Happy People…

John Trindle at The Fogbound Continuum has a great piece on the difference between making people happy and making happy people. It is the latter that is indeed the challenge as it flies in the face of the mantra of materialism: things, events, even other people, can and should MAKE us happy. Perhaps they bring on a temporary state of pleasure, but long-term happiness is a personal responsibility that, as John suggests, can be encouraged through trusting, respectful relationships.

John wrote, “A happy household relies on trust and respect, not trips to Disney or the latest toy,” which reminded me of two car commercials that played throughout the holiday season this year; I winced every time I saw them. The first one included the tag line: “Let’s face it: no one ever asked for a smaller Christmas present.” The second showed a couple admiring their new car, complete with big red bow, but their happy smiles turned to envious scowls when their neighbors drove past in their own, much more desirable new car. Now, I’ll admit to not knowing much about cars but both vehicles looked very similar to me.

Those scowling people in the commercial represent the very real challenge we face in trying to raise kids who don’t equate happiness with stuff even as we sometimes have to remind ourselves of that as well. I’m no humbug: I like giving gifts as much as the next person but when giving and getting become a competitive sport, something has gone very wrong.

I’ll end with Wordsworth whose lines about “getting and spending” seem to resonate here:

The world is too much with us; late and soon

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God!I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Thanks, John, for the inspiration!

On Vacation

My defense is over, and it went fine.  A few suggestions and some literature to examine, but I’m ready to start my research.  Step one is the human subject paperwork.  But, I’m giving myself a day or two off before tackling that.  Next week is spring break for WM so I’ll have plenty of time.

Last night, I boxed up the last of the winter decorations and they are now waiting in the hall to go up to the attic.  Now the dust really shows!  But my guests aren’t coming until Friday so I may wait until Thursday to dust.  There’s plenty of other work to do around the house, including piles of laundry.  And, of course, taxes.  I’m going to install Turbotax and dive in.  Everything is mostly organized so it’s generally data entry for now.

Part of the reason I stopped the morning pages was that they became all about my weight and my pathetic attempts at dieting.  But, at least when I wrote about it, I thought about it.  The past two days have been very bad in the food department…cheese, chocolate, wine.  So, it’s March 1 and I’m back on the wagon.  I figured out my online weight watchers login and will start using it again.  I started before VSTE but then had to give it up during the conference.

Bob rearranged the bird feeders and now the squirrels can get on the sunflower feeder.  He is hanging by his back feet and eating away.  Yesterday, I scared him and he landed in the pond.  For now, I’m letting him eat but in a minute I’ll open the window.  I’ve got the video camera set up and I washed the window so I can get some video of the different birds arriving to eat Bob’s  peanut butter suet.

Here’s the best news: with the exception of a meeting next Thursday, I am home and on vacation!  I’m going to digitize record albums, watch The West Wing reruns, and just enjoy being home.

Guilty Pleasures

I have been reading through English, Welsh, and Irish history over the break. The last one was Tipperary by Frank Delaney. I did not like it at first; the way it switched between voices seemed choppy and made it tough for me to pick up the story of Charles O’Brien. As the sections got longer and then the narrator was revealed, I found myself drawn into the story. It’s funny…it has the same theme as Stonehenge (Bernard Cornwell) did in terms of people dedicating their lives to creating a monument.

So, at least I could say I was learning about history. Then, I opened iTunes, and there was the Showtime series, The Tudors. I bought the first episode and was absolutely hooked. I was warned about the sex, and it got sexier throughout the season. But, don’t skip to the last episode because it is improved by following it as it builds to the climax both literally and figuratively (sorry for that) throughout the other episodes. We’re lured in along with Henry. Love the costumes and the intrigue.

And, I also read that the series played pretty fast and loose with history. So, I used the Web to do some fact checking. I figured out that the character of Margaret was a combination of Henry’s two sisters: Mary and Margaret. The King of Portugal was a complete fabrication. In poking around the discussion forums sponsored by Showtime, I found a table listing historical inaccuracies. So, at least they know they rewrote history. And, does it matter? Not to me. I was entertained. So, now I wait for the second season to go on sale. Maybe they will stream it on the web.