Interview with Emma: Happy Fitness Geek!

Its been a long time since you have heard from me on this blog. So i thought to share mine short interview with my schoolmate, a happy fitness geek Emma. Recently she agreed for a short interview about her daily fitness routine. Not only I’m a big fan of her personal blog, but I find her advice about food and running inspirational.

Emma owns NordicTrack C 900 treadmill and now she spends almost all of her free time on this running machine.

Emma has owned this NordicTrack model for 15 months and she advises it to other runners without any hesitation.

Whats the daily fitness routine you follow?

Well i spend almost all of mine leisure time on my NordicTrack treadmill machine.

What NordicTrack Model have you got and for how much time have you operate on it?

I’ve the NordicTrack C900 and have been running onto it for around 15 months.

Where did you buy it?

I bought this treadmill from NordicTrack.com after reading about the best treadmill reviews of 2017 where its was listed as one among the top treadmills.

Have you experienced any issues with shipping, delivery or assembling of this running machine?

I had zero issues with the shipping and my hubby was able to assemble the treadmill machine in about 2.5 hours.

How intensively do you use the treadmill?

I use the treadmill daily for at least 30 – 50 minutes. I have completed some 40 milers on this running machine, plenty of hill work and also some speed work. Currently it is not used as intensely because I am pregnant but I am still putting a whole lot of miles onto it.

What features do you like about it?

I really like so many features about the C900. First, I really like the audio speakers so that I am able to plug in my computer or iPod to run to.

Me and my husband really enjoyed using different courses that have been programmed into the treadmill combined with the Jillian Michaels workouts that are included.

I love what large size easy control keys are to use on this running machine. It also rises to 12 mph which rocks ! just because a lot of treadmills only go up to 10 mph, the incline is also excellent and rises to a 15%.

It is silent and very smooth which is definitely essential for a good home treadmill.

What don’t you like about it?

There is a fan on the treadmill but in all honesty it doesn’t do much to cool you off. This is the only thing that I could think of that I don’t like about it.

Have you experienced any problems with it so far?

No.

Would you recommend it to other runners?

Yes, absolutely and I’ve already advised it to numerous runners! I’ve spent a lot of time with it and looking forward to using it. It will really help me to keep up with my running as a new mom because I will be running onto it whenever she is napping:)

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How to Let It All Go

Someone asked me to review an app called “Let it Go.” Basically you write down what’s bothering you like, “I like the smell of skunk. Is there something very wrong with me?” and “I wish my dog would stop sniffing my butt. It really bothers me when she does that. The fact that she continues to do it makes me feel so unheard!”

Then the app releases those thoughts for you.

Exactly how it works is unclear because I don’t actually own the app. I’ve only read an email about it. I thought about trying it out. But then I looked around my living room. There are no curtains. The furniture is all gone, too. The corners of all the walls are covered in blue tape.

The only thing in this room is my desk, my computer, and my chair.

The room is so empty that there’s an echo every time I type anything on the keyboard.

My husband is painting, you see. He’s also still painting the child’s bedroom. And the hallway. And the dining room.

When he told me weeks back that he was going to paint I believe my exact words were, “Please don’t.”

“It won’t take long,” he said.

“That’s what you said about the child’s bedroom. You’ve been not painting it since before Halloween.”

“But we already moved all the furniture so we could have the floors redone. Now is the perfect time to paint,” he said.

I thought about saying, “Now is the perfect time to paint for people who actually paint when they say they are going to.” Instead I said, “How about we hire people to do it!?”

“Nah, I can do it,” he said.

I sighed. I already knew how this was going to go. “Okay, fine,” I said. “But don’t you dare set up the television until you’re done painting.”

Then I went to the store and I ordered this self massaging heated recliner that I’ve always wanted, and I had it delivered. It’s now the only other piece of furniture in this room other than my desk and my desk chair.

Some other wife would probably be livid over this the-house-still-isn’t-painted situation. Every time she needed an envelope and realized that she couldn’t find one because all the envelopes are packed away inside of some box that is under other boxes out on the porch where the rest of the things that used to be inside her house now reside, she would probably spank her husband with a paint brush, assuming she could fine one.

Not me. Over the years, with much meditation, I’ve become a master Let-It-Goer. If I can’t find an envelope, this is what I do: I ask my husband to find it for me. And then I go sit in my massage chair.

All better.

You envy me, don’t you? At the start of this story, you never in a million trillion years thought you would, but envy me you do. Everyone should have a heated, self massaging recliner.

Seriously, if every person in the world owned one, there would be world peace.

At the very least, there would be marital peace. I’m living proof.

Oh, sure, I could yell about the fact that I can never find anything when I need it because everything that I own is in storage. I could complain that I can’t walk around my house naked without all the neighbors saying, “Oh, so that’s what a woman’s middle aged body looks like!” I could gripe how the dog has been breaking into her food container ever since my husband removed the doors to the closet that houses the food.

But why bother? None of those things are going to get this house painted.

So rather than get irritated, I’m amused. It’s funny, you know? It’s especially funny when I have people over. Then I can say things like, “Well, I’d offer you a seat, but as you can see…” and “Okay you get the massage chair for 15 minutes. Then you have to give someone else a turn” and “Well we could eat dinner here standing up or we could go out. Your call.”

I’m also curious. How long can the man survive without the TV? What will be the event that motivates him to paint the whole house in just a couple hours? Will it be the Florida vs. Florida State game in the fall? The Tour de France in the summer? Or something much sooner? The Super Bowl perhaps?

And I’m thankful. My husband might take a whole year — or a decade — to paint a house, but he fills my car with gas so I don’t have to. It’s been an average of 3 degrees here for the past week, and I’m not talking about Celsius. Let’s just say that if I had a choice of furniture where it belongs or a bottomless tank of gas, I’d go with the gas. Wouldn’t you?

He also makes my lunch every day.

And he boils water for my tea and steeps the bag for exactly three minutes — no more, no less — and even brings it to me while I’m concentrating on writing a post about how he’s not painting our house.

If I want something from the grocery store — say chewable Vitamin D3, 1000IU per chew — I just write it down and magically it appears in a kitchen cabinet. When he sees me chewing on it, he asks, “Is that the right kind?” It always is. My husband never buys the wrong kind of anything. He’s detail-oriented like that. Like, next decade, when this house is completely painted and all the furniture is back where it belongs, there will not be one drip of paint where it does not belong. The man is careful and precise.

I could go on but, if I do so, I fear you will envy me for much more than my heated massage chair.

Now, sure, not everyone can afford a heated massage chair, but that doesn’t mean that not everyone can let go. The chair is nice, of course, but what really helps me is this: counting my blessings. Chances are, there’s a lot of beauty in your life that you take for granted. Your spouse might be irritating in some ways, but I’m guessing he or she is plenty awesome in many others.

Imagine a typical day without your spouse in it. What would be different? What would you miss? What wouldn’t happen if your spouse wasn’t around? What things would you have to start doing for yourself?

Maybe, after doing that, you’ll find that you let go a little.

Here’s another thing I do. I ask myself, “If today were my last day to live, would I spend it feeling irritated about this?”

The answer, of course, is no. If I only had a few minutes left to live, I wouldn’t waste them on anger.

I just hug my loved ones, and I’d call dibs on the massage chair.

Wouldn’t you?

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I Took My Clothes Off in Front of Strangers. You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next.

As I walked down the path to the hot tubs that overlooked the Pacific Ocean, a sense of dread rose in my stomach. I’d heard that the tubs were clothing optional. Still, I assumed the scene would be much like a European beach: some women would be topless, a few others would be bottomless, and the vast majority of bathers would be clothed.

I planned to be one of the clothed.

A man walked a few feet ahead. I knew him from a workshop I’d taken earlier in the day. I clutched my swimsuit in my hand. He carried nothing.

“I guess he’s going in nude,” I thought. My dread intensified. What if everyone is nude? What if there aren’t any changing rooms? What if the hot tubs are coed?

As I neared the bathhouse, I saw Ann, a woman I’d met at the same workshop.

“How was it?” I asked. Then, before she could answer, “Did you do it nude?”

“I did!” Ann proclaimed, the sound of victory in her voice.

“If I wear a swim suit, will I stick out like a polar bear in Florida?”

“You…. You don’t want to wear… No, um, no. Don’t wear bathing suit. You really shouldn’t.”

“But it’s clothing optional, not clothing forbidden.”

“No,” she said firmly, convincingly, as if she knew first-hand of an ordinance that forbade clothed bathing. “No. Don’t.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t go in,” I said, turning away from the bathhouse.

“Oh, go in. I was scared, too. But I did it! If I can do it, you can!” Ann nearly sang.

Ann led me inside. To the left, she pointed to the room where the towels were kept. I grabbed one. As I turned to walk down the stairs that led to the changing area, I nearly bumped into a man, all of his pale skin, hair and hanging parts exposed.

I averted my eyes, meekly smiled and whispered “sorry” as I stepped around him.

“The changing rooms are coed?” I hissed.

“You’ll be fine. You’ll never see these people again. I repeat: You will never see these people again.”

Then, shaking her clenched fist in the air, she proclaimed, “You’ve got this!”

I turned toward a wall. With my back to the room, I took a deep breath. Then I pulled off my shirt, taking special care to keep it right-side-in as I folded it. I did the same with my pants. Now I was standing in a camisole and panties, Ann’s “you’ve got this” reverberating through my mind.

I pulled off the camisole.

Then I yanked down the panties and quickly wrapped my towel around my torso. For a moment, I stared longingly at my swimsuit, now lying unused on the bench. I hid it under my clothes as if it were contraband. Then I turned and walked toward the tubs, averting my eyes as I passed one nude man, then two, then three. As I stepped outdoors, I felt as if I were stepping into Renior’s “three girls taking a bath with crab,” except it was more like “25 men taking a bath with three women and one prude.”

In case you’re not completely sure, I was the prude.

To my right were three individual tubs, each inhabited by a naked man. They lounged with their knees splayed, as anyone might do while bathing in their own private bathtub at home.

“Isn’t that? Oh my gawd, no,” I thought as I recognized the husband of a friend. I turned my head quickly, pretending not to see him.

I kept walking. In a larger tub were a dozen or more men, some sitting on the edge, all of their manliness on display. They were talking and gesturing animatedly, as if they were at a coffee shop. I started to turn back in retreat, but there were nude people behind me, on their way to the tub in front of me.

I felt surrounded and cornered, exposed and vulnerable. With no where to go but forward, I kept walking. In the last tub, there was a blur of flesh that I recognized as one woman and two men. I stood awkwardly, trying to figure out how to submerge myself as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. What to do with the towel? How to get into the tub? Was everyone staring at me? Do I know that man?

Do I know that man!?!

He came into focus. Yes, I’d been sitting next to him all morning at the workshop. I knew what he did for a living and where he lived. I might never see him again, but he was no stranger. Nor was he a lover or a friend. For me he fell squarely into the People Who Should Never See Me Naked category.

I hesitated. I began to turn. He looked up. His eyes focused with recognition.

“I’ve got this,” I told myself. “Just do this. You’re not going to die from this.”

I opened my towel and draped it over a wall. Then I slowly stepped into the tub.

The water was no friend for the bashful. As transparent as air, it left nothing to the imagination. I pulled my knees into my chest and wrapped my arms around them. I closed my eyes. I listened to the ocean. I willed myself to relax.

I opened my eyes to breasts, rear ends, pubic mounds, and swinging penises. What to do? Where to look? Where not to look? I squeezed my eyes shut.

“Relax… relax,” I told myself. “Enjoy whatever it is that people enjoy about bathing nude with strangers.”

Seconds ticked by. Then minutes. I endured, but I did not enjoy.

“Animals don’t wear clothes,” I told myself. “You walk around naked at home. You were born naked.”

Then another part of me, said, “I’m not an animal. I’m not at home, and I don’t care what I was wearing when I was born!”

With that, I stood, wrapped my towel around myself, and I left, all the while mentally muttering to myself, “I don’t get nudists. Why do nudists exist?”

A couple hours later, back at the workshop, Ann approached. “How was it?”

“I couldn’t relax,” I said. “I don’t get it.”

“Are you going to try it again?” she asked.

Silence.

“You should try again,” she said. “They’re open 24 hours. How about in the morning? Try again in the morning.”

“Maybe I’ll do that,” I said, fully planning on not doing that at all.

Then morning came. I tossed. I turned, and I wondered: Could I get past my fear and my self-consciousness? Was it possible for me to be at one with my own flesh? If it was possible, what would that feel like?

These questions drove me out of bed and propelled me toward the bathhouse.

This time, as I slipped out of each item of clothing, I felt myself becoming a new woman. I was no longer Alisa the Prude. I was now Alisa the Nude Goddess.

Off came the camisole. Down went the panties. This time, rather than wrapping the towel around my midsection, I carried it loosely in my hand, and I walked into the great outdoors.

There was no one in the group tub to my left, the one with the best view of the ocean. I draped my towel over a railing and stepped in. Pins and needles shot through my feet. The water was a good 10 or 20 degrees hotter than the day before. There I stood, all of my womanliness exposed to the world. It wasn’t scary, nor was it sexy.

It was merely normal.

Slowly and gently I bent my knees, allowing the scalding water to cover more of my flesh.

Once I was completely submerged, I relaxed just as I would in my own bathtub at home. I rested my arms on the edge of the tub, my legs casually splayed open. I listened to the surf. I inhaled the cool, clean air. As I watched the waves roll in, I noticed tiny little black dots moving in the surf: seals. They were in clusters, diving into the water for fish and floating on their backs.

I rested my head against the lip of the tub and stretched out my legs and arms. Now I was floating on my back, just like a seal, basking in the normalcy of my nudity. I’d been liberated from the prison of my self-consciousness, and I was free.

Would you have bathed nude in front of strangers? Do you think Americas are prudes? What are the benefits of staying clothed? Of taking it all off? Leave a comment.

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This kid hates school. Her mom has had it up to HERE!

When I got this email, I knew I had to post it so we could all help this mom.

My 16 year old hates school. She is really smart, gets As. She is fairly responsible for a 16 year old. I’m 99% sure she doesn’t do any bad things (drugs, sex, burglary).  But she hates school and is always trying to talk me into not making her go.

Today she was tired. (she stayed up late because she figured if she didn’t stay up late and play on the computer she wouldn’t have had any fun yesterday. This morning she was dragging and when it was time to leave for the bus (7 am) she just wasn’t ready. Starting at 7, she has 3 consecutive busses she can catch about 5 minutes apart. Today she missed all 3. I took her to school cause I didn’t want to hear her complaints and excuses, but I was really REALLY MAD! And I let her know it. So now she hates me. Cause I’m unreasonable.

I know she has to go to school. I know she is really doing well even tho she complains. I know that she has reason to be bored at school. I understand her wanting to have some fun in her day. I don’t think she really hates me.

But I want her to just suck it up and do it! How can I deal with this? — Fed Up Mom

Dear Fed Up Mom,

There was a time when I hated going to school. It was during the seventh grade. That was the year my childhood best friend turned on me, convincing all the popular kids on the bus that I was a pariah to be ridiculed and ignored. That ex-friend made sure I knew that parties were being thrown, but I had not been invited to them. She spread rumors about me, telling other kids that I picked my nose in public. It all sounds rather silly now. But in seventh grade? I was mortified.

This was also the year that all the other girls began wearing makeup. My mother forbid me to wear makeup. On the same school bus was a mean girl, a true bully. She’d stare at me and ask me why I didn’t wear makeup. I’d cower, stare at the ground, and whisper, “My mom doesn’t let me.”

And it was the year a boy — one who years later would end up in prison — took a special interest in tormenting me: knocking books out of my hands, whacking me behind the head as he ran by, and stealing my homework.

It was also the year that long, feathered back hair was in style. The summer before seventh grade, I’d asked a hair stylist to give me a trim and a body wave. She’d chopped my hair to my ears and had given me a perm that was curled tighter than my poodle’s fur.

Every morning I woke with a knot in my stomach, and I went to school feeling ugly.

I dreaded the school bus. As I rode it, I counted from one thousand backwards in my head, trying to take my mind off the fact that the other girls were talking loudly about me just a few seats away. I dreaded going to my locker. I dreaded lunch, and I dreaded recess.

I dreaded most of the moments of my school day.

Unlike your daughter, I doubt I complained. I told no one about my hatred of school. Instead, I turned my suffering inward. That year my mother took me to the doctor. My finger tips kept bleeding. The skin was peeling around my nails. He made interesting guttural sounds as he looked at each of my fingers under a magnifying glass. Then he patted my hand and said, “Stress. This is from stress.”

I couldn’t control what was happening to me on the school bus or at my locker or at lunch, so I began controlling my weight. I skipped breakfast and ate celery for lunch. I memorized the calorie count of hundreds of food.

And I did other self destructive things that I’m not going to  go into here. My mother reads this blog, and the details I’ve already shared are quite enough. The point is this: I wish I could go back in time, hug my 7th grade self, and convince her to ask for help. Had I told my mother what was going on in my life, she would have been there. She would have helped me. I know that now. But I didn’t know it then. Then? I pushed her away as if she were the source of my problems.

At some point, I began falling asleep in English class. I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I’d sit down, the teacher would start talking, and then the class would be over and I would be waking back up. I failed a test. Days later the school counselor wanted to see me. He asked me lots of questions. I doubt I answered any of them. He handed me a thick folder. “These are your school records, dating all the way back to kindergarten. I need to take care of something. Why don’t you take a look while I’m gone?” He left the room. I opened the folder. Inside I found glowing notes and report cards from teacher after teacher after teacher. Those teachers didn’t see the meek, ugly, unpopular, worthless girl who was sitting in the school counselor’s office. They saw a girl who was kind and generous and smart and good at problem solving and a natural learner and pleasant and a joy to have in class.

When the counselor walked back into the room, my eyes were red and my face blotchy. My voice was lost in the sea of phlegm in my throat. He treated me as if I were completely composed. He slid the folder back to his side of the table. Then he said, “I’m looking forward to adding a report card to this folder that says you got an A in English.” Then he shook my hand, opened the door, and walked me back to class.

I didn’t grow to love school after that day, but I did start eating again. I also began volunteering at the school store during lunch. To avoid the bus, I signed up for field hockey and other after school activities. I made a few friends, and eventually I even had a boyfriend. I helped decorate the gym for a school dance. I ran for an officer position in student counsel, which required me to create campaign posters and tape them up all over the school. It was a daring act, especially considering my ex-friend talked everyone she could into voting against me.

I won.

I don’t remember for sure, but I think I might have gotten an A in English, too.

I can’t tell you that your daughter is experiencing the same problems, but I can tell you this: You won’t know why she hates school until you ask. Even if you ask, you might not get a straight answer. Perhaps your daughter is pushing you away, treating you as the source of her problems. In that case, seek help from someone she trusts. Maybe it’s a grandparent. Maybe it’s a teacher. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a therapist.

There might be a very good reason why your daughter keeps missing the bus, and that reason may have nothing to do with lack of suck-up-it-tude. So ask. Explore. Seek help. Be a positive, strong, unwavering source of love in her life.

Readers: If you’d like to offer some of your own advice, share stories of times when you hated school, or just commiserate that you have the same problem, definitely do so in the comments area.

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He Wants to Move. She Wants to Stay. Should They Stay Together?

When I got the following email, it brought back many fond memories.

Several years ago I took a job in a remote part of Texas.  I was not happy about moving there, but I needed the job. I met someone, we fell in love and got married. I told her before marriage that my plans for living there were short-term, and she said she had no problem moving with me when the time came. It’s now been two years later, and I am blessed with a job that will allow me transfer just about anywhere.

Now she tells me that she doesn’t want to leave until her son graduates in six more years.

I probably could stomach it that long, but I won’t be happy at all. Just to be clear, I absolutely love her and I am very happy with her. We enjoy each other immensely and are always doing things together. I’ve never met anyone like her.  However, I just can’t see myself in this place for 6 more years. I will go crazy.

I feel that I have a decision to make. Do I make the move without her and hope she’ll change her mind? Or do I stick it out here and be miserable? I’m no stranger to being in places I don’t want to be. I was in the military for twenty years, and I learned you have to make the best of it wherever you are. But I feel she’s holding me back from something I’ve wanted most of my life. My happiness is important to me. She is part of that happiness but not the sole source of it. Am I being too selfish if I decide to leave without her? – James

Dear James,

Roughly 17 years ago, I met a young man and I fell in love. We were liberal fitness enthusiasts who loved to eat just as much as we loved to sweat, meditate and do downward facing dogs. But our town was conservative. Italian fare was the extent of the exotic dining, and the yoga classes were few and far between.

We both dreamed of living somewhere else—in a trendy liberal town such as San Francisco, Austin, or, most likely, Boulder. We loved the food in these cities. We loved the culture. We loved the people, and we loved the surroundings.

I felt I needed to be in one of those cities to be happy.

Flash forward a couple years. Now I’m married to that young man. I’ve left my job as an editor at Runner’s World magazine. I’m a freelance writer and editor. I can work anywhere. There’s no reason for us to stay.

Yet when I suggest a move, my husband tells me that we can’t. The house is too new. We’d lose money if we tried to sell. “We can’t go anywhere for 10 years,” he says.

“Ten years?” I cry. “I’ll never last that long.”

I mope. I incessantly bring it up for a while. He stands firm.

I decide to pay down our mortgage as fast as possible. Every month I put extra money toward the principle. I make it my secret mission.

Life goes on. I turn into an amateur gardener. I obsess over plants, bulbs, seeds, and small trees. Neighbors walk by while I am gardening. They tell me they love the sunflowers, my newest addition. They mention that deer won’t eat flowers that smell like garlic and rotten eggs. Some drop off gifts: clippings, plants, bulbs, and flowers that they’ve dug from their gardens so I can plant into mine.

Eventually I adopt a dog. When I walk with him, my neighbors tell me how handsome he is. Soon I know all of my neighbors who have dogs.

The dog comes with me when I run errands. As a result, I get to know the tellers at the bank, and the woman who works the register at the post office.

A farmer’s market opens near me. I go every week. I get to know all the farmers.

We have a baby and I get to know all of my neighbors who love babies.

It’s not long before I can’t go anywhere in town without seeing someone I know. Some of these people are liberal fitness enthusiasts like us. Others are conservatives who tell me that kale is a four-letter word. And many others are different in some other way. I realize that I don’t have to be like people to like being with them.

Eventually my baby turns into a toddler. The house is dangerous for a toddler. We decide it’s time to move.

Now everything is different. The housing market is booming. Thanks to all my extra principle payments, we hardly owe anything on the mortgage, either. We’ll walk away from our house with more than six figures in our pockets.

We could move anywhere.

You want to know where I decided to move? You want to know where I just had to live? The new house that I fell in love with?

The one on a corner lot that seemed too perfect.

Where there were hardwood floors that I just had to have.

And the where our kid could ride a bike without getting hit by a car and even walk to a playground and to her school.

The neighborhood where kids went trick or treating, and where every one seemed to have a dog.

The little town that had a Thai place and a Middle Eastern restaurant and a yoga studio, too.

It was a house just two miles away. We didn’t even need a moving truck. I just put a couple boxes in my car at a time and drove back and forth until the deed was done.

We’re happy here, in the town that I thought I absolutely had to leave.

James: Things change. Places change. People change. Attitudes change. Restaurants change. Stores change. Main streets change.

But most important of all: minds change. Happiness is not found outside of ourselves. It is not something that you will discover in a new house, a new neighborhood, or a new state.

Happiness comes from within.

If you can’t be happy in Texas, I’m guessing you won’t be happy somewhere else, either.

If you can be happy in Texas, you can be happy anywhere.

And once you can be happy anywhere, chances are, you’ll never want to leave.

Readers: I don’t think I answered Jame’s question. Is he being selfish? Should he move? What’s your advice? 

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What My Dying Dog Taught Me About Life

A Long and Rambling Post with a Question at the End

When I first laid eyes on him, he hung his head so low that his snout almost grazed the floor. His tail was tucked and his spine and ribs were showing. He was so filthy that my hands became soiled when I stroked his side.

They’d found him tied to a telephone pole during a torrential rainstorm.

I couldn’t stand to think of the kind of person who would abandon a dog like that, so I choose to believe that his owner had dropped dead of a heart attack. This belief, of course, didn’t jive with the dog’s poorly cropped tail—a tail that could only have been cropped by a novice and not a vet. It also didn’t explain the rough edges along the dog’s ears—edges that spoke to some sort of abuse.

Still I choose to believe in the heart attack, because the alternative was just too painful. I choose to believe the owner’s last thoughts were, “Please someone help my dog.”

I was that someone.

When I adopted the 8-month-old dog, his name was Butch. The shelter told me that he was a Weimaraner mix. He seemed calm and docile.

It turned out that he was not a Weimaraner. Nor was he calm. He was a red Doberman, one with so much energy that he could run full out for six miles and still be up for a game of fetch. I changed his name to Rhodes, after Cecil J and also after the Greek Island I hoped to some day visit and also after a chiropractor that we loved and also because I thought it would be funny to say “Rhodes loves to run on the roads,” an expression that, I would eventually never once say.

The thing I remember most about the beginning: he was hungry. He ate his food in seconds. Then he licked every spec from the floor and even from the molding. After adopting him, I no longer had to sweep or mop. He became my vacuum.

He was more dog than I could handle. On our first walk, he darted after a bunny, pulling me forward with such force that my feet came out of my shoes and I landed on the pavement in a belly flop.

My nephew, who was just a toddler back then, thought Rhodes’ name was “bad dog.”

Obedience training was in order. During the first class, he yanked me around the room as he explored one dog’s anal cavity after another. The teacher taught something called the dominant down—during which one holds their dog’s neck to the floor. Everyone’s dog submitted right away, except for mine. Mine? He thought the whole thing was a giant play session—a wrestling match, if you will. He gnawed on my arms and flopped here and there until he got away.

The teacher disciplined me like a drill sergeant disciplines a new recruit. Her words were condescending and nasty. If I’d had a choice, I would never have gone back. But at home the dog was destroying couches, eating the remote access keys to my car, and generally bullying me. I thought I had no choice.

By the end of obedience, the dog knew all his commands and everyone in the class voted him “Most Improved Dog.”

He would go on to learn commands that I wasn’t trying to teach him. If I said, “Outside” he would walk to the door. If I asked, “Are you hungry?” he’d wag his tail and walk to his dog bowl. Those are just two examples of many.

It’s hard to tell the story of how a dog captures your heart. Our life together has not been dramatic. He never once rescued me from a well. Nor did he protect me from an advancing mother bear.

He did, however, chase many a squirrel from our yard.

He watched television with me for hours on September 11th. He was with me when I sprained my ankle in the woods, and he stayed by my side as I hopped home, too. When I had a stomachache, he curled up against my abdomen.

When I was pregnant, he guarded me.

When I woke repeatedly in the middle of the night to feed the baby, he woke, too. He followed me into the nursery. Then he curled up by my feet. Then he followed me back to bed.

When I sobbed from fatigue and post partum depression, he sat by my side.

He was loyal like that. As I walked here and there, he followed, the side of his head gently touching my hip.

Once, on New Year’s Eve, he ate everything off the plate of the one person in the room who hated dogs.

Another time my husband left some Italian sausages on top of the stove to cool. In the fewer than sixty seconds it took for my husband to walk from the kitchen to another room and back again, the dog had gulped down five entire sausages.

He figured out how to unzip the kid’s lunch bag and remove the contents, without putting a single rip in the bag.

He was a gifted food thief. I couldn’t help but admire his skills.

I loved watching him bound playfully in the yard. I cringed whenever he would hunt butterflies. I sighed when he ate the only strawberries that grew in my garden.

Once at a dog park, he chased a lab into an algae-covered lake. That’s when I learned that he couldn’t swim. I frantically removed my shoes and was just about to jump in when another dog swam up to him and gently nudged him toward the shore.

I cried.

Everyone loved him. It seemed no matter where I went—whether it was to the vet, to the boarders, or to a park—people made a point to tell me, “He is such a good boy. He is such a good dog.”

Whenever I walked him, neighbors stopped me. “That is such a handsome dog,” they’d say as they petted him. “What kind of a dog is he?”

It was somewhere between the second and third syllables of the word “Doberman” when I saw the fear flash over their faces.

“A Doberman?” they’d ask rhetorically as they backed away.

I learned to say that he was a “mixed breed.”

He was silky, sleek and fit, and he had a curious smile and bright eyes that were always eager to explore. Until he was eight or nine, strangers called him a “puppy.” They were amazed when I told them his real age.

It was slightly less than a year ago when I realized he was no longer a puppy. That was the day I held up his leash and said, “Let’s go for a run!” Instead of panting and wagging his tail, he curled up on the couch and gave me a dirty look.

I knew he was older still when he began sleep on his dog bed instead of in bed with me.

And even older when eating—an activity that had once brought him so much pleasure—became a chore.

The life expectancy for a dog his breed and size is nine to twelve. He’s somewhere between 14 and 15.

He’s severely anemic. “He probably has cancer somewhere,” the vet told me.

I can tell that she’s almost as sad about this as I am.

As I told you, everyone loves him.

I could pay for a full body X-ray followed by various ultrasounds, but I won’t. I’m not forgoing medical treatment because of a lack of love. No, it’s the reverse. I love him too much to put him through it.

There are not many things that he hates, but being poked and prodded by the vet is one of them.

He’s lost 15 pounds in the past year. His spine and ribs are visible again. So is the crease at the top of his skull.

His legs are stiff. He moves with discomfort.

Life, for him, offers little joy.

He suffers now, and he will suffer more.

And then he will die.

That’s inevitable.

I can’t stop his suffering. No one can.

But I can bring small bits of light into his final dark days.

I cheer him on when he finds an abandoned ice cream cone during our morning walk.

I help him curl up in the sunniest spot of the house.

I’m a vegetarian—almost a vegan—but I feed that dog anything he’ll eat: ground beef, chicken thighs, scrambled eggs, gravy.

In the middle of the night, as he paces around the house, I talk to him tenderly and carefully caress his face.

I pet him as much as I can.

But I also leave him alone when that’s what he wants.

And that’s what this has taught me: sometimes suffering beings need what we don’t want to give. They need space. They need quiet. They need to be alone.

And, eventually, they need us to quietly and strongly sit back and allow them to peacefully slip out of this world and into another.

It’s not easy. Sitting with someone else’s pain never is.

But I would not have it any other way.

Would you?

My questions for you:

  1. If a very old living being was sick—and there was an incredibly expensive and invasive solution that might extend this being’s life for a few months or possibly a year—would you opt for it?
  2. When would you help a suffering living being move from this life to the next?
  3. Would you want your eight-year-old kid to be present as this being took his final breaths?
  4. How can we best support others who suffer, especially during their final days and hours?
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How to Have All the Money In the World

A Book Review Of Sorts

Recently some of my friends were revealing their fantasies. One admitted that, in her mind, she sometimes marries a wealthy man who pays all her bills and takes her on trips around the world.

We all chimed in about how nice that would be. Then, perhaps to make ourselves feel better, the conversation turned to a belief that rich people are no happier than the poor. If anything, we all said, they are more tortured.

And soon we were all talking about various rich people we knew who were miserable.

I’m sure you’ve had a similar conversation at some point in your life.

At any rate, I find it all very interesting to think about. Does money really lead to happiness? Or does it merely lead to more anxiety? And what exactly is “rich” to begin with? To someone in a third world country who eats only three meals a week, every single person reading this blog is rich. Yet I’m guessing that 99 percent of the people who read this blog don’t think of themselves as rich. When they hear the word “rich,” they think of someone else—someone with a bigger house, more expensive car, and niftier doodads.

Buddhists tell me that the more worldly possessions you have, the more you have to worry about. This thinking goes like this: If you don’t have a house, then you have just one problem: no house. Once you own a house, then you have several problems: the fear of losing your house, the fear of someone breaking into your house, the fear of your house burning down, the fear of appliances breaking, the fear of your roof leaking, the fear of or tornado, the fear of your house not being clean enough, and the fear of frozen cheese. (More later on frozen cheese.)

In general, I believe this.

That’s why, whenever my daughter tells me that she must have a certain toy in order to be happy, my response is, “Getting what you want won’t make you happy. The only way to be happy is to not want anything.”

She often rolls her eyes when I say that.

Still, even though I believe that letting go and not wanting are the true keys to happiness, I will admit that I, too, carry around a wealth fantasy. For mine, one of my books sells millions of copies. With the windfall, I pay off my house, buy a new refrigerator, pay someone to landscape our yard, travel around the world with my daughter every summer, buy many pairs of new socks (all of mine have holes in them at the moment), and get a massage every week. I’d give away a lot of it to various people and charities, too. And, I’d also do something to leave a lasting good mark on the world. Like, for instance, I’d build and run a state-of-the-art dog shelter.

It makes me wonder: if money doesn’t buy happiness, why do so many people have get-rich fantasies?

It’s for this reason that I found Laura Vanderkam’s new book All the Money in the World such a fascinating read. In it, Vanderkam uses statistics, psychology, science and logic to turn many of our dear beliefs about money upside down. For instance, in the beginning of the book, she challenges that we all have more money than we think we do. Problem is, we’re earning it and spending it in ways that don’t necessarily lead to happiness.

Keeping up with the Joneses, wearing expensive jewelry and buying bigger and bigger houses don’t lead to happiness, she says.

What does? Experiences and giving.

I don’t think too many of you will argue with me on this. I think most of us know, at least on some level, that material items are empty. Houses, cars, designer handbags, and topiary don’t make us happy, at least not for long. Most of life’s most blissful moments arise from the simple pleasure of doing something we love with people we love. The rest of the blissful moments tend to arise when we’ve helped someone else find happiness.

And yet it’s not that simple, is it?

That’s why I asked Laura a few questions.

Q: The Buddhists tell me that money, especially the strong attachment to it, leads to unhappiness. Have you found this philosophy to be true?

Laura: I think it depends. Sometimes money causes more problems, but sometimes a lack of money can cause the exact same problem multiplier, just in reverse. Not having a car means you can’t take a better job farther away. Not taking that job means you can’t get out of debt, so money that could go to signing your kids up for camp is going to interest. I think problems are universal. The human condition is not to live in a state of bliss, but the problems that come from more money are generally preferable to those that come from less.

 Q: I was fascinated by your section about giving–and particularly that giving away money is one of the few ways that money truly leads to happiness. So let’s say I have a windfall of $3,000. Are you saying that I’ll feel happier if I give some or most of it to others than I will be if I buy a top of the line refrigerator that has an ice cube maker that actually works and a meat compartment that doesn’t freeze the cheese? (Just in case it’s not clear, my current ice maker is broken and the only cheese to be had in this house is frozen, but not on purpose).

Laura: If your refrigerator is causing you so much stress and unhappiness that it has risen to the top of the list of things you’d spend money on, then by all means, replace it if you can. Maybe you could think of it as a present to your husband. Then you’d get the psychological benefit of having spent the money on someone else. But you’d still get your fridge.

 Q: I’ve found, over the years, that I don’t always feel good about giving. For instance, when organizations put me on a spam list and beg and beg for the money until they wear me down and get me to write a check mostly just so they will go away, I don’t feel good. When people come to my door and stand and stare at me until I feel guilty and write them a check, I don’t feel good. In these situations, I feel coerced. Okay, no, I feel robbed. How does someone who values generosity find a way to give without feeling negative about it?

Laura: I agree that coerced giving doesn’t feel good. It’s important to give mindfully. So have a strategy ahead of time. Think through the causes that matter to you, and identify an organization you support where you can also volunteer. Give generously there. Then tell everyone else, honestly, that you’ve already made your charitable commitments.

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What a Little Old Lady Taught Me About Marriage

What Will You Do With that Second Chance?

Our power was out. So was everyone else’s due to a storm. It had been out for days and now we were out of food.

We drove 20 minutes and stopped at the first diner that had lights on and cars in the parking lot.

It was a 20-minute wait for breakfast. The waiting area was standing room only and full of people who don’t usually eat at diners.

We finally sat down. We finally ate. We eventually left.

When we got to the car, my kid realized she’d left her favorite ball cap on the table. I ran back in to get it, but I didn’t get far. Getting through the crowded waiting area was like getting through a Wipe Out obstacle course. And coming my way was a little old lady with a cane. She was bent over and shuffling her feet in that unsteady way that makes one think that she might fall and break her hip at any moment. She had just enough of a gap between waiting patrons to shuffle forward.

It would have been kind for me to step to the side and wait for her to pass.

And I considered doing this. Really, I did. But this would have required me to wait for a very, very, very long time. She just wasn’t moving very quickly, you know? My kid and my husband were waiting outside in a running car, and every minute I stood and waited was a minute that the waitress could be giving my kid’s ball cap to someone else.

It was my kid’s favorite ball cap. I believe I told you that.

So I attempted to gently inch past the little old lady.

I couldn’t quite get past her without bumping against her. She looked up. She might have been annoyed. She might have been surprised. She might have been scared. I really don’t know. I don’t know because I inched past her so quickly that I never looked at her face.

I felt instantly guilty, but I consoled myself, “I’m doing a favor for my kid. Sometimes in order to make one person happy, another person ends up unhappy. That’s the way life is.”

This did not help one bit. It didn’t help because I knew it wasn’t true. So I promised myself that, were I ever to have to get through a crowded diner again, I would step aside if a little old lady were coming my way. I promised myself that I would do this no matter what the emergency was. I would even do it if I was about to pee my pants.

I got the ball cap and then turned to leave. Now the old lady was attempting to walk down five cement steps that separated the diner from the parking lot. She couldn’t quite reach the railing and her cane didn’t quite reach the step below.

It didn’t look good.

“Would you like some help?” I asked.

She didn’t respond.

I assumed she remembered me from before and was probably thinking, “That woman is going to push me down the steps just to get me out of her way.”

I slowed my pace. I got in front of her. I held out my hand. She reached out for my hand. She took it. She looked up. She smiled. Soon I could feel her shifting her body weight. Now I was supporting her. She was steady. She tightened her grip, curling her fingers around my palm. She walked down the steps.

She thanked me. I told her it was nothing.

I got in the car and I handed the hat to my kid. My kid said, “Mommy, if you had done that at my school, you would have gotten a bucket filler award.”

I thought about telling her that I didn’t deserve an award because as helpful as I’d been when I’d helped the lady on the steps, I’d been just as unhelpful earlier when she was inside the restaurant.

But then I realized that I’d gotten a second chance—a chance to live up to my potential and be the person I know I can be. I could have just as easily blown my second chance as I’d blown the first one.

At least I had learned from the first mistake. By doing so, I didn’t commit a second one.

It’s my belief that this sort of thing happens all the time in marriage and in life. We mess up somehow. Maybe we are too critical or we lose our temper. Maybe we talk when we should be listening. Maybe we leave dishes in the sink. Maybe we shrink our spouse’s favorite sweater.

Maybe we drink the last beer.

Whatever it is, we do something that we have been trying not to do.

And we feel like a failure.

Then life gives us a second chance. We have another chance to positive, to not lose our temper, to listen, to wash the dishes or to offer that last beer to our spouse.

Sometimes we take that second chance and we shine.

Other times, however, we don’t even notice the second chance has been handed to us.

Still other times we notice, but we decide to screw up almost on purpose, and we do this out of anger.

It’s my belief that the difference lies in forgiveness—forgiveness of ourselves.  If we can learn how to forgive ourselves for screwing up the first time, we’ll be a lot more likely to notice those second chances and to make the most of them. Rather than telling ourselves, “I’m always such a bad listener” or “I’m always so critical of my spouse,” we can instead say, “This is an opportunity for me to listen. Right now I have a second chance to do this right. I’m going to be the person I want to be—right now.”

Or am I reading too much into this?

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41 Paradoxical Life Lessons

  1. Most of what you avoid for fear of embarrassment is actually really fun and worthwhile if you give yourself permission to not worry about what others think of you. For instance, not long ago, I let my daughter pick out the nail polish while I was getting a pedicure. She picked out dark green with sparkles (see photo). I can’t even begin to add up how many people smiled after seeing that color on my feet.
  2. People say you are only as old as you think you are. This is not true. At age 41 I have aches and pains, a muffin top, and wrinkles that I did not have at age 21. I also have hair growing in places that it did not grow back then. I do not feel 21. I feel 41. What’s true about aging is this: If you live a good life, you will not regret getting older and you will never want to exchange your old body for a younger brain that contains less wisdom and less life experience.
  3. Overeating is a form of denial as no food continues to taste divine much past the third bite.
  4. No matter how loudly or repeatedly you tell people that you are smart, funny or important, they won’t believe you. Don’t tell them. Show them.
  5. The more loudly you argue, the less likely it is that someone agree with you.
  6. If you are lonely and needy, people will keep their distance. If you are complete and independent, people will be drawn to you.
  7. The probability of you getting a Republican to turn Democrat is less than 1 percent – and vice versa. Still, there will times in your life when you are tempted to try.
  8. Most people believe statistics. This is despite the fact that most statistics are made up. For instance, in #7, I made up the “less than 1 percent.” But I believe it to be true.
  9. More than 90 percent of what you worry about will never take place. Yes, I made up that statistic, too. But it sounds about right, doesn’t it?
  10. Just when you think you are on top of technology, something new will be invented.
  11. The more money you make, the more you will worry about money.
  12. It doesn’t matter who you choose to give to. The act of giving still feels good.
  13. Nothing in life ever stays the same. This can be either a blessing or a curse depending on what is going on in your life at any given moment.
  14. If you attempt to slim down your email inbox, even more emails will flow into it.
  15. The moment you tell yourself that you will never eat a particular food ever again is the moment intense cravings for that food will surface.
  16. Most of us miss the most beautiful moments in life because we happen to be staring at the screens of our smart phones while these beautiful moments are going down.
  17. You won’t mind the smell of your own baby’s poop as much as you’ll mind the smell of another baby’s poop.
  18. Chances are that whatever you think your spouse is thinking, you are wrong.
  19. The problem is not that people don’t love you. The problem most likely is that you don’t love yourself.
  20. Free usually costs something.
  21. You are the only person who can live your life.
  22. You can enjoy nearly any life experience as long as you decide to find it enjoyable.
  23. A headache will usually get worse if you complain about it.
  24. If you tell yourself that sleeping in a 100-degree room is “no big deal,” you won’t feel so hot. I learned this over the summer when my air conditioning broke.
  25. You can always make a comeback. Short of death, no one life experience will ever ruin you.
  26. The best way to get over writer’s block is either to walk your dog or take a shower. The worst way to get over writer’s block is to sit down at your computer and try to write.
  27. You might think that you were meant to do something. Chances are that you could just as easily be meant to do something else. Detours are often blessings in disguise.
  28. No one has it better than you. Everyone suffers. You might not be able to see someone’s suffering, but it’s definitely there.
  29. You will never get tied up in a traffic jam on a day when you have no where you really have to be.
  30. Everyone else on the highway is in a hurry, too.
  31. Even though there are 6 billion people in the world, the chances of you crossing paths with the same person again later in life are actually higher than you might think. Therefore the old chestnut about never burning a bridge is actually a really good chestnut.
  32. Going to a huge state school could be just as beneficial as going to a tiny Ivy League school. That’s because you’ll have thousands more classmates to network with in the work world.
  33. The softer you speak, the more people will try to listen to what you have to say.
  34. If you want people to think you are the life of a party, stop talking and start listening.
  35. If you are riding a mountain bike and you think “OMG I don’t want to hit that tree” you will ride your bike right into the tree. Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go.
  36. There is seemingly nothing you can grow and become attached to that a deer won’t eat just before it blooms.
  37. You don’t need to go to a zoo to see interesting beings. There are plenty of funny looking and interesting insects in your back yard.
  38. 99.9 percent of misery is self-inflicted. Yes, I made up that statistic, too.
  39. It’s a lot faster to park in the space that no one else wants than it is to drive through the lot looking for a space that is closer.
  40. Just when you give away your clothes and buy a new wardrobe in a larger size, you will finally lose the extra weight.
  41. There is no way to leave a permanent mark on the world. Even tombstones crumble and disappear eventually. The most lasting impression you can leave, however, is this: a legacy of kindness.
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Are you a happy mom? (Or dad?)

The transition into motherhood stands out as one of the most potent pro-depressants I’ve ever experienced. The first few years of my daughter’s life were tough on me. I was sad, anxious, grumpy, resentful, angry, and downright physically ill most of the time.

I’m now much more peaceful, blissful and content. Still, the emotional angst was severe enough and went on long enough to encourage me to become a card carrying member of the Once And We’re Done Club.

Then roughly a year ago, I met Meagan Francis in a New York bar. Meagan showed up in a glamorous gown. Her hair was styled, and her skin seemed lit from behind. She dripped happiness from her every orifice.

At first, I figured she must only have one child. Nope. She informed me that she had five! I happened to know that she also had a demanding career. Like me, Meagan is a freelance writer. Freelance writing is currently one of the toughest professions to earn a living. It’s only eclipsed, perhaps, by acting and art. To make ends meet, most of the freelancers I know work late hours, weekends, and holidays. Freelance writing is also very tough emotionally. Freelance writers are often the brunt of more criticism and rejection than any other entrepreneur.

I looked at Meagan and I just couldn’t figure out how she did it. How on Earth was she seemingly able to raise five kids, thrive as a freelancer, have time for the occasional manicure and walk around with a happy skip in her step. It was right around the time I was wondering this that Meagan mentioned that she writes a blog called TheHappiestMom and had a book coming out by the same name. I thought, “Of course!” I mean, if anyone is an expert on happiness, it’s her. It’s one thing to manage to be happy when you are rich, childless, and kept. It’s quite another to do it when you are the mother of five who is working in one of the most thankless professions on the planet.

Meagan’s book The Happiest Mom just released. I got my hands on an early review copy. The book is beautiful. I felt happier just by touching and fondling it. It’s also full of counter intuitive advice that is new, interesting, and effective. I’ll be giving away two copies of the book by the end of the post. For now, here’s how Meagan answered some of my questions.

1. I’ve written about the importance of caring for your own needs and how this can benefit the entire family. This concept, however, can be controversial and some people assume putting yourself first is the same thing as being selfish. What are your views on this?

I think it would be a bad thing to ALWAYS put yourself first. Part of being a human is learning to balance your own desires with the needs of others, and think beyond what you want. But I think most moms take it too far in the other direction–always putting everyone else first, until they wind up exhausted, spent, and resentful. Being a good mom requires enthusiasm and energy and commitment, and it’s hard to to drum up those qualities if you’ve been ignoring your needs for sleep, good food, socializing, exercise, and an inner life of your own. Also: being completely selfless has a way of turning into martyrdom, which isn’t the greatest example to set for your kids.

2. Is there anything moms do in an effort to improve their lives that paradoxically causes more distress and makes them more unhappy?

I think we tend to deny our own personalities sometimes in the name of self-improvement, and it doesn’t always work. We can’t all be loosey-goosey earth mothers or super-ambitious go-getters. That said, I think sometimes adopting a little more structure can make a laissez-faire mom a bit happier (it was easy to get by without a reliable bedtime before you had kids, but after they’re here, it might just make you crazy) and on the flip side, women who were super structured before having children might find that “going with the flow” a little helps them keep their expectations in check.

3. What’s your best tip for moms who want to have a happier relationship with their men?

Realize that your life won’t be like THIS (whatever rough stage “this” is) forever. Having small children is incredibly stressful to a marriage and you won’t even have time to work through some of the growing pains you experience during that time, because they keep changing! (Unless you have a large family, in which case you’ll probably start to get it figured out by, oh, kid number four or so…) But the good news is, infancy and toddlerhood really go by so fast. In a few years you’ll be sleeping again, your child won’t be hanging on your legs all day, you’ll be able to more easily plan time together or keep from snapping at your spouse because it’s been at least a week since you had any time alone. Or maybe you’re in a rough spot because of a layoff or a troubled teen or (fill in the blank.) Either way, the hard time you’re having probably won’t define your entire life together, so work on staying as connected as you can, as loving as you can, as forgiving as you can, and then dig in your heels and ride it out to smoother waters.

4. Any secret tips for getting your spouse to pitch in more without having to nag or hear him groan or roll his eyes?

Oh gosh. I wish. I think depending on the guy, he may respond to requests, he may respond to lists, he may respond to outright sexual bribery…but he may not respond to any of those things. Here’s the thing: I have found a lot more satisfaction in my marriage by working on myself and adjusting my own expectations and standards than I ever did trying to get my husband to change. Once I stopped viewing my husband’s failure to do the dishes as a personal insult, I realized it’s really not that big a deal to just take care of it myself. Especially when I stop to really consider all the things he does around the house–like acting as our family’s unpaid IT consultant–that I don’t always take a moment to notice when I’m mad about the wadded-up towels on the floor.

5. You’ve managed to juggle a demanding career, have 5 kids, and stay sane. What’s your secret?

It might sound Pollyanna-ish, but I really believe that looking at my life in a positive light helps me stay on top of things without unraveling. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I’m way too busy this week, I don’t have enough child care, my house is a mess…” I try to think about things in more positive terms: “I’m looking forward to this exciting time. Wow, I am so efficient, I can handle this schedule without a lot of help! I wonder how clean I can get this house this afternoon…”

Perception is reality. If I think of myself as tired, overwhelmed, and unhappy, that’s how I’ll feel. And vice versa.

To win a copy of The Happiest Mom, just comment on this post. You can either share your best happiness tip, or you can tell us how parenting or marriage destroyed your peace of mind. Or you can just let us know why you need this book. I’ll pick two winners by Sunday night.

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