The 28 Happiest Parts of February

Cheryl Publicity Photo
Today marks another 28 day period of happiness.

I have to say that adding to my “Happiness Jar” has become one of my favorite activities of each day. It requires thinking. It requires remembering. It requires sitting with your thoughts and plunking down the ones that really matter. Some days it requires stretching.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds either. Sometimes I have to choose between something amazingly different like holding my 8-week old granddaughter and eating a chocolate almond ice cream cone. They both make me happy. They actually both delight me. But I made a rule when I started the year long Happiness Jar that I would select the ONE thing that made me happiest each day.

Sometimes you want to censor yourself. Sometimes the things that make you (and me) the happiest seem so simple (or so odd) that they shouldn’t even make the list. But they do.

28 Days of Happiness for February 2013:

Day 1: Giving blood on my late Dads birthday (in his honor)
Day 2: The saleslady at Ulta Cosmetics telling me I knew how to ‘work it’. She was a former runway model for 13 years.
Day 3: Holding Bubby (Max) in my arms for 2 hours while he took a nap in the rocker
Day 4: Three mile walk in the park with Dennis
Day 5: Movie (Silver Linings Playbook) and pizza at Next Door pub with Dennis
Day 6: Watching Travis and Kaylin hold hands in church
Day 7: Sledding with Max and Dennis (and dancing with Max in the bedroom when we got home)
Day 8: Laying on the couch with Livi sleeping on my chest for 2 hours
Day 9: Cleaning the house so it looks beautiful
Day 10: Dinner at Bob Evans with Dennis and Trav
Day 11: Candice cutting my hair and styling it
Day 12: Finding hope with Dr. Shawn Wilson
Day 13: Seeing Legally Blonde with the Harpers
Day 14: Dennis leaving the words “I Love You” in Q-Tips on the counter for Valentines Day
Day 15: Watching Dennis read “The Cat in the Hat” book to Max with “The Cat in the Hat” stuffed animal in Max’s arms
Day 16: Max bringing me a “Love You More” sign
Day 17: Having lunch at McAllister’s with Kim, Rudee, Candice, and Margie and seeing Menopause the Musical at Crown Center
Day 18: Driving through the blizzard with Dennis in our Excursion (4 wheel drive) to get a pizza
Day 19: Shopping at Target
Day 20: Hearing Travis’ dirt bike was recovered by the Sherriff
Day 21: Snow day with Dennis…making lunch in our clean kitchen together
Day 22: Frying bacon
Day 23: Reading “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin in front of the fireplace
Day 24: An entire Friday off with Dennis…Eating at Wells Restaurant in Waldo, painting the kitchen cabinets, Waffle House, a fire in the fireplace, buying an old chest at the Restore
Day 25: Afternoon nap with Dennis
Day 26: Road trip with Dennis and Travis to pick up Travis’ stolen dirt bike
Day 27: Yelling ‘Hey Good Lookin’ at Mary Shockley and watching her reaction as we went in to eat at Applebee’s
Day 28: Listening to Italian music at Ciao Bella before friends arrived for lunch

As I unfold the tiny slips of paper to record these ‘happy moments,’ I once again experience a bit of glee. There are things I would never in a million years remember if I hadn’t written them down. Things like frying bacon. Who knew that would actually make me happy?

I’m also amazed at how many days include my dear husband Dennis. We’ve been married for 31 years and he is my rock, my Prince Charming and my best friend. And when I look at February’s list, I’m reminded at how much our relationship brings me joy on a daily basis. Simple things like eating dinner together. These fill me up. Repeatedly.

The happiness jar is emptied and ready for March.

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How to Make Someone Wildly Stupidly Happy

My friend just remarried after a very long time of being single. She met a guy she fell totally and completely in love with despite the fact that they live in two separate states. He had a health scare and the next day they went to get the marriage license and then GOT MARRIED.

She didn’t ask for everyone’s opinion or worry about the fact that she didn’t have a dress or any flowers. They didn’t send out invites. They’re in love. And they wanted to be together. So they went and pledged their love before God and the justice who married them. That was it.

And all I can think is how happy I am that she’s so happy.

Which puts me in the mode to celebrate. I’m planning a romance shower. A very small, very intimate evening of just the girlfriends so we can surround our friend with the love she deserves. We’re going to makeover her boudoir with gifts and goodies. We’re going to eat cake. We’re going to laugh and love on her.

And I know this…if you want to make someone wildly and stupidly happy, all you have to do is celebrate them.

Tell them what they mean to you. Show them with actions, not just words. Happiness is created and is born out of love. And that makes all of us wildly and stupidly happy…to know we’re loved.

The Angst of Anxiety

I used to take pills for my anxiety.  10 mg of Prozac, and a dose of Adderall.

The Prozac worked for about 6 years.  It added a sense of calmness.  The Adderall lasted less than 2 years.  If you’ve taken Adderall, you know there’s a sense of well-being that inhabits your being for about 2-3 hours after taking it.    My Dr. was happy.

I wasn’t bothering him about being anxious anymore.

I wasn’t really bothering him for anything.

But something was still bothering me.  I was still anxious.  My life wasn’t getting any better.

The pills weren’t working.  My goals were still out of reach.

I had the worst personal failures of my life while I was taking these pills.

I was impulsive and scattered and still having trouble connecting the dots (probably my ADHD).    I got fatter.

So I made a decision.  I weaned myself off the pills.  Because in reviewing my life progress…while I was on the pills I was actually WORSE as a person, rather than better.

The fact is…if you have anxiety, it’s because you’re supposed to be doing something different.  Your life will get better when you get better.  Anxiety is a clue.  Are you listening?

Michael Phelps’ Mom used to put him in the pool to quiet his energy (he won 8 gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics).  Extreme Home Makeover wouldn’t have been the huge success it was without over-the-top screamer host Ty Pennington.  Maneesh Sethi dropped out of Stanford, wrote 6 books including a bestseller, travels the world and creates online businesses that work while he plays.  What do they have in common?  ADD and ADHD.

Anxiety is part of the success formula.  Not the demon.

Now, I don’t take pills but I do spend at least 30 minutes a day on the treadmill.  I can wake up totally anxious and by the time I step off the treadmill 30 minutes later, I’m calmer, more collected.

My life isn’t perfect.  I haven’t reached my utopia of lifestyle design.  I’m still working on it.  Now, I write about my quests.  I blog about my angsts.  I set goals and fall short.   But I’m closer to my own definition of success than ever.  I’m human and proud of it.

Anxiety is a clue.  Use is for good.  It’s not evil.

Liability Disclaimer:  Cheryl Thompson and EncouragementToGo accepts no liability for decisions you make regarding your own well-being.  I am not a physician, a psychologist or an attorney.  Any advice I give is solely and purely for personal ingestion and should not be confused with a trained professional.  What works for me, is for me.  You have to take care of you.  This disclaimer absolves me from any liability in the event you do something stupid.

3 Reasons To Hate the Insurance Company

Without giving you all the gory details, I’m having a few medical tests. One of them was supposed to be CT scan of my pelvis. I’d recommended an ultrasound to the Doc but he said that wouldn’t be deep enough – he couldn’t see everything he needed to see while the CT scan would allow him to go deep.

Good enough for me.

Today the nurse called and left me a voicemail. She said the Insurance company had denied the CT scan, and that I should have an ultrasound.

Wasn’t that exactly what the Doc said he didn’t want?

I dial up Cigna. Yell that I’m a “C-U-S-T-O-M-E-R” into their automated system and wait. Now, I have to yell at them that I want medical, dental or pharmcy. I yell “M-E-D-I-C-A-L.” Then, it asks me to enter my member ID number which I so kindly do.

I hit zero hoping it’ll take me immediately to a customer service rep. It doesn’t. I continue to wait.

She comes on the line and asks my name and for my customer ID number (isn’t that what I just entered in the system?) My first question to her is when does the insurance company get to decide what type of test you need if the doctor says you need the more sophistocated test?

She says it’s done by medical review board. I ask her how a medical review board can possibly be making a decision about my health when they’ve never seen me. Well, they have your file.

She now tells me that my Doc (who probably averages 1,000 patients) will have to call them back and ask for a peer-to-peer review. This one almost sends me ape in the frozen bread aisle of the supermarket. I decide to leave the store because this one’s getting heated.

I tell her my Doc doesn’t have time for this.

She also gives me an 888 number for Med Solutions (a third-party provider) who has made the decision that I don’t need the CT. Now I get the real story. Cigna isn’t even making their own decisions…they’re farming them out to a third-party so they can let Med Solutions take the heat.

She also tells me that if I call the 888 number first, then my Doc calls, that I won’t be able to appeal a decision if they turn it down again.

I ask her who’s really minding the store over at Cigna? I pay Cigna for my insurance every month but they farm it out to someone I don’t even know to make decisions about my health. I’m sure the paperwork tells a really good story without the patient there.

I also relay that I spent a good while of my career doing marketing for insurance companies and I know that their business is about one thing…profits.

Next, and I know this one is a bit much, I tell her I’ll just wait until I get something like cancer and then my survivor husband can sue them for $1-$2M for malpractice. She tells me that’s the worst thing she’s ever heard anyone say.

I tell her I hope they’ll be using this one for training because their system is so ludicrous.

I end our conversation uttering a cuss word and she informs me that I’ll need to conduct myself better as this ‘is a business call.” I tell her the only way to get their attention might be to cuss.

I burst into tears, call my husband and tell him I’m going to forget the whole procedure. I’ll take my chances. God’s in charge. Oh yeah, him and the insurance company.

So here’s the 3 reasons to hate the insurance company:

#1: Health is about health, not insurance. They’ve forgotten that. I’m not a hypochondriac who runs to the doctor every week. I’ve had 3 babies, 2 broken elbows, a spinal leak and a female procedure in my 50 years. Other than that, I try to steer clear of doctor’s offices. I do the best I can to use their services as little as possible.

#2: They’ve forgotten that people are people, not systems. We deserve to have our concerns handled without being told we ‘can’t’ and they ‘won’t’. When we feel like our choices have been removed, we fight back.

#3: Doctor’s are now the insurance companies puppets. If I were a Doc, I’d run as fast as I could from the profession.

I’m not a squirrely I-can’t-handle-this-woman, but this phone call with the insurance rep put me into meltdown mode. My husband took over. He called the Doc (I made sure he was on my medical records so we don’t violate any bureaucrats ‘Privacy Policy’) and now we’re having to do the ultrasound as a prerequisite to the CT. So now, I have to waste my time appeasing the insurance idiots.

Oh, and the 4th reason I hate the insurance company is their stupid voicemail system. Whatever happened to a nice receptionist?

Never quit fighting for the right thing! Don’t let the bureaucrats run your life. Don’t let the bureaucrats win. Even if you have to find a buddy to do it.

The One Quality No One Can Compete With

Life is not a competition, however, that’s not what we’ve been taught. We’ve been programmed that if we win, someone else loses. If someone is #1, then someone else has to be #2.

I always knew I was different. As in ‘not normal,’…’special.’ Oh, I did the things everyone expects…did above average in school, graduated college, got a good job, got married, had 3 great kids. But for me it wasn’t enough. I needed more. I knew I was destined for something bigger.

Does this mean my other accomplishments were inconsequential? Not hardly. My education’s rock solid, my family is the foundation of my life. I just knew there was something more I was supposed to accomplish on the way to my divine destiny.

People always ask me what makes me so happy. When I was younger, I never knew how to answer that question because I just was. Now, I knew it’s my strong faith in God, my passion for life and my family. Those are the things that make me so happy.

If you’re not at the place you want to be in life, there’s one quality no one can compete with and that is PASSION. Passion will win out every time over almost every other quality and character trait you can have. Most of us with passion are also big dreamers. We infuritate and annoy many.

Passion gives us purpose to get up everyday and forge on when it might be easier to quit. Passion creates energy. Passion is the secret weapon that gives you an edge when you need it. You may not be able to quantify it but when passion is present, everyone knows it.

You don’t have to compete when you have passion. What is it that exhilarates your heart? Decide what it is and then go do that. Because what the world needs is a whole lot more people with passion.

“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people
who have come alive.”

-Howard Thurman

How To Be Happy In Spite of It All

Ask any parent what they want their child to be and they’ll answer “Happy.” Ask most adults what they need more of and they’ll say “Money.” Will more money bring you more happiness? Will more happiness bring you more money?

I’ve had alot of money at times and it didn’t make me any happier than when I’ve had little. I’ve had little money at times and while I would’ve liked to have more, I’m still pretty happy.

Happiness is a decision. You don’t suddenly get happy when you get more. I believe we all have a happiness setpoint. My happiness factor is pretty high. An 88 on a scale of 100. I’ve tracked my own happiness. I have a simple system I call “The Happiness Factor” where I give every day a happy face, a sad face or a flat face.

Try it for a week. Give each day a rating. Don’t allow your happiness to be dictated by other people or by your circumstances. Some of my worst days still get a happy face. How can that be? Happiness is something you choose.

Stuff always happens. Choose happy. It’s a lovely quality.

The Loveliest Gift You Can Ever Give

The last 3 months of the year create a flurry of activity in our home because everyone has a birthday except me (that includes my husband, my son and 2 daughters). Then you add in 3 holidays…Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve, 2 anniversaries, my grandson’s birthday (which I think should be declared a national holiday) and my nephew’s birthday, you seemingly go from event to event needing a gift.

Everyone says they want money. I rarely give money unless I know someone has a big goal they’re working toward. Everyone wants gift cards. They never remember who gave them to them and there’s an estimated billion dollar+ in gift cards that go unused each year. No, I want to give the person something they’ll really LOVE.

What that requires is something many of us can’t seem to muster: really knowing the person. You have to know what they love, what they hate, what amount of time they have available. You might even need to know their favorite foods, their favorite candy and their favorite color. You have to dig deep to give truly lovely gifts.

Here’s my advice for the loveliest gift you can ever give. Give them a piece of yourself. A handwritten note. Something you created. Something you cooked or baked. Something you know will inspire them. An experience you know they’d never create for themself.

The 2nd loveliest gift you can ever give is this…something you know they’ll really use because you heard it came out of their mouth or you know them so well you could see them using or experiencing the item.

I’m giving my husband a tatoo for his birthday (his first and hopefully only), a self-portraiture photography class for my 23 year old daughter Kelsey called You Are Your Own Muse (http://www.YouAreYourOwnMuse.com), a lighted “Open” sign for my 26 year old daughter Candice who just opened her own salon called Millie B’s and a weight vest for my 21-year-old US Army college son Travis to use in working out. Rarely can the loveliest gifts be wrapped up with a bow on top.

Every single item is something I know they want. Love requires getting inside people’s skin and heads and uncovering their deepest wants and desires. It takes time.