Bucket Filling

One downside to sending our kids to a very elite private school is that they don’t always feel proud of the fact that we are solidly middle class. Some of their friends have mansion-type apartments.

At a conversation on race at their school the other night, an African American male teacher, Mr. V., said that throughout his whole high school experience as a student at the school, he never once brought a friend home.

I told CoCo that. She said she doesn’t bring friends home either. But. ahem, she does. We are a fun family. I mentioned a half-dozen times in the last month her friends have stopped over.

This whole convo started because CoCo had been saying, as she does fairly regularly, “We need new floors. Let’s get those dark brown wooden floorboards.” She’s fixated on the inadequacy of our apartment floors.

“Honey, we need so much more than new floors. We need to fix that patchy paint job where the super fixed a leak two years ago. The laundry area is a mess.” I could start a to-do list but that’s not what I wanted to say.

Our apartment is so pretty when it's tidy. I was getting ready for book club dinner here.
Our apartment is so pretty when it’s tidy. I was getting ready for book club dinner here.

We have a beautiful, big apartment. We make it more beautiful all the time. I wish I was more dedicated to interior design. We have Anna come once a week. But we need more household help. Chris cannot really pick up like he used to.

I have been working a ton. I feel a sense of frustration at the amount I work and the little I get paid. Yet. Yet. I love my work. I love what I do so much. I love teaching and writing and editing. And my clients are amazing. I learn so much. And so, in this way, I am a little like CoCo, wanting more, wanting nicer, loving those luxury brands. Yet. I want to feel grateful for all that we have. Not all that we don’t have.

When I was doing the art handling work, I told my friend David Pullman who was working alongside me I couldn’t do the work any more because it paid too little. He said, “Every drop fills the bucket.” I love that.

Every drop of gratitude fills my bucket. My bucket gets filled, not by things, but by kind words and encouragement. Not by criticism, but by specific praise.

Check out this prezi on Bucket Filling



Here are some things I’m grateful for:

  • yes, first off, my awesome kids, especially as they were good traveling companions over Thanksgiving
  • my family whom we visited in Chicago — all 5 of us Coudal kids were together with our families — so many fun memories!
  • my blog, my facebook, my instagram, my twitter — and even my foray into pinterest
  • my new bathroom lights (this may seem small, but as we live in a rent stabilized apartment, we get very few home improvements. The super was in our apartment when we left for Chicago and when we came back, voila! fixtures were installed!)
  • my quirky freelance gigs and steady income
  • all of my writing students — even my bratty middle school kids
  • my old friends, like from college and high school, who’ve been my friends for DECADES!
  • my new friends, like from new work city
  • my writing class
  • my love of travel
  • the NYC theater scene
  • my finishing a 5K on turkey day
  • my Upper West Side
  • the NYC citbike program
  • my bike
  • my secret garden
  • my health — because, it’s true, health is wealth
  • my optimism

When I am grateful, something in me opens up and I make room for more acceptance.

Gratitude is a practice.

I am not perfect. At times, I see too quickly what I am missing. Because of Chris’s Parkinson’s Disease, I am, at times, sorry for him, sorry for my kids, sorry for myself. Just sorry. And mad.

I have wished I was married to someone who did not have chronic health problems. But I want to remember to appreciate and celebrate what I have. I have a lot.

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me and my siblings and my mother
I was in this crowd, running along Lake Shore Drive at the Turkey Trot
my awesome kids over Thanksgiving

Sorting Socks

Part of my problem with sorting socks is that my kids don’t mind wearing non-matching or nearly-matching socks. I wish wearing mismatched socks was a trend when I was a kid.

I know it’s Election Day. I woke up feeling confident that I would win. Er, I mean, my man Obama would win. So while I’d like to blog about the 2012 election, I thought I’d post about finding happiness a little closer to home.

Yesterday, I was super excited to declutter. Crazy, right? I sorted more than 50 pairs of socks and it took me hours! These socks had hung around the bottom of the laundry basket for several years, years when my kids’ sock sizes grew from child to adult-sized.

At the bottom of the basket, I found toddler socks. Yes, it’s been a while since I dug down that deep.

My kids are teenagers. So after a momentary fling with nostalgia over those cute little toddler-sized socks, I tossed them away.

I’ve never enjoyed sorting socks. People say, “Do it while sitting in front of the TV at night.” But I don’t watch TV.

I found inspiration for this boring activity from this blog post, 29 Ways to Declutter. It seems Deb Smouse is saying that there’s a spiritual side to decluttering. I like that. Her post begins with this quote:

Clutter is a physical manifestation of fear that cripples our ability to grow. – H.G. Chissell.

When I left my job six weeks ago, I thought, “Great, now I’ll have time to do all those things I’ve always wanted to do, like sort those damn socks in the bottom of the basket.”

Yup, I’m finding satisfaction in getting to the bottom of the barrel and finding my kids’ childhood.

Incidentally, I’m renaming this blog, To Pursue Happiness and I’ve rolled all my blogs home here.

With starting up Boot Camp For Writers and kick starting my freelance blogging career, I just don’t have the time or energy to post on all four of my blogs, so find me here! For the month of November, I’m posting every day.

10 Thing That Make Me Happy

  1. Helping a friend with a big event. I’m doing flowers for Barbara’s wedding! And I can’t wait for a highlight of my life — dancing at weddings.
  2. A bike basket. I have had half a dozen bikes in my adult life in New York City. This is the first time I have had a basket. Super cute and convenient.
  3. Riverside Park garden at about 91st. How gorgeous is this. Even in this heavy humidity as I glide on my bike past the flowers, I am weighed down with the tropical smell and the riot of colors. I am transported into some version of heaven.
  4. Brilliant colleagues. I have had intellectual and creative coworkers. The best thing about my work is joking with my coworkers.
  5. A book club. We are hilarious. We travel together for one weekend every year and after that weekend, my jaw hurts from talking and laughing so much.
  6. Kids! Mine are smart, gorgeous, athletic, and basically kind. Even when they bicker and snipe, somewhere deep down, they are whispering, “I love you,” to each other. (I tell myself this.)
  7. A biz partner. Kelly Wallace is supersmart and talented. We are tapping into possibilities of a new kind of writing collective and getting unheard voices into the mainstream. Check out our website at Boot Camp for Writers
  8. Small kindnesses. Holding a door for someone or accepting the gift as someone holds a door for me.
  9. Resilience and New York theater. Last night my husband and I had a date night. We saw “Red Dog Howls” at New York Theatre Workshop and then we had dinner at the Frenchy French restaurant Calliope. Chris had real physical challenges during our meal. These were obvious as he struggled with his forkful (I hate Parkinson’s Disease!) Still, we had a night out. He never complained. I admire his resilience. (The play was a tough one – reminded me of the horrors endured by civilians as one character describes the effects of war on Armenians.)
  10. A washer and dryer. When I got these in our New York City apartment, I swore I would never want for anything, ever again. So I am grateful for my appliances.

Work with what I have

So I love writing in my journal every day. And I love resolving to be better, love more deeply, have more compassion.

And today’s journaling reminded me that like a lot of people, I believe my answers are outside of me somewhere.

But wait. Happiness is an inside job. I have to find my way with what I’ve got — the people, the work, the home.

No team from The Learning Channel is going to swoop down and give me a make-over (new clothes, new apartment, new YOU!) I have to keep making my life new. And I have to use what I already have to do it. And what I have is good enough. What I have is good.

This journal entry is no big whoop. And I’m kinda goofing around with my new iPhone to see how it works to write with and on my smartphone.


Reading at the Art Share

I locked up my bike. I was pretty nervous about the reading. I used to perform a lot. But it’s been a while. I do presentations for work, but that’s not the same.

Reading my own story, I could be judged, not just on my performance but on my material. I had signed up to read at the New York Insight Meditation Center Art Share. http://www.nyimc.org/ Not exactly the stress of Amateur Night at the Apollo, but still, stressful.

Just breathe, I reminded myself.

Buddhism and its practitioners are known for non-judgment. What a great concept — not judging.

I was reading a story that I knew to be funny, poignant, true. It was a mash-up of a few blog posts, one of which was about a mindfulness walk on a retreat.  As I walked, I took out my phone to snap  a picture and then it happened — I got caught in the web of social media — answering emails, texts, updating my Facebook, all while trying to meditate. I had gone on the retreat to get away from it all, but unwittingly plunked myself right back  into the thick of it all. https://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/blue-cliff-monastery/

The reading went well. I got some laughs, some nods, some smiles.

After the reading, I felt that post-performance high — that arm-stretched-in-the-air pose of a gymnast who has just nailed her floor routine.

I bumped into an acquaintance who was about to teach a yoga class. She told me that my reading went well.

“Thanks,” I said, feeling grateful.

That’s when I realized the purpose of doing a reading or blogging or putting myself out there — is to turn acquaintances into friends. And to feel grateful.

I got on my bike. I rode home feeling proud and humble at the same time.

Everyone Drives Me Crazy

It could be the heat today. But everyone is so annoying! At work my colleagues expect all my work to be done last week. At home my kids yell at me to help them with homework. Genius takes time, my friends. You can’t expect a unicorn to work like a mule. Maybe I am just crabby.

I blame it on my husband’s Parkinson’s Disease. I blame everything on his PD.

And there is one other thing — one huge contribution to today’s overall sucky-ness. (If you know me, you know I’m rarely in this sucky camp. I’m usually in the glass-is-half-full camp. I stay happy because I have made up and followed my 7 Rules to Happiness and they usually work! But not today.)

Today’s pity party reached a crescendo when after racing my bike to get to one of my darling’s appointments at the orthodontist, I discovered I’d have  to cough up $295 dollars to replace each of my darling’s two lost retainers. That’s right. A set of lost retainers will set me back $590.

After the trip to the orthodontist I consoled myselt that when I got home, at least the house would be clean. See, Chris is extremely messy (blame the PD) (and admittedly, I’m no Felix Unger myself), but Wednesday nights are usually the one night when I don’t have to kick the house into some semblance of order when I get home from work. Because A., the cleaning person, works magic in our apartment on Wednesdays.

I was thinking ‘Tonite, the house will be clean and I will make myself some jewelry.’ I’d biked to the craft store and bought some beads. I like to be crafty. It’s calming, fun, productive. But A. couldn’t make it today. So I spent the night, cooking, cleaning, being generally pissed off. I didn’t make any jewelry. I just helped with homework and cleaned the kitchen.

Okay, I can’t end this post without admitting to a few highlights of my day too: Laying on the grass at Barnard with Liz at lunchtime and reading the kids Deenie  by Judy Blume for our Mother-Daughter book club before they went to sleep.

Tomorrow’s another day. I doubt it will suck. I will try to be grateful and I will try to be happy.