Welcome to the original Those Happy Moments blog!

Hello everyone!

This very blog page is where Those Happy Moments all began. If you scroll way (way, way) down to the bottom of it, you'll find the very first blog post I ever wrote, on January 1st, 2016, along with the 365 other posts I wrote for every day in 2016. (And yes, that adds up to 366 - it was a leap year!)

As you may know, this original blog inspired the Those Happy Moments book, which you can learn more about HERE and purchase HERE.

I'm leaving this page up for anyone who's interested in how the journey began - and in the fact that you too can find Happy Moments in your own life each and every single day! I'm living proof that it can make a real difference in your lasting happiness.

Please continue to follow the blog in its updated incarnation by clicking HERE, where I'm sharing tips and tricks I think can help you make the most of your life. See you there!

And for anyone who's been with me since the very beginning, thank you for your support and for sharing the memories. I hope you have found many of your own Happy Moments along the way.

Love,
Joëlle

 

Those Happy Moments is now a BOOK!

Dear Friends,

It's been a VERY long time since I've written a blog post, and it's good to be back!

I wanted to share some very exciting news with you: One year after the original blog incarnation, Those Happy Moments is now a book! It's available HERE on Amazon, in both ebook and paperback formats.

I can't tell you what a thrill this is - I've been hard at work on it for the better part of 2017, after realizing that even after I'd stopped blogging at the beginning of the year, my overall increased happiness lived on.

The book is part memoir, part self-help: It's a retrospective of my 2016 experience blogging about every day happiness for a year, what I learned in living through and writing about those 366 moments, and what other people could learn from this too! The truth is: happiness is all around us, and if we make an effort to find, notice, and create these daily moments, I'm living proof that it can lead to an overall happier life. If you or someone you know has ever wanted to be just a little bit happier, then please consider this for your next easy read.

Featuring some of my favorite blog entries across 10 themed chapters, it's also packed with insights, updates, and practical exercises to help you bring additional happiness into your own life.

There's so much more to tell you about this, so please watch this space for additional updates soon - and some 2018 surprises! 

A huge thanks go out to anyone who's ever followed this blog, spread the love, or even just sent me a happy thought. I honestly could never have done it without you.

With much love,
Joëlle

 This is my excited face!

This is my excited face!

366 days gone by

And just like that, it's 2017.

2016 has ended, and with it, so has my little one-year blog project. Which I never even intended to be a one-year blog project. It just sort of ... happened.

And I think that's how a lot of things that end up being really personally important and special start out, when you think about it. Start with a vague idea, mix in a little spontaneity, stay committed and stubborn, and ... surprise yourself. 

This blog never "became" much. I didn't make a dime off it, or garner a lot of likes, or ever even - *grumble, grumble* - look into setting up a mailing list. But it still mattered to me. It mattered enough for me to leave parties early, to snitch 15 minutes from other more "important" activities if necessary, and - most importantly - to keep my eyes constantly open for a little Happy Moment to write about that day. It somehow became my thing this past year, when I didn't even though I was looking for a thing. And every so often, a comment from a friend, like, "Joëlle, I love your blog!" was enough to absolutely make my day.

I'll be honest: I'm scared about 2017. I have a few plans that scare me, and that I sometimes think are flat-out stupid and risky. They feel hard. They feel uncertain. I was struggling with my planner earlier today, and I just don't know if I'm going to be able to do it. But it helps to know that we do do things we aren't certain about, all the time. This blog is proof of it. And, you guys: Happy Moments are everywhere. 

This won't be the end of my writing. I really do want to turn some of these entries into short stories. I'd like for there to be a book. I'd even like to keep blogging, albeit not every day. I really must figure out how to set up a mailing list. So please, don't hesitate to check in hagain. 

And now, to end the Happy Moments blog - at least in its original incarnation - I want to close with a huge, huge thank you to YOU. Whether you read one entry, or all of them. Whether you dutifully commented, or simply sent a little positive thought my way. Whether we're already friends or you stumbled onto here somehow through the magic of the Internet. Thank you, for all of it. I am sitting here, inspired and happy, and I couldn't have done it alone.

I hope you too will take many Happy Moments with you from 2016, and kick off 2017 to be the best year yet.

With much, much love,
Joëlle 

Once upon a December

It's. Here.

The ultimate day of the year. I really, honestly, cannot. Believe. It.

There's so much to process. We haven't even poured the champagne yet for tonight's Hamburg-based celebration, and I'm already lost in reflection about the 2016 year that's flickering to an end. 

But you know what? I feel like December often gets short shrift when we get to the end of the year. There's a tendency to look at the year as a whole, and since I did after all reflect back at the end of all 11 previous months this year, I think December deserves its due. So today I'm going to write a 'normal' end-of-month post.

Then tomorrow, January 1st, I'm going to write a more introspective look back at my one-year blogging experiment, and maybe touch on a few hopes and dreams for 2017.

And then two days from now, on January 2nd, after 367 straight days ... I'm not going to blog. I feel strange, kind of sad, unbelievably relieved, and even a little tingly just thinking about it.

But for now, enough about that! As promised, I'll turn my thoughts back to December to honor the following Happy Moments:

- 366 straight days of blogging (oh my gosh ... I actually did it)
- 270/366 days of meditation
- I kicked off December with a superbly German advent calendar
- I traveled to Hamburg once ... twice ... three times!
- I skipped over to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg for a couple of meetings
- For my very last trip of the year, I explored a little more of northern Germany, with a trip to the island of Sylt
- I fêted a few important people in my life, including my Dad, my Mom, and my boyfriend
- I got a new travel buddy in the form of a shiny red passport
- There were Christmas celebrations galore, including the office holiday party, Christmas Jumper Day, my grandfather's 98th birthday party on December 24th, Christmas itself (duh), a little belated holiday shopping for my nieces, and some good old Christian rock music
- And finally, as we head into the new year, I found inspiration twice over: first, through my inspired Dear Diary; and second, through my friend Yin's beautiful ANDAS candle brand launch

Favorite moment of the month: As always, quite a few to choose from this month. But simply because of where I am in life, and wanting to really absorb some inspiration for the end of the year, I'm going to give it to the ANDAS candle launch. I was just so impressed, and it was great to see "real" people doing "real" things like that.

Quote of the month: "It won't be forever. You'll be in the dark as long as it takes and then you'll come out." ~ Finding Audrey

Goal for next month/year: Well, again, remember that 2017 planner/diary for an inspired year? I want to start making it proud.

And that's it for 2016. An amazing year, topped off by 31 final Happy Moments. Thanks for those, December.

And now, time to pop the champagne!

Love,
Joëlle

Sylt, on repeat

Today has been suspiciously similar to yesterday, and wonderfully so.

Specifically: sleeping in after a loooooong and restful night of rest. A lovely buffet breakfast involving fresh smoked salmon, delicious rolls, homemade hot chocolate, and friendly German conversation around the room. A long walk on the beach. A mug of mulled wine. Relaxing back at the hotel in the late afternoon. Followed by a trip to the supermarket for picnic essentials, having decided we prefer our own company (plus a little goat's cheese and strawberries) to any of the fancy restaurants in town.

What's different from yesterday to today? Well, for starters, the weather. Sure, it's still nippy out there, but it was noticeably warmer and much sunnier, especially on the beach, making our walk - and the view! - all the more enjoyable. Also, we added in a little stroll around town first, rounding through the little village of Westerland and posing for selfies with the inexplicable jolly green giant statues in front of the train station.

Plus, you know, a few details here and there. A different bottle of wine for our hotel room picnic. A vastly more delicious mulled wine. (Ok, this isn't all about liquor.) Different conversations and discoveries and mini-adventures.

But ultimately, a lot of the same, which was just what I wanted. Wonderful time away from it all, enjoying and laughing and thinking and playing. Time to hit the pause button, just before it's time to refresh life with a brand new year. Tomorrow we're back to Hamburg and the 'real' world, but for now, let me just enjoy one more night on my favorite German isle.

Love,
Joëlle

Moin from Sylt!

Since yesterday afternoon, my boyfriend and I have been exploring a place I never knew existed until about a month ago: the German island of Sylt.

I know what you're thinking: Germany has islands? Well, turns out it has quite a few! And Sylt is the northernmost of all of them, effectively straddling the border with Denmark, albeit 11 kilometres offshore. It is known for its tourism, and, according to Wikipedia, "in latter years, it has been a resort for the German jet set and tourists in search of occasional celebrity sightings."

Conclusion? I am now a member of the German jet set! My bucket list is now complete!

Anyway, we got here after about a three-hour train ride from Hamburg, and have settled in nicely to our cozy little 70s-style hotel. We're steps from the beach, though - as you can see by the narrow shape of the island - this isn't difficult. This afternoon we took a long, frigid walk along the water's edge, which reminded me somewhat weirdly of southern California. I'm not sure why. I mean, there's sand. But no palm trees, no rollerbladers, and a distinctly more German architecture. So maybe I need to brush up on my beachiness.

Now, I won't lie: it's cold out there. We bundled up well and good, and promised ourselves a well-earned mulled wine after the walk, and off we went. And it was beautiful. I haven't spent much time on beaches in winter, and I am all for trying new things in beautiful places.

The little resort town of Westerland itself is adorable. It's dripping with money, as you can tell by the fancy boutiques and nice restaurants. I've heard Sylt (pronounced 'Zzzzült') described as 'the Hamptons of Germany,' and I'm just going to have to take their word for it, given that I've never been to the actual Hamptons. But eh, it's very pretty, and that's good enough for me!

And as always, one of my favorite things about Sylt so far is something a little quirky: 'Moin.' It's a nordish word they use on the island (and I think in a few nearby regions as well) that apparently means everything from 'Good morning!' to 'Thank you!' to 'See you later!' I've absolutely loved hearing people use it, and I've tried to pepper my own (halting) German communications with it all day long. Moin, moin, moin!

So moin for the great day, Sylt, and moin for another one tomorrow - and moin to all of you, too!

Moin,
Joëlle

Ich möchte ein Berliner

I have a new favorite German tradition. 

Last night I flew back to Hamburg from Geneva, and this morning, we went to a bakery to pick up our usual Bretzel. But suddenly, there were new pastries in the window! Ones that weren't there last time! 

Berliners! Cream-filled doughy goodies, topped with - in this case - any number of decorations. Vanilla-cream-filled berliners topped with chocolate-and-vanilla shavings; plum-filled berliners topped with plum frosting; champagne-cream-stuffed berliners splashed with bubbly.

Now, I've seen berliners before (and who could forget JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in front of Berlin's City Hall), but I've never seen so many! With such colors! And flavors! And variety!

"What are those?!" I asked my boyfriend.

He shrugged. "Oh, those are eaten at New Year's," he said casually. 

And he's right! Apparently, Germans will eat berliners right after the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve (or as they call it, Silvester). A classic little tradition that I'd never heard about before, and that I'm suddenly finding adorable.

"I want one!" I exclaimed, fully recognizing that I was at least 72 hours early to participate in this tradition, but desperately wanting to fit in.

I went with the vanilla-and-chocolate-shavings one, thinking if it turned out to be delicious, I'd get the same one on the 31st, preparing for my very first nibbles of 2017.

...Unfortunately, I didn't really like it. I never thought I'd say this about anything, but I think berliners may simply be too sweet for me. So something tells me I may actually end up skipping this particular tradition on the ultimate day of 2016.

But that's ok. I've tried it once. I've already nibbled.

And I still think it's an adorable tradition.

Love,
Joëlle 

Sandi Patty, post-Christmas

The problem with Christmas music is that it really stays with you. Like, forever.

This morning, as my sister Dania was getting ready for work, we were singing exactly one chorus over and over and over together. We were singing the same one last night. And the day before. Even though at this point, it's a full 48 hours after Christmas.

"Come let us worship the kiiiiing!
Jesus the savior is booooooorn!
For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praiiiiiised!
Through alllllll the eaaaarth!
Let us woooooorship the kiiiiiiing!"

When we were growing up, my mom loved playing Christmas music in the house. And way up there on the list of albums she played was Sandi Patty's The Gift Goes On, which of course features - among other great tunes - "Worship the King." The album was released in 1987, and I'm pretty sure my mom must still have the cassette tape somewhere. Neither Dania nor I go to church anymore, so there's perhaps a certain irony in how much this music still has us by its tenterhooks.

But dare I say it? We actually ... enjoy singing it, partly for the irony, I suppose, partly because it's hilarious to try to hit Sandi's high notes (the girl can sing), but mostly for the nostalgia factor. I've tried explaining it to a few friends, and I'm not sure I'm quite getting the message across, but for my sister and me, it takes us right back. It's just part of our Christmas memories, I suppose, along with "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" and "Oh I 'Yust' Go Nuts At Christmas."

I mean, why do any songs get stuck in our heads? They're just ... catchy, somehow! Even on December 27th! 

So I'm ok with still bursting into Christmas song even now that Santa has come and gone. It's part of the experience of the season for me. To put it in Sandi's own words, "When your heart is full of Christmas, then your life is full of love."

Words to live by, year-round.

Well, or at least for a few more days.

Love,
Joëlle

Baby fever (for one night only)

OMG, I have baby fever right now. (Temporarily. I'm sure it will shortly pass.)

My sister and I have just ordered Christmas presents for our two nieces, Ellie and Lucia. 

(And yes, I do realize Christmas was yesterday. There was some confusion about addresses. Also, we may have been a little lazy.)

But anyway, enough about dates! The point is that these presents are cuuuuuuuuute! I mean, Ellie - who just turned two years old - needed a new humidifier, and there is one in the shape of a COW! A cow! I absolutely LOVE cows! It's fabulously cute, it will honor her Swiss heritage, AND... now I want one for myself. Would that be weird?

And Lucia, who's just over three months old, needed a door jumper, and we found one in the shape of a kangaroo with a baby joey in the pouch! Have you ever seen anything more adorable, even without a baby inside of it yet? I feel like I'm oohing and aahing enough that I should probably install a baby jumper inside my own doorway. I could perhaps put a doll inside of it. One of those incredibly lifelike ones that blinks and cries. And then I'd invite people over to look at it with me. Because all of a sudden, these are apparently the types of creepy thoughts I'm having.

So yes, sue me, I've got a spot of baby fever for the night. But it won't last.

Probably.

But just in case, nobody tell my boyfriend.

Love,
Joëlle 

Merry Christmas to all...

It was a lovely Christmas 2016. I took not one single picture today, so the memories will probably fade. 

I hope I'll remember making a dessert with my sister, Dania. We briefly considered incredibly time-consuming Christmas cookies, but then settled on mint "Christmas brownies" instead. If Christmas brownies aren't a thing, they should be. We sprayed them with (edible) silver glitter and decorated them with golden stars.

I also hope I'll remember a nice family lunch. The food details don't matter, but there was fresh salmon, blinis, yummy mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, Swiss wine.

I hope I'll remember Christmas carols, both the ones in the background during lunch, and the ones Dania and I sang our little hearts out too earlier.

There's more. A Christmas call to my mom, a quick wave at our grandma and uncle. Giving my Dad German marzipan from my boyfriend, exchanging text messages with friends from all over the world (Kenya! Hawaii! Florence!)

Little moments on another Christmas gone by.

...And to all, a good night.

Love,
Joëlle

98 Christmases

For as long as I can remember, I have associated December 24th not only with being Christmas Eve, but also with being my grandfather's birthday. This year, he turned an impressive 98 years old.

Most of my Dad's family got together to celebrate today, at the mountain chalet my grandfather built with my grandmother more than 60 years ago. It's beautiful and rustic, with a view of the lake and the mountains, antlers on the walls, and on days like today, a roaring fireplace.

We had a family raclette, and then two different cakes, one after the other. But in between, my aunt brought out a set of four tall candles and set them down in front of my grandmother. Two of them had 25 notches on them; the other two had 24 each.

"That makes 98," she explained, rather proudly.

My granddad took a deep breath ... and blew out two of the candles. And then he pretended to run out of breath and collapse, dropping his arms to his side and his chin onto his chest.

And then, a split-second later, he perked up with an impish grin, took another breath, and blew out the remaining candles. He's 98 freakin' years old, and still has a sense of humor, too! The whole room burst into applause.

I truly hope his wish comes true.

Joyeux anniversaire, grand-papa, and a Happy Christmas Eve to all!

Love,
Joëlle

Toothy memories and days gone by

Since I'm back in my hometown for a few days, I went to get my teeth checked today. No cavities, yay! 

My Dad is a dentist, and for as long as I can remember, he's had his own practice in a converted farmhouse in one of the quieter areas of Geneva. It's rather quaint: there are apple trees in the backyard, and while they're gone now, there also used to be donkeys when I was growing up.

When I was much younger, I used to love going to his office. It was exciting to go and see Daddy, to sit in the patient's chair and press the buttons to make it go up and down (I mean, it was practically a ride), to play with the button that sprayed mouthwash, to see my Dad dressed in scrubs and wearing a face mask and a funny cap. I always had to try not to laugh at him when he was checking my teeth.

Less than two weeks ago - after nearly 30 years - my Dad sold his practice to two other dentists. He's progressively retiring over the next couple of months, turning over his patients and reducing his weekly hours month-by-month, until finally he expects to be completely retired by about June 2017. 

I'm excited to hear about what he'll do in retirement, and I'm obviously very happy to see how excited he is about it. But it's also a little sobering. Like it or not, even though I'm fully grown now, there's something that's still little-kid-ish whenever I go visit him at work. And I'm going to have very many more opportunities to do that--maybe just another one or two. And that means that my Daddy is getting older, and that everyone else is getting older, and that *I* am getting older, and that things are changing. It's a little bit of a deep way to think about a trip to the dentist, but there you have it: I've had the same, on-call, 24/7 dentist my whole life, and how many people can say that?

So today I was mostly just happy to relive a little slice of my childhood, and to sit in the chair for perhaps the last time.

Thanks for the memories.

Love,
Joëlle

Cats are so lucky/1980s revisited

That picture is based on a true story. Specifically, my life story, if one were to only consider today.

I got to Geneva late last night, meaning today is the first day of my super-scrumptious holiday break. I did virtually nothing all day long. This was largely due to two reasons, neither of which - surprisingly enough - was straight up laziness (or at least, that's what I'm telling myself):  

1) I've been waiting for this break for a long time, and therefore sort of felt like I deserved a chillaxed day

2) I accidentally stumbled onto an incredibly time-consuming blog called Perfect Strangers Reviewed.

Exactly as the name spells out, it is a blog that reviews(/mocks) every episode of the 1980s sitcom Perfect Strangers. This is a big, big deal for me. Perfect Strangers basically IS my childhood. I've even mentioned it before on the blog, but as a reminder, my U.S.-based grandmother used to videotape episodes of two different shows and mail them to us when we were growing up in Switzerland. One was Full Houseand the other one (and our favorite one) was Perfect Strangers. It's about as 80s as 80s can get, and I'm pretty sure that if I were to show an episode now, in 2016, to someone who'd never seen one before, they'd think I was an idiot: "You actually WATCHED this? And you thought it was FUNNY?"

Except it is! It's hilarious! And I know it so well! So stumbling onto this review blog today was a fairly strong promise that I'd be reading every entry from start to finish. I desperately wish I'd had the idea to write a blog like this first, in fact, though it's likely I wouldn't have done it quite as well as the semi-anonymous author, whose name I can't quite figure out based on his writings.

Anyway, Whatshisface is pretty merciless about how stupid he thinks the show is, which I suppose is fair, but also emphasizes why I could never have written a funny blog making fun of a show I think is just so BRILLIANT.  

But to each his own, and I'm certainly getting a kick out of reading/reliving the episodes. The show is TWENTY YEARS OLD this year. Which means I, too, am no longer all that young. Because I remember all of it. I remember the big hair. The shoulderpads. The leggings paired with high-top sneakers. I was too young for shoulderpads, but oh, did I ever think my leggings looked cool!

We're about to reach the end of another year here, and nostalgia is at its prime in my mind, I suppose. So just for one day, it felt good to look back.

And laugh.

Love,
Joëlle

8 hours and 49 minutes

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!

Yes, it's the shortest day of the year, and - in contrast to the longest day of the year - I was very much awake for this morning's 8:04am sunrise. I went looking for statistics, and found that here in Britain, December 21st will be 7 hours, 49 minutes, and 41 seconds long. That's less than half of that longest summer day - Winter Solstice is 8 hours, 49 minutes shorter than Summer Solstice (Source, + more fun Winter Solstice facts: The Telegraph).

It's all because - and brace yourself for a fact that I'm about to deliver and then likely immediately forget - "The sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December Solstice and is closer to the horizon than at any other time of the year."

But wow, 8 hours and 49 minutes? For some reason - even though I obviously know the days are much, much longer in summer - I find it startling to see the difference written down like that. I mean, think about what 8 hours and 49 represent! Think about what you could do with that kind of time! Why, just based on a few of my activities this year, I could:

- Blend approximately 75.5 breakfast smoothies
- Watch about 5 B-movies about sharks
- Take something like 105.8 bucket showers
- Attend 12.2% of the average Indian wedding
- Watch that stupid, stupid 20-second ClearBlue commercial a mind-numbing 1,587 times (Note: Given how often they've showed it to me, it is entirely likely I already have. Yes, YouTube is still showing it to me. Yes, I AM bitter.)
- Play 529 rounds of Heads Up!
- Teach 8.82 lunchtime yoga classes
- Assuming a constant speed, I could add roughly 88km to my 300km of running this year (alas, still far short of my original 600km goal)

And finally......

- I could fly from London to Geneva 5.29 times

...'cause that's what I'm doing tonight. Hurray!

Love,
Joëlle

Daydream when necessary

This afternoon I was stuck in a three-hour group meeting at which there was no discernible purpose for me to attend.

Like, at all. It was on a subject that, at best, might impact my role in, say, six months. Until then, there's nothing I need to know on this topic. I even tried arguing beforehand that - given it's almost the end of the commercial year - perhaps spending the afternoon in said meeting wasn't the best use of my company time.

But nope, corporate bureaucracy dictated that everyone in the entire team had to be there, and indeed, there I sat. I said not one word during the entire session (and neither did anyone else at my level, nor any of the more junior staff, so I pretty much rest my case).

Anyway, Happy Moments, yay! So at first, I was all scowly (on the inside, that is; hopefully, it wasn't too obvious on the outside). I was sitting at the table, mechanically "hmmm-ing" from time to time, and hammering Maltesers into my mouth like they were Valium tablets. Occasionally, I'd lean forward, pretending to scrutinize something on the videoconference screen, and then nodding slowly in what I hoped was a knowing fashion.

But at some point in that long, long meeting, I somehow transcended losing the will to live.

The solution? Daydreams! And while I think all of us regularly daydream at work, I went crazy with the daydreams today. I was thinking about starting businesses, taking all sorts of trips, imagining conversations with everyone from my boyfriend to my mom to Roger Federer, and generally just going to my various different happy places.

Now, I know that we all tend to spend approximately 99% of our time either caught up in the past or imagining the future, and that we should all therefore try to spend more time in The Now. That's one of the key points behind meditation. But what about when The Now totally sucks?!? Shouldn't we all have a little safe, happy space we can escape to?

I think yes. And I certainly enjoyed my time running around that space today.

Love,
Joëlle

My good hair day

I've just gotten home from a haircut, and I'm very relieved to say I am not bald.

See, I have a slight fear of hairdressers. I mean, not of them specifically, but of the act of going to the hairdresser's. I've had long hair for a long time (20+ years), and I'm pretty attached to it. And I feel like every time I go to get my hair cut, they take too much off. My conversations usually go like this:

Hairdresser: "So, what are we doing today?"
Me: "Just a trim, please. And... d-d-don't take too much off."
Hairdresser: "Sure, no problem. So how many inches would you like me to take off?"
Me: "Um ... zero? Zero inches? Maybe zero-point-five if you must?"

As a result, I don't get my hair cut all that often, or certainly not as often as Cosmo might recommend. And as always, I was a little nervous going in tonight.

But there was no need! Because it's still long! It's bouncy! It's wavy! It's fabulous!!!

As I walked home after my haircut, I stopped in to my local Mexican joint for a takeaway burrito, and a young man seated inside stared up at me when I walked in. Dare I say it? He looked impressed! 

Now it may have been with my hair, my puffy jacket, my smudged eyeliner, or the spectacularly well-lit 'Exit' sign above my head.

But I'm thinking it was the hair.

Love,
Joëlle

How big is your cube?

Last night, I went to a party hosted by two of my friends. It was wonderful. There was great food, lots of wine, Monopoly, Cards Against Humanity, and some pretty top-notch karaoke (Backstreet Boys, anyone?)

Early on in the evening, my friend Arpan offered to walk a few of us through a personality test / visualization exercise called "The Cube." I love stuff like this. (I'm going to do my best to lay out details, or you can walk through a slightly different version by clicking here). As you walk through the exercise, you could say out loud what you see, write down what you see, or even draw a picture of what you see.

Let's begin:

~~~~~

Close your eyes. Imagine you are in a desert. In the desert, you see a cube. How big is the cube? Is it transparent, or opaque? How is it positioned - resting on one side, on the tip, at an angle, floating?

Go towards the cube. You see then that there is also a ladder. How big is the ladder? Where is it positioned in relation to the cube?

Now imagine you are climbing up the ladder. What happens next?

Next, imagine that you see a horse coming across the desert towards you. What does the horse look like? How big is it?

The horse stops a short distance away from you. What is it doing now?

You start to move towards the horse. How does it react?

You get up to the horse. What happens next?

Open your eyes.

~~~~~

If you played along, you're probably wondering what it all means. And it was really interesting listening to my friends' responses, which in many ways were so different from my own. So let's dive in to the interpretation bit:

1) The cube represents your ego.
- So this was especially interesting because everyone else in the room described the cube as much bigger than them (one friend even said it was "as big as the Pyramids"), whereas mine was much smaller than I am: about the size of a Rubik's cube. So if you have a big cube, you're probably a confident person; if it's small, you're likely modest.
- Similarly, if it's transparent, you perceive yourself as easy to read and honest; if it's opaque, you see yourself as harder to read. (Mine was made of glass.)
- The cube's positioning represents how secure you are with yourself: if it's sitting on one side, like mine was, you're comfortable with who you are; if it's perched on an edge or tip, you're less secure.

2) The ladder represents your career.
- Mine was - similar to my cube - super-tiny, and exactly the same size as one of the sides of the cube, leaning right up against it, suggesting my career is very tied to my ego/who I am. One of my other friends, for instance, described the ladder stretching far above his cube, suggesting it's bigger than who he sees himself as.
- Once you start climbing the ladder, that represents how you approach your career. Do you keep climbing up and up? Do you stop at a certain point? One friend described using it to climb onto the top of her cube, and then somehow ending up inside the cube (so, she was inside her own ego, which is getting too deep for me). Personally (after I imagined myself shrinking down to the size of my mini-cube), I climbed up onto my cube, and then turned in a circle on myself, looking out at my surroundings. I think this actually represents quite well the point that I'm at currently: feeling like I've gone as far as I can go on this current type of career, and scanning the horizon to see what's next.

3) The horse represents your ideal partner.
- If it's a big, strong horse, your ideal partner is someone who works hard and takes matters into his/her own hands. If it's smaller or more delicate, your ideal partner is more on the sensitive side. Mine was a sleek palomino stallion that galloped straight towards me across the desert, in what I perceived to be a coming-to-save-me manner, though saving me from what, I'm not sure exactly.
- The interaction with your horse is also important. Mine stopped in place, but restlessly so, tossing his mane and stamping its hooves. As I got closer to it, it eyed me somewhat warily and waited for me to make the next move. Then it cautiously extended its nose, and I pressed my hand to it. Then finally, I moved in close, put my arms around it, and hugged it. And it hugged me back, circling my body with its neck and laying its head on my back. This actually resonates with me because I've always imagined my ideal partner as someone who would in some way send me the message that "everything is ok," and a profound hug seems like the perfect way to convey that. It reminds me of a quote I love: "One day, someone is going to hug you so tight, that all of your broken pieces fit back together."

~~~~~

Whether you believe in this type of exercise or not, take any value away from it or not, I do think it's always good to challenge ourselves in new ways and to at least try, in the spirit of trying to know ourselves better. We'll never have a relationship with anyone more important than the one we'll have with ourselves, and if improving that means I need to climb a few glass cubes in the desert and hug a few horses, then I am all for it.

And ultimately - while this isn't officially part of the exercise, I think it can also come down to how we feel. When I was standing on my cube, when I was looking around that desert, when I felt the weight of the horse's head on my back as it held me - that all felt real, and strong, and good. More of that, please.

Love,
Joëlle

Just breathe

Last night I attended the launch party of A N D A S, a lovely new brand of hand-poured soy wax candles that are 100% natural and toxin-free.

My friend Yin and her friend Narang launched this as a little side project. I speak to Yin often, and she's one of those amazing people who always seems to have a million things going on, but I had no idea she was doing this. She already works a stressful, successful job in finance (doing something that I'll admit I don't even understand), and to be honest, I don't even know where she found time to launch a brand, and yet there we were!

I'm so impressed. Not just by the beautiful candles themselves (I bought the red one, which is mulled wine-scented...my favorite!), but also because - similar to the Dear Diary planner I'm so happy with - it's a fantastic example of real people taking real things that didn't exist before and just making them happen.

I was full of questions last night ("How did you do this? How did you have the idea? Where did you source the wax? How did you design the packaging? How will you handle the marketing?"), and also full of inspiration, because moments like this one prove to me that it's possible. People do do side projects, they do launch ideas and pursue things they didn't know about before, and they do create beauty to share with others. It's possible! These are exactly the instances I want to surround myself with right now - so thank you for that, and congratulations, Yin and Narang!

Yin told us she came up with the name in a nod to her Swedish roots: ANDAS. 

"It means breathe," she said. 

I think that's beautiful. Breathe.

Just breathe.

Love,
Joëlle

Happy Birthday, Mommy!

Today's is my Mom's birthday, and - just because she'll love me for saying this - she's turning 29.

If there's one great thing my Mom and I have in common, it's a love of travel, and I'm super grateful to have gotten that from her. Both of us are all about making the most of this big wide world and the oh, the places you'll go!

It's especially impressive to me when I consider that, unlike me, my Mom wasn't born to travel. She grew up in different parts of the U.S., ending up in Colorado her senior year of High School, but never left the country until she was in college. In fact, I'm not sure she'd even been on a plane before then. So it was kind of a big deal when - as a single 19-year-old woman in the early 1970s - she picked up and moved herself to Switzerland to study French. It just wasn't the type of things you hear about women doing in small-town America back then (or, come to think of it, now).

She stayed in Switzerland for 24 years. 

In that time, she had three kids and started teaching us what was out there in this crazy world. Starting young. My own first-ever trip was at the age of about two weeks, to Fontainebleau, France - ironically, a little town I would myself study in more that 30 years later.

When she returned to the U.S. as a single Mom in the mid-90s, it wasn't easy. But she still found the time and money to treat us to some pretty sweet vacations. For my High School graduation, it was Hawaii. For my college graduation, Australia and New Zealand. 

I'm especially proud that in her late 50s (oh oops, have I said too much?), she even founded her own travel company, We Wander Women, leading small groups of mostly-American, mostly-female travelers on affordable custom-designed trips. She started in 2012 as more of a hobby, and since then she's done many trips to Switzerland, France, Italy, Scotland, even Peru! I'd like to hope that in addition to a love of travel, perhaps I got just a little bit of her independent/entrepreneurial streak, too.

The picture above isn't from one of our "flashy" or exotic trips. It's a selfie taken outside Aztec, New Mexico, just about an hour from my Mom's home in Colorado. There are dozens of naturally-formed arches in the area, hidden away in the middle of nothing, no sign of life whatsoever. And one afternoon, a couple of years ago, our two adventure-seeking selves dragged ourselves up cliffs and through the wilderness, armed with nothing more than a truly vague map, hunting for arches. It wasn't the type of excursion I imagine just anyone would get excited about, but we loved it, and when we finally spotted one, the smiles were real.

Thanks for that, Mommy. Happy birthday!

Love,
Joëlle

Jump(er)-ing into the holiday season

If I've learned one lesson today, it's to never wait until the day before Christmas Jumper Day in the UK to actually buy a Christmas jumper.

I learned this the hard way by spending the better part of my lunch break fruitlessly searching for said Christmas jumper.

I love Christmas Jumper Day not just because it makes use of the excellent British word "jumper" (Which I clearly love enough to have already used 5 times in the past 3 sentences), but also because it's a fun, silly holiday for a good cause. Basically, all you have to do to participate is:

1) Don a Christmas jumper (x6!) on the day of (December 16th, in this case).
2) Make a quick 'n easy donation to Save the Children (click here to do so!). They suggest £2, though of course the amount is up to you.

I had no trouble whatsoever with the second part. It was the first part that I struggled with. This was largely due to a combination of four factors:

1) Much as I love the word jumper (x7!), I didn't want to pay £45 for something I'd likely wear once.
2) I'm all for cheeky, but I didn't want anything weird or naughty (so, the many, many ones I saw that said, "Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!" simply weren't my bag).
3) I mean, I still kind of wanted to look cute.
4) Most of London's shops are apparently owned and staffed by total grinches, who quite simply don't stock any jumpers (x8!) at all, thus horribly rejecting the holiday spirit.

So after uselessly wandering from store to store for the better part of an hour, turning up absolutely nothing, I finally decided to compromise. I bought a soft cream-and-gray jumper (x9!) with little sparkly bits on it. It's sadly reindeer-free, elf-free, and Santa-free. But you know
what? It's cozy, it twinkles, and I defy anyone to tell me that I don't look festive in it.

Particularly when I top it with a Santa hat.

Love,
Joëlle