Updated on 02.24.12

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #61

Trent Hamm

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well.

Last week, I had a long conversation with my oldest child about happiness and motivation. What makes a person happy? What makes a person decide to keep going when things are hard in their life?

We came to something of an agreement that it’s the little things that make life worth living.

For several days in a row, we made it a point to tell each other about some of the little things that made us happy and gave us the fuel to face the harder things.

I thought I’d share some of these things this week instead of my “normal” pieces of inspiration. These are ten of the little things that brought me joy and pushed me to move forward this week.

1. Learning colors
I’ve been working with my youngest child – a 22 month old boy – on his colors. We’ve made something of a routine of it, and as he’s learned the colors, he’s become incredibly enthusiastic about telling everyone the color of everything he sees.

He’ll point at my shirt and shout “Brown!” He’ll point at a plastic cup and yell “Red!” He’ll point at some orange juice and inform us loudly that it is “Yellow!”

Watching someone learn something new is a beautiful process.

2. Cutting hair
I’ve cut my own hair off and on over the years. When I do it myself, it often has little imperfections, so when I want it to look particularly good for a family event, I usually just go to our regular barber.

I’ve been feeling gradually more confident at it, so when I cut my own hair earlier this week, Sarah looked it over and concluded that I had in fact visited a barber.

I’m not so much happy about the money I saved ($12 or so), but that I’ve mastered a skill.

3. Writing for pleasure
One of the big projects I’ve been working on lately is a fantasy novel. I’ll work on it in big bursts, then find myself going completely creatively dry for a while.

This week, my mind was bursting with ideas. In one afternoon, I was able to write about 6,000 words in a rough draft. I slipped into the writing “zone” where I completely lose all track of time. In fact, I was only shaken out of it by the arrival of my son home from school, when I realized that I had been writing almost nonstop for three hours.

That feeling of being in a “zone” like that is incredible. I come out the other side feeling not only incredibly productive, but also fulfilled on some level.

4. The brighter side of a painful moment
One of my wife’s coworkers passed away this week after a long illness.

Sarah’s take on the news was beautiful. Rather than feeling down in the dumps about it, she simply said that she’d rather remember all of the good things this person did and know that the world became a better place because of that person.

I don’t want anyone to be sad when I pass away. I’d rather they think of the good things that I did, get together for a few laughs and smiles about things I’d done, and try to pay some of those things forward in their own lives. Sarah showed me that such an attitude can really work.

5. Getting outside
For a few days this week, we experienced some unusually warm weather for February in Iowa. That warm weather made it possible to go outside, so I was able to go on some long walks during the day and take my children to the park in the evening.

There is something powerful about spending a day outside after being cooped up inside for a long period due to the winter. I found myself bursting with energy for a while, then sleeping incredibly deeply that night.

Being outside makes me feel renewed. I loved this taste of spring, even if the ground is once again covered in snow as I write this.

6. Maturing thoughts
My oldest son is asking increasingly mature and thoughtful questions about how the world works. Lately, he’s been fascinated with how government works, and that’s led to a ton of questions probing various aspects of government.

We’ve had thoughtful conversations about why Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are taught on Presidents’ Day but other presidents aren’t mentioned. We’ve discussed how taxes work, that they’re removed from peoples’ pay and from the sales of products to pay for things like police and roads and schools. We’ve even talked about laws and morality and how exactly you decide whether something is wrong enough to have a law covering it.

He yearns to understand how the world works, and I am thrilled to be there for the first steps in that journey.

7. Combing hair
My daughter has long hair. One of our biggest struggles in the morning involves combing her long, thick hair so that it looks presentable. I have never had hair long enough that tangles were an issue, so helping her to comb it is a struggle for me. My only sense of whether it hurts is her reaction to my attempts at combing, and her motor skills aren’t quite there to do it herself.

I’ve slowly been learning how to do it so that it doesn’t hurt her any more, and she’s been noticing. Rather than resisting the brushing and moving away and wiggling as I do it, she’s been standing still lately and singing and talking happily while I do it.

Yesterday, she actually brought her brush and the spray bottle to me when it was time to brush her hair. She turned around happily and started signing a sing, waiting for me to start. It doesn’t hurt any more. It makes her feel good.

8. The weight of a sleeping toddler
My youngest child woke up in the middle of the night, crying and shouting “MOMMY! DADDY!” over and over again.

I walked into his room, pulled him out of his crib, and took him to the rocking chair. Within fifteen seconds he was asleep again.

I held him close to me and enjoyed his soft breathing and his warmth. It was two in the morning and I needed to go back to bed, but I wanted to hold onto that moment for just a little longer.

9. Playing Flash Point several times
When my oldest son arrives home from school, he usually has a snack followed by a period of free time that we have together, just the two of us.

Lately, during that time, we’ve been playing the board game Flash Point: Fire Rescue. It’s actually a game for adults, but it includes a simplified “family game” that can be played with bright or older children. It’s a cooperative game, so we either win or lose as a team.

Each time we play, he has a firmer grasp on what we need to do to win. At first, he’d make moves almost at random. After a play or two, he’d begin to settle on goals but they were fairly arbitrary – he understood the tactics of how to achieve a short-term goal in a turn or two, but the strategy of how to win still eluded him. The last few times we’ve played, he’s begun to understand strategy and we’ve talked about it quite a lot.

Again, I find the learning process just fascinating. I love how ideas are introduced into someone’s head, combined with other ideas, and eventually grown into something magnificent.

10. Good morning
We had a snowstorm in the middle of the night a few nights ago. Sarah woke me up in the morning with a kiss on the cheek and whispered, “I cleared the driveway already.”

She didn’t have to do any of it. In fact, I would have been perfectly happy to go out there and clear the driveway myself. Instead, she let me sleep and made my own morning routine much easier than it would have been, all without being asked, and all with a smile.

I hope to be the kind of husband that she deserves.

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  1. Shannon says:

    You can get incredibly corny at times…

  2. Andrew says:

    There’s room in life and art for a little corniness.

  3. Melissa says:

    Aw, I came over to say this was a nice change! I really liked reading this today.

  4. Aerin says:

    I am really enjoying this “10 Pieces of Inspiration” series, today’s especially. No. 10 is great – after you’ve been married a while, being woken up with “I cleared the driveway already” practically counts as foreplay! :)

  5. valleycat1 says:

    I prefer this to the random assortment of stuff from around the web – though probably not on a weekly basis!

    It is entirely possible to remember the good things & happy moments you had with someone while being sad they’re no longer there. And it is not healthy to ignore one’s own grief or say things that make someone else feel they’re wrong to feel sad. Yesterday one entire post was about how devastating the loss of a spouse is, & Trent has posted before about how awful losing a child or other family member is or would be; today Trent doesn’t want anyone to feel sad when he passes away.

  6. Kathleen says:

    Very sweet. I like the changeup from art and quotations. It sounds like you have a lovely family, Trent.

  7. Steven says:

    I wish there were some way that I could convince you that Winter isn’t some horrible season that requires you to lock youself up in your house for 4 months while you pray for Spring.

    I’m almost convinced that Winter is superior to Summer in the activities one can get out and enjoy. As a matter of fact, I wish I had more time to get out and enjoy the cold weather. I love to be out at the resort with my snowboard. Watching my girlfriend learn how to ski is a great way to spend an afternoon. I can tell you that it definitely beats sitting around the house hating life because it’s cold.

    Don’t you take your kids sledding? Don’t they make snow angels? Couldn’t you have a snowball fight, or build a snow fort? When I was younger, I LOVED being outside in the winter. As I grew a little older, though, I lost that love of the snow. It went from being something fun to being something of a pain in the butt. I changed that by starting to snowboard, and my love for Winter is in full bloom once again!

    Maybe you could take some skiing lessons. If you enjoy taking walks outdoors, try snowshoeing. Your misconception that a person can’t enjoy themselves outdoors without being bundled up to the point of immobility is silly. I spent hours outside last night in less clothing while snowboarding than I wear on a regular day. It just depends on what kind of clothes you wear. The advances in winter clothing are remarkable. We’re not out there skiing and snowboarding all bundled up like the kid on The Christmas Story.

    The sad thing is that I’ve been trying to convince you of all this all Winter long, and it seems to have had no impact on swaying your opinion. Now Spring is just a few weeks away so I doubt you’ll bother to consider any of my advice. It’s too bad. Being in the outdoors all year round has done a lot for my mood. I’m much happier this year than I have been in the past. And it sounds like you suffer from the same thing as I did: boredom. If you’re bored, get outside and enjoy yourself. Nothing is stopping you but your own will and ambition.

  8. Kathleen says:

    Steven, your post assumes (1) ski resorts for snowboarding, and/or (2) presence of snow. There can be very long, cold, snowless winters on flat terrain where snowboarding, snow fort building, and snow angel making are NOT options.

  9. Alice says:

    I like this post; it conveys the idea of paying attention to small pleasures in life by way of example.

  10. Steven says:

    Seven Oaks is near Des Moines. They make snow. Though Trent has made mention of snow repeatedly over the past few days. You don’t need a ski resort to build snow forts, make snow angels, or have a snowball fight.

    Snow or no snow, a person can get outdoors in the winter. I guess I don’t see the point in repeatedly whining about how horrible winter is when there are plenty of things to do. It’s not winter that’s the problem, it’s the lack of will or desire on Trent’s part that makes winter so unbearable.

    I’m only offering suggestions and encouragement for him to make winter a little more enjoyable. There are options.

  11. sara says:

    This post really WAS inspiring! Thanks for sharing all your sweet little things with us. Here’s mine: as I’m reading this, my hubbs came and brought me a cup of tea, and cleared a spot on my messy nightstand so that he could set it down right next to me. The chickens are clucking outside my window, and baby keeps looking up at me and smiling ad she eats. Some moments are really good to stop and reflect on how good they really are. Thanks for reminding me.

  12. Kathryn says:

    “I don’t want anyone to be sad when I pass away. I’d rather they think of the good things that I did, get together for a few laughs and smiles about things I’d done. . . ”

    Trent, of course people will be sad. You can’t do away with that. The only folks who won’t have people sad are folks with no one in their lives. If you made an impact on people – and you are striving for that – they will miss you.

    As i believe in Heaven, my immediate response when someone has died is, “They get to see Jesus!” And i do remember the good times. But, even years later, i miss them and that i can’t sit down and have a chat with them, or ask their opinion of something, or have them see where my life is now. I miss them, and still am sad about that sometimes.

    You are doing what you can to make good memories with your family and folks around you, but of course they will be sad when they lose you. But the good memories will sustain them.

    I know you are getting a lot of criticism for your blog, and i do like the blog and posts like these. You do need to do a bit more proof-reading, however. This sentence is atrocious: “She turned around happily and started signing a sing. . . ”

    I’m happy you are working to do this for your daughter! My mother hated long, tangled hair, and made my life a living hell until i learned to take care of it myself.

  13. Katie says:

    Steven, not everyone likes winter. That’s okay.

  14. Steven says:

    Katie: It *is* okay to not like winter. But Trent goes about explaining his dislike for winter in a way that makes it seem like he’s a prisoner to the weather, and that there’s just NOTHING to do during the winter so he’s couped up indoors going crazy because he *can’t* get outside. That’s false. There are plenty of things a person can do outdoors during the winter if they have the ambition to do it. If Trent doesn’t like winter, I’d be fine with that. I don’t like Spring because it’s wet and muddy. But to try to justify your dislike of something on things that are flat out lies is just silly. You can’t tell someone who is outside having a great time during the winter that there’s nothing to do outside during the winter.

  15. Steven says:

    Here are two examples just from this post to explain what I mean:

    “That warm weather made it possible to go outside…” This implies that colder weather makes it impossible to go outside. That’s not true.

    “…after being cooped up inside for a long period due to the winter.” Trent’s being “cooped up” isn’t due to winter, it’s due to his unwillingness to go outside. Plenty of people go outside during the winter and enjoy themselves.

    Trent is playing the role of a victim, and I’m not buying it. He’s making excuses, and pretty weak ones at that. If being outdoors is so “powerful” to Trent, I’d think he’d make more of an effort to actually BE outdoors.

  16. Kai says:

    For monetary reasons, Trent’s family is not going to ski.
    But cross-country skiing, tobogganing, and the rest mentioned aren’t expensive.

    I’m with Steven here. Trent never just comes out and says “I hate winter”. It’s always something about how it’s impossible to do anything in winter and how he’s utterly stuck inside. And coming from someone who lives a full 10 degrees further north, it’s ridiculous.

  17. Alice says:

    Thanks to the folks who pointed out that it’s a choice to stay inside, etc. in winter.

    I’ve never really liked winter weather, but I now better realize it’s just my preference, and nothing inherent about the season (assuming one has appropriate clothing, etc.)

  18. Vanessa says:

    Never, ever brush wet hair. You can comb, but never brush.

    To detangle, start from the ends of hair and work your way up to the scalp. Have a pair of shears handy to snip any stubborn knots.

    Have patience.

  19. Johanna says:

    Steven, I don’t think Trent thinks it’s literally impossible to go outside at all in cold weather. I don’t even think *you* think he thinks that.

    It’s perfectly obvious that what he means is that he doesn’t enjoy spending a lot of time outside in cold weather. So if your only objection is that he didn’t explicitly say that…let it drop.

  20. Steven says:

    No, Johanna, I don’t think Trent believes it’s impossible to go outside in cold weather. The point I’m trying to make is that if Trent just hates winter, he should say so. He shouldn’t be making all sorts of excuses to try and justify his choice not to want to be outdoors in the cold.

    To you it might seem “perfectly obvious” that he doesn’t enjoy spending time outside during winter. To me it just sounds like he’s looking for excuses why he *can’t* go outside during the winter…none of which are true. I’d rather him just say “I hate the cold.”

  21. Johanna says:

    *Shrug* To me, it just sounds like *you’re* making excuses for continuing to hector Trent again, some more, for not being athletic enough for your liking.

  22. Steven says:

    Nope. I offer my opinion. I don’t heckle…at least not intentionally. When someone says something is important to them, but their actions (or lack thereof) tell a different story, I’ll say something. I prefer to think of it as holding people accountable for what they say. If Trent says fitness is a priority (which he has said repeatedly) and then says he’s winded walking to the mailbox (which he hasn’t said) then I have to wonder what’s going on.

    My opinion comes from the point of view that Trent is not much older than I am, and I believe he is capable of being physically fit, but only if he choses to be. When he spends so much time focused on (what I consider to be) trivial things and then fails to accomplish the fitness goals he’s set for himself over the years, it just seems like maybe fitness isn’t the priority he makes it seem.

    I think there are things that Trent believes he should be doing, not because he wants to, but because that’s what is “expected” of him by society. Exercise and fitness are popular themes in self-improvement, and because Trent seems to be focuses on self-improvement, it’s logical that fitness would be on his list of things to do, even if it’s not something he personally values. And so he says again this year he’s going to do something about it. But does he? Or does he throw out his back getting out of the shower again? Or does some other minor injury sideline his fitness goals like last year?

    If someone makes resolutions for the sake of making resolutions, what’s the sense? And if people aren’t allowed to hold him accountable for publicly announcing those resolutions, what’s the sense of him writing a post about them?

    Yes, fitness is important to me. I’m sure you have things that are important to you. And to say that I’m looking for “excuses” to heckle Trent is kind of funny coming from you considering your constant assault on Trent for anything and everything. If you don’t like that I’m trying to encourage Trent to go outside and enjoy himself, or give him a hard time because he’s not staying true to his word, ignore me. Why waste your time and energy calling me out? Surely there are more important things to worry about than what I’ve got to say about Trent’s fitness routine.

  23. Jim says:

    Vanessa, #18, I really don’t know this. But why shouldn’t you brush wet hair? I guess anyone could answer.

  24. Kathryn says:

    @ #23 Jim – wet hair is very fragile. Brushing hair that is wet tends to make it break more (and if you have hair that tangles badly, it is simply a pain to try and brush it wet). If you have to deal with it wet, a comb works better.

    Personally, i prefer to brush it well, dry, before showering/washing it, and then allowing it to air dry before dealing with it, but as i said, this is a personal preference.

  25. Kai says:

    As a person with truly uncontrollable hair, my solution is to brush it *in* the shower, when it’s loaded up with conditioner, and then treat it gently in the rinsing and drying process to avoid too much tangling.

    But as a kid, my mother bought that ‘no more tears’ detangler stuff, and I don’t know what exactly it did, but it seemed to work.

  26. Johanna says:

    I think that the “don’t brush wet hair” thing applies only to the old-style brushes with the dense clumps of bristles. The brushes with sparse bristles attached to a flexible rubber pad can be used on wet hair with no problem. A good detangling conditioner helps too.

  27. Jen says:

    I like #8…sleeping kids=the best…

  28. Emma says:

    “skiing lessons” and skiinng itslef is the most expensive winter actvity.I do not see Trent going for it himself, without kids. The cost of skiing just one day for a family of four is….? $200 minimum or more.Rantals and ticket fees, foreget about the lessons.

  29. Steven says:

    Yes, skiing is expensive. But, like most things, if it’s something you really enjoy, the cost is worth it. That’s what frugality is all about, right? Spending on what you enjoy and value, and forgetting about the rest? I’m not suggesting Trent go out and spend a ton of money on skis and lift tickets without trying it out first. But hey, a day on the slopes for him and Sarah would run about $100, and could be a blast for the both of them. Is it worth the cost? I guess that’s a matter of opinion…and how good you are at skiing! ;)

  30. Dot says:

    I hate summer in Central Florida, but It is the cost of paradise in the winter. I would not trade 100 degree plus days in July and August for a winter in Iowa. That cold is awful. I’d stay inside all Winter long also.

  31. BirdDog says:

    Really enjoyed the post. That is all.

  32. Kai says:

    Given everything Trent has said, I’m pretty confident that a $100 day of skiing would be something he’d never so much as consider.
    (I guess small hills are cheap? In the Rockies, you can’t get a lift ticket and rental for *one* person for $100 – not to mention gas or any other costs).
    I love skiing. I don’t mean anything against skiing. I’m just looking realistically based on history here. They’d never ski. but tobogganing? Bundling up for a walk? Perfectly reasonable.

  33. deRuiter says:

    “…then sleeping incredibly deeply that night.” What can be “incredible” about sleeping deeply after vigorous outdoor activity? Is the author still being paid by the word so slipping in pointless words earns him and extra five cents per word?

  34. joyce says:

    Vanessa is right about the hair. Start combing from the bottom. I was thrilled to learn this technique. Something so simple!

  35. kc says:

    “…incredibly deeply..” = sloppy, lazy writing. He just doesn’t get it. His “fantasy novel” may be more of a fantasy than he realizes. Of course, there’s always self publishing.

    BTW, he isn’t paid by the word, nor was he in the past.

  36. SwingCheese says:

    @30, Dot: My husband grew up in Florida for a good portion of his life and now lives in Iowa. He has told me several times that during a long, hot, humid Iowa summer, the temp and humidity can rival that of the Orlando area (though it never lasts for as long of a stretch as in Florida). So I guess we get the best of both worlds, haha! :)

  37. Nancy says:

    Long tangled hair: use conditioner every time you wash her hair. Divide hair into halves or thirds and work up from the bottom. Use a good hairbrush; I use one from Avon that I have had for years (it is an ugly grey, but does not rip out your hair). Trim ends every 6 wks, or so.

  38. kevin says:

    Incredibly deeply…just, wow.

  39. Gretchen says:

    They make those combs specifically for wet hair- they work well.

    I remember having long hair when I was little and how much it hurt to get combed/brushed, even with the notangle spray.

    And I agree with Steven. Trent likes the idea of a lot of things more than the acutal thing, and being fit is one of those things.

  40. Penny says:

    Really lovely post, today I enjoyed it immensely.

  41. Alison says:

    My favorite part was your son just INHALING information about the world. What a joy that must be for you. He is destined for great things, I think!!

  42. Sara says:

    Steven has a good point… I loved playing in the snow when I was a kid. I didn’t do expensive things like skiing and snowboarding, though — I mainly played in the back yard with my siblings or walked to the sledding hill at the city park. Unfortunately, snow isn’t nearly as fun when you’re grown up, but I bet Trent could still have a great time building snow forts and snow men with his kids, or going sledding, which are also very cheap activities.

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