3 Things That Sparked Joy This Week

I like that phrase “sparked joy.” It comes from Marie Kondo. She’s the phenomenal Japanese woman convincing people to de-clutter. And apparently she’s so successful that landfills are starting to overflow, and even shut down, because people are getting rid of their stuff in such a big way.

So here are my 3 joy sparkers this week.

1. My circa system planner from Levenger.

It’s not perfect, but I like it. The only bad thing about it is the fragility of the holes, or notches in the paper. You have to be gentle with them,  pull them straight back towards you, and gently nestle them back onto the disc, two or three at at time.

But the thing that makes this whole system magic is the hole puncher. You have to get the hole puncher or else it’s pointless.

With this system I now have an easy way to deal with all my papers. And as the taxman approacheth, it’s been nice to go through my papers, punch them, and put them in notebooks. 

Ever since I started with it it a few weeks ago, I’ve punched up all my class plans, workshops, and inspirational readings and now I can actually see what I have, and move things around to suit my needs. This has made class planning so much more enjoyable.

2. The Sprocket printer. I asked for it for Christmas wondering if, and how much, I would actually use it. Turns out, quite a bit. I would never have guessed that a tiny 2×3 inch sticky picture could have so many fun uses.

I send these pics in cards to the kids. I’ll take a picture of Stella, put a caption under it, and send it off with a stamp. The kids like getting mail, and Emily said it’s like Instagram for them.  Insta Gram? Get it? Heh.

I’m also using them in my planner. I put pictures of the books we’re reading in the book group, for instance. And to commemorate the snow day, I have one of G pushing the snowblower after the storm.

G snowblowing

Another use I thought of but haven’t done yet is inclose a small pic of me using or wearing a gift in a thank-you note to the giver.  That would be cool.

 3. The third thing that pleased me was an essay I read on Medium called,How to Seem Like You Have Your Sh*t TogetherIt was really good. I wish I had written it. She described 20 areas of your your life to look at to see where there might be room for improvement. Some of her points were obvious, but still insightful. 

It made me think I might need to pay more attention to Medium. I’ve been a member for a long time, but I don’t check the feed much, so I’m glad this piece broke through the noise.

What’s been sparking joy for you? Please share in the comments. I love hearing about stuff that makes people’s lives more fun and efficient.

How did I ever pack before Packing Cubes??

Today I packed for my trip to Oregon.  I must say, I am a huge fan of packing cubes.

Omg. I love these things. Here is a week’s worth of stuff, including beach clothes all ready for the suitcase.


When I get to the hotel, my pajamas and robe and all the stuff I need for a shower is in one bag. My hoodie and long pants and long sleeved shirts and jeans are in another bag. My underwear is another little one. Shorts and tops in another one. Shoes in the red one. All I have to do tomorrow is pack toiletries and my ukulele and I’m done.

I love how, if I have to open my suitcase in a public place or if, god forbid, my suitcase were to break open, all my stuff would not come tumbling out all over the place. I would just have to pick up 5 neatly organized bags.

I throw an empty one in and use it for laundry, and when I get home, I just take my bag to the washer and dump it in.

You can get them here:


The reviews of these things sold me. There isn’t a bad review in the bunch. The medium-sized ones are by far the most versatile.  People get positively rhapsodic over these things, and now I totally understand their rhapsody.

I deeply appreciate things that are beautifully designed for function as well as aesthetics. And while packing cubes might not be beautiful objects, their function certain is.

(The last time I got so excited about a thing was after I spent $80 on a dish drainer. I still love and appreciate that dish drainer, by the way. I reviewed it here.)

But aside from packing cubes, I am getting so happy thinking that in 2 days I will get to see my little Obie and my daughter and son-in-law. They are in the throes of buying a house right now and things are getting difficult and frustrating and annoying.

I am really hoping that our being there will help and support them. They were hoping that all this house stuff would be resolved by the time we got there, I know, but stuff happens.

It’s the way of stuff. Life is just stuff and stuff and more stuff. We can’t control stuff, the only thing we can control is how we respond to it, right?




“I” is for Idle

“I would NEVER be sitting on the couch reading a book now, if I was home,” said G, just now.

“I would be out finishing the fence or cleaning the garage or walking Boomer or …”

Why is that? Why don’t we let ourselves rest, relax and re-set when we’re home? Why do we have to “get away” to be idle?

(I was just reminded of that line in the Mary Oliver poem, “A Summer’s Day” in which she said, and I am paraphrasing here, “I don’t know what a prayer is, but I do know how to be idle and blessed.”)

Idleness incubates creativity. It’s a fact. That’s why you should let your kids be bored. 


It will force them to encounter who they really are, and come up with ways to amuse themselves that will show them what they love to do. 

The same thing with grown ups. Don’t mow the lawn or fix the fence or check Facebook. Let yourself be bored. Then watch what you do. Don’t do chores or work or check your phone. Then prepare to get squirrely. Hang in. Eventually you will gravitate to something. 

Maybe you will go for a run or pick up a novel or a sketchbook or your pen and your journal. Maybe you will scratch around in your garden–not because it needs to be weeded, but because you love to play in dirt.

When people tell me they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, I say, “Watch what you do when you procrastinate.” Do you play your ukelele? Do you try out a new recipe?

Today G and I woke up early and went out to the Ding Darling Nature Preserve. We rode bikes and saw roseate spoonbills and cormorants drying their wings in the sun.

An alligator blocked our path. Uh-oh.


Back at the condo we napped and read and talked and showered. Apparently, when left to our own devices, we like to have adventures outside, and then reflect on them. We like to talk, and then be quiet, and then eat and sip interesting beverages. *grin*

I like to do this blog. It has become a source of real pleasure lately. I was forcing myself to post every day back in March, and now there is no forcing.

So, today has been brought to you by the letter “I” for Idleness. I hope you find some for yourself. It would be lovely to know how idleness enriches you.

 What do you do to be idle and blessed?

It Took You Long Enough

No hat. No gloves. No coat. No socks, even.

I walked Boomer through campus and everyone’s head was up. People are smiling at me again. They ask to pet Boomer. They want to hug her. They want her to lick them. But she doesn’t.

Unless they smell like food.

I grilled chicken breasts on the grill tonight.  I  cooked without a coat. Without gloves. Without socks.

Some of the windows were open in Butler and the sounds of horns practicing wafted across campus.

Everything is on the verge.

I wear sunglasses, and a white yoga top and capris. Shoes with no socks.

No down. No wool. No scarf. No hat.

If I wasn’t running late, I would have walked.

It is time to start waking up earlier now.  I want more day because the days are playing nice now.


Hello spring.

It took you long enough.



A Few Things That Made Me Happy This Week

1. Today it was sunny and in the 40s (omg,  my face didn’t hurt when I walked outside!)

2. And G’s wheatgrass is up!


3. I did a private Beginner Yoga lesson today with a delightful woman who came in with a new mat (the absolutely worst mat she could have gotten, but oh well, she didn’t know.) And a matching yoga towel and a matching water bottle.

She said she didn’t know what to wear so she asked Siri. That made me laugh. I would have never thought to ask Siri what to wear to yoga, and now I am going to think about it the next time I am in any clothing dilemma.

(I can’t think of the last time I was in a clothing dilemma, though. I probably need to get out more.)

4. I am reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book, Better Than Before which is about mastering habits. It is freaking me out how alike we are. She did NaNoWriMo on a lark–so did I. She learned Scrivener to make her writing life easier–so did I.  But though I have some strong “Upholder” qualities, I am mostly an “Obliger” in her system.

She says there are 4 basic types of people when it comes to habits: Upholders, who meet other people’s expectations  as well as their own; Obligers who meet other people’s expectations, but not their own; Questioners, who question all expectations; and Rebels who resist all expectations. It’s fascinating, and a fun read. I love these kinds of books about habits, and the creative process, and how the mind works, and sane business strategies, and what motivates people. Can’t get enough of them. (And I have a whole stack of them at my elbow.)

5. I also got a kick out of this Clive Thompson talk about writing with a pencil versus writing on a keyboard. It made me remember my January retreat when I would go back and forth between the 2. (It also made me buy a box of Blackwing pencils and a sharpener!) In a weird moment of synchronicity, the day after I watched this talk, Shelly Clark came to class with a pencil holder filled with pointy Blackwing pencils for us to write down our intentions for yoga class.

6. On my way to Wegmans yesterday for my weekly shopping I listened to the James Altucher podcast in which he interviewed Maria Popova of Brainpickings.org. I loved her distinction between writing “content” on her blog and “substantive” writing. Her blog is an incredible resource for readers and if you are a reader you should check it out. I have found countless gems there.

These things made me happy this week, despite my prana depleted, de-caffeineated, itchy, dragon-eyed, still-snowy-in-March-what-the-fuck situation.

What made you happy this week? Any good finds or happenings? Refrain from sending sunny pictures of flowers, or palm trees, or green grass, though. I’ve seen enough of that on Facebook and it’s really enough, people. Have some sensitivity.


Yesterday I bought a new game for us at the kid toy store. It’s called Pathagon, (which I keep calling “Pathogen.”) It is a strategy game in which you try to build a path from one end of the board to the other as your opponent tries to block you.  It’s not as complicated as chess, but complicated enough, and it kept me interested and engaged. (It is designed for ages 6 and up, so it can be played on a lot of levels.)


G set it up on the coffee table last night, and today, as we ate our lunch we played a “test” game to see how it worked. It was fun, but what was even better is that it brought us back in touch with one another as we played.

As the game progressed, there were quiet moments in which I noticed that I was really there with her. Not just physically, but I was focused on trying to see the board through her eyes. It would give us both an advantage if we could pull that off.

When the game ended, we were still in that intimate “seeing through the other’s eyes” headspace. We started talking about  certain life strategies and problem-solving strategies as they pertained to our individual work. The game had created a bridge for us to do that.

There was also something keenly pleasant about manipulating the game pieces in my hand. In between moves, while studying the board, I would twirl the smoothly sanded pieces of hexagonal wood in my fingers and it helped me think. The pieces fit so beautifully between the pegs.

There is something qualitatively different between between playing a game on a board and playing on the computer.

Between writing on a keyboard and writing with a pen.

Between sending a text and sending a note.

Between sitting on the couch watching a movie together and watching your partner figure out how to make a path to the other side.

We are what we love.

We are what we love. It’s as simple as that. If we do the things we love, we show our real selves to the world. If we show our real selves to the world, that will give us the best shot at living a happy life.

So try it.

Start making a list of all the things you love.

Include everything: people, places, states of mind, activities, food and drink, objects, times and seasons, nature and senses.

Nothing is too trivial.  If you love it, list it.

Dryer lint.

The little spit sink at the dentist.

Mallow cups.

Getting a letter in the mail.

The more things on the list, the better. Get subtle. Get nuanced:

Looking down at the ground from a plane.

The faces of kids in line to see Santa.

The smell of viburnums.

List it all out. List out at least 100 things. Keep the list on your phone and add to it as you think of more and more things. Add to this list for your whole life.

List out all the things you dislike or hate, too:


Parallel parking.


Try to get at least 50 things on this list. We are also the things we don’t like.

Why do this?

Because when you know what you love, you know who you are. You have self-knowledge. This self-knowledge allows you to make conscious choices about who you hang out with, what you do for work, and how you recreate.

If you know you love the outdoors and talking face-to-face with people (because you have these on your list) you’re less likely to take a cubicle job in a call center. You might not know what your ideal job is, but at least you won’t make that mistake.

Your list can function as your “true north.” You can consult it whenever you feel bewildered, or have to to make thorny decisions.

It is incredibly helpful to have a printed list of who you are, because even though we think we know these things, we forget. Then we get lost. And then we make really big mistakes from this lack of self-knowledge.

Mistakes which might have been avoided if we had just consulted our list. It’s like forgetting to get the milk because  you thought you’d remember. You should have put it on the list, dummy.

We frequently forget that we are a complex composite of all the random and incongruent things we love. We forget that if we want to be happy, we can’t forget the milk.

If our friends and our work and our fun activities are all aligned with the things we love, that is our best shot at being happy.

That’s why we need to put it on the list.  So we’ll remember.

list pic