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The Enchanted Outlook

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Fantasy

Objects and Happiness: Time-Turners

time turner

A while back, I wrote a Creatures and Happiness Series, where I talked about magical creatures and what they can teach us about happiness. Now I would like to do the same with magical objects. This series will be a little different though; instead of simply talking about the metaphor behind the magic, I will be relating the magical object to a real-world equivalent. Hopefully, this can open our eyes to the wondrous things that are already all around us.

In the Harry Potter series, there is a device called a time turner. In the series, it is primarily used in such a way that the user gets some extra time in their day to accomplish things. Wouldn’t we all like a device like that? Alas, I have no magical time-giving necklace, but I do use a few apps and tools that, to me, are just as magical in terms of helping me use the time I do have more wisely. I’m not affiliated with any of these companies; I just wanted to share some nifty (free!) ways to give yourself a little more time.

1. Overdrive– Lately, I’ve had a hard time finding the time to sit down and read a book, but I do have plenty of time in the car or while exercising to listen to a book. The overdrive app allows you to get free audio-books on your phone through your local library. In addition to being fun, this is a great resource to learn something new. If your library is participating, all you need is a library card. Think of it like a free audible.com. Ebooks are also available. Sometimes, you have to place a book on hold until it becomes available, but, I figure that I technically do the same thing with audible, as my subscription only allows me to check out one book a month. So, make sure to leave a little shopping time a couple of weeks prior to when you want to read your book, especially if it is very popular.

2. Headspace– I know this is a pretty common one, but I wanted to talk specifically about how Headspace helps me to save time. In addition to allowing you the benefits of meditation- including feeling more clear-headed and focused and therefore more productive, Headspace allows you to set a daily time in which to meditate. I set mine to 12:30 (around lunchtime) and right now it’s set to just five minutes a day. Headspace will send you a reminder when your scheduled time approaches. You can also opt for daily messages of encouragement. Where I would normally drag my feet in finding time to meditate, having a daily reminder and a brief meditation time helps me to make it a habit.

3. Drops– This is a language app that teaches you a language in just five minutes a day. It’s in the form of a game, and you can play it while waiting in line, while on your lunchbreak, or even in the bathroom if you are so inclined. Five minutes might not seem like much, but over time, you can learn a lot! And did I mention it’s beautiful?

4. Stay Focused– These apps go by different names but this is the one I use. This limits website time on certain sites. I have mine set for 20 minutes. Currently, it’s just on Facebook for me, but you can select any websites where you feel you are spending more time than you would like. I only wish you could customize the time for the website (such as 1.5 hours for Netflix, 30 minutes for Pinterest, 15 for Facebook, etc.) If anyone knows of an app that can do that, please let me know!

5. The Skimm-  I don’t have this as an app although I believe they have one (I’m just on their email list). They send you news highlights that can be read in about five minutes, along with links to longer news sources if you want to read more in depth, or verify the info. They are geared more towards millennial women and the writing style is very colloquial, so it may not be everyone’s thing. For me, it’s an easy way to get some quick highlights for those days when I don’t have time to read all of my traditional news sources. And bonus: they emphasize quick and easy-to-follow updates on international news, something I struggle to find with many American newspapers.

You may be asking though, what does all this have to do with happiness? While time management may not directly lead to happiness, it certainly leaves us with less stress and more time to prioritize happiness. The trick is to be intentional about using that extra time in our day to invest in things that truly bring us joy. So, while we may not be able to turn back time, we can set aside more time for happiness.

What is your favorite time management tip?

She Woke Up

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Enchantment in Light and Darkness

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I have been studying the concept of magic and its connection to the concept of happiness for about four years now.  It has been an incredible journey so far and has lead me down all sorts of paths I never thought I would travel. I would like to revisit one aspect of the subject today and clarify an opinion that has… not so much changed, but has lately been easier to put into words.

I have defined enchantment in relation to how the term is used in fantasy literature. In fantasy, an enchantment is a type of magic that alters the perception of the individual, rather than altering the world around them. When a person is enchanted, they see things differently. In this way, The Enchanted Outlook is a term I made up for the concept of learning how to alter our perspectives to see things in a more imaginative and positive way. In other words, it’s about cognitive re-framing.

However, because  I have spent my career working in settings where I see social injustice on a daily basis, one concept that I have personally grappled with is where cognitive re-framing fits in with inequality and injustice. Certainly, to suggest that any person suffering from an external cause would have their problems disappear by simply shifting their perspective is irresponsible and blames the wrong source. Trust me: I’ve been given this advice myself during times of grief and loss and it wasn’t comforting. Changing how we view the world does not make the world change, and it does not make the monsters go away.

I turn, instead, to one of my favorite passages, from G. K. Chesterson about the power of fairy tales for children:

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

You may have seen this condensed as the quote, “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”

I don’t present the concept of an Enchanted Outlook because I don’t know the world can be ugly or because I want to blame those who suffer at its expense. Rather, I present this concept because I DO know that it can be an ugly place. I hope that the Enchanted Outlook serves as inspiration to defeat whatever monsters may be out there through offering hope.

And so, with this blog, I offer a shift in perspective that I hope will provide courage to face the world with a renewed spirit, regardless of your circumstances or your beliefs. For, whether you are trying to make small changes in your life, or you are going through a terrible darkness that feels completely out of your control, we all need a spark of hope and happiness in order to fight our own dragons.

 

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Review: Roanoke Harry Potter Festival

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Whoops! I intended to post this a few weeks ago but got sidetracked. Better late than never? 

When I first heard of the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival, I had assumed that it was going to be a small, local festival with a few hundred people tops. Little did I know that over 9,000 tickets had been sold to the event and the city had capped tickets due to being at capacity.

Fortunately for me, after my meltdown during the Unicorn Frappuccino disaster of 2017, my husband was pretty darn determined to get tickets. He eventually was able to procure some, forever increasing his good-husband status in my book. After attending, I decided to write a review of the event.

Atmosphere. I would give the atmosphere of the event an 8/10. A lot of local stores and restaurants got in on the act and decorated. Each Hogwarts house had a “common room” that was decorated with the house colors. Street windows had Harry Potter signs and patronus cut-outs. They could have used more Harry Potter music; there was a ’90s cover band playing instead which my husband and I suspected was contracted with Roanoke City to play on Saturdays. A Harry Potter soundtrack would have really helped the atmosphere, though.

roanoke harry potter festival common room
Ravenclaw Common Room was dressed to the nines with flying keys, banners, and stars.

Food. I would give food an 10/10. Lots of local restaurants had Harry Potter themed menus. There were also Harry Potter vendors selling Fish ‘n Chips, Butterbeer, Butterbeer ice cream and snow cones, and more. There were also local food trucks with non-Harry Potter fair like burgers and ice cream.
roanoke harry potter festival drink

Activities. Unfortunately I have to give this one a 3/10. There wasn’t much to do; my husband and I really stretched our time to even stay there three hours. There were some classes based around Harry Potter literature, psychology, and the like that seemed really, really, interesting, but they were all sold out. There was a performance of a Very Potter Musical that we saw a little snippet of, but unfortunately it took place behind a loud generator and the students were having to shout over that. We also saw a snippet of a quidditch match, but it would have been nice to have an announcer or a scoreboard for that, especially for people who didn’t know the rules of the game. I am hoping that next year there will be more to do and that the activities they had this year would be more accessible. Trivia in the Ravenclaw commonroom, maybe? A scavenger-hunt around the city? A school house relay competition? An owl raptor show? It would have also been helpful to have a more detailed brochure; we had to look up a lot of additional information online.

Shopping. I give this one a 6/10. There were, I would guess, 10-15 kiosks set up selling brooms, mugs, jewelry, and other fantasy-themed memorabilia. Living near that area though, I would have LOVED to have a tshirt, keychain or mug with the Roanoke Harry Potter Festival logo. The logo was super cute. I suspect that a specific Roanoke Harry Potter Festival kiosk would have been a HUGE hit.

The verdict: I wouldn’t have driven out of state for this festival, but since it was local, it was nice to spend an afternoon eating fish ‘n chips, watching a quidditch match, and trying butterbeer ice cream. I give it a 6/10 BUT with the hope that, since it’s the first year, they will have some kinks to work out before next year and will be better organized. I got the impression that this was intended to be a very small event that quickly got blown out of proportion. If there were more accessible activities next time, I would definitely go back.

I will also say that, while the big, well-funded Harry Potter tourist destinations are certainly magical, there was something particularly charming to me about how all the shop and restaurant owners in a small downtown area got in on the act and used their own creativity to transform their spaces into something magical. If that doesn’t represent an Enchanted Outlook, I don’t know what does.

J.K. Rowling Quote

Stacey and the Quest for the Unicorn Elixir

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So here’s what happened. Last week, due to a to-do list of things I have been dreading that has been hanging over my head, I had decided to take a week of “No Magic Fixes” and tackle one difficult task every day. They were all tasks that I absolutely hate to do and for some of them there was some big emotional involvement as well. I started this project on Saturday and some of the tasks weren’t going so well, so by mid-week I was… stressed. Okay, I was a bundle of maxed out brain cells attached by a spinal chord to a full-speed train wreck.

Now, if you have followed my blog for a while now, you might have guessed that I might be the kind of person who likes unicorns.

In truth, I don’t like unicorns. I LOVE unicorns. I even wrote a blog post about them.

And so, when I heard that Starbucks was coming out with a Unicorn Frappuccino, I just had to try it.

I had been anticipating this beverage for quite some time. I thought it was cool that, true to the magic of the elusive unicorn, the drink would be only available to five days. And, even better, it would change color AND flavor as you drink it. I mean, come on, I had to have one. I thought it would be a great reprieve in the middle of a difficult week and thinking of it was really helping me to get my tough to-do list done.

Day One: Before I try the drink myself, I share a post of a negative review, hoping against hope to get some positive feedback from friends (“Au contraire Stacey, it’s the best magical potion I have placed in my mouth!”). This did not happen. I receive a barrage of (mostly negative) comments, some saying they didn’t like the taste, some criticizing the drink for how unhealthy it is and urging me not to drink it.

Now, to be clear about the health factor, I do eat a largely plant-based diet and I don’t drink alcohol, juice, or soda (with very rare exceptions). I also try to avoid added sugar, other than in a small dessert now and then. I don’t usually drink Starbucks other than a plain iced coffee now and again with a little cream. I generally try to be a healthy person, so I don’t like to consume things that I know are terrible for me.

It’s not that I don’t respect my body. I just respect unicorns MORE. Because magic.

So, I am reading all the negative comments and articles hating on the mythical unicorn beverage, and somehow, I can’t be quite sure how it happened, but somehow, I went into full meltdown mode. With tears. (Remember, I was in the middle of a “scary tasks” desert and unicorn magic was my only oasis. Or at least that’s what I told myself.)
So, yes, I was literally reduced to tears over a Starbucks drink. I don’t even usually DRINK Starbucks. It apparently wasn’t even a GOOD drink, according to the reviews. I decided to pull myself together, take a bubble bath, and leave the Unicorn Frappuccino for another day when I was more able to appreciate a magical elixir.

Day Two: I realize that a guest is coming into town and the house is a wreck. Frantic cleaning and errands ensue to get things somewhat passable. This guest works for another gourmet beverage company, and was very critical of the Unicorn Frappuccino. (I.E. proceed with caution). By the time I finish chores and errands, I realize I still haven’t gotten my unicorn goodness and it’s really late. Was Starbucks even still open? I decide to go in the morning before work.

After all, there was no rush aside from my own desire; it would be available for five days, right? Right?!?

Day Three: I find out that I need to meet with two clients today instead of the one I had planned. I don’t have time to stop and get my Frappuccino. I don’t consume sugary stuff on the job so as not to be a bad influence (I work in in-home care), so I decide to stop by after work.

Then I remember I also have other errands to run after work on the other side of town. I run those errands as quickly as possible and then FINALLY pull up in the Starbucks drive-through in eager anticipation.

ME: Yes, um…I would like a UNICORN…latte?

BARISTA: I’m sorry, we are all out of Unicorn Frappuccinos.

ME: Oh no! Um… uh… um… I’ll come back later. (Drive off slightly panicked and feeling somewhat dumb and guilty for not ordering another drink. Start calculating closest distance to next nearest Starbucks, which is 20 minutes away. Decide to go home and maybe coerce husband and guest to come with me, since I’m already late. Would guest come? He works for the enemy. Is this allowed?)

I get home, and my husband tells me that several Starbucks around town have run out of the drink. I decide to go in the morning, figuring they would re-stock by then.

Day 4: Okay, now it’s full-on panic mode. MUST find the mythical unicorn drink of goodness before it is gone!

I go by the other Starbucks, where I learn that the entire town is out of frappuccinos. The barista herself didn’t even get to try one. And they would not be re-stocking. I spiral into a tunnel of sadness. I might never get to try the mythical drink of my hopes and dreams. Guest is trying to console me by talking about the benefits of using real mango in drinks rather than fake mango flavoring and how mango leaves a certain sheen when blended that is not found in other fruits. Guest, it turns out, is a mango connoisseur. I sadly nod along, trying not to think of my terrible misfortune.

Day 5: I awake in a world that is still full of icky gross things to be done but devoid of magical unicorn drinks. I start to wonder if they ever truly existed. Were they just a myth? If they once existed, does that mean they still do? Or are they, like their counterparts, not actually real anymore? (And yes, if you are calculating, I am now on day eight of my week of no magic fixes and still not done.)

But then it occurred to me: I could make my own.

unicorn frappuccino

I decided to use it a reward for finishing my awful to-do list, which would be done on Monday. And I decided to make it out of some of my favorite things rather than follow an online mock recipe. I started with a base of Nutella. (Was it a statement about the dark sadness of my unicorn journey? Was it unicorn poo? Do I just really, really like Nutella? Hint: it was the latter.) Then I added a milkshake made with gourmet salted caramel ice cream and added a food coloring swirl. I topped it off with whipped cream, pink sugar, and a candy garnish. There was no coffee in it, but I heard the original didn’t have any either, so I was okay with it being basically a milkshake. After all, I figured if it was my own unicorn fantasy, I could make it however I wanted. It did kinda sorta change color from pink and blue to purple, but the flavor didn’t change.

drinking unicorn

I learned many life lessons this week. The early bird catches the worm. Don’t put all my eggs in one basket. Don’t procrastinate on the tough stuff. The biggest one, though, was one that Glinda taught Dorothy years ago; to paraphrase: I always had the power to make unicorn magical goodness; I just had to learn that for myself.

Once I finished all my difficult tasks, I slept easier than I had in months. Never again would I put off important things just because they were difficult or scary, and never again would I fall for some commercial marketing ploy, even if it played into my love of magic. Life’s magic, I realized, couldn’t be found in some external source; it must come from within.

But then today I found out Katy Perry is launching a limited edition MERMAID MAKEUP line!

Game on.

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