Monday, April 25, 2011

Do You Know Why I'm Happy Today?

This is a question that has been asked within my family since Gracie was about two. My dad would say to Gracie, usually in person, do you know why I'm happy today? And Gracie in turn would reply, the sun's out, my freckles, and we're together. This tradition continues today. It gets altered sometimes. Some versions are downright silly. There is a fact that remains with all of the times that the question has been asked and answered. There is a focus on the good things, the positive things in life.

How often do we all find time to complain about something. This is a good thing. When done in moderation. Complaining can result in changes. Especially when something is wrong in life. It can be done in a positive way. A way that will guarantee an effort to make things better. That is constructive complaining. But when complaining becomes the mainstay in life? When all a person can do is make negative comments about their husbands, their children, their job or lack thereof. When fault is found in everything from purchases, to services, to food ordered in a restaurant, this is when you enter the danger zone. We all have encountered people who do this. These types of people are actually very sad, I believe. Perhaps they are not very happy within their own life situation. What they may not realize is that the constant stream of negativity isn't venting and it isn't constructive, it's actually adding to the problem or problems at hand. It may actually have become the bigger toxic problem. I certainly don't want to suggest people don't have the right to be sad or frustrated. Life is not always easy. Life is not always fair. It really is easier to complain sometimes. I do however feel that we have the ability to make change. Even small ones that can greatly impact our own lives as well as others.

So here is my suggestion. Baby steps to a more positive outlook on life. Let's all wake up each day and look for the simple pleasures in life that make us happy. Let's start with three like dad and Gracie do. It can be the same three every day if you want. Make an effort to see joy in the little things and I think it will get easier to see joy in the big things. So, why am I happy today? The sun's out, my coffee is waking me up and I'm posting my blog before 10 a.m. Whew! That may not sound like much to you, but for me on a Monday's huge!

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Little Slice of Heaven

This weekend was truly a slice of heaven for me. It is every year. Although last year I didn't enjoy it to its fullest with our move happening. It is a time when you can literally eat, breathe and sleep books! I'm speaking fondly of the Fox Cities Book Festival. If you love to read, and I'm assuming you do, because that is what you are doing right now, this is the place for you.

These authors from all over Wisconsin and some from out of state come to tell attendees about their lives, their ideas and their motivation for writing books. These are no ordinary authors. They are gifted authors, relating common human experiences to us. Transporting us to places familiar and places we want to be. Some of these authors are poets. One is a musician and artfully mixed his storytelling with musical numbers from his band. At times we learn parts of history that were perhaps only granted a paragraph or two in a school text book.

The venues for these talks by authors are usually libraries. My second home. Everything is familiar there. I am immediately comfortable. It is homey feeling for another reason. I see people I have met from previous book festivals. I am with my family and my friends. I see former teachers and people I have worked with. Many of these people feel like family to me. We caught up on each others' lives. We laughed, we may have cried and were certainly entertained by the stories behind the stories of these authors.

A couple of the authors have become personal friends over the years. To know people of such greatness and yet know that they are also absolutely normal folk is an honor. To meet a new author and realize his journey in writing was amazing. His personal struggle with mental illness is something he shares to help others and to help erase some of the stigma in society concerning the unknown.

So it was an exhausting weekend. There have been estimates of four thousand or more attending these events. To know that so many are still losing themselves in fact and fiction. That so many transport to times present and past. This is really amazing to me in these technological times. So yes, this was my little slice of heaven. Or maybe I should more appropriately say, my little chapter of heaven.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


It's not what you say, its what you do. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. I took a lot of journalism classes in college. It was all about words and the message that they convey. It was our job as students to relate happenings and opinions, fact and fiction, to the readers at large. To be understandable. We were to write articles that a sixth grader would understand. This is how most newspapers and magazines write. It's not that the average reader doesn't have an intelligence level higher than a sixth grader, it's that papers need to be read in a hurry. Your point needed to be made quickly and efficiently. In the words of Dr. Bob Gremmels, "brevity, brevity, brevity!"

And so has been my mantra through all of the technological advances since my college days. My emails are generally short and to the point. So are my text messages. The one place I afford myself more time and words is in my blog. So this brings me to another social media of today. Facebook. I didn't sign up for this right away. I was wary. And remember, I like to keep it simple. Then I found out that this would be a terrific way to stay in touch with a friend moving miles away. A bonus is that I stay in regular contact with cousins, aunts, no uncles yet. Friends from my past. College roommates. This is fun! Love the pictures. Truly a great way to stay connected.

I'm not much of a complainer, but here I go. There is one fault of this new found social media. There are opinions that are expressed by people that may be political. They may be religious. And I'm ok with opinions. I respect other's opinions as I hope they respect mine. The world would be a sad and boring place if we all had the same opinions. I must admit that I have changed my opinion because of another person sharing their opinion of something with me. So all in all I believe opinion sharing is wise. What I don't care for is the set up. I disrespect the person that baits people into passionate debate. Because it isn't debate, it becomes argumentative. And I feel the same for those who take the bait. It is almost as though both sides lose their authenticity of position when this happens. I've seen this happen more than once. It makes me sad. For all parties involved. I've heard of people leaving Facebook. Of losing some of these regenerated friendships.

Words are precious things. They have power. We should use them wisely. And sometimes sparingly. Words can hurt people. They can be misunderstood. We should write responsibly. We should think before we speak and think twice before we write.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Monday, April 4, 2011

Front Porch Sittin'

When I was in college a few friends and I went for a walk. It was a beautiful day and we were talking about the future. As college kids do. We were in a neighborhood that had lovely homes. Most of them had to have been one hundred plus years old. Most of the houses were well kept. One common theme for all of these houses was the big front porch. I remember porch swings. And a table with chairs around them. I remember big wicker chairs with comfy cushions. I said to my friends that I could imagine myself living here. What house was their reply? Oh, not a specific house, just a porch was mine. I went on to say you have everything you need---minus the bathroom. Places to sit, relax and visit. A place to eat or enjoy a morning cup of coffee. A big comfy chair for reading. What more could you need?

Now twenty-three years later I still feel the same. I'm not being ridiculous. I know that we live in a state with severe winters. I have not lost my mind. Not completely anyway. I think back to all of the houses I have lived in and all of the porches that I have had. It is where life is happening. You enjoy fresh air. You meet and greet neighbors. Years ago front porches were where you found out all of the news of the town. People would pass by and share good news as well as bad. It's where you get an accurate weather report. Front porches are where you watch your children grow. Games are played on front porches. Problems are talked about and solved on front porches.

Last night there was a terrific sight on my front porch. My husband and my daughter sat watching the severe thunderstorm roll in. There was lightning. And lots of thunder. Even hail. My family is the kind that runs out to see the storm. We're not the family that closes the windows and stays out of the storm. I thought about joining Scott and Gracie on the porch, but Sweet Pea was shivering and shaking from all of the commotion outside. I stayed in to comfort her. I'm glad I did. I got to witness something beautiful between two of my favorite people. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but I have an idea. Maybe we should get the camera? Remember that storm back in...? I'll bet there was counting going on between lightning bolts and thunder. Sweet conversation and laughter between a dad and his daughter. This will be a fond memory for them and for me, too.

I haven't always had a sizable front porch. And the fact is that you don't even need a front porch to have the front porch experience. It can be your driveway, your sun room, your deck. It's that place that feels like home and simply keeps you connected with the rest of the world.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux