Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Gilbert’

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

A Happy, Happy 2014 to all the people reading these lines (and all other good people besides).

On December 30, 2013, I experienced the joy of looking through the small slips of IMG_20131230_075035369paper that populated my “Happiness Jar.”

IMG_20131231_165947283(1)A “Happiness Jar” is a concept that originated with the author Elizabeth Gilbert, I believe, but the practice of counting one’s blessing thankfully goes back millennia.

I’m a firm believer in celebrating as many things as possible, and so I share two truly lovely lectures on the subject of happiness with my students. One is by Mr. Srikumar Rao, who reminds us all to be content in the present moment, without longing for the fantasy of an elusive and faraway future.

The other is Neil Pasricha’s 1,000 Awesome things project and his “Three A’s of Awesome”.

The cultivation of happiness is not the practice of the naïve idealist; rather, it is a skill, like any other, that can be improved with practice over time.

HappinessThroughout 2013, I amassed “happiness” in a jar. People asked me to explain what, exactly, I put in the jar. I put in happy thoughts, of course, the kinds of ideas that would enable me to fly, should I ever find myself in Neverland.

Another frequent question was whether or not I put something in the jar every day. I suggest that no one is that happy. I’m happy often enough, though, and it is a good practice to remember those moments. Then, at the end of the year, I was able to reflect on what was, to be grateful and amazed by the quotidian beauties of life, and to feel quite complete with happiness, and so the promise of my “Happiness Jar” was fulfilled.

Here, like a true librarian, I shall catalogue my happiness, line it up in rows, and study it more fully, hoping as scholars do to find even more meaning in the minute details.

My Happiness Jar contained 73 items.

The big happiness consisted of four weddings (congratulations to Sarah & Nik, Sarah & Miles, Kait & Alex, and Hanna & Ryan) and two brand-new babies (welcome to the world, Brock & Maeve).

My family happiness happened on trips to my hometown, involving just plain-old togetherness typically talking in the kitchen.

My Urban Family happiness meant outings: a walk along the lake with Kris, a picnic hosted by Clark with everyone at the happily named Lunt Avenue Beach, a visit to The Milwaukee Art Museum, backyard barbeques, a tubing trip down the Tippecanoe River, and several dozen meetings for drinks.

My wanderlust happiness was a trip to California, specifically San Francisco, with a divine day trip to the Russian River valley for a wonderful wine tour with my dear fried Kait.

My visitor happiness hit the trifecta with Emily in July, Stacy in August, and Ingrid in November.

My feasting happiness entailed cooking for the people I love, and making an abundance of meatballs, and drinking fancy champagne, and going to a new restaurant called Azzurra.

My professional happiness continues to be this lil’ turtle, and my RMU CLA All-Stars, colleagues who inspire me and, more importantly, make me laugh every day.

My Lady Woolfs book club happiness consisted of thoughtful questions, generous pours, and laughter galore.

My silly happiness took the form of a tiny plastic dinosaur I found on my kitchen floor after Matt’s birthday party.

My community happiness involved evenings spent at The Whirlaway with the matchless Maria, and a cast of neighborhood characters and plotlines as intricate and passionate as any of Puccini’s operas.

My dogoodery happiness filled the days I spent promoting the aims and ideals of 826Chicago, and in the evening I spent celebrating the tremendous success of my former students (Collin, Chas, & Chris) at the premiere of their first feature-length film, In Bloom.

My loving happiness was, unsurprisingly, an even, infinite vacillation between deciding whether or not I should keep on loving him.

My miscellaneous happiness was picnics and concerts and lectures and bike rides and swims and naps and sunsets.

And for all of these, I am truly grateful.

I am sure I was happier than even these many items suggest, so I shall continue to collect happy thoughts and keep them in a jar, like so many beautiful things, with or without wings.

I have begun my Happiness Jar for 2014, of course, and it already has three slips of paper folded inside. I am eager to fill the coming year with happiness, and hope you are, too.


By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

The first Friday in August is right up there with Thanksgiving or Christmas as my favorite day of the year.  What is the first Friday in August , you may ask?  At 6pm on that day, the Oak Park Public Library opens the doors of their Used Book Sale.

This year's OP booksale.

This year’s OP booksale.

“Screech”!!! goes the proverbial record.   I think I can read your minds, dear readers.  You are probably saying to yourself, ‘the opening of a book sale is one of your favorite days of the year?  What are you, some kind of a nerd?’  Yes, that’s right. I am a huge, certified nerd; an outspoken, proud bibliophile.

Now that we have my confession out of the way, let me explain why I love book sales, especially the one in my hometown of Oak Park.  This will prepare you in case you wish to join me next year for  the summer session biblio-extraganza.

  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times“: Book sales are simultaneously wonderful, and horrendous.  As you walk in, you get smacked by the stale, dusty air of thousands of old, used books.  This bouquet is often intensified by the heat of the room.  If the outside sear of the summer sun doesn’t warm up the air, then the crowding together of hundreds of bodies looking over the Cookbook section most definitely will.  These book sale-ophiles are a strange breed.  They can be rude, and pushy. Some act like it is ‘Black Friday’ at your local big-box retailer.  Others are simply zoned-in on their books, and don’t realize others are trying to browse.  You may ask someone to move without her hearing, and you need to squeeze by.  What often happens is one or two or twenty people will just start reading a book in the middle of a row, causing the natural flow of shopping to halt.  Therefore, if you are going to get all sweaty, carrying a huge load of books on your back, having your eyes water from ancient papyrus and mildew, you better find some good books  on the cheap.  The OP book sale is as busy as any other (often more so), but it is huge.  Over 100,000 books at extremely cheap prices. Two dollars for hardcovers, 1 dollar or 50 cents for paperbacks.  This year, I was able to pick up about 30 books for 38 dollars.  Jackpot!
  • Call me Ismael“: I often go into book sales with the hope of finding a ‘white whale’.  That book I have been searching for that I just can’t get myself to buy new for 25 dollars.  In other words, I want more out of a sale than just selection and quantity; book quality and rarity are a must.  I believe it is one of life’s great pleasures to spy a never-opened, mint condition book for 1 dollar.   For instance, just 9780374532505this year at the OP sale I stumbled upon a paperback copy of Michael Sandel’s bestseller “Justice: What’s the Right Thing To Do?”  As I grabbed it, I could instantly tell that the book was in great shape, and had likely never been read.  On, the book costs 15 dollars. At the OP book sale, 1 dollar.  Happiness is a warm philosophy book.
  • Happy bestsellers are all alike; every unhappy bestseller is unhappy in its own way…at a booksale“: One of the most humorous, yet annoying aspects of sales is the repetition of certain titles.  Some books have been ubiquitous sale standards for years, such as Alex Haley’s ‘Roots’, or James Clavell’s “Shogun’. Over the last two decades, I have seen a dozen of each of these 1970’s bestsellers at every sale I attend. ShogunNew ubiquitous titles show up each year.  A couple years ago, it was Helen Fielding’s “Bridget Jones’ Diary”. Then, it was  James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces”.  This year, it was Elizabeth Mitchell’s “Eat, Pray, Love”.  That book was EVERYWHERE.  This is annoying because such books start to automatically catch your eyes, and hence, make you lose focus.  If you see your 42nd copy of “Eat, Pray, Love” on a table, it is challenging to take note of surrounding books. I am sure I have missed many titles because I couldn’t see past a book sale bestseller. Damn you, Leon Uris!

Let me end with my favorite, personal book sale anecdote.

In July 2007, I packed up my then 7 month old daughter and headed to the Newberry Library book sale.  Upon arrival, I put her in the ‘Baby Bjorn’, which kept her at chest height and allowed her to look outward at all the odd bibliophiles. Of course, I knew I had perhaps 45 minutes to get through the whole sale, since my little one would start to get bored relatively quickly. So I was moving fast, bending over consistently to see the many books laid out on the tables. Sometimes I would need to do this peeking over others, as I couldn’t wait around for each browser traffic-jam to clear.  One time, as I tried to peek over some fellow shoppers, my little angel produced a massive belch.  The dozens of people within 10 feet of me gave me a partly disgusted, partly quizzical glance.  They undoubtedly believed only a grown man could burp like that.  I wasn’t embarrassed; I had tears of laughter rolling down my face.  I figured all is fair in love and book sales.