In The Way I See It

Coco Chanel once said, “The best things in life are free; the second best are expensive.”

Oftentimes I am trapped in this school of thought : for something to be considered happiness, it must be grandiose. I am not proud of this narrow-mindedness of mine and I have been trying very hard to revamp this ill informed opinion.

My husband once said, “If life is a graph, how would you draw it? Is it a dramatic, drastic up and down line? Like when you’re happy, the line goes drastically up. You’re setting a very high standard for your definition of happiness. Everything that falls short of that pedestal is not happiness. And what is the opposite of happiness? Maybe that’s why you feel depressed a lot.”

Then he continued, “If your life drawn in a graph is a stable, constant, straight-ish line, don’t you think it’s a more realistic perspective to keep? You’re not always looking up for your next excitement, for your next happiness. But rather, you learn to perceive many regular things as happiness. The mundane, day to day things in life that are often overlooked in your quest for grandiose happiness. That extreme swing of up and down isn’t very good for your mental and emotional health.”

I was stunned, because I had never thought about it like that.

You know that popular phrase, “Life is about the journey, not the destination”?

I think it’s similar to what my husband said. If I am too focused on finding that next excitement, that next big thing to look forward to.. (example : I must plan a party for husband’s birthday! a fall hiking trip for the family! a Black Friday shopping list for Christmas presents! a vacation next year! ) then I manage to forget that the little things that happen in the daily are very precious as well.

The daily journey is filled with little things that is well worth of being called happiness.

It struck me yesterday as I was eating dinner with my son. We split a turkey grilled cheese sandwich, him with a glass of milk and me with my apple cider. He had this happy,content look in his face and we were both saying, “Yum! It’s so delicious” I realized, this is happiness. I am happy. He is happy. It’s a nice feeling. It isn’t eating out at a restaurant, it is just a simple dinner with my little guy. It isn’t a fancy meal I cooked (though, of course that would be nice too), it’s a grilled cheese sandwich that took me all of 5 minutes to make because that was what we felt like having for dinner last night.

Then I began to recount my day..

I had a homemade Pumpkin Spiced Latte (PSL) in the morning. That tasted pretty damn close to Starbucks’ PSL if I do say so myself. For a few years now, beginning every fall, I looked forward to having my first cup of Starbucks PSL. It symbolizes  the seasonal change, gone are the days of scorching hot summer days made for pools and evening music festivals, and back are the days of pumpkin pickings and bonfires.

However, I can’t afford to keep buying Starbucks. Those little cups of spicy wonders can truly put a dent in my bank account. Starbucks ain’t cheap. So I found a recipe online and replicated it. Now I can have it every morning. And I can afford that!

I realized, that is happiness. A steaming cup of PSL on a chilly fall morning. And soon it will be boots and scarfs and sweaters season. The leaves will change color. It will then be time to go pumpkin picking and do our annual family tradition of pumpkin carving.

That is happiness.

I called my friend Vicky yesterday, seeing if she wanted to take her kids to the Botanical Garden with us. Her kids are sick so she said, “Maybe next time, thanks for thinking about us.”

It’s lovely to be thanked for a simple act of thinking.

It is happiness. To be able to call a friend, to share a few details of your day.

That is happiness.

My son and I went to the Botanical Garden. We played together in the pretend grocery store they had, he played in the sand, wade in the fountain, and fed the fat koi fishes in the Japanese Garden. The garden wasn’t crowded, it was a pleasant, quiet day, a bit humid for my liking, but it was such a lovely day.

I felt lucky to be able to spend moments like these with him. Children grow up fast, oh so cliche, but so very true. Soon my son won’t want to be hugged so tight, to be kissed, to be squeezed, to be held. Soon he’d want to do everything by himself. Soon he’ll be too cool for me. He’s already stopped calling me “Mommy” and started calling me “Mom” instead. One time I gave him something and instead of saying, “thank you Mommy” in his childlike high pitched voice, he said coolly, “thanks, Mom”…. which makes me feel like, oh dear, my 4 years old is going on 14!

It is bittersweet… but it is happiness.

At night before bedtime, we snuggle together on the reclining chair in his room, reading books from the library. He picked a book about dolphins last night.

It is happiness.

Two days ago I took my son to his soccer practice. We got to kick the ball together. I watched him on the sideline, happily kicking the soccer ball with his team mates, little boys and girls who filled the soccer field with infectious giggles and laughs. All the other parents were smiling too. Such a lovely moment to be a witness to. Watching the coach took his time to explain to Franklin how to do a side-kick. Watching Franklin slowly learning how to side kick properly. And the flash light of happiness in his eyes as he did it properly for the first time. The gleam in his face as the coach said, “There you go buddy! Good job!”

That is happiness.

Three days ago, my husband and I went to the Art Hill to watch the free Symphony Orchestra concert. It was gloomy, raining, and a bit chilly. We only had an umbrella. But I insisted we still go, because it’s our tradition and I am sort of big on traditions like that. This was our fourth year of going to the same concert. It was wet, muddy, and quite messy. But the orchestra played wonderfully as they always do, my husband wasn’t crabby (he usually doesn’t like messy things and places – he has OCD) , he was smiling and happy and cracking jokes. My shoes were wet, my jeans felt damp. But I was happy.

That is happiness.

Whenever I received a postcard in the mail from Postcrossing, I share it with my son and husband. My husband likes to look at the pictures and stamps and read the handwriting of the sender. My son loves to look at the picture, and have me read the message from the sender. We talk about the country the sender is from, google it, and look at pictures of that country.

That is happiness.

And then of course, in a sudden moment of epiphany, I realize… happiness is truly in the way I look at it. The secret is in the way I see it. A rainy outdoor concert, a simple grilled cheese sandwich, a cup of homemade latte, a soccer practice, a bedtime snuggle, a postcard in the mail……

every single little thing can be happiness. And just like that, life is no longer about reaching the next point of excitement, the finish line. But rather about stopping and smelling the flowers. And walking slowly along the trail to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Now tell me, what is your happiness?

Good things (also affectionately titled : The Perspective List)

A lot of times I find myself reciting things I’m not happy with in my head. I find that it does nothing but turning me into a negative Nancy, as if I’m not enough of a neurotic already. Also, boy, do I feel like an ungrateful jerk for doing that all the time. In an effort to be a more positive person (one of my 2012 resolutions), I’m going to start writing things I’m happy with. A gratitude list, if you will.

1) A great family day yesterday. On Saturday/ Sunday, we do family things together, the three of us. We love going to the park or doing outdoor activities on warmer months, be it festivals, concerts, barbecues, and the such. In colder months, we love doing museums, science center, or other indoor family stuff to do with Baby Bubbles. Well, yesterday we went to the Science Center and saw the Star Trek Exhibitions (our inner nerds are super satisfied), and Baby Bubbles got to play in their Discovery Room, where he got to build things, played trains, learned about bugs,  and other fun stuff. I adore doing things like that with my family, great memories were made. We then went over the a bookstore to find Goodnight, Moon.. a smash hit for children’s books I learned from my playgroup ladies. Unfortunately the bookstore didn’t have it in stock because it’s such a loved book, so we’re ordering it from Amazon instead. By the way, if you have a tots, buy that book. First published in 1947, it is a children’s classic. We then went over to a Chinese buffet where we stuffed ourselves full with greasy, salty, MSG-laden deliciousness. Sure it’s bad for you, but once in a while it’s good to indulge your inner glutton, yes?

2) I have a great little family. My son is amazing and smart, my husband is a heaven sent because why else would he keep up with my craziness for almost 5 years now? And also, my father in law, though crazy as he is.. he’s still my dad here.

3) My mother in law. I’ve heard horror stories of how MILs can be scary monstrous creatures.. but I guess I luck out, because my MIL loves me. She’s one craycray woman, that’s for sure, but when it comes to our relationship, she’s just what one would want from a MIL. She never gave unsolicited advice, she respects privacy, and she taught me how to be a frugal shopper. She taught me the art of thrift shopping and garage saling, and for me that was huge because I can’t tell you how much money we saved by shopping second hand. And she remembers things I like.. like the one time I went to Starbucks with her to pickup a fall must have (aka pumpkin spice latte) and I told her how much I love pumpkin and pumpkin spiced things. The next week she bought me a bottle of pumpkin spiced wine. And she remembered that my french press is broken.. so she picked up a set of press with matching cups at the flea market she went to. She’s not without flaws, but all things considered.. I’m glad I have her for a mother in this foreign country.

4) Becky, my husband’s best friend’s wife. Becky and I didn’t always get along when we first met over 4 years ago. I was a raging liberal feminist and Becky is somehow on the more conservative side, though admittedly she is also a feminist. She was just… not as crazy as me, let’s just say. But over the years I found that she is such a sweetheart, and maybe it’s also that I’ve gotten much more sensible with my political alignments, but we become friends. Her parents are some of the warmest,  most welcoming people I’ve ever met in this country. They invite us to their Christmas celebrations, they are there for help and they adore Baby Bubbles! Lately Becky and I have gotten a whole lot closer than we used to be and I cannot wait for our friendship to unfold even more, because I know that Becky is the kind of girl you want to have for a BFF, she’s loyal, sweet, understands the universal code of female friendships, she’s not the gossipy kind, although when we do gossip… it’s always a wonderful time. And her mom makes the best sangria. I mean, really. Aren’t I lucky or what.


5) My mama and sister. I mean, I’m ALWAYS grateful for the privilege of calling these ladies my family, but I don’t think there is ever a gratitude list where I won’t include them. My sister is one of the kindest, smartest people I know in my life and I am glad that her life turns out the way it does.. all the great things that happen to her are so well deserved.


6) I’m glad to be able to teach Mama a bit of technology. My sister recently just moved abroad for her Master’s degree, and she gave our Mama her old laptop since she’s getting a new one. Now, my Mama isn’t the tech-savvy kind, so she’s always needing help. She didn’t even know how to turn the video on Skype. Recently she wanted me to help her with installing Whatsapp on her Iphone, because my sissy told Mama that it is the cheapest way to communicate with her. Imagine teaching her that on Skype, literally, thousands of miles away! I spent 45 minutes last night trying to help her to download iTunes on her laptop so she can buy whatsapp from the Itunes store. After 45 minutes things got really exhausting and I had a long day so I told Mama we’re gonna continue it today. Mama was so proud, though, that she’s able to do the fancy shmancy itunes downloading! The conversation went something like this.

Mama : wow, I’m so modern, I can download things on the internet!  
me       : Ma, that’s not something you should be proud about (I like to tease her all the time)
Mama : But I’m better than some other Ibu-ibu I know, they don’t even know how to use computer!
me       : -_________________-


7) Lazy Sunday mornings. We are now still in our jammies at 10:05 AM, bellies full from breakfast. Baby Bubbles is watching the Jungle Book, all cuddled up with his daddy, and I’m here, typing away on my laptop. No plans for today, just being lazy. Though I wish we aren’t all sick dogs like we are! (we have flu, yep, all three of us)


8) My girlfriend L. I met this super nice girl at the playground one day. We immediately clicked because of our shared similarities, both of us living so far from our families. Her son S is my son’s favorite friend. She’s so friendly and warm and if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be invited to the playgroup. She’s honest and blunt, and I love that about her because you know she doesn’t talk shit about you behind your back. But her family is moving to California soon.. and although I am happy for her I am also sad that I’ll be losing one of the most wonderful friends I’ve made here.

9) Blogging. I’m happy that I blog, because this is one of the most calming things I do to help myself relax. I’m glad to be able to read other blogs, I always like to read how other people live. If you are reading this, I am also glad that you do! PS: I do a happy dance everytime I got a notification in my email of a new comment 😀

..How’s that for a gratitude list?

(thank You God for all these blessings!)