic, I found a little snow crocus snuggled in by our houses warm foundation.  And then a few more.  Then I noticed the snow was starting to turn wet instead of icy.  It suddenly didn’t feel like true physical torture on my bare toes to dash outside and grab my mail.  Tiny buds appeared on trees and I swear I cried.  It was so joyful when the sun finally felt warm on my shoulders.  Exhilarating is more like it.  It can only be described as pure honest to goodness happiness when spring comes to a northern town.  And of course, that small town felt like home.

While I am still so very new to this area and it always takes time to find every single bit of joy your geography has to offer (I swear I am trying).  Maybe there is sort of a three-month honeymoon when you are a gypsy like me.  Then you either get the itch to move again (not the case here unless it was to pack up all these men of mine and bring them home to my own mama, daddy and brother) or to become a little melancholic for what you had.  Oh no matter.  It is spring none the less.  Just a little different this time around.  Little wildflowers still are a-bloom.  The trees are almost in their full glory.  Birds sing with all their might.  Maybe not as dramatic.  Maybe a little more…gnatty.  But it is spring.  And the sun is out.

This poem, despite the title, sits with me today.

The Summer day

By Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

But truly, it is impossible to dwell on the past when you have this right here isn’t it?

Martin’s Big Words a tiny book review

When my Miles was still inside my belly, the perfectly sensational shower my mom threw me included invitations that urged guests to bring their favorite childhood book to share, or one that they felt close to.  My my most precious friend since as far as I can remember gave us quite the selection.  The always thoughtful, always peaceful and always joyful girl I like to consider my soul sister gave us Martin’s Big Words.

When we cozied on down last night for story hour I slipped this one in.  While I am sure my boys do not understand the depth of this man and the power of his words and others alike, I hope that they were able to hear the admiration in my voice.  Dr. King’s words have a way of reaching us all at different points for different reasons.  Thank you to Dr. King and thank you to my Lacey-Lou.  You are both such a gift to this earth.

“Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.” -MLK jr.



Prayer of St. Francis

Im not typically a religious person in the traditional sense.  But this prayer is so very special to me.

Divine spirit, make me an instrument of Peace,

where there is hatred, let me so love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is doubt, faith,

where there is despair, hope,

where there is darkness, light,

where there is sadness, joy!

-Prayer of St. Francis

What words to live by!