6 Things That Make Me Happy

Trisha over at Boffo Panda went and tagged me for a meme, even though she doesn’t know what a meme is. Isn’t that cute?

Anyway, here are six things that make me happy:

  1. Chocolate, especially really good rich and creamy chocolate.
  2. Dancing around my house to music I love all by myself. So what? You know you do it too.
  3. Vanilla cake, frosting, pudding, or ice cream. I think that people only think vanilla is boring because they go and eat that awful imitation vanilla that’s a by-product of the timber industry. Yuck. That is NOT vanilla, and yes, I know that REAL vanilla costs like 50 times as much, but there is a very, very good reason for that. Life is too short to eat imitation vanilla.
  4. Being surrounded by friends, laughing and crying and sharing stories and offering support.
  5. Anything with Hello Kitty on it.
  6. Being in love.

Here are the Rules for this meme:

  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post six things that make you happy along with these rules.
  • Then tag six others (letting them know, of course).
  • Let the person who tagged you know when your entry is complete.

I’m tagging: Dancing Mermaid, Goddess Leonie, 11Photographs, and Moe. That’s all because I don’t know six people who blog who didn’t already tag me for the meme.

The Mindset Game

Isn’t it funny how you always seem to stumble on the right tools right when you’re ready to use them? Today I accidentally came across The Mindset Game:

Does watching shows like The Apprentice and The Amazing Race make you wish you could be on those shows, achieving the unimaginable? It seems that each contestant learns more about themselves in that short experience than they have in their entire lives. The MindSet Game will give you the same opportunity to learn about yourself and will challenge you to take the first step to achieve your dreams.

I love the idea and I’m excited to get started. There’s a weekly challenge or task for you to complete. Two have been posted so far, so it’s definitely not too late to get started and get caught up. Plus, how cute is it that there’s a downloadable score card?

I’ve been thinking about the first weeks’ challenge all day:

If you could only accomplish one thing professionally, what would it be? When would you want to achieve it?

And while there is a long list of things I want to accomplish, both personally and professionally, there is one that definitely stands out and makes me feel really excited. I haven’t even done the exercise and written it out yet, and I’ve already started making more concrete plans and taking steps to bring that particular goal to fruition.

Play along with me! It’s sure to be a great challenge.

Time for the magic notebook to shine

At this time of year, there’s something appealing about looking back over the next year, measuring it, weighing it, and putting it in a neat little package to set aside and get ready for the new year.

When I was little, I used to have this idea in my head of the ‘old’ year was crumbling and old, waiting to be replaced by the shiny glossy new year at midnight on New Years’ Eve.

It’s useful for us to put time in little packages. To measure it. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years. But time isn’t really like that – it just keeps flowing. Life isn’t like that either. Much messier. Harder to measure, weigh and package.

But what is useful is pausing from time to time to take a look at where we’re going, where we’ve been, lessons we’ve learned and plans we want to make. Clich├ęd as it seems, it’s useful to pause and reflect, then prepare for what’s ahead. And the start of a new year on some arbitrary human calendar is just as good an excuse as any.

I have a notebook that was given to me as a gift several years ago, a really nice one. With a padded cover, cloth binding, creamy lined pages, and a satin ribbon bookmark sewn in. I’ve become convinced that it’s a magic notebook. At the start of 2002, feeling trapped and desperately unhappy with many different areas of my life, I took it off the shelf, and wrote down a list of things to accomplish to better my situation. I wrote a little essay about each item. I tracked my progress toward each of the goals for a couple of months. Then I forgot about the notebook. But I didn’t forget the goals. I kept working.

At the start of 2003, I pulled it off the shelf again. I reviewed the old goals – some of them accomplished, others not. I took stock again. I set my intention for the coming year.

My notebook became a regular habit. At the turn of a new year, I pull it out, review the goals I set the previous year, and set my goals for the coming year. And magically, the goals are accomplished. Not always in the first year they were set down in writing, but they are accomplished. It feels good. At some point, it started to feel like magic. Thus it became known as the magic notebook.

It’s that time of year again to pull out the magic notebook, review the previous year, and set my goals for the year ahead. I invite you to join me. The magic lies in setting your intention, asking for what you want and trusting that you’ll receive.

A fun way to give for the holidays

I know it’s getting to be pretty close to Christmas, but I just found out something that sounds really fun.

Each December, the USPS received hundreds and hundreds of letters addressed to Santa at the North Pole from hopeful little children. This I’ve always known. But I had no idea that you could contact your local post office and volunteer to answer the letters!

Contact your local postmaster to ask how he or she runs the program at your post office, but you can either just write back to the children as Santa or you can find letters from less fortunate children and send gifts to fulfill their Christmas wishes.

There’s something really appealing about this to me. I remember the fragile hopefulness I had as a child when I wrote my letter to Santa each December telling him how good I had been and making my requests for Lite Brites, Spirographs and Easy Bake Ovens. It would have been simply magical if that letter had been answered.

More information:Answering letters to Santa from the USPS

Moonlight visitor

Fifteen years ago this July, I received one of the best gifts I had ever received in my life: two seven-month old kittens. They were sisters from the same litter. Midori was shy, the runt of the litter, white with a black tail and a weird black patch on her head that made her look as though someone had spilled paint on her. Sarabi was brave huntress and impossibly beautiful. She was a creamy brown color with a white tummy and a black nose. Think about it for a minute – when have you ever seen a brown cat?

They were two of the best cats I have ever known. They were sweet and cuddly. They both followed me from room to room, and took turns sitting on my lap, one gently nudging the other when it was time to switch places. Even if they were sound asleep, I only had to click my tongue, and they’d both come running.

But circumstances change, and my life in chaos, I found myself in a situation where I could not have cats. Heartbroken and sad, I gave them up for adoption after spending seven years with them, and proceeded to sobbingly choke down a pound of chocolates covered in salty tears.

Last night I dreamed I was reclining on my couch at midnight with the light of the full moon streaming in the window when Midori walked in and hopped into my lap. She looked at me and meowed a few times in her whiny way and I immediately understood: Sarabi has died. I held Midori close, petted her, and comforted her through the loss of her sister, and then she left, and I woke up feeling sad for the loss of my pet all over again.

Hunt well, Sarabi. You are missed.

Small town dream

About a week ago, driving in my convertible on the 405, on my way to have dinner with my boyfriend, I thought about the me that existed 20 years ago. And I’ve been thinking about her a lot ever since.

Twenty years ago, a shy and intensely unhappy fourteen year old girl was just starting eighth grade. She felt trapped and suffocated in her tiny little hometown. She dreamed of seeing the world, but had no idea how it would ever happen. She’d been poor her entire life, and family vacations were to places only a an hour or two away. Los Angeles seemed like an almost imaginary place – so big and glamorous and impossibly far away. She hoped that maybe she’d get to visit someday.

It’s so easy, isn’t it, to take everything you have for granted? For the past week, I’ve been viewing everything I’ve done through her eyes. Living in Los Angeles, surrounded by palm trees and weather so incredible it makes you forget that it actually rains other places. Working crazy hours building a big web site project for a big company while servicing a full roster of freelance clients on the side, barely finding the time to get it all done. Being insanely in love, talking to the boyfriend at least twice a day. Standing up for web standards, insisting it’s important. Checking in on Facebook on my iPhone. Meeting girlfriends for a late dinner and cocktails on a school night. Eeking out time to read some blog posts about Google Chrome and IE8 beta 2. Trying to get my boss to send me to a web conference in Tokyo. Sneaking my Eee PC into meetings. Fitting in a three-mile run each morning while listening to podcasts on my iPod.

That little fourteen year old girl would have been beside herself if only she had known. I wish I could go back to her and hug her and let her know it was all going to be alright. That one day she’d have this crazy, fabulous, busy, glamorous, successful life in the City of Angels.

Though I doubt she would have believed me.

Are you writing an inspiring story?

A few months ago, I took a class called "Car Care for Women". It was taught by Karen Valenti who owns North Hollywood Discount Auto Service. We all brought our cars and she taught us how to check the oil, check the coolant, check the transmission fluid and brake fluid, check the power steering fluid and how to check the condition of belts, hoses and tires. According to Karen, when you take your car to a mechanic, you should be telling them what needs to be done to your car, not the other way around. And I have to admit – it is empowering to know when my tires need to be rotated, when my transmission needs to be serviced and when I really need to replace my air filter. I’m not at the mercy of some kid at Jiffy Lube just trying to make some extra commission selling me stuff I don’t need.

Karen knows cars and she’s a successful business owner. But that wasn’t always the case. She came into some money a few years ago, and spent it buying the garage for her then-husband. When their marriage didn’t work out, she kept the garage. She knew how to do a few things, like oil changes and muffler repairs. So she did that during the day and took classes to learn the rest at night. Now she teaches her Car Care for Women class each month and encourages her students to call her with any questions and even to return and re-take her class for free. She’s empowering women in an area where women are traditionally pretty powerless and are often taken advantage of.

And this is the kind of story we all find most inspiring, isn’t it? The ones where life hands someone lemons and they make lemonade.

It’s easy to get bogged down and feel jealous of the good fortune of others around us, but the truth is that everyone has hardships to endure. Everyone who enjoys success overcame some obstacle or hardship. What happened to you yesterday or last month or last year or ten years ago only matters in that it helped shape the person you are today. Maybe you learned patience. Or compassion. Or you learned how to keep a cool head in a hectic situation. You learned something that helps you everyday.

You can’t change what happened in your past. But you can take the tools from your troubled times and use them to build a brighter future and make some lemonade. Write in inspiring story for your life. A story you can be proud to tell.

Everything always works out for the best

Here was my message from the universe today:

The reason things always work out for the best, Natalie, is because this is actually the highest of all spiritual laws.

Any apparent exceptions are simply evidence that work is still in progress, whether or not it can be seen.

Always,
The Universe

I love this one, because it’s what I believe already.

Namaste.