About Jen

I started the "Be Nice. Project" as a way to remind people of basic social courtesies that are becoming less prevalent in our day to day interactions. Over time it has grown to consider self-improvement, and keeping a positive, purposeful attitude in even dreary situations. I hope this sort of dialogue will bring about a greater trend toward expansive social courtesy, compassion, and kindness in simple and complex ways.

It’s been a while

Why hello, friends. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I don’t have a good excuse. I haven’t posted for some time, simply because the impulse hasn’t been there. I’ve been living a few questions, and enjoying living in (and working on) our first house. So… here are some pictures of the house. And a video, that makes me feel… happy. Hope it does for you, too.

Below is a project we did in our kitchen. 5/8 inch glass tile laid by hand over the course of one month, over 27 square feet of wall in the kitchen.

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America’s Mood Map by Time Science & Space

Seeing as how this blog began because of the very traits discussed in this article, it seems only appropriate to share this with you! Apparently, though we are both Iowans, my husband matches Colorado, and I match Georgia. When I did the full quiz (http://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/), I found we were very similar – other than our outgoing nature. It’s fun – I hope you enjoy it!

You want to smile, so watch these videos

Videos that make you smile: linked below. But, first, a few thoughts interjected….

A woman said to me the other afternoon, “People think I’m a snob, but I just like to talk to the people I like. If I don’t like you, I won’t talk to you.” I couldn’t help but feel this preemptively dismissive attitude would do her a disservice. Minus the repeated unkind offenders, those who I believe I may not like have an amazing capacity to surprise me. So I try not to commit to my initial judgments.  Seems to me, this woman reduces that range of surprise in her life by only interacting with people she decides she likes. Actively seeking to widen the joy in my life by learning from others, I find the greatest rewards. Many of my favorite moments are when talking with random people at a restaurant, grocery store, or event. This is how I’ve made great friends and learned valuable lessons. Opening ourselves to new experiences and people will certainly bring us perspective, gratitude, and – often – joy.

Instead I tried to change the topic, “Some people think I’m too happy, but I think no matter how hard my life is there is always someone with an equal or worse struggle they are enduring. I have no reason to not be happy.” The woman heartily agreed and left my company. I shared this with my hair stylist yesterday and she wisely noted, “If everyone placed their problems in a pile, most of us would rush to grab ours back up in a second. There are lot of people suffering out there.” It is very true, which is why I try to be grateful for what and who I have in my life. And this, in turn, makes me happy.

It turns out enunciating our gratitude creates happiness within ourselves. (See the video below.) The act of interacting with others brings us understanding and growth. As a wise kid put it, “We are all teachers. We are all students.”

As you may have figured out, I am a big fan of SoulPancake and Kid President. If you don’t know them, I recommend you take a moment and watch one or all of the videos below. Then subscribe to the YouTube channel – you can do it with your Gmail address easily. These folks are doing great work, reaching a lot of people out there and making the world a happier place.

The videos below are marvelous. Be ready to be surprised, to smile and perhaps cry, and feel like your heart is soaring. Happy beautiful fall weekend, my friends. I am wishing you all the very best happiness.

Gratitude Practice

Gopi Kallayil – a high level businessman with Google marketing – said to Yoga Journal (November 2011, page 76), “I perform a gratitude practice on my drive to work every day. I count 10 things that I’m grateful for.” Ten things every day. I wonder, how many people might find that difficult? Do they lack gratitude? Do they lack the ability to see good things, or are they simply not in the habit? Kallayil calls it a “practice.” I believe, like any discipline, this is exactly what gratitude is.

When I was a little girl, my mom came upstairs to say “goodnight” every evening. She would stand in the hallway between our rooms, and lead us in our bedtime prayers: Now I lay me down to sleep…. She had her own version of the classic prayer: at the end, we prayed for blessings for our loved ones. God bless Mommy and Daddy… siblings, extended family, friends, neighbors; each night we prayed for them all. My favorite part was the very end: what were we grateful for? Each night we got to think of something new. I would go through the day wondering what I would say I was grateful for that night. It was fun to find something new. After all, of course I was grateful for the important things like health, family, security, love. But the little things – the unusual things – this was their time to shine! I particularly remember three of mine – all of which I had seen on Sesame Street in a “how is it made” feature: Crayons, peanut butter and saxophones. I can still see the images in my head, and the sax was my instrument of choice in junior high band.

Every day I find myself more and more grateful for my upbringing. Because I was raised to be thankful, I learned how to step outside my circumstances to see my good fortune. In other words, to be aware of your blessings, you must be aware of the plight of others. While someone may have had it better than me, there were so many that were suffering more than I could fathom or even know. I learned to wish them an improved situation while simultaneously recognizing my own blessings. This was not simply a process of compare and contrast. There were difficult times in my childhood – like there are for all of us – and the ritual of nightly gratitude taught me to tune into the silver lining, to recognize the positive moments in the day, to rely on hope of the future, to find joy in the little things. It was okay to feel angry or sad about our situations from time to time (indeed, necessary), but we also worked to see our blessings because they were what carried us through the difficult times.

I suggest we find space in our lives like Gopi Kallayil does and create for ourselves a gratitude practice. After a week of this effort, how will it change our perspectives? How will it improve our lives? Let me know your experience here!

Pretty is a Set of Skills

Jen:

Great food for thought – by a friend of mine. What do you think?

Originally posted on BITCHTOPIA:

Burlesque performer and fan dancing extraordinaire Jezebel Express once shared her realization that “sexy is a set of skills.” While I wholeheartedly believe this, I think it extends beyond sex appeal. Pretty, too, is a set of skills.

In a recent conversation with high school girls about body image, several spoke up about their own preferences in females (specifically ones they might be attracted to) — for them to wear no makeup. I couldn’t help but think of two related comics by Alexandra Dal and Kate Leth, respectively:

My friend Caroline would always say that people would ask her if she was sick when she didn’t have any makeup on, and I had a hard time believing her until I crashed at her place and found myself asking her the same question in the morning. The “natural” look is not natural at all, as evidenced by the copious amounts of…

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