a year of Wooden: week 9

Hi everyone! It’s March, which means it’s time for a new month of my “year of Wooden” challenge! This month we are focusing on Coach Wooden’s creed to help others.

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.

Last week, the challenge was to send a thank-you note to a friend. And my fortune cookie agreed:

fortune cookie

I sent notes to some friends who especially meant a lot to me this past year, when I was going through a tough time and they went above-and-beyond to be there for me. Writing down in words how grateful I am made me even MORE grateful. Isn’t it amazing how gratitude expands the more you practice it?

Another thing I’m grateful for: my sweet cousin Julie! I had the nicest note waiting from her when I got home from Seattle. Totally out of the blue, totally made my week. I love you, JuJu!

On the dance floor at Amanda's wedding this past summer...

On the dance floor at Amanda’s wedding this past summer…

This week, to kick off our month of helping others, the challenge is to help a perfect stranger who has no way of repaying you. This might mean corralling a stranger’s shopping cart in the parking lot, leaving an especially generous tip, paying for someone else’s public transportation or paying the toll for the car behind you on your daily commute.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite-ever quotes by Coach Wooden:


Questions of the day:

  • What ideas do you have for helping a stranger?
  • When was the last time a stranger did something kind for you?

marvelous monday: finding balance

Happy Labor Day, everyone! According to a quick Wikipedia search, Labor Day was created to celebrate the “social and economic contributions of American workers.” Hope you are enjoying a day of rest and relaxation!

I really love my job, but teaching is something that it can be hard to leave at the office. I’m always bringing home papers to respond to and also thinking about future assignments and lesson plans. Today, I’m celebrating Labor Day by taking a day off from grading and thinking about my classes, and instead just relaxing and enjoying myself. I’m having some friends over for dinner tonight — planning on whipping up a big batch of white chicken chili and corn muffins {recipe post coming soon!} and maybe some lemon bars for dessert. YUM!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balance. One of my favorite quotes {which I might have shared on here before, I can’t remember} is from the late, great coach and teacher John Wooden. He said the two most important words in the English language are “love” and “balance.” I think that is so true, and yet balance can be really difficult to achieve. Especially in the fast-paced, multi-tasking-obsessed, constant-communication world we live in these days. It’s so easy to get sucked into the void of doing, doing, doing; more, more, more; faster, faster, faster.

Balance is something I am continually striving for. My work ethic is a quality I am really proud about, yet this is something that can easily slide off-balance. When that happens, I become a stressed-out, perfectionist workaholic. That is not who I want to be or how I want to spend my time!

So I’ve been taking some time each day to focus on balance. Find my center. Close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and think of all the things I love about my life. I think about who I want to become. The hard work I plan to put in, the goals I want to accomplish–but also the fun things I wish to do, too. The places I want to travel. The fun books I want to read and movies I want to see and concerts I want to go to. The random treasures I want to take advantage of in everyday life: the awesome pinball arcade Mike & I stumbled upon, the nature trail along the river, the plethora of local restaurants we want to try out.

I’ve started to think about balance as a day-by-day thing, something I am working towards each and every day. For me, a good day does mean putting in two or three or four solid hours of work on my thesis draft. But it also means other things, too: relaxing with my sweetie on the couch watching an episode of The Wire; letting my mind wander while I try out a new dish in the kitchen; going for a long walk around the neighborhood; catching up with my family or friends on the phone; laughing till my stomach hurts over a hilarious video on YouTube; making my way through the stack of good books on my bedside table; and on, and on. A truly good day, to me, means a balanced day. I have discovered that I feel the most fulfilled and joyful and content when my life is balanced.

I saw this cartoon in a recent issue in The New Yorker and I wanted to share it here because it seems super appropriate not just to the theme of this blog, but also to the idea of balance.

cartoon from The New Yorker 2012

This cartoon made me smile, but it also gave me pause. I started this blog because I wanted to become more organized in my daily life, while also saving money and time. But I never want organization to become a source of stress, or to feel pressure for perfection. My life and my apartment have become a little more organized in the past few months. I’m making progress. I’m trying new things and cooking more meals at home and flexing my newly developed decorating muscles. But my life will never be perfectly organized. I will never be that woman in the cartoon.

And I think that’s a good thing.

I’m not striving for perfection. I’m striving for balance. To me, love + balance = happiness.

What’s your happiness equation? How do you find balance in your busy life?