searching for jingle bells (literally)

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Confession: I’m incredibly selfish.  So selfish, in fact, that simply making this confession makes me feel like a weight has been taken off my chest.  Besides, now we have one less secret between us.

My selfish behavior sparkled bright this weekend when Kaitlyn and Sarah suggested that I join them in baking cookies for a cause.  Cookies are my favorite, and the only thing better than giving them to others would be, well, eating the cookie dough.  My point here is that I’ll bake cookies for just about anyone – not because I’m nice, but because I’ll thoroughly enjoy eating so much of the batter.  Do you blame me?

I spent most of Sunday (read 5 hours) baking with my good friend Brittany who, for reference, could be related to Betty Crocker.  The assortment of cookie cutters, sprinklers, and icings in her apartment made me feel like I was visiting the Keebler Elf factory.  We decided to make gingerbread and sugar cookies.

In between frosting and sprinkling and cutting, we ate plenty of cookie dough:
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As we baked, Brittany neutralized my selfish tendencies by suggesting we give the cookies to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.  Sweet girl, right?  I immediately agreed.  The next day we took our finished goods to the Minneapolis Skyway, and we offered cookies to the volunteers that try to make the holidays a little nicer for others:
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The number of cookies baked greatly outweighed the number of bell ringers  (okay, okay, probably not if everyone got on a scale, but as an expression) and so we gave the rest of the cookies to people keeping warm in the plaza center:
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A wonderful day spent spreading Christmas cheer, all because of this girl:
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Spread some sweetness of your own and vote for Kaitlyn & Sarah in Cooking Light’s Bake a Second Batch competition.  Hope y’all bake treats for others and get to eat all the sweet cookie batter 🙂

you got this

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It’s a tale as old as time that our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness.  I found that to be particularly true for my rah rah rah projects, where everything I do to make others happy is inspired by something that I would like to happen to me.  

For instance, I’m absolutely terrible about carrying cash — I tend to spend it like wildfire (these green things? get them out of my purse!), and so I avoid carrying it at all costs.  The downside of this is that everytime I pass a vending machine I’m forced to stare longingly at the delicious candies, soda pops and all other types of sugary-goodness.  Sigh.  
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To help others with a similar problem, I placed little pouches of $1.25 on the machine with a note that simply said “random acts of happiness” (a gorgeous design by Sarah).  

My hope is that someone with a very large sweet-tooth and a strong aversion to carrying cash passes the machine and realizes that they can finally choose anything they want (yes yes yes.. the most expensive item is $1.25 so I got you!!)
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In the spirit of remembering to treat yo’ self, I used some of my extra change to get a Reese’s.  Aww, modern convenience.. watching the peanut-buttery-chocolate-goodness slide out of the machine and into my hands almost made me rethink my decision to avoid cash. 
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Maybe I’m responsible enough to carry cash without tossing it in the air like a parade?  Should I try it out? What do you think?  Do you carry cash?

smile on a stick

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Candy apple on a stick makes my tummy go 2-4-6.  I spent loads of playground time singing the candy apple song with my elementary school crew, but I hadn’t thought about the hand-clapping anthem for nearly 15 years when it popped into my head today.  What was the occasion?  A rah rah rah experiment aptly titled ‘smile on a stick.’

I just might have discovered the fastest way to make a stranger smile:
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All my smiles came from spending a gorgeous day in St. Paul with Lyda Ham.  She’s a talented Twin Cities photographer with lots of heart and just as many laughs.  Oh, and good news — Lyda writes a lovely blog of her own, and you can read all about her adventures here
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stop drop kaboom

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It was the best of times and it was the, no wait, full stop.  It was simply the best of times.  I wish I could report on an uber-exciting weekend, but, alas, I spent all of Friday & Saturday helping Jon recover from the flu.  Instead of donning a costume or visiting friends, I made chicken noodle and caught up on Shark Tank with my favorite man.  Side note: does anyone else love that show?

Come Sunday morning, however, I was up and at um’ for some rah rah rah action.  My game plan? Bring sweet treats and thank you notes to the local firemen at Station 8.
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I expected to ring the bell, drop the treats and be on my way.  A quick and easy gift to make the men smile, and then poof bam be gone.  The firemen were so grateful for the chocolates, however, that they invited me inside to the see the engine.  I got a little excited about that, and, before you know it, I was stomping around in a fire suit learning the tricks of the trade (hot tip: always leave a little skin exposed when entering a fire so that you are cognizant of the rising temperate – if your skin starts to burn, get out.)
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I got a tour of the kitchen, and I was impressed with the spread of pancakes, bacon, eggs, donuts, and sausage on the table.  The firemen explained that they always did a big Sunday brunch together, and that they all take turns cooking.  Kind of like a family, right?
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The tour ended at the firehouse dorms where 21 men sleep in shifts.   A fireman made a joke about the exposed pillows, and then his station mate explained that they are always short on pillowcases.   So, can you guess what I’m doing? Organizing a pillowcase-drive with my apartment building.  A very near random act of happiness will involve returning to this fire station with loads of linens.

Kaitlyn and Sarah spread some joy to public officers with their own rah rah rah project in Milwaukee.  Head over to their blog, TheDuck&TheOwl, to read about how they spread happiness throughout their corner of the Midwest.

urban happiness

What role does geography play in our happiness?  Can we increase our happiness by changing our zip code?  The journalist Charles Montgomery studies how urban design affects human happiness, and he believes that we can manufacture joy through the urban landscape.   Specifically, he believes that we can “redesign our cities, our minds, and our own behaviors”…  “to build a city that is more convivial, more fair, more fun, and more happy.”

Montgomery offers a number of ways to make the city more fun, and my favorite suggestion is starting conversations in elevators.   He recognizes our inclination for personal space,  but he believes that the benefits of a good conversation outweigh the potential awkwardness : “Even a casual conversation with strangers has the potential to flood your system with feel-good hormones. Go ahead. Talk about the weather.”

I decided to encourage chatter by hanging conversation starters in elevators.  I’m not sure that anyone will answer the questions, per se, but perhaps they will chat about why someone hung silly paper all over the place.  Either way, mission accomplished. ImageImageImageImageImageImageSpeaking of urban happiness, I’m planning another rah rah rah project with my friends Kaitlyn and Sarah (TheDuck&TheOwl), and we want you to join us.  Are you up for it?

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The plan is to spread happiness to the public heroes that make our lives better every single day.  Grateful for the librarians that keep the bookshelves stocked?  Thankful for the firemen that continuously defend the city?  Let’s show our appreciation by giving them goodie bags filled with sweet treats and thank you notes.

I plan to spread happiness in Minneapolis, and Kaitlyn and Sarah will bring smiles to Milwaukee.   We’re both planning to blog about the project on Monday, and we’d love to read about how other bloggers got involved.  If you choose to participate, send us a link (in the comment section of the post) so that everyone can read about your random act of happiness.  Ready, set, RAH!

don’t sweater it

We tend to focus more on our shortcomings than our strengths.  It seems that almost everyone is seeking to improve X, Y, or Z so that they can accomplish 1, 2, and 3.  This game of improvement is a handmaiden of goal-setting and progress, and it’s important that we play along in order to grow as individuals.  The trick of the game, however, is to consistently consider your strengths and remember to value the abilities that you already possess.

With that said, I present to you my horribly unartistic community chalkboard.  The handwriting is almost embarrassing, but I’m focusing on the idea more than the design.  You with me?

Most my mornings start when Kinzie licks my face left right and center to wake me up.  Sticky and slobbery, I walk her around the neighborhood so she can do her thing.  I put a sticky chalkboard along our route, and I plan to leave daily messages on the board.

I’m hoping to get a little more inventive with my messages each day.  I’m also hoping that someone writes back one day (hint hint).
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poetic distraction

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We had a wonderful weekend of, well, not much, and it could not have been more wonderful.  I made breakfast-in-bed on Sunday, and then used my good deed to convince Jon to do a rah rah rah project with me.  Of course he didn’t need much convincing, but he asked if I’d take a new work picture of him first, and if we could see Gravity in 3D after. Yes and yes, check check check.

I got a little playful with his work request, and drove us to a hotel downtown known for luxurious work spaces.  Jon got new photos for the company directory and LinkedIn, and I had fun pretending I needed a new company photo too.  Would either of these work?
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After Jon got the most serious pictures possible (and I got the most silly, of course) we did a rah rah rah project that I’ve been looking forward to for a while: decorating bus-stops with poetry packets.

I did the gratitude experiment last Friday, and my list of things to be grateful for looks something like this:
1. Family
2. Friends
3. Literature
4. Comedy
5.  Art
6. Poetry
7. Chocolate
8. Sunny days
(The order gets confusing after #2)

I wanted to incorporate poems into my random acts of happiness, and I figured that people waiting for the bus (especially on a cold day) might appreciate a poetic distraction.

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I put 5-6 poems in each of the packets, but all of them included my  favorite:

Marriage
By Lawrence Raab

Years later they find themselves talking
about chances, moments when their lives
might have swerved off
for the smallest reason.

   What if
I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?
What if you’d been out,
as you were when I tried three times
the night before?

                          Then she tells him a secret.
She’d been there all evening, and she knew
he was the one calling, which was why
she hadn’t answered.

                               Because she felt—
because she was certain—her life would change
if she picked up the phone, said hello,
said, I was just thinking
of you.

            I was afraid,
she tells him. And in the morning
I also knew it was you, but I just
answered the phone

                          the way anyone
answers a phone when it starts to ring,
not thinking you have a choice.

adore-a-ball

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Practicing gratitude is a win-win situation for happiness.  A grateful person recognizes the importance of the people in their lives, and a recognized person (the person receiving the thanks) feels connected to their social network.

Gratitude is on my mind with Thanksgiving just around the bend, and so today’s rah rah rah project involved leaving little “I am thankful….” notes around 50th&France in Edina.  Hopefully, the recipients paused to reflect on their blessings, and, with any luck, felt a bit of happiness when they reflected on what they’re thankful for.
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How would you fill out the card?

instant tradition

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The best part about being an adult is making your childhood dreams come true on a grand scale.  I’ve been hula-hooping since I could walk (truth: I started ballet when I was 3.. and.. well.. it’s kind of the same thing, right? I mean, balance and movement and what not. Nevermind, just go with it), and I always wished.wished.wished I could hula hoop somewhere besides my garage.  I mean, who likes huling around all the junk that didn’t fit in the house? Not me.  I shook it left and right and promised myself I would hula in coola places when I was older.

Since I figure that most people have dreams just like mine, I decided to host a hula hoop competition on the streets of Minneapolis.  The pictures tell the story:

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adults only

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You know that feeling when everything suddenly comes together?  The moment I’m talking about proceeds weeks and possibly months or years of endless worrying.  The type of worrying that springs up while you’re running on the treadmill, writing a term paper, or trying to boil water, and all of a sudden, you can’t stop wondering: Am I doing the right thing?  What if this is a disastrous idea?  Then you silence your mind because you have chosen instead of logic, you will follow your intuition.  Yes, always intuition.  If you haven’t figured me out yet, that’s the way I work – I follow the signs, I go where they lead.  No pros and cons chart for this girl.

It’s tricky to determine all the things that could go right about a project, and so I usually just go straight ahead with any experiment that crosses my mind.  This method has produced my best and my worst ideas.  A classic example of how our greatest strength can be also be our greatest weakness, right?1-IMG_9558
Today, everything with my experiment went totally wrong and made me wish I had a boss that vetoed all my bad ideas.  The flipside is that being left to my own devices usually makes for a pretty good story.  1-IMG_9560
The oddball quirky story for today is that I had a not-so-brilliant-but-well-intentioned idea to make an ‘adults-only’ play zone at the park.  I wasn’t intending to play in it or anything, but I thought the concept was pretty important, and might encourage people to be a little silly.

Anyway, I roped off an area between some trees with streamers, and then I blew up tons and tons of balloons to fill up the play zone.  Bad idea, right?  I guess I don’t have any experience with balloons, but it simply didn’t occur to me that they would blow like wild and be all over the streets within 2 minutes.

Oops!  Drivers started honking and I was chasing down the balloons and I definitely made more people angry than happy.1-IMG_9569
My little brother called in the middle of the mayhem, and I explained the situation.  He calmly told me that I should just fill the balloons with candy and hang them around for people that might need cheering.

Anyway, I went home and did exactly as my little brother instructed:

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