Tuesday, March 15, 2016


"If your work is not having the desired effect, you must look at it from all angles until you find the source of the problem. You must not merely observe the rivals in your field, but dissect and uncover their weaknesses. “Look wider and think further ahead” must be your motto."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Evolution of Happiness

I just want you to be happy.
Thanks Mom. 

That felt like a ton of bricks when I went off to college. I didn’t know what would make me happy. I thought I was alone in this particular confusion, that I was born this way. There's some truth to this. Researchers at the University of Minnesota studied identical twins separated at birth and found that half of our happiness is hard wired; it’s in our genes. I’m a fairly serious, randomly funny, person that lives a messy life full of distractions, pot holes, and time warps. I would not say that I’m gentically programmed to be extremely happy, but I get that I, and you, are uniquely, genetically endowed- no other snowflake is like me or you. I thought happiness was follow this path to a good job and have a family on this timeline. However, who knew that learning the how and what it is that makes me, specifically me, happy would be so hazy.

Sometime in the mid two thousands with small babies in the house, my husband came in crowing about having heard the secret to happiness on the radio. I cocked my head.

It’s not what you think. It’s not the lottery, a powerful job, or money.
It’s two children under two?
It’s how close you live to your job!

A study had found that proximity or living close to your job, a short commute, was the key to happiness. At the time, we lived in Washington, DC, where no matter where you live, it takes forever to get where you need to go. A frustrating commute could turn a sane person crazy. From DC we would visit Athens and marvel that we could get anywhere in town in less than fifteen minutes. That moment was the set up for our intention to live some place that we could readily traverse.

My next external happiness clue came from a National Geographic story about the Blue Zones where pockets of longevity were studied that included, Loma Linda, CA, Sardinia, Italy, and Okinawa, Japan. Diets varied from vegan to Mediterranean, required no unusual exercise regimens beyond natural activities like walking but all of them had faith, family, and social networks that supported healthy behaviors. Happiness again seemed to be partly about location, a community having certain things in it.

The Harvard Grant Study which looked at a group of Harvard undergraduates over a seventy-five year period concluded that the best predictor of happiness is not the perfect job, not money, health, nor good looks, it's relationships. All you need is love.

Ok, so love and location.

The thing was, I was married, with kids, but I mostly wished I had some space, another location, from all that relating, love. Space to think in complete sentences. I missed my job where people listened to me, paid me money, and did what I said. I missed that, but not all of it, not the fifteen hour days, not eating takeout most nights, and not the just work, work, work. I wanted a better handle on my commute, my community, but also on my day to day life. I wanted to cook my own dinner. Read more books. There was something else I couldn't quite put my finger on. What else? Some big goal?

Research says one off events like getting a dream job or moving to Athens impact happiness but that these kinds of huge goals dissipate quickly which bring us to the ongoing twelve percent rooted in valuing faith, family, community, and work. 

I attend church regularly, I meditate occasionally, I work in the community frequently, and that family it keeps on loving me whether I’m happy or not, but work? Not eighty hour weeks that give us health problems. It’s co workers those social connections, but it’s also rewarding work. 

Rewarding work?

Rewarding work is about earned success, and you define how you earn this success- sales? Students taught? School lunches changed? Stories written? Films made? If you can discern your own project and discover the currency you value, work will be rewarding.

The pursuit of happiness is about discerning what makes you happy, but that is a kind of slippery thing. You have to notice what excites you. What do you love? What fuels your interest over time? Pay attention to what excites you. Notice your taste. Pay attention to your attention. I'll steal a line from Ira Glass, What make your world seem bigger, like a world you want to live in? A world with surprise? Joy? Then you have to learn to throw up the question, what's amusing to you? You have to figure out how to do this from where you are doing the work you do... so choose wisely. 

It's in your choices that you'll find your happiness, but you'll have to choose what makes you happy again and again and again. Happiness evolves.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Blessed be the...

When I finished my son's baby book, a compilation of photos from his first year of life, for his fifth birthday, I recalled John O'Donohue's poem "For Your Birthday." I had read it somewhere during those busy early childrearing years. Now, I think of the poem as his birthday approaches. The poem reminds me of the wild beauty this universe exhibits in it's quest to express life in its many forms. 

My kiddos are both mysterious, loving, kind, unique, and cursed to have me as their mother in the sense of whatever bent I give them, will be a bent from which they must eventually find release. In contrast, I have been shackled, smothered, loved, hugged, weighed down, and lifted up by their beings, downfalls, and special joys. I alternate between conjuring and entropy. I'm a little push here, a smidge of prodding there, or just a stir of the pot kind of parent, hopeful but not always trusting in leaving well enough alone, yes, a helicopter parent at times. Parenting has been an amazing privilege at which I have both failed miserably (yelled my head off at an innocent child) and soared spectacularly (held myself back to allow them space to take off)-- somedays on the same day. Even though I occasionally wish they would turn off the widgets spontaneously,  play the piano without prompting, or clean their room regularly, I remain in awe of my kiddos and their special ways. Some of us get distracted, forget, or have lost touch with what pushes our buttons to dive deep, fly solo, or love unquestioningly, thankfully, so far, not them. Happy birthday to my little guy, your mama loves you.

For Your Birthday
Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
The blueprint of your life
Would begin to glow on earth,
Illuminating all the faces and voices
That would arrive to invite
Your soul to growth
Praised be your father and mother
Who loved you before you were;
And trusted to call you here
With no idea who you would be.
Blessed be those who have loved you
Into becoming who you were meant to be,
Blessed be those who have crossed your life
With dark gifts of hurt and loss
That have helped to school your mind
In the art of disappointment.
When desolation surrounded you,
Blessed be those who looked for you
And found you, their kind hands
Urgent to open a blue window
In the grey wall formed around you.
Blessed be the gifts you never notice,
Your health, eyes to behold the world,
Thoughts to countenance the unknown,
Memory to harvest vanished days,
Your heart to feel the world’s waves,
Your breath to breathe the nourishment
Of distance made intimate by earth.
On this echoing-day of your birth,
May you open the gift of solitude
In order to receive your soul;
Enter the generousity of silence
To hear your hidden heart,
Know the serenity of stillness
To be enfolded anew
By the miracle of your being.
– from Benedictus, by John O’Donohue

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Breathing into Being

The second I sense that I need to talk to someone in an open environment, meaning not with a specific platform, pressure enters and I sound ridiculous even to myself, or I clam up and say nothing- particularly in a group setting or party. It's exasperating! A tape plays in my head, "You're terrible at small talk, you can't do this." I get so busy listening to this con that I can't marshall my tongue to move or my brain to come up with a question. Sometimes, I practice a question beforehand, particularly for gatherings or parties, so I have some generic ice breaker at hand like, "What are your plans for the weekend, spring break, the holidays, etc." Sometimes I'm so busy playing that loser tune, even the prep question alludes my holely brain. Sometimes I stumble into meaningful conversation, but at heart I remain unsure of how to easily enter conversation about the ideas that interest me. 

Yesterday, I confessed my discomfort in asking for donations because it feels like sales- I'm terrible at sales, not a salesperson, blah, blah, blah. My friend eyed me over once and then said, "That's not true. Kim, you're very good at selling an idea you're passionate about. You've sold me before!" With that statement  and alternative perspective ringing around in my head, I went to an exhibit today that was in part in existence because I helped championed it.

Truth is I championed something because I couldn't find anyone else to do it. I asked other champions to hang with me and see what they could do with their ideas. Today I saw that the work of other people came out of that breath I was willing to blow months and months ago and realized what can happen when I half heartedly attempt to keep a beautiful thought alive- like at museum exhibit and a card game!

Now for less tape playing and more breathing... keep going!

That cool card game that got made as part of Upgrade Athens Co.
from the Discovery Museum exhibit of the Green Revolution

Friday, February 5, 2016


“Creativity is often misunderstood. People often think of it in terms of artistic work—unbridled, unguided effort that leads to beautiful effect. If you look deeper, however, you’ll find that some of the most inspiring art forms—haikus, sonatas, religious paintings—are fraught with constraints.” 
—Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! CEO

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Florida Girl does Winter

Reared in the panhandle of Florida, my concept of cold has always been that it's temporary. 

I'm prepared for heat. I tend to wear one layer, bring a jacket. A hat and gloves are a nusence and a scarf is for Europeans, city folk, mountain people. Then. I learned to ski.

Skiing requires base layers of long underwear, balaclavas, glove liners, fleece pullovers, hand warmers, and an awareness that all of this gear must be applied, zipped, and strategically maneuvered to limit skin exposure and insure maximum warmth before you even step outside. 

I'm forever sure it won't be cold enough, really I can't imagine it will actually be that cold. I leave off layers that I soon regret or walk onto lifts with my clothing partially assembled having to clip, zip, and tug it while exposing my hands to the windchill and loosing body heat I can't regain on a mountain top.

I manage a few runs despite numb fingers and thumbs that throb and ache because I love the trees sparkling with ice and that the sunlight bounces off the snow in an over exuberant fashion. Maybe it was all the hurricanes in my youth, but I love to see the wind whipping snow with force and drama. 

It's below zero on that mountain, my toes are purple, I'm wishing for heated gloves, but it's beautiful. The snow and light are dancing, the trees are frosted.  I am not in Florida anymore. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016


"Developing a sense of taste means exposing yourself to a wide range of something—a wide range of music, a wide range of art—and not just exposing yourself, but asking questions."
- Brian Grazer, A Curious Mind