The Fellowship Hall

Fellowship halls are a necessary for a church.  People need a large room to congregate, have meals, and let the boys play dodge ball on Wednesday nights.

Enjoying A Meal

However I have found it difficult to have a meaningful conversation in the fellowship hall.  So often after-service Sunday turns into crossing items off  a to-do list.  Talk to Person A about VBS, Person B about youth group, and Person C about my children misbehaving in Children’s Worship.

I’ve also blamed it all the loud noise and low lighting in the fellowship hall, but maybe that is my own excuse.

Today my three year old was randomly going up to everyone (even the oldest lady in the church who has a thick Dutch accent is hard to understand) and showing off her new Bible and pointing out her favorite stories.


I wish I had that kind of zeal she had for people.  I tried today.  I really did.  I talked to a couple people.  While my conversations were shorter and surfacey, I threw out my own “church to do-list agenda” and my own stories.  I did learn new things about people I have known for years.  No effort wasted.

Day One: First Conversation

One conversation.  More listening than talking.  Engaging.  Asking questions.

Day one.

I spent the vast majority of the day at a rummage sale…which I love.  I see the MOPS rummage sale as a smaller version of Christmas.

I talked to someone and started with simple questions.  It turned into a very interesting thought provoking conversation about social justice and racial differences.  I would not have enjoyed learning from her and hearing her stories had I not made the effort.  Soon others were drawn into our conversation.

I was thinking about that scene from My Best Friend’s Wedding when Julianne intentionally takes Michael (her best friend who she also has feelings for) and his fiance Kimmy (who she is jealous) to a Karaoke bar after hearing about how much she hates them.  Michael and Julianne talk about Florence, Italy and all their memories there while Kimmy tries to find her way in the conversation…but is not welcomed.

We do that a lot.  We gravitate to who we know and the people lurking to the side…we don’t know how to bring them in.  Sometimes all it takes is a very simple question.  All I asked is:  “So do you like working at rummage sales?”


Happiness Project Revised…

I started a happiness project a few months ago with gusto.  I had all these superb ideas to implement in my everyday life.  I daresay it was my happiness project that helped me do creative things with my kids and foster my relationship with each of them in the month of March.

Then May came along which for the past two years is the month I am alone without the husband for two weeks.  I had every intention of focusing on my house in the month of the May and working on some projects while he is gone.

Too ambitious?  Yes.

I was reminded once again while he is away I can only do the bare minimum:  take care of the kids, spend time with the kids, do the cleaning that NEEDS to be done, and work on other projects if there is time leftover.   I think I have said, “I’m so tired!” at least a half dozen times every day…sorry for those who might have gotten sick of me complaining about my fatigue.

So the month of May is going to end in five hours and I have very little if anything to show for my May Happiness Project.

So I thought of a couple options:  1) Do the month of May in the month of June and bump everything back  2) Skip the month of May and move right next into June. 3) Drop this all project in its entirety and do something totally different.

Then I remembered 12/12/12.  I participated in a National Random Acts of Kindness Day.  It honestly was one of the best days.  I did 12 random acts of kindness in a day and my kids were involved in almost every single one.  I cannot tell you how it helped to intentionally think of others and less about myself.

Now it is 170 days later.  I spent a good part of the day today with someone I do not know very well, but greatly enjoyed conversing with.  This person comes from a similar background as me and we have many things in common.

Also today I saw someone who is different than me and I am sure I have less in common with.  I did not strike up a conversation with this person.  I did not even try.

It made me think of a speaker I heard recently who started her talk by saying, “You look at me and you will immediately judge me.”  Even though we claim we are not racist and do not have a prejudice bone in our body, our minds will go there.  We always judge.

We will always gravitate to the people we are more comfortable with.  We tell our children to befriend the odd one out or not to always sit by the same girl on the bus.  But do we?

My friends and I were talking about if someone visits our church and is from our denominational background and especially if they are a young family, people will flock to them.  We are hesitant (and myself included!) to talk to the person on the fringe, the homeless person, or the guy with purple hair.  I hate that.

So what does this have to do with the happiness project?  I thought instead of focusing on “bettering my life,” I want to focus on stepping outside of it.

My oldest does a “task of the month” where they spend a whole month working on one single task.  Some of the tasks were tying shoes, learning their address and phone number, and now it is writing neatly on a single lined paper.

I thought about creating my own task of the month that centers on something “others-centered” and outside of myself.  Honestly all the goals for each month for the Happiness Project was getting overwhelming.  My “to-do list” was exploding.

Throughout this process I am going to read a section of the Bible each day in hopes to finish the Bible in a year program.  Something else that fell to the wayside in the month of May.

I am going to try to blog a little bit every day or every few days.  Even if it is 2-3 sentences.  I am already at 700 words and am totally exhausted.  I cannot write these long drawn out posts every single day.  As I have read more blogs, this seems to be the new blogging trend. As a news writer, I have learned “less is more.”

So in the month of June I want to have a conversation with someone every single day and do more listening than talking.  I want to do less telling my own stories and more engaging in what is important to them.  When I am given opportunities to step outside my comfort zone and talk to someone “different” I will seize it.  I am hoping this experiment will help me appreciate the different backgrounds of the people I encounter in my everyday life.

Happiness Project: The Rest of April

So I realized I have not blogged in several weeks.  I did not throw my happiness project out the window…quite the opposite in fact.  Those precious moments of blogging have been taken over by everything else.  In April I focused on health and wellness.  Here are the goals I did not blog about yet.


I wanted to attend an exercise class I never attend like step aerobics or zumba.  The problem I ran into is that these classes are offered at times that conflict with our families schedule.  I have the cheapest gym plan that does not allow me to use the gym on Mondays and Tuesdays unless I pay $7.00 each time.  I also do not use the child care.  I also guard our family’s dinner time.  So this leaves me early morning (which is when I usually go) or later in the evening.  The classes I normally go to (power lifting and cycling) are offered during these times, but the others ones are not.

However, since I joined a triathlon club in March (and I will be doing my first triathlon a week from Saturday!)  I have gone to track workouts and a swimming group.  A little intimidating as they run and swim much quicker than I do.  I went to the track workout back in mid March and it was frustrating being one lap, sometimes two behind the crew.  I made myself go at least once in April.  This morning I went again and did not worry about lagging behind.  I did the same workout as everyone else at MY pace and I loved it.


I’ve been very successful in getting up early.  I love the quietness of the morning and “the alone time.”  It is hard for me to get up early when I do not have an exercise class to go to, but I will always be a work-in-progress.  Naturally I am a night owl, but it does not fit my lifestyle anymore.


I still struggle to log into My Fitness Pal.  It would be much easier if I had a smart phone or iPad.  My weight has not changed in several months so I know I am eating well.  I struggle with whether it is worth it to count every single calorie if I not seeking to lose a lot of weight.  However, it does hold me accountable.

Happiness Project: Start a Kid’s Running Club


Starting a kid’s running club was not something I came up with spur of the moment.  It actually was an idea long before I had kids when I was a newbie runner.  Before we had children I worked part time at a Christian school in an after school care program.  In the spring I would watch the Girls On The Run club practice in the soccer field.  I desperately wanted to be an assistant coach, but I had to work during the hours they practiced.

Maybe one day I can coach Girls On the Run (I was thrilled to find out some of the schools in our area started clubs) but right now my children are all too young to participate.

I read articles on kids and running and talked to a friend whose kids began competing at young ages.  I have access to a large parking lot and a nearby park.  My kids like to be outside.  Why not start my own?

I grew up in a neighborhood where we naturally ran around the playground and one another’s yards.  We put together our own spur of the moment track meets.  There are not many children in our neighborhood and very few parents let their children run loose anymore like we did.

I envisioned starting some type of community center (another one of my big ideas…I know) as we have a couple empty houses and businesses within a stone’s throw of our church (which is next door to our house).  I do not have the resources, time, and expertise to start something like this at this point in my life.  Maybe one day.  For now I want my own home to be a place where community can be established such as kids running together.  A small pocket sized community center.

Other than running a 5K with my oldest last December, I have little experience teaching kids about running.  Even though I have been running off and on since 2000, I only recently started running with people who have a greater understanding of form, pacing, training plans, etc.  I tell people I am more youth leader than teacher.  I do not see myself ever teaching PE.  Granted, I did not really like PE as a kid.  My running club has been much trial and error…and learning as I go.

The fact my kids are enjoying it (as well as some of the other kids who have attended) makes me smile.  Because honestly I am really enjoying it too.  I do not know if it will grow into something bigger in the future or remain like this.  Perhaps I could start a Girls on the Run club at my kid’s school.  Or be an assistant coach for junior high track when my kids reach that age.  Whatever the case, I have a passion for running.  What a joy and honor it is to share it with my own kids and my friend’s kids.DSC05607

Happiness Project: Fruits and Veggies As A Snack

I want to eat more fruits and vegetables as a snack.  This is why I forced myself NOT to make peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies last week even though I was craving it.

I have friends who swear by smoothies…including green smoothies.  I love mango smoothies and peanut butter, banana, and oatmeal smoothies.  But I found the calorie content is much higher than I would normally eat for a snack. I am also keeping a food diary on My Fitness Pal again.

So I tried to make a carrot/apple/banana green smoothie and I even followed a  recipe.


And it was nasty.  I tried to give it a fair shot and drink the whole thing to which my husband replied:  “How are you enjoying your seaweed?”


My kids tried it and said it was gross.  I cannot say I really blame them.

What I learned from this whole experiment is I like fruits and vegetables.   I just do not prefer them all blended together.  I have had a couple salads this week.  I also have had banana halves, fruit and lowfat yogurt, and raisins.  I will continue to eat more fruits and veggies with my meals and as a snack.   I am a little afraid to venture into the green smoothie territory again.

Happiness Project: Health & Wellness

Well it’s April.  This month for my happiness project I wanted to focus on health and wellness.  It is April 1st and I already broke almost every goal I set for this month.  I skipped my running group this morning out of fear this morning (they are SO fast–but really nice people–but their speed is intimidating).  I also ate too much chocolate and Teddy Grahams.  I did not track my calories.

Here are my focus areas and I’ll restart tomorrow…

1) Go to an exercise class I would not normally attend:  Last month I technically started doing this.  I have joined a triathlon club and attended track workouts and master swim classes (and gotten my butt kicked in the process).  My health club has “Launch Week” in April which allows people to visit other classes.  All the workout tracks are brand new. I need to visit zumba, step aerobics, club dance or something just for the experience.

2)  Eat fruits & veggies as a snack everyday:  This is hard for me.  I would much rather have a cookie…or a bag of chips.


3)  Train my kids for the Awesome 3000:  It is way more motivating for me to run by myself than with them…running has always been “my time away.” Once I take them running, I enjoy it.  I am taking on a few extra kids too.


4)  Get up early:  I’ve actually been doing quite well with this since my “smile in the morning” project.  I want to continue it.

5)  Keep a food diary.  I LOVE My Fitness Pal and stuck with it for several months.  It’s a fight to stick with it.  I often get back into it for 2-3 days and then quit…and start eating cookies again…or a bag of chips.

Spring Break Theme Days

Since we were not going anywhere cool like Florida were going to have a fabulous “stay-cation” for Spring Break, I decided we would have fun filled theme days.  This was part of my Happiness Project for March.  Here’s our week in photos…

Monday:  Play Day with friends…


Tuesday:  Craft Day…We made fairies…2-DSC08371

and an Easter craft…


Wednesday was Treasure Hunt Day…


I planned two…a picture one for the non-readers…and a written clue one for the oldest child…


The weather was beautiful so I could utilize the outdoors…


And hide one of the treasures in the tulip patch…


Thursday was nature day.  I taught the older two how to make collages.  I think they turned out pretty cool…


Lots of hard work finding the perfect nature pictures from magazines.  My oldest kept saying, “Mom, why do all these pictures have runners in them?”  Too many Runners World magazines laying around…


The weather continued be warm and sunny.  We rode bikes at the park…


Threw rocks in the river…


And enjoyed being outside…


Friday was “Water Day.”  I won five passes to the Kroc Center at a triathlon club meeting.  We had a great afternoon of indoor rock climbing and swimming.


And water slides…


On Saturday we had Family Game Night and played the board game Life  which was rather interesting.


Some tears shed over having “athlete” as a career instead of police office and getting stuck with a mobile home versus the Victorian mansion.  Rob had so many kids he needed an extra car.


At the conclusion of the game, my son threw his wife out of the car and said, “I’m getting rid of my girl.”

My high school teacher called the day after Spring Break “BS Monday.”  There is NO break until Memorial Day which seems like forever…and summer is a little ways off.  But thankfully we’ve had some warm sunny days here.

The Happiness Project: The Kids!

It has been a great month and I daresay I have been more happier than normal.  I do not know if it is a result of my project or the randomness of life.

I managed to complete everything on my March list of focusing on the kids except for taking my daughter roller skating. Our one and only roller rink (which is actually a basketball court) is only available Friday nights and our weekends have been very full.  I have not forgotten about it and shooting for April.

We are currently in the middle of Spring Break theme days.  We kicked it off with playing Play Dough with friends. 4-DSC08369

One of the phrases from my guidelines for living that has stuck with me the most is:  “Act the way you want to feel.”  I know it cannot apply to everything especially crisis situations.  But day to day events–it certainly can.  Do I want to play a board game with my kids?  Why yes I do (even though my first reaction used to be–“No I’d rather surf Facebook).

Why is it hard to spend time with our kids?  Should we not get excited about it?  I think our minds gravitate to the things that need to be done (like housework). Or we want to tune out and “get away” (like get on Facebook). Or we have gotten into a bad rut of not spending time with them that we almost forget how to play with them.


As my husband said tonight (in regards of playing the board game LIFE tomorrow night which I don’t really care for but said I would play)–“This is important.  This is what you will remember.  This is what they will remember.”  He’s right.  I remember my dad taking me on a long morning bike ride to Mc Donalds for pancakes and playing Chutes and Ladders with me.  I remember my mom taking me to Saturday matinee movies and reading me library books before bed.


Our kids need us.  We need time with them too.  Your facebook status can wait.

Happiness Project: Smile in the morning

My next goal–smile first thing in the morning! (I meant to also post this on Monday but completely forgot).1-DSC08274

I should give you a brief synopsis of my exercise schedule.  I am training for a triathlon so I do a mix of running, swimming, and cycling.  I still want to distance run so I continue  runs three times a week (short, medium & long).  I also try to weight train once a week.

This was from last week.  This week the husband  is off from work so I’ve exercised later in the morning.


Set the alarm Monday night for 5:30 AM.  It did not go off because I forgot to turn it on.  This happens fairly often–I can be scatterbrained.

Wake up on my own and it is starting to get light.  Darn, is it 7 AM?  Did I set myself up for failure already?

Yes, it’s only 6:10 AM!  I had planned on doing my medium run.  I will not have enough time, but I can for sure do my short run.

Try to smile.  Take a few deep breaths.  Think of three things I am looking forward to for the day 1) 1 hour 1/2 to myself while the younger two are in co-op preschool 2) it’s not raining yet 3) I started a good book last night and I should be able to read a chapter while I drink my morning coffee

Get out bed.  Change into running clothes.  Drink water.

Take the chicken out of the freezer.  Forgot to do it last night.  This simple task and just standing in my kitchen for a minute helps wake me up.  This is next to impossible to do on very early exercise mornings unless I want to get up earlier…which I don’t.

Run 4 miles!


Wake up three minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off.  I am going to take those three minutes.  But I can’t fall back asleep.  “OK this is starting to feel longer than three minutes.”

Look at clock.  It’s been five minutes.  Forgot to turn on the alarm.  AGAIN!  At least I woke up without it.  That’s a good thing.

Think of three things I am looking forward to day: 1) Going to Bible Study and seeing my friends 2) Going out tonight with other friends 3) I got almost all the laundry put away yesterday.

Smiled in the mirror.  Got ready to and went to indoor cycling class and swam laps.  One thing that helped is preparing EVERYTHING the night before–not just gym bag packed, water bottle and keys left out.  It helped having shoes already untied and a brush and pony tail holder laid out so I could quick throw my hair back.  I wish I could put in a load of laundry before I take off, but that would be pushing it.


Wow…I think it’s actually working!

Alarm went off this time.  Got up around 5.  Almost talked myself out of getting up.  Tried to come up with three things I was looking forward to today, but my brain kept coming up with things I was thankful for.  Once I tried to focus on three things I was looking forward to it helped me to wake up.  1) Watching the kids at swim lessons (love watching my kids swim!) 2) low key afternoon and can take a power nap 3) supposed to be a sunny day.

Made it to my power lifting class and swam laps afterwards. Great morning!

I also exercised Friday, Saturday & Sunday in the late morning as I could coordinate that with the husband’s schedule.