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One Mom's Real-Life Approach to Happiness

Life gives us hurdles and responsibilities and schedules that we must maintain, but the attitudes that we take with us are all our own making. Sometimes I'm grumpy, while others I'm determined.
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How to grow sunshine:

The house is quiet and the day is ready to be anything that I make it.

I look out the large picture window in front of where I sit typing and notice how today is not sure whether it will be sunny or cloudy.

I feel a mixture of emotions as I know that the summer is closing and fall is on the cusp. I love fall, but I've never enjoyed this change.

It's not because I love summer activities either, although I do. In the past, it was because my mom, being a teacher, went back to work full-time. Now, it's because my daughter goes back to school.

My daughter is not even in school for a full day yet. I cannot bear to contemplate how this will make me feel when she is. Yet I'm glad that I'm the kind of mother who, on most days at least, does not want her baby to go back to a regular four-day-a-week school schedule.

I'm relieved that I want her home with me to eat lunch and go to the zoo and run errands and read books 20 times in a row. I didn't think I would be this sort of mom.

I like a lot of alone time and, as a mother of two young children, I barely get any at all. I have bathroom company always and sing-a-long partners on car rides. I'm almost always with my children, and I love this, but I also struggle to find the time that I need to exercise, and write, and be a woman outside of my "mom" role.

So, when this past school year ended and the summer sat waiting in front of us, I stood staring it down in ready frustration and anxiety -- I was afraid to not have these two hours when my daughter was in preschool, even though I had a baby home with me during this time frame -- it was still a tiny portion of "me" time, if I could get the baby to sleep or play happily next to my yoga mat or laptop.

But then I realized that my anticipation of being overwhelmed with 24/7 motherhood was potentially damaging to how the summer would actually turn out.

So, instead, I grew fiercely determined that we would have a glorious summer together. I excitedly got a sprinkler and renewed our zoo pass. I stocked up on sunscreen and bought hats for both of my fair-skinned girls.

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Our summer was awesome -- so much so that my school-loving child did not want to go back. I had to, in turn, mentally prepare her with a positive attitude that school would be fantastic and a nice break from a teething baby sister and grumpy, hasn't-slept-enough mama.

School started a couple of weeks ago. My stomach roller-coaster drops just thinking about how most of our weekday mornings will be spent apart, rather than sitting on the favored ladybug of the zoo's carousel or nibbling fresh produce at snack time, underneath a shaded picnic bench at the local outdoor market.

My daughter still loves school -- and I am, after all, getting to sit here and write this while she's away from my waiting side.

I once again look out over my computer's screen, to a growing patch of sunshine. It's slightly overcast and a little bit breezy, but the day appears to be one of dawning light.

And life gives us hurdles and responsibilities and schedules that we must maintain, but the attitudes that we take with us are all our own making.

Sometimes I'm grumpy, while others I'm determined. Mostly, though, I'm just a tired mom trying to find a patch of glimmering sunlight on an otherwise cloudy day.

Many experiences in life are ambiguous in their enjoyment -- the colors that life takes on are typically our own perceptions.

I often ask my daughter whether or not she thinks today is partly cloudy or partly sunny. Her answers vary, and she occasionally asks me what I think. What I think also varies from day to day -- and, some days, I feel cloudy even when the sun is shining overhead.

Having a positive attitude doesn't mean putting on a phony, sunshine smile. Instead, it means honoring our very real emotions, feelings and thoughts while simultaneously realizing that these aspects of ourselves are fleeting, temporary and, equally, that we have the ability to purposefully fuel those thoughts and emotions we choose to.

My husband told me once, when I was concerned about our daughter, that the attitude we take through life is one of our most important attributes as a person; that success in general is relative and that how we perceive ourselves and the world often creates how our lives can go. He said one of our child's best qualities is her sunny disposition. He's right.

Our attitudes color our choices. Our choices create our habits, which make up our days. Our days make up our years, which make up the stories of our lives.

As my daughter and I stood waiting for the school bus at the edge of our stony driveway earlier this morning, we looked out together at this ambiguously grey day. Some days, too, I'm happy to see her get cheerfully on the bus and others it saddens me at gut-level, and there's nothing wrong with observing that the sun is sometimes covered up; that life can never be completely joyful.

"Weather, weather, what is the weather?" my daughter sings a song from school out loud as we wait. She then asks me if today will be cloudy or sunny.

I tell her that while I'm not sure yet, I've found appreciating both the daylight and its necessary, complementary shadows makes all the difference in the world.