The bits (and chunks) of joy list

photo-111A few of my favorite bloggers have been posting their “bits of joy” lists lately. The idea is thinking through a list of activities you love to do so that they are top of mind. When a spot of time opens up in your life, you can choose one of these things, rather than checking email or puttering around with the mail pile (unless you really love looking at catalogs).

It’s been a while since I thought through my list. So here are a few ideas that take varying amounts of time.

Just a few minutes

Reading poetry. I have a book of Billy Collins stuff that’s very accessible. I’ve also been trying to get through Leaves of Grass (less accessible). But you can find poetry in many places. I spent quite a while pondering an image of a life “already wasted” and yet “strewn with miracles” from a poem I saw on the NYC subway last week. Another place: A James Whitcomb Riley ditty in Babybug magazine (it is a magazine for 2-year-olds). The Riley poem perfectly captured something I was going for in the novel.

Browsing photos. This can be a time suck, because my kids are so cute! My 6-year-old is really a big kid now, so I like looking at his baby photos. I have about 1000 on my phone so this can kill some waiting-in-line time.

Reading a story in a newspaper/magazine. I like paging through Martha Stewart Living, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, O, Real Simple, etc. I have to match the right mag to the right time, though. I do enjoy reading a good Ariel Levy profile in the New Yorker, but I find myself trying to outline the structure of a 5000 word piece to see what the writer did. Intriguing, but kind of like…work. I love the whimsical/serendipitous part of magazines. I spent a long time reading through the random features the Economist always runs in their year-end issue (like about bow hunting’s resurgence, or a truly incompetent Chinese ambassador in the 1800s – who would have guessed?)

Writing in neat little notebooks with good pens. Daily journaling isn’t on the joy list anymore, though. I write too much to make it fun.

Reading a good kids book with 1 child. Frankly, anything with one child, solo, seems amazingly calm.

Looking at vacation homes on VRBO or Home Away. I daydream about places to visit.

Looking at my coffee table art books (Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, my book of all the paintings in the Louvre)

Listening to music. I’d kind of forgotten this one, but I pulled some of my old Indigo Girls CDs out recently, and have been listening to them in the car. I could listen to the song Closer to Fine quite a few times before getting bored of it. Or just amazing songwriting moments, like in their song Reunion, off Swamp Ophelia. It isn’t that great a song, but there’s one point where they’re both singing linear counterpointal melodies with some serious lyrics: “We act empty and innocent, but we are fueled by distortions of lives led in discontent, trading misfortunes. But faith is one thing that is hard to deliver — feels so funny being free,” layered on top of “I remember when we were shiny and new. Now you guard your faith and temper your speed — feels so funny being free.” Whoa.  

Blog reading. I do a lot of this already, but I’m always looking for new ones!

Looking at flowers. The photo on this post is the orchid in my kitchen window.

A little bit more time

Going for a walk or run. A walk can take 20 minutes or less. A run tends to require changing clothes, but even so, a fast 20 minute run plus changing time can take 30 minutes or less, right out the door. I can do this between phone calls if I wanted.

Going for a bike ride. Once it stops snowing. A quick loop (the same loop for a 25 minute run) can take less than 15 minutes on the bike. A great nice-weather work break.

Going for a swim. Summer only, but yay backyard pool and working from home.

Watching Jon Stewart. We DVR this. I enjoy about 60 percent of it.

Watching a chunk of a basketball game. I kind of forgot I enjoyed this, but I like watching them on the treadmill. I also like to watch HGTV shows like Love It or List It.

Having a glass of wine in my library. This is the most adult room of the house and consequently it doesn’t get used as much as it should. I like sitting on the one sofa in the house that isn’t falling apart.

Sitting on my porch and having a glass of wine. Or coffee. Depending on the hour. Again, nice weather only.

Playing my keyboard/piano. Unfortunately, I never do this. Something to figure out.

If I’ve got a bit more time and I’m getting in the car

Browsing the library. Or a used book store. Or even a new book store. I spent a delightful 30 minutes once reading through the Lonely Planet guide to North Korea. I don’t think I’ll ever go there, but it was interesting to read about it not as a subject of news, but in terms of what hotel your government handler would have you stay in.

Visiting an art museum. I am a member of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and when there’s no traffic on 76, I can be there in less than 15 minutes. I should go more often.

Having a cappuccino in a coffee shop. I don’t make frothed milk drinks at home, so I enjoy having them when I’m out.

Grocery shopping all by myself when I’m not rushed for time. Farmers markets and cute little food stores are pretty fun.  Even Costco can work in a pinch.

Choral concerts.

Going to a basketball game.

Eating out at restaurants without crayons.

Getting a massage. Not an every day treat, to be sure, but oh so nice when I make it happen.

Looking at doll houses with doll furniture. I have a thing for miniature furniture. I need to find a store around here.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more things as I think about this more. What’s on your bits of joy list?



24 Responses to The bits (and chunks) of joy list


  1. Ana says:

    Great list! I haven’t watched Jon Stewart in too long… any 22 minute sitcom can fit in here, too. I used to watch those while pumping which made the whole endeavor more enjoyable :) I purposefully left out “have a glass of wine…” because I never forget about my nightly wine

    • Laura says:

      @Ana- oh, I don’t forget about it either. I just tend to drink it while sitting in front of the computer. Sometimes, I shouldn’t do that.

  2. Mary says:

    Laura, I’ll have to remember your old doll house furniture the next time we come. The doll house you made is still in the basement. It’s in rough shape, but I haven’t thrown it out yet!

    • Laura says:

      Hi mom! Your 2-year-old granddaughter will destroy it if you bring it into my house…

  3. Have you been to the Chicago Art Institute? You must have. Best dollhouse collection ever.

    • Laura says:

      @NicoleandMaggie- I was at the art institute 2 years ago- how did I miss that?

      • ?!?!?!

        The doll houses and the paperweights(!). Not that there’s anything wrong with French Impressionists, but those are the Art Institute’s true claims to fame.

        • There’s also a dollhouse museum in Santa Monica, though I haven’t been to that one. (My MIL went though.)

    • gwinne says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen that, and I grew up going there…will need to look. But Science and Industry has an ENORMOUS dollhouse that I adore.

  4. Chelsea says:

    I’d add a phone call to a good friend who I don’t see often. They usually don’t last that long – just some catching up – and can be fun while out on a walk (when the weather is nice).

    • Laura says:

      @Chelsea – that’s a great addition to the list…

  5. Love this list!

    I have a few that include wine too!!

    1- Have a glass of wine on the balcony.
    2 – Making a pancake breakfast.
    3 – Taking a walk by the beach.
    4 – Driving down the coast in my convertible.
    5 – Eating dessert (especially creme brulee, cheesecake, or an affogato)

    Those are just a few. But, I definitely need to take some time to make a complete list AND post it so I can follow through! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Laura says:

      @Jennifer – reading your list makes me want to live near the beach… oh well.

  6. Anne Bogel says:

    I love this and definitely need to make my own.

    I’d love to see that library! Jealous. :)

  7. Arden says:

    These are great.

    One quickie that I like is to update my to be read list. I read a ton but have had much more luck when working off a list of suggestions from others/websites. I love going to Amazon to look for new releases to add or to Goodreads/Librarything to look for new options to add.

  8. Fionnuala says:

    Not quite on topic, but, Laura, I had to thank you for being one of the vanishingly small number of bloggers I’ve ever encountered that uses this idiom correctly: “It isn’t that great a song”. REPRESENT.

    Pedantry is one of my joys!

    • Laura says:

      @Fionnuala – yes, pedantry probably makes my bits of joy list, too. Don’t get me started on “that” vs. “which.”

  9. We have a piano that I never took the time to play even though I enjoy it. I needed to make myself a list and to put “play the piano” on it in order to remember to play it!

    • Laura says:

      @Tina- so true. Sometimes we have to make lists of fun things in order to remember that they are fun, and that they are reasonable things to do with our time.

  10. oldmdgirl says:

    I thought this was a really useful exercise, if for no other reason than to remind myself of the things that make me feel happy. Thank you for this!

  11. ARC says:

    Love this idea, every since you posted on it a few weeks ago (and explained what it was!). I’m finding that my time is a little more structured now with (new) preschool back in session and a sort of regular schedule again. So I actually *feel* like i have time for bits of joy.

    A huge one for me is to work on a craft project. Having a dedicated space means I can leave things half-done and out , which allows me to spend 10 minutes working on something.