Friday, February 26, 2010

Happiness in Hard Times

My mother forwarded me a link to an excellent article on finding happiness through adaptability in hard times.  It's a great read.

What jumped out at me with that "I must explore this further" spark was this:

"She has clients distinguish productive worries (which spark action) from destructive ones (which trigger an endless loop of catastrophic thinking)."

I have a friend who's favorite phrase is "Worry is just an invitation to trouble".  He's talking about the destructive type of worry, of course.  The endless loop of catastrophic thinking not only distracts you from enjoyment of the present, but can actually be self-fulfilling.   People tend to return attitudes, in that they avoid lonely people, are hostile towards angry people, but seek out the company of the happy.  Worrying constantly about being alone can invite that situation to continue. 

The productive type of worry is something I've never thought about in such terms.  I'm used to considering all "worry" to be destructive or stressful, but the worry about my job is motivating me to take classes and/or certifications to make me more employable.  It's also motivating me to take on extra tasks at work (like offering computer training to my co-workers) to become more valuable to my current employer and expand my resume. 

The problem itself (employment uncertainty) could spark either type of worry, of course. I could spend all my time obsessing over scenarios of bankruptcy and fall into that destructive loop.  Wait,  I sometimes do that anyway!  No worry is entirely one or the other, just as no problem worth worrying over is ever simple. 

So, as Pollyanna as it sounds, whether a worry is destructive or constructive really is up to you.  It may take work and vigilance to turn a destructive loop into constructive action, but it's possible.   

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A moment of sweet, sweet triumph

Like everyone, I spend a lot of time after certain situations fuming over what I should have said.  Today I don't have to.  Today's perfect moment, truly in the snarky spirit of XKCD and Failblog, was this:

I was sitting in the office break room on my afternoon break, reading a book.  A couple of guys were joking about interviewees for a supervisor position, and eventually came around to the applicants who spoke English as a second language. (note: luckily none of these guys were actually involved in the hiring decision of said supervisor).

Guy said:

"What happens when one of them goes out to meet with industries and they can't even understand what he says?  I don't think they have any business being a supervisor if they can't even talk English well enough to be understood."

Without even looking up, I said, "Speak."

He thought for a second, then turned bright red and glared at me.  I raised an eyebrow and said, "Just making a point."

The other person at the table started to snicker at him.  He got up and left.

Oh, that sweet, sweet moment of glory... 

Do you have a triumph story?  Ever put a fat-hater neatly in their place?  Ever shut up a bigot with a well-placed verbal strike?  Share!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fat Calf Boots FTW!

So I've often lamented the lack of boots that will go around my massive, Irish-peasant style 22" calves.  It's worse because all the fun outfits I'm coming up with (harlequin wrap dress, belt skirt, kimono dress, etc.) really require the knee high boots to complete the image in my head. I've even had a pair of custom-made boots on my radar somewhere in priority between a new bathtub and kitchen flooring.  Meaning next year.  Maybe.  If they don't give us more furlough days at work or cut my pay.

Yesterday I walked into Payless, of all places, and there was a pair of faux-leather high-heel knee-high boots by Predictions.  The size 11 wide-width came with an extended calf size (i.e. an elastic gore in the back) and actually fully (if barely) zipped all the way up!

Sure the pleather and generally cheap construction means these are temporary...but they were also on clearance for $14. 


I checked the Payless website and they're not listed, but if you have a local Payless you could call and ask if they have any in stock (Predictions high-heel knee high black pleather, Extended calf size) or just stop by.  I plan to clear out the local stores here so that I have backup pair when they wear out. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Valentines Day Tribute

From Richard Brautigan, Revenge of the Lawn (1971) (via Google Books, but I first read this excerpt at The Happiness Project)

I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone

"I was trying to describe you to someone a few days ago. You don't look like any girl I've ever seen before.

I couldn't say "Well she looks just like Jane Fonda, except that she's got red hair, and her mouth is different and of course, she's not a movie star..."

I couldn't say that because you don’t look like Jane Fonda at all.

I finally ended up describing you as a movie I saw when I was a child in Tacoma Washington. I guess I saw it in 1941 or 42, somewhere in there. I think I was seven, or eight, or six.

It was a movie about rural electrification, a perfect 1930's New Deal morality kind of movie to show kids. The movie was about farmers living in the country without electricity. They had to use lanterns to see by at night, for sewing and reading, and they didn't have any appliances like toasters or washing machines, and they couldn't listen to the radio. They built a dam with big electric generators and they put poles across the countryside and strung wire over fields and pastures.

There was an incredible heroic dimension that came from the simple putting up of poles for the wires to travel along. They looked ancient and modern at the same time.

Then the movie showed electricity like a young Greek god, coming to the farmer to take away forever the dark ways of his life. Suddenly, religiously, with the throwing of a switch, the farmer had electric lights to see by when he milked his cows in the early black winter mornings. The farmer's family got to listen to the radio and have a toaster and lots of bright lights to sew dresses and read the newspaper by.

It was really a fantastic movie and excited me like listening to the Star Spangled Banner, or seeing photographs of President Roosevelt, or hearing him on the radio "... the President of the United States... "

I wanted electricity to go everywhere in the world. I wanted all the farmers in the world to be able to listen to President Roosevelt on the radio....

And that's how you look to me."

Fat Positive Images: Les Toil

 "Nikki" by Les Toil (from

Les Toil is a graphic artist who features bold, confident and whimsical pin-up images of large women. (Note: many pictures in his gallery are NSFW) Actual large women, as in portraits!  It's fascinating to go through his gallery and see a photo of the actual model alongside the piece.  He tries to capture her personality in the setting, not just her body.  You can get your own portrait created ($$$!) or just peruse his pin-ups for a mood boost. 

His work should be familiar to those in the FA community, as he's designed promotional posters for the dance company Big Moves and Logo/advertising art for a range of Fat-positive companies such as BBW Travel, Chicago BBW, and Torrid.  He's also the artist behind the graphic novel "Shmobots". 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Project Management

When it comes to new crafts and projects, I'm definitely distractable by the new and shiny. I posted before about the stress of unfinished projects weighing me down with obligation and potential, but there has to be a happy medium where I have enough projects going to satisfy my need to create, and yet not so many that I will never finish what I have. I'm tentatively trying to choose one or two projects in several categories that will be my Current Projects. As I finish one, I can find another.

Part of the impulse to drop everything to start on something new is that my capacity for inspiration is much, much better than my long-term memory. If I don't start the new project RIGHT NOW, I will forget.

So I'm also starting to go through my various project magazines (ReadyMade, Circulars from Lowes and Home Depot, etc.) and clipping. I can usually reduce a full magazine to a few articles describing projects I may actually tackle and recipes I may actually try. I freecycled an empty box from work that once held address labels and stick the clippings in there. I may one day scan or scrapbook and sort them by category, but for now I'm just preserving. When I have a project opening I can go through my clippings and pick.

Scanning has two advantages. First it reduces physical clutter, second it allows me to sort ideas from online sources along with the clipped articles. The only disadvantage is that its an extra step, which I may or may not be willing to take once the initial appeal of virtuous project management wears off. Remember that its far more important to choose a system you'll follow than a more efficient one you won't.

So far, my list of current projects go like this:

1. Braided Rag Rug
2. Punk skirt made with multistranded braided belts worked into the design.

Home Improvement:
1. Finish bathroom (baseboards, tub, lighting and ventilation, paint)

1. start pots of parsely

1. Kitchen drawers

Except for certain aspects of the Home Improvement project, I have all the supplies I need for these projects already in the house. That's especially important because I will both save money I normally throw into buying supplies for never-completed projects, and reduce clutter in the house by using up/putting to purpose items that are currently occupying spare corners and cupboards.

The tighter focus and limits on straying outside these areas may also help me finish the projects. The follow-through is usually my weak point in any project. I'm an excellent planner, pricer, shopper, and researcher, but the actual "doing" often fails. Most of these are projects I've already planned, shopped for and begun, but have been sitting on a back burner for anywhere from a month to a year.

Added to Project Inspirations:

Growing Bamboo in Michigan?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happiness is fighting without regrets

Every couple fights. I don't care how compatible or idyllic, sooner or later there will be a disagreement. I learned over this weekend that the most important thing for me to remember is to avoid saying or doing something in a fight that I'll regret later.

That was my goal on Sunday morning when JD came in and (I thought) started laying down ultimatums as to how I should behave in public. I was confused, hurt and angry, but held onto that "no regrettable words or actions" rule. Unfortunately, I had NO reactions to what he'd said that didn't involve hurting him back as badly as I could. So instead of replying at all, I asked him to give me time and space to think about some things. Of course at that point it was his decision to walk away or demand an immediate answer. He made the absolute right decision and gave me the space I needed.

This was big, so I took two days. Silence reigned in the house and I stayed icily polite while I worked things through in my head, ran through the high emotions, and arrived at a place where I could firmly lay down my own boundaries without anger.

Of course at that point I found out that I had COMPLETELY misunderstood what he had originally said. There were no ultimatums. He wasn't trying to change me at all.

Now part of me thinks I wasted two days of our relationship by agonizing over something that could have been resolved immediately by asking for clarification. On the other hand, if we two very upset people had tried to resolve anything in that moment, it would have never happened. I would have been yelling and crying and verbally slicing him open, he would have defended himself by cutting back, and it would have dealt our relationship a serious blow that would linger over every future disagreement we ever had.
Instead we had a very short, calm discussion in which we could actually laugh at the misunderstanding, and ended up strengthening our relationship.

I can't ever claim to be always rational by any stretch of the imagination. I'm frequently (and unfortunately) mean and snarky, and very well able to do real harm with my words. It's been the destruction of a few friendships in my life when my cutting remarks turned a normal fight into a relationship-killer. I think, though, that trying to be mindful of the long-term effects of my words and actions in a highly emotional situation will end up being the saving grace of my relationships. I can't take back words and actions, and apologising never erases.

On the flip side, when I'm upset and express it or ask for something to change, it can be really frustrating to wait for an answer. If it's important to me, I want to know NOW. I have to remember the example JD set this weekend. Giving the person time and space can mean that I will get a more reasoned, well-considered answer instead of a kneejerk reaction. If the person gives their response plenty of thought, I don't feel like I have to argue by listing points they might not have considered. It's hard of course, but I think I'll have better relationships for it.

Currently Reading:
Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding
A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones

New Random Interest Links Added:
Passive Aggressive

University of Pennsylvania Happiness questionnaires

New Quotes Added:
"Do you really think ... that it is weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you that there are terrible temptations that it requires strength, strength and courage, to yield to. To stake all one's life on a single moment, to risk everything on one throw, whether the stake be power or pleasure, I care not -- there is no weakness in that."
OSCAR WILDE, An Ideal Husband

“The best way out is always through.”
-Robert Frost

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.”

"It is a common mistake on the part of cooler, self-contained natures to assume that those who have a giving and ebullient character are what they are only because they cannot help it—that they are fed from a spring that will never stop rather than a reservoir that can be exhausted. Hence the feeling of stark disbelief or unpleasant shock on the part of others when the reservoir of effort and energy—for it turns out to be a reservoir—is almost gone….the principal reward for those who give lavishly rather than meagerly is the expectation that they remain true to form and continue to give."
 - W. Jackson Bate

“Everything turns out to be valuable that one does for one’s self without thought of profit.”
-Marguerite Yourcenar

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy."
- Guillaume Apollinaire

“We are never so much disposed to quarrel with others as when we are dissatisfied with ourselves.”
- William Hazlitt

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fat Positive Images: The Full Body Project

 (#59, Full Body Project, Leonard Nimoy Photography)

Leonard Nimoy's  The Full Body Project is a fantastic collection of fat women (mainly nudes, but I did find one relatively work-safe example to include!  Link is NSFW)  Whatever his motivation or reaction to the media criticism of this project, the photos of the women involved are every bit as strong, confident, joyful and gorgeous as their real selves. My favorite is of the women dancing in a circle (3rd row on first page of the website).  They're just having so much fun it makes me want to be there with them, in all their unapologetically naked, fat glory. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fat Positive Images: Fernando Botero Angulo

(Picnic 1998, by Fernando Botero)

Fernando Botero Angulo is a Colombian painter and sculpter born in 1932 in MedellĂ­n, Antioquia, Colombia.  His art features large figures of both people and animals. 

Images from Google 

When asked why he chose to paint the "fat people"  his response was, “An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalize or even justify it.”  (Source:

I love his paintings of fat couples, in love, seductive, happy!  His nudes are bold and confident, sensual and beautiful.  He's very much worth discovering if you haven't encountered his work before.

Happiness Tools: Resolution Charts and Mini-Journals

Resolution Chart:

Gretchin Rubin at The Happiness Project is a frequent encourager of charting your goals and resolutions.  The daily task of reviewing and checking off items reinforces the resolution in your mind, and being able to view progress gives a whole lot of satisfaction! 

I've never seen her resolution chart, so I came up with one I think will work for me.  It's a monthly chart divided into weeks and checkable days, with some daily and some weekly resolutions.  There's my known resolutions and space to add new ones each week.  It's a pretty simple Excel spreadsheet with a tab for each month.

Here's the whole chart:

and a closeup of this week:

I put 5 weeks (4 for February) on a single page, which I can tape to a kitchen cupboard to keep it in my conscious mind.  Everyone sorts their life differently.  I tend to plan goals on a weekly basis, so I don't cut the chart mid-week to put each month on a different page.  You may be better at long-range planning and prefer to make each month a unit of measurement towards your goals.  Or each pay-period at work.  Whatever helps you organize the progress in your mind!

If anyone is Excel-Challenged, let me know.  I'd be happy to send you a 2010 template you can customize in Excel or Excel-compatible freeware, or I can send a .pdf of each month you can print and fill in by hand.  E-mail me at


They call this the "one-line journal" at The Happiness Project, but since I often write more than one line, I like "mini-journal" instead.  Or maybe Journalette? :-)

I've tried many times to start keeping a journal.  In the house decluttering I've come across about a dozen journals, all beautiful, all nicely bound with quality paper.  All with maybe 2-10 entries each before I gave up.  The problem is, of course, time.  But at the same time, I read those few entries and they spark memories of events, people, etc. that I've forgotten after only a few years.  I always think that some funny or important moment will be forever engraved on my memory, and I'm almost always wrong.  I do have long-term memory issues, but what's worse is that my long-term memory is much more effective at retaining the bad moments than the good. 

So instead of buying yet another pretty fancy journal with parchment pages and leather cover, I went to the dollar store and got a cheap, plastic covered 2010 weekly planner.  I'ts about the size of my checkbook, so I can carry it easily in my purse.  Each week is on a double page, and each day has about a business-card size lined space that will fit 2-3 sentences.  Each day I jot something down; a quote, a funny moment, a joke, something important happening in my life right now.  By choosing what stands out the most to me from each day I also capture my life on a larger scale and progression.  By limiting myself to a few sentences I don't feel pressured to write a daily essay with some profound conclusion, but do get the creative challenge of distilling some days into a small space (I'm sure you've noticed that brevity is a challenge for me).  :-)

Of course I'm not a big planner person.  I don't have a lot of appointments and such that I need to track, so the few I have can go right in the journal with the rest.  Since I have to open it every day anyway, I'm more likely to check for appointments.  Those of you with day-planner or pda-scale lives have the choice to incorporate your daily journal into your regular system, or just pick up that little dollar-store version (or a moleskin if you want to get super-fancy) to carry around inside it.  It depends on how much of your life you want to record for later.  Personally I don't really care about the meetings I went to a year ago, but I would like to remember that thing my best friend said.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Money and Happiness

They say that money can't buy happiness.  My personal opinion is that they're right, but money can buy a lot of happiness tools.

I found out last week that I will be taking ten furlough days at work in the next six months, equating to a 10% pay cut.  I also discovered, on crunching the numbers, that my current income/spending gap is much less than 10%.  This means that I have to make cuts in my current lifestyle or I will very quickly run out of money.  These changes mean less time to pursue hobbies, read, connect with people, or relax.  I do understand that many people live on much less than I make.  I also understand that I managed to be reasonably happy living near the poverty level at one point (or rather, that my unhappiness then had little to do with money).  It's the sensation of moving backwards that's so frustrating for me.  I've built up a lot of momentum in the last few years.  I've made a lot of progress digging my way out from old debts without creating new ones, finding money to do home improvement projects or take vacations, and putting a little away.  Ten years ago I'd have been ecstatic with my post-cut pay, but now it's a huge step in the wrong direction.  I suddenly feel like I've been Sisyphus all my life and will continue to push my financial rock up the hill over and over for the rest of my days.

This makes my happiness project harder.  It also makes the project more necessary than ever.  For a while my resolutions will be framed around the financial crunch in my life, but I need to remember to break out of it occasionally for some self care.

Old Resolutions:

My resolutions last week were to try new recipes involving capers (part of the overall goal of a more varied diet), to use one of my hoarded fancy lotions every day, and to clean out two drawers in the kitchen hutch.  The last one was a bust so it carries over to this week.  The new recipes may need to go on hold because I won't be able to afford a lot of new ingredients that can't be used in several dishes, and need to concentrate on things that will carry over to lunch the next day. The fancy lotions resolution was a success and I've smelled like white jasmine all week.

I'm coming down with a cold, so I've been craving grapefruit for the last two days.  Funny how I haven't eaten one for a decade, but after the first week's experiment eating it every day my body knows to crave it when I need the vitamin boost. 

New Resolutions:

Environment: Clean out two drawers of kitchen hutch
Finances:  Eat breakfast at home and make/bring lunch to work every day (no more takeout or deli)
Finances:  Limit groceries to $80/week

Currently Reading:

Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding

Currently re-reading:

The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff
The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell