Mighty Summit was last weekend, and with Camp Mighty approaching, I’ve been considering what I want from next year. At both events we do a resource lunch where attendees choose five goals for the coming year, and ask for help with one.
My plan was to revamp my Life List because so much has changed. I found a fresh sheet of paper, got all thinky, and! My new goals were so meaty, you guys. “I have leveled up!” I thought, “My personal growth this past year is astounding!”
But, no. Turns out I always go through a process of setting larger goals and then winnowing down to specifics, it just wasn’t conscious before. In fact, over the years I’ve developed a system that works pretty well for me using three different types of goals:
I write all year long — here, in journals, on 750 Words, and I also keep an idea file on my laptop full of information I want to consider when I’m setting course for the year.
As my birthday approaches, I scan all that stuff and look for patterns. This helps me identify umbrella goals. They’re always a slightly different format, and they always seem cheesy when I share them, but the personal stuff always does, right? So here’s last year’s goal list:
And this year’s:
Remember who you love and who loves you.
• Celebrate others
• Help others
• Be strong
• Leave space
• Stand up
These goals help me figure out what I want to cross off my Life List in the coming year. Which brings us to the second type of goal.
These are the kinds of goals you’ll see on my Life List — taking tap lessons, tasting 1,000 fruits, rolling a kayak. Once I’ve set my directional goals for the year, I sort through my list for ideas actions that will move me in the right direction.
Under each directional goal, I add a clarifying sentence and then either fill in a few ideas from my Life List, or add tasks to my Life List based on my umbrella goals. I haven’t done this yet this year, so I’ll make up an example:
• Be strong.
Take care of myself so I have energy for everything else.
-Do a Triathlon.
-Practice the Four Agreements.
-Do something fun every day.
Now I know where I want to be, and also the specifics on how I’ll get there.
I plug away at tasks from birthday to birthday, and then start the process again in Fall, carrying over some longer-term items and deciding on fresh lessons with each pass.
In the meantime, I need reminders to lighten up.
Come New Year when everyone is in resolution frenzy and seasonal-affective disorder is sapping my will to achieve, I write up a list of fun things I want to keep in mind. Last year’s looked like this:
• Eat more doughnuts.
• Carry less crap.
• Light more candles.
• Read real books.
• Organize the little stuff.
• Listen to more music.
These goals aren’t about effort, they’re just reminders of the things that keep life sweet for me.
So aside from daily to do lists, those are my main goal categories. What about you? How do you organize the things you want to accomplish? Do you make more than one list? Do you just keep things in your head? I’m curious because obviously I’m “meticulous” and the same process won’t produce the best results for everyone. Let me know your thoughts in comments.
Our Mighty Happy Giveaway Contest generated so many awesome and uplifting responses, it seemed unfair to highlight only the winners. Here, then, are 180 happy things, suggested by you guys. They made me happy, too.
1. The sound of my children making each other laugh. (Sabrina)
2. Being the first person to wake up on a weekend and sitting on the couch reading, waiting for the day to start. (Catherine)
3. Long conversations with my sister. (Jasmine)
4. Photo booths. (Shannon)
5. When someone likes something I’m wearing. (Kristin)
6. Discovering a beautiful thing in an unexpected place in an unexpected moment. (Amy)
7. Seeing old friends and realizing only after the rush of catching up that it’s like no time has passed and I love them just as much as ever. (Amy)
8. The moments when I realize there’s nowhere I’d rather be than where I am right then. (Samantha)
9. Hugs from a wet-from-the-pool four-year-old. (Cass)
10. Tears — sometimes the other side of them bring the best kind of happy (Cass)
11. The sparkle in my son’s eye when he’s telling a funny story. (Corri)
12. Sitting by a lake under the stars. (Meg)
13. The smell and feel of old books as I’m browsing my local book store. (Kami)
14. The feeling you get when in the ocean, just bouncing along with gentle waves. (Joanne)
15. The movie theater in town that plays independent films and serves beer. (Elizabeth)
16. Coming home from a trip. (Jana)
17. Jumping with the children on the trampoline we’ve got in the garden. (Mette)
18. The smell of the earth when it first starts to rain. (Amanda)
19. Feeding my friends food that I’ve cooked. (Vivian)
20. Being a traveler totally anonymous in a foreign country. (Morgan)
21. The feel of very old, somewhat transparent vintage t-shirts. (Abby)
22. Kneading bread dough. (Heather)
23. Music playing in the background. (Allisone)
24. Being barefoot in the kitchen, sipping wine, and cooking dinner. (Ginny)
25. Getting into a made bed at night. (Samantha)
26. Completing challenging tasks. That makes me feel bullet-proof! (Samantha)
27. Eating the first cookie, slice of bread, etc. that I pull out of the oven. (Hanna)
28. Songs that tell a story. (Karen)
29. In the moment when you realize an inside joke has been created. (Ginny)
30. Watching an Oklahoma sunset. (Penny)
31. When my husband and I suddenly catch each other’s eyes – amidst laundry, tired children, mess and long lists of to dos – smile, and kiss. (Mette)
32. When I come across something in my late father’s handwriting. (Tami)
33. Sharing dessert. (Tami)
34. Seeing my husband’s face light up just as much as the baby’s when they see each other. (Nestra)
35. That my daughter has to give the dog a kiss goodnight and the dog sleeps in front of her door. (Alicia)
36. When my husband gets into bed way later than me and inadvertently wakes me up by cuddling. (Hope)
37. The questions my five-year-old asks friendly strangers on the train. (Finding Magnolia)
38. Passport, travel documents, and a neatly packed bag – ready to head out the door. (Amy)
39. Falling asleep outdoors with the sun on my face. (Kate)
40. A slightly cool breeze coming off the river that hints at fall ahead. (Pseudostoops)
41. Seeing how confident and brave my 14-year-old daughter is. (Rochelle)
42. When I get to spend a whole day with my mum. (Angy)
43. Sitting on the front steps of my house in Capitol Hill, reading a book, drinking a glass of wine, and watching the neighborhood go by. (Rachel)
44. Watching my daughter carry around a Patty O’Green doll from the 1980s like it’s the hottest toy ever. (Marti)
45. Being able to spend an entire day reading favorite books. (Cynthia)
46. Those conversations with strangers in which the walls seem to fall away. (Morgan)
47. Seeing my husband read to my girls. (Famous Amy)
48. New paints, clean brushes, and an empty canvas. (Emily)
49. Deep roasted black coffee. (MDJ)
50. Remembering to buy myself flowers. (Sarah)
51. Strawberry season. (Erin)
52. Meandering conversations with my thirteen-year-old son. (Lisa)
53. Nighttime play dates — kids in the yard, adults on the deck. (Amy Beth)
54. Listening to my husband play the guitar. (Violeta)
55. Hugging my son when I pick him up from school. (Melissa)
56. Listening to music outdoors. (Katie)
57. A long chat with an old friend. (Erin)
58. Sitting on my 11-year-old daughter’s bed, next to her, as she chatters on about her most important things. (Linny)
59. Sitting at long table filled with great food and fantastic friends, and you suddenly realize just how lucky you are. (Patsy)
60. When my boyfriend anchors my feet with his feet, wraps his arms tight around me, and kisses the top of my head, with my face buried in his chest. (Janelle)
61. Coming downstairs in the morning to a clean house. (Dutch)
62. Deer trimming my blackberries for me, so I won’t have to. (Guinevere)
63. Hymns of my childhood. (Guinevere)
64. Being in the middle of really good book and being excited about how much there still is to go. (Candice)
65. The moments when I realize there’s nowhere I’d rather be than where I am right then. (Samantha)
66. The amazing woman in my life who catch me when I fall. (Rhiannon)
67. Buying my new planner in January and filling it in with birthdays and special events for the year ahead. (CP)
68. Homemade waffles on a Saturday morning at 11 am. (Christine)
69. Lifting someone up. Whether from complimenting them on their awesomeness or empowering them to try something new. (Kristen)
70. An email from the public library, telling me my requested books have arrived and are ready for me to pick up. (Nicole)
71. Fresh-cut zinnias from my garden. (Sassafrass Mama)
72. Being in Yosemite and seeing the valley from Tunnel View, which reminds me just how small my life is in comparison to the world, and gives me instant perspective. (Stephanie)
73. Riding my Vespa. (Cindy)
74. The laughter of women in a group. (Katie)
75. My son getting off the plane when he comes home from university. (Also his younger brother’s happy face when he sees his older brother). (Cass)
76. The rush of adrenaline at that moment on a run when a good song comes on my iPod. (Kate)
77. Finally having a job I love. (Lydia)
78. Sitting around with family after dinner on the deck outside, talking and laughing, with no one wanting to pack up and go home. (Leah)
79. Watching mass group hugs, like when a team wins the World Series. (Alyssa)
80. A day that is 78, calm and sunny. (Nicole)
81. Hearing the people I love laugh. (Karen)
82. Kids hugging babies. (Flora)
83. Fresh tomatoes from the garden. (Hilary)
84. A day alone in a new city with my camera. (Amy)
85. Planning a trip somewhere I’ve never been. (Erin)
86. Those moments in life, occasionally, where everything just seems right and crystallizes into a memory right as you watch. (Becky)
87. Riding my bike down the tree-lined streets of my neighborhood, seeing how long I can balance at stoplights. (M)
88. Spontaneous dance parties with my (brand! new!) husband. (M)
89. Swimming in my lake. (Heather)
90. The way my boyfriend and I can look at each other and know the other is thinking “ice cream.” (Kristen)
91. Arriving in a new place at the start of a long vacation. (Aimee)
92. Too much wine at dinner with new friends. (Rachel)
93. Blueberry season. (Rachel)
94. Looking at pictures of my best friend’s new baby. (Andi)
95. When one of my children says something unexpected and unintentionally hilarious. (Nicole)
96. My husband and I communicating something to one another that no one else gets. (Jodes)
97. Dandelions. (Amanda)
98. The constant sound of simultaneous awe, love and contentment in my sister’s voice since the birth of my niece. (Annette)
99. Walking in the woods with a light breeze. (Leah)
100. Dream decorating my new apartment. (Laura)
101. The first green points peeking through the dirt in spring, and the first turning leaves in the fall. (Casey)
102. A table-full of friends bursting into laughter. (Desiree)
103. Swimming in a pond with my dog. (Ariel)
104. Clean surfaces. (Kim)
105. The way my four-year-old son’s hair smells after his bath. (Becky)
106. My husband’s accent. (Becky)
107. How music can make me cry and laugh and feel so deeply. (Becky)
108. Cuddling in any form. (Mandy)
109. Embarking on a new project. (Andrea)
110. Riding on a scooter around New Orleans with my husband. (MacKensie)
111. My little cousins and the letters they write me. (Rachael)
112. Tomatoes and avocados on sourdough bread. (Rachael)
113. The way my dogs are freak-out-happy to see me when I get home from work. (Nancy)
114. When my daughter tells me her brother is her best friend. (Beks)
115. Eating apricots straight from the tree. (Laura)
116. Reading under a shady tree. (Danielle)
117. Hiking near wildflowers. (Tiff)
118. The Internet that connects me to the wider world. (Crystal)
119. A good sweaty run. (Marissa)
120. A semi-toothless grin. (Sarah)
121. Men with crinkle-eyes when they smile. (Stephanie)
122. Suntan lines on my feet. (Jodi)
123. Remembering to look up: trees, sunset, stars, sky … (Meghan)
124. Crossing things off. (Michelle)
125. My little nephew calling to say hello. (Michelle)
126. Long walks through the woods in the fall. (Sue)
127. Pushing myself past what I think are my limits. (Rachel)
128. A healthy, delicious dinner made at home. (Heather)
129. When someone else makes coffee in the morning. (Michelle)
130. Crawling into a freshly made bed. (Erin)
131. When my three-year-old calls my six-month-old honey and sweetie. (Hope)
132. Spending a day in the kitchen cooking with all the windows open. (Sarah)
133. The third lap in the pool. (Mai)
134. Biking in the sun. (Mai)
135. Biting into a ripe homegrown tomato. (Trish)
136. Holding hands and seeing others doing the same. (Kristen)
137. When you get home right before the rain starts. (Wan)
138. The rush of endorphins toward the end of kickboxing class. (Nicole)
139. The smell of the tent when we unfold it. (Shelly)
140. Using the china that was given to me on my wedding day by my mother, which was her mother’s, which was her mother’s. (Megan)
141. Opening the windows when it starts raining. (Megan)
142. Listening to my 88-year-old grandmother telling me how my grandfather proposed. (Heather)
143. A shiny-clean kitchen floor. (Louise)
144. An unexpected surprise — and planning an unexpected surprise. (Louise)
145. Climbing into a bed made up with fresh sheets and lots of pillows at the end of the day. (Lisa)
146. Fireflies. (Maileen)
147. Honey-mint iced tea. (Sonya)
148. The moments leading up to a kiss. (Ats)
149. Smiles, knowing looks, and general understanding with strangers whom you may or may not speak to and may or may not see again. (SWAK)
150. Eating healthier and feeling better as a result. (Sarah)
151. Belly laughs. (Rhonda)
152. When my son wears his superhero cape to the grocery store. (Sarah
153. That first real exhale after sex. (Maya)
154. Making my mother proud. (Ingrid)
155. The Sunday paper. (Carla)
156. Living in NYC. (Lauren)
157. Little kids when they’re learning to talk. (Danielle)
158. When I come across something in my late father’s handwriting. (Tami)
159. The way I feel after exercise. (April)
160. That my daughter has to give the dog a kiss goodnight and the dog sleeps in front of her door. (Alicia)
161. Fresh lemonade. (Claire)
162. When friends from different circles of my life become friends with each other. (Annabanana)
163. When light turns golden at the end of the day. (Gabi)
164. Rainbow sprinkles. (Heather)
165. Using treasured postcards as bookmarks. (Christy)
166. Being good at what I do. (Hita)
167. My kids when they first get out of bed, all sleepy and snugly with wild hair. (mk)
168. Old things: Buildings, books, people … (April)
169. Taking off my bra at the end of a long day. (C)
170. Receiving handwritten letters from my grandfather. (Jan)
171. Wearing my (long distance) boyfriend’s clothes. (Elise)
172. My kid singing her heart out (to a thirty-year-old song.) (Marla)
173. Looking forward to date night. (Alison)
174. Bright colors. (Meredith)
175. Tropical scented anything. (Victoria)
176. Laughing by a campfire with friends and family (Genevieve)
177. Forehead kisses. (Kristin)
178. Being in an airport. (Megan)
179. Watching the sun set through trees from a hammock. (Lauren)
180. When I make a little list of the things I am grateful for. (Heather)
As part of my Life List, I’m photographing all the public libraries in San Francisco.
Right now, the California Library Association is trying to restore $15.2 million in State funding in hopes of preventing the loss of $16 million in Federal funding. I know how much all of us love books, so please take a minute to write a letter or two in support of restoring funding. All the information you need is here. Let’s do this thing.
If you liked this post, you might also like:
Library Portraits Project: Main Branch
Library Portraits Project: Golden Gate Valley Branch
Library Portraits Project: Potrero Branch
Library Images from Around the World
Eight Books that Changed Things for Me
Life Lessons in Literature
I’ve eaten alone at restaurants a few times. Twice I was in New York after the long flight from San Francisco made me too irritable for companionship, but too hungry to sleep.
I rarely think to feed myself well when I’m alone — it seems indulgent. Before my most recent trip to New York, I’d slept maybe two hours in as many days. My plan was to drop luggage, shovel Chipotle at my face, and succumb to the impending stroke.
In my search for fast food, I happened on Gramercy Tavern. It looked so quiet and merciful, I went inside.
Anna was my waitress; she asked me how I was. I told her I’d just flown in, and she welcomed me back home, which seemed about right. My exhaustion made everything acute, kinder than usual.
I ordered a warm tomato salad to start, then the fish. The tomatoes had been softened in a small blessing of bacon fat. I finished both plates by tearing off a bite of bread, spearing it with my fork, and sopping up the sauce.
Dessert was a peculiar sundae, the first night of the summer they were serving it, and it was a busy night for Anna because regulars had been waiting. On the back page of my novel, I recorded its components:
Blueberry Corn Ice Cream Sundae
• sweet corn ice cream
• blueberry compote with whole corn kernels
• fresh blueberries
• caramel popcorn
• unsweetened whipped cream
As a kid, I lived in a house with a Verbena tree near the front door, and it smelled of lemons when you brushed against it. So I ordered the Verbena tisane, and finished another chapter of my book.
Everything tasted compassionate, specific to me. I assume meals like that are why people become chefs, to leave people feeling cared for and well fed. I did.
You should have one of these nights too. Add it to your Life List: Take yourself out to dinner. And when the day arrives, sit down at your table knowing you’re in good company.
Would you ever eat alone?
My mantra about coexisting peacefully with sea creatures goes like this: “I do not look like food to anything underwater. I do not look like food to anything underwater.” Comforting because it’s true. Except that the day before this dive I was bitten by a Humuhumunukunuku’puaa, which is Hawaii’s national fish. It super-bit me and made me bleed, presumably because I was hanging out over its turf. Sorry Humuhumunukunuku’puaa, my bad. And thank you for the reminder that sometimes animals bite you precisely because they don’t recognize you. Thank you for that reminder mere hours before I got in the water with fish the size of houses:
The dive did not go as expected.
I got open-water certified about eight months ago for my birthday, but I haven’t been diving since, so I was eager to get back in the water. A while ago, Liz Stanley posted about her night dive with Manta Rays in Hawaii, and I added it to my Life List without knowing much about it. I booked the dive, and then watched the creepy Skeletor video.
So I was a little hesitant, but by the time I got on the boat I was downright uneasy. Eight months between dives is a long time for a newbie. I didn’t remember much about my equipment, and I was going by myself, so I wouldn’t know my dive buddy. Plus, I’d never been on a night dive, but I’d heard there’s darkness involved. The only thing more vast than the sea is darkness. Everyone knows monsters like to hang out in the dark and in the sea. That’s Monsters 101.
The boat ride was gorgeous and we waited aboard for sunset. We were given dive lights, and told that we would sit on the bottom shining our lights upward, while snorkelers floated above shining their lights down. The mantas swim in large looping arcs in the space between, doing backflips to scoop up the plankton that’s attracted to all that light.
I was introduced to my dive partner, Chris, a few minutes before we jumped in the water. She was an affable Australian, and because I find Australians and their mortality-awareness comforting, I took this as an auspicious sign.
Then the wind picked up.
The water was bashing against the shore and shooting spray into the air when the dive master lined us up. We jumped in to the choppy water, and suffice it to say I was not chill. I was unsure of myself already, and the rough water only made me more anxious. There was a slight drag on my air line, which made my panicky breaths more arduous, and surprise! It was dark.
There was a strong current underwater that I’d never experienced before, sort of like swimming upstream in a river. When we got down to the bottom, we were supposed to settle into a seated position to shine our lights upward, but the current made it tough to stay in one place. The dive master showed us how to hug a rock underwater, but several of us weren’t strong enough to hold on.
I was freaked out, getting knocked around by the current, battling to find a means of staying put without cutting my hands on the rock or bashing my tank into the reef. At one point the dive master approached me a wrote on his slate, “Lay down better.” Pro tip, dive master. I refrained from flashing him the most unequivocal of hand signals. Mostly because I was using my hands to hold on to a rock under which something bitey was surely sequestered.
In the midst of all the struggling, I managed to look up a few times to see the rays swooping through beams of light and the bubbles floating up from our respirators. Those few moments were breathtaking — so alien and peaceful. But after a few minutes the dive master signaled that we should surface because the situation underwater was too rough. He apologized for not being better able to control the sea, then offered us a chance to snorkel, because at this point the surface had calmed.
We climbed back in, and that was when everything went magic. The water was glowing from all the light, and the Mantas were huge swooping shadows cutting through the beams. One of the rays started backflipping, circling closer to me each time he looped upward. I was sure he would touch me, I could feel the water washing against me from his wings and I couldn’t stop laughing.
I laughed every time he approached, and my mask would fill with water. I’d clear the mask just as he was looping up again, and then I’d laugh and my mask would fill.
Gorgeous. Do this, my friends. It will make you happy.
Thanks to the Kahuku Land Farms Fruit Stand in Hawaii, I’ve officially hit 100 fruits. Milestone! Bam.
I told Mike, our trip lead, how close I was to being centufruitarian, and he went out of his way to find new fruits to try. Thanks to Mike, and the rest of the Hawaii Five Oh team for being so patient and enthusiastic with my quest.
These are the fruits that pushed us past the 100 mark:
When I asked the woman at the market what Chicos tasted like, she said, “brown sugar.” She had a bit of an accent, so I thought I’d misunderstood her.
She was exactly right. They’re soft inside, the dominant flavor is brown sugar, and they even seem to have little crunch granules in the flesh.
It was like eating a baked apple plucked directly from the tree.
More tiny snack fruits, hooray! These bananas are about as big as my palm, maybe a third of the size of a banana you’d find at the grocery store, and much, much tastier.
The ice cream banana is light and creamy, apt! The apple banana has a pleasant tartness that offsets the sweetness.
Both were fun to eat because you can shove the whole thing in your mouth, and then walk around beating your chest like King Kong. Which I recommend.
No. 103 Mountain Apples
These are a lot like Jamaican Apples, only smaller and tangier.
They’re less dense than a conventional apple, the crunch is more like a really crisp, seedless cucumber. Mmm. Quenchy.
This Friday, we’ll celebrate the century mark with a roundup of my top ten favorite fruits so far. You cannot wait. Fruit nerds, unite!
Can’t you almost smell that color?
When I first saw a Mountain Rose Apple, my breath caught. It reminded me of a professor who said that one of the Impressionist painters — I think it was Matisse — brought an apple as a gift when he visited friends. And that’s exactly what these apples are, tokens of affection. The best way to bring something simple and sweet to someone you love.