The Upside of Mercury Retrograde

The Upside to Mercury Retrograde // Frock Files

We’re smack in the middle of Mercury Retrograde, which is a period when Mercury slows down and appears to begin moving backward (an optical illusion, but that’s where it got the title “retrograde”). Three times a year, for three weeks, Mercury Retrograde pops up and causes all kinds of problems with communication, technology, and transportation. A couple of years ago, James got three flat tires in two days during Mercury Retrograde. This year, I’ve found that I’m running into all kinds of frustrating communication issues. And it seems to be happening to all of my friends and family members too!

So it can be hard to see the good things about Mercury Retrograde, but since it happens to take up a whopping nine weeks every year, I figured there must be an upside. As we’ve been slammed with snow out here on the East Coast, I’ve come to the realization that Mercury Retrograde is a little bit like a blizzard. Yeah, you probably won’t be able to go anywhere. You might even lose power. But it gives you the time to hunker down and really think about where you want to go from here.

Here’s what the experts have to say about how to get the most out of Mercury Retrograde:

The Upside to Mercury Retrograde // Frock Files“You can take those big ideas left simmering on the back burner and bring them forward. Finish something you started a long time ago. Complete items on your nagging long-overdue list.” – Slade Roberson


The Upside to Mercury Retrograde // Frock Files“Eventually, when this retrograde is over, the more positive side of Mercury in Aquarius will take over. The ideas and solutions that are proposed are truly innovative and better thought out, and more likely to work. They are likely to be both brilliant and practical solutions.” – Larry Schwimmer for the Huffington Post

“This period is best used for re-organizing and reflecting. We look at the world a little differently–through different filters–and can come up with some very important inner revelations.” – Cafe Astrology

As someone who generally acts quickly on decisions, I’ve begun to appreciate Mercury Retrograde for the time it gives me to pause and consider the long term impact of my choices. I’ve also used it as a period to dig into a few projects that have been pushed to the back burner. It’s an excellent time to get into “head down” mode so that there’s a new foundation for greater momentum once Mercury speeds up again on February 11.

How have you been faring during this round of Mercury Retrograde?

P.S. It looks like our pal Phil saw his shadow this morning, predicting another six weeks of winter. Please excuse me while I go and watch another episode of Hawaii Life.

Life Update: Back and Forth

Frock Files | Life Update: Back and Forth

As you may have noticed, I took a little unexpected hiatus last week. Since school started and we’re still dealing with health issues in this family, I got a little overwhelmed and I needed to take a break. Thank you for understanding!

For the first time in six years, I’ve had back-to-school excitement, as the students came back to the university. The energy on the campus completely changes when they’re there. And while, yes, I do deal with a lot of eye roll worthy tweets about parking and cafeteria food, I also have the good fortune of being the first in line to see how excited everyone is to be back. It’s one of the best parts about my job.

And while it would be lovely for everything to continue chugging along with forward momentum, life doesn’t always work out that way. My father-in-law has now been in and out of rehab three times within a week, largely because of lack of decent care at the rehab facility we were using. On Saturday afternoon, we were all breathing a sigh of relief as he was settling back into his room in New Hampshire–at midnight, he was being taken by ambulance to the hospital again. My poor mother-in-law is the most exhausted of all, and tough as she is, even she is becoming wary.

But it is the loveliest time of year to live in New England. Every time I go outside, I get a little reminder to be in this moment because autumn is my favorite and it will go as quickly as it’s come. This past weekend, with its 50-degree mornings, I filled my drawers with sweaters again, pulled out my boots, and even bought a scarf. James and I got to have one dinner together–at a restaurant! outside!–with the knowledge that we have just a few weeks left for al fresco dining. It’s only a matter of time before I give into the giant pumpkins at the farm stand down the road!

So whatever you’re doing, whether you’re having a lovely time or a difficult one, I hope you’ll have a moment to stop and enjoy being alive this week. Treat yourself to a hot apple cider. Sit down and read a book. Laugh with all the air in your belly. There’s time.

Love, Joy

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Why do we blog? If you’re a blogger, this is probably a question you’ve mulled over at some point or another — if not every single day. It’s a topic I talk about a lot amongst blogger friends, but it was really fun to hear it within a larger conversation about collaboration on TED Radio Hour recently.

In Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ talk about why Wikipedia works, he says that people often ask why volunteers work on the massive site for free. Wales points out that people never ask why people play World of Warcraft for free. Or golf for free. He also points out that lots of people have amazing blogs without the expectation of monetary compensation. Why? Because it’s fun. Because it satisfies the part of us that wants to participate, not just consume.

I started blogging as a way to keep a journal but it’s grown into much more than that. Over time, it’s become an extension of my identity, a way people keep up with me, an outlet to try out new things (like stop motion and crafts, which I’d never done before!), and perhaps most importantly, it’s given me a sense of community with other bloggers I respect and admire.

Eventually, you get to a point where you’ve dedicated so much time and energy to something that you need to begin making money on it to support yourself — or you need to stop doing quite so much of it. People do become professional gamers and golfers. I took a job doing social media, and I work with an ad network to monetize this blog. Other people create online classes, use affiliate links, and work directly with sponsors. And that’s great too, but those things grow from somewhere – that starting point of the need to participate.

What kinds of things do you do to participate/create? I love hearing about the things people love doing.

P.S. Did you know that captchas are actually a huge paper to electronic book project???

Let’s Chat: When People Don’t Say Hello Back

Let's Chat: When People Don't Say Hello Back // Frock Files

In my attempt to work on greetings this month, I’ve been making it a point to say hello to all of our neighbors — even the ones I’ve never seen before. For the most part, this is working out well. I smile, say hello, they reciprocate, and I walk away with a little boost in my happiness. But this isn’t always the case.

Apparently, I’m Invisible

An older couple in our building has a son who’s moved back in with them, and every time we smile and greet him, he looks straight ahead and keeps on moving. At first, I thought this was a mistake, like maybe he thought I was greeting someone else. But then it kept on happening in empty hallways when we were the only two people around.

Even though I’m an introvert, I find that I’m energized when I have positive interactions with people. The opposite is true when I have less-than-stellar interactions. We all feed off of each other’s energy, which is why you walk out of a yoga class feeling so great, but you probably walk out of the DMV feeling like you need a pick-me-up. And whenever we run into our new neighbor and looks right past me, I walk away feeling really awkward and kind of stupid.

Greetings Are Gifts

James pointed out that our new neighbor may have some kind of personality disorder that makes it difficult for him to engage. Or maybe he just finds us too strangely happy all the time with our big, goofy smiles and endless hellos.

Whatever the case may be, it made me think of a talk I once heard from a Buddhist minister who said that a smile is a gift that’s good for everyone – for you, for the recipient, and for the world. Thinking of greetings as gifts makes it easier for me to be okay with receiving nothing in return. I love to give gifts just because, without any expectation of reciprocation.

So this morning when I ran into our neighbor, I smiled and said hello while he walked by and looked right through me, and I imagined that it was like offering him a cookie and being ignored. I thought, “Oh well, someone else will want it,” and easily got past the awkwardness.

Then I walked through my front door, where I was greeted with so much enthusiasm from Kona! I think we could all learn a lot about greetings from dogs – but I’ll save that for another post.

P.S. Read the first two posts of the Let’s Chat series here.

Track Your Happiness

Track Your Happiness // Frock FilesTrack Your Happiness // Frock Files

We’re always talking about being in the moment, but a scientist is currently doing a study on happiness and he’s found that staying present is the number one factor that contributes to life satisfaction. His recent TED Talk, along with others on the topic of happiness, focused on my main message for this blog: happiness through simplicity. Which, of course, made me happy!

The Happiness Study

How do you measure happiness scientifically? This is a question that stumped the scientist, Matt Killingsworth, since scientists clearly can’t follow you around to observe your every waking moment. The next closest thing: creating an app to check in with respondents at random points. The app asks what you’ve been doing, what you’re doing now, and whether you want to be doing that activity.

The Findings

According to the data collected, our minds are wandering 30% of the time — and wandering minds always lead to greater dissatisfaction, even when you’re letting your mind wander to escape an unpleasant situation.

The surprising impact of this study is that respondents have become more aware of whether their daily activities are actually making them happy. The scientists might be checking in to gather data, but you’re also checking in with yourself.

How to Join In

If you’re interested in signing up for the study, visit I’ve signed up and I’d love to hear about your experiences too! Once you submit 50 reports, you’ll receive a happiness report detailing what, statistically, seems to make you happiest.

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